One of the most popular exhibits at the N.C. State Fair is the Village of Yesteryear. More than 75 crafters dressed in period clothing will spend eleven-hour exciting days educating fair visitors in this “working-artist” interactive exhibit that features traditional heritage handcrafts.
Jeanette Egan, who specializes in pyrography and woodburning, will make her Village of Yesteryear debut this October.
“I’m in awe to be part of the Village of Yesteryear this year. This is a fabulous opportunity to be able to educate others on the art of wood burning,” said Puerto-Rican artist Jeanette Egan, a descendant of the Taino Boriken community
Egan, who works out of her Coleridge studio, specializes in natural and tropical wood-burned art. You can find her work on bamboo, various grains of wood, and even gourds.
Gourds, a fruit from a plant within the cucumber, pumpkin, and melon families, are known for their practical uses across all indigenous societies from Africa, Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Americas. As a result, it is one of the oldest cultivated plants in the world, with more than 2,500 varieties that can have many purposes. However, Egan says that her native country, Puerto Rico, is best known for using gourds to make the guiro, a percussion-type instrument similar to a rattle.
“I grew up drinking out of cups and eating out of bowls made from gourds,” recalls Egan. “Gourd-use was just normal in my home. But, as I’ve talked to many others in my education workshops, functional gourd use crosses many different indigenous societies. People use them for everyday household use, planters, canteens, birdhouses, and musical instruments.”
Gourds can be challenging to grow and use for artistic work. Egan says you need lots of space to grow gourds, especially if they are not trellised.
Harvesting and drying gourds is a long, labor-intensive process. Large gourds may take as long as six months to dry before artists like Egan can use them. However, once a gourd is dried, gutted, and cut, it is ready to use.
Egan starts her wood-burning process on gourds or wood with a hand-drawn design; then, she uses a wood-burning tool and pencils to create different shading for the procedure. Sometimes, she uses paints to make her artwork even more colorful.
Art and creativity have been part of Egan’s life for as long as she can remember. “Oh my gosh. I was a notorious doodler and always took colored pencils to all my classes,” laughs Egan. “My notebooks were all filled with doodles. Even my bible had doodles. It never crossed my mind that I would turn my hobby of doodling into a lucrative profession”.
Eleven years ago, Egan was laid-off from her job as a structural engineering tech, and she began home-schooling her youngest two children. In her downtime as a teacher, she began to sell her wood-burning designs at craft shows for additional income, which eventually led her to teach workshops. Egan now travels extensively to teach this craft to others. This year she is also chair of the 80th Annual NC Gourds Arts, and Craft Festival presented by the N.C. Gourd Society this November.
Egan does not like to concentrate on just one medium for her artistic skills, but she is becoming known for her Martin Birdhouses with intricate sunflower designs on gourds.
“Flowers and nature inspire me,” says Egan. “Sunflowers were always part of my doodles,”
Egan credits Native American hand-coiled and hand-etched pottery artists Dalton and Senora Lynch for encouraging her to apply to become a member of the Village of Yesteryear for the 2022 N.C. State Fair.
“I greatly admire this couple. Dalton and Senora are longtime members of the Village of Yesteryear, and for them to invite me to apply was quite an honor. I probably would never have applied if it were not for them.”
You can learn more about this talented NC artist on her website.
The Village of Yesteryear, located in the Holshouser building on the N.C. State Fairground encourages the continuation of these artisan skills for future generations through demonstrations and hands-on experience. Vendors also have their work on sale and, in some cases, take custom orders. The Village of Yesteryear operates from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily, except on Thursday, Oct. 13, when the exhibit will open at 12 p.m