If you’ve ever been captivated by a crafter at the Waterford Fair and wondered how they do it, here’s your chance to get the scoop and learn from a master.
The Waterford Foundation kicks off the second season of its Heritage Crafts School program next month, giving regular folks the chance to learn to hook a rug, weave a basket or fix a window in pre-technology style.
The crafts school was launched last summer as a pilot program in response to a desire from community members to revive old-school craftsmanship, said Waterford Foundation Executive Director Thomas Kuehhas.
“It’s a case of everything old is new again. We’ve been running the fair for over 70 years, and it just seemed like a shame that it was just relegated to three days a year that people could learn and see these crafters in action,” Kuehhas said. “We really wanted to spread it out over the course of the year.”
The program, which runs separate two-day classes over three weekends this spring and summer, is heavy on the kinds of crafts you’d see at the Waterford Fair, held every year in October in the tiny western Loudoun village. Heritage Craft School participants can learn to make traditional baskets or Windsor stools or get the basics of weaving and quilting. Most of the instructors are fair exhibitors selected by the foundation for the school.
“We had a ready cadre of people we could draw from and by and large they were all on board,” Kuehhas said.
But organizers also decided to focus on the building arts in an area rich in historic homes. Village resident Tim McGinn of T.H. McGinn & Co., who specializes in historic buildings, returns to the school with his workshop on window restoration, leading students through a project at the foundation’s historic Second Street School. Noted local mason Allen Cochran will teach a class on lime mortar, an old-school binding agent that’s a go-to material for houses built before the 20th Century.
“We wanted to do a mix of historic crafts like textile-related [crafts] but also do the building arts. So, if you own a historic home and you need to repoint your foundation you get some great hands-on experience,” Kuehhas said.
Maryanne Valleau, a Family And Consumer Science teacher at Briar Woods High School in Ashburn, took McGinn’s window restoration class last summer.
“I was motivated to take the class because I am passionate about DIY home projects and always love the opportunity to learn new skills,” Valleau said. “At first, I was very nervous about working on window sash which has historical significance dating back to 1866…However, Tim’s teaching ease and excellent guidance quickly put my fears to rest”
Valleau said during the first day, the class learned how to identify the parts of the window sash, how to remove the old glazing putty and remove layers of old paint, all using infrared lights and putty knives. The following day, they focused on learning how to apply new putty.
For Cochran, the lime mortar guru, the ideal participant is someone who owns a historic home or has an interest in preservation and wants to understand the unique needs of historic buildings—whether they’re planning to do it themselves or hire someone.
“What we’re trying to do is get folks that own historic homes or people involved with historic places to understand the correct methods and materials to use in these buildings,” Cochran said.
Grown-ups will also have a chance to study with beloved Loudoun-based archaeologist David Clark, known for his popular archaeology camps for young people. Clark’s workshop, scheduled for May 6 and 7, focuses on archaeology in Loudoun, but will also cover interesting national and international examples with slideshows, hands on discussions of artifacts and possible outdoor work.
The workshops are designed for adults 18 and over, Kuehhas said, but mature teens are also welcome. Participants can choose one session or all three, with one class per two-day session offering 12 hours of hands-on instruction over a weekend. This year’s dates are May 6 and 7, June 3 and 4, and July 8 and 9.
For the Waterford Foundation, the workshops are a way to bring people to the village outside of the three-day window of the fair and to create a new funding stream for the foundation’s ongoing preservation efforts. Last year most of the participants were local, he added, but the foundation hopes to have more out of town participants this year and has organized special rates with area hotels.
“So much of our income comes from the fair. We really need to diversify,” Kuehhas said. “And this is a way to have some income at other times of the year but also fulfilling our educational mission so it’s a win-win.”
The Waterford Heritage Crafts School takes place Saturdays and Sundays May 6 and 7, June 3 and 4 and July 8 and 9. Tuition is $175 per class and some workshops also have materials fees. The foundation is offering a $25 discount for members and a $15 early bird discount for registration six weeks in advance. For a complete schedule and to register, go to waterfordfoundation.org.