Folk life celebrated

Published 9:52 pm Saturday, June 27, 2009

Housed under one roof sat a couple of quilters busy transforming a rainbow of scrap fabric to a beautiful work, a wood caver showing his craft and a room of adults caning chairs.

The activities exemplified the very point of Black Belt Treasures’ Folk Life Festival, which was held from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday.

“We started the festival our first year we were open, which was 2005,” Black Belt Treasures Director Sulynn Creswell said. “It began to show people how are artists actually create their works.”

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Black Belt Treasures, a non-profit organization located in Camden, began as an outlet to publicize and display the unique talents of area artists. Black Belt Treasures now represents over 250 artisans, which include everything from painters and sculptors to potters and basket-weavers.

Because the organization is about preserving the area’s crafts, organizers and artists thought it would be a befitting idea to have some sort of community project.

Potter Kristin Law thought of an idea she had seen before — a community pottery project.

“I did this when I was a curator of a museum in North Carolina,” she said. “I thought it would be a great project to do today. Everyone will be able to add a ring to the existing pot and continue to build it throughout the day. Once it is finished, it will be fired and then set on display at Black Belt Treasures.”

Throughout the day, people could watch many demonstrations of talents, hear music from several different acts and sample food from Camden’s Blue Spoon Catering.

All of Saturday’s demonstrations were free to the public due to a grant from the Alabama State Council on the Arts and continued support of Ala-Tom Resource Conservation and Development.

Some visitors to Black Belt Treasures made their first trip on a busy day.

“I’ve wanted to come by here for a long time, but haven’t had the chance,” said Susan Ross, Montgomery. “I stopped by today without knowing all this was going on, but I am so glad I did. It is really amazing to see all the artists at work. Maybe some of it will rub off on me.”

The festival began as a means to promote the kind of interest that Ross has — to continue a tradition of craftsmanship in the Black Belt.

“We are here not only to promote the folk way of life, but to pass along the education it takes to do things like weave baskets or throw pottery,” Croswell said. “We want to keep it commonplace here and it is hard with the demise of art education due to cuts from the poor economy. We just hope that this will peak someone’s interest, who will then teach their children the same craft.”