Nearly 20 children younger than 9 clutched threaded needles, but there wasn’t one wet eye or pricked finger.
The Alaska State Library, Archives and Museum hosted a youth art activity Saturday with artist Amy Meissner, whose work is featured in the exhibit “Inheritance: Makers. Memory, Myth.,” which will be featured through Feb. 9. With plenty of supervision, children made their mark on embroidered donated antique doilies, dresser scarves and other cloths.
“Little kids are really surprisingly nimble and dexterous,” Meissner said. “These are old skills, and there’s reasons they have endured.”
“This is better than playing video games or messing with phones,” she added. “(The work) is frustrating, it’s not perfect, but it teaches them the will.”
The workshop was part of a series of youth art events held at the Andrew P. Kashevaroff building Saturdays after First Friday events.
Once children selected a cloth, they used a combination of drawing, tracing, and needle and thread to make unique keepsakes. Making use of the old cloth, which was crowdsourced over a year, was an integral part of the workshop.
Meissner said it allows children to connect with past generations, touch delicate materials they might not normally be allowed to handle and conserve materials.
“A lot of times this kind of stuff is hands-off for kids,” Meissner said. “The other thing I like about it is the intergenerational aspect of it. There could be four generations in here right now. The idea of giving something a new life is also pretty important to me.”
In some cases, the intergenerational connection was more than implied by the old cloths. A handful of parents were on hand to watch and assist with the artwork.
Most of the pieces in the morning workshop focused on animals and basic shapes, and felines were especially popular.
Solei Jordan, 5, worked on a blue cat with help from her dad, Sam.
Oscar Lamb, 6, worked on a cheetah who was surrounded by a large, green triangle.
Ona Eckerson, 5, also made a cat-centric design.
Eckerson said she was inspired by the bird that was already embroidered on the cloth.
“He’s going to catch the bird and eat it,” Eckerson said. “It’s a wild cat. How else would it eat dinner?”
For some of the children, the workshop wasn’t their first time working with needle and thread.
Lamb said he’s sewn a pillow before, and Eckerson had worked on a needlepoint bird at home.
“This is easy,” Eckerson said confidently.
• Contact arts and culture reporter Ben Hohenstatt at 523-2243 or firstname.lastname@example.org.