Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Learn to Stencil at the Free Hands on History Workshop

The art of stenciling goes back to the cave paintings of Spain and France, where someone placed a hand on the cave wall and blew pulverized pigment around it. The Egyptians adorned tombs using stencils, while Greeks and Romans used them to create mosaics and to create signs. The Chinese developed paper stencils due to the invention of paper around 105 A,D. These were used extensively to mass produce images of the Buddha during the six dynasties of China (221 AD-618 AD).  During this time, intricate and colorful patterns stenciled on the fashionable materials worn by the wealthy became all the rage in the East. It was the Japanese, however, who refined the stencil technique further by perfecting a method for holding the delicate parts of the stencil together by means of a network of human hair, later replaced by threads of silk. As trade routes were established, stenciling made its way to Europe. Consequently, when the first colonists came to America they brought stenciling techniques with them.

Two distinct styles of wall stenciling arose in New England between the Revolutionary War and the turn of the 19th century, the period of time when the Coffeens, Proctors and Duttons settled in Cavendish. In one, stencils cover most of a wall's surface to replace wall paper that few could afford. Examples of this can still be seen in several houses in Cavendish as can be seen in the photograph included in this post.

 The other technique was border stencils. Stenciling was also applied to furniture, textiles, floors, wooden trays, table coverings etc.

On Oct. 20, the Cavendish Historical Society’s (CHS) Hands on History program will be holding a free workshop at the Cavendish Town Elementary School in Proctorsville, from 9:30-11:30, which includes creating your own stencils, along with other early settler crafts of quilting, candle making and cider pressing. This workshop is open to the community thanks to a grant from the Cavendish Community Fund, a project of the Cavendish Community and Conservation Association. FMI: 226-7807 or

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