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See the best traditional artists in America
For those who read or want to write for the magazine
It’s a fun little word, and everyone has one—or more
likely, many. Its root is Latin through French, meaning
“a nest,” or “to nest.” In searching for a theme in
this issue, it seemed to fit, like a prized possession
displayed in one, if you take the first meaning listed
by Mr. Webster.
Long-time collectors of mostly Victorian
antiques, Barry and Sybille Sidden found their niche
(definition number two, the activity for which a person
is best fitted) by switching their focus to searching out
furnishings crafted by the Moravian community in
which they’ve lived most of their adult lives. After all, it
would be hard to settle in such a beautiful and historically
rich place as Winston-Salem, North Carolina, without
immersing yourself in all that the 18th-Century village
of Old Salem and the Museum of Early Southern Decorative
Arts have to offer.
And so they did. The Siddens began attending
MESDA seminars, learning about the simple yet refined
furniture of the religious pietists who settled the region
and created goods to support their community and sustain
their missionary work around the world. In doing
so, the couple found a style compatible with their Federal
reproduction home and built a collection of Moravian
furniture comparable to that of MESDA’s.
We also explore a relatively modern, or at least modern-
looking, form of pottery (my favorite niche for collecting)
with decorative arts detective Ware Petznick in
“Make Mine a Mocha.” Two decades ago, Don Carpentier,
founder of Eastfield Village, showed us how British and
American makers used lathes, specialized slip cups, and a
wild array of colors and patterns to create mochaware.
These bowls, mugs, pitchers, pepper pots, and rarer
plates, cups, and saucers—produced from the late 1700s
through the early 1900s—sport funky patterns with
names such as cat’s eye, earthworm, and seaweed. Directory
potter Joseph Jostes likens early potters’ experimentation
in mocha forms and colors to hippies in the ’60s
tie-dyeing their clothes or coloring and stretching fonts
to create psychedelic album covers. Jostes has taken on the
mantle of the late Carpentier in creating interpretations
of these traditional wares.
Speaking of music, do you know about sea shanties?
Seafaring men devised and sung these chant-like songs to
make the arduous and necessarily synchronized work of
raising sails and hauling anchors faster and easier. Dating
from the 1400s, shanties found their niche (specialized
market) mostly with sailors aboard merchant ships, especially
on whaling ships in the 1800s.
A century later, musician and oral historian Alan
Lomax traveled the country recording and documenting
folk art singing traditions, including sea shanties. Today,
groups at various seaport museums and elsewhere along
the coasts help preserve the lyrics and keep the tradition
alive at sing-alongs. During the pandemic, a young Scottish
postman introduced a new generation to the genre
on Tik Tok.
Several cultures claim the chili pepper as a key condiment
in their cuisine, but the fruit Native Americans
introduced to Columbus in the 15th Century quickly
made its way around the world—grown, adapted, and
adopted by cooks from Africa to China. Perhaps the
earliest plant cultivated in the New World, the chili pepper
offers an amazingly colorful and spicy variety to suit
Perhaps this issue’s assortment of articles will strike a
chord with you and send you in a new direction of exploration.
Meanwhile, I’ll be searching for a piece of mochaware
to expand my pottery collection and fit that open
spot on the bookcase shelf.
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