The New Jersey Devil: left, as it's usually imagined, and right,(as visualized by Marisa DiPaolo and myself) in the Pine Barrens show. Marisa and I met at a Peters Valley residency many years ago. Marisa creates fantastic knitted art:
Even though she and her husband Mohamed and baby Marmelade were then living in Austria, I wondered if we could pull off an overseas collaboration. We did! We spoke once, in person, when she was visiting the states, then communicated online.
Here's a picture of the plan she drew (don't remember if she told me that the dog or the baby chewed it), with the feet and little Marmelade modeling one of the caps.
Marisa knitted up all sorts of wings and caps and other parts that I couldn't quite identify as body parts, and shipped them to me. I assembled them (with some added baby clothes) and sent her the image. She told me I had the tail backwards (right! three pronged). I reassembled, and it came together.
The legend of the NJ devil is based on a mother and her unfortunate child. The only actual fact is that Deborah Leeds & Japhet Leeds (from the Leeds Point section of what is now Atlantic County) named 12 children in their 1736 will. Here are some of the conjectures:
After 12 children, Mrs. Leeds said if she had one more child, "may it be a devil".
The child/devil was the result of a family curse.
Mrs. Leeds, a Quaker, refused to be converted. An angry clergyman said her next baby would be a child of Satan.
The child was born a monster. Mrs. Leeds cared for him until her death. He flew off into the swamps.
People in the 1700s still believed in witchcraft and many people of the period felt a deformed child was a child of the devil or that the deformity was a sign that the child had been cursed by God.
I sewed these legends onto the clothing, using the type of alphabet beads that hospitals (long ago) strung around infants wrists for identification.
Marisa and I are both mothers. You can't be a parent, working on a project like this, and not be stung by the cruelty in these legends.
And that's it for my story of the Pine Barrens! It's a wonderful place to visit, but please - don't go looking for the bizarre and the monstrous. And stick to the paved roads.
In addition to the bog iron and the glass jars, the Pine Barrens was famous for ceramics. The place is full of sand ....and clay. There were many brick manufacturers: The Pasadena Company was better known for a scandal than its manufacturing, and the Sayreville company (later Sayer & Fisher) made bricks that are still around today. In reading about all these bricks, I decided to make some textile bricks.
My plan was to spell out the story in embedded letters, and arrange them in a sort of tower.....
...a short, ugly tower. This is why you have a critique group, to help you face the awful truth. So I disassembled the pieces, and made them into individual bricks (stuffed with the cut-up cushions from the couch we were throwing out).
And how to display the bricks? In a wheelbarrow, of course! I found one on Craig's List, painted it white, and it was perfect.
Here they are, beautifully lit at the Noyes (thank you, Dorrie!) with the mason jars in back. And perched atop the wall in the very back is the Jersey Devil. That story is up next.
In 1858, the first Mason jar was patented by tinsmith John L. Mason (born in Vineland, 1832) and made by the Crowley Glassworks of Burlington County.
Mason’s 2nd patent was a machine that could cut threads into a glass jar’s lip. This made screw-on zinc lids possible. A rubber ring completed the seal.
Two very early mason jars, and a wooden model (which I assume was made for the patent application).
There was an amazing variety of closures for these jars, and shapes:
And finally, they all came together on a 6ft tall rounded shelving unit, in the show "Pine Barrens: Life and Legends"
The size of the lettering on the jars varied: larger print was further from eye-level, with the largest being the ones on the Conahasey Aquifer jars. The bottom layers held sand. After the exhibit was finished, Stockton College asked to have the jars on permanent display. Most of the top five shelves of jars fit into the double-sided indoor window opening:
There were 2 more pieces that I worked on for that show, and you'll see them next.
The people of the Pine Barrens have often gotten a bad rap. They live in a place much-loved by Weird New Jersey magazine. But the Pineys were just rural, agricultural families who were stigmatized for being 'other'.
Now, if I'd realized that I was going to do this blog, I'd have taken better photos...but since I didn't, why don't I just show you some of the photos, and labels you can actually read:
Full original label: In the 1800s, families called Pineys lived off the land in the Pine Barrens. They depended on the berry business for income, but most also farmed, hunted & gathered moss for florists.
Elizabeth C White developed the highbush blueberry at Whitesbog, NJ. Cranberries & blueberries are native fruits adapted to the conditions of the Pine Barrens.
Since I couldn't use actual berries in these jars, I made ceramic berries, which were added later.
Colliers’ made charcoal (needed for furnaces) in mounds of sand and turf using the native pine from vast Pinelands forests. Collier's Mills was named for these charcoal burners.The last pit in Ocean County was extinguished in 1976.
George Crummel, d. 1964, a collier in Jenkins Neck, was the great-grandson of a Leni Lenapechief….or a man named Charles Cromwell
Left: Dr James Still, (1812-1885) the "Black Doctor of the Pines,” used the healing powers of native South Jersey plants. Right: In 1877, he published “Early recollections & Life of Dr. James Still” Along with the photo of Dr Still, I canned some of the native plants.
The Wheaton Glass Company (now Wheaton Industries) has lots of historical info and images online, which was very helpful.
By gluing sand to the tops of some jars, I was able to leave the bottoms empty, visually suggesting the aquifer. The jars read "The Conhasey Aquifer lies under the Pinelands".
So now that you've sen some of what was in the jars, the next post will take a closer look at the jars.