According to Early American stenciling expert Suzanne Korn, “The history of decorative arts in America includes a colorful chapter between the years of 1778 and 1840 when itinerant wall stencilers roamed New England country roads, painting their colorful folk art in homes, inns, and taverns along the way.” This Stenciling Workshop for Kids at the Wilton Historical Society will take place on Saturday, March 3 from 11:00 – 12:30. Museum Educator Lola Chen will discuss how ”the itinerant stencilers would travel by horseback and by foot. Some pushed carts and others wore heavy leather packs on their backs. It was usually an interesting and exciting event when the stenciler arrived in town! Along with his colorful pigments, sturdy brushes, and stencil kit, he would bring intriguing news about far away people, places, and events. When a family would hire the itinerant stenciler, it was common for all to gather around while he would paint a “sampler” of his designs and motifs in some inconspicuous place in the home; for instance, on the attic walls, or on a wall hidden in a closet. The family would then pick and choose the designs and patterns that were most pleasing to them.” Much more personal than shopping for wallpaper online! Ms. Chen will be talking about the simple, colorful folk art, and how and where it appeared, and will show them a stenciled oil-cloth rug in the Fitch house dining room as an example. The workshop project will be stenciling a lace pattern on a plate. The children will help make their own snack, doily chocolate cookies.
Suggested for ages 6 – 12. Wilton Historical Society Members $10 per child, maximum $25 per family; Non-members $15 per child, maximum $35 per family. Please register: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 203-762-7257.
Did You Know?
“The itinerant stenciler would live with the family during the time that he was beautifying their home. Often, his only payment for stenciling the walls in a home would be his food, drink and lodging. We know that some of the early stencilers were farmers by trade, so they would practice their craft during the winter months. Consequently, they often toiled and traveled under harsh conditions. Even when the stenciler secured work, and was safely off the cold, snowy roads, it was not unlikely that many of the rooms he was employed to decorate had no heat! However, when his job was done, and it was time to move on to the next town, the lively and colorful folk art that he would leave behind would brighten and warm even the coldest of rooms with a cheerful and homespun glow! Beautiful flower baskets, graceful willow trees, wildflower sprays and simple vines plump with berries would adorn the walls in a wash of color. The lives of rural New Englanders were enhanced by this simple and quaint decoration, and the dark interiors and plain plastered walls of their homes were made bright with the hope and promise of spring.”
-Suzanne Korn, Early American stenciling expert