October 26, 2012

Wood Blocks in the Fairbanks Museum

        On our family vacation this summer we stopped at the Fairbanks Museum in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  What a fun little museum!  Between the Victorian architecture and the quirky collection it really is more like an antique cabinet of curiosities than a modern museum.  I liked the random "little bit of everything" assortment of Stuff.  Among the collections was a case describing the traditional process of making wool cloth.  There were various old implements used in the craft, and the process was illustrated by a series of carved wooden panels.  I perked right up - wood blocks!
        But although these carved wooden boards looked just like wood blocks for relief printing, there were a couple of mysteries.  First of all, it was the blocks that were being displayed, not prints on paper.  Were these carvings first made as relief printing blocks, or were they originally intended as carved illustrations?
        And secondly, who made them?  I searched and searched in the case and saw no note anywhere mentioning the artist.  They look like they could be the work of Mary Azarian (I see it especially in the face of the woman at the tub), who hails from a neighboring town in Vermont and takes a particular interest in traditional rural skills and handicrafts.  But if they are by Azarian, why no acknowledgement of the famous local artist?
        If anyone knows more about these pieces, I'd be happy to hear it.  But whoever carved these wood blocks, and for whatever purpose, I was quite pleased and delighted to find them in a quirky, out of the way museum.  It just goes to show that you never know when you might come across something special.

[Pictures: Sheep, wood block by anonymous artist, Fairbanks Museum;
Woman washing wool, wood block by anonymous artist, Fairbanks Museum (both images are photos by AEGN, 2012).]

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