Sunday, March 4, 2012

Christine's roadtrip

posted by Christine

Last weekend I was lucky enough to drive down to southern Illinois to spend a couple of days with an experienced broom maker, Claudie Parsons. I got my introduction to broom making from Lindsay who took a workshop at a MOMCC (Midwest Open Air Museums Coordinating Council) conference. Since then, I've gotten most of my broom making information from websites, books, magazines, and YouTube. Of course, the downside is I don't have anybody to ask for advice on the various challenges of broom making.
There's only a handful of serious broom makers nationwide, and they all seem to know each other. Some make brooms because they are passionately committed to sustainable living. Some make brooms because they are history buffs. Others consider themselves artists and strive for highly ornate, decorative brooms. I think I'm a little of all three.
Claudie spent her youth in the Army, hanging telephone wire. When she got out of the Army, she came home and got a job as a roustabout. I swear, it's true. She was the first female roustabout her oil company ever hired. She learned how to make brooms from Richard Henson, a third generation broom maker from Kentucky who makes brooms for television shows and for Martha Stewart. Claudie sets up her broom shop at Civil War reenactments, and while she makes her fabulous brooms, her husband teaches [passing] kids how to make rope. In their spare time, they are a champion BBQ team.
My weekend with Claudie was extremely helpful. I learned how to use her kick winder, a foot powered version of our electric broom winder, how to wind brooms by hand without a winder, and a new way to stitch brooms that I'm very excited about. She also taught me one of the most exciting things about broom making: how to tie a broom onto the end of just about anything such as a spoon, hammer, table leg...even a deer antler! What's more, I took photos of all her equipment so that I can replicate pieces when I need to. It was fun to swap a few stories and commiserate about the hazards of broom making with a peer. I was delighted to find out that other broom makers also get little cuts all over their hands and sometimes wind their fingers into their brooms, too!