Oral History Interview with Neil and Mary Colmer

Kentucky Historical Society


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0:59 - Neil's journey to Berea, KY / Introduction to weaving / Churchill Weavers

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Keywords: 1967; Appalachian crafts; Berea College; Churchill Weavers; Fort Boonesborough State Park; Pomeroy, OH; weaving

4:20 - Mary's background / Journey to Berea / Meeting Neil / Making dolls

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Keywords: Canada; Christmas Country Dance School; Colombia Records; Fort Boonesborough; Jazz; Jean Richie; New York City; Ottowa, Ontario

7:13 - Influenced by Jean Richie's doll-making style

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Keywords: basket; Chicago; cork shuck; doll making; Jean Richie; Jennifer Kaplan; Jerry Armstrong; John C. Campbell; May Richie Duchamp; New York; Pine Mountain; Viper, KY

10:17 - Polio / Traditional corn shuck dolls / Publishing a book

14:05 - Traditional weaving / Overshot pattern / Pieces for historic sites

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Keywords: Appalachian crafts; cotton; coverlet; natural fibers; overshot; weaving; Woodrow Wilson House Museum; wool

18:43 - Craft shows / Purchasing the weaving studio / Getting out of debt

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Keywords: Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftmen; New York Times

23:32 - How Neil and Mary met / Physical challenges during their youth

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Keywords: 1969; Berea College; Berea, KY; Camp Pine Woods; Christmas Country Dance School; Hole in the Wall; Legg Perthes; Massachusetts; May Gadd; moon landing; New York City; polio; Taekwondo; Woodstock

29:38 - Purchasing the studio in Berea / Naming the studio Weaver's Bottom

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Keywords: Berea, KY; Robbie Robinson; Weaver's Bottom; William Shakespeare

34:04 - Awards for their work / Music a big part of their lives

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Keywords: Beatles; Berea College; Berea, KY; English country dances; Knackered and Numb; Red Foley award; Sarah Fuller prize loom; three holed pipe

37:38 - Articles about their work / Mary's recognition for music talents / Playing music and video games together

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Keywords: Charles Simpson; dulcimer; Great American Journies; How Much for the Whole World; Japan; Jean Richie; Mike Clemmer; National Geographic; Television; Warren May

40:58 - Craft organizations

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Keywords: Berea Chamber of Commerce; Kentucky Crafted Market; Kentucky Guild of Artists and Craftsmen

42:25 - Financial struggles / Learning disabilities / Learning crafts as a way to get good at something

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Keywords: child abuse; Grover; iPhone; Moonlight Sonata; nutrition; Piano; Richmond; vitamins


Mary Colmer:

Wow. You didn't ask me any questions? (laughs)

Mary Reed:

No, I haven't started yet. Okay I will do an introduction so that we have that

to start the film at. Okay. So are we ready? Okay. Good morning. My name is Mary

Reed and I'm interviewing Neil and Mary Colmer at Weavers Bottom craft studio in

Berea, Kentucky. Today is Wednesday, May 30th, 2018. This interview is part of

the Kentucky Craft History and Education Association's mission to interview

Kentucky's craft, luminaries and organizations in order to save their stories.

Neil, let's start with you. Tell us a 1:00little bit about yourself and how you came

here to Berea.

Neil Colmer:

Well, it got to be time to look for a college and I really didn't have a whole

lot of options. And some friends of the family had been through the area here

and discovered Berea and told us about the college. So I applied and at the time

my hometown was outside the Berea college field, their Appalachian field, that

they choose students from.

Mary Reed:

And which hometown is that?

Neil Colmer:

Pomeroy, Ohio. It's right on the Ohio river, halfway between Cincinnati and

Pittsburgh, right in the Southeast corner of Ohio. And so I applied and I was

accepted, 2:00which surprised me because my chances were so slim, but starting in my

sophomore year, I got a job in the weaving shop. What year was this? Let's see.

I started college in '67. So the following year I got started in weaving because

it sounded like fun. I just, that was really it. I had never been around it. I

had kind of an aptitude for knot tying and that kind of thing. So I had a little

interest in fiber and fabric and I got a chance to work in the weaving shop. And

it just took over. That was in September that will have been 50 years ago. So in

a nutshell, that's how my 3:00weaving career went. I worked three years as a

student. They hired me as a full-time weaver when I graduated and I worked

another three years as a full-time employee. And then I went off and helped him

set up Fort Boonesborough State Park when they built the Fort and they had 15

different traditional Appalachian crafts being demonstrated and displayed there.

And I was one of the artists that was hired to help set the whole thing up. I

worked work there for about five years. Took a couple of years off to watch my

son grow up a little bit. I worked as a bicycle mechanic for a couple of years,

and then I got a job at Churchill Weavers. And during the time I was working at

Churchill Weavers, we had the opportunity to 4:00buy this giant loom behind me over

here and start our own weaving business. So while I was working at Churchill's,

we found studio space, started renting and started producing our own goods for

the public.

Mary Reed:

Okay. Mary, tell us a little bit about your background and how you came to Berea

and then weave it in to how you all came together.

Mary Colmer:

You don't ask much do you? (laughs) I was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. My

dad was in the air force. My mom was a nurse and dad had a jazz combo in the

evenings and I played music. And at one point I fell in love with a folk

musician and went to New York city to live with him, traveled around the world,

sang for the 5:00troops in Vietnam, did music for advertisements and Columbia

records. And when I had my baby things changed and when my first husband left me

and the child, I came to Berea to go to Christmas Country Dance School and think

about where I was going to go. What was I going to do as a high school dropout

with a learning disability and a three-year-old and Neil took us in. And I fell

in love with him up in Woods Pen in the dance called Hole in the Wall. And he

said he would like to have a wife and a daughter. And we were married on 7, 7,

77 at seven o'clock. (laughs)

Neil Colmer:

Couldn't resist that. (laughs)

Mary Colmer:

He was working for Fort 6:00Boonesborough. Well, we met twice, actually. We met a

week before I met my first husband and a week afterwards, no, a day after I

split up. And we got our chance to be a happy again. Yep. I got my second chance

of true love here. And he said he wanted to be a weaver full-time and have his

own business. And I thought I'll hitch my wagon to that star. And I said, I'd be

the support group. And he was working at Boonsborough and I was the doll maker.

And I had learned to make the dolls when I was living in New York City. Jean

Richie came to my first marriage reception and said that she'd like me to come

to her Christmas party and things like that. So I saw May Richie's dolls at the

party at Jean Richie's home in Long Island. 7:00And she was my first friend in

America. It was wonderful to meet her and I have a dulcimer made by her uncle. So--

Mary Reed:

That's an amazing story. I know you say that you make your dolls fashioned in

the Richie family tradition. And so I want to ask you a little bit about that

and what is that tradition? And one of the questions I had was how did you learn

it? But I think you've just answered that, but for those people who don't have

any idea about the Richie family, can you explain that a little bit?

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. Well, when I lived in New York, I would go to their parties and one

Christmas party May Richie was there and her dolls were on the shelves and I got

looking at them and she told me that this is a style that the 8:00Richie family

does. And you don't notice that in other traditions and having a little shawl

and a hat and a basket, things that reflect mountain life. This one, the

basket's made with corn shuck, like the skirt, but it's only one little rib of

it. You weave the basket in and out like that. I'm using that. And that was made

by Jennifer Kaplan, wonderful friend of mine. But anyway May Richie became May

Richie Duchamp. And she married a guy from Austria and she taught at Pine Mountain

isn't that-- or John C. Campbell. Anyway, one of those May was teaching there.

May taught Jerry Armstrong in 9:00Chicago, and then Jerry Armstrong taught me.

Mary Reed:

Is the shape of the head part of their style?

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. The head is a corn shuck that's rolled down and rolled around and theirs

are rolled more. I changed it a little bit and made mine more long. So it's very

hard to roll corn shuck it's flat, you know, (laughs) and how they do it is

magic. You just wave a wand and then-- It's all tied together. There's no glue

anywhere except putting the hat on and the hair on. And there's a wire through

the arms. And this is a doll that was on the postcard that we made 35 years ago

or so, and she's only faded a 10:00little bit.

Mary Reed:

Where's the Richie family from?

Mary Colmer:

They're from Viper. V-I-P-E-R. Viper. Yeah. I had to learn how to talk. I still

don't do it right. You get the Canadian in me. This doll is the very first doll

I fell in love with when I was a child, I had a touch of polio and spent my days

looking at this doll and it became my constant companion. When I left home my

dad gave me that doll when I left home and he gave it to my mother on their

honeymoon in Niagara falls. This I think is the best doll I have ever made, you

know, in my humble opinion. The lilt of her skirt and the little wand here. I

think that's the best. The 11:00other traditions are the neck. You don't usually see

the neck wrapped and that's a one. And then the wire here is in a loop, which is

another part of maize tradition.

Mary Reed:

Do you dye the corn husk?

Mary Colmer:

Yes. I use dyes that are sold in the grocery store. I won't mention brand names,

but the things that you get for the general public are not as caustic to the

environment as others. It's basically assault.

Mary Reed:

Have you ever used natural dyes?

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. They don't tend to stick very well to the to the corn shuck. By the time

they set for me maybe my mordant isn't very good. I don't know, but these have

worked really well and I get older and I don't know, I've made 12:0011,779 at the

moment. (laughs)

Mary Reed:

11,779 to date.

Mary Colmer:

Almost 12,000.

Neil Colmer:

It's a lot of dolls.

Mary Reed:

That's a lot of dolls.

Mary Colmer:

I think that's enough.

Mary Reed:

Do you date and number each one, or?

Mary Colmer:


Mary Reed:

You catalog them then.

Mary Colmer:

I have been cataloging dolls. And I must say I haven't made predominantly corn

shuck dolls. I've used seven bales of corn shucks so far making those dolls. But

I do a raggedy Ann or a Teddy bear. I made some out of scrap yarn the other day

that are hilarious. You know, you've put me in a field with some grass and I'll

just make a doll. Yeah.

Mary Reed:

Did I recall that you wrote a book on making a corn shuck dolls?

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. It's out of print. I saw it for sale on Amazon the other day. I'm going to

have to do a remake and do 13:00some screenshots? No. I'm going to have to do it again.

Neil Colmer:

Yeah, with newer technology.

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. Computer technology. I did line drawings in the book and I didn't have a

camera that would do that. You know, how do you click a camera and hold a doll?

I couldn't do it. Yeah. Yeah. Maybe Siri would go click for me. (laughs)

Mary Reed:

Awesome. (tape cuts out) Yeah. Grant and going through that process a couple of

years process too, but that has been our history so far is that we eventually

write a grant and do a written transcript of all the interviews that we've done.

And you get a copy of that too. And a lot of times it's easier to read something (inaudible).

Mary Colmer:

We interrupted that story with the dolls, because how we bought the studio, you

know, how did we get here?

Mary Reed:

Oh, I'll get you 14:00there. We ready? Okay. It looks like the corn shuck dolls are a

very traditional form of craft and also the weavings are too. And it's

interesting that you brought them both together. And can you tell us something

about your traditional patterns and the fibers that you use and materials?

Neil Colmer:

Well, I pretty much stick to simple, natural fibers. Cotton and wool for the

most part. They're dependable, you know how they're going to react and, heck,

they feel good. (laughs) You know, it's really nice to work with them. The

patterns themselves have been around for a long, long time. Some people try to

turn the overshot patterns into an Appalachian original, and that's just not. So

people have been weaving 15:00patterns using the same technique for 3000 years. So

overshot is traditional because it's been around for a long, long time.

Mary Reed:

What do you mean overshot?

Neil Colmer:

The pattern in a piece like this is formed when the pattern yarn, which in this

case is the blue, skips over some of the white threads to make a little block.

And those skips are floats where the pattern yarn jumps over the white threads.

So it goes over a certain number of threads before it goes back into the

weaving. So it's overshot.

Mary Colmer:

Or shot over. (laughs) No, that's when you get your gun.

Mary Reed:

There's some words down 16:00there. Oh, you signed it.

Neil Colmer:

That's my name and the month that I completed the piece in.

Mary Reed:


Neil Colmer:

And that's all woven in, of course, you can see it on the back as well.

Mary Reed:

Now is that a coverlet?

Neil Colmer:

Like this is a king size coverlet. This is big.

Mary Reed:

And a coverlet is like a bed cover?

Neil Colmer:

It's a bedspread really. Yeah. At one time, a coverlet was only used as

decoration on the bed when it was time to go to bed, you'd gather up the

coverlet and fold it neatly and put it to the side and have other blankets for

sleeping. But we sleep under hours now. (laughs) We have a lot of these at home

and we use them.

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. We're spoiled, really spoiled. We have lot of weaving.

Mary Reed:

So do you do custom orders for people? Do you 17:00supply these coverlets to museums,

historic sites?

Neil Colmer:

I have done a few historic pieces. One went to the Woodrow Wilson House Museum

in Washington, DC. I wove some yardage for them to use as upholstery on a chair.

Mary Colmer:

From the Lincoln bedroom. It was a fabric and they put it on the Lincoln chair?

Neil Colmer:

No. That was, that was another item.

Mary Colmer:

He's woven so many things. He was the fastest weaver in the history of Churchill Weavers.

Mary Reed:

My goodness. That's a long history.

Mary Colmer:

They used to fight over his work in the mending room, because he made so few

mistakes. They got a lot better.

Neil Colmer:

Got bonuses too. (laughs)

Mary Reed:

Yeah. Well, we have so many 18:00historical sites and I would think that they would

want to carry your towels or your throws or something. And I just wondered if

that had been part of your--

Mary Colmer:

For half price.

Neil Colmer:

That's a very small part for us. I have talked to other weavers, who've done a

lot of work for museums and stuff like that. And we've done custom orders for

individuals over the years as well. That was a big part of our business was

accepting custom orders.

Mary Colmer:

If somebody walked in the door and said, could you do this? We think about it a

minute and say, yeah. (laughs)

Mary Reed:

Okay. So did you take your crafts on the road or have you always just sold

retail out of your shop?

Mary Colmer:

Well, first we started selling out of the house and then we started going to

crafts places the Kentucky Guild let me 19:00have a table at one of their craft fairs

and I could pay for the booth fee afterwards.

Neil Colmer: Oh, that was July.

Mary Colmer:

It was? That was the July one? Sorry Guild. (laughs) But the Guild too, I

couldn't believe my joy when they said that I had achieved membership. Ah, I was

so excited. Yeah. And after we retire now, I'm hoping to be able to teach corn

shuck doll making at the academy, the Guild academy. Yeah. And I'll be making

more dolls-- after I get to 12,000. I'm not number of them anymore. I'm going to

give them away for charitable donations and things like that and teach. Yeah. So

we bought this place and moved in in 20:001989. I bought it over the phone for $1

down payment and the owner had to co-sign the loan and we paid it off eight

years ago. Yeah. I sold a doll to a lady that had been in the New York Times and

she really didn't believe me--

Neil Colmer:

The doll had been in the New York Times.

Mary Colmer:

Yeah, not the lady. (laughs) The doll had been featured in the New York times. A

travel writer, passing through town, took a picture and had me sign my name. And

when I got the copy, I was disappointed because it was in shoppers world. It

wasn't in travel. It was supposed to be in travel. The doll had failed, failed

me and I was sitting there doing dolls saying, you failed me. Here's supposed to

be in-- And this lady walked in and she laughed and laughed. And she heard me 21:00berating a doll for not fulfilling its obligation. And she said, "Can I buy it?"

I said, "Yes." And she went away hugging the package. 25 years later, I got a

letter from her saying that she doubted my word about the doll being in New York

Times because they had tried to look it up on the computer and it wasn't there.

Well, she wasn't looking in shopper's world and it had failed me again. And so I

wrote her back a letter with a copy of the article with shopper's world on it

and we autographed it and I sent it back and she sent me a thank you. And a

couple of minutes later-- that was in July in November, she came back and she

said, "How's the business?" And I said, "We're $2,000 away from being debt

free." And she 22:00said, "Do you still have the postcard?" And I said, "Yes, I still

have the postcard." And then she left and I said, doll failed me again. She

didn't even buy a postcard. And on her way back, she stopped again. And she

said, "I doubted your word about the doll and I doubted your word about the

postcard. So I have to buy a postcard. Can I write a check?" "Well, keep the

card." "No, no. Can I write a check?" "Yes." And I went to put it in the drawer

and she went and I looked at the check and she'd written it for $2,002. And she

said, "There you're debt free". And Neil was out of the place.

Neil Colmer:

Yeah, I wasn't even here.

Mary Colmer:

No, he wasn't here getting us lunch. And I asked her permission and I wrapped

the copy of the bank deposit and the copy of her check up in a Christmas 23:00 present

and put it on the tree. And it was the last thing we opened that year. And he

said, have you paid off the debt? And I said, no. And he said, get out the

checkbook. And we wrote the check, put it in the mail and took a selfie and sent

her a copy. Then end. (laughs)

Mary Reed:

What a wonderful story. (laughs)

Neil Colmer:

There are some wonderful people out there. There sure are.

Mary Reed:

An angel. Yeah.

Mary Colmer:

Would you like to hear another wonderful--?

Mary Reed: Absolutely. How'd you come by (inaudible)?

Neil Colmer:

Shall we tell them about how we met? Okay. I'll start. (laughs) I began weaving

in my sophomore year in college in 1968 into 1969. And that summer of '69

Woodstock happened. There was all kinds of wonderful things that 24:00summer. And I

got a job at Camp Pine Woods in Massachusetts. It's a summer long of week-long

and weekend sessions of singing, dancing, crafts, and fun. And it's held in the summertime.

Mary Colmer:

And good home cooked food.

Neil Colmer:

Oh yeah. It's a wonderful place.

Mary Colmer:

And I was a camper.

Neil Colmer:

She was a camper for one of the weeks. And we met during the week, danced

together a few times.

Mary Colmer:

He was sitting on the back step of the cookhouse shucking corn. And I thought,

"Wow, that's the kind of guy I'd like to marry."

Neil Colmer:

Yeah. It was shucking corn for 250 people (laughs) every day. So we met that

summer at Pine Woods. At the end of the summer, we both went our separate ways.

I came back to 25:00Berea. Mary went to--

Mary Colmer:

I went and got married to the guy in New York City. (laughs)

Neil Colmer:

And so, you know, that was it pretty much we weren't staying in touch or

anything like that.

Mary Colmer:

We had one really nice dance and you invited me to go swimming, but everybody in

camp was swimming and they weren't wearing bathing suits. It was the sixties. (laughs)

Neil Colmer:

And it was a tradition that was an event that happened there every year.

Mary Colmer:

He asked me to dance and somebody had put out their cigarette in my drink and I

went to drink it and was running to the edge of the woods and spitting and the

dance caller was May Gadd. 72 years old from England. And she said, "Well, young

lady, are we going to dance or not?" (laughs) And 26:00that was the only thing he

remembered about me. He didn't remember the swimming party. (laughs)

Neil Colmer:

Well, things went along swimmingly until seven years later. We met again here at

Berea College at the Christmas Country Dance School. They have a big mixer to

start off the evening. And at the end of the mixer, we ended up together and did

a couple more dances after that ended up spending the week together and becoming

very interested in each other.

Mary Colmer:

And we danced a dance called Hole In The Wall.

Neil Colmer:

Yeah. That was the one, huh?

Mary Colmer:

Well he led me to the head of the set and it said traditional dance and it's

done the same way all the time. And I didn't realize when he started at the head

of the set that we would be just going down. And when we got to the very, very

end of the whole 27:00set, the music stopped. So I didn't have to learn the part to

come back up. I was really glad about that. And when I curtsied and he lifted me

up, I looked into his eyes and that was it. That was it.

Neil Colmer:

(laughs) Well, we ended up getting married, obviously.

Mary Colmer:

I'm still waiting around for Hole In The Wall to dance again.

Neil Colmer:

After we'd been married for about 11 years, somebody asked us one day, "What

were you doing when they walked on the moon?" And I said, "Well, I was watching

it on a little TV with rabbit ears in the camp house at Pinewood's." Mary said,

"Well, I had just left Pine Woods. And I was in Newport".

Mary Colmer:

And Arlo Guthrie was pointing up at the moon from stage saying, they're walking

on the moon right now. And somebody had a little TV camera with an antenna. I

don't know where they plugged it in. (laughs)

Neil Colmer:

So, that stopped the 28:00conversation. When I said Pine Woods. And she said, Newport

and Pine Woods, we looked at each other and went, like, we started, started

coming up with these memories that we were sharing. It took us 11 years to

remember that we had met all the way back in 1969. (laughs)

Mary Colmer:

Harlequin romance. Right there.

Mary Reed:

Meant to be.

Mary Colmer:

And at one point in both of our lives, we thought we'd never walk normally.

Mary Reed:

Both of you?

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. Because I had polio when I was six and he had a septic. How do you say that?

Neil Colmer:

At the time they called it Legg Perthes, named after two men. It's a condition

where the hip joint disintegrates basically due to a lack of nutrients and they

made me a state case and tried a new 29:00technique of treating it with a built-up

shoe. I was four inches taller for about a year and a half. And a brace on my

leg that kept my legs straight and kept the upward pressure of walking off of

the joint. And I had a perfect regrowth. I have an absolutely normal hip joint

and no problems.

Mary Colmer:

All that weaving, you know, years of muscles and Taekwondo, you know, it makes a

person strong, fit. Maybe we'll live long.

Mary Reed:

So how did you come to be here on this corner in Berea?

Mary Colmer:

I called Robbie Robinson and told him to come and mow his lawn in the back. And

he said, if you're so concerned about my building, why don't you buy it? And I

said, because I don't have a down 30:00payment. And he said, how about $1 down

payment? And I'll, co-sign the loan.

Mary Reed:


Mary Colmer:

And we moved in the next week really fast.

Mary Reed:

And you had been renting next door?

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. We rented almost six years and they had a bucket of tar on the roof ready

to fix the leaks any minute for two years. (laughs)

Neil Colmer:

Sat there for years. (laughs)

Mary Colmer:

We started leaving notes on the door, fix the roof. And then the next day,

please fix the roof, for heaven sakes, fix the roof. If you don't fix the roof,

we're going to leave. (laughs) And then that happened and then we left.

Mary Reed:

So, how did you come up with the name Weaver's Bottom?

Mary Colmer:

One of our friends said, oh, you want to be, self-employed why honey, that takes

a lot of bottom. (laughs) And it did take a lot of bottom. So Neil said why

don't you look 31:00up bottom in the dictionary? No, I said, this is the pits. He

said, look up pit. And we looked up pit in my great grandfather's dictionary

dated 1895. And it said also known as a bottom. So he looked up bottom and it

means courage, perseverance, staying power, true grit, stamina, and depth of

character. And I figured we had depth of character. That was it. Yeah. So it

actually means shuttle throwers standing ground. Weavers Bottom.

Neil Colmer:

And weaver's bottom is actually a medical term. Yeah. Weavers who sit on hard

benches for long periods of time developed bursitis and it's called Weaver's Bottom.

Mary Colmer:

Wow. Wheelchair people get it and have to wear special cushions. We just got the

special cushions 32:00early. Yeah. And the building was at the bottom of the hill. We

were at the bottom of our finances--

Neil Colmer:

You know, a bottom is a fertile place to grow crops.

Mary Colmer:

There's a radio show guy that said, "What do you have to sell?" And the radio

person calling in said, "Honey, I want to sell my bottom on radio."

Neil Colmer:

On tradio.

Mary Colmer:

On tradio. Yeah. And the man on the radio station said, "Well, ma'am just, how

big is your bottom?" (laughs)

Neil Colmer:

Oh it's about a mile and half down by the creek. (laughs)

Mary Reed:

Yeah. Wonderful. So bottom and also Shakespeare had a character named Bottom in

Midsummer Night's Dtream who was a weaver and there are jokes in there about the

condition of weavers being weaver's bottom. It's a very old 33:00term. It took a lot

of bottom to, to call ourselves that because we originally had a webpage on the

internet and it was taken over by a prostitute ring. And they wanted us to pay

them $250 to get the name back. So we just called it The Weavers Bottom.

Neil Colmer:

We added 'craft studio' to it.

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. No, it isn't The Weavers Bottom. What did we do?

Neil Colmer:

We changed it to Weaver's Bottom Craft Studio.

Mary Colmer:

That's it. That's how the craft studio got back on, because it wasn't just dolls

and it wasn't just weaving. And it just wasn't my paintings or my internet ( )

or anything like that. It was just our shuttle throwers standing ground. I had

to learn how to weave to be a shuttle thrower. So I could qualify for being

equal rights. (laughs) Yeah.

Mary Reed:

Have either of you ever received any 34:00awards for your artwork, your crafts?

Mary Colmer:

No. Have we received any awards? We got a lot of money. (laughs) Well, depends

on who you compare it to. Yeah. We have lived a simple life that has been very

fulfilling and rewarding in our love for each other. And two horses pulling a

wagon, you know, it's been really good. We, we realize now that I'm 70, that

it's never going to make us enough money to get an electronic door with a

clicker that will ( ) automatically and bulletproof glasses or windows, you

know, it's not going to be really money-making business. It's more of a memory

making business and the joy of 35:00people coming back 25 years later and arguing

about a doll and the little boy that was 10 years old and came in and bought a

Teddy bear and his grandfather bought another one and he came back 25 years and

said, my kids are playing with the Teddy bears. You know, those kinds of

experiences being on this corner are more valuable than money. Yeah. And when I

write the book about it, we're working together on a book about our 30 years

here on the corner.

Neil Colmer:

I did receive one award when I was a student. I was awarded the Sarah Fuller

prize loom by Berea College. And that goes to the outstanding student weaver of

the day.

Mary Colmer:

And then the music award.

Neil Colmer:

Yeah. I also got the-- 36:00I was the first recipient of the Red Foley Award at Berea

college. For my contribution to the social life at Berea College, through music.

Red Foley's from Berea. And they named the award after him.

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. He would play his three holed pipe all over campus. Maybe walk into class,

playing the pipe. And we have a little band here called Knackered and Numb.

Because we're all old and really tired and sometimes our fingers are a little

numb, you know, and we play for English country dances. We have 12 people that

show up. It's a drop-in situation. Really good. And we're all the owners of the

band. We all started it. It's just fun.

Mary Reed:

It sounds like music is also a big part of your lives.

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. Everyday part. Yeah. Music. 37:00Yeah, I'm a Beatle maniac and I married two

folk singers. A first one and a second, true love one. Yeah. Sixties were wild.

I need to write a book about being a hippie in the sixties. You know.

Mary Reed:

That's a good chapter.

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. I don't know. I could write a whole book about it. (laughs) In fact, my

last doll that I made it's over there, it's a hippie doll. My first hippie doll.

I was brave enough to put a peace sign on it. Didn't put any other symbols yet.

Mary Reed:

So have you had other articles or publications?

Neil Colmer:

Over the years, we've had--

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. Newspapers. Magazines.

Neil Colmer:

Oh, that's I guess the biggest one was the National Geographic. They did-- what

was the title of that? Great American Journeys 38:00and Mary and the studio were

subjects of one of the articles in the book. A photographer named Mike Clemmer

came along to do all the photography work. He took, he shot 26 rolls of film or

something. (laughs) It was amazing.

Mary Colmer:

We got one picture? Two pictures? He got the moon over the Weavers Bottom.

Neil Colmer:

No, no. That was a different photographer.

Mary Colmer:

See, you get them all mixed up in your head over the years.

Mary Reed:

When was this?

Neil Colmer:

That was '80. It was before we moved in here.

Mary Colmer:

So, it was '87.

Neil Colmer:

So it was before '89.

Mary Colmer:

I was on a TV show in Japan called How Much For The Whole World. And I held up

an old boot that I'd made into the old woman in the shoe. And they had to guess

how much it was priced at. 39:00So that was fun. Oh, golly. So many, so many. I've

been on TV in seven countries.

Mary Reed:

Is this with your corn shuck dolls or with music?

Mary Colmer:

With music. Yeah. Music. But I wanted to stay still. We did the music here and

people would come in and we'd play the dulcimer. We have two-- we have a Jean

Richie dulcimer and your single dulcimer. I can't remember the name of the man

who built that one.

Neil Colmer:

Charles Simpson.

Mary Colmer:

Charles Simpson. And my dulcimer is Morris ( ), Jean Richie's uncle. And then we

have a double dulcimer by Warren May, a beautiful double instrument. Yeah.

Couples that play together, stay together, right dear? 40:00So we play video games

together and I have a following of 8,600 people on my live show every evening. (laughs)

Mary Reed:

Are you a gamer?

Mary Colmer:

8,743. He says, I said 86, didn't I? Oh, I haven't looked at the stats in a while.

Neil Colmer:

It went up recently. After the photograph thing.

Mary Colmer.

I don't know where all these people came from. I don't know that many people.

Neil Colmer:

Yeah. But after the photograph thing with the 10,000 views, you got more followers.

Mary Colmer:

I just posted a picture of my son and I having a chuckle and it was posted on

Twitter and it's got 10,800, no three hundred. I'm rushing it here.

Neil Colmer:

It's over 10,000 anyway.

Mary Colmer:

It's over 10,000. I've never had 10,000 of anything, you know. (laughs)

Mary Reed:

Have you all been a part of any of the craft 41:00organizations here in the state of

Kentucky? And if so, how have they helped your development?

Neil Colmer:

Well, we're both members of the Kentucky Guild for Artists and Craftsmen. And of

course, their fairs have been around for a long time. And were instrumental in

our being able to market our goods when we started, they really were a big help.

And we joined up with the Kentucky Crafted Market when it first started.

Mary Colmer:

And the Chamber of Commerce, the Guild. Some of the--

Neil Colmer:

The Chamber of Commerce didn't really suit our needs very well, but they were

supportive, but--

Mary Colmer:

But not supportive. They wanted every single craft and thing we did to have a 42:00separate membership.

Neil Colmer:

So if we wanted the bed and breakfast and the weaving and the dolls we'd have to

pay three memberships.

Mary Colmer:

And our music. Four memberships and my writing, five memberships, you know, at

$75 each, we couldn't do it.

Neil Colmer:

And it just got to be where it wasn't feasible for us.

Mary Colmer:

And we've been poor all this time, whether people believe it or not, but, you

know, we've eaten at the food bank a lot, you know, and when we sell this

building and we fade away into the history of Berea, some of that money is going

to be given back in the form of me going and filling a whole grocery cart and

the whole car full of food to go to the food bank. You know, when you start at

the bottom and stay about middle range, you know, there's a certain amount of

appreciation there that you did 43:00it! Yes. And my learning disability was only

vitamins. My music, I did by ear until 1980. And I started taking vitamins. And

I did a whole bunch of different companies until I found one that worked. And

that's what I recommend is that people, if they're having troubles, try a whole

bunch of different ways. If one doesn't work, try the other. And I cared my

learning disability. And so I started learning piano. Grover far over in

Richmond was my piano teacher. And I went from primary piano the first week

where I was given one note to memorize, all the way to playing the Moonlight

Sonata's first movement.

Mary Reed:

When you say a learning disability, can you define that a little bit?

Mary Colmer:

Yeah. I would learn something in school. By the time I got home, it would be 44:00gone. And I would go over it and over and over it, part of it was child abuse.

Getting hit over the head for a football player, makes them kind of stupid for a

while. And when the teachers hit you and stuff like that you get stupid and you

get to the point where you say things to your child brain, "I will never

remember this anymore". And it works. And then you have trouble remembering

anything. And then nutrition, when I got the nutrition settled, by gum, I could

do anything I wanted. And now I've got an iPhone. (laughs) I can Google it. Yes.

And I can go into the dark web and Google it where nobody knows what I'm

Googling. You know, it's an amazing world we live in now. And the thing is 45:00 about

crafts and traditions. There are things that you learn doing a craft that are

beyond just something you learn in a book. I can tie knots to tie this doll, but

because I've done almost 12,000 of them, I can tie a bow behind my head without

looking. It's I have these fingers, I have 10 little brains, 10 little brains,

and they can play the piano and do one finger at a time and they can tie knots.

And you can only learn that being passionate and absolutely adoring what you're

doing. When I look at this doll and say, this is my favorite doll out of 12,000

dolls, you know, somebody who doesn't do a craft is missing out on that. They

can't say this is the best thing I ever did in this 46:00medium, you know, get good

at something. They used to say, it took 10,000 hours, no, a hundred thousand

hours to learn something. They've now scientifically proven it only takes 20

hours. Yeah. Yay. Google, you know? (laughs) Yeah.

Mary Reed:

Is there maybe another interesting story that either of you'd like to share with us?

Mary Colmer:

Oh, I want to write a book and tell what the last story of this building is.

There have been three deaths in this building and three births, and it has been

owned by 17 people or groups, and the building needs to go on, the craft work

needs to go on. And we're really hoping that the last chapter in our 30 years

being here is going to be something really, really interesting. 47:00So keep in touch.

Neil Colmer:

Tune in again next week. (laughs)

Mary Colmer:

See what happens next. Like my my sister-in-law used to say, "What are you going

to do next, Mary?"

Mary Reed:

Well, thank you all so much for taking the time to share your story with us.

Mary Colmer:

You're welcome. Thank you for watching.

Neil Colmer:

My pleasure.

Camera man:

Okay. I'm just going to get some room tone. Room tone.