I wrote that just over a year ago, for my blog.
My love affair with Lanterman’s Mill, Youngstown, Ohio, began a long time ago. Before I even knew the Canfield Spinners Guild existed. Before I’d ever heard of the Farmpark in Chardon and their wonderful fleeces from many breeds of sheep and goats. I struggled to find fleece to spin, but I was a handspinner, demonstrating at events. Mary the potter saw me somewhere, and I got the contact.
In those days, you got recommended, and you got an invite, because you could demonstrate a skill: throw pots on a wheel, spin fleece into yarn, carve cherrywood into spoons. An invite to one of the coolest venues on earth: the historic—and working—grist mill known as Lanterman’s Mill.
Mary the potter gave them my name. I gave them Greg Kristofel, wooden spoon carver I met at the Harmony Christmas Market. We sold our crafts, and we showed people how we made the objects. On the Saturday and Sunday after Thanksgiving, for more years than I can count, I trained kids of all ages to make yarn on a drop spindle. Over the years there were icon painters and blacksmiths, honey producers, and old-fashioned soaps and lotions, birdhouses and hand-made pet toys, pottery pumpkins and rocks painted to look like every animal you can imagine. It’s where I bought the torch-carved shovel that stands by my driveway, that shows a horse—surely Valadan—jumping over a barn.
Came the Pandemic Year, I’d have signed up to spin whether or not selling was an option. I was, after all, already armored against the cold of the Gear Floor, with stone walls and Mill Creek on two sides of my corner and the mill wheel almost under my feet. Wool, head to toe, from my alpaca felt insoles to my boiled wool coat-dress to my Italian wool hat that I scored at a rummage sale. Turtleneck, leggings, and if it was truly cold, a red plaid wool skirt. I was always festive in red and always warm enough.
But there was no show at Lanterman’s in 2020. I was cautiously optimistic about 2021. I warped my carpet loom, and wove a fresh crop of rugs.
But Lanterman’s this year was a shadow of years past—and I was not there, except as a “civilian”. My choice. Totally my choice.
In the early days, the crafters were part of the Christmas at the Mill entertainment, demonstrating their specialties. Eventually, a vendor fee came into the picture. It was modest, because we were a part of the experience—like Santa Claus, like the juggler, like the bagpiper. And I understand that times change, and rates increase. I’d have been fine with a doubled fee. I’d have considered a tripled fee. After all, it supports a historic building that I love. But a six-fold increase? Hours of setting up, tearing down, to maybe sell a couple of rag rugs while I teach kids to make yarn? No. I support the Chardon FarmPark by buying their fleeces to spin, but I won’t pay to ply my drop spindle. Being at Lanterman’s was never about the selling, for me.
I stopped by, though. Wanted the chance to buy from crafters whose work I admire. They mostly weren’t there. Neither were the crowds. No juggler. No bagpiper dressed as Elvis. No Green Man. No live music. No one carving wooden spoons, when for once I would have had time to watch before hurrying back to my corner. No kielbassi sandwiches with kraut. No fresh-popped popcorn. A Christmas Story projected on a sheet where the musicians used to play bluegrass? It’s just not the same.
I did buy stone-ground wheat flour and corn meal. Because Lanterman’s Mill still grinds! And I saw my friends: Van, who oversees the Mitten Tree with a huge smile on his face. Greg, the Mill Manager who grinds the grain slowly, so that the grindstones don’t heat and maximum nutrition is retained in the flour. And maple syrup, tapped in the park.
And I have my memories, of heading home on Saturday in the dusk, and looking back to see Lanterman’s Mill glowing in the Mill Creek gorge, every wreathed window lit, and the snow falling softly down. I’ll always have that!