Travels in the Field with Janet Wiseman

nancy and ellie_web
Janet Wiseman and Nancy Darrell in their farmer costumes

Janet Wiseman and Nancy Darrell in their farmer costumes

Claude Moore Memorial Farm

Recently I went on a trip to Washington, D.C. with Nancy Darrell who had a sales booth and was scheduled to demonstrate wood block printmaking at the Claude Moore Memorial FarmThe site is a replica of a working farm circa 1771 and hosts three Fairs or "Market Days" a year as fundraisers. I thought it would be interesting to experience another side of craft shows since I have been on the organizing/directing side of events for the last 15 years at the Craft Fair of the Southern Highlands.


The Market Day was a fun, well organized event with volunteers, vendors and patrons enjoying themselves immensely, while a slew of children learned a bit of history in the process. I helped Nancy set up her booth and then we changed into our retro togs. The volunteers and vendors are required to attire themselves in the dress of that period which lends a nice feel of authenticity to the proceedings. I had hoped for a saloon girl outfit or maybe something along the lines of Daniel Boone...but was suited up in a Hester Prynne special like the rest of the poor farmers.
yankee guy
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Woman in the Field

Some memorable snippets of the event for me were the sound of wandering madrigal singers, Madame Bella’s low-wire/acrobatic act, the smell of sizzling sausage and chicken over a fire pit, frosty Victory Stout in a handmade mug, and the beautiful healthy heirloom tomato plants I bought for my garden.

Nancy did a lot of demonstrating and talking to people about her work, and happily, she also sold some prints! I had a good experience and later thought, how wonderful it would be to have a farm and village space for the Guild’s traditional craft and music event Heritage Weekend. Also, it would be cool to have some authentic southern Appalachian food prepared at the event...or maybe some wandering mountain ballad singers during the times we don't have a band performing…some livestock here and there. It's good to get out and see what’s going on at other places and gather ideas to help keep our Guild events fresh and interesting.

Visit to Ellie Kirby's Farm

ellie's house_web

On the way to D.C. we made a side trip to the home of Ellie Kirby in Troutdale, VA. Ellie has been a Guild member since 1984 and creates art with wood blocks and watercolors. She has also published a number of children’s books that she writes and illustrates.

ellie's cards_web

We had an enjoyable lunch in the kitchen of her farmhouse, which was built around 1910. For dessert, Ellie made an pie using fresh rhubarb from her garden and baked in a dish she bought from Nancy at a Guild Fair in the early 1990s. That was one tasty pie!

rhubarb pie_web

After lunch we toured her garden which features an old-fashioned yellow rose (I think it's called Harrison’s Yellow) that Ellie gave Nancy and I a start of. Hopefully, when I see the rose in my garden it will be a nice reminder of this trip in years to come. Ellie showed us her studio and we did a short interview. She was an engaging and gracious host and I really enjoyed our visit with her and her husband Roald.

nancy and ellie_web

Visiting Museums in Washington, D.C.

Before we left the city we spent a day touring museums and gardens on the Mall. Our first stop was the Sackler Gallery in the Freer Museum of Asian Art to see "In the Realm of the Buddha" and the other exhibits. There was something interesting and beautiful to look at everywhere in this museum and I enjoyed it. It was raining so we spent less time looking at gardens and more time inside keeping dry.

Our next stop was the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art while there, I saw something I found very moving. In Transitions by South African artist Paul Emmanuel I saw a short film called Rites of Passage which chronicled young men who had been conscripted into the army getting their heads shaved. It was powerful!

We walked down the street to the Hirshhorn Museum of Modern Art and Sculpture. This was probably my favorite museum experience of the day. We saw a painting there, "Haystack" by Arthur G. Dove that Nancy really liked.

We had lunch at the National Museum of the American Indian. I love the shape and flow of this building which I thought looked like a red mesa. The food here is interesting and tasty from a variety of American tribes.

Our last stop was the National Gallery of Art where we saw "The Sacred Made Real": Spanish Painting and Sculpture 1600-1700. There was a lot of powerful religious imagery here such as life-size representations of the cruxification. At this point, we were pretty tired and saturated from all the wonderful things we’d seen and it was time to catch the metro out of the city.

This trip was an enjoyable learning experience and I came back inspired in a variety of ways!

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