Red River Historical Society Craft Day brings history alive
Sequencing and heat management seem to be the key for a lot of things. It is definitely important in blacksmithing skills. But it was more evident at the Red River Historical Society’s annual Crafts Day.
The special occasion was held last Saturday in Clay City at the Red River Museum. The warmer weather and he sequence of the rain coming early and then holding off the rest of the day, made the event more pleasurable.
The museum had various displays, both inside and outside, to show off skills and crafts that are rare today. Elihue Shepherd, from Clay City Pottery, was on hand to demonstrate his art and skill. And a special quilt was on display as well.
The quilt was made by Dorothy Miller of Clay City. Miller had quilted panels for each of the 50 states and placed them in order as to when they joined the Union. It took Miller a year to make the quilt.
Darlene Bellamy, also of Powell County, was set up inside the museum with her hand made dolls and crafts. Each of the dolls and figurines were made from corn husks. Bellamy was also quite a good storyteller. Bellamy told a group of wide-eyed, inquisitive children the story of why Indian dolls do not have facial features. “It is because they learn that the Creator made us all equal, no one is more special than any other person,” Bellamy told the kids.
Victory Fraley, from Virden Ridge, was also on hand showing off her craft. Fraley was making woven chairs. “I learned how to do this about five years ago,” Fraley said. “It was something I just wanted to do.” Fraley said it takes her about two hours to complete the chair seat.
All of them displayed an art form that most of the younger generations find to be fascinating and “old-fashioned.” But Barry Fizer’s craft is truly one that dates back to ancient times, but is still active today. Fizer likes to play around with blacksmithing.
Fizer, who lives near Cottage Furnace at the Powell-Estill line and has a degree in electrical engineering from Virginia Tech, said he got interested thanks to his son Graham.
“Graham got into it and actually was making knifes, sold them and bought the anvil we use,” Fizer said. Some of the knives they make are originally railroad spikes before they put their blacksmithing skills to work.
“It all has to do with sequencing and heat management,” Fizer said. “You have to make sure the fire is hot enough to heat up the metal so you can mold and shape it. But sequencing is also just as important.”
Fizer explained that when you work with metal you have to know to use the various edges of the anvil and gravity to begin your work. But he also explained that there is an order, a sequence, of how to shape each piece of metal. That includes making a knife, horseshoes and even a key chain with a life design on it. It was the key chain he was helping kids and a Boy Scout troop working on a patch to make at the event.
“I took some classes from a professor at Berea College and I liked it, so my son and I just got into it,” Fizer said. It is quite different from his regular job. “I telecommute from my home office at Cottage Furnace most of the week, but there are times I have to fly into (Washington) D.C. for my work,” Fizer added. “But I enjoy working with the metal too.”
The Craft Day is one of several special days the historical society and museum hosts each year. The events help to not only promote the Powell County area, but also history and a look back at the way things used to be in Eastern Kentucky.