The Chester Creative Challenge
Almost every spring the Chester Historical Society hosts a Creative Challenge, dipping back into Chester’s roots as a manufacturing town. Area artists, sculptors, photographers, engineers, jewelers, and all others with a creative mind accept the challenge to use artifacts from Chester’s rich manufacturing history to create items for a silent auction and reception to raise funds for the Society. This is just another great example of making history current, the ‘then and now’ that is often part of our exhibits at Chester Museum at The Mill.
The 6th Annual Creative Challenge was held in 2016. This "Sticks Challenge" was based on short manicure sticks (often called "orange sticks" because they were made from citrus wood) that were cut and shaped at the Bishop and Watrous Novelty Works on Maple Street in Chester, probably in the 1950s. This box of miniature "pencils" was created by Karen Carr.
In 2012, the “Square Roots” challenge was based on 2 1/2-inch square aluminum knitting gauges made by the C.J. Bates & Son manufacturing company in the 1950s. They were, after all, a manufacturer of knitting needles and the like, so they had to keep their knitters well supplied with all the tools they needed.
For 2013 we found bone handles that had been made for crochet hooks and flatware by Bishop and Watrous Novelty Works in the 1930s and ’40s. Many area designers and artists were inspired to create “Bone Art.” This necklace and earrings were created by Lori Warner.
Spring 2014 brought the “Unearthed in Chester Challenge,” which was based on flat, rusted iron pieces (looking like a capital letter E), found buried in an early Chester Center property – one of the oldest houses in Chester. This whimsical wall art was made by Jenny Kitsen and Chris Pearson.
"Hooked Again!" was the theme for 2015. As in our first Challenge, we started with hooks from Chester's M.S. Brooks & Sons factory (once operating on Liberty Street). But "Hooked Again!" used assorted sample hooks, handles and hardware that were still enclosed in small sealed manila envelopes. The challenge takers selected three envelopes, not knowing what they'd find. Here's what Jack Baker created (left).