Mellie Stabler, Founder and Inspiration
Nancy Morris, Hooked Rug and Hangings
Nancy Morris grew up in a family of crafters, known in those days (a long time ago) as "handwork." She writes: "From the time I could hold needles, hooks, etc., I was expected to spend time with Grandmother learning how to knit, embroider, and hook. My Mother took up hooking in a big way, studying under Pearl McGowen the founder of the original rug-hooking guild, and that was the start of my love for the craft."
For grandmother, mother, and daughter, rug hooking was less expensive than psychiatric treatment. Nancy took it up seriously during the years her children were born and growing through the Terrible Twos and Threes. One day a week she attended a class with a certified McGowan trained teacher. There, she learned technique, color planning, and material dyeing.
When she could coerce her children to go to bed, she would spend half the night hooking. Family problems occurred on dyeing days when all the pots in the kitchen were filled with cooking wool. Her husband would then make a trip to McDonald's.
There are two predominate types of hooking: primitive and traditional. Most of Nancy works are traditional in details and shading. She also does a great many Native American designs, which, Nancy says, "are fun."
Wool is the usual material she incorporates into her pieces,new and used from second-hand clothingshops. When she color plans, she uses material color-as-is, dyes with professional formulated dyes, or dyes with natural mixtures made from plants and minerals.
She cuts the wool into narrow strips and uses a hook similar to a crochet hook to pull loops of the material through a loose-weave cloth such as burlap.Currently, Nancy takes classes in Buckeystown, MD with Elizabeth Black. She's learning how to hook animals, which are difficult to do. But she wants to produce rugs of all her past and present dogs. This, she says, "should keep me busy for the rest of my life."
Nonie Johnson, Fiber Artisan
What is your craft? Fiber arts through material and threads. I am not an artist – just someone who likes to do things myself! I think of myself as a “Jack of All Trades but master of none.” There is a great satisfaction in trying to do different crafts, and classes are so much fun.
How long have you been doing it? I started at my mother’s knee, watching her make my clothes, and then she helped me make my doll an outfit to match.
Who/what inspired you to learn this craft? My mother was a beautiful seamstress, and my father was a weaver. When I see something I like, I like to do it myself and change it a little.
Where do you work? My sewing room is my idea room, but off limits to everyone -– including my husband.
What are some of the things you make? Quilts, wall hangings, afghans, rugs, clothing, angels, tea cozies. Mostly small things.
What is your favorite "signature" thing to make? Chicken pin cushion.
What awards have you won? My work is for my own enjoyment. Most I give as gifts or make for our own house. I have to think about selling as I hate to part with the many hours of work!
What is the most challenging aspect of your craft? Trying to do something old with a new twist.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your craft? Seeing a design come together! Being able to say I did it myself!
What other activities are you involved with? I enjoy volunteering for CEOS, church, Adam Stephen House, Heritage Craft Center, fundraising for BCSCS, etc.
Do you have any goals or aspirations for the future related to your craft? I still want to be able to needle tat.
Why are you interested in preserving the heritage crafts? So that future generations may know how things were done before all the technology came about. I find myself wondering if my parents and grandparents would be pleased that I use their patterns and way of doing things. I believe my kinfolks would be surprised that we absorbed so many ideas and thoughts when we watched them in their daily lives.
Kathy McClung, Basket Weaver
What is your craft? Basketry. I began serious pursuit of my “vocation” in 1989. After 18 years, I still find this craft a constant source of pleasure.
Who/What inspired you to learn this craft? I have my Great Aunt Mary Schoppert and her infinite patience to thank for my love of handwork and all things hand made. At the tender age of four, Aunt Mary taught me to sew and embroider. I immediately fell in love with the feeling of fulfillment that “making something” gave. Since then I’ve tried my hand at many, many things, but nothing has intrigued me quite like basket weaving.
What is the name of your business/studio? How can people contact you about your work? My business name is “Bee is for Basket”. A hand-stenciled bumblebee on the front of all my cards and tags is my trademark. At this time, I have no studio location open to the public, but expect to have one in 2007. I have my work in the HCCEP shop and can be reached at my home phone number.
What are some of the things you make? I am currently exploring the amazing world of Cherokee twills. No matter what shape my work takes, great care goes into to making each piece sturdy and functional as well as beautiful.
What is your most unique thing to make? I love all baskets but I’m “in love” with cat-head shaped baskets. It never ceases to amaze me how “pointy” you can get the corners of a basket’s base if you practice, practice, and practice! I suppose my signature would be the cat-head base I use on so much of my work.
What awards have you won? My first award was for a National State Garden Club show in 1995. The theme of the show was “Pride in our West Virginia Heritage.” I won first place in the educational category. I have also received an Award of Distinction at HCCEP’s First Biennial Juried Craft Exhibition in 2000 and an Award of Merit in the second Biennial Juried Craft Exhibition.
What is the most challenging aspect of your craft? There are three things, actually. One is educating the public about how labor intensive each basket really is. The dreaded question invariably arises, “How long does it take you to make that basket?” You can ask any artist, artisan, or craft person; we all hate that question. It’s like the buying public is trying to judge whether the piece is worth the asking price by how many hours you have in it. I usually answer, “18 years now.” This may seem flip, but a person’s skill level should be worth something.
The second is staying enthused and finding educational opportunities that challenge me to work harder. At once simple and complex, weaving combines artistry and pure skill that challenges me to a lifetime of study. Many of the weaving guilds I belong to have weekend instructional conferences. I attend at least one of these a year. It’s a terrific way to share experiences and information with fellow weavers as well as learn new techniques.
The third is finding new ways to market my work and gain exposure for the craft of basket weaving.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your craft? Learning new techniques. It’s very gratifying to sell your work and have the public praise, but the true joy for me is the process, not the product.
What other activities are you involved with? I am an avid amateur naturalist and enjoy the outdoors. I’m a member of the Potomac Valley Audubon Society and a devoted bird watcher. As a family, we contribute to several associations that support the consciencous and sustained use of our natural resources. I enjoy gardening and have a weakness for hybrid daylilies.
My greatest pleasure is introducing my 6-year-old niece, Mia, to the wonders of nature and the beauty around us. Just the other day she asked me how I knew so much about nature. I told her I was older than she was, so I had more time to learn, but most of what I know, I learned from books. Then I unloaded on her about how important school was and learning to read, etc. I never miss an opportunity to brag up education!
Do you have any goals or aspirations for the future related to your craft? The Eastern Panhandle has an amazing number of gifted artists, artisans, and crafts-people -- an untapped resource. I hope Berkeley County can some day create more opportunities for local work to be showcased to the public thereby creating greater awareness. Perhaps the Eastern Panhandle could become an artist’s Mecca where classes are given in all disciplines and mediums, much like the Campbell Folk School or Davis and Elkins.
Why are you interested in preserving the heritage crafts? The following quote from The Craft of Pottery by Woodard Howell says it all: “In the age of the mass consumption of mass-produced and depersonalized goods, there is a special attraction in owning and using wares that bear witness to the maker.”
It is my heart-felt belief that heritage crafts bear witness to their makers.
Nancy Streeter, Wood Carving
After a career in the environmental field, Nancy Streeter continues her interest in nature by recreating wildlife in wood. Her animal creations, caught in motion, sometimes whimsical, sometimes realistic, provide a peek into nature. During the holidays she turns to creating unique Santas and other holiday works.
Starting woodcarving in her mid-life, she is self-taught and has no formal artistic training. Her creations are each unique and require many hours of work to be completed.
Nancy serves on the board of the Heritage Craft Center of the Eastern Panhandle, Inc., in Martinsburg, WV. There she provides administration for the all-volunteer organization, demonstrates at local events, and instructs woodcarving classes. Past President, she currently serves as Vice President and heads the Education Committee—scheduling, and developing heritage craft classes.
Nancy is one of 20 artisans selected to participate in the annual Over the Mountain Studio Tour in Jefferson County, WV. She is currently in her third year with this tour.
Nancy’s goals for the future include continuing to teach students in the craft of woodcarving. She really enjoys watching the student’s creativity bloom as they work with the wood. As opportunities arise, she also continues to increase her knowledge and ability through professional workshops and courses.
Susan Shildmeyer, Textile and Needle Art
What is your craft? My interest is in textiles, and my craft is needle art, primarily knitting and sewing. I also do beaded and ribbon embroidery.
I design custom knitwear for private clients, patterns for print publication, and sweaters for the garment industry. I am also designing a line of authentic Fisherman Sweaters that I will submit for jurying at Tamarack later this year. I teach knitting at Heritage Craft Center, at ACMoore and Y2Knit in Hagerstown, and in my studio near Gerrardstown.
How long have you been doing it? I have been practicing needle art of one kind or another since I was a small child. I learned to knit when I was a teenager, from a neighbor.
Who inspired you to learn this craft? The most influential person in my knitting was my husband’s aunt. When our oldest son was a baby, my husband worked evening shift. I would spend evenings with her. We would have dinner, play with the baby, and knit. She taught me many of the techniques I use today.
Who inspired you to learn this craft? The most influential person in my knitting was my husband’s aunt. When our oldest son was a baby, my husband worked evening shift. I would spend evenings with her. We would have dinner, play with the baby, and knit. She taught me many of the techniques I use today.
What are some of the things you make? While knitting is my primary focus now, I do not want to be associated with only a single needle-craft. I also make beaded tassels. These are great for adorning light pulls, shades, or drawer pulls, and as Christmas tree ornaments. I even have one hanging from the rear view mirror in my car.
What is your ”signature” piece? My favorite items to make are heirloom knitted lace shawls and christening blankets. Made of yarn spun to a fine thread-like weight, they are light, warm and versatile. Far different from the dowdy, heavy shawls of bygone days, these shawls are an elegant and classy wrap. While a lace item looks very fragile, with a little care, can last a long time and become a family heirloom. Of course, socks are the perfect travel project, and knitting with four needles never fails to impress the un-initiated!
Where is your studio? The name of my studio is Susan’s Greetings. I choose the name because I feel needle arts has the potential to express our personal style in many aspects of our lives, from home furnishings to special occasion garments. Consultations are by appointment. I can be reached at any time by email at SEShildmyer@aol.com or phone 304-229-6953.
What are your goals? I am always learning a new (to me) needlecraft. Often, I combine techniques to create one-of-a kind items that make unique gifts or future family heirlooms. And, I am planning to introduce a line of throw pillows made from Thai silk, using silk ribbon embroidery, machine quilting, beading, and other embellishments.
Why are you committed to preserving heritage crafts? Heritage crafts stem from two sources -- functionality and embellishment. All crafts originated as functional items made from readily available materials. Once functionality is satisfied, a natural need of humans is to express beauty. In today’s fast paced, throw away society, people do not have the time, nor do we need, to make our own items. But, I feel the human spirit requires an expression of creativity to preserve its essence.
Also, by working to preserve heritage crafts, we help to preserve a part of our history that was often passed down by family members. Belonging to and supporting the Heritage Craft Center, I hope, in the very least, to help people understand and appreciate how the process works when we pick up that new sweater from Wal-Mart.
Mary Kay Anderson, Decorative Painter
What is your craft? Decorative painting.
How long have you been doing it? 37 years.
Who/What inspired you to learn this craft? The person who inspired me the most was my father. He is an oil painter who continues to paint at the age of 88. He gave me several pieces of slate, which I moved around for years, and that is what I first started painting on.
What is the name of your business/studio? Where is it located? What hours are you open? How can people contact you about your work? The name of my business is M. Kay Designs. It’s located at 401 Morgan Grove Road, Shepherdstown, WV 25443. You can contact me at 304/261-0660, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. The hours of operation are upon request.
What are some of the things you make? Decorative painting is an art form that utilizes a variety of techniques and media to decorate both functional and non-functional surfaces. For example, I painted a primitive scene on an old ironing board, and I’m working on an old dough riser that will have Santas all around it. My husband grew a whole bunch of gourds one year, and I have turned them into Santas. I also love to paint on furniture.
What is your favorite/most unique thing to make? Some of my favorite things to paint are the primitive styles and a variety of flowers, such as poinsettias, roses, and garden themes.
What awards have you won? I have not received any awards; however, an achievement I’m especially proud of was teaching my original designs at two Decorative Painting Conventions, one in New England and the other in Ohio. Twelve years ago my dream came true when I was able to help form a Decorative Painting Chapter in the Tri State Area. The chapter meets every month and has a membership of 60.
What is the most challenging aspect of your craft? Definitely designing original .patterns. Over the last 5 years, I have started to create some of my own designs. It’s something that takes a lot of time, but it’s very rewarding when completed.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your craft? The most satisfying aspect is that I can paint on almost anything; therefore, I love looking for surfaces that create a challenge. I love to find old pieces and bring them back to life, making them some one’s treasure.
What responsibilities/special projects have you worked on for Heritage? I have helped with the ecorating of the display area and window design. I have also taught watercolor and acrylic classes.
What other activities are you involved with? I teach swimming at War Memorial Park, and I enjoy round dancing with my husband, gardening, camping in our fifth wheeler, and special times with my three children and seven grandchildren.
Do you have any goals or aspirations for the future related to your craft? Future goals are to design more original art and to broaden my teaching to other areas
Why are you interested in preserving the heritage crafts? The heritage crafts will die if they are not shared. It would be disappointing to see what our ancestors worked so hard on developing and preserving not to be shared with our children and grandchildren. We need to communicate the value of heritage crafts to our children so they can in turn pass them to the next generation, just as they were passed to us.
Steve Helmick, Wood Worker
What is your craft? Wood working.
How long have you been doing it? 30 years.
Who or /What inspired you to learn this craft? I knew I could make items better and cheaper than other wood workers.
What is the name of your business/studio? Where is it located? What hours are you open? How can people contact you about your work? The Shop. The phone number is 274-2422.
What are some of the things you make? Tables, benches, shelves, and cabinets.
What is your favorite/most unique thing to make? Shaker-style furniture.
What is the most challenging aspect of your craft? Finishes. What is the most satisfying aspect of your craft? Completed projects.
Do you have any goals or aspirations for the future related to your craft? Expand product line.
Why are you interested in preserving the heritage crafts? I like hand-made crafts.
Hilda Elber, Potter
What is your craft? I’m a visual artist. I create ceramic sculpture, art pottery, watercolors, oils, murals, and tiles.
How long have you been doing it? Since I was quite young. As a young girl, I used to spend my off-time between classes at the museums and antiquity galleries of my hometown.
Who/What inspired you to learn this craft? My hometown is Munich, the capital of Bavaria, one of the most active art colonies of the western world since the twelfth century. My family lived in Swabing, close to the center of the city. From an early age, I was exposed to the architecture, sculpture, and paintings of the great masters, as well as the newer, innovative styles of the twentieth century. AS a young girl, I used to spend my off-time between classes at the museums and antiquity galleries of my home town. I’ve always been fascinated by texture, form, color, and line. The continuous exploration of materials is of great interest to me.
How can people contact you about your work? My studio is in Falling Waters, West Virginia. People can email me at email@example.com or call me at 304-274-6986.
What are some of the things you make? My work has taken many different directions: dress design, painting, sculpture, and pottery.
What is your favorite/most unique thing to make? Glaze making is one of my favorites.
What awards have you won? I was Artist in Residence at the Boarman Arts Center from January through April, 1996.
I’ve had solo exhibits in Martinsburg, Hagerstown, and Washington, D.C. I’ve also participated in juried shows at the Washington County (Maryland) Museum of Fine Arts, the Maryland Arts Council Gallery, the West Virginia State Museum in Charleston, the YMCA in Wheeling, and The Audubon Naturalist Society in Washington, D.C.
What is the central theme of your work? a message comes through in my work, I hope it is one of caring for the environment and the good spirit of people. I feel my expressions reflect a sense of humor and a vision into the deeper aspects of life.
What responsibilities/special projects have you worked on for Heritage? My work was juried into the Mountain heritage Festival this year, along with six other heritage artisans. I’ve demonstrated at most of the First Saturday events this year, and I taught a class on Matisse cutouts for the Boys and Girls Club Summer Camp.
Do you have any goals or aspirations for the future related to your craft? I love what I am doing. I am doing what I always wanted to do.
Penni Denton, Textiles, Sewing, Felting & Knitting
What is your craft? Textiles. Sewing, knitting, felting and needle felting
How long have you been doing it? I have been sewing and knitting for over 40 years. I began making mohair bears and bunnies 5 years ago. I have been knitting handbags and felting them for 2.5 years. I have been needle felting almost 2 years
Who/What inspired you to learn this craft? My aunt Rita taught me to knit and sew when I was in school. I have always loved teddy bears, and Treva Blackford inspired me to make bunnies and bears. I took a class in felting knitted wool handbags, and the rest is history.
What is the name of your business/studio? Where is it located? What hours are you open? How can people contact you about your work? My business name is In Stitches, LLC. I currently do not have a shop, as I work a full-time job Monday through Friday. I do craft shows in our area and Virginia. I may be contacted at 304-261-6945
What are some of the things you make? Jointed Artist’s bears and bunnies, needle felted Christmas ornaments, angels, Santa faces, and knit felted handbags.
What is your favorite/most unique/”signature” thing to make? Minature needle felted animals.
What is the most challenging aspect of your craft? Designing and making patterns.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your craft? Having people appreciate my work.
Do you have any goals or aspirations for the future related to your craft? I hope to be able to do crafts full time when I retire. I also would like to teach others some of the crafts I have learned over the years.
Why are you interested in preserving the heritage crafts? Once you try a craft and complete it, you gain a real appreciation of what the pioneers made.
Carol Slovikosky, Glass Art
How long have you been doing it? Twenty-four years. I first took lessons in 1983-84, and I have continued to expand my knowledge since then.
Who/What inspired you to learn this craft? I have always been drawn to stained glass, but my Mother wanted to learn how, so we and my Father took classes and became addicted. Now I know why I loved the old wooden puzzles so much.
What is the name of your studio? My studio is called Parrish Farm Artworks, to honor my parents’ farm in Great Falls, VA, where I had my first studio. The mailing address is P.O. Box 824, Martinsburg, WV 25402. I can be reached at 304-263-4613 or at parrishfarmartworks@ lostrivercraft.com
What are some of the things you make? Sun catchers and hanging panels – many painted.
What is your favorite/most unique/”signature” thing to make? My signature piece is antique postcards framed in glass so you can see both the picture on the front and the address and message on the back. I also specialize in one-of-a-kind painted panels.
What awards have you won? I received a Professional Development Grant from the West Virginia Commission on the Arts. In 1998, I was an Artist in Residence at the Boarman Art Center.
What is the most challenging aspect of your craft? Repair work, especially recreating smashed windows. The challenge of getting it back together is “reading the lead lines” and tracking down the old glass to make the repairs. What is the most satisfying aspect of your craft? The process. Taking the materials and creating the finished piece, especially the painted panels.
What responsibilities/special projects have you worked on for Heritage? I’ve worn many hats for Heritage. I worked with the charter members to create the original Business Plan, and I’ve recently been involved in updating that plan. I’ve written grant applications. I helped organize all of our juried biannual exhibits. I served as President for 4 years, as Treasurer twice, and as head of the Education Committee. I’ve demonstrated spinning and other heritage crafts too many times and places to count. And I teach stained glass classes for beginners. What other activities are you involved with? I serve on the Artisan Advisory Board for Tamarck. I’m a past President and former Treasurer of the Lost River Craft Cooperative, where I am still a member.
What are your goals for the future related to your craft? I want to utilize the skills I have been perfecting to complete a window for Smith’s Chapel in Great Falls.
Why are you interested in preserving the heritage crafts? People don’t get it. The masters of some of the crafts are gone, and if we don’t continue to share the skills, they will cease to exist. People will not be able to find someone to teach these skills soon if we fail to educate this generation.
Judy Jeffares, Multi-Media Artisan
What is your craft? I guess most people would refer to it as “Multi-Media”. My husband used to tell me I needed to decide what I wanted to do when I grew up. I do jewelry making, I make a little soap, I am experimenting with some candle making, I make twined rag rugs (which I learned in a Heritage class), and I even used to make baskets. I guess if I had to choose, I love doing my gourd art and lampworking.
How long have you been doing it? I began working with gourds about 5 years ago and I took my first lampworking class with Tamra Trafford at Heritage 21/2 years ago. But, I took my basket weaving class 25 years ago, and I guess that was what got me hooked on my need to create. My husband was in Japan for a year, and it kept me busy and my family supplied with baskets.
Who/What inspired you to learn this craft? We were on a trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and we went into a little book shop at the“Artisan Loop.” There was a book on gourds, and my husband and I were both amazed at the things that were done by taking an ugly, moldy, dried gourd and turning it into something beautiful and functional.
I have always had a love for glass, and I always used to comment on learning to make glass beads and objects. I was given a beginners lampworking kit from my husband on our 25th anniversary. A month after he passed away, I saw Tamra’s class in the Heritage schedule. I believe things happen for a reason, and I knew I had to be in that class.
What is the name of your business/studio? How can people contact you about your work? Our studio name was “Dancing Light” Studio, mainly because we worked so much with glass. It was located in our home, but now (when I can make the time), I work out of my shop, Common Ground, which Heritage is a part of.
We are at 145 N. Queen St. in downtown Martinsburg. We are currently open Thursdays 10-6, Fridays 10-8, Saturdays 10-5, Sundays 11-4, and Mondays 10-6.
You can stop by any of those days. Our number at the shop is 263-5633, or people can email me at commongroundwv@ verizon.net.
What are some of the things you make? I like to make things that are functional as well as pleasing to the eye. With the gourds, I like to make various type of bowls, vases, and boxes/containers. I also do wind chimes and birdhouses. Since gourds have been used through the years by many cultures as food and water vessels, I do make items that can be used just for that. I like to use various materials to embellish them, and that is one of my reasons for taking Heritage’s hand-built clay and lampworking classes.
My knowledge of basketry comes into play at times, as well as my metal embossing skills.
What is your “signature” work? In some ways, it is hard to pinpoint one item. But I would say it is my gourd boxes. When I make them, I try to create some place special in which to keep something special.
What is the most challenging aspect of your craft? Finding the time lately to put toward it.
What is the most satisfying aspect of your craft? I guess I have learned to do so many things over the years, because I love to watch things “come to be.” I believe that is why I am so drawn to my gourds and to glass. It is fascinating take a solid rod of glass, watch it turn red from heat, and then be able to work with it and help it become something wonderful.
My favorite thing is to take that dirty, moldy hard gourd and help it become what it wants to be. And I truly feel that it tells you that. Its shape, its color, and even its flaws all kind of speak to that. So many times I have had to change what I was doing because something about the gourd dictated it. The most common is to apply a dye or stain and watch it change before my eyes because of the way it reacts with the skin of the gourd. It takes on its own personality and becomes what it was meant to be. I think most of the work we do as “Artisans” is that way, and that is why we have chosen to be artisans.
What responsibilities have you worked on for Heritage? Since I joined Heritage, I have worked on the Board of Directors as Vice President. I have recently accepted the President’s position. I have demonstrated at Heritage Days and West Virginia Day. I help with the ticket sales at the Youth Fair. I help set up for First Saturdays, and we host the Artisan in Residence at Common Gourd. I also now teach the Twined Rag Rug and Metal Tooling (embossing) Classes.
What other activities are you involved with? Besides working with Heritage, I am currently President of ArtBerkeley and on the Promotions Committee of Mainstreet Martinsburg. I have an on-line Ebay Store called “Whisperwood Marketplace.”
No matter what, I try to make time for being with my family. My daughter, Melissa helps with my display work at the shop. And I carry jewelry created both by my daughter and my 8 year old grandson, Jackson, in my shop.
Do you have any goals for the future related to your craft? My biggest goal is just to be able to devote more time to my work. After that, I want to work toward a grant to advance my skills in lampworking. I would like to learn more about sculptural work with glass.
Why are you interested in preserving the heritage crafts? It saddens me to see that the appreciation and enjoyment of “creating” is being lost. We have become such a convenience and “now” oriented society that we don’t stop to think of what we are giving up in return. Hopefully, what I can pass on will kindle the same feelings I have about my work in someone else, and someone else and someone else . . .