Off the beaten path and nestled on the shores of where Pepper Creek and the Mobjack meet, Larry and Rosalie Brown have built a flourishing farm out of hard work and dreams. Their white farmhouse rises from the marsh to greet you with all of the charm and humility only found in times gone by. The farmhouse was built around 1895 by one of the Armisteads, a group of brothers who built each other’s homes. It then changed hands to the parents of Paul Blanock, former Commonwealth Attorney, and in 1980 was purchased by the Browns.
A romance story of the truest kind, Larry was serving in the Air Force, stationed in England, when he met Rosalie, a children’s nanny. The two soon fell in love and he whisked her away to the United States, settling in Gloucester and later relocating to Mathews. Rosalie had always dreamed of living on a farm, “Growing up in England, I’d always wanted to be a children’s nanny or a farmer, and I was a children’s nanny for a number of years. When we came here, I just knew I was going to get sheep. My father and mother were alive at that time, dad went with me to get sheep and that just started it.” Having been exposed to the processes of spinning, knitting and weaving in her childhood, the progression to raising sheep for the production of wool was a natural one. For Larry, growing up in Hampton and a self-proclaimed “gear head”, the farm life offered a chance for him to return to his roots, as farming ran in both sides of his family lineage.
From a small dream, blossomed Bentwaters Farm and the promise of a simpler life. The Browns soon evolved from raising Dorset and Hampshire sheep, which are mainly used for meat, to raising sheep for the production of fine wool and wool products, which are handmade and dyed onsite. Over the years, their farm has expanded to include Dwarf Nigerian goats, English Angora rabbits, a bevy of chickens, Guinea hens, quail, a llama and bees.
Their love for their craft is evident, not only in the way they speak about what they do, but also in their passion to pass on their trade, both having taught in one capacity or another. Rosalie teaches a number of classes from dying to felting at The Bay School Community Arts Center, in Mathews and Rosalie and Larry have both done educational presentations at a number of historical sites in Williamsburg in addition to the programming conducted by Colonial Williamsburg.
The Browns have a deep and abiding love and respect for their animals that is apparent when wandering the property. When Rosalie walks among the goats and sheep, she calls each one by name and stops to visit with them for a while, often stopping to play with the young kids.
Bentwaters Farm is a member of the Middle Peninsula Artisan Trail and is open to visitors seeking to experience the hands on process of wool production. For more information or to visit Bentwaters Farm for yourself, visit their website: http://bentwatersfarm.webs.com:
Rita Cutler has been teaching classes at the Bay School since 2002. Her next class, Beginner Rug Hooking , is on Saturday, Feb 11 10am - 3pm. Register early to secure your spot!
Rita has revived the art of primitive and homespun rug hooking. She is the owner of the Primitively Hooked Studio in Mathews County. Rita combines traditional and new motifs with unique and striking color schemes.
A few questions to Rita:
What made you start teaching?
I love working with my hands and I love color and texture. Therefore the art of rug hooking has always appealed to me. I searched for someone who could teach me this old craft/art for many years while living in Va. Beach and continued the search when we moved to Mathews 20 years ago. Finally my persistence paid off and I have been hooking now for 18 or so years. When Wendy Wells approached me about teaching hooking at the Bay School I immediately said yes! I felt it was a small step in saving this beautiful old craft.
What do you get out of teaching?
I love teaching because again it helps to carry on the craft and I love seeing what my students will create. Each piece is always unique and I love seeing each persons take on it. At the end of the day I love walking away knowing that there are a group of new hookers out there!
Janet Griffin will be teaching how to Construct a Felted Animal on Saturday, March 19 9am - 12:30pm. In this class the students will manipulate wool yarn and silk fibers to build an animal of their choice.
Janet is a retired art specialist from Gloucester County Public Schools. She taught in Hampton City Schools before staying at Petsworth elementary School for the last 25 years. She continues to be a guest teacher at other Gloucester Elementary schools. She certainly enjoyed her teaching of art to young children and has always been amazed how children can teach her! Now she looks forward to learning from adults. She grew-up in a military family, so everything was organized! Janet graduated from Old Dominion University, Magna cum laude, (that means she worked very hard and had no social life).
Janet's own artistic work is tapestry weaving, balanced between the 60” Macomber and 30” Leclerc looms. Her favorite weaving is Theo Moorman’s tapestry technique. Janet lives in Gloucester Courthouse with her husband Jim and two crazy cats.
A few questions to Janet
What made you start teaching?
I knew I wanted to teach from the time I was a little girl. I was one of the first children in the brand new kindergarten program in Germany way back in 1959. Perhaps some of that is from bossing my younger brother around. As a eight-year-old I can certainly remember playing school with my childhood friends.
What do you get out of teaching?
Yes it's Joy. Yes it's sharing of knowledge. Yes it's knowing that my students are learning a new thing. That would be the case in young or older students, as in adults.
Tell me something people would be surprised to find out about you.
I was the first person in my family ever to go to college and graduate. My dad did go and take college classes while he was in the military, however he never achieved a degree. So the surprising thing here might be that I have dyslexia. It's a mild form where I see a lot of things backwards, or even say a lot of things in reverse of what I am thinking.