With & Stones concept goes back to the 1980s when the two of us were hired to develop a theme park concept based on Pre-industrial Europe. When the company decided to go in another direction, we took some of what we had learned to open a physical shop in Reeds Spring MO. It was the concept of my late Wife Jan It served as her art gallery, but also had foods, music, antiques, and handcrafts all based on rural Britton. Its isolated location did not serve well, but the idea blossomed in her mind of doing an Online Village Fair, with craftsmen and entertainers all working together. This was the early days of the internet, and at the time was beyond out technical and financial reach. Now the world and I have caught up to each other, and several years ago Jan and I planned to finally make her dream a reality as stories, songs, art, and community combined. Then she unexpectedly died, leaving me to fulfill her dream. There is a limited amount of art some of which is down the page, that she planed as illustrations of the town, and one story she wrote. I continue to set myself in her dream and to make the village the reality she always saw. I invite you to come and enjoy the fruition of these 40 years of dreaming.
Withe & Stone is admittedly an unusual name, but it rolls off the tongue like a line from some ancient poem.
Withe is an old English word driving from an even older Danish word meaning willow. With the branches woven into what later became known as wicker, and used for baskets, fences, in fields, for timber frame homes, ceremonial figures, and can be woven while still planted forming living fences and sculptures.
Willow is one of the sacred trees of old and we honor them as such. In the Old Stone Age tombs, bodies were buried with flints shipped to resemble willow leaves. The Willow stands for comfort in serenity and solitude, the tree which Orpheus touched in the garden of Persephone which granted him the gift of poetry. It is the wood for scrying bowls, water dousers, and ease from resentment and bitterness. It is the symbol of all crafters and is the tree of the white goddess the feminine.
Stone is what it says, not random rocks or pebbles, though these are made of such, but stone, the heart of the mountain, the foundation upon which we build. Stone appears unyielding, barring the chisel and hammer, yet wind and rain over gentle time scope to the stone we see in the Moors and Fields, seashores, and mountains into shapes of subtle beauty. It is the stone of ancient circles that radiate the earth energy out into the surrounding fields. subtle vibrations which helped the plants grow, the masculine in the feminine landscape silent witness to ages past.
Together the withe and the stone make up our village, the ancient foundations, the green and vibrant creativity. The older earth magic and that which draws down the Sun and Moon to connect us with the universe. This is the symbol of the balance we seek.
Our village lives just around the corner from everyday existence in a wide valley that many people dream about but can never seem to find it on a map. It is an idyllic place that exists in an age that considers idealism unrealistic, but we can assure you that it is as real as your highest aspirations. It is a small village as villages go but it is filled with poets and artisan’s craftsman philosophers and dreamers and as such it is a vast and infinite place and its variety and scope.
All of us here strive for simplicity and freshness in our lives, that is not to say that we don’t value our history or legends, or that we are austere. Certainly not. I dare say there is not a wooden beam in town that has not been carved, inset, or otherwise decorated. It is simplicity in our lives that is important to us this means we see art and creativity as communication, a chance to share, rather than a financial incentive for excess.
Excess is not simple. It requires a great deal of energy to maintain and acquire. excess is an isolating experience, and isolation is the antithesis of community. It is in our sharing of art with each other that we seek freshness in every new day is opportunities to learn and grow.
Our village is a living and growing entity with its own spirit made up of all the dreams and all the love we exude. We cultivate peace and beauty and seek a hands-on relationship with our town. Many hands are at work here, driven by many hearts.
Even though we are relaxed in our attitude and demeanor, we are seldom idle. There are always people about. The shops are tended, window boxes watered, walkway swept, buildings are mended, stories are written, and art is brought forth. We are inspired by nature and the wheel of the seasons. It surrounds us and is an integral part of our daily lives. All through the village and the fields and the woodlands about us, flowers and shrubs grace us with color and fragrance. Herbs and vegetables grow in almost every yard. Fruit grows not only in the orchards but all through the town mingled with nut trees. The hedgerows along the lanes give a bounty of berries for the animals as well as our selves. Fields of green ripple like waves in the afternoon Sun, and geese and ducks swim in the ponds of the farmhouses. They call it seems to the chickens who cluck about in the kitchen gardens of a little crofters’ houses.
Up in the high fields are cows and sheep and goats well the pigs’ root through the woods and in the Autumn are let into the orchards to feed themselves on windfall apples.
All through the country valley, this bounty is loaded up in wagons pulled by great shire horses who trundle down to the town at a leisurely pace. At the center of our town is the green. On market days the green is filled with the products of many of our citizens, many who work in their homes and for which this market is their showroom. And what a showroom it is. Stalls are erected on the grass and in the shade of the trees were the whole village can barter under fluttering colorful flags. The farmers come forth with eggs and cheese, fruits, vegetables from backyards and front come cut flowers in buckets of heady smells and rainbows of color. Craftsman with toys & pots and leather and iron chat with painters, carvers, and sculptors. Cottage makers of soaps, candles, dyed wool, and lace proudly display their goods.
The most common commodity and the most welcome is that which is given freely by all. Laughter, that sweet exuberant sound that carries from every corner of the market, from children playing, friends sharing their experiences, and the old boy’s trading friendly jibes. All this is punctuated by music played on bombards, fiddles and tabor’s, string drums and harps, dulcimers, and psalteries, and the most glorious of all instruments, the voice.
On any given day song float through the village from numerous sources. The copsers in the woods singing as they dress down wood to make tables and chairs. In the spring and fall teams at planting and harvest walking through the field in rhythmic perceptions. Bagpipes waft on the breeze from some high pasture. At the market, it all burst forth with a joyful exuberance that sets feet to dancing.
Music and laughter. Yes, that’s what best explains the foundation of our village. That is the stone, humming with vibrations that radiate out into the countryside and beyond dancing in a symbiotic circle with the fresh green magic of the withe of creativity, camaraderie, and the simple joys of each new day.
Images of our Village:
My late wife Jan Goldsberry, (who really founded our town), painted may picture of the place she wanted to live. They are the template for this idea. Here are a few of my favorites.