The Crankie

Before Christmas, my sister-in-law Gelsey and I embarked on a project. In a year when we didn’t really want more things as Christmas gifts, we decided on an experience instead. Going off her idea, we built our very own crankie.

Now I had never heard of a crankie before, but it quickly developed into an entire world of possibilities. A crankie is a sort of old-fashioned (I prefer traditional) storytelling device, kind of like a tv for those of us without electricity. You start with a long scroll of paper, and create images on it by painting or cutting out forms and gluing them on. This scroll gets rolled up on two cylinders and put in a box with a light source behind. By turning a crank on each cylinder, the paper is passed in front of the light, telling the story within. From the action of cranking comes its name, a crankie.

Folks often tell a story or sing a song to accompany the images, and we chose the music route. We (by which I mean Gelsey) found a perfect song, ripe with imagery. It the story of an incredibly strong pioneering woman in Appalachia, set to the striking shapenote song Fiduccia. It was the work of many days to plan, gather materials, sketch, draw, cut out figures, and build the box for it all to fit in. It was a sort of artistic cross-training, and although it had nothing to do with my usual work as a blacksmith, it was a refreshing break and revival of creativity.

I hope you enjoy the story, the light, and the music, which we present to you all in a relaxed and humble fashion. All the artwork, singing, and design is ours, although inspiration has come from many sources, near and far.

This is the story of Mrs. Whitmore: