Have I mentioned before how long it takes me to get around to things these days? I finally got my winter studio up and running and it is what, March? I’ll just have things rolling along nicely and it will be time to move it all back out to the barn loft. Sigh. I have a thousand ideas for paintings but got a little side-tracked by designing a logo for tags to use on the craft items I am producing (Crafts?…more on those later; I have a surplus as I can only really justify watching TV while I am knitting. Needless to say, I have done a lot of knitting this winter).
It took a while to come up with a logo. For a while there I had the whole family involved in creating and choosing a name. There was The Button Box, The Garrett, Newfangled (my second choice), Nine Saved Stitches and so many more I don’t recall. In the end I decided to name my little enterprise Store Loft Crafts.
A store loft in Newfoundland didn’t used to mean a place where you go to buy things. That would have been called a shop. A store was the building fishermen used to store their fishing gear. If it was two stories, the downstairs would be the store and the upper floor would be the store loft (always both words used, never just “the loft”) That was where repairs were done to fishing nets. Sometimes it also housed the carpenter shop. Stores were clapboarded buildings and, if painted, it would have been with oil tinted with red ochre (my coloured pencils has this colour as Indian Red), and occasionally yellow ochre (current paint colour is known as dory buff). They were located by the wharf for convenience and often one side would be built right on the bank while the other was out over the water on shores (poles) with the wharf attached.
How brazen is it of me to name a craft enterprise after a place that was purely a man’s world? Not so many years ago the Missus wouldn’t have had anything to do with the store loft. It was a dim, dreary space built of rough wood and the windows were likely only clean, at least on the outside, the day they were installed. If they were rinsed occasionally by rain beating in on the prevailing winds they would likely be left with a good coating of salt. The only colours to be seen would have been a stripe in an old abandoned mitten or a faded plaid shirt cut up for rags. It smelled of salt fish, linnet, pine tar, linseed oil, kerosene and old bilge (just writing those smells wakes up my limbic system and makes me pine for home). A woman’s world back then had pretty curtains, clean windows, and the lamp chimneys as clear as, well, glass. It would have smelled of Sunlight soap, fresh baked bread and the lanolin in the sheep’s wool. That’s not to say that there weren’t parallels. In the store loft men knit nets (learning to do this is on my bucket list) while in the kitchen the women knit vamps and cuffs and guernseys (socks, mitts and sweaters). The men knotted mats and fenders while the women hooked floor mats and I don’t know, did they do macramé for plant hangers back then? The men twisted hemp for caulking while their wives spun sheep’s wool. Both men and women alike spun yarns (told tales) while the kettle boiled, his with pine tar for the linnet, hers for a good strong cup of black tea or for wash water. So the Store Loft was a place of now dying arts and handiwork, a winter place to work, where hands were never idle.
The first reference I ever heard to a store loft was when I was very young and we were coming over the hill towards Grammy’s house. Mom pointed down the hill towards the government wharf and said “That’s where your father was born, down there in the store loft”. I had trouble finding anyone else who recalled the story but word had it that Grammy was very nervous about having her first child (no wonder; two of her husband’s children by his first wife died in childhood and a third died at age 22) and had Grandfather called home from the summer fishery to be at her side. How they ended up at the store loft in Pilley’s Island no one knows but it always reminded me of the story of Jesus in the stable; I had visions of baby Dad in a puncheon tub lined with fluffy caulking bat, his parents sitting on upturned galvanized buckets, the store cats looking on.
Later on when Mom and Dad were first married they lived in Grandfather’s store loft while Dad built our first home. I remember looking at the building down over the bank and wondering at how they got in and out. It was in a state of decay by then and there was an upstairs door with no stairs. Trying to find pictures of this I got off on a huge tangent, looking at old pictures of my family, census records for Pilley’s Island, and trying to collect stories from my family. It has been days since I knit a stitch.
Hmmm, I might have to get a little more ochre in that yellow.
©Judy Parsons 2014