A Donation Brings Craftsmanship in Photograph to Life

Women working at a table.

Blind Artisans of New England at work in the shop in South Boston, 1940. Behind the table: Mary Stanevicz, Olga Falcione, Ethel Kennedy. The women work on tall striped bags or canisters made of wood and decorated with multicolored rope.

September 20, 2016

The Perkins School for the Blind Archives recently received an offer of a donation that also came with a valuable observation. The original description in the photograph above, described items being made by five women as wooden canisters. What Rob and Lynn Morin found in their attic appears to be an example of one of these "canisters". 

The Morins were able to identify their find using the photograph and a Blind Artisans of New England label that is attached to the inside of the lid, shown on the left. The black and white photograph from 1940, is from our Workshops for Adults Who are Blind Collection. It features five young women seated at a table crafting, what appears to be, canisters which are in various stages of assemblage.  While the object is made out of wood, we now know that it is covered in different colored rope, in this case red, white, and blue. The item also appears to have a woven handle made out of this rope that attaches to the lid. Shellac, of some kind, protects all of the rope. The bag-like container that was donated by the Morins, not only helps us better describe the photograph, but allows us to showcase the craftsmanship in better detail and with vibrant color. 

The Blind Artisans of New England was a program that started in the late 1930s. It sought to connect blind workers to clients in need of their skill set and market their products, through established stores. The program was sponsored by Perkins Director Gabriel Farrell who served as Director from 1931 to 1951. The salesroom was established at the Perkins Sales Room on Newbury street in Boston and promoted in large part through radio. You can find more information about the Blind Artisans of New England in the digitized Perkins Annual Reports of 1931-19371938-1942, and 1943-1947 which are on the Internet Archive.

bag-like, oval shaped, container is covered in a striped pattern of brightly colored rope in red, white and blue.

Image Description: Bag-like, oval-shaped, container that is covered in a striped pattern of brightly colored rope in red, white, and blue. The lid is attached and the woven handle reaches down to the bottom. This woven handle forms a bow on top of the lid.

 

Blind Artisans of New England Label.

Image Description: Close-up of the Blind Artisans of New England Label. The paper label features a map of New England that sits in the middle of a blue circle. A white star with rays of light fill the background of the circle. Blind Artisans of New England is printed along the bottom.