Jill Henrietta Davis

I first met Jill Davis at a trade show shortly after calling it quits in Seattle and moving back East. Her scarlet-streaked hair was in cultural contrast to her otherwise conventional attire and professionalism. After five years in Capitol Hill, Seattle’s funkiest neighborhood, I associated Crayola-colored hair with young women who wore petticoats on top of dresses, were pierced like a hound dog in a porcupine patch, or claimed membership in Dykes on Bikes. Jill clearly was not one of them. (Only later did I learn her past did include a flirtation with heavy metal fashion, AND a 5-year stint in Seattle.)

She claims, “My car made me do it!”  She had earned a BFA with an unlikely double-major in furniture and glass, not because she vacillated between the two but because she intended to make glass furniture! And she was . . .and doing quite well, too. Partial to financial security, however, she also had a ‘real’ job working for another artist, but in the post-9/11 economy neither source was going to fund a replacement for her car.  With the odometer pushing 200,000, the Car Project was born.

Her challenge was to create and sell enough small glass gift items at craft fairs to secure a down payment that would keep her monthly expenses low. A year later saw hyper-success when she purchased her new car for cash! Another year-long challenge determined the financial feasibility of a full-time, hand blown glass gift venture, and Henrietta Glass became a reality. So this emerging fine artist who had designed clothing for Boston boutiques when still in high school and was the first glass major (and a girl, too) to graduate from Parsons School of Design, summoned up her considerable confidence and became an entrepreneur.

Her collection of 14 handmade items are sensibly conceived, beautifully designed, well executed, and priced to sell.  Over time I’ve observed that she’s mastered the art of business as well as the art of glass.  Her explanation is that her rigorous design education, which also includes an MFA from RISD, taught her creativity, analytical thinking, and problem solving — core skills for both art and business. While I’ll agree with the core skills she identified, I’m not sure they’re an outcome of a rigorous art curriculum. I work with a few hundred artists, and I can say with all certainty that the majority of them did not pick up business skills along with that art school diploma. There is something indefinable, a je ne sais quoi, that separates the wheat from the chaff in art and in business. Jill has it for both.

Henrietta Glass is located in Providence RI, and besides Jill, employs 5 people and sells to over 500 retail outlets. Best sellers are Mom’s little vase, ring holders, and bottle stoppers. When not designing the next new-product introduction, doing her own marketing photography, or blowing 100 – 200 test pieces of a new item, Jill likes to track down the remnants, particularly stone (as I guess there wasn’t any glass), of ancient civilizations. Photo: Jill holding a three-toed sloth on a recent trip to Machu Picchu.

POWNAL, OUR KINDA (HOME) TOWN

Pownal Valley Panorama

The Pownal Valley, reputed to be one of the most beautiful in all of Vermont, was selected by the UN as symbolic of peace and its photo featured on the cover of the September 30, 1946, United Nations Bulletin.   I’ve been known to have one or two complaints about this town where our gallery is located and we now call home, largely due to the Appalachia-style accumulation of castoff debris in yards, meadows and wetlands; but, in truth, Pownal is one helluva stunning place, and it has a very interesting history. I think the community was just worn down by marginal farming, the loss of factory jobs, and the closing of the Green Mountain Race Track. As the jobs left, those who had a glimmer of opportunity elsewhere followed suit.

Frank Vincent DuMond, impressionist painter and Art Students League co-founder, found the valley so striking he brought students, including Robert Maione, John Marin, Frank Mason, Georgia O’Keeffe and Norman Rockwell, to summer at the Mountain View Inn formerly a part of the same farm as our barn. Others would follow, boarding at one of the hotels or with local residents.  In the 1962 photo of Pownal Center, the inn – locally referred to as Bartel’s Lodge, is the building complex in the center of the image and the barn in the lower right quarter is now the center section of our building. One of my “older” customers recalls as a child watching Norman Rockwell painting the valley village of Pownal Center from a point nearly directly across the street from where we now stand.

VERSION OF SCENE SHOWN ON COVER OF UNITED NATIONS BULLETIN SEPTEMBER 3, 1946 • CORN STACKS, POWNAL VT, OIL, FRANK MASON, 1949 • FORMER GRANDVIEW FARM GUEST HOUSE • POWNAL CENTER 1962

About the same time that DuMond probably started visiting Pownal, Lewis Hine, a photographer working for the National Child Labor Committee also visited Pownal. In 1910 Hine photographed child laborers working 12-hour days, 6 days a week in a textile mill in North Pownal. The fourth girl from the left staring intently at the camera would become the poster child for the abuses of child labor practices in the US. National attention was now focused on the abuses of child labor, and Hine’s photograph of a Pownal resident, 11-year-old Addie Card, standing bare-footed and filthy, next to an enormous spinning machine became the subject of an US postage stamp in 1998 commemorating the passing of Federal regulations governing child labor practices. Hine’s work was largely responsible for the passing of those laws. Local award-winning author Elizabeth Winthrop was inspired by the photograph of Addie who became the basis for her book, Counting on Grace. As the book was going to press, Elizabeth discovered Addie’s real name and author / researcher  Joe Manning tracked down Addie’s descendants living in nearby New York State. The rest of her story can be read at http://www.morningsonmaplestreet.com/addiesearch1.html

THE TEXTILE MILL IN N. POWNAL, LATER A TANNERY, WAS TORN DOWN IN 1988 • IN 1910 LEWIS HINE WORKING UNDERCOVER PHOTOGRAPHED THE CHILD MILL WORKERS. UNDERCOVER? • ADDIE CARD STANDING NEXT TO A SPINNING MACHINE • COUNTING ON GRACE, A NOVEL BY ELIZABETH WINTHROP

In those early 20th-century times residents could travel via trolley to neighboring towns in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and even Connecticut. The trolley passed right in front of our barn, from 1907 – 1929, but apparently wasn’t enough of a distraction for the cows as the property remained a farm. The trolley’s historic presence is still evidenced by the brick power house located just north of our location. It is documented that efforts by the auto, petroleum and related industries were responsible for the eventual closing of scores of trolley lines to encourage the use of automobiles, but I haven’t been able to verify that was the case here.  As the depression hit and residents couldn’t afford to buy cars, that closing must have been devastating, especially for the high school students who depended on the trolley to get to school in Bennington.  What became of the trolleys? Scrap metal from the cars themselves was salvaged and sent to a company in Springfield MA to be made into cables for the Golden Gate Bridge. And the rails, long covered over by asphalt in most cases, were dug up in 1943 due to wartime metal shortages.

COMMEMORATING THE FIRST CROSSING INTO VT AT POWNAL OF THE BERKSHIRE STREET RAILWAY • POWER HOUSE WAS LOCATED HERE TO GET THE TROLLEY UP THE LONG HILL FROM WILLIAMSTOWN • SCARCITY OF AUTOS IN POWNAL MADE THE TROLLEY WELCOME TRANSPORTATION • TEARING UP THE PAVEMENT TO REMOVE THE RAILS OF THE FORMER TROLLY AIDED THE 1943 WARTIME SCRAP DRIVE.

Historically, Pownal settlers were early supporters and even members of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys, having disputes, often physical, with the neighboring “Yorkers”.  A few were with Allen at the Battle of Ticonderoga even though Vermont wasn’t a member of the Continental Congress and didn’t become a state until 1791, long after the Revolution. The town also contains the oldest house in Vermont dating back to the days when land along the Hoosic River was clearly part of Rensselaerswyck Manor indicating that New York probably had a legitimate claim to at least the southwest corner of Pownal.  Two presidents – James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur – taught school in Pownal, but though the location is rarely cited, It surely wasn’t one of the eleven neighborhood schoolhouses that were scattered throughout the countryside.

A FEW MILES NORTH OF POWNAL THE CATAMOUNT TAVERN HEADQUARTERED THE GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS • THE DEVOET, MOOAR/WRIGHT HOUSE, THEN .......AND NOW • OAK HILL SCHOOL, POWNAL, 1908.

In the mid-60s Pownal VT was again a happenin’ place. US Route 7 had just been widened and mostly relocated to the old trolly bed, and a thoroughbred race track opened at the southern end of town.  Farms traversed by the relocation had to repurpose their dairy barns to offset farming loss, by catering to the swelling tourism trade. This activity increased US Route 7′s reputation as THE route to experience New England from Long Island Sound to Canada.  (We’ve been told that the main Pownal attraction was actually an “adult” store just over the border from Massachusetts in the once lawless Vermont!)  In 1992 the race track which had abandoned horse racing in favor of greyhounds closed abruptly after an animal rights organization successfully raised awareness of that sport’s cruel and inhumane practices.

A NEWLY WIDENED - AND STRAIGHTENED - US ROUTE 7, CIRCA 1965 • GREEN MOUNTAIN RACE TRACK CLOSED ABRUPTLY IN 1992 • THE SUCCESS OF WHAT WAS EVENTUALLY CALLED 'THE POWNAL VIEW BARN' ENCOURAGED OTHER BUSINESSES

Likewise, as part of that early transition from farming to tourism, our barn was expanded and turned into a gift emporium featuring – what else – local cheeses, maple syrup, other foodstuffs, furniture and local crafts – and referred to by all the locals as Quadlands.  It is said that when the Quadland family converted our barn for retail, they acquired the three glass cases I now use for jewelry from another local family whose shop along the old Route 7 was a casualty of the relocation. Local legend has it these cases  were castoffs from the original Madison Avenue Brooks Brothers.  I didn’t believe it for a minute until I had a visit from the grand-niece of the man who actually brought those haberdashery cases to Pownal!

THE ORIGINAL BARN BEFORE CONVERSION TO THE CENTER PORTION OF OUR COMPLEX • POSTCARD FROM MID-'60s SHOWING OUR BARN AS A COMMERCIAL SITE. • THREE HABERDASHERY CASES FROM THE ORIGINAL BROOKS BROTHERS ARE NOW USED FOR JEWELRY

This community, with it’s commanding views of spectacular, softly rolling, limestone mountains, but dotted with blighted housing, abandoned or deteriorating trailers, and piles of debris people can’t afford to dispose of properly, is still proud of it’s past and hopeful of its future. Affordably priced homes and building lots with incredible views are attracting retirees, second-homers, and families who’s livelihood isn’t dependent on the local economy. This past year was the 250th anniversary of the the chartering of Pownal by then New Hampshire governor Benning Wentworth and named for the then governor of Massachusetts Thomas Pownall. Many local organizations produced fascinating commemorative events, including a house tour (by the Pownal Valley Affordable Housing Committee of which I am a member) that emphasized how energy developments and costs have affected architectural design through the past two and a half centuries. The final home on the tour takes advantage of many recent technological developments in energy efficiency and has a total energy bill of under $70 per month. Here, in the mountains of Vermont!  In that same vein, two companies have started the permitting process to build alternative energy installations on the site of the former race track, now called the Southern Vermont Energy Park. Perhaps Pownal is on the verge of once again becoming a happenin’ place!

FORMER MILL HOUSING ON FRENCH HILL TODAY • THOMAS POWNALL, WHOSE NAME WAS MISSPELLED WHEN THE POWNAL CHARTER WAS DRAWN UP IN 1760 • RECENTLY COMPLETED ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME CONSTRUCTED OF SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS WAS DESIGNED AND BUILT BY A POWNAL CONTRACTOR.

PHOTO CREDITS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
0. Postcard photographed by Gustav Anderson, vertical version appeared in FAIR IS OUR LAND by Samuel Chamberlain, People’s Book Club, Hastings House Pub.,    1942, and subsequently on the cover of UN Bulletin.
1. Painting by Frank Mason
2. Now a private home referred to as the Love House, ©Palmer Kane LLC
3. Stylized Treatment of Photo from Early 1960s travel pamphlet.
4. Photographer and date Unknown
5. Photographed by Lewis Hine, courtesy Library of Congress
6. Photographed by Louis Hine, from Library of Congress
7. Photograph by Louis Hine, ©Random House
8. Photographed by  Kinsley Goodrich, Bill Volkmer collection
9. Photographed by Gabe Palmer, © Palmer Kane LLC
10. Photo courtesy unknown customer
11. Photo courtesy Bill Volkmer Collection
12. Photo courtesy Vermont Historical Society
13. Postcard 1909 published by W. B. Hale, Williamstown, MA
14. Photographed by Gabe Palmer, ©Palmer Kane LLC, courtesy Jean and Gary Dickson
15. Courtesy of Mary Louise Mason
16. Photo courtesy unknown customer
17. Photo courtesy John Armstrong, owner Pownal View Barn
18. Photographed by Alden Pellet, AP Photo
19. Unknown photographer, courtesy The Studio Club ArtWorks!
20. Photographed by Alois Mayer, Mayer Photo-Graphics,circa 1970
21. Photo by Gabe Palmer, ©Palmer Kane LLC
22. Photo courtesy of Joe Manning
23. Painting by unknown artist
24. Photographed by Gabe Palmer, ©Palmer Kane LLC, used courtesy of Designer-Contractor Pauline Guntlow

Pownal Valley Vermont Panorama Archival Giclee

Often sited as the most beautiful valley in Vermont, the rolling limestone mountains of the Pownal Valley create long distance vistas not usually visible in the Green Mountains unless you own the mountaintop. WHAT? Vermont IS the Green Mountain State. It is, but the Gateway to Vermont is in the Taconic Mountains that aged more gracefully than the granite mountains to their East and far North. Created and signed by Gabe, my husband and co-owner of The Studio Club ArtWorks!, this scene is a studio-printed, archival print available in three sizes and starting at $25.00! American.  Handmade. BUY ME!

Historical Novel Set in N. Pownal

This is a must-read for families with grade school-aged children. I have several people stop by the gallery every summer who have come to Pownal with their children to seek out the locations mentioned in Elizabeth Winthrop’s well-researched novel. The back story, once discovered, is almost as interesting as the novel, although perhaps the outcome was not so good for young Addie. Read more about that on my blog post of 5/31/11. BUY ME!

American Handmade Crafts & Photography