Spare Home Accessories, Informed by the Artisans of Colonial Williamsburg
While the bonnets and muskets seen in Virginia’s Colonial Williamsburg—the early American settlement turned immersive outdoor museum—might be of another era, the institution is rooted in something very much of the moment: an appreciation for items that are skillfully made by hand. On the institution’s grounds, artisans including blacksmiths, woodworkers, bookbinders, and weavers regularly demonstrate the tools and techniques that were used to make everyday objects in the 18th century, many of which continue to be used today. To familiarize more people with the heritage of American craftsmanship, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation (the entity that operates the museum) created Craft & Forge, a wide-ranging line of spare, everyday accessories for the home that will debut at the end of the month.
The pared-down offerings, alongside seasonal decorations, food, and beverages, will be available in select specialty stores, and later, in Colonial Williamsburg’s gift shop and website. Craft & Forge’s first pieces—a limited run of copper tin-lined mugs created by Wisconsin-based metalsmith Sara Dahmen—were made in collaboration with the Williamsburg, Virginia-based brewpub The Amber Ox. Early next year, the brand will present an indoor/outdoor line of throw pillows and rugs, followed by a copper cookware collection (also made in partnership with Dahmen), in the spring. A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the items, which are all designed and made in America, will support the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation’s research, preservation, and educational efforts.
To design its objects, Craft & Forge invites makers outside Colonial Williamsburg who work with yarn, dye, wood, and other classic materials to interpret items from the foundation’s archives—which include prints, patterns, and furniture designs—for a contemporary audience. The brand also connects makers with Williamsburg’s artisans; they work together at the museum, swapping ideas and production methods, then use that knowledge to give archival objects a modern twist. The first such pairing, called the Artisan Exchange, took place earlier this fall. It coupled tradespeople at Williamsburg with four creatives: Dahmen, the metalsmith, along with culinary historian and author Michael W. Twitty, weaver Lindsey Campbell, and farmer, carpenter, and blacksmith Anne Briggs. (A robust roster of public workshops and events, aimed at helping people develop a better understanding of craft, will be announced soon.)
Each of Craft & Forge’s initiatives underscore the value of respecting and continuing time-honored traditions—not just for designers, but for society at large. “[The brand] really inspires me, because [it shows that] I’m not alone out here in the desire to bring these crafts into a contemporary lens,” Twitty said in a video posted on Instagram following the Artisan Exchange. “It lets people know that the past is important. Things have been passed down to us that not only inform what we do, [but continue to] inspire us.”