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July Schedule, Crafts of the Past at Fort Nisqually

June 30, 2016

Historical crafts and skills come to life during the popular Crafts of the Past series at Fort Nisqually Living History Museum. This is the fifth year of the program, which features modern practitioners of 19th century artistic traditions sharing the methods and materials of their work.


Each weekend from May 7 through September 25 a different artist will be “in-residence” at the Fort with demonstrations and displays of their work. Most will also offer guests the opportunity to try the craft themselves. Featured crafts include tatting, wood turning, Native American basketry, and broom making. For the complete schedule, visit


“It is an inspiring and educational experience to watch these traditional artisans at work,” said Fort Nisqually museum supervisor Jim Lauderdale. “Heritage skills such as these are valuable for knowing where we came from, and deserve to be preserved. We have witnessed people of all ages enrich their lives by watching and then enthusiastically pursuing these time-honored crafts.” Crafts of the Past is sponsored by the Fort Nisqually Foundation and made possible by a grant from the Tacoma Arts Commission. It is free with paid museum admission.


Located in Tacoma’s Point Defiance Park, Fort Nisqually Living History Museum is a restoration of the Hudson’s Bay Company outpost on Puget Sound. Visitors experience daily life during the 1850s with the help of costumed interpreters. Seven restored and reconstructed 1850s buildings are open to the public, including two National Historic Landmarks. There is also a Visitor Center with Museum Store. The Fort is a facility of Metro Parks Tacoma.


Artisans for July:


July 2-3
Banjo Making

John Salicco will be making a tack head banjo and will have samples of minstrel and gourd banjos on hand. He will demonstrate both the making and playing of the gut string banjo. Visitors can learn the basic banjo stroke style of the 1850s and learn about instruments, musicians and their repertoire.


There will also be dancing paddle puppets and tambourines for children who care to join him in making some minstrel music! Salicco is a time traveler, a banjo maker, historian, musician, story teller and entertainer. A self-taught banjo maker and player, John originally trained in classical theatre with certificates in Theatre Arts from the Banff School of Fine Arts and a Bachelor's Degree from the University of Calgary.


Early American folk music has been his hobby since the 1960's and he made his first banjo from a cigar box and a stick of firewood about 30 years ago. John has handmade over 100 custom fretless banjos, shipping them to music enthusiasts all over the world. He constructs his instruments in the 19th century style, incorporating features seen on instruments from the 1820s to the 1860s.


July 9-10
Leather working

Jerry Kempe has been working with leather hides for many years, making an assortment of leather items, relating to the fur trade era, including holsters, knife sheaths, belts, bags and clothing. He will be demonstrating various techniques and providing attendees an opportunity to make a leather bracelet with stamped or tooled designs.


July 16-17

Fort Nisqually Interpreters will be available this weekend to demonstrate a number of skills that would have been used by employees of the Puget Sound Agricultural Company on a daily basis as they went about their laboring tasks around the Fort. Some of the heritage skills that may be demonstrated include blacksmithing, knot tying, kitchen gardening and carpentry. Visit with these interpreters, dressed in period clothing to learn more about the skills they are demonstrating.


July 23-24
Native American Basketry

DeAnn Jacobsen is a 5th generation great-granddaughter of Chief Seattle and award winning weaver. She specializes in her ancestor’s Duwamish/Suquamish traditions of cedar basketry. DeAnn will be demonstrating cedar root coil techniques throughout the weekend. She will show guests the process of preparing cedar root and other natural materials for use in coil basketry and visitors will be able to try their hand at making cordage (rope) with natural materials of cedar and cattail. In addition, DeAnn will present some of her cattail dolls and woven baskets.



July 30-31

Ray Baker (Saturday) and John Simpkins (Sunday) have together volunteered more than 20,000 hours as the Fort Nisqually blacksmiths. Throughout the weekend, visitors will have the opportunity to see them in action in the Fort's smithy. John started working with metal in high school. He has hand-forged items for displays and living history programs at the Fort, where he has been volunteering for more than 20 years. Ray trained with the NorthWest Blacksmith Association (NWBA) and has participated in workshops with master smiths from Colonial Williamsburg. He has forged thousands of items for the fort and the gift shop. He is a published author and has mentored several budding blacksmiths at the Fort, where he has been volunteering for 20 years.


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