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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Historic Stagville

A beautiful day out at Historic Stagville yesterday. The Jubilee Music Festival was at Horton Grove, where the old slave quarters are located, and the barns and houses were such a nice setting for a music and arts festival. There was a bluegrass band, a jazz ensemble, an 82 year old blues man, and an African drumming group.My neighbors were soap makers and brick oven bread makers and they were the only ones there selling anything. I just love to watch people spend $10 on food and shove it in as fast as possible, then it's gone, but they declare they don't have any cash to buy a lovely piece of art that will last a lifetime. FARK! But isn't my tent in a great place!

There is Syd Luck from down in Seagrove doing pottery demos and selling a few pots, I bought a great salt fired crock from him. It's still packed up or I would show it to you.
The view was nice. I heard these comments: Oh, your work is wonderful, the barns are beautiful, these are really works of art, I wish I had some cash (oh wait, I just spent it all on food I shoved in my mouth), I love your work, do you have a card? I'm just looking, do you make pins? Is this clay? Oh, lord, I have got to find some other way to sell this stuff!!!!
This was the bluegrass family, and that little tiny girl was a pro! Amazing
Loved the shape of this house, check out the "feet", looks familiar
and here is my very good friend Braima, who was with the African drumming group. Braima survived the wars in Sierra Leone and is now starting a coffee company there to help rebuild his village. Check out the link. Braima and I have done several camps together. One year my kids made an African village and learned about the atrocities in Sierra Leone as Braima was the story teller. We dedicated the village to the people of Sierra Leone and it was a powerful learning experience for our kids.
So Braima and I talked about my pottery and the possibilities of taking me to his village to help the women there bring back the traditional pottery making that was lost during the war. Many of the potters were killed and the rebels cut off many limbs of the villagers. I have been reading a lot since I got home and the UN has designated Sierra Leone as the poorest country in the world. Braima and others are doing their best to help rebuild the communities and teach new skills to the people so that they can be a sustainable village.
We are going to get together next week and put together a grant through the International Labor Organization (ILO) and talk about putting together a workshop for about 36 women to get them started with the skills they would need to bring back pottery to the village. This seems so huge, and I don't know how,as one little person, I can do anything, but I truly feel called to do this.When I think about it seriously, I can't really breathe, and I don't know if I can really do it, but I'm thinking about the possibility... I would have to help them dig their clay and prepare it, I don't really know how to do this, teach them coil building techniques, I can do that, and then we would have to fire the pots using traditional pit fire techniques, I can do that. Ironically, I had checked out some books at the library a couple of weeks ago about African pottery making, and have been reading a lot about traditional methods. I'm going to try and make some work as close as possible to how it is done in primitive cultures and see how that goes. I don't know if I will really do this, but it could be an amazing opportunity. Would love to hear some opinions and get a reality check. What do you think?

18 comments:

FetishGhost said...

Whoa... that's a big jump.
The biggest hurdle would seem to be finding and developing markets.

ladyofclay said...

Sounds like a huge undertaking but extremely worthwhile and satisfying ! You'll have to get your hands on this book :
Pioneer Pottery by Michael Cardew
(discription) Pioneer Pottery is one of the classic texts in ceramic literature. Its author, Michael Cardew, was one of the seminal figures in British ceramics and this book, written partly in response to his time spent in Africa, has influenced generations of potters around the world.
As one of the early and influential figures in British ceramics, Michael Cardew was asked in 1942 by the Crown Agents to go to Nigeria to set up a pottery training center. It was his experiences there, as well as his previous time spent in the Gold Coast, that formed the basis for this book. In addition to discussions about the basics of clay and glaze materials and their properties, Cardew shows how to make pots in the Kwali, Jebba, Vume, Ilorin, and Hausa traditions of western Africa. This book is the first book to discuss all aspects of the pottery making process from materials through marketing. Michael Cardew found it necessary to find out and do everything for himself, and this is what lies behind this book. The consequence is that it is filled with a sense of discovery and firsthand knowledge.

cindy shake said...

Sorry the show didn't have the sales you were hoping for :o( that's always a bummer... tough to find the right buying energy to match the venue. I wish your friend the best and support ANY type of development to aid in sustainability HOWEVER, you have a beautiful daughter to raise and a very loving husband and friends who still need you, and sadly Sierra Leone remains an extremely dangerous place (where a woman like you would bring a hefty ransom price) and is a do not travel to destination...

Tracey Broome said...

I read Michael Cardew's book and that's what made me think, who am I to even think about this? I also have thought about how there would be a market for this pottery, since the average person makes about $1 a month and teachers there are paid $10 a month. I think mostly it would be for them to make cooking pots, water jugs, things they need on a daily basis and there is a sort of market where things are sold. Lots to think about, I have so many bug bites today from sitting in a field, I can't imagine what I would look like after 3 weeks in Africa! Danger is a huge consideration too, and then there is always the consideration that plenty of people here at home need help as well!

Dennis Allen said...

Food v/s Art. When our son was little we went out to the mall for something, then the plan was to go out for pizza afterwards.He became enthralled with a poster of a dragon powered hot air balloon in one of the stores and really wanted it.We told him to choose between pizza or the poster.He thought for a few minutes and made his choice.The poster is still hanging on our wall 25 years later and we are still proud of the choice he made.

Linda Starr said...

Art feeds the soul to go on, food feeds the body and it needs more. Ten years ago maybe for me, now not well enough to do it. Even if the art isn't viable financially, the sense of accomplishment and dreams of the future are well worth it.

cookingwithgas said...

Hi Tracey- you love a challenge but this one is mighty big.
And I am not sure I am ready to let you go!
I know you would jump right in there and work like crazy to see it happen, but NC needs you too!
Bread - don't think I have not thought about selling bread or something folks could eat.
I always hold out hope that folks still need art in their lives.
And you are right we stuff our selves with food and move on.
We really did not spend any money on this trip for art even though I saw some wonderful wood work....

cookingwithgas said...

on another note-
Tracey when did you work for Old Time Canoe and was it in Greensboro or somewhere else?
We bought two canoes from them a long time back now- and since the trip we are thinking Kayaks!
We could use them here on a our pond.

Tracey Broome said...

Dennis I love that story and you can bet that I will be sharing that with some customers! Linda, art definitely feeds my soul and Meredith, yep it's a big bite, probably too big, but it has sure caused me to do a lot of reading if nothing else, learning a lot. From 1990-1995 I was a sales rep in the outdoor industry (biggest mistake I ever made!) and Old Town was one of the lines I was a rep for in NC and SC. Greensboro, was that Pro Canoe? Rob Levine? If you want kayaks, Widerness Systems is a great boat. A friend of mine in High Point started the company, we used to climb with him and his partner. Old Town sort of ripped them off with a plastic version that was a lot less expensive, but heavy. If you go back to Maine a trip to the Old Town factory is well worth a visit.

ang said...

wow trace thats a big one and a very noble cause.. on reading what cindy had to say if it's dangerous that just adds up in the against column unfortunately, it would be an incredible adventure maybe with bodyguards!! my friend lincoln kirby bell did something similar with a village in mexico i think it was supporting an orphanage...cheers matey

brandon phillips said...

art/craft fairs suck. we've only been doing the high-end shows for the last couple years. way more money to get in and a lot more rejection but they pay off.

Tracey Broome said...

Hi Ang, I would just love to work with potters in Africa but the danger and the food thing freaks me out a bit. Brandon you are absolutely right! The craft fairs suck, I really do not like doing them! Lots of effort for very little profit.

Julie Whitmore Pottery said...

Its so dangerous for women, Tracey. Maybe a bit in the future, when its safer and your life won't be at risk. It is noble, of course and they need help, but I think male potters would be safer for the time being.

Now about the sort of shows you are doing. I think you are at the wrong venues. You need to be in an atmosphere where the customers are focused on collecting. Its difficult to compete with live music and food. Shows where there is a fee to get in, where the number of participants if very limited and usually held
Indoors, quiet music, and great lighting, thats what your beautiful barns need.
j

Patricia Griffin said...

Hi Trace - I read the post and the responses with interest. I love how passionate and engaged you are in your life, and I hope some day to meet you in person. I do believe that one individual can make a huge difference in the world (i.e. Greg Mortenson and his schools for girls) HOWEVER, I'm with Cindy, Meredith, Julie and others on this one.

Tracey Broome said...

I think you guys are right, especially since I woke to the news this morning that there was an attack in Uganda. I also saw a video on Amnesty International that is very difficult to watch about a massacre in a village in Nigeria. It was the most horrible thing I have ever seen, of course no footage of it here, never even heard about it. I know there is plenty of good things to do in the U.S. but I would love the chance to coil some pots on African soil one day! Julie, there aren't a lot of those shows around here and they are hard to get into. I am going to have to get a little farther along to start applying to those but I think you are right, wrong venue, but it was a really fun day!

Brian said...

I once heard someone say that they never did any shows that had 'Live Music'

jimgottuso said...

would love to have seen the 82 year old blues dude. so those barns you make... is that clay?

Hollis Engley said...

It would indeed be a huge undertaking, Tracey, but it can be done. Or at least it can be attempted. People in the UK have been going to Africa for decades to start potteries or to introduce the craft to poor folks who are willing to work. There are people you can talk to who have worked over there. I think Toff Milway in the Cotswolds did some of that. Bill Van Gilder worked in Lesotho when he was younger. Dan Finnegan might point you in the right direction to find someone to talk to. There would be a lot of support on this end, I think, from friends and other potters.