Haley Rayburn

I get an immediate sense of comfort from the ceramic decorations of Sara Galner. As a member of the Saturday Evening Girls, an early 20th-century social club for young immigrant women in Boston, Galner worked at the Paul Revere Pottery, helping define its visual style with her whimsical designs. The MFA has a large collection of Galner’s works, including a bowl adorned with geese, a tea caddy featuring a rural cottage and trees, and a child’s bowl inspired by “The Tortoise and the Hare.” Galner didn’t just craft a distinctive aesthetic, though—along with other members of the Paul Revere Pottery and Saturday Evening Girls, she helped forge a community.

The Paul Revere Pottery, along with the other groups, events, and activities that grew out of the Saturday Evening Girls club, aimed to offer young immigrant women in Boston a stimulating educational environment and prevent them from getting into trouble. Although that’s a noble aim, I love to think about another positive result of the group—it provided its members income, confidence, and independence.

A ceramic tea caddy decorated with a country shack surrounded by trees.
Paul Revere Pottery of the Saturday Evening Girls club, decorated by Sara Galner, tea caddy, 1914. Earthenware with glaze. Gift of Dr. David L. Bloom and family in honor of his mother, Sara Galner Bloom. Reproduced with permission.

At the start of the pandemic and throughout 2020, I saw my family members, friends, and even work colleagues pick up crafting as a way to channel nervous energies and create beauty in the midst of so much uncertainty. As for myself, I returned to knitting, my childhood hobby. Even though I couldn’t meet up with people physically, I could still connect with my fellow crafters through social media and video calls, creating a sense of solidarity. There’s something so satisfying about crafting and creating. It helps me feel productive no matter what else I may be doing—whether it’s listening to music or podcasts, or chatting with friends and family. I feel like I’ve accomplished something even if I make a mistake and end up having to unravel a work in progress.

Young women spent most of their time at home in the early 1900s, a situation many of us can likely relate to as we approach year three of living with COVID. Especially now, when social distancing continues to keep us apart from one another, I admire artists like Sara Galner because I can see how she created a community through her artistic practice. That’s something I strive to emulate when I knit—community you can feel even when you’re physically isolated.

See ceramics by Sara Galner and the Paul Revere Pottery in the Arts and Crafts in America Gallery, 222.

Author

Haley Rayburn is a Database Marketing associate at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.