CGP Community Stories

Lynn Richards Jones, November 18, 2010

Title

Lynn Richards Jones, November 18, 2010

Subject

Folk art
Upstate New York (N.Y.)
Boarding schools
Art

Description

Lynn Richards Jones is a longtime resident of Cooperstown. Jones was born and raised in Cooperstown, but also lived in upstate New York and in Florida with her husband. As a child, Jones lived in a split-level house with her family and grandparents. It was when spending time with her grandfather that Jones uncovered her skill of artistic cutting that she would develop further as an adult.
Scherenschnitte, which means “scissor cuts” in German, is the art of cutting paper. Jones is a self-taught artist who fondly calls her skill scissor-cutting. She was encouraged and supported by her husband, family, friends, and her husband’s students and developed as a free-lance artist through their support. Jones’s work has been displayed in museums and she was commissioned by Creative Playthings in New York, New York to design a Christmas store window and shopping bag.
In addition to discussing her scherenschnitte, Jones reflects on her childhood in Cooperstown and the games she played with friends. Both Jones and her husband worked for the New York State Historical Association before they were married and hosted their wedding at the Farmers’ Museum Chapel.

Creator

Amy Hollister

Publisher

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

Date

2010-11-18

Rights

New York State Historical Association Library, Cooperstown, NY

Format

audio
27.4mB
audio
27.4mB
audio
22mB
image/jpeg
2736 x 3648 pixels
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3648 x 2736 pixels
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2368 x 1820 pixels

Language

en-US

Type

sound
image

Identifier

10-117

Coverage

Upstate New York
1948 - present
Cooperstown, NY

Online Submission

No

Interviewer

Amy Hollister

Interviewee

Lynn Richards Jones

Location

63 Elm Street.
Cooperstown, NY

Transcription

LRJ = Lynn Richards Jones
AH = Amy Hollister

[Start of Track 1, 0:00]
AH:
This is Amy Hollister interviewing Lynn Richards Jones in her home in Cooperstown, New York on Thursday, November 18, 2010 for the Cooperstown Graduate Program's Oral History Project as part of the Research and Fieldwork Course. Now, Lynn, I thought we might start by discussing your childhood in Cooperstown.

LRJ:
Well, it was wonderful. I love being here, it’s a small town, and it’s very true: you can take the girl to the city, but you can't take the small town out of her. Of course, as children we played much more freely than children today do. Moms put you out and you played, especially in the summer.

AH:
Were there specific games that you played?
LRJ:
Oh yes, hide and go seek. That was the best. And stone school.

AH:
What was stone school?

LRJ:
In stone school, you’d sit on the steps and everybody would have stones. If you answered the right questions and things, you would move up and down the steps, but if you couldn't answer the right way you had to give up one of your stones.

AH:
That sounds like fun.

LRJ:
Anyway, of course, hopscotch and I remember particularly, riding bikes and things like that. Rolling skating with the kind of roller skates that you put on with a key; you put them over your shoes. And of course, that always led to some kind of accident, where a dog might get mixed up with you and over you'd go! That's how I lost my two front teeth, my baby teeth. They weren't quite baby, I was six or seven when it happened.

What else did we do? We ran a lot; we went in where ever the trees were and would climb trees and just sway with the wind. We’d build tents and all kinds of houses. I know one time, my next door neighbor who is still in Cooperstown, his name is Jimmy Bridger, we decided we were going to play house in an old refrigerator box. It kind of got very exciting because we cooked our food, and I don't remember what the food was, but I do remember that the little stove we made was up front and kind of caught the . . . It was almost like tinder, the box was made of some kind of wood. Anyway, it caught fire and that was exciting.

It was always some adventure and, of course, we rang door bells. And now, as an adult, and especially in my granny-age I think, "Gosh! What a horrible thing that was to somebody who was older!" But I don't think people were nervous about people coming to the door. I'm 67 so it was a long time ago, 50-some years ago.

I did a lot of artsy things in the winter. My grandparents lived downstairs and we lived upstairs. I would go downstairs and keep my grandfather company. He was blind. My grandmother still worked then, when I was young. She was a nurse for Dr. Powers who used to be an administrator in the Mary Imogene Bassett Hospital for his mother and his sister. So she would be gone during the day and I would sit with Grampy and talk. I had a very special thing. I can't tell you how much this influenced what I finally ended up doing. It's something I just loved and adored. I had the illustrated London News, Vogue, Fortune, just a whole bunch of really wonderful magazines and I remember they used to be stacked behind my grandmother's sofa. I could use those. My grandmother and grandfather did not have any rules about picking up messes. So what I would do is cut. The only rule I had was the kitchen scissors, or kitchen shears, actually, they were big clunky things. They were in the middle drawer in the kitchen and I could use them as long as I didn't run with them, and I always put them back. Those were the only two rules. Well, I learned to take those kitchen scissors, shears, and cut. I cut endlessly out of those magazines. I created villages that went all around the floor. I’d have fashion designs, houses, I loved to design clothes. I was always cutting the elegant ladies out of Vogue. I even had a big machinery store and I could lay these all out and I didn't have to pick them up. Everybody just sort of walked over my village. I would sit and talk to my grandfather.

I think it was probably the same time, I loved little things. In fact, one of the things we did as children was go antiquing. That was a good family thing. We’d go out every Saturday, at least, and sometimes Sunday afternoon. I think the first things I collected were little pewter cups and glass antiques, those little marbles with the intricate things inside of them. So, I liked those little things and I decided I was going to design some fashion models. They were about three inches high. I literally designed thousands!

AH:
Were they made of paper?

LRJ:
Paper. The dolls were made of stiff paper and the dresses, of course, had the little hooks. Paper dolls were very popular when I was young. They had the movie stars, Shirley Temple, still, and that was a big thing that children did, they cut out paper dolls. Of course, I was making these little dresses, just tons of them, the dresses probably only one inch to two inches. I learned with those great-big sheers to cut just about anything. As I grew up, of course, I had seen different things cut out of paper. In fact, I was a guide at Fenimore House, before it was Fenimore Art Museum, and there was a big scissor cutting behind me.

I didn't put two and two together, but my mother gave me a book by Claudia Hopf, I think Carol, her husband, was up here taking the graduate program. She had done a booklet that told about scissor cutting, how it started, the different kinds. I called it scissor cutting but the German-Swiss was scherenschnitte and silhouette and [inaudible] and just all kinds of different things. So I cut. There were some parts in that book I remember.

By then I was a married woman. We had gone to the Millbrook School down in Millbrook – it’s a secondary school. My husband was the advisor to the literary magazine. So I was cutting these hearts and one of the students said, "Mrs. Jones, you ought to cut our cover for our magazine this year!" So I did. It went out and it was quite different the design I did, it was the art building. I cut that and they put it on the cover.

The art teacher from one of the other little private schools nearby saw it and said, "will you cut me a cutting?"
I said, “yes, what would you like?”
She said, "well come over and see my house."
Well, here was a house that she and her husband had made, it was relatively modern but she told me how they grew their vegetables and how they raised piglets and they had done all these things and their name was Rossy, which means horse, it’s Dutch. So what I did was I made the shape, this is how I always did my scissor cuttings. I always decided on my shape first. I don't know why, maybe it was like building my buildings from my little village and then I put things in it. I thought, “well, I'll take a photograph of the house and try to make this look three dimensional even though it’s just white paper and I'm going to put it on a color.” And then I thought, “oh, well she raised those little piglets and those piglets are so cute,” so I made an inner shape like the outer shape, which I had put a lacy thing on, a design, going around, and I put little piglets all the way around, just so you could barely see them. Then, of course, I did the house and at the top a horse, sort of like a Harold. Somebody saw that, a parent who had an absolutely magnificent never-ending house. So, by referral for years I did all sorts of things that people wanted commemorated. I just took something that I had done, like for instance, I taught kindergarten and I never drew out letters for the bulletin board or anything, I always cut them. I was always cutting stuff. That was, no matter what it was, it was sort of like the sheers or scissors or whatever I was using was an extension of my hand.

AH:
Did you always use the scissors, or did you use Exacto knives for the delicate parts?

LRJ:
No, I tried one time and I don't even now know what it was because it was horrible. It was tedious and by that time, with scissors being like my hands, I didn't want to teach myself to do that. The only time I had to learn to use a different piece of equipment or pair of sheers or embroidery scissors was when my place that I would get them would go out of business or something. Or they would get so dull I could no longer use them. I've always wondered, but I think because I had to learn to use the sheers, my grandmother's sheers, and I wanted to do so many things in my mind. I never had the feeling that you couldn't cut anything you wanted, I just never thought of actually designing my own, I guess, until I was older.

So, I had done these cuttings, these commemorative cuttings, a few here and a few there, and we ran a boys’ dormitory in Millbrook. [brief interruption] So, of course, we had an open door policy. It was a boys’ dorm, and they were from 9 - 12 grade. It’s amazing how interested they are in scissor-cuttings. It’s almost like an engineered-type of design, and they loved the way it would build up.

After I had done the literary book cover and a couple of others for people, I decided I was going to try doing just a plain design of my own, for me or for whomever I gave it to. It was an Adam and Eve type of thing, out of black paper. I actually folded that one; I'd never folded them before. It was white on the back and black on the front. When I worked on it, the students would say, "Come on Mrs. Jones, Finish that! Finish that! We want to see what it’s going to look like!" It didn't look like much, because I just sketched a few things on the back, on the white part, and I was kind of just developing it as I went along. I opened it up when it was finished and I was dumbfounded. I really... if you've ever done something that you think, "now, how did that happen?" [laughs]
AH:
And, especially all this little tiny detail, you did all of it with scissors?

LRJ:
Yes!

AH:
I'm so just... oh my goodness!

LRJ:
So, I think that is about this big. It’s, I'd say about a foot and a half, no, about two feet tall and a foot wide, maybe.

AH:
And about how many hours do you think, just estimating, would one like that take?


LRJ:
Oh, I really don't know. I just did it in my spare time in the evenings, when the kids would come in the evenings to watch television and I’d just cut away. Sometimes it takes a long time to do the scissor cuttings if they're particularly large or I have a lot of information. But by suddenly opening that up and seeing what it looked like, it was like double all that work. It sort of... it was profound to me. But profound in the sense that it was like everything started to...I knew I either had to commit myself to doing this as art, because I loved to paint portraits, draw portraits... I was all over the place. But then I decided, “ok, this is what I'm going to do. I love doing this, I love designing this.” And then, I started getting more commissions and different things happened so I just always did it. I don’t think I ever really wanted to become a professional in the sense that I didn't have complete control, just one person at a time.

AH:
Was it still a social activity, like it started out, where you worked while talking to your grandpa? Or did you do it by yourself, in a quiet situation?



LRJ:
Most of the cuttings that I ended up doing were so detailed or so large and still with so much detail that in the beginning, designing it was my artistic outlet, it satisfied me sort of artistically. And then the research to find out about something like somebody would tell me that they had three different kinds of boats and they wanted to have a commemorative cutting for their family because they had done so much sailing with bigger boats and so on. So I would have to look up about boats, what they did, what they were like in the water – it’s amazing how much you see throughout your life, but you don't really register it. But when you use it and incorporate it within your artwork, drawing it, or whatever, you have a feeling of what’s right or wrong, but you don't know why.

I think I mentioned to you before, a lady had one done for her parents where the father was a fire chief who had driven a certain type of fire engine. So I had to find fire engines from 1952 and things like that, and see what they looked like and how they manned them. You have your artistic way you can put it in, the angle you want to do it, or whatever.

One of the things that I would do, and you asked me the question, did I still do it socially, I did a lot of it socially. But there's a time that comes when you have to make something look three dimensional and all you've got is a line that indicates a door. You have to stop and think about it, it’s like when you're writing, you have to sort of keep paying a little attention.
This is the one that got destroyed. Cats used to love to do things. To show you how they're done: if you'll notice, there's the cutting that's what, two feet long and maybe ten inches high? And you'll notice that I've cut out of that, a design of the alphabet. Someone asked me to do it for a school auction. It’s bears all along these curly cues and you can see how I cut out all the little things. If you cut around those little spaces, you couldn't cut out the eye of the flower, so to speak, because it would rip it. So you have to do that.

When I first started doing the cuttings, I just indicated where I was going, and I would do it. But I found as I did more of them and they took longer, that it was easier just to sketch around on the tissue paper. And it is also cut backwards. So, when you have writing, you change from one side of your mind to the other. And you have designs and the thing that happens is you sometimes have a spelling mistake! I'm not a good speller, I'm a horrible speller. And I'll be cutting along and realize, “oh, this isn't a flower, this is a letter that I'm cutting and it’s part of a word.” It’s funny, I always have to be very careful of the way my mind goes. But I find it very, very relaxing.

I love to talk to school groups, or different things, people who are interested in it. One of the nicest things my sister ever said to me is, she took one of my courses that we had at the museum, a seminar for scissor cutting. I had done another one but it was different. I didn't have very many people signed up; I think there were about six or seven. I thought, why not do this a different way, rather than just say we're all going to cut this and this is how we're going to do it. I handed out little cards and said, “write me one line, what you want to have happen in this class, what you want to have this class for.” Every single one of them wrote either to give as gifts, to do these cuttings to commemorate and give to people, like baby announcements, or to try to sell them. And I thought, “well, we aren't going to have the same thing here, but we're going to go for it.” So, the thing I was saying my sister said that it made it a wonderful class for her because you could use it in so many other ways. You have to organize your mind first of all, what are you going to do. You decide you want to say, do an “I Love You” gift, or something, then maybe you might make a heart shape, then you decorate the outside, you do the inside, you put the words you want in it and so on.

Sometimes people will ask you to do one, and you go by what the person is like. I sometimes have hundreds of pieces of information and sometimes I’ve never even met the people. I did one for a conductor that I had not met and he was huge. He had so many accomplishments, it was amazing. And yet the wife, she arranged flowers and she did all his personal work for him, like seeing where he would go and so on and so forth. So what I did is, for the center piece, I made a large planter-vase, and out of that I had flowers, a huge bouquet of flowers which represented every instrument.



LRJ:
So, I had a spray of piccolos, and a spray of this, and a spray of that. And, that was fun because I had to read a lot on orchestras and how they, well, it was important to me even if I didn't use it, how they set-up, for first violin, second violin – how they did it so that I could represent that in the bouquet. Of course, on the side I had a lot of his accomplishments, but because she loved flowers and loved to arrange them, that was how I incorporated it.

AH:
That's quite the connection!

LRJ:
Well, it’s very interesting because that often happens, where you're doing a cutting for somebody and they're not both strongly into one or the other thing but you have to combine them and one is the help-mate, so how do you regard the help-mate? I mean, because, what do they always say, there's always... [laughs]

AH:
Oh, behind every man is a strong woman?
LRJ:
Good, yes! Now days, I've done many cuttings where it’s been an established thing for the husband to be doing such and such and then the wife has taken on a whole new career. So you've made, almost like a sleigh, you have how you arrange it and how you make different things important. I've even had some people so distinct the husband and wife [track 2:] were partners or whatever, but I almost did two cuttings, but in one. So, I hate to say this, but in case they should separate which a lot of people do.

So much of that had to do with my upbringing. It was having to entertain myself. Strangely enough, I was a very self-sufficient, quiet child. So this was perfect for me to always be doing different things. I think I always had to keep busy.

The day my husband was injured, I was, would you believe, one roof away from finishing a big cutting that was due the next day. I got so distracted. I was thinking, “I could finish this up, and finish this.” So I cut away the roof and that was not what I had designed the whole thing to do. I have done only a few cuttings since then, but I work constantly to get back to being able to do them again.


AH:
Did you stop cutting because you didn't have time anymore, or were you making an emotional connection to the moment of finding out about his accident?

LRJ:
I don't know. I used to work at the school where we lived in Boca Raton, Florida and I saw a lot of parents, a lot of times, and a lot of them, of course, their children had had David for English. I became hyper-active. I couldn't sit still, I was always moving. One of the things, I had to overcome – I used to cry sometimes. It was so hard to get the final thing done. This is one the museum has, the one of Lou, I don't know if you've seen that. If I really concentrated, I could do something like that in two or three days. But I’d have to really, really concentrate, and I couldn't after he was injured. I suppose, it was about him. They said it was post-traumatic syndrome of some kind that made me really "whatever".

But I've always had to have quiet to start them, to think about what I'm going to do. I did one; I’ll never forget, it took me forever. It was a minister, a Presbyterian minister, from the Midwest and it was a big cutting, maybe three feet by two and a half feet. He was a circuit minister. He had seven or eight churches. He had a sort of way that he went. He was also a Reverend Doctor. So, he had schools and he had written a lot, he had done a lot. Sometimes you can get to the point where you worry about making everything perfect it’s almost impossible to do something. So I have to put myself in a state where I do it because I love it. I have had agents before because I've actually done quite a bit. Anyway, they want me to do stuff that just doesn't interest me. I prefer doing one-on-one cuttings.

AH:
When you're doing them for somebody, do you show them the design first or do they only see it after it’s done? What's that moment like?

LRJ:
Well, if there's somebody that's near. I did one, where the person sort of was always there to see what I was doing next and wanted to know. She actually let me have free-reign and it was very exciting because I loved to do Noah's Ark, I've done several of those, and different things with the writing in them. They will do that or sometimes I don't even know them. It’s somebody from somewhere, someplace, they saw one and they wanted one. I have never, knock on wood if I do it again, I've never had anyone not be pleased. [It’s important to] listen very carefully. I do a lot of very subtle things.

If it’s going to be a bride, I find out, for instance, what the China pattern is, what the spoon pattern is, and often will incorporate that like lace. Sometimes things they don't see for years. They will say to me, "You might not remember me, but I just found something in the cutting you did for us." I try to do that; I try to make it very personal and very special. If it’s a private thing between people, it’s amazing how many little ways you can do it.

I must say that scissor cutting...I'm so glad to talk about this, because one of the things is motivating yourself and getting back to something after you haven't done it. I'm hoping that if I do, I have the same amount of skill. I've quit before for two or three years, only because our life was so complicated – moving or whatever. I just pick up and maybe go a different way. One of the things I really want to do are commemorative memorials. You can do a memorial that's commemorative [laughs].

AH:
Yes.

LRJ:
I just love talking about it because I don't. It’s like meeting somebody who’s a tremendous viola player, and you have no idea until suddenly you hear them play for whatever and it’s like, "Oh! There's another whole person there!" Or read something they've written. I have a daughter in law and the first time I heard her sing I couldn't believe she was the same person. It made me cry because she had such an incredible voice. So I am fond of calling my artwork “something the other me does.”

AH:
Have you ever met other cutting artists?

LRJ:
Actually, I've never really met other ones. I mean, I know of Claudia [Hopf]and her husband because they were here in Cooperstown. I sort of keep up with it because I'm always hoping to get back to doing it. You know I never have, even giving talks and everything. I’ve had some wonderful things, not with other cutters, but people who do different types of artwork. I've given a lot of talks and had a lot of funny things happen. I’ll never forget one time I was doing it for some festival and I was cutting, actually, this huge cutting. It was a lace tablecloth and I was just doing it out of my head as I was going along and I said something and there were a few ladies sitting there and men and children, but in the front row there were these three ladies that were really looking at me. I said, "Well, I call this scissor cutting because I'm an American and I'm using scissors, but the German-Swiss name is scherenschnitte. This lady goes, "You're not saying that right! You better learn how to say that" and then she told me and it sounded to me exactly the same!
I've had them fly out the car window because when I first started doing it I was absolutely possessed with doing it every second I possibly could, so I did it in strange places. I think one of the hardest places was in the back seat of a Land Rover that was bouncing all over, but I tried, it was due, it was due. When something's due, you do it anywhere. And when it got really hard toward the end, when all you had was a bunch of lace, I found that my body hurt terribly, and I used to do strange things so that I could keep my muscles going. Often I'd stay up for two or three nights in a row and I would hurt so I sometimes cut in the bath tub so I could put my feet up.

AH:
Did you ever drop one in the bath tub?

LRJ:
Now, that's something I haven't done. But I spilled coffee all over one going to the printer. Instead of sending them a white cutting on a black background, I sent them a tan-colored one on a black background. But it came out all right.

The one that went out the car window was up on Lake Road and it went right in a bird patch. That was interesting. I had one go up a vacuum cleaner, I got it out, sort of kind of dusted it off, ironed it and it was fine. I had a wedding present one time that I was so rushed, we were practically out the door and I was dressed to go, and I glued it on the front instead of the back. I used the spray glue and so I had to put it on the glass which is a technique and people do that but it’s crazy. I did a cutting for an ordination of a priest and the child's mother had commissioned me to do it and he tore it in half when it was finished. He was playing with it....children. It not only is knowing that you can do or portray whatever you want to, the hardest by the way is a Tudor House, a Tudor-Style House, because there are so many blank spaces in it. Like, you have the wood, and then the plaster, but there's so much of that. It’s very hard but you can do it [laughs] if you hang in there. You have to think about it and so much of it is done as you're cutting. You just have to have some kind of... it’s wonderful; it’s a wonderful thing to do.

AH:
What happens if, like you said earlier, you were on the last roof, and you cut it improperly? Do you try to make it into something else, or if you've already done it all and you make a mistake like that how to you work that in?

LRJ:
Well, I have had some interesting things. My husband had a student and she commissioned me to do a cutting at St. Andrew's for her parents and then her parents bought a big cutting which I had done and put it on a canvas. I painted the back of the canvas and did curtains blowing, the wind blowing in the curtains and the cat on the sill. She is here in Cooperstown. Now, what happened with the cat, this thing is big, and I had to cut it by taping it on the top to the wall and then I held it out on my lap and cut by holding parts of it because it was just almost straight it was like a lace doily. The cats jumped on it and went down it. Fortunately, they went right down a place where the things were just attached by maybe a forth of an inch or eight of an inch and it still held in one piece. I've had that happen before.

The one the child tore in half, that had to go, you know. I just put it together. I’ve had the two times where I cut out the roof, I did not ask them to take that and they didn't know they were getting it. I cut so much that I could fall asleep, which I often did, and my hands would keep cutting. If I was going in a circle, I would just continue it. I fell asleep one time cutting one, where the name, I wanted the letters all white, but for some reason I fell asleep and when I nodded to I was cutting the insides of the letters out and I have no idea. So I just had to give it to them that way.

I always tried to make it balanced. I had somebody one time, an engineer, who looked at one of my cuttings and said "I can tell you exactly how you planned this and how you did it using all the principles I use to do something –” whatever he designed. It’s probably true because it’s a cross between very exacting and very free-form. I don't worry about making most mistakes, only if like this house, the bottom was clapboard, so to have a great big roof cut out [laughs] it just didn't look right. I can't think of other things, gosh I just haven't really talked about this in so long.

AH:
So with the cuttings, it sounds like you did them over a broad period of time?

LRJ:
Yes, I started, I think when my mother gave me Claudia's book it was 1971. Of course we lived here in New York State until '76. I had some interesting things when I was at St. Andrew's. When I was at Millbrook I did one that was 9 x 12 feet for Creative Playthings. Here we are in this rural school and here comes this huge truck and the lady who commissioned the cutting. I know how she saw it! She saw my work in the gallery in Bedford, New York. I had done some sort of fun cuttings for 1976 with bears all celebrating the 4th of July. So she commissioned me to do this for the store in New York City and, well, this big truck comes driving. She told me she'd get the paper because I didn't have any paper big enough. So she got me photographic back-drop paper. It was red on white, because it was for Christmas, and the only way I figured I could really cut it and make it appropriate for the window was to put a big circle in the center. Then I could sit in the center and cut the thing. I had all these bears doing different things, playing on all the Creative Plaything toys.

We got it down there, we took it down on a Sunday and back then there weren’t many places that were open on Sunday. It was all metal and I didn't think we could hang it. I didn't want to screw it in to the thing, so they had to hire somebody to put it up.

Then they asked me to do their shopping bag, their Christmas bag. And so I do this design and finally David, my husband, was always so wonderful. I’d finish it at like five in the morning and he'd get in and we would rush down to the City or something. I got there and she took the design and she said, "Oh how nice." Then she called me and she said, "Can you do another one right away because I don't think you can see this design from across the street if somebody was carrying the bag." So I quick did another one, because they needed to have it done by a certain time.

I did it, raced it down there, and finally she calls me and she says, "they chose your design."
I said, "What do you mean, they chose my design?"
She says, "Oh yes, this was a competition."
And I think that’s one of the wonderful things about being the master of what you do, just doing it and not having to do it to eat, or not having to do it, just doing what you want. If I had known I was competing, I would have, oh I wouldn't have wanted that much pressure. I mean it’s pressure enough just to do them without making so many mistakes.

One of the last ones I did was a wedding cutting and I put the groom's family tree on the bride's side, and the bride had the groom's family tree. So, they gave that cutting as it was and then I redid it. It was a little different because I had put the names where I wanted, but things like that happen and usually, you know people. I was telling you that I’ve done cuttings for people who cal on the phone and what it takes is two or three hours of asking questions and calling if you have any questions.

AH:
So over the time you were doing these, have you noticed interest in them comes in waves or has it been very steady?


LRJ:
At St. Andrew's it was always steady because everybody in the St. Andrew's family knew that I did it. There was a lady who was absolutely wonderful to me. I had stopped for a couple of years but she had seen something I had done, so she got a store to order 12 foot roll paper so that I could buy it wide, so I could buy it by the foot. She just kept at me.

It was so fun to do a design to enter this show for a Folk Art Museum that was putting on a show of all different kinds of things. That was the first time I had ever done Noah's Ark and I did it on wood. It won one of the big prizes and the museum encased it in Plexiglas. They were really nice about it.

That got me a fair amount of exposure and I had the magazine articles and different things. This is one. So people knew that I did this stuff. This was funny, when they came to do it, of course, it was the night that we had our student holiday party. I'm all dressed, ready to go, my husband is all dressed, ready to go, and all of a sudden this whole photography set-up, get-up, comes with great big lights, and we’re in our dining room, which was tiny, and they're taking all these pictures and I had no idea what was going on. Again, it was something interesting.

This is where I'm cutting that. This was the cover for the Folk Art Museum. I did one that was 4x6 or something like that. Bruce Johnson was the curator of the Folk Art Museum when it used to be on 61st street or something like that. He was so supportive. For some reason, he really, God bless him, was so supportive in wanting me to be able to do things and saying he really enjoyed my work. Unfortunately, he was killed on a motorcycle accident not long after that show.

I think I let my artwork happen to me. I didn't really have goals. I'm not so sure that might be more that even though some of my work isn't very folk-art looking, that that may be the one thing that makes it more naive. I couldn't exhibit as a Folk Artist in Florida. They had a big competition, but they said because I did not learn it at somebody's knee, in other words, somebody didn't teach me how to do it, it evolved, I just never said I couldn't do something. I think that is probably what makes me think of it so fondly, because it satisfied so many of those things. It’s an accomplishment when you finish something that’s very large or even very small and you have over a thousand pieces of information.

I had a lady who wanted me to do a cutting for her 25th wedding anniversary and it was only to have things that were important to her and her family that were happy times. She was very precise. She had, just so much information, and then she would call me up and say to me, "Do you think you could put the owl and the pussycat in the cutting?" and I would say, "Well, I'm not so sure I have the room." But I'd find it. Maybe I have a quarter-inch or so and then I would try to do this little owl and the pussycat. People were pleased because I put things in that they wanted that were meaningful to them.

AH:
Did your children ever want to learn after watching you?

LRJ:
Well, it was really funny, because when your kids are 3 and 4 years old, scissors can make you nervous. I started doing genealogy when I was fairly young, about 18 or so, and I never connected the two but my great-great-grandfather [track 3:] had a sibling that was running with a pair of sheers and it killed him when he fell on it. Nobody ever said anything to me about it, it was just a matter of fact, “Lynn, don't run with the scissors. If you're careful with them, you may use them, put them back when you're through.” So you just never knew. This was the Noah's Ark that I was talking about.

LRJ:
This was a furniture appraiser's cutting for his family. He and his wife sold antique furniture. I want to find that one...well, I can let you look through these if you want.
AH:
But your children never showed an interest in learning?

LRJ:
Oh, I'm sorry!

AH:
That's ok.

LRJ:
Yes, what they used to do is get my little embroidery scissors and I'd all of a sudden hear it was very, very quiet. I'd go and they’d be in their bedroom sitting on the bed with typing paper and cutting boats or different things out. Neither of them actually did any cutting, but our neighbors had a young son who was very artistic and he did some beautiful ones. He wanted to learn and he did learn at my knee, literary. He's now a jewelry designer, a very, very successful jewelry designer in New York. I've taught a fair number of classes.


AH:
What is it like teaching when you yourself learned by doing, you didn't have a teacher?

LRJ:
No. Only what....what was her name, Jubanski. I can't think what her first name was but she has a scissor-cutting book. I never really saw much before. There are very elaborate cuttings here and there, but when I first started there weren't that many people doing it. Claudia had been researching it and doing the history of it and wrote the book and then had some where she paints them. I've tried that but I just never went that direction. She does it as a family, her husband makes things, her son helps her. I've always wanted to have the alter-ego or somebody who does the writing of the letters and the responding and all the other stuff – just let me cut. What was the question?

AH:
Oh, the question was how you would teach other people when you had not been taught yourself.


LRJ:
Oh. It’s very interesting because I literally teach by showing them, because I become a verbal idiot [laughs].

AH:
I'm sure that's not true.

LRJ:
Oh no, really. I’ll go, "now you do the thing like this" and then you show them. I had to have a friend who’s an art teacher come in to explain, we were talking to children and I said, "Will you please come and help because I'm so afraid they're going to ask me questions I can’t answer." That was the first time I ever did it and a child said, "well, how do you know what to make black and what to make white? I mean, how do you do that?" And she, my friend, Judy Krangee, she knew me so well, she knew that I couldn't verbalize it without going around Robin Hood's barn so she explained positive and negative space. What she said to them is, "I don't know how Mrs. Jones knows how to do that, as easily as she does but you..." It’s just very hard to explain. What you do is you do it by showing them. See this one, the negative space, this is actually too busy. It’s a cutting with lots of swirlies and stuff like that and you have to really concentrate and look at it.
When I do a commemorative piece, this is not a commemorative cutting, but when I do a commemorative cutting, there's a central theme. You have to more or less group it and then give it some breathing space around it, which is your negative space, and that emphasizes certain bits of information and things like that. So you use your negative space to define information you're presenting. So I say, I'm going the whole time, "well you know you do it this way with that. You know what I mean with the thingy." [laughs] But I also didn't act really out to lunch. I mean, saying things like, "We start a shape, we contain our design, first we know what we want to say and you take that to its very basic point, and then you think of how you're going to hold it." How are you going to present it, is it going to be “wow in your face?” Or is it going to be “wow in your face” with a lot of little stuff if you look carefully?

You can do a rectangle – I've done all kinds of shapes. Sometimes the shape is just a little string of leaves will hold it or something. Other times there's three or four layers. Often I do things that you'll see. You'll see a lot that are sort of the same. That's because people have seen it and they say they want one just like it. But, of course, they're different things, that right there.

AH:
Oh, it’s a tree. Did you do many 3-D ones like that?

LRJ:
No, this is one, I don't even know where I saw this, but I'm sure I saw a 3-D one of some kind. This I did 20 years ago, maybe, but every Christmas I always make one or two for people and they're fun, but anyway, I'm going to give you these.

AH:
Thank you!

LRJ:
I think there's a picture in here. Oh, you saw that, that's what made me think of it. This was a fun one. This I never met the lady who did but I'd done one for somebody else. That's a good example of where I couldn't have much negative space because she kept telling me she wanted more. It’s a Bar Mitzvah, pretty much all the information comes from the Bar Mitzvah tape that she sent me so that I could know them. And I watched that tape maybe about three times. It was so much fun. It was a wonderful celebration.

AH:
It looks like you learned to do many different fonts for your letterings as well.

LRJ:
Oh yes.

AH:
Was there a method to determining which font to use for one?

LRJ:
No, it was just whether it fit in or not. Here's one. Remember I told you about the lady who said "You're not saying this right." [laughs] It was so funny, she just blasted me. We laughed.

AH:
Did she like your cutting at least?

LRJ:
I don't know, she was so wanting to correct me, I guess I don’t know what else she said. But I tried to be pleasant. I wouldn't not-be. This is the shopping bag.
AH:
That's beautiful.

LRJ:
Here's the Creative Playthings one.

AH:
Wow, this is a store window. My goodness.

LRJ:
I did one for the folk art museum too. That was an interesting thing. I got it all cut out because I had the paper, the white paper. But I didn't have any background put on it. I didn't know what they wanted, and I didn't have any real choice because the paper that the Creative Playthings [cutting] is out of is photographic background paper. And that came rumbling up in that truck and out they pulled just these two rolls of photographic backdrop paper. So they used it for Christmas and then kept it through Easter because the paper, there was so much acid, it was pulp paper so it was real acidy, and it turned yellow and pink. They were able to use it for [the season]. So I always have tried to use acid-free papers, and until recently, actually since I've not been doing it, the last six years, now everything is labeled, whether it’s acid free or not.

AH:
Have you seen any of the ones recently that you made years and years ago?

LRJ:
I've had a few shows. This I made before we went to Florida, so that's 40-some years old. Probably about 36 years old. This one was done in '76, I think. This is just a basket of fruit: my mother wanted some fruit, a basket of fruit, because she'd seen a cutting, so I did that. But those, believe it or not, are about all that I have, except for, well I did some on little boxes, I did cutting.

I've done one of a moth that was cut in half. It was an experiment from a scientist. It had a glass tube connecting the front and the back. That sounds so bazaar. But it was a very important experiment that worked and showed how the digestion… somebody wanted me to commemorate that for her friend, and I did.

LRJ:
This was the only other one that I ever did in black. The one that the museum has in black, and then this one. I've always done them in white, pretty much.

AH:
Well, is there anything else you'd like to talk about today?

LRJ:
Well, you want to know about growing up in Cooperstown?

AH:
Sure!

LRJ:
Is this what it’s all about? I think growing up in Cooperstown is interesting. We were away for 30 years, but yet if I see a classmate or something, I might not recognize them right away because we're coming up on our 50th graduation from Cooperstown High but I'd never forget their names. It’s amazing how that's just something that is so much a part of you, because they're small classes. I think there were 63 in our graduating class, which was 1961.

AH:
Do a lot of them still live in Cooperstown?

LRJ:
Actually, quite a few people do still live in Cooperstown. We have our alumni things that are coming up, our 50th one, in 2011. They're all just as wonderful as they were when we were in high school. I think of them just like what they were in high school, they still look that way to me. The sad thing is that you find out people have lost their spouse or things like that, and that doesn't seem quite right. I think Cooperstown has changed some. When we grew up, my mother worked at the museum, in fact we spent so much time up there.

AH:
The Farmers’ or Fenimore?


LRJ:
She worked at the Farmers’ Museum. I, over time, I was a guide at the Fenimore House, or Art Museum, and I also demonstrated spinning and weaving. That was really quite a family. My husband and I were married in the church.
AH:
Oh! In the chapel?

LRJ:
We weren't the first, but we were the second. We went by ox cart, it was decorated goldenrod, to the tavern, and we had our reception there, our little country dresses, everything was a lot of fun then. Just a note, now, where you think about how weddings cost $20,000, $25,000 my dad said to me as a joke, actually, but I always liked to have a challenge, "I bet you can't do it for $300!" and I said, "Oh yea?" So we had the country wedding, and my to-be sister in law gathered the field flowers from the museum property, so that those were our decorations. The only flowers we bought, I think, were my flowers. I think we had 300 people, we had all the museum people because my husband also worked there, he was the gopher.

Back then, the General Store was Newberry's, where it is now, and you could buy fabric there. Well, whoever used to buy the fabric had the most wonderful taste. They used to buy beautiful corduroys, just liberty-type prints. I bought white pique for my wedding dress and if that didn't work we could use it for kitchen curtains. I was going to see if I could wear my grandmother's wedding dress, but it was too frail. And then we had the little pink liberty-type print. Everybody made their own. It cost me $25 to have my wedding dress made by Mrs. Aunger. I think the fabric was under that. I always felt that you didn't have to do things like everybody else. We made it under $300.

AH:
Congratulations!

LRJ:
My sister's was even less!

I had an Aunt Gladys Butler who for years and years worked as one of the cooks at Cooperstown school. So she made all the hors d’oeuvres for the things. So different people, we encouraged them, to give their special talent. That worked very nice, I so appreciated it.

That was the thing! Lunch at Cooperstown High! They had roast stroganoff, which was roast pork! Loved it! It was so good. They had Sloppy-Joes, which is out of this world! In fact, my Aunt Gladys gave my mother the recipe for 300, they cut it down and made it so it worked. That was just wonderful. I still make it. Everything had a name, you know, the mystery....that's world-wide isn’t it? Kids have names for food. But I can remember standing in the line, waiting to be served, the floor, everything about it. I didn't eat much, because I was pretty skinny. That was a good time.

AH:
Sounds like a wonderful day!

LRJ:
Yes! And when they had your favorites, out of this world! Just out of this world! I remember one year, we had a young lady, for a year, her name was Dee Cavallaro, and that was always a big thing, when people came like that to Cooperstown. As I was telling you, you knew everybody from kindergarten on so when you had somebody come, it was really kind of exciting. Dee Cavallaro 's dad was Carmen Cavallaro, and he was a musician, he sang and played the piano, and that was always a wonderful thing.

There have been some interesting people that have been associated with Cooperstown, like Deborah Harry. That was always just a big exciting thing when you’d have them in town. Now the baseball players on the other hand were the baseball players. My dad was one of those involved at the first hall of fame game, the shrine game as they called it, he was a messenger boy, they called it. He was young; he rode his bicycle back and forth to take messages. I had to go to all the Hall of Fame games with an uncle who was about 50 years older than I was. And he forgot that maybe you might perish in the sun if you didn't get a drink, so it was always an ordeal.

AH:
Well, I think that's all we have time for today, but thank you so much for sharing. It’s been wonderful.

LRJ:
It's been my pleasure. I hope it was of interest.

Duration

30:00
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Bit Rate/Frequency

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Files

Citation

Amy Hollister, “Lynn Richards Jones, November 18, 2010,” CGP Community Stories, accessed November 17, 2018, http://cgpcommunitystories.org/items/show/78.