SWEPT AWAY BY BROOM MAKING


| 2/12/2019 12:00:00 AM


Country MoonSometimes, even though it is easier and cheaper to buy something, the satisfaction of making something yourself trumps ease. One such instance is making your own brooms. No farmhouse, or any place for that matter, would be the same without a broom hanging in the kitchen.

How many times do you really think about that house staple that sets or hangs in the corner but is used probably every day…probably never and then subtract a bit more! So it is with brooms and other common household items. Given the puritanical legacy of this country and our early ancestors’ obsession with cleanliness, it is not surprising that America’s contribution to world handicrafts would be an enhanced means to collect dust from corners!

Many of our modern broom designs descend from an early broom designer, Levi Dickinson, a Massachusetts farmer who crafted a broom for his wife using tassels from a variety of sorghum. It was such a hit that that sorghum variety is now referred to as broom corn. Stalks grow like sweet corn and looks the same except it has no cobs, it only has the tassels on top which are used for the brooms.

These brooms were mainly round in shape until after the Shakers adopted the corn broom in the 1800’s. They clamped the wayward bristles in a vise and stitched them flat.

Even though most household brooms of today are mass-produced in Mexico, broom making is not a lost art. A small number of people in North America, many in Appalachia, still make their own and hold broom making classes. Brea College in Kentucky has the longest running broom workshop.



Chris Robbins is the current workshop supervisor. At the age of 14, he pestered a broom maker at a craft show to give him two hours of instruction. Now, at 32, he still enjoys making something with his hands that others want to buy. By instructing others in this craft, he is making sure that the legacy continues.Students spend two hours a day in the class. Robbins likes how a repetitive motion syncs one’s mind and body in a liberating way. Even though he knows that all of his students will go on to other careers, for now they are learning to make things with their hands and carrying on a nearly extinct regional tradition. They are also learning that you don’t always have to buy everything that you use.





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