.

.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

RUINS ARE NOT EMPTY

VERNACULAR  HOUSE RUIN
Ruins are not empty . . .
They are sacred places full of presence . . .
The life and passion of a person leave an imprint on the ether of a place . . .
 Love does not remain within the heart, it flows out to build secret tabernacles in a landscape.


words from:
John O'Donohue

Saturday, February 19, 2011

AFRICAN-AMERICAN INFLUENCED QUILT

 African-American influenced quilt
Sometimes we run into something that speaks to us. This was the case about six months ago as I haunted my favorite second-hand store.  Draped over a chair, rather rumpled, was a quilt that I could see was hand-tied. I am not a big fan of hand-tied quilts but I could not resist the pleasure of opening it up to have a look. 


Now I knew what I was looking at  (a quilt) but I really wasn't seeing it. My gut was to buy it. And I did. 


Embroidery stitches with hands

Ever so often I would look at it asking myself questions about its configurations. I knew that it was made in the era of about 1920s to 1950s from the wool and cotton material and the hand-tying. I knew that is was all hand stitched. I knew that it had strips sewn together. But what really got me was the pattern and the hands embroidered on some of the squares. 

Then one day I opened it up and I really saw it. Its asymmetrical patterns jumped out at me. Research told me it was an African-American influenced quilt.


Asymmetrical zig-zag stitching and vertical strips

Since African-Americans first arrived on our shores they brought along their  ancestral textile designs and religious symbols that were soon incorporated into American quilts that they made for themselves  on the plantations. 


The symbols once had meanings that told stories  -- but over  successive generations of  family quilters they became lost. But, the symbols became traditional to future  family quilt makers  despite the missing stories. 


Hands or "mojos"
The tell-tale signs that told me this quilt was African American were: improvisation, multiple patterning, asymmetrical patterning, sewn strips, and symbols. 

According to Maude Southwell Wahlman author of Signs and Symbols: African Images in African-American Quilts, the symbols of red squares or hands are called "mojos" that represent protective charms in the African Kongo culture. So the hands on my quilt were protective charms but in which way? I guess that is part of the story that has been lost. 

I am thrilled to have this quilt as it represents cultural ways that have survived for generations. It also tells me that culturally, past customs and traditions are probably present in all of us. 

I recommend the following resources if you are interested in this subject. Ms Wahlman has done extensive research in this area and has compiled a collection of quilts and oral histories on African American quilts. 


RESOURCES:

Online article

Book 
Maude Southwell Wahlman

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

SEA GLASS IN A JAR

Sea Glass in a Jar
Soft light of the declining winter shines on my Long Island Sound collection of sea glass. Washed on shore by the mighty Atlantic -- picked up by my oldest daughter as she wondered along the beach. Now, they're pieces of history in my squat jar shining with white rays. The glass shards silently sing a cosmos song. 


She brought it to me this past summer to catch my light of seasons. It did just that. It has continued to reflect light of all the dimensional turns of the earth -- its past a secret.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

LOVE IN THE WOODS


CLUSTER OF BEECH TREES ALONG A WOODED TRAIL DISPLAYING EVERLASTING LOVE
Along a creek trail near Berea College located in Kentucky, I counted a cluster of about twenty beech trees with carvings of hearts, initials and a few figures bored into the wood. The oldest carving was dated 1963. The latest dated carvings I could find were some in the mid 1980s.


The main theme of these carvings seemed to be undying love but I suppose with closer scrutiny one could unfold other meanings.


Now some of you might disagree with carving into a beautiful tree to profess one's feelings. This is not about agreeing or disagreeing, its about Arborglyphs. You might be saying what the heck is Arborglyphs? I know I did when I first discovered the word. 

CARVED BEECH TREE ALONG WOODED TRAIL NEAR BEREA COLLEGE 
Anborglyphs is the study of  culturally modified trees (CMT) -- those that have been carved by humans that give us a glimpse of a part of our culture. The Berea cluster of twenty or so trees probably has several cultural meanings. Let's look at some possibilities.

One is that  a nearby college full of young single students is located near the spot where I found the trees -- lots of opportunities to have multiple carvings of love symbols on the trees.


Secondly, why were all the symbols carved within that one particular cluster of trees when there was a whole woods to place their sentiments? 


The possible answer to the latter question is perhaps the trees acted as a "bulletin board" to all who traveled the trail. The beech trees sit tight against the trail. In other words, the trees could have conveyed to passing college students the sweethearts at their school. Of course this is all conjecture on my part  -- perhaps others would define the cultural context differently. 

CARVED BEECH TREE ALONG WOODED TRAIL NEAR BEREA COLLEGE 

Beech, aspen and birch have smooth barks for carving and are usually the types used for this tradition. Many people consider arborglyphs a form of folk art. 



CARVED BEECH TREE ALONG WOODED TRAIL NEAR BEREA COLLEGE 

In Northern Nevada and other parts of the United States immigrant sheepherders have given us a legacy of tree carvings since the late 1800s. The Arborglyphs are being studied for  clues as to the traditions of their culture. I've included some online resources if you would like more information on this interesting subject.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

VINTAGE CORN CRIB

WIRE MESH CORN CRIB

I noticed this storage structure on a very small abandoned farm. I really was unsure of its use and so, of course, I roamed around the internet to see what I could put together. Well, finally I deduced that it was a a crib used to store corn. I figured one could store a heck of a lot of it in this metal structure. 


The closest I could date this vintage corn crib, as to when it might have been used, was perhaps early to mid-twentieth century. The little one-story farm house on the property was probably of the 1920s. I figured that, as a farm, I was looking at one that was viable during the early to mid 1900s. 


Apparently these storage cribs are going out of fashion as some people are buying them off  farms and transporting them home to be turned into gazebos. I figure that is a recycling plus for these hard working old ladies of the farm.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

1800s FOLK KENTUCKY LOG CABIN -- PULASKI COUNTY


OLD ROCKERS IN THE 1800s PULASKI LOG CABIN WINDOW
I spotted this log cabin on a rural piece of property in Rockcastle County last weekend. The owner of the cabin was just pulling away and I was able to speak with him for a few minutes before he had to be on his way. 

He gave me permission to take photos of the place and told me that he and his son have been in the process of rebuilding it for the past ten years. They had taken the old log home apart in Somerset County and moved it piece by piece to its present location in Rockcastle County.   When it arrived in Rockcastle they began the slow process of putting it back together. They plan to make it a livable place again.

SOUTHWEST VIEW OF LOG CABIN
FRONT FACADE HAS MIDDLE DOOR 
I  was delighted to be able to examine the cabin up close. Its planked logs were full of history. It was built in the latter 1800s. Its construction was a story-and-a-half single-pen home with a recently added new partial loft over the  interior room (pen). The roof appeared new also. . The word pen designates a log dwelling unit consisting of four walls, notched at the corner, generally forming one room. Usually one room pens are referred to as cabins. 

HALF-DOVETAIL ON 20' PLANKED LOG
ADZE MARKS ALONG LOG-- SOUTH SIDE
Usually, I have a tape measure in my field bag but had forgotten to pack it. So I did the next best thing -- I used my feet to step it off. I found it to be about twenty feet square. That makes the planked logs twenty feet long. The close-up photo above shows a half-dovetail notch and adze marks all along the planked board. An adze is a hand cutting tool with an arching blade used to shape logs.

NE CORNER OF HALF-DOVETAILED  NOTCHING --DOOR IN BACK SIDE
According to Terry G. Jordan author of  Texas Log Buildings: A Folk Architecture, a foremost expert on log architecture, the half-dovetail notching probably evolved from the Pennsylvania full-dovetail notching giving us a hint of where the original builder might be from. 

There are several different forms of folk log architecture. Examples are smokehouses, barns, crib barns, churches, cabins, and more. This particular log had white oak construction which was a prevalent wood used in early Kentucky structures. 


Its like a puzzle -- dissecting the forms of older houses. Some exhibit one period while others have additions from later periods making it more puzzling to the observer.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

STACKED WOOD ON FRONT PORCH

A CORD OF WOOD TO LAST TIL SPRING
Noticed this home on some of my escapades in the country. As we know in the eastern part of the nation -- its been mighty cold.. This householder is taking no chances of running out of cord wood  this winter. I imagine heat bills are high this year -- makes one think about getting a wood stove.