Artists
(click on names to show/hide biographies)

Lucian Avery – Blacksmithing
I’ve learned blacksmithing from many sources. I gleaned basic metal-working and inherited the ideal of craftsmanship from my father. When I started blacksmithing I sought out old-time smiths in northern Vermont. Some, like the late Bob Bourdon and Merle Jewett, were in their seventies and were primarily doing other, less vigorous things. Others, like Buck Heath, whose father had been a mentor to Mr. Bourdon and Mr. Jewett, had a wealth of stories but only a passing knowledge of blacksmithing.

I also learned and continue to learn from other smiths who are part of what I think of as the rebirth of blacksmithing—the people who revived smithing after it almost died out in the mid 1900s. And a primary source for learning the craft has been hands-on work and experimentation in my own shop.

When I started out in 1992, I was captivated by the idea making my own tools for gardening, woodworking and, once I got started, for blacksmithing. I soon developed a broader interest in smithing and began taking on commissions.

Since then, I have forged a wide array of custom pieces, working with designers, builders and homeowners from across the country. My work has ranged from thumb latches for historic buildings to stair railings, fire tools, and garden gates. Lately I have come to especially enjoy making early American door latches and hinges.

In this era of high tech, I have chosen to continue emphasizing old-fashioned craftsmanship and handwork. This allows for flexibility in design and I feel it imparts human warmth to the ironwork. All of my work is made at my studio in Hardwick, Vermont. I offer design services or I work from client’s designs. I also teach classes and demonstrate blacksmithing to the public and blacksmith associations on a regular basis.

Peter Burton – Hand Tied Fishing Flies
From a 1998 Interview: Early evening I was in the brook near Bread Loaf and was fly fishing. Arch Tilford had given me a handful of wet flies. And I got on the brook, put one on, caught a trout right away. Taking it off the hook, I’m looking around and I had never seen a hatch before, a real one. I’d seen flies, you know. But a hatch is something that you have to be in the middle of to really understand.

A light switch flicks on and you look around and the air is filled with flies. There were none before. I looked downstream after I took that fish off and there was a column of streamside woods contained—caddis flies is what they were, didn’t know that at the time—on their way on up through.

The flies hatch and they fly upstream. That’s the nature of the beast. They go off into the woods, they molt, they come back and mate and they lay their eggs in the stream as their by-way, so to speak. And there were just, it seemed like hundreds and hundreds of them. I was amazed. So, I said to myself, “Aha! This is the hatch!” And I caught a bunch of trout.

Identifying the hatch several years later as caddis flies, I was lucky that I had the right fly at the time. A wet fly, because it was gray-bodied, which they were. And the wing went along the back, which theirs did. That’s all there was to it.

Judy Dow – Native American Basketry
Judy Dow has learned the basket making skills of her ancestors by working with a number of master basket makers over a twenty-five year period, including Ojibway basket maker Richard Gilliand. She is an accomplished artist with a broad repertoire that includes the full range of basketry in the Northeast.

For indigenous peoples, changes in the climate and land became the mother of technology, and creating tools to meet the challenges of this change was part of the fabric of everyday life. The land was also an open classroom: knowledge of plants for food, medicine, material culture and spiritual use has been passed down for millennia, from generation to generation. As invading groups encroached on Native lands, Native peoples continued to adapt—sometimes willingly, sometimes not willingly—to new environmental, political, social and economic changes. They had to in order to survive. This tradition of adaptation has ensured cultural continuity, allowing our body of knowledge to persist.

I am an Abenaki basketmaker. It is important to me that the basketry skills and culture of my ancestors live on. It is our culture, our heritage to make baskets. I make birchbark and ash and sweet grass baskets, but I use other materials as well because this is only one small part of the history of Northeast basketry. Going back in time Northeast baskets included one-piece containers of birch and elm, as well as twined and plated baskets of cedar, ash, basswood, and various grasses.

I want to keep alive the techniques and materials that were used in the past, but I also am interested in using new and different materials. By adapting to changing times I am following in the footsteps of my ancestors. I am also very interested in the effects that my harvesting has on the environment and I have worked with the US Forest Service in the White Mountains of New Hampshire as well as the University of Vermont Forestry Department to guarantee Native people’s access to public lands and ensure sustainable harvesting practices.

Carolyn Guest – Polish Paper Cutting
Paper cutter Carolyn Gorham Guest grew up on a farm in Lyndon, Vermont, not far from her father’s fifth generation home farm. She began cutting as a preschooler at the kitchen table, and for years the cutting was utilitarian—things like cake decorating stencils, quilting and embroidery patterns, or winter snowflakes to hang in the windows. This was the traditional use for paper cutting in Vermont.

Carolyn was also an active 4-H member and as a young adult spent six months living and working in Poland as an International 4-H Youth Exchange student. While there, she was introduced to the traditional art of wycinanki or paper cutting. This has taken her back to Poland and many other places to further study with paper cutters and other traditional artists.

Paper cutting has become a way for Carolyn to share her experiences and the stories she has heard. Her work reflects her rural Vermont heritage in paper-cut pictures. She has chosen to cut with sheep shearing shears in tribute to her Polish teachers and the Polish women who only had sheep shears with which to cut wycinanki.

Delsie Hoyt – Rug Braiding
I am the fourth generation of women in my Northeast Kingdom family to braid woolen rugs. I was inspired by the complex artistry my Great-Grandmother drew out of this simple craft over a century ago. Despite her use of worn clothing and remnants, she created stunning overall patterns in her rugs, using the dyepot to express her sense of color. Her innovative pinwheel design breaks all rug-making conventions, and I try to carry forward that spirit of experimentation and playfulness in my own work.

My traditional rugs are a rediscovery of unusual 19th century shapes found in farmhouses and antique photographs. The landscape rugs are my own blend of traditional construction techniques, and an attempt to explore and challenge the limitations of the braided form. My designs are influenced by the views surrounding my home, with particular focus on the dynamic qualities of the sky at dawn and dusk. The designs are not drawn or graphed out, but instead evolve from a firm idea of the general composition.

Frequent color changes from a rich and varied palette of wool, solids, plaids, and tweeds are braided in to achieve the composition's depth and texture. The gauge of the braid requires an impressionistic style, reducing the abundance of texture and color to the most essential. All rugs are hand-laced in the traditional manner with cotton rug cording for durability.

As is the custom, each rug is titled for its inspiration, and dated. I make only 30-40 rugs in a year; each is intended to endure as a one-of-a-kind heirloom. I also do periodic rug braiding demonstrations for museums, historical societies, schools and heritage events.

Edmund Menard – Chip Carving
One of the most prolific old-time whittlers in Vermont was Chester Nutting of West Danville. He learned how to whittle cedar fans from his grandfather, a technique he had picked up in the logging camps. From the time he was a child, Chet was always whittling and one day as he was working on a fan, he produced his first bird—something that he was to become well-known for, and something which gave him the title “Bird Man” in later life.

In 1974 Chester happened to be driving a back road in Cabot when he experienced car trouble. He pulled in to the nearest farm and a young man came out to assist him. It proved a fateful meeting for both men. They knew each other for only six months, but in those few months Chester Nutting taught Edmond Menard his art of whittling birds—right from the selection of the a female cedar tree, to preserving it, and to the finished product of whittled birds and wood-burned markings.

Today Edmond is known as “Bird Man II” and continues Nutting’s whittling tradition. He even works from Nutting’s old workbench, using some of the same knives honed to a fine edge with a leather strop, and clamping the bird’s tail feathers with a set of his mentor’s clamps.


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