Tucked away in the corner…
…of rural Northwestern New Jersey is a treasure that I’m still not sure why more people don’t know about. Peters Valley Craft Center has been serving the art/craft community for more than 40 years, I remember visiting the newly established arts community back in the mid 1970′s while still in college. When the US government bought the town of Bevans for a damn project back in the 1960′s, this lovely historic sleepy town eventually became what is now known as Peters Valley after the damn project fell through. The buildings are old, and it is of course a struggle to keep them alive and healthy, but the setting is gorgeous, and the art/craft community thriving, and it is one of my favorite places in the world. I actually sat on the board of directors back in the early 90′s. The community is part of the National Park Service, which of course means little funding from the government for maintenance, but still, in spite of properties dating back to the 1800′s, and monsoon rains, and flooding, and road washouts and downed trees and all the weather related calamities of the last couple years in NJ, the Valley is strong and full of inspiration.
I just returned from teaching a five day garment construction intensive. What I love most about teaching here is the community feeling. There are multiple disciplines existing in the same complex, all dining together, talking, creating, feeding off one another. I instantly hit it off with Steve Tengelsen the wood instructor, and Lulu Smith, the metals instructor, and we had some pretty amazing conversations in the dining hall. (The food was fantastic!)
There were all sorts of wonderful events happening while we were at Peters Valley. The annual firing of the Anagama Kiln was underway, and if you’ve never seen or heard of this kind of kiln it will blow you away. It is a firewood fueled cave like kiln built into the side of the hill. It takes about a dozen cords of wood, and more than a week of round the clock firing to bring the temperature all the way up to 2500F degrees. Peters Valley was lucky enough to have one built more than 30 years ago and though I’ve seen it fired before, it never ceases to blow me completely away by the team work and knowledge to make this all happen.
And of course, there was my class. I had of course a terrific bunch of women, five students plus the assistant who was thrilled to take the class as well. The space was just the right size, and brightly lit, and kept us reasonably dry during a couple of horrific days of rain.
There was lots of table space to cut out the jackets.
There was an old Singer Featherweight called into service, which chugged along like a trooper.
There were lots of hours at the sewing machines.
The jackets began to take shape.
There were two with handwoven fabric.
Linda S. was particularly proud of her matching job.
There were lots of hours at the ironing boards.
There were lots of happy sewers with some well fitting jackets. (Note, none of the handwork is done until after the class is over and students are not permitted to remove any of the tailor’s tacks until I’m safely back in NJ. )
The class photo from the studios at Thunder Mountain, a part of the Peters Valley complex.
And as I left, I snapped a photo of what I was told was Belladona Amaryllis, a bulb that I simply must get for our gardens.