CGP Community Stories

Scottie Baker, November 17, 2016

Title

Scottie Baker, November 17, 2016

Subject

Wooden Canoes
Natúra
Antiques
Environment
Otsego Lake Association
Otsego 2000
Water
Felicity
History
Samuel Spaulding
John Henry Rushton
Dave Baker
Art
Cooperstown, New York
Skiff

Description

Scottie Baker, an antique-lover and retired teacher, shared her passion for the environment and all it provides with her late husband, Dave Baker, who worked for New York DEC Parks and Recreation and Interior Trails in the Adirondacks. In 1967, the couple moved into the Cooperstown’s area and built their lovely cabin home. Scottie Baker now owns 150 acres, with a creek on the property, in Fly Creek. The home was named Natúra, which is also the name of Scottie Baker’s art company of environmental based artworks.

Before her husband’s passing, the two purchased a “row and sail” skiff. The model type was number 106 Florida model grade AA and made by John Henry Ruston. In the interview, she discusses how she and her husband acquired the skiff, what research they had achieved, and how they restored the skiff. The skiff was named “Felicity” by Scottie because it represented the joy it brought her, and the memory of her late husband. Scottie Baker would like to make known that “Felicity” was discussed in an article in “Wooden Boat” magazine (July/August 2007). The article mentions how a reproduction was created named “Apple Pie” that is owned by Dave Kavner. Even though the original Felicity was shown at the Farmer’s Museum’s “Otsego Lake: Past and Present” exhibit in 2006, “Felicity” was not able to stay in the area and was eventually sold.

Ms. Baker also discusses her involvement in the Otsego Lake Association and Otsego 2000 —environmental groups in the Cooperstown area—and what they are doing to make the Cooperstown community environmentally aware and proactive. There is also a discussion about Natúra Production’s artwork and what impact they have had on both Scottie and society as a whole.

Scottie Baker was interviewed at her home, Natúra. The major source of discussion was “Felicity” since this was an important part of her life. There are some grammatical particulars that I chose to keep to preserve the integrity of Scottie’s speech in the interview.

Creator

Brielle Cameron

Publisher

Cooperstown Graduate Program, State University of New York-College at Oneonta

Date

2016-11-17

Rights

Cooperstown Graduate Association, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio/mpeg
27.4 MB
audio/mpeg
25.8 MB
image/jpeg
2.13 MB
image/jpeg
2.37 MB
image/jpeg
2.90 MB
image/jpeg
3.12 MB
pdf/file
25.5 MB

Language

en-US

Type

Sound
Images

Identifier

16-004

Coverage

Upstate New York
1945-2016
Fly Creek, NY

Interviewer

Brielle Cameron

Interviewee

Scottie Baker

Location

Natúra
PO Box 77
Fly Creek, NY 13337

Transcription

Cooperstown Graduate Program
Oral History Project Fall 2016

BC = Brielle S. Cameron
SB = Scottie Baker

[START OF TRACK 1, 0:00]

BC:
Hello, this is the November 17th, 2016 interview of Scottie Baker by Brielle Cameron for the Cooperstown Graduate Program’s Research and Fieldwork course recorded at Natúra, Scottie Baker’s House. So, Scottie, can you tell me about this lovey boat Felicity?

SB:
Yes, I’d love to talk about Felicity. [laughter] I’m going to start at the beginning if that’s ok? Because, Felicity came into our lives in a very odd way. We, my husband and I, had a furniture business and our hobby became antique boats and canoes. How that happened was that we were familiar with Ernie and Connie Violon, who owned the Mohican Camp on Otsego Lake, and they were elderly. We became acquainted with them and Ernie was an avid Otsego bass fisherman, and he was having difficulty feeling comfortable in his current fishing boat. So, he asked my husband, Dave, if he would help him find a more stable fishing boat. So, Dave set out on that journey and talked to various people around the lake and met a woman who said, “I don’t have a fishing boat, but I do have a beautiful old wooden rowboat that my husband and I courted in, and I would love to have somebody have that boat.” So, Dave, of course, was sucked right in by that and so he viewed the boat and he didn’t come home with a fishing boat for Ernie Violon but he came home to our house with what I considered at that time pieces of an old wooden boat. And he said, “I’m going to restore this boat,” and I cannot remember the name of the woman or exactly where he purchased the boat on the lake. He set about restoring this boat. It was a lovey Thompson rowboat, and the job that he did in the end was absolutely beautiful. My children were small at the time and we were going to have our maiden launch voyage at Sam Smith’s boat yard on the lake. We set out with the boat and with family and when we got there we ran into Sam Smith, whom we were acquainted with, and Sam was an avid sailor and, also, he loved boats, old boats. When Sam Smith saw that rowboat, he said, “You have done such a beautiful job on that boat. I know where there is, I think, a very valuable boat on this lake which I think is going to be destroyed by the grandsons of the owner.” He said, “It is a rowing boat and it is a sailing boat and those boys want to cut the end off and put a motor on it and they want to paint a Cris Craft line on it and basically destroy, ruin the boat.” And he said, “It would be wonderful if you could save that boat.” And so he told us where the boat was and where it was at the camp called The Point, that belonged to Mrs. Marian Meadows. So The Point was next to Samuel Strong Spaulding’s big estate on Otsego Lake, known as Mohican Manor at the time and the boat was in residence at Marian Meadows’, who I think was his granddaughter. Sam Smith gave us the connection as to how we might see that boat and it was through Mrs. Meadows’ caretaker, whose name was Orson Davis. Orson Davis also worked for Tom Goodyear. So, anyway, I contacted Orson Davis who was local. Mrs. Meadows said, “Orson will let you in to have a look at the boat,” which was stored under her camp at The Point. So we made that date and we went to look at the boat and we didn’t know at that time a lot about antique boats. Not as much as we knew later as we began to be become more educated and more interested and more collectors. But, we knew because it was obvious that this was a beautiful piece of art. This was a vintage antique craft that was actually quite beautifully sound. So we were interested. We were bitten. [giggle] Bitten and smitten. So, I can’t remember if it was on our first visit, likely not, but on a subsequent visit, we took the boat out of where it was stored and noticed, you know, things that we couldn’t see in the dark and this was not only a beautiful double ended rowing boat, but it also was obviously a boat you could sail as well as row. We kept taking things out of the barn, it wasn’t really the barn, it was underneath the camp. We kept taking things out that belonged to this boat, and these were the things that we found. We found oar horns, four spoon oars with the horns that attach them. We found caned seats, a captain’s chair, copper flotation tanks that were under each end of that boat, sails, mast, rigging, original rudder, yoke, nickel plated hardware, fittings, brass mast tubes, and two of the most interesting things that you could imagine. One of them was a name tag that told who built the boat. A beautiful round tag that fit on the bow and it indicated that the boat was built by John Henry Rushton of Canton, New York. It also had on the tag the Folsom Arms Company in New York City, which we found later when we began researching that John Henry Rushton would often broker his boats at this big sporting goods store in New York City, which was a forerunner of the famous Abercrombie and Fitch. The other amazing thing that we found was, which was something we were not familiar with and found later, was called a radix centerboard. In the bottom of this boat, there was a lovely little walnut case with a handle and when we released that handle, and pushed on it, seven brass sleeves came out underneath that boat. That is what you would use as a center board if you were sailing it. And if you’re going to row it, you would just pull up those brass sleeves and secure that handle. We saw later that was labeled by the Blazier and Company and made in Utica, New York. Well, let me tell you. We were crazed, we were out of our minds because this, I mean, this was a true find. Anyone could tell this. Whether they were knowledgeable about boats or anything. We, of course, had kind of a history of collecting antiques. Not boats, boat antiques, but other kinds. With that kind of hobby, that we’d had, my husband, Dave’s education in furniture building and his education in forestry, knowing all different kinds of woods, and appreciating wood, you know, this was something we really had to have. We struck a deal with Mrs. Meadows. I have looked for any record of how much we might have paid for that boat. I have no idea. I can’t find it, it was cash, of course. Probably why there isn’t, but a lot of times, you know, we had a bill of sale or something but in this case we had no idea. [laughter] I have no idea how much we paid for the boat. But we did make a deal with Mrs. Meadows. She came from Buffalo. I remember her as an elderly woman at the time. Now I’m thinking she was probably was about my age now. [laughter] Of course, me being younger, she appeared elderly to me. She came with friends from Buffalo, Mr. and Mrs. Livingston, and they went to the camp and picked up a couple of items that were not with the boat, one of them being a pair of oar horns or something. We met here and closed the deal. So, interesting side bar, is that another caretaker, whose name was Vernon Baldwin, who worked for Samuel Strong Spaulding for about fifty years, in talking with him, he remembered the boat being stored at the big house [Mohican Manor]. So, it absolutely was Samuel Strong Spaulding’s boat and that it was stored very improperly and was taken to Gib Black, a local craftsman, to make some repairs. That, I thought, was kind of [an] interesting sidebar. When we got the boat home, and of course we laid it all out here in this very driveway, with all the accessories, and photographed everything and discovered that although the boat was in remarkable shape for being old, and we didn’t know exactly how old; this is how we got into research and history about antique boats. Some of the ribs and framing were broken and there was kind of a curve in the hull. They used to call it a hog, a boat hog meaning that it had been stored improperly and had gone out of shape. We knew that it was going to be kind of a- take it right apart, right down to the bowels of the boat for the restoration. And we knew that was something we could not do. While we are researching and researching this boat and going to every boat museum and every historian that we could find to try to find out what the date of this boat was and more information about it and, you know, more information about J.H. Rushton, who was a very well-known boat builder of the time, a very fine boat builder at the time, we were familiar with a very good craftsman who could help us repair this boat. His name was Everett Smith and he lived in Parishville, New York. We took the boat to Everett Smith and my husband actually, my husband Dave actually spent a couple of weeks with Everett because he wanted to participate in the process. They basically took this boat apart in two pieces and steamed and bent seventy-five new ribs and put in a new keel and put the boat back together. Took off the old reddish dark varnish, stripped it, made any other repairs that were absolutely necessary. We brought the boat back and it was never completed. [laughter] We put it up in storage and we intended to complete it because we were so excited about it. We had all of the sail hardware re-nickeled and it was all packaged, ready to be installed on the boat and we were ready to refinish it. But, we didn’t get to it because we started collecting more boats [laughter] and in particular canoes, antique canoes. [Felicity] sort of got put on the back burner as we started collecting other boats and, you know, started restoring them. And Felicity was in storage until the year 2004 when the New York State Historical Association at the museum in Cooperstown was going to have an Otsego Lake exhibit for the next three to five years and I thought that Felicity, especially because of its historical connection with Samuel Strong Spaulding, would be a wonderful centerpiece as did Paul D'Ambrosio and others. So I decided to fund the final restoration of that boat which was done by a craftsman named Faut Latif of Saranac Lake. That was the debut of that wonderful boat. It had no name. I decided to call it Felicity because of the joy I had had from finding it in the first place, restoring it to its final beauty and I thought that everyone who saw this would greatly appreciate it. So historically, we searched and searched and searched for information on this boat. We could approximate when it was built, we probably thought maybe at the turn of the century. But it was to have been the miracle that we were examining one day under the deck and caught a glimpse of graphite with a mirror and we looked closely with a magnifying glass and that boat had been signed and dated under the deck. We didn’t discover that until we had become bitten by the historical research bug [laughter] but it was wonderful to know exactly about the boat. It was signed by D.O. Rich and we know from books that were written on John Henry Rushton that Dan Rich was one of his workmen. So apparently he was the one who worked on the boat. D.O. Rich, March 31st, 1902, Canton, St. Lawrence County, New York. [laughter] So once we knew that we were able to find out exactly what the boat was. And the boat was a row and sail skiff, we found it in Rushton’s catalogue, number 106 the Florida Model, grade AA, the best that you could buy. That takes Felicity from our discovery to when it was on display at the museum. I can also go on after that if you wish.
[TRACK 1, 16:06]

BC:
Well, actually I wanted to ask you How do you feel about the Spaulding family after working on this boat?

SB:
Very interesting. Of course I was then, and Dave as well, we were very interested in knowing more about the Spaulding family. After finding out that this was the boat of this very wealthy man who had this beautiful mansion on Otsego Lake. We started trying to find out more about the Spaulding family and Samuel Strong Spaulding and in some of our research, we found out something that I thought was very telling about them. That was that Samuel Strong Spaulding was very much of a person, even though he was a street and railway baron and was a banker and was a wealthy man from Buffalo. He loved land and he bought land in Massachusetts, he bought land here, and at later time he bought more land here so that his ancestors could have the beautiful barn and agriculture and horses. He was very much a lover of horses because, of course, they were involved in the street railways at the time. I found out that Samuel Strong Spaulding, although he was a very wealthy man, he loved land. He loved beautiful land. He owned much land and he was interested in in creating this kind of agricultural part across the road, the beautiful barns which now are still standing, you know, and places to have horses and farming. Farming basically. He was a family man. He had four children. It was said of him that he was not, although he was a wealthy man and a banker, that he preferred to stay out of the social world. He belonged to a couple of clubs in Buffalo. He belonged to the Cooperstown Golf Club. He was very studious. I got thinking, “Well, this is a man of real character. Not just a showy person. Marian Meadows, whom we bought the boat [from], was very open, very kind person and apparently the boat had been taken to her camp prior to the demolition of the estate [Mohican Manor]. Apparently a great deal was thought of the craft. I don’t know about Samuel Strong Spaulding as a sailor or a water boat person but my thinking is this row and sail craft had a huge, it was called a Bailey rig sail pattern, and the foresail was huge compared to the size of the boat, which was not very large. Had a small aft sail and a huge, huge, huge foresail. I am just postulating that maybe that was a little too much to handle. [laughter] And maybe that’s why the boat lasted so long. [laughter]
[TRACK 1, 19:50]

BC:
You mentioned that the Spaulding’s also owned a lot of different land properties and I find that interesting since you own a piece of property up the way. Would you mind talking about that piece of property and what your interests were into it?

SB:
Sure, sure. When we first bought this piece of property where Natúra, our home is, we were looking for a piece of land that had water. To find piece of land that has water is not the easiest thing in the world unless you want to live by the lake. This piece of land had a stream, a native brook trout stream. It was very clean and never ran dry. It was very wooded and very dense so we had a lot of clearing to do before we built the house. But there were only five acres associated with this property, which doesn’t offer you much protection from close neighbors. So, at one point in time, property adjacent to this came up for sale actually down Wiley Town Road and we were not prepared to spend the money that was necessary to buy this property, so we were able to get several other local people who also wanted protection to go in with us and we all bought a portion of the property. So that added to our holdings about another 30 acres on one side. We sold a small piece up on the upper side to a friend which we felt offered us protection because we knew that whatever he did was going to be very lovely. There was a piece of property that adjoined that up the road that my husband Dave and I always wanted to buy and the owner of this adjacent property always wanted to buy [but] the woman would never sell it. I was walking my dog up the road one day, maybe now, oh, seven years ago or something like that and there was a for sale sign on the property. So I knocked the for sale sign down, ran down with my dog and called the realtor and were able to strike a deal and I bought an additional seventy acres. So now I am protected on both sides, so I don’t really have feeling I had any need for any more land. But a couple years ago, [a] lovely piece of property came up for sale, adjacent to that of the road another seventy acres. I went in with my land neighbor and we bought it together. What is so fabulous about this last piece of property is that this is steeped in history. This last piece of property has on it, and it wasn’t even visible it was so overgrown, a very old barn foundation, a very old house foundation, a hand dug well, wonderful huge rock art, outcrops that must have come from the glazier. So I started doing historical research on this property because it fascinated me so much. With the help of Sue Friedlander, whom all [of] you museum people might know, she and I together with her expertise in research of deeds and so on started researching this property and found out that in fact one time this property belonged to John Wiley who was the settler of Wiley Town and whom Wiley Town [is named for]. We’re on Wiley Town Road. There was an actual town here. I have no plans for this property other than we are just improving it and enjoying the fact that we have all this protected property for several miles on Wiley Town Road. Just, it is a wonderful project. I love working outdoors.
[TRACK 1, 24:07]

BC:
So that love for outdoors, is that what made you go into the Otsego Lake Association?

SB:
Otsego Lake Association, I feel, is a very fine organization that is totally made up of volunteers that is doing everything they possibly can to keep our Glimmerglass a pristine lake. I joined the Otsego Lake Association specifically for their mission which is to participate, to advocate, and to work hard to keep our lake beautiful. Of course, partly because, not only do I love the lake, but my interest in boats and canoes and so on and so forth was certainly a logical outreach for that.
[TRACK 1, 25:10]

BC:
So, can you tell me more about your experience as being a vice president for the association?

SB:
I guess I have been there a long time now. [laughter] Time really goes fast. It is just when you become an officer, a vice president, or whatever, it is just a process of being in an organization that you believe in for a long period of time and you just work your way up into more responsibility. That is one reason I happen to be called that but the major thing I do for this organization is that I manage all of the merchandise that we sell that is lake related, that advertises and talks about our lake and then that provides us with funding.
[TRACK 1, 26:07]

BC:
Right, actually your art work is called Natúra Productions. Would you mind also talking a little bit about that?

SB:
Sure

BC:
Maybe?

SB:
Absolutely. Natúra Productions occurred as a result of almost four decades of being interested in antique craft boats and feeling that they are, not only a vehicle, but that they are an art form. When I retired from [the furniture] business and my husband had passed away, I felt there must be a way to take all of the things that you collect when you have a hobby and make that into a business I could do from my home and something that I could appreciate and enjoy and handle in retirement. I, not only did I have a big collection of boats, but I also had a big collection of various other things, paddles and prints and all the ephemera models that you collect that are sort of accessories to a hobby. Dave and I had taken a lot of photographs of antique craft and I thought that maybe I could take those things and make them into a kind of graphics poster print business. I call it Natúra Productions because our home was Natúra. I launched into this, having been in business before. I was fortunately aware of marketing and aware of business, but I had never launched anything like this before. But, when I started this, which I think was in 2002, it was right after 9/11, and 9/11 caused people to desire very deeply things that were real and things that were lasting and things that, you know, they could hang on to. This idea of wooden, vintage wooden, hand-made boats, the idea of an art form that was being replaced by aluminum and plastic and fiber-glass could possibly instill in people that feeling that they were really looking for at that time in our history, made this business just kind of fly. And I started out with several offerings and I, I took these to museum stores all over the Adirondacks. I did gallery shows, art gallery shows not only here in Cooperstown, at the Smithy, at the Cooperstown Art Association, [and] at local historical meetings. I [also] did shows in the Adirondacks, in Saratoga, and I increased my offerings so that I could actually have a gallery show and that people would see those, and then buy the prints. Then I got several organizations, companies that would order them wholesale and sell them for me and so on and so forth, in Lake Placid and various other venues. So, the business just kind of grew and flourished and I had a partner-
[START OF TRACK 2, 0:00]

-not actually a business partner but a friend who made this business really sparkle and his name was Peter Johngren and he was a retired psychiatrist from Bassett Hospital and also a very fine photographer, nature photographer in his own right and also a canoeist. Peter Johngren took my ideas and my images and with his digital expertise, and expertise I did not have nor did I want to know, and together we worked these images into almost a perfection. It was with his assistance and his interest and his love of doing this that Natúra Productions, I think, produced some pretty fine photographs, graphics and posters. Peter died recently a year ago and what that has done for me is it has stopped me producing new things right now and it has put me into a focus of spending more time selling the inventory of things that I already have, which is also [a] very interesting marketing strategy and fun.
[TRACK 2, 1:22]

BC:
I noticed on your website it says that Natúra Products benefits organizations-

SB:
Yes, a portion of any of the profits of Natúra Productions benefit any organization that wishes to approach me that has an interest in saving our natural world. I donate profits to various museums, I donate profits to, you know, our various local environmental organizations and to education.
[TRACK 2, 2:05]

BC:
Oh, nice, would you like to talk about the education aspect?

SB:
Sure. There are various school programs that are focusing on New York State history or history and if they come to me with a project that needs some funding, I will consider that as well.
[TRACK 2, 2:05]

BC:
There was actually a question I wanted ask you a little bit more about your association with the Lake Otsego, or the Otsego Lake Association. I wanted to ask you about some of the projects that your organization has done for the community and if there is one in particular that you are very fond of.

SB:
Ok. The Otsego Lake Association is responsible for many, many projects and we are funded only by our membership and we are funded by donation. Ok, one of our projects is we support the dive team. The dive team puts in and takes out all of the “no wake zone” buoys around the lake. Those buoys are warning buoys that tell people to slow down at a certain distance from shore. We support the dive team and we also support the product because there are a certain number of buoys each year that are destroyed or, you know, need to be replaced. So we fund the dive team. We do another incredible project from which with the Otsego County Conservation Association, we got a grant to install a boat wash station at Lakefront Park [in Cooperstown] because one of our main concerns is the invasive species that enter our lake as a result of careless boaters and careless fisherman and dirty boats basically. The Village of Cooperstown has given us the permission and the place. We are using the Village water and the Village sewer and we are making sure that boats are inspected and washed before they enter and leave the lake, before they enter and when they leave the lake. This supports the New York state law, which no longer allows boats and trailers with any weed or any mud or any water in the hull to be transported on state roads. The project has just been completed and we will have our grand opening of that in the spring and we have dedicated that to Carl B. Good, who is a deceased member of our organization who was very much invested in the boat washing, inspectors and so on and so forth. We train inspectors and we train boat stewards to educate people. Education is another big part of our mission and we have several publications that we have produced and that is, those are most interesting to me because I supplied a lot of the graphics for those and was a part of getting those produced, so those are just several things. We also do fund educational school projects when they come to us and we’ve also purchased a drone for the Biological Field Station, the purpose of that being to do aerial views of mud plumes in the lake after rainstorms to show where sediment is flowing into the lake. We have some very good photos of that from aerial views, from a pilot previously. [It is] becoming increasingly hard to find people to do that and also to engage people at the time when you need them, which is, you know, at a perfect storm so to speak. So we have donated this drone and we are hoping that that will be one of the aspects in which it will be used.
[TRACK 2, 6:40]

BC:
What are-

SB:
Those are just a few things. [laughter]

BC:
You talked about mud plumes. What procedure would have to be done for those mud plumes after you find them?

SB:
We find that sediment flows in from bare, steep slopes. Sediment flows in from creeks along which agriculture, or cows or whatever, might be placed. Sediment flows in from areas in which there is no kind of buffer between the land and water and one of our, not only educational programs, but also a demonstration program is, and you can go and see this, is the buffer strip at Lakefront Park, which we have built not only as an educational tool, but to mitigate flowing salts, whatever maybe coming down from the streets into the lake. So, buffering is one good way to stop the flow of sediment into the lake.
[TRACK 2, 8:05]

BC:
That’s, that’s great. [laughter] With that notion of conservation, there has been a recent discussion on the news about the Constitution Pipeline and I was wondering what your thoughts were about that with your association?

SB:
The Otsego Lake Association has not weighed in on the Constitution Pipeline, but one other organization that I have been on the board is the Otsego 2000, is an environmental organization in our community and Otsego 2000 has become very involved in the pipeline and very concerned about the compressor stations in particular that are along the way and are very close to communities.
[TRACK 2, 8:53]

BC:
Is there a plan or action maybe that they may be going through with?

SB:
I can say that as far as Otsego 2000 is concerned, we are using whatever legal resources we have when necessary and we are funding some monitoring devices.
[TRACK 2, 9:15]

BC:
Oh, ok. What kind of monitoring devices?

SB:
It would be monitoring the material and so on and so forth involved in the pipeline and I’m not exactly clear what the devices are.
[TRACK 2, 9:33]

BC:
Ok. I am going to backtrack just a bit, if that is ok with you-

SB:
Sure.

BC:
-on your artwork, because I find that to be beautiful and very interesting. [laughter]

SB:
Thank you.

BC:
A lot of your artwork is based on wood, is that just an interest in the antiques or is there further aspect to that?

SB:
Alright. I guess, what I should say is, when I started Natúra Productions, I was looking for one beginning image that would start this business and that I also would find kind of moving to me. We had a very large rare book collection, all having to do with antique boats. My husband amassed this collection and also a duplicate collection for the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association. So, you could really see he was steeped in history about boats and I thought maybe I could start looking at some of these books and looking at some of the old images in these books and see if there was something that drew my attention and kind of start this process. I have all these things to look at and go through and what would I choose? So, I came across this book, it was called “Rhythm of the Redman,” it was written by Julia Buttree. She was the wife of Ernest Thompson Seton [Illustrator of “Rhythm of the Redman”], and of course Ernest Thompson Seton was a great naturalist and camper and canoeist and wrote many, many books on the subjects of the outdoors. I started looking through this book and in the back of this book and throughout this book there were some of the most beautiful, colorful plates. One of them just struck me. It was called “Painted Paddles” and its mate was called “Painted Canoes.” These were images that Ernest Thompson Seton had seen -he did a lot of living in the Southwest- that he had seen or that he owned. He had drawn these and painted them as he remembered them or as he saw them in his own collection. They were basically Southwest Native American images. Spiritual, talismanic, colorful, Native American drawings and paintings. I started, this book was in the 1930s, I started the process, something I’d never done about copy rights and so on and so forth, and chased that and chased that and finally got that satisfied so that I could start producing this. Peter Johngren and I took these two plates and we experimented with various background colors, the colors were white, of course, in the book. Background colors, various different arrangements of the paddles and the canoes and so on and so forth and finally came up with what we thought was a really nice image. We titled it exactly that, “Painted Paddles” and “Painted Canoes.” I struck a deal with Cayuga Press in Ithaca to have these printed in two sizes; a frameable print size and a heavy glossy poster size. That was the thing that started me, this Native American idea. I created a Native American collection in which I took the painted canoes and painted paddles and I rearranged them in all different sizes and shapes and so on and so forth. I did a t-shirt; I did a cap with that same theme. That was sort of the beginning, I guess. That was the initial start. So then I started looking at some of the other photographs I had, basically rare canoes that either we owned or I had seen. Kind of the same thing as Ernest Thompson Seton. I started taking these photographs and getting ideas as to how they would be most evocative and Peter would perfect them as in terms of, you know, color and everything. I would have those printed so that I would have some inventory and I called that the “Still-point collection” because I thought those were very much more a moving kinds of things. I found this poem by T.S. Elliot about the still point, “At the still point of the turning world, neither from nor toward, there the dance is.” I made a collection that I felt was very intimate and moving and emotional when you looked at these works of art, basically. Of course, I had a nice collection of old postcards and what I kind of called kind of “nostalgic things.” And so I did a nostalgic collection of more Victorian images. Then I went into notecards and souvenir paddles and that sort of thing from that. Then, it all kind of all went full circle back to the whole wood idea. I decided to have a “Reverence for Wood” collection, which had some relevance to water, but still was more about wood. So this is how things morph, you know? I ended up with a kind of complete Natúra Production’s collection. That’s sort of the way it went. Peter and I worked so well together and got to know each other so well over the years. He was very instrumental in kind of giving me input and feedback on these things. That’s where we are today.
[TRACK 2, 16:11]

BC:
If you could continue, what do you foresee your artwork maybe turning into, your next, kind of, inspiration if you have one?

SB:
I am at a place right now, where I am trying exactly to figure that out. [laughter] And I don’t have the answer for you today. [laughter] But I definitely feel that with this, with Peter’s death and my kind of still point, my kind of standing still at this moment, and not going forward, I have always had the idea that perhaps some of these images, especially the Native American ones, could be incorporated into soft goods like quilts and sheets and things like that. I’ve always wanted to pursue that. Maybe down the road something like that. I sort of suspect that what will happen with me now is rather than producing something new, finding a new way to use some of the things I have already have produced.
[TRACK 2, 17:24]

BC:
Nice. You were talking about some of your quotes, which I love, on your website. And there was one in particular, it was “wood is a substance with a soul.” Can you maybe talk a little bit about that quote?

SC:
Absolutely, Absolutely. That came from my interest in spalted wood. What is spalted wood? Spalted wood is wood that has begun to decay because it has been exposed to water. So there was a connection I could make between water and wood, since Natúra Productions is all about water and wood. Way back when we first moved here, into this house, my husband Dave became very well acquainted with Dennis Tallman, who was very fine. [He owned] Tallman Tree Enterprises, who was a tree service. Dave would always say to Dennis, “If you across any really neat wood, bring it on over,” you know. Dennis brought to us these chunks of spalted wood, which were a tree that had decayed or was decaying, he had to take down, and brought them to us. I remember them always being here in one of the out-buildings. When Dave passed away, I was constantly moving these big chunks of wood from place to another to get this, store this, or find this, or get to this. Finally, I decided it’s time for something to be done with this wood. I’m going to find an artist who is going to be able to make this beautiful wood into something. What’s gorgeous about this wood is that these fungi that live in there make their mark by making all these gorgeous black lines and swirls and shapes within this wood. Artist make bowls out of them, they make candlesticks out of them, they make all kinds of items like that which are extremely interesting because of all these beautiful black lines in them. I thought there must be some artist that would do something like that. So, I contacted a few that came over, we looked the wood and finally the end result was, “Oh, I guess I’ll just do it myself.” [laughter] Now, I am not a sculptor, I am not a carver, but, again, like Natúra Productions, I’m an idea person. Anyway, I started taking this wood, looking at it and finding people that could make beautiful objects. The first I object started out with was this sphere, which I had to send away to Boston to a commercial company who had a lathe that could turn a sphere this size. I contacted another artist who was able to design a base for it. Another craftsman who could build the base for it. I kept doing that with these pieces of wood, creating a shape or an idea and then taking it to the people who I knew could do the work and then I would do all the finish work. I would do all the final sanding, all the coats of varnish and so on and so forth. So I had a part in it. Once we revealed what was inside of this wood, there were actual, like, cave drawings inside of there. I started taking a camera to hone in, to close up on these designs and I created six or eight or more photographs of these spalted drawings. I would do shows where I would use the sculptures as kind of the stage set and then sell the actual prints that I made from the drawings of the wood. What was your question?
[TRACK 2, 21:56]

BC:
[Tons of laughter] I think you just about answered it! It was very interesting-

SC:
About wood, about wood.

BC:
Yes, it was about the quote, “wood is- “

BC & SC:
“- is the substance of the soul”

SB:
So, absolutely it does. When you look inside of these and later I will show you these sculptures and I will show you these prints, and you will be amazed at the living things that are inside of this wood.
[TRACK 2, 22:22]

BC:
So, you have such a passion, or connection with woods and the outdoors. Was that brought about from your husbands work or was it something you guys shared together?

SB:
This was something we shared together. I was definitely brought along with this by him, even though I had the innate sense. I always lived in the country. My parents had a lovely summer home in the Finger Lakes with a twenty-two-mile view of Canandaigua Lake. My mother and father were always very just in love with the view, the views, and the natural world there. I was always brought up with that love by my family. And then Dave, because he was canoe camp counselor with the big old heavy Old Town canoes and loved the water and loved canoeing, also grew up in rural area. We kind of brought that together within us. After living in the Adirondacks for a while and then coming here, you know, and finding this natural spot and the interest in canoes and water, I think it is just something that grew and blossomed, that we did share.
[TRACK 2, 23:56]

BC:
Wow, that’s great. Let’s see, what else did I want to ask you? [laughter] How did you get involved with the Lake Otsego Association? I don’t know if I got a chance to ask that.

SB:
Well, exactly, it was because of Natúra Productions. When I first started Natúra Productions, I went to an Otsego Lake Association Board of Director’s meeting with some of the images that were particularly of around Otsego Lake and I was asking them if they and I could partner in a way by selling these perhaps with their help because they did sell merchandise for funding. With my help, they could sell some of my Natúra Production’s things, I would donate a portion of the profit to them. It also helped me get those items seen. That’s how I first met the Board of Directors of Otsego Lake Association by just going to a director’s meeting and kind of marketing my things. [laughter] Then, I believe, one of the board of directors passed on, I was asked, “Would I like to be on the Board of Directors?” and so that’s how it started.
[TRACK 2, 25:34]

BC:
Wow, [laughter] and how did you get associated with the Otsego 2000?

SB:
Martha Frye was the executive director at the time and Martha pulled me over one day and said, “Otsego 2000’s contributions to our environment have been very, very strong, but we don’t feel that we really are doing enough concerning the lake.” And Martha said, “I’m wondering, would you be interested in coming on our board of directors and being a liaison between Otsego Lake Association and us or being a person that would specifically be promoting more projects concerning the lake?” That’s how I began there.
[TRACK 2, 26:36]

BC:
Wow, so, we have a couple more minutes left and I will ask you about, what are some of the events that your organization is a part of? I noticed that it is a part of Otsego Lake Festival, what are some other aspects it is involved with?

SB:
Are you talking about the Otsego Lake Association?

BC:
Yes.

SB:
Oh, ok. Otsego Lake Association we have several basic things that we do. We participate and also fund any lake festivals that are held. We have an annual meeting, that is open to the public, which is both educational, scientific, and historic programs. We try to hold it at an interesting location every year. We sponsored our third annual Fourth of July Boat Parade. The purpose of that being just to [create] camaraderie, just to get together, just to have a love and appreciation of the lake and a fun event. [giggle] Those are our main events that we sponsor.
[TRACK 2, 27:52]

BC:
Alrighty, well, I would love for us to chat more. I thank you so much for being here with us [for] this interview and for answering all my questions. Thank you so much.

SB:
Well, I enjoyed it.

BC:
And thank you so much for all of your dedication and work you’ve done throughout the years. Thank you so much.

SB:
Oh, your welcome. Thank you.
[TRACK 2, 28:13]




Addendum
Near the closing of the Otsego lake exhibit, Paul D'Ambrosio and Scottie Baker discussed the idea of donating “Felicity” to NYSHA. The boat was not only one of a kind, but also a rare local and historical artifact. However, her large size caused concern because NYSHA did not have enough space to store “Felicity.” Scottie felt very strongly that “Felicity” belonged near Otsego Lake. Unfortunately, she was not able to find anyone locally who was interested in owning “Felicity,” which forced her to bring “Felicity” back to Natura for storage. “Felicity” had not been there for very long, when Scottie was contacted by Dan Miller, once the curator at the Antique Boat Museum in Clayton, N.Y. He wanted to feature “Felicity” in an exhibit honoring J.H. RUSHTON, her builder. The skiff was recently purchased by Alan Newell (CEO Rubbermaid Co.) who is a collector and also a friend of the Antique Boat Museum. When Scottie went there to view the exhibit some years ago, she was shocked to see the vintage launch “Narra Mattah” serving as a tour boat, since this boat was once from Otsego Lake like “Felicity.” Jane Clark later purchased “Narra Mattah” and brought her back to Cooperstown where she belongs. Scottie hopes that one day “Felicity” will also make her way back home to Otsego Lake.


Duration

29:59-Part 1
28:13-Part 2

Bit Rate/Frequency

128 kbps - Part 1
128 kbps - Part 2

Time Summary

00:00-24:07: Felicity and Researched History
24:07-(To Part 2) 09:33: Environment
09:33-22:22: Artwork
22:22-28:13: Personal History

Files

Citation

Brielle Cameron, “Scottie Baker, November 17, 2016,” CGP Community Stories, accessed June 27, 2017, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/278.