Wisconsin Life # 612: Lost Art, Found Treasure

December 20, 2018


Wisconsin Life host Angela Fitzgerald is in Madison where the Barony of Jararvellir, a local chapter of the Society of Creative Anachronism, brings history to life. Anachronists are enthusiasts bringing past culture, in this case pre-17th Century cultures, into modern times. Members of the barony recreate the lifestyle, arts and weaponry of this time period. Almost everything the group uses is hand-made, including the clothes and armor. Different baronies even hold battles and competitions. Fitzgerald gets a lesson in archery from barony member Deena Patterson.

While helping out during the holiday season, Scott Cooper and Kurt Grunwald both saw the need for toys. As woodworkers in their spare time, they decided to make wooden toys. Scott Cooper says, “We found kids like things they can kind of pull around and put stuff in. Each year we do a different toy.” Twenty years later, this pair of elves, as they call themselves, are still at work. Now with a group of five elves, they make 50 toys a season. Kurt Grunwald says of the kids who get the toys, “I hope they’re enjoying them as much as I did when I was a kid.”

As musical instruments go, the handpan is quite new, originating in 2000. It was developed by two steel panned tuners in Switzerland. Jenny Robinson says “My first reaction was, ‘What the heck is that thing?’ When I heard the sound, I knew that I had to bring that sound into my life in some way.” As one of the few woman in the world building handpans, she takes two sheets of steel, puts in dimples for the intended notes. After a rough tuning, the two shells are attached with glue. The handpan is played on the top with hands. The bottom is a resonating cavity. It’s a very unique sounding instrument. Robinson says “That just makes me so happy that people are loving the instruments and just enjoying playing music.”

As a basket weaver, when Tina Fung Holder goes for a walk, often some part of nature will come home with her. Once inside her apartment, dried sweetgrass is braided into cordage. Red osier dogwood is bent into a frame, and soon the most malleable parts of nature take new shape and find new purpose. Tina explains, “As I look around, like, anything that bends to me, that’s going to end up in some kind of basketry thing.” Tina is a lot like her material: flexible and open to new possibilities. Tina’s openness led her to a new purpose, working with children. Tina says children are like her weaving material: malleable. “You throw it at them; they don’t know that it is a hard thing. They do it. The satisfaction for me is to see delight on their face,” she says.

Getting a letter with an inspiring quote can brighten your day. That’s the idea behind Katrina Lord’s secret project. She explains her process, “What I do is find quotes that inspire me, positive quotes. Sometimes silly quotes. I like those too. And then I write them on a postcard, and then I decorate it. Write a little message, anonymously, Milwaukee Love Letters, and then I put it in the envelope. Stash it away somewhere in the city for someone to find.” She hides them all over Milwaukee in the hopes of brightening someone’s day. “So if I make one person smile, maybe they can make more people smile and I think that in itself is priceless.”


Sign Up Form

Sign Up for Our Bi-Weekly Newsletter

Get your favorite Wisconsin Life stories, meet the crew, and go behind the scenes.