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BIG HORN BASIN
dle hands are the devil’s workshop,”
my grandmother used to say, and there
was never any question about her
allegiance -- her hands were always busy. She
had weathered the Depression of the 1930s,
a time when people had to be resourceful and
creative, figuring out how to raise, build or make
whatever they needed.
That mindset was part of growing up on the
American frontier. Our grandfathers and greatgrandfathers broke horses, forged horseshoes
and tools, made rope and crafted their own
saddles. Our grandmothers and greatgrandmothers never sat down without something
in their hands -- spinning, knitting, sewing,
mending, quilting or making rugs.
Those skills were passed down as they had
been for generations, by learning from the older
generation. Today, there are many areas of the
country where traditional crafts are in danger
of disappearing as public education and new
technologies have disrupted the old patterns.
Wyoming is lucky. We have a high percentage
of people -- “culture bearers” -- who continue
distinctive crafts and skills, passing them on
in a circle of family and friends. They may
incorporate new materials and new uses, but
they build on past knowledge.
Many of these individuals are rarely seen at regular arts and crafts
events. Some do not produce enough to sell; a quality hand-sewn
quilt or a braided rug might take up to a year to complete. Others
prefer to keep their work or to give it as gifts.
This summer there is a rare gathering of these skilled craftsmen at
the Big Horn Basin Folk Festival, August 1-2, 2015, in Hot Springs
State Park, Thermopolis.
Wyoming Lifestyle Magazine | Summer 2015
By E. Sue Blakey
Images courtesy E. Sue Blakey