November 26, 2013
By Morgan Barker
If you’re eager to make your own Christmas ornaments but you’re unsure of your artistic skills, don’t give it another thought.
“The beauty of folk art is not following any rules,” says Christina Westenberger, who leads ornament-making tutorials to Colonial Williamsburg visitors. “Folk artists are untrained.”
Westenberger, a tour host at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum throughout the holiday season, is co-author of “The Art-Full Tree.” The Colonial Williamsburg book illustrates holiday ornaments at the folk art museum and offers instructions on how to make them. The museum tours include a look at folk art and conclude with an ornament-making tutorial.
Westenberger and her co-author, Jan Gilliam, embarked on an ornament-making adventure when the museum acquired a 16-foot tree in 2007. “We did lots of research and creation that led us to ‘Let’s write a book on how to do this,’” Westenberger said.
“The ornaments on the tree are inspired by pieces of the museum’s collection,” Westenberger said. An earthenware fish that was created by Moravian potters in Salem, N.C., for example, inspired the foil fish that graces the tree.
The butterfly ornaments that are scattered throughout the tree were taken from a butterfly on a Baltimore Album Quilt made in the 1940s. “The folk artists are providing us with great patterns for ornament-making,” Westenberger said.
After a recent tour, Westenberger asked visitors to created butterflies from tooling foil. The tutorial includes cutting out the butterfly patterns, embossing the foil with designs, and assembling them using double-sided tape. The result: Beautiful butterfly ornaments that were easy to make.
Westenberger said her favorite part of the museum’s Christmas tree is finding surprises hidden in the tree.
“Every year when we take the tree down, we always find things we didn’t put on the tree ourselves. It’s always fun to see what people left us,” Westenberger said.
Morgan Barker is a Colonial Williamsburg volunteer writer.
November 7, 2013
In colonial Virginia, there were no orphanages. An orphaned child might be placed with another family member — an uncle, an older sibling, or other relative who had enough money to support the child.
But some orphaned children were bound out as apprentices to learn a trade as well as reading and writing.
Cathleene Hellier, a digital historian for the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, will discuss the legalities of being an orphan in colonial Virginia today as part of the Distinguished Scholar Lecture Series. In an interview this week, Hellier, a doctoral student in American Studies at the College of William and Mary, explained that a child under age 21 was considered an orphan if the father had died. A boy or girl could live with their mother but the child was still considered an orphan under Virginia law if their father was deceased.
Native American and enslaved African American children were not defined as orphans under Virginia law if their father was deceased. The law only applied to white and free African-American children.
Joining Hellier for the discussion, from 5:30-6:45 p.m. on Nov. 7, will be Colonial Williamsburg historian Taylor Stoermer as moderator and John Caramia from the Georgia Coastal Heritage Society. Caramia, a former employee of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation, will discuss an orphanage in Savannah during colonial times.
The speakers will talk about the rights of orphans in both Virginia and Georgia under colonial law and the differences between the states in dealing with orphaned children.
The lecture will be held at the Art Museums’ Hennage Auditorium. The event is free with regular museum admission, a Good Neighbor pass or employee/volunteer ID.
November 1, 2013
A California woman who describes herself as a “big fan” of Colonial Williamsburg spent Halloween carving two pumpkins based on Colonial Williamsburg furniture collections.
Lauren Csaki, who lives in Torrance, Calif., said she used her copy of Colonial Williamsburg’s “Southern Furniture 1680-1830” to create templates of a dressing table, candlestand and side table.
“I made a rough tracing of the silhouettes from the photos in the book, and scaled them down to fit on the pumpkins with a copy machine,” Csaki explained Friday.
“Next, I drew a circle around each scene and decided on the points where the furniture would meet the edge of the circle, for stability in the carved pumpkin design,” she added. “Then I cut the designs out of paper, taped them to the pumpkins, and transferred the design with a fine sharpie.”
Csaki, who with her husband became a member of the Colonial Williamsburg Burgesses this year, said she “received many compliments on the furniture pumpkins from both kids and adults alike,” from some of the approximately 500 trick-or-treaters in her neighborhood on Halloween night.
Csaki, “a collector and lover of antique American furniture,” brought the pumpkins indoors on Friday morning.
“For us to enjoy for a few more days,” she said.
October 29, 2013
The Painters and Paintings of the Early American South symposium will bring together experts in the field of early southern painting at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg, 326 West Francis Street, Nov. 3-5. The deadline to register is tomorrow, Oct.30.
Speakers for the conference, organized in conjunction with the groundbreaking exhibition Painters and Paintings in the Early American South, include:
- Carolyn Weekley, Colonial Williamsburg’s Juli Grainger curator emerita.
- Ellen Miles, curator emerita of the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery.
- Elle Shushan, noted dealer in portrait miniatures.
- Robert Leath, chief curator and vice president, Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts.
- Angela Mack, director of the Gibbes Museum of Art.
Speakers will discuss the painters who created the artwork and the people depicted in the art. The symposium, which ends Tuesday, opens Sunday evening with a lecture by Colonial Williamsburg chief curator emeritus Graham Hood.
The Painters and Paintings in the Early American South exhibition opened in March at the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg. The exhibition is the first of its kind to explore the scope of early art in the region and the connections between art and artists of the early South, New England, the Middle Atlantic and Europe. It includes more than 80 works created in or for the South between 1735 and 1800.
October 18, 2013
In mid-18th century London, women who were unprepared, financially or socially, to raise their children had an option: They could leave their babies at one of the city’s “foundling hospitals.”
Sometimes, the mother also left behind a small token of heartbreak and hope: A piece of fabric that would help her identify her child, should she try to reclaim the baby when her circumstances improved.
These pieces of fabric or “textile tokens” help inform historians and researchers who study everything from fabric to the plight of orphans during that time period. Beginning Sunday, an exploration of that research will be presented at “Threads of Feeling Unraveled: The London Foundling Hospital’s Textile Tokens,” a symposium sponsored by the Art Museums of Colonial Williamsburg.
The symposium is being held in association with “Threads of Feeling,” a current exhibition on loan from the London Metropolitan Archives. The exhibition opened at Colonial Williamsburg’s DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum in May.
The program opens Sunday night with a talk by John Styles, curator of the “Threads of Feeling” exhibition. Styles is a research professor in history at the University of Hertfordshire and an honorary senior research fellow at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
On Monday, Styles also will present “Desperate Mothers, Abandoned Babies, and Showy Textiles: London and its Foundling Hospital in the 18th Century.”
Other speakers at the symposium, which ends Tuesday, include Linda R. Baumgarten, Colonial Williamsburg’s curator of textiles and costumes, who will present “Dressing Mothers and Children: Colonial Williamsburg Collections, 1700-1800;” and Rebecca Fifield, a collections manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, who will present “Lately Imported: Rebuilding a Visual Lexicon of American Indentured and Enslaved Women’s Dress.”
The symposium concludes with a performance by Colonial Williamsburg’s Abigail Schumann, who wrote “The Unwanted,” a dramatic portrayal of three 18th-century women whose circumstances lead them to give up their babies.
March 18, 2013
Exhibit Curator and author Carolyn Weekley explains the connections among masters, artists, and subjects in this uniquely southern collection.