It’s a fun little word, and everyone has one—or more likely, many. Its root is Latin through French, meaning “a nest,” or “to nest.” In searching for a theme in this issue, it seemed to fit, like a prized possession displayed in one, if you take the first meaning listed by Mr. Webster.

Long-time collectors of mostly Victorian antiques, Barry and Sybille Sidden found their niche (definition number two, the activity for which a person is best fitted) by switching their focus to searching out furnishings crafted by the Moravian community in which they’ve lived most of their adult lives. After all, it would be hard to settle in such a beautiful and historically rich place as Winston-Salem, North Carolina, without immersing yourself in all that the 18th-Century village of Old Salem and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts have to offer.

And so they did. The Siddens began attending MESDA seminars, learning about the simple yet refined furniture of the religious pietists who settled the region and created goods to support their community and sustain their missionary work around the world. In doing so, the couple found a style compatible with their Federal reproduction home and built a collection of Moravian furniture comparable to that of MESDA’s.

We also explore a relatively modern, or at least modern- looking, form of pottery (my favorite niche for collecting) with decorative arts detective Ware Petznick in “Make Mine a Mocha.” Two decades ago, Don Carpentier, founder of Eastfield Village, showed us how British and American makers used lathes, specialized slip cups, and a wild array of colors and patterns to create mochaware.

These bowls, mugs, pitchers, pepper pots, and rarer plates, cups, and saucers—produced from the late 1700s through the early 1900s—sport funky patterns with names such as cat’s eye, earthworm, and seaweed. Directory potter Joseph Jostes likens early potters’ experimentation in mocha forms and colors to hippies in the ’60s tie-dyeing their clothes or coloring and stretching fonts to create psychedelic album covers. Jostes has taken on the mantle of the late Carpentier in creating interpretations of these traditional wares.

Speaking of music, do you know about sea shanties? Seafaring men devised and sung these chant-like songs to make the arduous and necessarily synchronized work of raising sails and hauling anchors faster and easier. Dating from the 1400s, shanties found their niche (specialized market) mostly with sailors aboard merchant ships, especially on whaling ships in the 1800s.

A century later, musician and oral historian Alan Lomax traveled the country recording and documenting folk art singing traditions, including sea shanties. Today, groups at various seaport museums and elsewhere along the coasts help preserve the lyrics and keep the tradition alive at sing-alongs. During the pandemic, a young Scottish postman introduced a new generation to the genre on Tik Tok.

Several cultures claim the chili pepper as a key condiment in their cuisine, but the fruit Native Americans introduced to Columbus in the 15th Century quickly made its way around the world—grown, adapted, and adopted by cooks from Africa to China. Perhaps the earliest plant cultivated in the New World, the chili pepper offers an amazingly colorful and spicy variety to suit every palate.

Perhaps this issue’s assortment of articles will strike a chord with you and send you in a new direction of exploration. Meanwhile, I’ll be searching for a piece of mochaware to expand my pottery collection and fit that open spot on the bookcase shelf.

Jeanmarie Andrews

Executive Editor

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