Getting crafty

First Posted: 8/22/2014

Furniture, cornice boards, painted tin trunks, coffee pots, trays, bellows, glass panels in clocks and gilded looking glasses, as well as painted and stenciled walls and floors are just some of the items one will see at the 30th annual Arts at Hayfield summer festival

The term Early American Decoration is applied to all decorated articles like these which adorned the homes of our forefathers.

And it could be a lost art form if not for the dedication of a group of historical crafters who work hard to ensure that it isn’t. You can see that artwork and even learn how to do it yourself at the Hayfield summer festival from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 24, on the campus of Penn State Wilkes-Barre in Lehman.

Members paint and work in many techniques individually or in classes and workshops. They are taught by certified teachers in stenciling, pontypool painting, gold leafing, Victorian flower painting, reverse glass painting, clock dials, country painting, free hand bronzing and theorem painting.

Call it a circle of crafting technique: The Historical Society of Early American Decoration teaches its colonial decoration to others, who learn it well enough to teach it to even more interested people. And the process continues. And in that manner so does the technique of painting designs on tin, wood and textiles.

The aim of Arts at Hayfield is to keep alive all crafts. That’s why they’ve invited the William Penn Chapter of the group, based in Philadelphia, to their annual summer festival.

Alexandra Pernot and Helen Pat Meitzler of the Philadelphia-based group will demonstrate three techniques of colonial design, which was popular among the woman of that period using regular household objects. They will showcase reverse painting, country painting and tin stenciling. In addition, video demonstrations will run throughout the day.

The technique of applying bronze powders through a stencil onto a “tacky” varnished surface is called Stenciling on Tin. This is found on metal trays, bread baskets, and boxes.

The colorful brushstroke painting called Country Painting on Tin was used to make items like trays, boxes, coffee pots, cups, tea canisters and trunks more colorful and therefore more saleable.

Reverse Painting on Glass is done on the back of the glass and therefore reversed. Designs range from country scenes, historical events and allegorical subjects to looking glasses and clocks.

The summer festival will also offer craft demonstrations on woodcarving, jewelry, pottery, wheat weaving and painting, according to Janis Winter, summer festival chairman.

Woodcarver Richard Beck will make bowls from the humps of a tree, a process that can take 40 hours to produce just one bowl. Animal advocate Gail Fulkerson will use llama and camel fur on a spinning wheel to make woven hats. Pam Castellani will do wheat weaving. Bookbinder Don Rash will show how paper marbling is done.

Helen Grebski of the Polish Room at Wilkes University will demonstrate egg decorations from all over the world, including psyanky, a traditional Ukrainian Easter egg decorated by writing with beeswax. She will provide patterns for the children to color.

Musicians, jugglers, a youth-theater group and a storyteller will provide live entertainment.

The Friedman Observatory on campus will hold an open house from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Tours of historic Hayfield House will be offered at 11 a.m., 1 and 2:30 p.m., and the campus book store will be open from noon to 4 p.m.

A pump-and-run competition will be held.

Food vendors will offer a variety of treats including sno cones, potato pancakes, pizza, ice cream and chocolate-covered strawberries.

The summer festival had a humble start as an event to invite the community to see the historic campus at Penn State, Winter explained. “We invited 20 crafters we knew from the area,” she said. “We had just caught hold of the American crafter movement and the thing just took off. It became bigger than any of us thought it would be.”

The festival became a juried event, but there was concern about the crafters really doing the actual work so it was determined that crafters and artists who were passionate about what they were making and those who had the time would set aside a half hour or hour to sit down and explain the process to those attending.

“We made sure that we had a good mix of people with a strong passion for different materials,” Winter said.

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