I Must Be Outta My Gourd

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Green gourd birdhouse
Green decorated created by a participant using paint, stencils, glue, and pinecone scales.

Isn’t it amazing how one of your hobbies can spill over into your work life and it is considered to be a good thing?! Two years ago, my co-worker Erica Deale approached me to be a part of the Park series that she developed. This meant that I could share one of my favorite crafting mediums: GOURDS! Yes, gourds! Not those colorful ones you see everywhere in fall decorations, and which can rot after a few weeks. I mean the ones that have been known to last for years! 

Gourds are members of the Cucurbitaceae family which includes: cucumbers, squash, melons, and zucchini. They can be ornamental or hardshell and come in a variety of shapes and sizes. For centuries, cultures around the world have turned this gift from nature into water dippers, bowls, masks, baskets, jewelry, and musical instruments. Today, you can see gourds turned into birdhouses and creative masterpieces using coiling, glues, beads, clay, decoupage, fabric, paint, woodburning, and so much more. You are only limited by your imagination!    Read more

A Look at the Unknown and Hope for the Future: The Artwork of Shipyard and Museum Staff Artist Thomas C. Skinner

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CRUISER USS PORTSMOUTH AT PIER, oil on canvas 1945, by THOMAS C. SKINNER 1956.47.04

Thomas Catlett Skinner’s office was a loft overlooking the dry dock at the Newport News shipyard.  Frequently he would gather his tools and wander through the yard, stopping to observe and document the many scenes unfolding before him.  A vat of molten steel.  Red hot metal beams being bent into shape.  Yards of canvas transformed into sails.  The welcome respite of a lunch break.  The intensity of a foreman’s face.  A ship being refitted for the next voyage.  Scenes that were rarely seen by anyone outside the shipyard and activities that many people never knew existed.

Skinner’s tools were paint, pencils, canvas and paper.  His loft workspace shook with the unending pounding from riveting hammers and vibrations from heavy machinery.  And when he set up his easel beside the piers, dry docks and workers, he was surrounded by noise and dirt and exposed to the fickleness of the weather.   Yet despite the adversity, he created amazing drawings and paintings that transport the viewer back in time.  His body of work contains striking, colorful images that make it easy to imagine all the noises in the shipyard, the sound and feeling of waves acting on a ship and the harsh sounds of battle. Today, as part of our 90th Anniversary celebration, we take a look at the Mariners’ Museum staff artist, Thomas Skinner, some of his work, and its importance.   Read more

Fun Fact Friday

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Main gallery space, November 28, 1933 (2)

Going through old records and photographs for the museum really brings to mind how many fascinating little facts there are about this place that most people don’t know.  I decided to create a regular Fun Fact Friday post on here to highlight these interesting tidbits.  For now it will probably be once a month, but after I do some more research I may be able to expand to every other week or so.

Without further ado, here is our first fun fact.  Most of the time when museums open for the first time they have a grand opening, or at least some type of event to mark their beginning.  We did not.  On October 29, 1933, visitors to the park were admitted to the museum with no fanfare.  As we often say around here, we opened because one day people just started wandering inside.  The picture below shows what those first visitors would have seen in the museum.  After spending so much money to build the museum and park and to obtain the collection, it all seems very anticlimactic.