Sometimes, being married to the stage takes you to strange places and leaves you with more than just enhanced party skills. Johnny, for example, has always wanted to learn woodworking, creating items such as pens on a lathe. Fortunately, during the past three seasons that he has spent at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire, he had the chance to learn just that.
Previously, I have mentioned our good friends, Scott and Kathy Griffith, and their business, Dragon Eye Creations. The Griffiths have become our extended family, even adopting our polydactyl cat, Stash, when we moved to the DC metro area for my graduate school. Scott especially has become Johnny’s mentor for lathework. Recently, I sat down to chat with the Griffiths during one of my Ren Faire visits.
Interestingly enough, lathework and Kathy’s intricate artwork have not always been the Griffiths’ focus. Scott was a member of the U.S. Navy for six and a half years and began working in a medical lab there. Subsequently, he enrolled in nursing school and became a registered nurse. Kathy studied biochemistry in college. Unlike my husband and myself, neither Griffith set out to have careers in the arts or at Renaissance faires. Chance brought them to their current careers.
Like Johnny, “Papa” Scott always wanted to learn lathework. He began learning this occupation in 1985 at a woodcarving show where Kathy was demonstrating. Kathy is a self-taught artist, naturally gifted to do the intricate artwork adorning many of their products, from Celtic designed swirled around model ships to hand-drawn paintings, to Christmas ornaments depicting various characters in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. She began carving in 1980 and only began her other artwork six years ago.
The business became fulltime after Papa Scott’s leg surgery in 1991. Ten years ago, in 2002, they began vending at the Pennsylvania Renaissance Faire after Tom Roy met them at a market set up at a local high school. They almost completely sold-out on their first Saturday there. For their first two years at faire, they vended from a tent and moved into a permanent building in 2005.
One of the perks of their current line of work is the interesting people and experiences at their vending sites, including the aforementioned PA Renaissance Faire, which they cite as one of their favorite venues. Additionally, their regular customers have become close friends, one experience special to running a small business. Papa Scott’s handcrafted pens are now in countries as far away as France, Russia, China, and Laos.
Other perks include entertaining memories from their longest seasonal venue, the aforementioned Ren Faire. Kathy cites her favorite memory as a past Halloween occurrence there during the children’s trick-or-treating hours. An actor playing a gravedigger was handing out candy shaped like thumbs, fingers, and various G-rated body parts. He told one boy that the thumb belonged to Uncle Fester and asked him to help find the rest of the body. Kathy and Scott happened to have a candy bowl shaped like Uncle Fester’s head, which actually talked. The child got incredibly excited about finding Uncle Fester’s head and shouted to his father, “Now we’re going to find his tummy so he can have some candy, too!”
Other unique memories include making pens from a variety of different materials. Some of his most memorable include pens made from the decommissioned ship the USS Missouri. Wood from this ship was obtained from a friend, a commanding officer on the ship, after it was under construction to turn it into a museum. He has also made pens from the ship the SS Andrea Doria.
Some of his most “unique” pens are a set of about a dozen that he made from walrus oosik. For those of us who are not walrus experts, this is not a name for the walrus’ tusks (though he and Johnny have made pens from different animals’ antlers). Walrus oosik is an actual bone from a walrus’ penis. Obviously, then, it can only be obtained from the males- and only after they are killed. For obvious reasons, it is a rare material. (I suppose, after this revelation, that it is no surprise that the Griffiths have vended at fetish shows before; at such venues, though, it is their floggers, not anything made from oosik, that are the main attractions.)
For the Renaissance Faire, the Griffiths have partnered with Craig Baratz of Sir Launch-a-lot since 2008. Like the Griffiths, Baratz handcrafts his wares. His marshmallow catapults and the Griffiths’ products prove that all ages can find something at their shop.
The Griffiths and Baratz recently partnered together for the greater good this past season. Papa Scott declared that, if his shop was able to raise $3,000 within three weeks for a breast cancer charity, he would shave off his beard. His chin hadn’t been seen in years, so this was a huge venture. (The three-week time limit was given so that his beard would have time to grow back enough for him to resemble Santa Claus for his next big season at Christkindlmarkt, mentioned below).
Fortunately for Johnny and me, one of the benefits of the Griffiths’ business is their frequent contact with actors and, subsequently, their increased attendance at the theatre in general. hey may not be “married to the stage” as we are, but their lives are forever intertwined with numerous theatrical people and entities.
Dragon Eye Creations, located in Lancaster County, PA, can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Since the PA Renaissance Faire has finished for the 2012 season, view their wares on display at Christkindlmarkt (or visit them at faire next season!) The holiday market runs Thursdays through Sundays from November 15 through December 23 (with the exception of Thanksgiving Day) in Bethlehem, PA. It is open between 11 am and 8 pm Mondays through Thursdays and 11 am to 6 pm on Sundays; it is closed on Thanksgiving Day.