|Leslie and Lily at the top of Squirrel Spur|
Artisan Member, 'Round The Mountain
Venue and Trail Site Member, 'Round the Mountain
Member, Lost Arts Guild
I was raised in the beautiful mountain community of Meadows of Dan, surrounded by music and by people that were artisans by necessity. Mountain people have a long tradition of creating the things that they wanted or needed. I played at my grandmother's feet as she sewed, preserved fruits and vegetables and kept a busy household running smoothly. Nearby my grandfather was creating banjos, guitars and fiddles out of carefully selected curly maple from his farm. The house rang with music, sometimes from an old radio or record player but more often from a relative's hands. Books were everywhere, on shelves and in my hands from an early age. My grandmother encouraged me to read and had a bright, inquiring mind.
And as needles sped through cloth and tools shaped wood, stories flowed along with the work, reciting family and community events. Living in the area where generations of kin have shaped their lives can give a child a unique perspective. I grew up listening to stories about Meadows of Dan that were repeated so often that I sometimes feel that I knew the people involved, even if I am separated from them by a century.
I credit the family and community traditions of art, music, reading and storytelling for the directions my life has followed. I have always been interested in fiber arts, even before that term existed as a description. An older student taught me to crochet when I was in elementary school, and I learned many other types of needlework over the years. In the mid-1980s I learned to spin on a drop spindle while living in Maine. Great quantities of hair from a pet Samoyed dog inspired me to learn to make yarn. After I returned to Meadows of Dan in 1990, my mother gave me her grandmother's spinning wheel. I learned to spin with this wheel and some rough wool from a fiber producer in West Virginia. I still have the rug I crocheted from those first hand spun singles yarn.
After many years of practice, I learned that I enjoyed spinning fine fibers such as merino wool, silk and angora. I still spin on my grandmother's wheel, along with a hand crafted Reeves spinning wheel and a small upright wheel for shows. I keep a drop spindle nearby as well.
Raising animals for clothing, food and other necessities is also a mountain tradition, and I soon decided that keeping and breeding German Angora rabbits would fit into my fiber goals and lifestyle. My first rabbits came to Meadows of Dan in 1999, and were the beginnings of my fiber business, Greenberry House.
Almost immediately after I obtained the rabbits my grandfather's health began to decline and I found myself spending much of my time looking after him. Thanks to a generous employer and the nature of my job, I was able to work part-time and nights so that I could spend days with my grandfather. To supplement my income I set up a web page to sell the wool from my rabbits and used books. After my grandfather died the on-line business continued to grow, and recently I opened a small shop in Meadows of Dan.
Greenberry House, at 10 Concord Road, features hand spun and hand dyed yarns and spinning fiber from other Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee farmers and spinners. Fibers range from cashmere, angora, llama, alpaca and wool from several different breeds of sheep. Yarn designers create wonderful hand spun yarns that range from bulky yarns for wonderful sweaters and scarves to fine yarns for special socks and everything in between. My shop also carries beautiful art note cards produced by area artists, and photo cards highlighting our beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains by area photographers.
I'm in the process of building another shop for the used and collectible books that make up the rest of the business. Along with the books, we often sell collectibles such as dolls, glassware, silver, pewter and many other items, along with antiques.
I attend several festivals and book shows throughout the year where I promote Greenberry House and tourism in the Blue Ridge Plateau and in Meadows of Dan. Recently I participated in the Crooked Road Festival portion of the Virginia Arts Festival in Williamsburg. I attended the National Folk Festival in Richmond for three years, representing Patrick County artisans and with 'Round the Mountain.
Southwest Virginia is a special place and I'm lucky to have deep roots in the Blue Ridge Plateau. The small community of Meadows of Dan has a unique character and is a wonderful place to call home. I'm still telling those family and community stories to anyone that will listen.