Category: Where we come from

Art that connects with The Creator

Kristi Nash Harrison says she’s an attention deficit artist. “I jump from one thing to the next,” she told me when I caught up with her this week as she was preparing for what’s become known as “the most anticipated little craft show in Mechanicsville.” That would be The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends Holiday Open House at my Inspiring Handmade partner in art, Patti Jones’ home and studio: 8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, in Battlefield Green. This year (the show’s 17th) the fun begins Friday, Nov. 22, at 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and continues Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m.

For years, Kristi and Patti have joined their friends and fellow makers to create and show original art and crafts. And while her interests may be many, Kristi, a long-time local artist, and art teacher, says clay and paint are her mainstays. “Over the years, my art has evolved,” she said and explained that it always reflects various facets of her life. The crabs and water themes, for instance, are inspired by her mother’s love of life on the water.

glazed pottery cup with a crab
A sculpted crab crawls among sand and grass on a glazed cup. All glazes are lead-free and safe for everyday use with food and drinks.
Wonderfully illustrated crabs congregate on glazed plates. Pile them high with Christmas cookies and even when the baked goods are gone, these plates look amazing.
Whimsical dragonflies dance along the top of a glazed tumbler. Who wouldn’t be inspired by taking a sip or using a pen kept in this work of art?
A dragonfly prepares to light on a flowered lilypad on this glazed bowl. Want to make someone feel special? Serve them their favorite ice cream in what will surely become known as “the dragonfly bowl!”

This year Kristi’s also showing one-of-a-kind glazed bowls illustrated with majestic night skies.
“When I take my dogs out, Kristi explains, I love to look at the heavens and the stars. The heavens declare the glory of God,” she says, quoting Psalm 19. As an artist, she’s drawn to the sky and thinks of the northern lights and the array of colors you see in a sunset.
“I’ve also been inspired by the works of artists Vincent van Gogh and Henri Matisse,” she says.

Glazed bowls illustrated with a gorgeous night sky.
A crescent moon rises through a wondrous night sky draped in the Aurora Borealis on this glazed bowl.

As important as the art is to this creator who holds a master’s in art from Virginia Commonwealth University, Kristi’s work is about more than the image.
“I love sharing Scripture that’s a part of my life to help bring peace and inspiration to others,” she said. That’s one reason why her work has been so popular all these years. She said one woman who purchased a piece of her pottery told her she keeps her keys in it so that she’s inspired by it every time she leaves the house. “People have told me that they keep my work where they can see it every day and be reminded of God and their blessings. It helps them stay positive.”

You can see (and purchase) Kristi’s gorgeous pottery (all safe to use with food) and other work at this year’s The Three Whine Oh’s and Friends Holiday Open House starting this Friday, Nov. 22, 3 p.m.-8 p.m., and finishing Saturday, Nov. 23, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. at 8352 Devil’s Den Lane, Mechanicsville, VA 23111, in Battlefield Green. Long-time fans of the show will tell you to get there as soon as possible Friday to get your choice of the art, crafts, and delicious baked goods.


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Remembering a wise & creative grandmother

Photo of Ruby and Will Price holding the toddler Stephen around 1968 or '69 in Pearisburg, Va.
Handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price
Handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price

My Grandma Ruby would have been 112 today. Born in 1907, she passed away just weeks before our first child was born in 2004. I’ve shared a little about her here, where I discussed the handmade furniture she created from scraps of wood for my mother to use with her dolls.

In honor of Ruby Cox Price Johnston today, I want to share some of what I wrote for her memorial service 15 years ago.

When I remember Grandma, I remember sweet iced tea. And pies and Christmas time visits (including the time she leaned too far and fell into the Christmas tree). I remember watching the Lawrence Welk Show and Hee Haw together by the wood stove in the house where I grew up. Grandma liked to stay very warm. There are countless memories of singing together. She loved the old classic hymns as well as the silly songs of long ago. She passed them down to my cousins and me, so we can sing the 1923 hit, “Yes, We Have No Bananas,” and “Carolina in the Morning,” first published in 1922.

When I remember Grandma, I remember praying. Grandma prayed and lived a life of godly devotion to her Lord and her family. She was not ashamed of the gospel, rather, she was ashamed of the many ungodly things in this world. For instance, she would never read a book any further than the first curse word she encountered. Over the course of her long life, she was a faithful member of several churches.

I learned these things from my Grandma Ruby:

  1. Be faithful to God and the things He calls us to do.
  2. Sing a lot.
  3. Things that you carefully make with your hands are beautiful and valuable.
  4. Pray often. I know she prayed for me.
  5. Love your family; be proud of your children and grandchildren. And tell them you’re proud of them and that you love them.

Grandma Ruby lived a quiet, often hard life, working with her hands in what many would consider remote rural places. She picked cotton and tobacco in the fields of North Carolina as a child. She raised my mother and her sisters, as well as several step-children, in the mountains of Southwest Virginia, where if they had any luxuries, it was because she made them—toys, dresses, good food. She was never famous, but her legacy will reach far and wide through her many grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

Thank you, Grandma, and Happy birthday. I love you.

Detail of handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price
Detail of handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price. The cracked mirror of the vanity, reveals some sort of bee keeping-related paper. My grandfather kept bees.
Detail of handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price
Detail of handmade doll furniture by Ruby Price
The old Price home
The home my grandfather built in Pearisburg, Virginia. This was where my mother and aunts grew up and was Grandma Ruby and PawPaw’s when I was little. Photo by Hannah Rountree

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The old black walnut tree

photo of Patti Jones on her family's farm with the black walnut tree

I recently traveled back home to visit my mom for a few days on the family farm in Wythe County, Virginia. I love that farm, which has been in my family for so many generations. The living monument that has stood guard over the farm all these years is a huge black walnut tree. In its younger days, it served as a property marker. In recent years, the graceful old tree has offered a place to hold countless family picnics.

And to every generation, the tree has offered its treasures for each to do with as they pleased.

My grandfather, Homer Umberger, gathered the tree’s walnuts and created unique carvings, like the one you see below. He created a menagerie of carved animals and figures from the walnuts, which will be the subject of a future post, so stay tuned!

Photo of Honest Abe walnut sculpture
Honest Abe, by Patti’s grandfather, Homer Umberger.
Photo of bunny hand-carved from walnuts by Patti's grandfather Homer.
Bunny hand-carved from walnuts by Patti’s grandfather Homer.

My dad gathered the walnuts and cracked them to give away to friends and family who loved to bake with them.

Today I’m gathering my own black walnuts to make dye for my pine needle creations and homespun yarn (more on that in an upcoming post!). It makes me smile to think of all the family history that has played out on this grand green. I hope the old tree will be standing guard, and offering its treasures for many years to come.

Not everyone has an old walnut tree, but we all have something. What do you make with what you have? Share it with us in the comment box below. We’d love to read about it and, with your permission, share it with the Inspiring Handmade family.

First piece in a new series celebrates life

Image of Celebrate Life, a sculpture in wire and cut paper on driftwood by Patti Jones.

Take Time to Stop & Smell the Roses: Appreciating the little things

I am a breast cancer survivor. As I work on this Wire People collection, “Childhood Memories,” I am reminded that as terrible as breast cancer is, it can never take away your precious memories. This collection is dedicated to my mom and grandmother. My grandmother was diagnosed before I was born and passed away when I was a young girl. My mom received her diagnosis last summer at the age of 88 and is a strong fighter and woman of great faith.
I want this series to be a tribute to all the women who have struggled through the nightmare of breast cancer— from those who bravely fought, and lost their battle, to those who are still pressing on for themselves and the ones they love.
So, hidden in each sculpture is a tiny breast cancer ribbon symbol. The first piece is called Celebrate Life. Cancer made me appreciate the little things. I make sure I take life a little slower now—to stop and smell the roses, if you will. The air smells a little fresher, the sky seems a deeper blue, and the roses have a sweeter smell. Whether we’re eight or eighty, fighting cancer or cancer free, life is short. And beautiful. Appreciate it for all it’s worth.

Grandma Ruby

My Grandma Ruby didn’t have a lot of money as she raised my mother and her two sisters and step-children in Pearisburg, a small town nestled in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. If her family was to have most anything, Grandma had to make it. From dolls’ clothes and furniture, to tablecloths to my mother’s feed sack dresses—Grandma crafted from necessity perhaps more than from a need to express herself. The few surviving pieces show a rugged utilitarian aesthetic, concealing a deep love of a mother for her daughter and a desire to provide both essentials and entertainment, even in the midst of want.

Throughout her life Grandma Ruby engaged in the arts and crafts, tatting well into her 90s. Even as dementia stole an increasing percentage of her faculties, she maintained her connection to creating things. One of the last things I was able to do with her, and for her, was to observe her hands move in a patterned rhythm as though she were pulling thread to create one last masterpiece, although her hands held nothing that you’d see. Taking a small loosely woven cloth, I pulled a few inches of yarn through several places in it and knotted the strands at both ends to prevent them from being pulled completely through. I gave that piece to my grandmother so she could actually feel the strings pulling through the material, perhaps giving her some comfort. But she didn’t take to it and in the end, a rough physical approximation was no match for the decades of creative memories she carried in her heart and head. When she passed in 2004, she left some treasured pieces of her work and a legacy of creativity and passion for arts and crafts in her children and her eight grandchildren, of which I am the second youngest.

What has been left for you that you treasure? What are you leaving for those who come after you?

Paw Umberger gave space for inspiration

My grandfather, Homer Blanton Umberger, was born and raised on the family farm in Wytheville, Virginia in 1897. The land had been given to his family as part of a land grant from the King of England many years before. My grandfather lived on that farm, the Reed Creek Poultry Farm, all his life. He married Margaret Dean and had one child, my mom, Marjorie Dean. She married my dad, Maitland Wassum. More than 120 years later, my mom and my brother’s family still live on that same farm today.

Growing up on the Reed Creek Poultry Farm, I guess I inherited my grandfather’s creative spirit and his love for animals. My family moved in when my grandmother got sick so that my mom could help take care of her. On the farm, we collected sap and made molasses. We made apple cider from the apples in the orchard. There were always baby animals of one kind or another. I got into a lot of trouble one day when I decided to let a whole bunch of baby ducks take a swim in my bathtub. Needless to say, mom was not happy.

My grandfather always gave me a space for my very own flower garden. Family and tradition ran deep and my love for all things creative grew along with everything else on the farm. There was a story to be told in every corner of that farm and my grandfather, well known in the area as a poet and artist, passed down many family stories through his poetry. He also developed a series of carvings from walnuts. These wonderful sculptures bring a smile to my face every time I see them and they remind me of the most important thing I learned from my grandfather: He loved to bring joy to people through his poetry and art and that’s my passion for my own work today.