by Debby Loggans
Gallery Street was the wrong stop on the green line of the D.C. metro. Sounded right, considering that I was heading for a reception at Senator Mark Warner’s office where work from artisans and artists throughout Virginia was on display. After trudging for what seemed miles (when actually it was only about 10 blocks) I made it to the Russell Senate Office Building, directly beside our magnificent Capitol Building, and headed to the fourth floor where these works have been on display since last September.
The staff offices looked like any other office I’ve ever seen, I even remarked to event organizer, Reagan Blewett that I could no longer complain about my cubicle at Heartwood after seeing her shared office space. The reception office was large, with your standard desk and brochure racks, nothing special…until you noticed the creative “accessories”. My eye was drawn immediately to a little, metal dog sitting quietly by the visitor chair. A creation of ‘Round the Mountain member, Rick Radman from Wythe County, the little creature has been greeting visitors of the Senator’s for almost a year, from that very spot. Interior designer, Susan Hirschbiel, made it clear right away….that little fellow was going home with her! (The dog, not Rick!)
Turning around, I saw, on the coffee table, a remarkable hand woven basket that I immediately knew was made from the hands of Marty Dunn from Damascus. The braided rim market basket, done in soft hues of dyed reed, seemed a tad out of place in the confines of this office setting, until I picked it up, turned it over and saw Marty’s signature. In that small space of time I was brought back to Southwest Virginia, and I could see Marty’s hand gently pulling reed in and out of the basket stakes as she shared her warm smile. I smiled, too.
Escorted down the hall by bright, energetic staffers, I entered the Senator’s suite. Right away I saw the work of three more ‘Round the Mountain members on the mantel. Talk about coming home! The three pieces displayed there just happened to be from three members located within a stone’s throw of one another. Mouth of Wilson luthier, Walt Messick’s dulcimer showed that not only great craftsmanship comes from Southwest Virginia, but great music as well. A gathering basket made by Konnarock’s Deborah Partridge, centered on the mantel, showed the intricate work of her exquisite weaving and the natural earth tones of her reed, which she dies from concoctions she derives from mother earth. Debbie Grim Yates, another Konnarock artisan, had her hand-thrown pitcher displayed as well. Known not only as a potter but as a musician in her own right, the sight of that blue glazed pitcher honestly set my toe a tapping! I WAS home!
On another mantle in the Senator’s personal office was the work of wood turners Harold Lambert from Pulaski County and Joe Stogner from Franklin County. Interesting, isn’t it that the wood pieces wound up in the Senator’s office? Anyway, these two pieces of turned wood couldn’t be any more different. Harold’s piece is a soft golden brown vessel, buffed to a sheen to show the complex details of the wood grain, with an intricate, walnut finial top to it, while Joe’s large maple burled bowl shows, not only the beautiful grain of the wood, but the natural bark edging from the tree. Rounding out the mantel display was a vase from Hoffman Pottery. Created by Sherry and Dave Hoffman, the shape and earthy glazes are obviously inspired by the stunning view shed from their Grayson County home.
Doing what I do best, I got to talk and talk about our home and the wonderfully gifted people that live here. It was an honor to be included in this celebration, along with Rick Radman, Harold Lambert, and Joe Stogner, representing all of the fine, talented people of Southwest Virginia.
As I trudged back up Constitution Avenue to the much closer “Archives” subway stop, I looked back over my shoulder to see our nation’s Capitol Building illuminated by the setting sun. I had to stop for a moment and think about what I had just experienced. Southwest Virginia artisans, right there beside of the Capitol of the United States! How many people have interacted with our artisans and our region over the past year? How many times did the Senator say “…….Southwest Virginia” in answer to a question? Whose hands have patted the head of Rick’s dog sculpture or admired Deborah’s basket?
When the work is returned to Heartwood next month I feel sure that we’ll be able to look at each piece again and see its history and hear its story. Just as each visitor to the Senator’s office did.
Born and raised in the D.C. burbs, ‘Round the Mountain membership manager, Debby Loggans enjoys basket weaving, caning chairs and stained glass projects.
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