Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Carrying on the family tradition

When I was growing up my grandmother and grandfather were farmers and craftspeople, raising cattle year-round, and spending nine months out of the year making and selling handmade wood crafts. Grandpa was a self-taught carpenter who, along with his brother, owned Whillock Brothers' Construction in northwest Arkansas. I have some wonderful things he made - a cedar chest, a rocking horse, a dresser...

Grandma took some of the smaller items that Grandpa made - bread boxes, clocks, wooden plates - and with the practical nature of a woman raised during the depression and the eye and spirit of an artist, she tole painted beautiful flowers, birds, and free-hand designs on them. I also have wonderful things she made, including the bread box that was a gift to my mother one Christmas.

Grandma and Grandpa went to the War Eagle Craft Fair each year for many years to sell their handmade crafts. War Eagle has long been a mecca for craft-fair enthusiasts, bringing thousands of people from all over the country to our little corner of the world just as the temperatures are becoming cooler and the trees are starting to turn color. Their cedar chests and painted items were shipped all over the world. They sold their goods for too little, in my estimation, but they made enough to get by.

I remember one fair when I was with them in their booth for a couple of days. They were set up next to a man who made candles that were dipped in layer after layer of color, carved with a hot knife, and the carved pieces would them be twisted around to show off the layers of color and reattached to the candle again. I'm sure you've seen them in flea markets or in your grandmother's living room. Anyway, that man would cut off pieces of wax after he dipped his candles and give them to me to mold. He showed me how to make little wax mushroom candles, which thrilled me to no end. They were probably one of the first "crafts" I ever made. Those, and the little rounded stones Grandma taught me to paint faces on to keep me out of her hair as she worked.

Grandma and Grandpa also set up a table with a bright yellow vinyl umbrella on the Fayetteville Square on Saturday mornings and sold their crafts and Grandpa's sweet clover honey to local market-goers. The market in the 1980's was far different from the market that goes on today. Not as many people, for one thing, and I don't remember there being as many dogs or musicians either. Certainly, if you wanted to have a hot cup of coffee and a muffin for breakfast, you brought your thermos and a napkin full of homemade pastry from home.

This Saturday my sister and I will set up a couple of tables on the Fayetteville square as two of the newest members of the Fayetteville Farmer's Market. I'm sure to most passersby there won't be anything all that special about our tables... (aside from our fabulous crafts!)... but I'm pretty sure that we will be feeling a bit nostalgic and very proud to be a part of the market - 35 years old this year. Unfortunately, my Grandpa isn't with us anymore, but I will definitely send a snapshot of Erin and I behind our tables to my Grandma. I think she'll be pleased.

3 comments:

idyll hands said...

We're going to take over the Farmer's Market craft section! Woot!

Anonymous said...

Don't know when this was written, but mom and dad would be proud.

Punkinhead said...

Re-reading this made me remember I haven't sent that picture to my grandmother! Definitely on my to-do list for this weekend...