Mary Crovatt Hambidge Documentary
About Mary Hambidge
She may be one of the most remarkable southern women you've never heard of.
Born and raised in a prominent south Georgia family, Mary Crovatt Hambidge became a bohemian weaver in New York in the 1920s, then moved to the north Georgia mountains in the 1930s to start a weaving enterprise with local spinners and weavers. Over the next 20 years, she would receive international honors and be invited to show her work at the Smithsonian and the Museum of Modern Art. In the last decade of her life, she focused more on developing a community for artists and craftspeople, which led to the creation of the Hambidge Center, a renowned artist's retreat, in 1973.
One of the defining moments of Mary Hambidge's life was discovering the theory of dynamic symmetry... and falling in love with the man who wrote the book on it.
About the Documentary
Shooting the documentary began in fall 2014 and included interviews with people who either knew Mary Hambidge or have written about her (see list below). Originally planned as a 8-10 minute film, the story kept getting more interesting with more details, resulting in this 30-minute noncommercial documentary. Archival images were graciously donated by Philis Alvic and the Atlanta History Center, which has over 1,100 textile pieces of Mary, as well as her papers. Limited funding was provided by the Hambidge Center and a grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation through the Emory College Center for Creativity & Arts. Music was generously provided by Takénobu (“Moonshine Still”), Lance and April Ledbetter at Dust-to-Digital, and others. Without Jamie Badoud's enthusiastic support at the Hambidge Center, the documentary would have never gotten off the ground.
I really didn't know a warp from a woof when I began this project. I knew just a little bit of Mary's story, and what I thought I knew—she did a whistling act with a mockingbird on vaudeville stages—didn't turn out to be actually true. (She was a trained whistler of classical music AND she had a pet mockingbird named Jimmy.) But the more I learned about her life, the more I saw a woman endlessly fascinated by life, open to everything around her, especially beauty. She adopted the creed of Jay Hambidge's dynamic symmetry, related to the Golden Mean, which continues to fascinate people. She became lifelong friends with the dashing and unconventional Eva Palmer Sikilianos. After Jay's untimely death in 1924, she took his name without any evidence of a legal wedding. Nearing the age of 50 (in the early 1930s), Mary reinvented herself as a homesteader and manager of a crew of weavers and spinners in a very remote Appalachian valley. It was never about making money (anathema to her). It was about living in sync with natural laws and adopting traits from classical Greek culture, which she became devoted to after her short stay there in the early 1920s. She visited friends in New York City during the winter and found someone to drive her to Atlanta once a month to have her flaming red hair touched up. She dressed in her own woven fabrics from her own sheep. In the words of someone who knew her well, "She was quite a gal." I was hooked.
Beginning in January 2017, the documentary is being submitted to film festivals and plans are underway for a screening in Atlanta.
What People Are Saying
With this passionately and lovingly conceptualized documentary, Hal Jacobs revitalizes a woman whose strong dedication many have forgotten. Well done. [Yesho, Writer, Asheville, NC]
The film is wonderful and a much needed addition to our understanding of the era, and I plan to show it to my Early 20th Century Art class tomorrow. [Virginia Gardner Troy, Ph.D, Associate Professor of Art History, Berry College]
Your documentary about Mary Hambidge will give so much insight into the creative spirit that's made the place [Hambidge Center] possible. [Tommye Scanlin, Professor Emerita, University of North Georgia; founding member of Tapestry Weavers South]
Truly a beautiful production, quite moving. [John Burrison, PhD, Regents Professor, Georgia State University; Director, Folklore Curriculum]
An amazing job. You have told a very detailed complex story and made it especially understandable. You packed in an incredible amount of information but still had the major concepts involving Mary's life with balance. [Philis Alvic, Weaver, Author, Weavers of the Southern Highlands]
Interviewees (with links for more info)
Philis Alvic, Weaver & Author of Weavers of the Southern Highlands (University Press of Kentucky, 2003), http://philisalvic.info
Jamie Badoud, Executive Director, Hambidge Center, http://www.hambidge.org
Mary Nikas Beery, Former Executive Director (Courtesy of George Nikas)
Lucinda Bunnen, Photographer and Philanthropist, http://www.lucindabunnen.com
John Burrison, PhD, Director of the Folklore Curriculum, Georgia State University, http://www.georgiaencyclopedia.org/articles/arts-culture/john-burrison-b-1942
Marie Frank, PhD, University of Massachusetts Lowell, Author of Denman Ross and American Design Theory (University Press of New England, 2011)
Jessica Green, Weaver & Homesteader, http://alittleweather.com/
Laurence Holden, Artist, http://www.laurenceholden.info/
Kathryn Kolb, Photographer, http://kathrynkolb.com/
Rosemary Magee, PhD, Director of Rose Library at Emory University, Author of chapter on Mary Hambidge in Georgia Women (UGA Press, 2014)
Susan Neill, Costume and Textiles Historian
Karin Schaller, Weaver
Bob Thomas, Artist/Designer
Aspasia Voulis, Artist (Courtesy of Georgia Tech Living History Program)
Eliot Wigginton, Founder of the Foxfire Project