Blacksmithing, soap-making and calligraphy: 20th-century heritage crafts that have been brought into the 21st century at Heritage Lakewood.
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“Our focus, as a site, and by proxy, the programs, is the 20th century,” said Stephen Luebke.
As the museum programs specialist, or just the educator, as he calls himself, Luebke hunts for class ideas and develops and runs them. According to Luebke, the classes have been running for years, ebbing and flowing in funding, but always trying to appeal to many.
A couple of different classes run every month at Belmar Park, what the city calls a “20th-century history park and museum.” Most recently was soap-making.
“The point of cold-press is to look pretty. You have to be patient, but it’s pretty,” Katrina Hoing, the teacher for the soap-making class, said in her January class. As she elaborated throughout, the technique she teaches is cold-press, which allows colorful patterns to be made in the soap bars.
Hoing, a paralegal, has been teaching the class for the last three years and has been making soap herself for the last 10.
“It just kind of became an addiction at some point,” she said.
For the class, she worked with four students making two five-pound batches of scented cherry that would be ready for Valentine’s Day. A mix of coconut, olive oil and almond oil was combined with water and lye and mixed to make something of a pudding consistency.
A small amount was separated and dyed red before pouring the now red and original, yellow-tinged, amount into a mold. Using a bamboo stick, students created swirls and patterns in the mixture.
Because of the cold-press technique, the molds have to sit for 24 hours before Hoing cuts them into bars. After that, she leaves them to sit for another four weeks to allow the chemical reaction of lye turning the oils into soap to finish.
“You can’t wash your hands with olive oil and have clean hands,” Hoing joked.
According to Luebke, most of the classes at the moment have existed for years, with people being hired as others leave — Hoing being one of those people. She stumbled into teaching the course, but the course had already existed before her. People have approached Luebke to make a class though, like the blacksmith.
“Our blacksmithing program is a direct result of him,” said Luebke.
The next blacksmithing class is in March.
“If someone approaches us with an idea, we’ll kind of mull it over, do some research," he continued. "I try to see if it’s possible, run the numbers, see if there’s a market for it, whether that market is saturated — just in the area."
Blacksmithing, he added, fit well into the program’s 20th-century craft focus, and was certainly not competing with any other programs nearby.
For other classes, Luebke has hunted down teachers, like the upcoming youth skateboard deck design class in February. This class, he explained, will be taught by a local graffiti artist that works with the city in other projects.
Luebke also highlighted how he aims for a variation of people in classes. The blacksmithing class, for example, has had students from 16 all the way to 80, he said.
The next class offered will be an introduction to calligraphy, taught on Jan. 21. The full class list can be found on Heritage Lakewood’s website.
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