This past Saturday, December 3rd, the Museum Shop at Monticello hosted its first-ever “Handmade for the Holidays” event, and it was by all accounts a tremendous success!
This fun-filled extravaganza featured local artisans, food, and drink, and offered the public not only the chance to shop for unique, handmade gifts but the opportunity to meet and speak with the creators of those gifts as well as to sample some great local food. The crowds, comprised mostly of local people, started showing up before the official start-time of 2:00 p.m. and stayed right until the Museum Shop closed at 6:00. The adults in the crowd enjoyed wine-tasting from Monticello’s own Gabriele Rausse, who is a pioneer of Virginia wines, and samples of the new Monticello Reserve Ale from representatives of Starr Hill Brewery. But this was also a family-friendly event, and children of all ages, as well as adults, enthusiastically sampled Phillip Ponton’s juices from Oakencroft Farm as well as Monticello peanuts and cheese straws.
Leni Sorensen, Monticello’s Culinary Historian, was on hand demonstrating chocolate making with American Heritage Chocolate, and not only was her table one of the more popular exhibits but it was also the source of a most wonderful aroma which wafted throughout the entire Museum Shop for the duration of the event.
Fred Williamson, Kirk McCauley, and Elbert Dale, local woodworking artists who create beautiful and elegant bowls and other items from the famous Monticello tulip poplar and other Monticello trees, displayed their artwork and talked about the processes involved in creating items made of wood. Denton Middleton, another local artisan, demonstrated the process of fruitwood spoon-making, and was a hit with children as well as adults.
Wood from the Monticello tulip poplar was also used by local instrument-maker Jeff Huss to create stunningly beautiful guitars, and Mr. Huss and Buddy Thomas were here playing those guitars, providing wonderfully atmospheric music as a backdrop to the event. But it didn’t stop there; they even let interested members of the crowd take turns strumming on the guitars!
Brian Hartsock and Lily Fox-Bruguiere from Monticello’s Center for Historic Plants were in the Garden Shop talking about the challenges of winter gardening and giving tips on forcing bulbs. And just outside of the Garden Shop doors, Gerald Boggs of Wayfarer Forge in Afton, VA demonstrated his skill at forgery and displayed many unique, forge-fabricated products.
To top it all off, Museum Shop staff was offering free gift-wrapping for any item purchased during the event, making this truly an all-in-one shopping experience!
“…..a morsel of genuine history, a thing so rare as to be always valuable…” --Thomas Jefferson