Throughout time, carvers, cabinetmakers, furniture makers, and carpenters have been crafting objects to serve as functional, social, and aesthetic pieces of work. Signatures or marks left by the craftsperson, whether incised/scratched or those of chalk, paint, pencil, or ink, allow a piece of wood to be transformed into a reflection of society, culture, economics, and trade. This exhibition, which opens November 11, 2023, explores the gift of crafting treasures from wood while highlighting the training and abilities of the crafter.
Housewrights, joiners, and carpenters intermingled with cabinet and furniture makers to craft homes and businesses throughout the Albemarle region. Artisans often served dual roles to maintain a living, many as farmers. Tools, hardware, and finishing materials were purchased from regional merchants or other artisans’ estate sales. These highly skilled craftspeople built homes, schools, businesses, and churches, all components that create a community. Decorative or plain trim work was completed for pay and passion.
The exploration of the material culture of craftspeople reveals they were influenced by styles from abroad, fellow crafters, and their sheer determination to succeed in this field. This exhibit will allow visitors to explore, experience, and engage with modern wood crafts to learn how carvers use wood to express their culture, religion, profession, and identity or to connect to their communities.
The exhibit features objects that were crafted in 18th century furniture-making shops of Thomas White, William Seay, Samuel Black, and Micajah Wilkes. Tools on view will include those used by carpenter and master brick mason Elisha Overton and the Ziegler family of cabinetmakers and undertakers. Families--like the Dunbars of Tyrrell County, the Badhams of Edenton, and the Sharrocks of Northampton and Bertie Counties--left their mark on our society by the prominence of their crafts. Works crafted by Thomas Day, Henry and Wilson Bruce Evans, and Angela Cacace are among those representing fine North Carolina craftsmanship. See carvings by Chowanoke artist Gerry Lang, Hertford County artist Arliss Watford, and Currituck County artist Joann Drake.
This exhibit acknowledges the individuals and organizations tirelessly working to acquire, restore, and save furnishings and structures for the rich treasures that they are. Housewrights and master carpenters hone their restoration skills to help preserve homes, churches, and other structures and the regional cabinetmakers offering workshops and classes that allow participants to use traditional techniques and tools from centuries ago. Businesses teach carpentry and cabinetmaker skills and the architectural historians and expert furniture historians who research and publish materials that allow everyone the opportunity to learn more about objects Crafted from Wood. This exhibit is free and open to the public. The exhibit will remain open until the end of 2026.
We will start educational programming with History for Lunch on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, at 12 p.m. Bill Barber will provide insight into the timber boom that swept across coastal North Carolina following the Civil War, creating employment and industry in coastal counties. The John L. Roper Lumber Company was only one of the many lumber mills that operated during that era but led the way in building railroads, organizing the lumbermen from three states into the North Carolian Pine Association, and rebranding what has been considered an inferior product into lumber that dominated the market as “North Carolian Pine.” Not able to attend the History for Lunch? You can pick up Mr. Barber’s book in the Museum Shop: Timber, Land, and Railroads: A History of the John L. Roper Lumber Company.
In conjunction with Crafted from Wood, join us for Tot Time on Thursday, November 9, 2023, at 10 a.m. Participants between 3 to 5 years of age, accompanied by an adult, will read a book and engage in a hands-on activity to discover the art of crafting treasures from wood.
Then on Saturday, November 11 from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m., bring the family for a public day of educational activities to highlight tools and crafters identified in the new exhibit. Sign out a carpenter’s apron with tools at the 2nd floor reception desk. Get to work measuring and identifying signatures or marks left by the craftspeople.
In 2023, the Annual Designer Workshop will focus around Crafted from Wood. On Saturday, November 18, 2023, from 9:30 a.m. until 3 p.m., registered guests can make a cane stool with Albemarle Craftsman’s Fair artist Greg Barco. Take away a stained stool that you will can your self-measuring 18 inches tall and 13 inches wide by 18 inches long. A light lunch and supplies are included in the supply fee. Register early for the annual workshop since space is limited. A supply fee and registration are required to secure a seat.
Joseph E. Brittle Ladder-back Common Chairs, circa 1880
Skilled farmers and craftspeople throughout northeastern North Carolina constructed utilitarian furniture, such as these pieces made by Joseph Exum Brittle Sr. (1846–1923) of Northampton County. Brittles first arrived in Surrey County, Virginia, in 1665 and moved to North Carolina in the 1700s.
Courtesy Museum of the Albemarle
Angela Cacace, 2023
Cacace owns her own business of custom carpentry, remodeling, and designing. She is known as “a true and generous woman that believes in thanking the women who blazed a trail for her.”
Courtesy Angela Cacace
Somerset Place Carpenter’s Shop Inventories, 1839
Inventories include planes, chisels, calipers, saws, a rounding knife, squares, a glue kettle with brush, axes, plumb levels, turning gouges, hammers, and wooden patterns.
Courtesy Somerset Place State Historic Site, Creswell, and State Archives of North Carolina
Edenton Advertisement, 1887
Louis F. Ziegler advertises his cabinet maker and undertaker business on Main Street in Edenton.
Courtesy Fisherman and Farmer, December 16, 1887, edition, newspapers.com
About the Museum of the Albemarle
The Museum of the Albemarle is located at 501 S. Water Street, Elizabeth City, NC. (252) 335-1453. www.museumofthealbemarle.com. Find us on Facebook! Hours are Monday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Closed Sundays and State Holidays. Serving Bertie, Camden, Chowan, Currituck, Dare, Gates, Hertford, Hyde, Northampton, Pasquotank, Perquimans, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties, the museum is the northeast regional history museum of the North Carolina Division of State History Museums within the N.C.
Department of Natural and Cultural Resources, the state agency with the mission to enrich lives and communities and the vision to harness the state’s cultural resources to build North Carolina’s social, cultural, and economic future. Information is available 24/7 at www.ncdcr.gov.
About the North Carolina Department of Natural and Cultural Resources
The N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources (DNCR) manages, promotes, and enhances the things that people love about North Carolina – its diverse arts and culture, rich history, and spectacular natural areas. Through its programs, the department enhances education, stimulates economic development, improves public health, expands accessibility, and strengthens community resiliency.
The department manages over 100 locations across the state, including 27 historic sites, seven history museums, two art museums, five science museums, four aquariums, 35 state parks, four recreation areas, dozens of state trails and natural areas, the N.C. Zoo, the N.C Symphony, the State Library, the State Archives, the N.C. Arts Council, the African American Heritage Commission, the American Indian Heritage Commission, the State Historic Preservation Office, the Office of State Archaeology, the Highway Historical Markers program, the N.C. Land and Water Fund, and the Natural Heritage Program. For more information, please visit www.ncdcr.gov.