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Sticks from the Past Create Art for the Present

In Art, History on March 31, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Sticks for em

What would you do if you were given a pile of 2-inch-long carved wooden sticks to reimagine? Not just any sticks, but sticks that are about 60 years old.

If you’re one of the area artists, sculptors, photographers, engineers, jewelers, designers (you get the picture), you’d turn those sticks into something unique and/or useful, decorative and/or functional, whimsical and/or practical.

Donna Carlson made jewelry, with a Vanadinite stone.

Donna Carlson made jewelry, with a Vanadinite stone.

All for the Creative Challenge hosted annually by the Chester Historical Society.

For this year’s Challenge on Saturday, April 9 (obviously named the Sticks Challenge), the Chester Historical Society uncovered in a local barn boxloads of short wooden manicure sticks made (probably in the 1950s) at the Bishop and Watrous Novelty Works, which used to be on Maple Street.

According to Bruce Watrous, whose grandfather started the business along with Oliver Bishop in the 1920s, “The manicure sticks were made from ‘orange wood’ (citrus wood, because it will bend without splintering), mostly from Florida orange trees. Wood was sent from Florida to Maine, turned into dowels and then to Chester. Dowels were cut to different lengths and hand finished with slants or points.”

Digital archival image, "Starry Night," by Bill Vollers

Digital archival image, “Starry Night,” by Bill Vollers

For the past six or so years, the Chester Historical Society’s Creative Challenge has invited area artists to use artifacts from Chester’s rich manufacturing history to create items for a silent auction and reception to raise funds for the Historical Society. There have been challenges based on hooks from the Brooks Factory, knitting gauges from the C.J. Bates factory, and even rusted pieces “unearthed” from the yard of one of Chester’s earliest houses.

The finished pieces of “sticks” art, jewelry, sculptures, photographs, etc. will be exhibited and sold by silent auction at the Historical Society’s Reception on Saturday, April 9 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., at the Chester Meeting House.

The reception will feature hearty hors d’oeuvres and desserts from Chester kitchens served with wine and non-alcoholic beverages.

Tickets for the evening are $30. They can be purchased at Chester Gallery and Lark, both in the center of Chester, or by calling Sosse Baker at Chester Gallery, 860-526-9822. They may be available at the door, if they have not sold out.

Sosse Baker basket, based on old Native American design

Sosse Baker basket, based on old Native American design

All the proceeds from the event will benefit the preservation and showcasing of Chester history through the Chester Historical Society and the Chester Museum at The Mill. Information is available on the Society website, www.chesterhistoricalsociety.org or at Facebook.com/chestercthistoricalsociety.

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