Friday, May 22, 2009

Dipping into the Inkwell

One thing you notice when you visit Williamsburg after visiting Jamestown is how much things have changed. Small wonder. For those living in Williamsburg in 1776 the settlement of Jamestown was nearly 200 years ago. It is almost as long ago for the well-wigged residents of Williamsburg as their time is for us.

18th century curling irons

The girls in costume seemed to delight people everywhere they went. They had their pictures taken many times. People struck up conversation with us and said they'd been watching the girls for the whole day, or even two days.

Clem playing with a hoop and stick

One woman overheard Greta singing Take Me Home Country Roads (it is on our We Sing America CD) and said she was from West Virginia and that Greta had made her day. They sang half the song together, then Greta said, "you can figure out the rest."
"Oh I could just eat you up with a spoon!" the woman said.

While Greta and Clem (mostly) smiled for each shot, Evelyn was likely to shoot back.

One of the highlights was a concert on glass instruments. The first instrument that Dean Shostaks played was this glass armonica that Ben Franklin invented. After inventing it Ben commissioned someone to construct one. It arrived in pieces. He was up half the night putting it together. When he finally had it assembled he couldn't wait for morning. He began to play and woke his wife who thought she had died and the angels were singing to her.

There was a brief fad for the glass armonica which arrived on the musical scene along with the piano. Mozart composed several pieces for the glass armonica. By 1830 the fad was over. No glass armonicas survived intact. It is only recently that one was reconstructed.
Greta was in love with this glass violin, one of two in the world.
We learned so much at the elbow of various craftsmen and guides.

One of the things I hope the kids take away from this is to follow their passions. If your passion is glass instruments you can find a way to make that your life. If your passion is 18th century silversmithing, there is a place for that, too.

Clementine got to carry the lantern on our lantern tour.
Clem and Greta often looked like sentimental paintings of 18th century scenes.
Evelyn shoots back again.

You might remember that I wanted to interview the potter. The potter was one of the few things I remembered from my trip. In St. Augustine at the Castillo de San Marcos gift shop I saw the very inkwell I bought in 1980 to its last detail. The one my mother still has in her glass cabinet. I was so disappointed to find that this thing that had meant so much to me as a kid (even though the ink seeped right through it) was some mass produced thing you could buy anywhere.

Clementine was buying a cannon. The cashier told her it was a good choice, made in Philadelphia. She then went on to tell us all the things in the store that were made in the U.S. "The pottery," she said, "is from Williamsburg."

My heart soared. At least it was really from Williamsburg.

So we got here and we saw the printer, the brickmaker, the milliner, the silversmith, the blacksmith, the gunsmith, but no potter!
At the gunsmith's shop

On the second day I asked.
We haven't had a potter in years, they told me. You see, there were no potters in Williamsburg. It was illegal for colonists to make pots. They had to buy them from England.

So the one thing I remembered was not even true to the time. I wonder what the girls will remember.

Off to Yorktown!


J.G. Wilder said...

I am so inspired by your trip, and by all the provocative photos. Your kids will remember this forever -- and so will all the folks they charmed, I'll bet.

May I please do a painting of Clem holding the lantern? I love that image.

Were those Tasha Tudor's dollhouses you saw???

Susan said...

Jennifer, paint away! And you are spot on. They were Tasha Tudor's dollhouses. Clem was very inspired she is talking about making plates out of hammered bottlecaps. Evelyn began to make a doll out of driftwood and shell fragments.

Stefaneener said...

Maybe we should have all the kids wear old-timey clothes because they look so very sweet in them. Sorry about the recasting of your childhood memory!

Still, the trip (read backwards to your experiences) is pretty impressive.

Susan said...

Stefani, I am all for making the kids wear old-timey clothes. The photo ops were endless. Maybe we could make it the homeschool uniform. It helps to have a good backdrop, though.