This article by Ray Spitzenberger first appeared in IMAGES for July 15, 2021, East Bernard Express, East Bernard, Texas.
This past weekend, my wife made her annual visit to the Wallis Arts and Craft Show, sponsored by the Wallis American Legion Post 200. It’s their 18th Annual Show, so she has been to quite a few on the way home from church over the years. In addition to home-canned sauerkraut and jellies, we often purchase such items as homemade braided rag rugs, throw pillows, and cloth sleeves for storing plastic bags, etc. When I was able to be out and about more, I enjoyed many arts and craft shows in the area. The numerous splendid hand-crafted wooden bird houses, small and large storage boxes, bookcases, etc., indicate that there are a lot of talented crafts persons in Texas. Men and women.
The Farmers Market held at Guffey Park in Wharton even offers us weekly arts and crafts, along with fresh produce and home-canned goods. In Rosenberg, there’s the Hollydays Market during October. My wife and I have enjoyed the Scarecrow Festival in Chappell Hill, where crafts are offered for sale. I haven’t even begun to list all events, and can’t. Why we love arts and crafts shows so much may reflect a longing for the simple beauty of life in the good old days.
I was blessed to have a mother who pieced and quilted hundreds of beautiful quilts in her lifetime, along with the many other crafts she created. Her braided rag rugs, which she made from scraps of cloth and old clothing were works of art, and doubly so, because they were made out of whatever used materials that were available. She also made fabric rugs with small pieces of cloth, using a latch hook. Magnificent home accessories in those days were not usually bought from an expensive home furnishings store.
My father was a maker of wood crafts, making some of the most incredible martin houses for his favorite birds who returned to occupy them every year. He was a master of making nice-looking little tables and storage racks out of apple boxes (you’d never guess they were made from apple boxes). Coming out of the Great Depression when money was scarce, he and many others learned the practical art of creating incomparable things out of simple, inexpensive materials.
My wife’s Uncle Heard Goldsmith, coming from the same generation of talented craftsmen as my father, handmade the most astonishing, enormous cedar chests I have ever laid eyes on in my life! We inherited two of his excellent pieces, one that he made for Peg’s mother, and one he made for her Aunt Sybil. Her uncle was a far greater perfectionist than even my father (that’s saying a lot), and his workmanship is flawless, — perfectly planed, sanded, stained, etc., and both chests are as sturdy as boulders! The washstand in our bedroom, hand-carved legs and top by my grandfather, has an unpolished, rustic beauty, very different from Uncle Heard’s cedar chests, but it is a treasure, too.
I don’t know whether there were arts and crafts festivals held in the Great Depression Era or not, but it was a time when most, if not all, people crafted beautiful things with their hands. In the 21st century we have an abundance of arts and crafts festivals and shows, with probably far fewer creators of objects useful and decorative. According to the Texas Association of Fairs and events, the State of Texas hosts over 100 crafts fairs, festivals, and events every year.
The one that seems to get the most attention is the Texas State Arts and Crafts Fair in Kerrville, held in May each year. In addition to the ones held there, and in our own area, there are events held in Ft. Worth, Aransas Pass, Katy, Plano, Pflugerville, New Braunfels, and in many other Texas towns and cities.
Very trendy in recent years is the making and wearing of hand-crafted jewelry. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that handmade jewelry is one of the best-selling items at crafts festivals. Several of our friends create hand-crafted earrings, necklaces, etc., and each artisan has a very distinctive style, easily recognized if you scrambled them together. There is the Van Gogh of necklace makers, the Monet, and even the Picasso, each appealing to the different personalities of their customers. When you buy jewelry that a person you know made, there’s a certain aura of personal love about it. Whenever I buy jewelry for my wife, I usually buy handcrafted pieces made by people I know, or that are handmade by aborigines of underdeveloped countries. Each artisan puts a part of himself or herself into the creation. I cherish my handmade pectoral crosses from Guatemala.
Perhaps it’s just because I am so old, but I make every effort to buy the special creations of artisans. That’s my way to salute them!
Ray Spitzenberger is a retired WCJC teacher, a retired LCMS pastor, and author of two books, It Must Be the Noodles and Open Prairies.