Eva Henderson talks about efforts to revive dying arts and skills by helping others learn them.
Q: What’s your initiative called?
A: It’s the Community Arts & Crafts Collective and our first class is Feb. 2.
Q: What are you trying to do with the collective?
A: We recognized there are a lot of arts and crafts that people — a lot of people, most everybody — used to know how to do but hardly anyone does now. What we’re doing is getting volunteer instructors together with people who’d like to learn what they do for a win-win-win-win. Instructors get to show their work and extend their art or craft, participants learn, each gets an opportunity to show and sell work and the community is strengthened and enriched.
Q: How so?
A: Just meeting and learning together helps strengthen our community as diverse parts come together to learn and grow and teaching these skills to new people enriches all of us by having them live on and not die out. That would be so sad. We need to preserve our traditional skills, arts and crafts.
Q: What are examples?
A: One is right now I need to have a chair re-caned and it’s hard finding someone to do it. I’d like it done but I’d love to learn how to myself, too.
Q: People may not even know what you’re talking about. What is caning?
A: It’s weaving a chair seat. Either while building or, like mine, repairing it.
Q: What are other skills and arts you have in mind?
A: Things that seem as common as sewing to more specialized ones like the caning and doll making. Other things are crocheting, knitting, quilting, doll making, paper crafting, jewelry making and soap making. Really, we’d love to do most anything there’s an interest in and we can get an instructor for. Personally, I crochet but I’d love to learn other things. We’d like to do braiding and I’m looking for people to teach basket weaving, cross-stitch and upholstering. Some of the classes will be just one session where you make something and take it with you and others will be longer like the doll making. It will be six sessions and cover simple to more complicated.
Q: What are costs and fees?
A: The classes are free, all are free, but of course there are costs for materials to work with. That’s one reason we have registration for classes that will typically close two weeks before the class. Our instructors are volunteers who want to teach others but they will have opportunities to make their work available. There will be opportunities for students to show and sell their work if they want to, too.
Q: Who sponsors this?
A: St. Luke’s Episcopal Church at 1000 State University Drive in Fort Valley. That’s where classes will be with the first kicking off African-American Heritage Month on Saturday, Feb. 2. It’s a pretty deep Episcopal tradition to hold a Christmas bazaar and that’s going to be one opportunity for people to show and sell work. Some may want to donate to the church and others will want to sell outright.
Q: When are classes?
A: We have a schedule set up for the first and third Saturdays through December. We could have two classes each Saturday, from 3 to 4 p.m. and 4 to 5 p.m.
Q: A lot of this used to be taught mother to daughter or father to son, that sort of thing. You say you crochet, did you learn it from your mother or grandmother?
A: No, I learned when I was 13 from a friend who had moved here from New York. I saw what she was doing and wanted to learn myself.
Q: That’s basically the model you want multiplied in these classes, right?
A: That’s exactly it. People helping other gain important skills that shouldn’t be lost. We’re especially hopeful young people will come learn.
Q: How do people find out about classes and get involved?
A: I prefer they email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or they can call me at 770-262-7163. If anyone would like to be an instructor, please contact me.
Answers may have been edited for length and clarity. Compiled by Michael W. Pannell. Contact him at email@example.com.