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Posts Tagged ‘communal’

Photos: Hunterdon Art Museum
The exhibit From the Ground Up: Peters Valley School of Craft” can be seen at the Hunterdon Art Museum (Clinton, New Jersey) or online through January 10, 2021. 

I first heard about an unusual crafting community in New Jersey when Ann sent me a video of her online textile instructor. Peters Valley School of Craft was founded in 1970, but it has the vibe of a early American craft colony. That sense of highly skilled artisans with a united, focused purpose also reminds me of the Rochester Folk Art Guild, which we used to frequent when we lived in upstate New York.

Here’s a report on an exhibit celebrating Peters Valley School’s 50th year.

Ilene Dube writes at Hyperallergic, “I recently visited the Peters Valley Craft Fair, usually held in the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. This year, without leaving home, I could drop in on artists in their studios in Buffalo, New York, Portland, Maine, and Bristol, Connecticut, within a matter of minutes, watching them work and talking with them one-on-one about their processes. And this past summer, I was able to attend Peters Valley faculty presentations — one of the highlight events for those studying at Peters Valley School of Craft — every Friday night via Zoom. I traveled to studios all over the world.

“Physically based in Layton, New Jersey, Peters Valley School of Craft is celebrating its 50th anniversary with an exhibition at the Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, New Jersey — and yes, you can … visit live if you are properly masked. From the Ground Up, on view through January 10, recounts the story of Peters Valley from its earliest formation as an experimental craft colony, to the prominence of its women blacksmiths in the early 2000s. What better way to tell the story than through the works in fiber, jewelry, ceramics, wood, photography, and metal produced during artist residencies?

“Peters Valley began in 1970 as a planned colony of resident blacksmiths, ceramists, fiber artists, metalsmiths, woodworkers, and photographers who populated the site’s 18th- and 19th-century buildings. Over time, Peters Valley’s (non-degree) educational mission evolved into the craft school it is today, bringing together students with artists of local, national, and international renown for immersive workshops.

“Peters Valley was the ancestral home of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, Delaware Nation, and Stockbridge-Munsee Community. Dutch and British colonists forced their removal beginning in the 17th century, then worked the farmland for generations.

“Peters Valley acquired the land as a result of the aborted, and controversial, 1950 proposal to build the Tocks Island Dam, which would have created a 37-mile reservoir between New Jersey and Pennsylvania but instead became the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area. Among the 72,000 acres acquired through eminent domain was the village of Bevans, now home to Peters Valley.

“The founders had to convince the National Park Service of the value of putting a craft community there, and the original craft fair was produced to gauge interest. With 30 exhibitors, the organizers expected hundreds would visit; thousands came.

“In a soon-to-be-published catalogue, Andrew Willner, one of the first residents-in-wood, recounts that a week before students were to arrive that first summer in 1971, the small team realized everyone had to be housed and fed, and sprang into action.

“ ‘We found a prep table, an old refrigerator, and made a dining room,’ Willner said.

‘The dormitory was fashioned from an old farmhouse. We planted a garden, and by August that garden was feeding people who were enrolled in classes and staying at the valley. For many of us, it was our first experience living communally and it has had lifelong implications. …

“ ‘Learning from each other was an important element. We were in and out of each other’s homes and studios. All of us were able to take a hand at iron forging, jewelry making, ceramic and fiber arts. We even baked bread together.’

“My enchantment goes back to visiting as a teenager when my parents had a summer home in the nearby Pocono Mountains. … The hand-made ceramics and weavings, as well as the soot on the blacksmiths’ overalls and the stir-fried veggies served over brown rice at that early craft festival made me feel like I was among my people. …

“Participants share meals, mostly vegetarian, in the communal dining hall. In the summer of 2019, I met and was starstruck by the blacksmith and faculty member Elizabeth Brim, who renders frilly dresses, strappy stilettos, and bonnets in iron, transforming the gender expectations of her childhood. …

“In addition to its acclaimed blacksmithing and fiber art classes, Peters Valley is known in the ceramics world for its anagama kiln. ‘It gives you surfaces that are stunningly beautiful and really can’t be made any other way,’ said Peters Valley Executive Director Kristin Muller, who found her way to Peters Valley as a ceramic artist and wood-fire expert. Muller’s ‘Pod Vessel,’ fired in the anagama, is on view at the Hunterdon.

“Anagama kilns were introduced to Japan from Korea in the third century. Japanese kiln builder Katsuyuki Sakazume spent a year constructing the 46-foot long, tunnel-like structure, burrowing into the hillside at Peters Valley. Fired only once a year, it takes two to three days to load, and another five to six days to fire, burning 25,000 pounds of wood. A community forms around the ritual, which involves stoking the fire round the clock. The flames, gases, and ashes exposed to the clay in the single-chamber kiln impart their magic to the finished piece. It is said that the fire is an active participant in the process.”

Read more about this unusual place at Hyperallergic, here.

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For better or worse, no movement ever dies out completely. The hippies and Rainbow Children of the 1960s seem to have morphed into something called the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a “disorganization” that has annual, playful camp-outs in the wild. (The Wikipedia editors say the entry on the group, here, needs work, but I think it gives you an idea.)

Jessica Rinaldi at the Boston Globe took a lot of photos at the July 2016 gathering in Vermont.

Here’s what she says about the event: “Each year, for a few weeks in summer, a loose confederation of like-minded souls called the Rainbow Family of Living Light quietly converts a site in a public forest somewhere in the United States into a communal living space for thousands.

“Campsites are established, latrines are dug, and an elaborate water filtration system is erected to bring water from nearby streams. While the group’s origin is a bit cloudy, it’s generally accepted that the first ‘official’ gathering of the Rainbow Family was in Colorado in 1972. For the summer of 2016, they gathered in Mt. Tabor.”

Is this the escape you’ve been looking for?

Rinaldi’s photos are available at the Boston Globe, here.

Photo: Jessica Rinaldi/Globe Staff
The Rainbow Family gathering draws free spirits from across the country, including this man dressed as a tree-like Ent from “The Lord of the Rings” at the 2016 event, held on public land near Mount Tabor, Vermont. Great array of photos to be found here.

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