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.
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.