Thursday, January 18, 2018

August 2013 – Message from the Guildmaster

August 8, 2013 by  
Filed under Message from the Guildmaster


Jeff Bibb welcomes all to the 2013 Summer Reception at Jacobsburg Historic Site.


On the drive home from Dixon’s Gun Maker’s Fair last Sunday night, I had a lot of time to think and review the events of the weekend.  Dixon’s is always a special time for many of us. This year was no exception. Our HCH table was well-staffed, and a special Thank You goes out to all who helped this year. Sales for raffle tickets,  Horn Books, and our new Dixon’s Accoutrements Pamphlet were brisk, and I received many compliments about our organization. Dick and Regina Toone showed up with our “fully-functional” spring pole lathe, and drew a crowd all weekend. Several guild members were also set up in the tent, and we all had a grand time. Friday night’s dinner at Jacobsburg was well-attended, and the weather was beautiful.

The accoutrements competition is a big event. and several of our members were involved for most of the weekend.  Many of us have entered over the years, and guild members make up a portion of the judging staff. We were once again treated to a wide range of entries with horns, bags, knives, powder measures, hawks,  and items of every possible description. If it was period gun-related, it was there for us to see. I  hope you took time to come by and view the outstanding array of entries presented on the tables.  Also, I would like to extend a special congratulations to the guild members who won ribbons and special awards in this year’s competition.

I will note that the overall number of entries has fallen off over the past couple of years. Whether this is due to natural attrition of the artisan base, the economy and cost of travel, or if there are less folks interested in making items to enter, it is disappointing when entries decline. On the other hand, the number of first-time entries was much higher, and almost one third of the items entered were in this category.  I cannot speak for the gun judging, but looking at their tables, I did not see the quantity of guns usually displayed.

All of this, and more,  occupied my thoughts as I motored down Interstate 81 toward home. Art is a creative process. Certainly the work that our artisans produce greatly relies on this ability. It is the same in any artistic endeavor….  painting, gun-making, sculpture, powder horns, metal work, mixed media, knives, music, landscaping, hunting bags, weaving, quill work, and so on. Last month I wrote about a particular friend who was a prime example of this creative force. Whether making a new gun or crafting a piece of furniture or jewelry, he embodied a sense of creativity that never dulled.  He loved to learn new skills, and would tackle any project.

Our ancestors were certainly creative folks. In one sense they had to be with the demands of their difficult daily lives. In those times, one could not drive over to the store and procure whatever was needed, or order it on-line.  Money was also a concern since the standard of living in colonial and early American times was not particularly high. Being a largely agrarian society, folks stayed at home and made what they needed, or traded for it if they could not produce it themselves.

All of this contributed to a populace who saw a problem or need, and then proceeded to fashion it themselves. Guns were of course mostly made by “professional” gun makers, and a large group of uniquely American gun makers appeared and thrived following the revolution. Today these individuals are revered for their amazing ability to build fine rifles, fowlers and pistols with nothing more than basic hand tools. They were some of  the true artisans of their time.

At home, people crafted their own clothing, tools, furniture, knives, utensils, horns, bags, and grew most of their own food. Many of these items have survived to be as respected as their firearm counterparts. Up through most of the 20th. Century, a sewing machine was a standard fixture in most homes. Making one’s own clothes was a valuable (and money-saving) skill. The Singer Sewing Machine Company produced many thousands of machines from the later 1800’s onward. A lot of these 100+ year old treadle machines are still in operation and capable of producing beautiful work. Our friend, Suzanne, collects and regularly uses these early treadle machines.  Often found in near perfect, original condition for less than $100.00, they are ready to run for another 100 years.

So it is with other “tools of the trade” in our modern times. Useful and well-made tools can often be purchased for little cost at yard sales, auctions, and other shops. Many of these are in excellent condition and ready to use for many years. I suspect the main reason they are so readily available is that few people have an interest in using them any longer. Skills that were once respected and admired have been relegated to a position where they are largely ignored by much of our population. In our complicated modern lives, no one is interested in taking the time to learn to make something when it can be easily purchased. With this comes the loss of personal satisfaction and feeling of accomplishment when one makes something of their own.

The need to create in our own lives has been supplanted by technology and consumerism. Much of this has occurred over the past 50 – 60 years following World War II, and risen sharply in the last several decades.  The danger in all of this is obvious. When our population loses its ability to support itself, what will the outcome be if the need arises? Much has been written on this subject by far more intelligent individuals than myself, but I cannot help wondering how these millions of folks will take care of themselves if they have to? I suspect the answer is painfully obvious. From my own prospective, an important part of our “freedom” is the ability to think first, and then act as needed to make our way. Without practicing these skills, we are simply sheep who can be herded as needed by their handlers.

I hope that this loss of creativity and individual skills will change in coming years. From the direction of our society I do not see much hope, but it is a goal that we, as artisans and thinkers, can perhaps help sway in some small way. As always, I welcome your thoughts, observations, and criticisms.

 All of the best,

Jeff Bibb

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