Eager Weavers, Whose Fingers, Quick With Talent, Perpetrate Feats of Artistry

Lustrous green Pewabic Pottery tile floors. Green-painted walls bordered with white stripes. Leaded art glass windows and doors. Recessed ceiling lights with silver-and-turquoise painted accents.

The lobby of the former Kingswood School for Girls at Cranbrook — the unique educational community in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan where art, architecture, science and nature combine — is one of the loveliest rooms I’ve seen. Its woven floor rug, with yellow and white designs on a light green background, makes for a striking finishing touch.

The original rug, designed and handwoven on a custom loom at Cranbrook, was a product of Studio Loja Saarinen. The commercial weaving studio was operated between 1928 and 1942 by the wife of Eliel Saarinen, Cranbrook’s architect.

I recalled that beautiful weaving as I stood in the Schumacher Gallery, in Capital University’s Blackmore Library, on the last day of its recent exhibition, Central Ohio Weavers Guild: A Sampling of Our First Eighty Years. Through documents, samples and 40 pieces woven by current members, this exhibition celebrated the first 80 years of the Central Ohio Weavers Guild, now known as the Central Ohio Weaving and Fiberarts Guild.

The guild of weavers and other fiber artists got its unofficial start in 1933, when women from all over Ohio met while exhibiting their handwoven creations at the Ohio State Fair. It was officially founded in 1937 as Associated Ohio Weavers. In 1946, the group became known as the Central Ohio Weavers Guild.

Dues were just 25 cents in those early years. To qualify for membership, weavers presented three woven pieces to a guild jury. While members hailed from the whole state, most lived in the Columbus area. Three times a year, they gathered to learn about weaving, first in members’ homes and then at other locations like the School for the Blind and the Columbus Art Museum.

The earliest guild members shared this Bernat loom, manufactured in Massachusetts in the 1920s or 1930s, for their weaving projects. They have continued exhibiting their handwoven items at the Ohio State Fair, as well as at the Columbus Art Museum, the forerunner of the Columbus Museum of Art, and at Capital University’s Schumacher Gallery.

Weavers conceptualize new projects by creating a sample, or swatch, pattern for how the lengthwise (warp) and crosswise (weft) threads weave together on a loom. During the 1940s, the guild purchased sample subscription services like “Mrs. Gano’s Drafts and Samples” and “Mrs. Atwater’s Shuttle-Craft,” published by Mary Meigs Atwater, known as the Dean of American Handweaving. Each monthly bulletin described a specific weaving pattern and was accompanied by a woven sample.

Members also exchanged samples based on miniature overshot drafts, or grids of weaving instructions resembling music scores.

The guild’s collection of these samples, together with those woven and exchanged by members from every decade of its history, continues to inspire today. Cushions, window treatments, garments, handbags, scarves, throws, dish towels, and other creations handwoven by members were displayed in the exhibition.

For example, this hospitality runner on which member nametags are placed during guild meetings reminded me of the geometric designs in light-and-dark juxtapositions of textiles woven at the Bauhaus school in Dessau, Germany.

Noted for their functional, modern style, Bauhaus weavers varied color combinations to change the appearance of how the weave was constructed. To develop the ideal industrial upholstery fabric for cars, trains and airplanes, they made innovative choices in materials, including cellophane, plastic, leather, and novelties like Lurex, a synthetic metallic film-coated fiber. Read more about Bauhaus weaving in Bauhaus Textiles: Women Artists and the Weaving Workshop, by Sigrid Wortmann Weltge.

Notebooks of handwritten meeting minutes, annual membership booklets and meeting-reminder postcards document guild history. Sample issues of its newsletter, Thrums (named for the leftover threads of a completed weaving project on the loom), included articles describing educational trips, presentations and workshops given by weaving experts, reflections written under the headline, “The Eager Weaver,” as well as woven samples. Many of these publications featured various versions of the guild’s logo, comprised of crisscross lines to represent the interplay of threads in weaving.

I was particularly entranced by “Artistic Weaving and Metal-Working Are Part of Daily Routine in Log Cabin Home of Flurschutz Sisters Out on Wilkins Run Road,” a circa-1941 newspaper feature on Martha Flurschutz and her sister Sophia, a former guild member.

The article described “two quiet women who sit serenely before a fire in a little log cabin and perpetrate feats of artistry which are as old to the ages as war itself….[whose] fingers, quick with talent, have long since made the products of their Log Cabin Craft shop famous to lovers of fine woven fabrics or carefully wrought metals.”

Handweaving by Sophia Flurschutz

Martha first taught violin, then became a metalworker, creating platters, tableware, lamps and jewelry from bronze, silver and pewter after being trained at the Ohio Mechanics’ Institute and the Appalachian School of Handicraft in Penland, North Carolina. Sophia fell into weaving one summer while she was in Chautauqua, New York. Her interest led her to Berea, Kentucky, where her skill eventually established her as a designer for Churchill Weavers. She returned to her hometown of Newark, where, in a log cabin on Wilkins Run Road that she shared with Martha, she created handwoven ties, scarves, suiting and dress materials. One of Sophia’s weavings was displayed in the exhibition.

The Central Ohio Weaving and Fiberarts Guild is for anyone with an interest in the fiber arts, from weaving, spinning and dyeing to knitting, crochet and felting. It offers educational lectures and workshops given by skilled fiber artisans during its monthly meetings and informal gatherings, and lends looms, spinning wheels and textile-making tools to members. The guild expects to publish a book about its history early this year.

Posted in Museums, Spinning & Weaving | Leave a comment

Stand Up Straight, Keep Your Feet In First Position And Spray Vodka On Your Dress

Every time I finished reading about Stephanie, I decided that she was one pretty nifty girl.

Jill Krementz must have thought so too. She shadowed the 10-year-old student at George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet, photographing Stephanie’s experiences and describing it in her own words as she practiced in class, tried out for a role in the New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker, and then rehearsed for and performed the lead girl’s part in the ballet. The result was A Very Young Dancer, published in 1976.

Out came my much-loved book with the dogeared cover for another read, after I took a behind-the-scenes tour of BalletMet’s headquarters.

Located on Mt. Vernon Avenue in an area that was once an industrial part of downtown Columbus, the Second Renaissance Revival building was designed in 1906 by noted local architect Frank Packard. With a two-story central pavilion and rounded arched windows, the building follows the style of the Arts and Crafts Movement popular at the time of its construction, which called for places of labor to be both utilitarian and artistic in design. Until about 1920, it was used as a warehouse for the F.O. Schoedinger Company, which specialized in steel fabrication for heating and cooling systems.

In 1990, the building became the home of BalletMet, the arts organization founded in 1974. After being located above a Downtown bagel shop on Gay Street, in a church basement on Blake Avenue, and a facility near the Thurber House, BalletMet has thrived in its spacious current location. The building houses a dance academy, a costume shop, rooms to store the dancers’ pointe shoes and onsite physical therapists, and a premier dance-training center said to have the largest rehearsal space outside of Moscow. Neighboring buildings contain storage, a workshop for scenery construction, and a black-box performance space.

The tour that was recently offered by the Columbus Landmarks Foundation provided a unique opportunity to see BalletMet’s professional company of dancers and their support staff put the finishing touches on their performance of Giselle. 

Théophile Gautier‘s beloved two-act classical ballet presents the tragedy that befalls the heroine, Giselle, when she falls in love with a dishonest nobleman named Albrecht. Inspired by Victor Hugo’s poem “Fantômes, about a Spanish girl who dances herself to death, Gautier added to his tale Slavic wilis, young women who die before their wedding day and rise from their grave at night to lead their male victims to dance to their deaths.

Giselle‘s 1841 Paris premiere signaled the beginning of the Romantic ballet. Wearing billowy tutus made from dozens of layers of tulle and newly developed pointe shoes, the graceful female dancers appeared to float across the gaslit stage, which looked like it was cast in moonlight. Their movements, gestures and facial expressions heightened the drama of the story they told in this new form of narrative ballet.

BalletMet’s new version of Giselle is the creation of its artistic director, Edwaard Liang. Relying on the iconic spirit of this ballet, Liang retained its original, beautiful score by Adolphe Adam and the elements of pantomime that enhance the story, but added new choreography with a modern twist and envisioned spare, sleek sets and costumes in a neutral palette. The company worked on this production for the past year, which cast three different pairs of dancers in the lead roles of Giselle and Albrecht.

In the scenery workshop, we learned how three times the amount of lighting would be hauled over to the Riffe Gallery’s Davidson Theatre for the performances, then watched volunteers build rock piles where the wilis are buried that glow from within.

In the costume shop, Erin Rollins explained how she designed and made the costumes for Giselle. To create the dresses for the wilis, she made six different prototypes until she achieved the look that Liang sought. Each dress was specifically constructed, dyed and then hand-painted to achieve a blended look that would match its respective dancer’s skin tone. Thirty leotards were created, each individually airbrushed to create a faded appearance. She designed a pattern for the base of the dress; each of the 26 dresses was cut to size. Then, each of the three layers was measured for placement, pinned, and sewn on individually. Hundreds of tendrils used to shape and frame the torso were cut and pinned to the bodices of the dresses. All told, eight staff worked on the dresses, spending 14 hours on each one. Watch a short video about the creation of the wilis’ dresses here. 

As she worked on the final costumes for Albrecht and Giselle, Erin explained that all of the costumes have hook-and-bar closures so they can fit multiple people. Although the costumes have one launderable layer underneath, their delicate fabrics can’t be cleaned, so she employs an old trick: spraying vodka — a natural disinfectant and deodorizer — on them. Headpieces are made of nylon horsehair, a strong, stiff material that can be pierced with bobby pins to hold them in place. She described how each female dancer is allotted 40 pairs of shoes a year; some go through 14 pairs, others need more.

Finally, we watched the company in a 30-minute rehearsal in which Liang refined the dancers’ actions and intentions for the upcoming performance. I admired their regal posture, well-defined muscles, turned-out legs, and even some examples of their distinctive “duck foot” stance, all fundamental to ballet technique.

As we snacked on red velvet whoopie pies and Roosevelt coffee, BalletMet’s executive director, Sue Porter, told us about Liang’s recent world premiere ballet, one of three in a triple-bill performance called Art in Motion in which water rained down on the dancers as they move on stage. Watch a clip of it here.

As I left the building, I saw students standing elegantly at rest, perfectly executing the first of five positions central to ballet. The other four positions prepare the body to move, ensuring that whether traveling from side to side or front to back, those movements would always be measured and graceful.

Other students were warming up for ballet classes, which begin at the handrail, known as the barre, with a series of exercises to hone particular skills. After progressing through slow, balancing movements and turns in the center of the room, students line up at the side of the room to work on jumping movements and traveling exercises across the floor, then finish with a short bow or curtsy known as reverence.

Ever since, I’ve been standing a little straighter, my feet in first position, just like Mrs. Boatright taught me to do in my Columbus School for Girls Lower School dance classes.

To hear more about BalletMet’s new production of Giselle, which took place February 9-17, watch this January 19 interview on All Sides Weekend: Arts and Culture with Christopher Purdy.

For more on the history of ballet, check out Apollo’s Angels: A History of Ballet, by Jennifer Homans, and The Ballet Companion: A Dancer’s Guide to the Technique, Traditions and Joys of Ballet, by Eliza Gaynor Minden. If, like me, you’re interested in incorporating ballet into your daily exercise routine, read Barre Fitness: Barre Exercises You Can Do Anywhere for Flexibility, Core Strength, and a Lean Body, by Fred DeVito and Elisabeth Halfpapp, and Ballet for Life: Exercises and Inspiration from the World of Ballet Beautiful, by Mary Helen Bowers. If you’re curious to know what happened to Stephanie, click here. 

Posted in Columbus, Dance, Fashion | Leave a comment

Beadles And Bill-Stickers Washed Down Wastel And Cocket With Salop

Listen to the conversations that ensue when a score of librarians gather, and you’ll understand why I scampered over to Columbus College of Art and Design’s Packard Library for an open house.

Courtesy of Packard Library, CCAD

In the course of the first five minutes, I had shared my source for Donegal tweed skirts, heard about the freeing experience of steeking the London Cityscape cardigan, and admired a pullover sweater with a design that mimicked cat’s-eye glasses hanging on a beaded chain. Then came rapid-fire tips for creating library swag, from Harry Potter-inspired badges to magnetic bookmarks with cover designs created by student employees.

These inspiring conversations were right at home in this equally inspiring setting. In 1930, noted Columbus architect Frank Packard gifted money through his will to provide a library and maintain the collection of what was then known as the Columbus Art School. It was first located in Beaton Hall, the elegant Spanish Revival building next to the Columbus Museum of Art that was the school’s first home.

Today, the Packard Library’s collection includes 55,000 books, together with journal subscriptions; exhibition catalogs; electronic resources like the Bloomsbury Design Library; those works of art in book form known as artists’ books; a stitching library for book artists to study bookbinding techniques; zines, or small self-published books or magazines; a collection of broadsides from the local music scene; drawing aids; and a Materials Library encompassing polymers, ceramics, glass, metals, and other materials, together with Material ConneXion, an online database of material descriptions, images and usage characteristics.

But the rare book collection was really what I came to see. More than 700 gems dating from the late 17th century to the present cover printmaking, book arts, architecture, interior design, pattern and ornament, and the history of costume. As I turned their pages, I learned a plethora of new vocabulary words.

On display were Groot Schilderboek, an influential 18th-century Dutch theoretical manual by Gerard de Lairesse on the art of painting, drawing and engraving; Dame Elisabeth Frink’s illustrated edition of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales; and De Romanorum magnificentia et architectura, by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, the great 18th-century printmaker who believed that Roman ornament derived from the influence of not the Greeks, but the Etruscans. Eugène Grasset’s Plants and Their Ornamental Applications, a Belle Epoque volume chock-full of stylized floral motifs, offered countless decorative possibilities for wallpaper, textiles, ceramics, needlework, stained glass, tile and furniture.

Have you ever seen such beautiful, vibrant colors as in Variations: Quatre-vingt-six-motifs decoratifs en vingt planghes? Written by Edouard Benedictus, a painter who was a friend of Maurice Ravel and the inventor of safety glass, this 1924 Parisian Art Deco work introduced me to the design technique known as pochoir, from the French word for “stencil.” This method of hand-stenciling with gouache, or opaque watercolor, was popular in Paris between 1910 and 1935, where it was used to decorate everything from fashion magazines and limited-edition books to greeting cards, wallpaper and advertisements. After a craftsman known as a decoupeur would cut different stencils for each sheet, colorists would apply each layer of color using a separate pompon brush.

Conversation turned to complete silence when I spotted Costume of Great Britain, an 1804 book by William Henry Pyne. Commissioned by publisher William Miller as part of a series of costume books, Pyne created 60 hand-colored illustrations, together with accompanying essays, portraying an array of trades and occupations in British society. He used aquatints to reproduce the delicate qualities of watercolors, a technique popular during the golden age of English book illustration before lithography was introduced.

I pored over images of brewers, butter-churners, coal-shovelers, slaughtermen, knife-grinders, lamplighters, cattle-drovers, tartan-sashed Highland shepherds, leather-aproned potters at their wheel, kerchiefed tanners working with animal hides, and a dustman emptying rubbish in his cart to prevent the plague. Women were pictured as brickmakers; worsted-wool winders; itinerant traders of rabbits, ducks and pigeons; and sellers of salop, a popular beverage of the day made from dried, ground orchid root, then sweetened and flavored with rosewater. In contrast, Pyne depicted peers, admirals, mayors, judges, a Knight of the Garter in his ceremonial robes, a member of the Wardmote Inquest dressed in fur-trimmed robes as he regulated the standard of weights and measures, a Chelsea pensioner in his iconic red coat lined with blue, and a beadle, who enforced good behavior during religious services.

A bill-sticker posting an advertisement on a wall symbolizes the future. While proclamation-making heralds and trumpeters in gold-embroidered crimson velvet livery once conveyed important news to Britons, printed bills were then spreading the news rapidly and inexpensively, circulating throughout the kingdom in four or five days.

The volume also documents British traditions like the country fair, with its round-about rides and puppet pantomimes by halfpenny showmen, and the lottery wheel, which was drawn through the streets to collect lottery tickets. It also recalls Guy Fawkes Day, the customary practice on November 5 to burn an effigy of Guy Fawkes — one of the traitors involved in a plot to overthrow the reformed religion, the Royal Family and all of Parliament — as people chant, “Remember, remember the fifth of November, gunpowder, treason and plot.” And it introduces modern readers to wastel and cocket (now known as white and wheat bread); how bakers were penalized if they sold their bread short of the required weight or did not mark their wheat bread with a large “W” and household bread with a large “H”; and how certain types of bread were baked for certain consumers, like loaves given to messengers as a reward for their services, and eleemosynary bread, which was distributed to the poor.

Pyne was also an art critic who published “Wine and Walnuts,” an anthology of his anecdotes about the London art world, in the Literary Gazette in 1823. His Microcosm, in which he presents hundreds of figures in scenes from everyday rural life, was intended to instruct art students. For more on Pyne, see William Henry Pyne and his Microcosm, by Harris Myers.

Posted in Art, England, Libraries, Special Collections | Leave a comment

Red Carnation-Loving Ohio Boy, Oh Where Can You Be?

Cautious. Devoted. Dutiful. Friendly. Good-tempered. Intelligent. Kind. Methodical. Neat. Patriotic. Pious. Polite. Quiet. Self-effacing. Solicitous. Studious.

All these are qualities of my ideal gentleman, and all, sadly, seem to be in short, if not nonexistent, supply. As Billie Holiday sang, “Lover man, oh, where can you be?”

With the help of author Robert W. Merry, I’ve concluded that one such example could be found in the short, broad-shouldered Ohioan who was our 25th President: William McKinley.

Both in his latest book, President McKinley: Architect of the American Century, and during his November 27, 2017 appearance on All Sides with Ann Fisher, Merry relayed the story of how McKinley once invited a particularly hostile reporter to put on his overcoat and get into his carriage during a downpour. The reporter replied, “I guess you don’t know who I am. I have been giving it to you every time you spoke and I am going over to rip you to pieces if I can.” McKinley responded, “I know, but you put on this coat and get inside so you can do a better job.”

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Merry suggests that while this congenial man’s critical thinking and leadership abilities have been dismissed, his quiet ways gave him a commanding presence that made people respond to him. The flamboyant Theodore Roosevelt, who succeeded McKinley after his September 1901 assassination, may have overshadowed him, but McKinley’s accomplishments prove that he shouldn’t be overlooked.

Some Ohioans didn’t think McKinley should be overlooked either. Recalling that McKinley wore his favorite flower, a carnation, in his lapel, members of the Ohio legislature named the red carnation as the state flower after McKinley’s death. Dayton native Lewis G. Reynolds founded the Carnation League of America in 1903 and instituted Red Carnation Day, an annual memorial to McKinley. Standing for patriotism, progress, prosperity and peace, the League encouraged all Americans to wear a red carnation on McKinley’s birthday: January 29.

Honoring McKinley’s birthday in this way also encouraged more people to appreciate the value of flowers and to patronize florists — something to which Americans were unaccustomed. In Dayton alone that year, more than 15,000 carnations were sold on McKinley’s birthday.

After the United States entered World War I, people started wearing an American flag instead of a carnation on January 29. In 1918, Red Carnation Day celebrations began declining and eventually stopped.

The Ohio Statehouse, however, continues observing McKinley’s birthday by installing a small display on McKinley and Red Carnation Day on January 29. This year, the Statehouse Museum Shop and Graze, the Statehouse’s on-site restaurant, also offered special discounts to people who wore a red carnation or dressed in red on January 29.

Sporting a red carnation that I knitted for the occasion, I stopped by the Statehouse to see the display and several other McKinley-related artifacts, both from the Statehouse’s own collection and on loan from the Ohio History Connection.

In the Museum Education Center, I spotted a medal promoting McKinley’s 1896 presidential campaign, as well as a tobacco tin celebrating the “Ohio Boys”: Presidents James Garfield, McKinley and Rutherford Hayes.

To recognize the eight Ohioans who were elected President of the United States, the Statehouse named hearing rooms in their honor. Artifacts from the lives of the men whose names they bear are on display. In the McKinley Hearing Room, I saw an “Honest Dollar” political medal from McKinley’s 1896 presidential campaign, in keeping with its “Sound Money” theme achieved by retaining a strict gold standard for American currency, and a drinking glass etched with McKinley’s portrait. Inaugural keepsakes include a patriotic silk ribbon with a celluloid button, as well as a program from McKinley’s 1897 inaugural ball. Reading the program’s online catalog record, I discovered that the inaugural menu included oysters prepared three ways, consommé, chicken cutlets, sweetbreads, terrapin, chicken salad, crab salad, lobster salad, tongue, Smithfield ham, game patties, boned turkey, pate de foie gras, assorted sandwiches, vanilla and chocolate ice cream, lemon ice, cakes, and Roman punch, a rum-enhanced, meringue-topped fruit punch. Heavenly day!

The hearing room also includes a portrait of McKinley painted when he was governor of Ohio from 1892 to 1896. It is attributed to Albert C. Fauley, a teacher at the Columbus Art School who traveled to Europe and painted with well-known local artist Alice Schille.

For more on my red carnation-loving hero and his wife, Ida, see my previous posts on the Statehouse statue commemorating McKinley’s ritual devotion to Ida; her dresses and crocheted slippers; and the silver butter knife that the McKinleys gave to the blind lady who brought up my great-grandmother.  

Posted in Flowers, History, Museums, Ohio, Ohio History Connection (formerly the Ohio Historical Society) | 1 Comment

Cross My Heart, You’ll Love The New Cover To Cover

Arlington Avenue was my 12-year-old self’s paradise.

There, I found a place of supreme delight. At Cross My Heart,  Jet, Sue and Susan’s retail shop for counted thread patterns and supplies, the walls were lined with rows upon rows of cross-stitch graphs and tidy lineups of hundreds of shades of DMC embroidery floss. Orderly bins of packaged Aida, linen and evenweave fabrics stood on its polished wooden floors. Finished samples of patterns — stitched by hooked customers like me in exchange for store credit — offered countless tempting ideas for future projects.

I was such a fixture at Cross My Heart that I soon figured out a future that would put me on this street at the center of my universe. I’d live in one of the apartments across the way and work at the Miller Park branch of the Upper Arlington Public Library.  I’d be close enough to make frequent runs to the Tremont Goodie Shop for Paradise coffee cakes and iced soft chocolate cookies, and to dine on Chicken Kiev at Delikatesa in the Lane Avenue Shopping Center. And I’d be right by Baldridge Road.  Paradise!

Arlington Avenue now offers a similar paradise to my 48-year-old self. It’s now the home of Cover to Cover, the city’s first and foremost independent bookstore devoted exclusively to children’s titles.

Cover to Cover was established in 1980 by Salli Oddi, a former Columbus Public Schools elementary school teacher. She and two other teachers began by traveling to area schools to sell popular paperbacks to students during book fairs, those fund-raising enterprises in which the bookseller shares the profits with the school. First located in Clintonville, Cover to Cover moved up North High Street to a larger location in 1997, where it remained until last summer.

Oddi used her knowledge of children’s books that she gained as an educator and a parent to create a phenomenal inventory of award-winning children’s books, New York Times best-sellers, and selections focused on parenting and education. Customers also recommended titles for the store to carry.

Oddi also offered regular children’s storytimes, reading clubs, writing workshops, teacher-training sessions, and visits by hundreds of children’s authors and illustrators. Jan Brett, Virginia Hamilton, Tomie DePaola and Marc Brown are just some of the notable figures who visited Cover to Cover to sign books, read stories to children, and draw autographed pictures on one of the store’s walls.

The warm, inviting store created a devoted following among children, parents, teachers and lovers of children’s literature. Its proximity to the Ohio State University campus also attracted education students learning techniques of literature-based instruction, in which children read trade books along with classroom study.

When Oddi decided to retire last year, Melia Wolf bought the business to continue offering the very best of classic and new literature for young readers. In her new Upper Arlington location, which opened in January, Melia plans to continue Cover to Cover’s traditions, holding storytimes in the back of the store and hosting author visits around the corner in Jones Middle School’s auditorium.

To put together her initial order of books, Melia worked with publishers and relied on Oddi’s inventory lists of middle-grade and picture books that reflect diversity, build empathy, and inspire children to become lifelong learners. Customers are still invited and encouraged to suggest books for Melia to carry.

The former art educator, preschool teacher and puppeteer renovated the space to make it accessible to customers with disabilities. From an inviting color scheme and attractive displays to shelves filled with bronze mice holding customer book recommendations and an updated logo branding complimentary bookmarks and reading club cards, Melia’s artistic touches are everywhere.

The store’s iconic autographed panels now top two bookcases. Images of the signed drawings also adorn gift-wrapping tissue paper and endpapers for a guest book Melia established for visiting authors and artists to sign. New York Times best-selling author Jon Scieszka, creator of The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales, The True Story of the 3 Little Pigs!, and the Frank Einstein series, inaugurated the book during his January 21 visit.

Courtesy of Cover to Cover

Near the floor by the checkout counter, local artist Sharon Dorsey created two charming little hideaways inhabited by Caldecott and Newbery, two soft-sculpture mice named for the annual awards bestowed on the artist and author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. Cover to Cover also sells notecards created by local artists with disabilities at Open Door Art Studio, which empowers the disabled to develop their artistic and creative talents.

I might have stopped by the new Cover to Cover because of the store’s name, but I’ll continue to visit because of Melia. 

Posted in Books, Columbus, Shopping | Leave a comment

Did You Find The Man Selling Ham?

January is limping along. The weather is unpredictable, time is passing slowly, and Spring is a long way off. Stuck in Columbus during this long, dreary season, I’m bored and restless for sights beyond the city limits.

To hasten this winter of our discontent, I’m finding fascination in the familiar. One recent example was taking some Healthy Steps to see the annual Huntington Holiday Train display at the Columbus Metropolitan Library’s Main Library.

For 26 years, my holiday celebrations have almost always included a visit to admire this miniature recreation of German buildings. Never before, however, had I taken the time to really study every inch of its charming features.

The display was the brainchild of the late Franck Wobst, the former chairman and chief executive officer of Huntington Bancshares Inc.  In 1992, Wobst commissioned Paul Busse, a renowned designer and builder of large-scale garden railroad replicas, to create a display for the lobby of the Huntington bank building at 17 S. High St. in downtown Columbus. Busse, his wife, Margaret, and their crew crafted a miniature railroad within a German-inspired landscape inspired by real buildings, but not copied to scale. They fashioned the buildings from natural plant materialsleaves, bark, seeds, pinecones, twigs, fungus and moss – a hallmark of the work of their Cincinnati-based company, Applied Imagination.

Before the natural materials were transformed into textured roofs, scrolled window frames and tiny half-timbered beams, the team soaked the items in polyurethane, then dried them to give them the strength and durability needed to ensure a long life. All these years later, they’re still going strong.

The landscape started small, with new pieces added each year. Its gabled 12th-century Gothic buildings recall those familiar structures of my favorite Bavarian destinations like Rothenburg ob der Tauber, the picturesque town on the river Tauber where I developed a taste for its Rothenburger Schneeballen, the shortcrust pastry “snowballs” sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar that have been its signature treat for hundreds of years.

A cathedral was modeled after the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in Dresden, Germany, which was destroyed in a World War II Allied bombing campaign, was painstakingly reconstructed for more than a decade (partially funded by Huntington and other central Ohio donors, among other international participants), and reopened in 2005. Inspiration for a castle came from Neuschwanstein, the iconic Bavarian castle commissioned by King Ludwig II. A waterfallfashioned from a garbage can and kitchensink plumbing parts that pumps nearly 600 gallons of water per hour — descends from the castle. 

This was no slap-dash construction job. Each building took one to three weeks to build. The castle and waterfall were completed in more than three months, while work on the cathedral spanned more than 10 months.

Five miniature trains run on 280 feet of track, crossing a red covered bridge. More than 50 pounds of artificial snowflakes simulate 600 square feet of a snow-covered landscape.

The display also includes a figural scene of a village with a flower stand and other attractions.

In 2009, the display moved to the Main Library’s atrium, where it has been on view during the holiday season every year except 2015, when the building was being renovated. Each year, the holiday train display is assembled differently. Click here to watch this video of its most recent installation. 

Display organizers challenged visitors to look closely and find details hiding in plain sight, such as a man selling ham, a tree with red berries, four dogs, and a train with candy canes.
At the top of the stairs next to the Huntington Holiday Train display, there’s  another annual holiday tradition at Main Library.  The Weasel Borough was  created by students at the Columbus College of Art & Design in the earlytomid1990s.

Posted in Columbus, Germany, Holidays, Libraries | Leave a comment

A Show Of Hands, Please: Have You Been To 1665 W. 5th Ave.?

The best part of spending weekdays in room 1098 is its history-spanning view of downtown Columbus. Look left and find the former Hartman Hotel, built in 1898 by the Columbus doctor who made his fortune from the patent medicine known as Peruna. Look right and admire the one-of-a-kind white canopy covering the performance stage at Columbus Commons, the six-acre park and greenspace that was once the home of Columbus City Center.

When the three-level shopping center opened in August 1989, my favorite lunch-hour pastime became sifting through the sale rounders and shelves of its anchor stores, Marshall Field’s and Jacobson’s.  When I wasn’t bringing home bargains, I indulged in unique treats from specialty retailers like A Show of Hands, the Ohio Designer Craftsmen-operated store which sold fine-craft objects made by artisans. Competition from new suburban shopping centers like The Mall at Tuttle Crossing, Easton Town Center and Polaris Fashion Place led City Center tenants to move on. In 2009, City Center closed and was torn down. My lunch hours have never been the same.

I relived my “A Show of Hands” shopping experiences recently when I finally visited the Ohio Craft Museum, where Ohio Designer Craftsmen has been headquartered since April 1993. Ohio Designer Craftsmen was founded in 1963 by 60 craft artists and professors, many from The Ohio State University, to support craft artists and give them opportunities to exhibit their work.

Located at 1665 W. 5th Ave., the museum promotes fine crafts made by artists who work in glass, clay, fiber, wood and metal. Besides operating a sales gallery, the museum mounts exhibitions, offers educational classes, curates a permanent collection and a small craft research library, and produces Winterfair, a popular craft fair held each December at the Ohio Expo Center.

This WOSU video prompted me to swing Santa’s sleigh by “Gifts of the Craftsmen,” the museum’s 15th annual holiday exhibition and sale. Before I even opened the door, I knew I was going to like what was inside.

Upstairs, I discovered hundreds of unique holiday gift finds.

Before long, I had selected a festive ceramic pony ornament and found a new source for snowmen, Santas and even German lucky pickle ornaments, all handcrafted from wool roving.Trying to exercise some restraint, I decided I’d wait to adopt a charming white kitten with a red bow, crafted as a pin by Carol Adams, and an attractive fiber basket created by Carole Stolte of Marysville. Downstairs, dozens of children participating in a gift-making workshop were creating polymer clay necklaces and embellished woolen eyeglass cases, then wrapping them for gift-giving.  I was ready to sit down and start crafting myself.

The Ohio Craft Museum begins its 2018 education lineup this Saturday with Art & Mindfulness: Creating Art with Meaning, a three-month series in which adults can make paper cut-outs, construct books and engage in creative storytelling through scratchboard art. Other upcoming activities include creating a custom-fitted artistic corset, making an embroidered, mixed-media hoop for Valentine’s Day, and discovering the art of Ukrainian Pysanky for Easter. Plans are under way for this year’s summer art camps for children. Next month, look for the opening of the museum’s new exhibition of contemporary works by emerging Ohio artists and its Art Studio Clearance Sale at the Ohio Expo Center.

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