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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Arts and Crafts in Southwest Virginia

 ~ the Cove, southwest VA ~
Arts and Crafts are alive and well in southwest Virginia; always have been, always will be. In past years, they were called "livelihood" and were meant to hold body and soul together, a tightly knit unit against the harsh winters and conditions of my beloved Appalachian Mountains. "There's nothing new under the sun" and that includes whatever work our busy hands find. From early, early days when Adam and Eve fashioned clothing out of fig leaves to yesterday when I spun yarn from my sheep wool, the art of making a living has enthralled many of us, generally for many reasons. The days of "having" to spin, bake bread, quilt, sew, weave, churn, etc. have gone by the wayside and now I do those things because they add meaning to my life, life to my years and provide me with nourishment of both physical and spiritual kind.

Decades ago, I was graduated from Virginia Commonwealth University, in Richmond, with a Bachelor of Science degree in Recreation, Parks and Tourism. At that time, VCU was a leader in the tourism education industry but I understand the "powers that be" have, unfortunately, lost focus and vision and that particular program no longer exists. A shame as tourism, along with agriculture, is in the top handful, probably top two or three, industries the world over. At any rate, tourism has been my focus and vision for many decades and when we moved to Thistle Cove Farm, I added Agri-tourism to the mix.

We bought the farm in May, 1995 and that September, I was hosting a couple of bus loads of elementary age children who came to the Cove for a tour. I gave them a tour of the house, under renovation, of the kitchen and medicinal herb garden and then walked them around the yard and told them some of the history of the Cove. My own mini-industry was born and, ever since, I've given Farm Tours to folks interested in Appalachia, agriculture, arts and crafts. It's been delightful, sharing our farm and what we do, letting the children climb onto my lap and try their hand at spinning yarn on a spinning wheel, letting them use a drop spindle. Sometimes we use Kool-Aid to dye yarn and that's always a winner with the small fry.

The Lost Arts Guild was started shortly after we moved here and exists to showcase those folks who are making things, one at a time, with their hands.  The blog needs updating but, if you visit, you'll get an idea of who we are and what we do. I encourage other members to update but that, rarely, happens as everyone is busy making a living.

Over the years, we've had people come to the farm to shoot commercials, videos, folks who were writing books or magazine articles and, in the last, half dozen years other, like-minded, people have banded together to promote arts and crafts in southwest Virginia. "Round the Mountain Southwest Virginia's Artisan Network is a non-profit organization whose mission is to promote sustainable economic development of the region's communities by assisting local artisans with marketing, educational, and entrepreneurial opportunities."
~ Tim Ivy ~
Last week, Tim Ivy, Two-Rivers Multi-Media Solutions in Williamsburg, VA, came to Thistle Cove Farm. He wanted to film video and shoot stills for the Round the Mountain Artisan Profiles project. Another regional project is the Crooked Road Project, seen at the bottom of his first page.

Tim is an interesting gent and, as he said, "has the best job on the planet". Well, mebbe, mebbe not -smile-. I always sorta figured I had the best job on the planet! Isn't it great when people love what they do? It was a beautiful day on the farm but I always say that, don't I? It's true though; at Thistle Cove Farm, one day is perfect and the next day is beautiful.

I like Tim, in part, because he said words that were music to my ears. He said, "it's all about the story." Amen, brother! It is all about the story! When people buy something from me or anyone else who makes things, they buy after hearing the story. My story is how Daddy's people came over here in 1654 and made their way to Appalachia and stayed because it looked like home...Ireland, Scotland, Wales. How Daddy's people were fiercely independent coal miners and farmers who wanted to live their lives without too much government, how they are now turning in their graves!..., wanted to raise their families in the Protestant religion of their choice, etc. I have Shetland sheep because of my Scots heritage, Romney sheep because of my English heritage and Merino sheep because they were cute bottle lambs and are now HUGE pests. Lovable but still pests! -smile-

The older I become...thank you God...the more I see people who have no roots. They don't stay in one place long enough to grow any strength of character and, trust me, it will show, if not now then eventually. Oh, but I digress; my apologies.
~ growing some deep roots ~
Here in Tazewell County the Appalachian Arts Center showcases folks from a wide region - southwest Virginia, southern West Virginia and other areas. I'm proud to say, back in the day, I suggested the name for the Appalachian Arts Center. The first director called me, during start-up phase, and asked my opinion for a name. If you've read this blog any time atall, you know how I feel about Appalachia...proud!...and told her, "call it the Appalachian Arts Center." She said, "there are other places in other states using the name Appalachia." I didn't think then, nor do I think now, that matters as Appalachia is an extremely large and very diverse region. The only state that is entirely within Appalachia is West Virginia, the other states have only portions that may be called Appalachia. At any rate, the AAC is the child of the Southwest VA Community College and has done wonders for increasing exposure for both southwest Virginia and the folks who are engaged in the making of art and craft.
~ Dani Cortez ~

Cassie, Paper Kitty, brought Dani Cortez to the farm; you can hear the podcast here. I have no bandwidth and lack the knowledge on how to listen to a podcast...I'm so low tech!...but you listen up and let me know what you think, okay? Dani is working on a book, Craft Culture, on some of the places she's visited during her recent tour. That's a great name, don't you think...Craft Culture?
~ Cassie and Sadie ~
I'm all for tourism, agri-tourism, arts, crafts and the promotion of it all. Although I've slowed down a tad and, am now focusing on making my own art and craft, I still talk it up whenever possible. In this hurry up and make do world, I've always got time to slow down and listen to the things that matter, the lives that add meaning to mine. We all have the same amount of time in a day, a week, a month, a year. We may not all have the same amount of time in a life but that's truly not as important as what we do with the time we have. If you're not making something with your hands, try it. Find something to do that will give your hands and life work and meaning beyond the day job. You've got time; it's all about choices and making the ones that add, not subtract, from our lives. Find something to do that will give you a story, add meaning to your life, and provide you with nourishment of both the physical and spiritual kind.

For some years I've bestowed a blessing upon folks; now, I bestow it upon you also:  

God's blessings on you, yours and the work of your hands and heart.

Dei Gratia,


  1. What a wonderful post, Sandra. Since I've gotten to know so many women on these blogs I follow, I've become more and more interested in crafts and sewing. I can just crochet now, but want to learn to do rug hooking, and I just bought some books on knitting, and will try and teach myself over the Fall and Winter. I'd also like to learn to sew. I once did a quilt partly on the sewing machine, but I don't have the sewing machine any longer. I'd love to get a treadle sewing machine, just for the tradition in using one. I think my first sewing project will be an old fashioned apron, like my Grandma used to wear. One blog I follow, Chickens in the Road, today, has a great post on an old apron display at a historical society building in WV. That is where I've gotten the idea to want to do an apron.

    Sandra, I just love coming to visit at your blog - I feel the peace and calm of your place as you talk about it, and the things that you hold dear - they are things that are important to me as well. I hope you have a great Monday. And thanks for the wonderful email you sent - you're an awesome woman! Take care, from KY.

  2. HI Sandra, Thanks for stopping by for a visit. Wish we could do it in person I believe we would have lots to chat about or we could chat while putting up peaches. Mom and I did 9 quarts this morning. Probably would have been 12 but I've been baking too so we are enjoying pies and cobblers. It so much more fun if you have a partner to do canning with, don't you think.
    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~

  3. You know, Sandra...there aren't many bloggers I would love to visit, but you would definitely be one of them. I love the way you write, and I love your farm. Maybe someday we really WILL get to meet! If not on this earth, then surely in our true home, heaven.

  4. I enjoyed this post and your podcast. Just wish yours could have been longer.

  5. "The older I become...thank you God...the more I see people who have no roots. They don't stay in one place long enough to grow any strength of character and, trust me, it will show, if not now then eventually."

    We would all love to come there and one day you will open your front door and find not a mountain of floral&fauna but your blog followers
    Love coming your way tonight!

  6. Very informative and also encouraging Sandra. You said so many things I might write down to remember. Now after this week of being very busy I intend to do just what you wrote about, slow down and craft! My way~my heart and soul need it, and I reflect on God and His ways while crafting.

  7. it's so nice to know that these special arts have not been lost.
    hopefully more people will get interested and keep these skills alive for a long time to come.


  8. Sandra, does writing count as a working with your hands? I hope so, because I really want to qualify....

    If not, someday I want to learn how to quilt. A bucket list perhaps?

    A beautiful and inspiring post.

  9. Loved this post so very much!
    I wish I did have the talents of you and your wonderful "craft-mates"! J purchased a sewing machine for me last year. I have only used it once; to make the curtain for my sink in the kitchen!

    One day I will pick a (small!) project and follow it through!

    Although I don't consider myself crafty, I have a great love for all things vintage. I have so much fun making our house a home through decorating.And so many "pretties" and furniture came from my Nana.I love it when people step through the door and ask if they can walk around and look at all of "treasures"!
    Because it is all about the "story", and I love telling the stories behind everything in our home :)
    I may not be an artist of any kind, but I love living with things made with love, by people who are artists.
    Thanks for carrying on such wonderful traditions, Sandra!

    xo, misha

  10. The whole post was so very cool!

  11. i love your story! . . . and that roots are
    so important to you. i feel the same

    your grace, humility, and gratitude are so
    inspiring, which is why so many people
    want to visit thistle farms. well, that and
    the fact that you have such a beautiful
    working farm!!!


  12. I wholeheartedly agree with Nancy above about you opening your doors one day to find us all on your porch!

    Which sorta goes hand in hand with my award for you on my blog - you make us all feel at home with you.

    Thanks my friend,

  13. G'eve Sandra ~ Oh, my your fields are so beautiful ... I love driving country roads to enjoy the beauty of nature.

    Lovely write ... so peaceful & sweet.

    Have a lovely PINK summer weekend ~
    TTFN ~ Marydon

  14. Hi Kathy - you're too kind and your compliments are much appreciated. Dear Woman, I must beg to differ though as I am not awesome. That word belongs to God and God alone; my heart's desire is to be a woman after His own heart and I struggle daily to attain that goal. You keep with the work of your hands and it will, not only, bring you peace and comfort it will also give you something tangible to show for your efforts and time.

    Hi Ahrisha - Oh yes, it's always easier and more fun to share work. Work shared is halved, joy shared is doubled!

    Hi Cyn - for sure, I'm visiting your house in heaven; looking forward to it too!

    Hi Deborah - thanks for listening to the podcast; wish I could hear it -LOL-. Dani was a bit flustered and not well prepared; I recognized such because I've been there -smile-.

    Hi Nancy - you just come on for a visit but you have to bring Becky and Pa!

    Hi Kathy - this week, I'm slowing down and working in the studio. Washing fleeces and, hopefully, dyeing yarn are on the agenda.

    Hi Chas - I encourage everyone to learn a skill and then start producing; surely, if I can, anyone can! -lol-

    Hi Dawn - absolutely, writing counts! It's the work of your hands and heart, eh?

    Hi Misha - your critters would beg to differ. Their lives are made much, much better because of the work of your hands and heart!

    Hi Penny - so glad you enjoyed it; thanks!

    Hi Lea - you are SO kind but I'm afraid if you could follow me around one day, you'd find, too often, I lay aside grace and humility to let my bad side show. Sigh. Life is a learning process, eh? We're learning for eternity.

    Hi Jules - THANKS! I don't work on Sundays, unless it's to "pull an ox out of the ditch" so will visit you tomorrow. Thank you for your award; you're so kind to me!

    Hi Marydon - it's a great day in the neighborhood; hope the same for YOU!

  15. We've toured in and around Williamsburg, The University at Richmond and thought it was all beautiful.

    Your post makes me want to come and visit more.


  16. I love what you are doing with your farm and how you are teaching others. My daughter just returned from a farm in Appalachia (West Virginia) ... she LOVES it there.


Thank you for visiting Thistle Cove Farm; may God bless you, yours and the work of your hands and heart. My goal is to respond, here, to your comments although it may take a while.

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