Arts, But More Crafts…

by Diana Mavetz Petrich

I have dabbled in many art genres, and I will outwardly admit I am not an artistic genius in any of the areas in which I have dabbled.
Our mom always supported us in learning how to sew or pick up any type of crafting or needlecraft. After she passed away, we divvied up what we found in her sewing room. It brought tears to my eyes that she had many different crafts that were still in the original unopened packaging she bought from Leeward’s, Frank’s Nursery and Crafts, Ben Franklin, Frank’s Variety Store, Woolworth’s, Gibson’s and Pamida.
Part of the sadness I felt for Mom was she had so many interests, but as she would always say, “There is just never enough time to do that things we would like to do.”
I have stitched projects in crewel, cross-stitching, embroidery, needlepoint, and candle wicking. Some of these I learned in Home Economics class with Miss Shar Sivertsen. We practiced the different types of stitching on scrap pieces of fabric.
I can still remember the names of the stitches we learned in Miss Sivertsen’s Home Ec class - herringbone, backstitch, leaf stitch, blanket stitch, chain stitch, lazy daisy stitch, feather stitch, French knots and running stitch. Some of those I have only made when learning them in seventh grade and others I have used when working on different projects.
Mastering the hem and blind stitch have served me well over the years as I have always done my own rather than hire an alteration person. I learned a long, long time ago that you never pay anyone for something you can do for yourself. That lesson was taught in Slovenian 101 by my parents and grandparents.
It’s funny how artists can be criticized by critics, but a true lover of art sees the rainbow through clouds. Greta Wood, our junior high art teacher, was one of these rainbow seekers. Whatever you created under her tutelage she would fawn over, call it spectacular and she would spend time asking about your inspiration. She took time to understand you, the artist, and your creation in whatever medium with which you were working.
My all-time favorite class was Arts and Crafts in my sophomore year of high school taught by Mr. Joe Edlund. He introduced us to many different mediums and gave us artistic freedom within those areas.
Joe Edlund as a teacher was incredibly laid back and supportive. If he saw you were struggling, he wouldn’t grab the project and fix it, he would assist by talking you through what you were doing and asked what you saw or wanted the result of the project to be.
Sometimes that was all you needed when you got stuck and was ready to throw in the towel. His manner, style and talents went way beyond that of an instructor. He knew talent, but he also didn’t undermine the lesser talented of his art students.
I have run into Joe and his wife Joyce quite a few times since I moved back to Ely. Joe is still as mellow as he was when he was my teacher. I ran into him on Chapman Street as he was pulling a trailer with tanks of water and a homemade jury-rigged pump. He uses this simple, but effective water system to fill the green water bags on the young trees planted on the boulevards around town. He loves to do it and the City of Ely is lucky to have him - especially this past summer during the drought.
Joe is now enjoying his retirement after 30 years of teaching in the Ely School District. He was also a swimming coach for 33 years. In addition to his degree in art, he also has a minor in American History.
I can’t thank Mr. Edlund enough for exposing me to many art forms while in his class. If you showed an interest, he showed you the way in areas like ceramics, taxidermy, rug hooking, looms and weaving, leather tooling, decoupage, scratch art, tie-dyeing, macramé, watercolor painting and more.
I was intrigued by agates when in elementary school - especially when I found a few in a rock pile on the side of the service road on the east end of town.
Before Shopko, Subway, and the Chamber of Commerce buildings were built, the exit to take Highway 1 south toward Isabella was a curved road to the right just past the Dairy Queen. To the right of that road was another road (referred to as the service road) that was used to mix tar for the streets of Ely. We could safely ride our bikes on it because there were very few drivers that would take their car on it because oil and tar would splatter on their vehicle.
Once I found those agates, I wanted more of them and that’s when we discovered The Rock Shop located on 12th Avenue East and Chapman Street. I remember the woman that operated the store and found out from a Facebook post on “Remember Ely and Winton When…” her name was Nobel Brobin. She had difficulty walking and used medical aids. When you visited her store, you would ring the bell and she would slowly make her way from the house to the shop to open the door and let you in.
I always felt like we were bothering her because it took so much of her energy to open, but she would sit in her chair behind the counter and let us shop to our heart’s content. I was in heaven looking at the geodes, rocks, minerals, and gemstones that were on display. She had jewelry making tools and supplies and I found a clasp and pronged mounting holders to do exactly what I wanted to do with my agates - put them on a necklace! She was patient as we took time to decide on exactly what we would spend the little money we had.
She struggled with talking and it was a bit difficult to understand her. We overcame being uncomfortable and learned how to communicate using few words. If my memory is right, I think the store was only open during the summer months.
I was also a frequent customer of Cyko Art Store that was located a few storefronts from Central Avenue on north side of Chapman Street. In the back of the store was where all the arts and craft supplies were kept. This place rocked when it came to shopping for Styrofoam balls, sequins, pins and all the accouterments needed to make dazzling Christmas ornaments.
I was crazy over all the art supplies especially the many colors of pipe cleaners and chenille bumps. I made refrigerator magnets in the shapes of bees, grape bunches, and tropical fish. I gave some as gifts, but also sold a few to neighbors and relatives. That was my first experience of making money from something I created except I only added a few cents to what the raw materials had cost me. I would feel bad if I charged more and didn’t take into consideration that my time was worth something. It was a great lesson to learn that you could create something someone wanted and get paid.
Any holiday was sure to include art projects we made in school - especially in elementary school. In addition to teaching classrooms filled with 30+ students, our teachers had to be proficient in art. It was always fun to bring home projects we made from construction paper and the white paste that some kids couldn’t keep out of their mouths. My mother always hung our artwork in the dining room and living room windows and I still remember how proud it made me to see what I made being displayed for all to see.
Myself and my two sisters were always doing something crafty. Once we made boutique (square) tissue box covers that looked like a doll head. We were never afraid of using bright colors when we made things. This is apparent as Kay made one doll with bright red hair. When we were cleaning out our childhood home, I found the redhead preserved in a plastic bag in Mom’s sewing room. Kay didn’t want it and it was too precious (hilarious) to throw away so I have it (see photo).
I took up knitting when I was a sophomore. A visit to The Yarn Shop run by Evelyn Bubash was always a trip. The store was located at 102 E. Conan Street, and you entered the building from the front door that was angled on the northwest corner of the building. She and her husband Tony lived upstairs.
In addition to oodles of high-quality yarn of all weights, fibers, and colors, she had pattern books and all the incidentals needed to become a pro. Her husband was a horologist (clock maker/fixer) and the walls of the store not covered with shelves filled with yarn, were dotted with different size clocks that he built or fixed over time. Walking in there, you were met with the sound of many clocks ticking away plus chimes and cuck-coos singing on the quarter hour.
In the cold months, the store was always chilly because they kept the heat low because customers were few and far between and it was expensive to heat such a big building. Getting greeted by Evelyn was a treat because there was always a warmness about her - so much so that you didn’t realize how chilly the place really was. Evelyn wore her gray hair in a tight bun at the base of her neck and always wore a dress with, of course, a sweater she had knit for herself.
If you had a problem with a pattern, or made a mistake, she would be able to tell you exactly what you had done wrong. Her quick moving fingers, that probably knit more stitches than one could count, worked quickly and efficiently to get you back to where you could continue with your project. She had a gravelly and somewhat squeaky voice, but she would smile and encourage you when you wanted to rip the project back to the beginning. In many ways, she reminded me of Grandma Walton - the matriarch on the TV show, “The Waltons” that aired from 1972 to 1981.
My mother received “The Workbasket” magazine for many years starting in the early 1950s. In her sewing room, there were three big boxes of these small publications. I decided to keep them because I couldn’t bear to throw them away. I still have them in my garage - somewhere.
I searched for the history of this magazine and found out it is older than I thought. It originally started as, “Aunt Martha’s Workbasket, Home and Needlecraft for Pleasure and Profit,” in October 1935 and was the brainchild of Clara and Jack Tillotson from Kansas, MO.
The Great Depression had its hold on the country and if people needed something, they made it themselves. There was no money to buy anything and sometimes if you had the money, what you were looking for wasn’t on the shelves. “The Workbasket” magazine was filled with patterns so people could make things for themselves, and this was just what was needed at the time.
Even though I am not a professional in any art or sewing area, I am thankful for the skills and what I learned from my grandparents, parents, and school. I am shocked when I hear young kids say they must throw a shirt or jacket away because they lost a button or the zipper broke.
When I left high school, I was equipped to hit the world running without having to continue higher education. We learned how to sew, cook, change a tire, balance a checkbook, know the difference between slander and libel, weld, general carpentry, math, spelling, language skills, signing our name with cursive, basic chemistry, biology, typing, general office skills, how to write a letter in the correct way, the basics of accounting and much more. I was under the misunderstanding that because we were at the end of the road in northern Minnesota, we were missing something in our education. What I was pleased to find out in the years following, was that we were given the most well-rounded, complete education that equipped us to jump into adulthood and “real life.”
I have a friend who is married to an elementary teacher, and he says, “She goes to work every day to change the lives of the students - one at a time.” I now see how this must have been what my teachers must have had up their sleeves, too. Personally, I know their missions were more than accomplished and I can’t thank them enough for giving all they had. I wish I could talk to them and thank them for all they did.
At this time of the year when we are celebrating Thanksgiving and all we are blessed with, I am feeling much gratitude. I wish comfort, love to all and, the Happiest of Thanksgivings…