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See the best traditional artists in America
For those who read or want to write for the magazine
The Finer Things
Regardless of our circumstances in life, we
all desire to own something beautiful,
something meaningful, perhaps an
object with a family connection—cherished
by or fashioned by the hands of a
loved one—or a piece of our heritage or
history. Several stories about such fine
objects resonate with family and historical ties.
Consider Eyre Hall, the stately 1759 home of generations
of Eyre family members, built on land at the southern
tip of Virginia’s Chesapeake Bay peninsula, where
their ancestors had settled a century earlier. Expanded,
redecorated, and filled with an enviable collection of heirloom
furnishings and decorative arts, the home is one of
the few of its kind still owned and lived in by descendants
of those who built it.
It took a substantial coffee table tome—400-plus
pages replete with stunning photos of period rooms, formal
gardens, landscapes, maps, genealogical histories of
those who both lived and worked at the plantation, and a
catalogue of objects—to tell its story. We offer a tantalizing
glimpse of its riches.
In the early 1970s, the Hobbs family settled on ancestral
land in North Carolina, moving a circa 1740 house to
the family farm and relying on Ben’s “hog-pen carpenter”
skills to restore it. In the decades since, Ben has honed his
skills as a maker of fine furniture—the kind 18th-Century
farmers and planters aspired to own and immigrant
artisans strived to build.
He taught his three boys the craft (now grown, they
too are cabinetmakers) and held workshops to teach others.
Jackie Hobbs decided to open a bed and breakfast inn
and then a restaurant, using some of the old buildings Ben
had been rescuing, moving to their property, and restoring,
to house students who came to learn. After four
decades, Ben and Jackie are semi-retired, still enjoying the
fruits of their labors in a home filled with their handiwork.
Renters of the former inn cottages are as well.
Residents of Philadelphia, and by extension, the three
counties south of the city that eventually became the colony
of Delaware, also sought to own objects of beauty and
value, particularly silver, a form of wealth that could be
handed down. Despite its small size, Delaware boasted a
number of silversmiths whose work rivaled that of their
peers in Philadelphia.
After the Biggs Museum of American Art in Wilmington
acquired the vast Delaware silver collection of Colonel
Kenneth and Regina Brown in 2008, officials
established a Silver Study Center to make this work available
to scholars and collectors—and to introduce the public
to these beautiful objects.
Unless you live in a period home with a working fireplace,
you’ve probably never given much thought to the role
of bellows, much less their aesthetics. Apparently, neither
have most material culture historians. Our article traces the
use and production of bellows in America, illustrated with a
surprising range of shape and decoration on these most utilitarian
of tools. They make affordable collectibles too.
Those who enjoy traveling will find the article about
the rise of grand hotels in the early 1800s of interest.
Descendants of the colonial tavern, these establishments
separated the functions of dining and lodging, often
within towering architectural masterpieces, from Boston
to Charleston and west into America’s rising cities.
We also look at the pioneering reinterpretation of Philipsburg
Manor in New York State, an early provisioning
plantation that produced flour and dairy products for
export. Three decades ago, Historic Hudson Valley realized
the true history of its success rested not with its Dutch
owners but on the shoulders of the twenty-three enslaved
Africans who ran the mill, milked the cows, tended the
gardens, packed and transported the finished goods.
It heartens and inspires me to learn these stories and to
share the role all Americans played in creating this country.
The deadline for applying to enter the 2022 Directory of Traditional American Crafts has passed. Applications are now in the hands of the jury, who will select the best artistry to include in the Directory. When the judges have completed their selections, we will individually notify each participant whether he had been selected. Please refrain from contacting us during the jurying process. It will only slow things down.