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Voices Fall-Winter 2007:
Click on the cover for the Table of Contents. Read the Artist Profile, “The Flint Sisters: Making Do
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Volume 33
Fall-Winter
2007
Voices

The Flint Sisters: Making Do

Artist Profile Arlouene, Gladys, and Lunamae Flint were born in the mid-1920s to Roy and Daisy Berry Flint and raised in Pike, New York. They grew up on the family dairy farm that their father had inherited in rural Wyoming County, where they also helped their mother tend to more than a thousand chickens. Their way of life—where nearly all one’s food, clothing, furniture, household decorations, entertainment, and other needs were supplied by materials at hand and by one’s own skill—for most of us exists only in memory. For the Flint sisters, “making do” with what they had was not just a necessity, but also a springboard to the creativity, imagination, and beauty found in their heritage and home-based arts. By all accounts, Roy and Daisy encouraged the sisters by example with their own artistic skills: he through woodworking, carving, and furniture making, and she with fine-painted china and a love of singing.

Five generations: the Flint Sisters and family
Five generations: the Flint sisters and family. Standing, left to right: Donna Quackenbush Barber, Judy Quackenbush Sawyer, Cathy Flint Swales, Abigail Swales, Penny Flint Simpson. Seated, left to right: Arlouene (Flint) Quackenbush, Gladys (Flint) Hotchkiss, Lunamae Flint. (Lunamae married a man named Flint—no relation.)


The sisters learned sewing and quilting early on from their grandmother and mother and put their knowledge to work to create their own playthings. Arlouene remembers a quilt frame set up in the front parlor of the house and ladies coming to work together on a quilt. She remembers, “We had lots of fun, but it was things that we made up and played at home, and that’s where imagination and crafts start. We used to just die, waiting for the Sears and Roebuck catalog to get old, because we’d cut out the people and put them on cardboard, and then we could go through and cut out clothes, and make them for our paper dolls.” She also remembers that her father would bring home clay from the ground near their home, and they’d make animals from it. Gladys remembers when feed for the stock came in printed cotton sacks, which their mother would use to make everyday dresses for the girls. Says Gladys, “She’d always tell my father to make sure he got sacks that matched.”

Arlouene, Gladys, and Lunamae all remained in the area, married, and raised their children on or near farms in Pike and Bliss. Arlouene’s daughter Donna, an accomplished quilter, recalls that virtually all of their clothes were homemade, and that the first store-bought dress was “a really big deal.” Arlouene remembers, “They made up their playthings, ’cause we lived here. And they never said, ‘Oh, I’m bored,’ because there was always something to do.” Family involvement in activities like 4-H and state and county fairs also afforded opportunities for mothers and daughters to explore more and varied arts and crafts. Lunamae and her daughter Cathy worked together on building a dollhouse when Cathy’s girls were young. While they started with a basic kit, the house shows the women’s meticulous attention to detail and fine craftsmanship, with miniature stenciled walls, quilts, and hand-formed and painted foods on the dining room table.

The sisters have all passed on their appreciation and love of traditional arts to their children and grandchildren, who are adding their own touches through woodworking, decorative painting, quilting, heritage sewing, photography, and other crafts. Gladys and Lunamae are both members of the Historical Society of Early American Decoration, an international organization devoted to such arts as stenciling, tin painting, reverse glass painting, and theorem painting on velvet. For more than thirty years, Gladys has taught rug hooking from her home to a weekly gathering of women, which still includes several “charter members.” Similarly, Lunamae has taught theorem, tin, and country painting for more than twenty years. Each of the sisters’ homes is filled with artwork created by their own and others’ hands. For the Flint sisters, continuing these arts in their families and the informal teaching groups is as natural as breathing. We are fortunate to have their energies and artistry continuing to promote traditional arts and ways of learning in our lifetimes.


 









Karen Canning directs the Traditional Arts Program of the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council in Batavia, New York. The program is administered cooperatively by the Genesee-Orleans Regional Arts Council, the Arts Council for Wyoming County, and the Genesee Valley Council on the Arts.



This profile appeared in Voices Vol. 33, Fall-Winter 2007. Voices is the membership magazine of the New York Folklore Society. To become a subscriber, join the New York Folklore Society today.

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