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Voices, Fall-Winter 2016:
Follow the links on the Table of Contents to see excerpts of articles and read columns.
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Volume 42

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The Wreck of the Julie Plante” and Its Offspring [excerpt]
by Stan Ransom

12 What’s Your Watershed? Folklore at the Intersection of Place, Culture, and the Environment
by Ellen McHale, PhD

18 An Interview with Hannah Davis: Regional Folklife Survey and Program Development Consultant for the New York Folklore Society and the New York State Council on the Arts
Interview by Jason Baird Jackson

26 Echoes of Familiar Rhythms: Puerto Rican & Garifuna Drums [excerpt]
by Elena Martínez

32 Democratizing the (Folk) Arts Nonprofit Workplace
by Eileen Condon

36 Radio Flyer
by Helen Condon

38 Transcendence: Making Meaning with American Public Folklore Diplomacy Programming in Nanjing, China [excerpt]
by Beverly Butcher, PhD, with Li Jinke and Xu Jiayi

44 Snowdrops: Science, Myths, and Folklore
by Barbara Schramm

Departments and Columns

7 Upstate: The Gift of Song
by Dan Berggren

8 Downstate: Jim and Julie
by Steve Zeitlin

24 ALN8BAL8MO: A Native Voice—Tom Sakokwenionkwas Porter
by Joseph Bruchac

25 Artist Spotlight: Bill Smith

31 Voices of New York: Maxwell Kofi Donkor & Sankofa Drum and Dance Ensemble
by Polly Adema

45 Good Read: Charlie Whistler’s Omnium Gatherum: Campfire Stories and Adirondack Adventures
by Chris Linendoll

Garifuna percussionist and dancer
Chester Nunez of Libana Maraza
was moved by the bomba drums, so
he began to dance (2013). Photo by
Elena Martinez
Cover: Read “Echoes of Familiar Rhythms: Puerto Rican & Garifuna Drums,” by Elena Martínez on p. 26. Garifuna percussionist and dancer Chester Nuñez of Libana Maraza was moved by the bomba drums, so he began to dance (2013). Photo by Elena Martínez.

Ellen McHale,PhD
From the Fall-Winter 2016 issue of Voices:

According to New York State’s Office of New Americans, one in four New York State adults of working age are foreign born and almost one-third of New York’s business owners are immigrants. Our state’s diversity provides a tapestry of colors and patterns of culture, language, and arts that enriches us all. Although New York City has been historically the destination for immigrants, Upstate New York has most recently benefitted from newcomers. For example, in rural New York, Bhutanese farmers are providing expertise on dairy farms (Robbins, Liz. 2016. “From Bhutan to New York’s Dairy Heartland.” The New York Times, January 26.) and providing their skills as yogurt makers for New York-based yogurt makers Siggis and Chobani. Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and Utica have all turned to refugee and immigrant populations to revive their population bases, as the postindustrial situation has left vacant houses and dwindling school enrollments, where once there were vibrant communities. Newcomers to our state are repopulating neighborhoods once again, and corner grocery stores and restaurants are providing housewares, clothing, food, and spices that bring a global perspective.

On Saturday, September 9, 2017, the New York Folklore Society will explore some of the nuances of cultural encounter through a daylong symposium, CULTURAL MIGRATION: DISPLACEMENT AND RENEWAL. The symposium will take place in partnership with the Castellani Museum of Niagara University. It will begin with artists’ workshops (by invitation only), followed by a public event on Friday evening, September 8, 2017. Saturday’s sessions (September 9, 2017) will include formal presentations, as well as a conference format that encourages discussion and dialogue. We hope that you will “Save the Date,” and join us at the Castellani Art Museum of Niagara University. Details will be posted on our website.

The New York Folklore Society, in collaboration with Green Worker Cooperatives (GWC), hosted the second in a series of workshops on October 23, in Brooklyn, on “Democratizing the Folk Arts Workplace: Forming a Worker-Owned Cooperative” with GWC’s Ileia Burgos. You can read about both workshops in this issue in a report from NYFS’s NYC Regional Representative Eileen Condon. Eileen is currently planning an artists’ meeting to take place at the same Oxford Street location. You’ll find more information on our website at

At the 2016 annual meeting in New York City, NYFS members voted to allow electronic and paper voting. Previously, as per the New York Folklore Society’s Bylaws of 1944, voting could only take place in person with decisions made by a majority of annual meeting attendees. This change in bylaws allows us to take advantage of current technologies. If you are a member, please watch in the upcoming year for information regarding board member elections and bylaws adjustments. If you are not a member, please consider joining us! As always, if you have questions or concerns, or ideas for where New York Folklore Society can make a difference, please contact us at nyfs@nyfolklore.org.

Ellen McHale, PhD
Executive Director
New York Folklore Society

Todd DeGarmo
From the Fall–Winter 2016 issue of Voices:

Thirty years ago I began my first consultant job as a folklorist in upstate New York.

Crandall Library wanted to expand their budding Folk Arts Program and agreed with the folks at the New York State Council on the Arts that a young folklorist working and studying in Washington, DC, could breathe new life into their program.

I was to conduct a Folk Arts Survey of Warren County, New York. The emphasis was on finding “folk arts” and those “folk artists” that could be a part of a festival or workshop series. My job was to inspire the folks at Crandall with the wealth of folk art in their own backyard and the possibilities of future programming.

Warren County is where the Hudson River rises into the Adirondack foothills. A place of hardscrabble farms, logging and wood lots, hunting and fishing, and 150 years worth of tourism. My journey that summer became more ethnographic in approach, searching for those activities, splashes of creativity, and their practitioners that helped define the region. It was about letting the region and its people speak for themselves, and taking the time to listen.

That summer, I first encountered the tied quilts of the Johnsburg United Methodist Women (UMW). Not overly structured in design, these tied quilts were made of lots of little scrap pieces of material, somehow coming together into a colorful whole. This fun-loving group of women raised money with church suppers and craft sales at locally affordable prices, proudly pointing out the “Ladies Aid Society” stained glass window, symbolizing generations of hard work in support of their small country church.

For the next several years, Johnsburg UMW worked closely with Crandall Library’s Folk Arts Project. We co-hosted an annual quilt and needlework show to document local textiles, and they provided a sampler tied quilt for our growing archive of folk culture. They also helped us experiment with ways to present local traditions to a general audience by participating in festivals, children’s workshops, and other activities.

I remembered being questioned by colleagues about the use of the label “tied quilt” rather than “comforter” and even about the validity of calling these quilts “folk art,” given the use of sewing machines rather than handwork.

I learned to rely on the wisdom of these women, who patiently told me, “Of course we all use sewing machines to make tied quilts—it makes the work go quicker.” One proudly showed me her Singer sewing machine, the same machine her grandmother used to make quilts at the end of the 19th century.

Looking back to that summer 30 years ago, I was the one to be inspired. I learned not to be limited by my own preconceived constructs, but to listen and to learn from the folk themselves.

Todd DeGarmo
Voices Acquisitions Editor
Founding Director of the Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library

Program text from “An Adirondack Quilt Show: A Celebration of the Tied Tradition,”Wevertown Community Hall, Saturday, August 13, 1988, 10–4 p.m. Rain or Shine.

Tied quilts have a long history in the Adirondack North Country. For generations, they have been used as bedcovers at home and in the lumber camp, placed in hope chests by prospective brides, given to neighbors in need, and sold to raise money for the local church.

Quilts are commonly three layers: the backing, batting, and top. The backing is often simple, not given much attention, since it is the underside of the quilt. The batting is the interlining, once only made of cotton or wool (though sometimes an old blanket was used). Bats are now also made of synthetic fibers, and said by some to make quilt care easier. The top is the decorative side of the quilt. Pieces of material are sown together into blocks, these blocks then used to form the overall design.

Tying and quilting are two different ways to fasten the three layers of a quilt. North Country families often practiced both techniques, but relied on tying for the enormous task of making their own bedcovers. In the tying process, spaced threads are passed through the layers of the quilt and tied into knots. Tying is quicker than quilting and allows a thicker batting to be used for a warmer cover.

A tradition of “waste not, want not” has influenced the choice of materials used in tied quilts. Scraps are commonly salvaged from family sewing projects. Other materials have included leftover scraps from making shirttails at a local factory, cloth grain bags that came in an assortment of prints and patterns, and even unworn portions of wool jackets and pants. New material, when used, is often bought on sale or donated.

Such scraps are preferred by many of the area’s longtime tied quilters. They like the effect of combining materials of many different colors and patterns, and say that the more little pieces you have, the better the variety, and the faster the top comes together.

Many area women learned to make tied quilts from older relatives. Pauline Waddell, who has tied quilts all her life, recalls learning the skill at home:

“I started in while I was a teenager or maybe a little bit younger, working on these quilts at night with my mother. We pieced them by hand. I guess that would be seen as kind of tame to teenagers now, spending your evening, piecing quilts. But I did. Long winter evenings. That’s the way we spent our time.”

Others have learned within quilting groups. Some of the most common in this area are the United Methodist Women organizations. Located in Johnsburg, North Creek, North River, Wevertown, and Porter Corners, these groups help to support their churches while keeping alive the tradition of tied quilts.

These quilts have been used and enjoyed, not tucked away. Tops made a generation or more ago are given backing and batting, and are tied by the new generation. In some, colors are faded and materials are worn from constant use. Sometimes patches are added where the material has worn clear through. These are quilts used and loved by the present owners, to be passed on with pride to the new.

—Todd DeGarmo


Scow Schooner Alma2




Fall–Winter 2016, Volume 42:3–4

Acquisitions Editor
   Todd DeGarmo
Copy Editor
   Patricia Mason
Administrative Manager
   Laurie Longfield
   Mary Beth Malmsheimer
   Eastwood Litho

Editorial Board: Varick Chittenden, Lydia Fish, Hanna Griff-Sleven, Nancy Groce, Lee Haring, Bruce Jackson, Christopher Mulé, Libby Tucker, Kay Turner, Dan Ward, Steve Zeitlin

Voices: The Journal of New York Folklore is published twice a year by the New York Folklore Society, Inc.

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