Saturday, March 24, 2012

Appalchian Spring

Corn Husk Doll

Whenever I go to visit my godfather, I break the twelve hour drive between Atlanta and Dayton with a stop at the Kentucky Artisan Center in Berea. 

Reverend John G. Fee founded Berea as a Christian community.  Although Fee’s father owned slaves, Fee was an ardent abolitionist with a zeal for making education accessible to all – male, female, black or white – regardless of their financial means. 


Berea College, which Fee established as a one room school in 1855, therefore became the first coeducational and interracial institution of higher learning in the state of Kentucky.  In 1904 the Kentucky state legislature passed the Day Law, which prohibited interracial education.  Berea College fought the Day Law all the way to the Supreme Court.  When the Supreme Court upheld the infamous law, Berea assisted in the establishment of Lincoln Institute near Louisville, so that African American students would still have access to higher education.  Berea immediately re-opened its doors to black students when the Day Law was amended in 1950.
Berea College’s commitment to social justice encompasses preserving traditional Appalachian crafts and developing markets for local artisans.  When Dr. William Frost, third president of the college arrived from Oberlin in 1892, he was impressed with the examples of fine weaving he saw all around the community.  
Woven Place Mat
He encouraged the mountain artisans to barter their wares for “larnin” and thereby instituted the tradition of free tuition at Berea for academically promising students who work to earn money for room and board.  Visitors to the campus can still observe students practicing traditional crafts such as weaving and broom-making.  

Brooms crafted at Berea College
Under President Frost, Berea hosted its first craft fair during the 1896 commencement.  “The Homespun Fair” provided community artisans with a unique opportunity to sell their wares to the public.  Thus Berea became a birthplace of the handicrafts revival.

Today Berea is known as the Folk Arts and Crafts Capital of Kentucky.  I arrived at the Artisan Center in time for a carving demonstration.  One of the master craftsmen gave me this flower, which he carved from a twig. 

On my way home I bought more hand-crafted flowers for this vase which adorns my kitchen table:

My salt dough projects cannot match the artistry of the wares I saw at the Kentucky Artisan Center.

Still I hope these salt dough trays will make an attractive way of serving the cheese and crackers from last week’s tutorial:

À Bientôt


  1. It's me -- dbg, not taking a chance on Blogger sending my Blogger ID comments to spam. It appears my "hoodie"/Anonymous comments are accepted without problem.

    I enjoyed the history of Berea and learning about Rev. Fee's progressive thinking and willingness to provide education for all.

    Berea sounds like a crafter's heaven.

    I also enjoyed watching the creation of the decorative serving trays. Thanks for sharing your creativity through educational blog posts.


  2. Hi Debbie,

    Sorry you are having so much trouble with Blogger sending your comments to spam. Thanks for taking the time to read the post and watch the video.

  3. Kentucky is has so many hidden treasures when you drive through. I love driving through it in the morning when leaving TX, it just beautiful. Whenever I hit the road I try to find the craft bazaar and black history spots when traveling through the states. Thanks for sharing.

  4. Thanks so much for sharing information about the Artisan Center. Great tutorial. Always interesting to see what techniques you come up with.

  5. Hello from Spain: I like to retain the traditional tasks and craftsmanship of each place. The flowers are beautiful in your vase. Keep in touch.

  6. Hi Ladies,

    I greatly appreciate your comments.

  7. Hi Limbe Dolls and thanks for sharing this tutorial. When I saw the plastic eggs, I thought, huh? How can she use that for a tray? Is she going to cut it ...? Then you used the egg to shape the oval tray. I laughed. Thumbs up again.