(guest artist with Rosey Bolte)
Fine brooms and objets d’art
Broom maker Brian Newton is completely smitten by history.
“I love the early ways in which things were made,” he says.
Brian makes historically accurate reproductions of old brooms, and interprets the old methods into fantastical, imaginative contemporary ones.
Like most trades lost to the modern world, a broom maker must teach himself the craft, by doing it.
“It simply takes time,” Brian says. “And you can’t fake that time. There are no shortcuts. Your hands can neither read, see nor hear. And it’s your hands that learn the work.”
Your household broom might not look like much, but it has a rich history going back thousands of years. While today’s brooms are largely mass-produced by machines, they were once constructed by hand, each one unique.
A small number of craftsmen keep the historic art of broom making alive and vibrant. Brian Newton, of Broomcorn Johnny’s, is one of them.
Brian uses tools from the late 19th and early 20th centuries to create high-quality, long-lasting and beautiful brooms.
As a former design engineer, he appreciates the elegance of the many processes involved.
“I’m interested in the way in which the fiber lends itself to color and shape and its limitless possibilities for innovation and expression,” he says.
Brian works alone, and in silence. There is a natural rhythm in his studio, the slow tink, tink, tink of ancient steel chain and the soft sighs of wood and wire.
“I hear the sound of my dye vats as they heat and have learned to tell their temperatures by the sounds they make,” he says.
Brian likes to begin working in the earliest hours of the day, when the world is fresh and new.
“Listening purposefully allows me to ‘see’ new ideas and designs,” he adds.
Brian draws inspiration for his brooms from the gentle smiles of strangers, from the sound of rain, or a pretty bird.
“My brooms are how I see the world,” he says, “the way in which I move within it and how I wish to be in it.”
Brian uses color and shape to express how he feels about the world.
“Some days I remember sunsets in Arizona and try to recreate them,” he explains. “Other days I imagine what the rich, lush, emerald green coat of an Irish Queen might look like.”
Brian has shown his brooms everywhere from one-stoplight towns to the White House, and from the sets of major motion pictures to the beds of tired old pickup trucks.
“Through all that and whatever else may happen,” he says, “I’m still just a broom maker.”