Mary Hambidge papers

Mary Hambidge papers

Descriptive Summary

Title: Mary Hambidge papers
Creator: Hambidge, Mary, 1885-1973
Inclusive Dates: 1910-2001
Language(s): English
Extent: 17.8 Linear Feet 26 document boxes, 4 oversized boxes, 1 box
Collection Number: ms3265
Repository: Hargrett Library

Collection Description

Historical Note

"Mary Crovatt Hambidge was born in Brunswick in 1885,the daughter of Judge Alfred Crovatt. She was educated in the classics at a finishing school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and moved to New York in her early twenties. She had acting aspirations and was a professional whistler on Broadway at a time when artists of all kinds were featured on the stage. She married Canadian-born Jay Hambidge, an artist, illustrator, and scholar who pioneered the concept of "dynamic symmetry," the linking of nature's symmetry with that of human art objects.

While on a trip to Greece with her husband, Mary Hambidge became intrigued with the village weavers who sheared sheep, spun wool thread, and wove wool garments on a daily basis. She became imbued with the idea of learning to weave, and the craft became her passion. After her husband's sudden death in 1924, Hambidge went to Rabun County, Georgia to weave in a friend's summer home. She wrote that she made contact with women in the mountains whose "looms had been relegated to the attics or the woodpile" but who still "kept their craft knowledge and their native integrity."

Through her benefactor, Eleanor Steele Reese, Hambidge was able to buy nearly 800 acres surrounding a proposed hunting lodge. In 1934 the Jay Hambidge Art Foundation was formally created; it was incorporated ten years later as a nonprofit organization for educational and scientific purposes. Hambidge fostered a group of women, known as the Weavers of Rabun, who grew and sheared sheep, carded and spun wool thread, and created fine woven goods. Hambidge lived in an old dogtrot-style cabin, and the Rock House, a fieldstone-base lodge, served as the weaving house until the Weave Shed, now used as the Hambidge Gallery, was built for the women.

"'The Weavers of Rabun' gained international recognition for the quality and beauty of their fabrics, and a Madison Avenue shop in New York was established as an outlet," where wealthy buyers could purchase these handwoven fabrics, the former center director Mary Nikas Beery wrote in an unpublished history of the center, "The Hambidge Center in the Betty's Creek Community." They were commissioned to outfit U.S. president Harry S. Truman's yacht with their woven fabrics; in 1958 the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., mounted an exhibition of their work. Under Hambidge's leadership "these mountain weavers contributed significantly to the renaissance of handcrafts in America," Beery wrote.

With the industrialization of the 1950s and the availability of steady mill jobs, the weavers slowly disbanded. Hambidge broadened the scope of the center and invited creative artists and friends to come for extended stays there. An original caretaker's house became an artist's home, a studio was added, and other cabins gradually were built, all in secluded spots that allowed for maximum privacy along the mountainsides that line the Betty's Creek valley.

Among the visitors was Eliot Wigginton's father, a landscape architect at the University of Georgia, who often brought his son along with him. Those childhood visits to the Hambidge Center led Wigginton to return to the area as a teacher in 1966. Discussions with other Hambidge guests inspired him to develop the Foxfire program, in which students explored their local and regional heritage for the magazine that they created under Wigginton's guidance.

Before her death on August 29, 1973, Mary Hambidge provided for the board of trustees to take over the center, thus ensuring the continuation of her mission. Through three subsequent artist-directors, the center developed as a community resource for nature and art programs and formally began a residency program, which now has an international reputation."

For more information, see the article Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences in the New Georgia Encyclopedia.

Scope and Content

The collection contains the personal and business papers of Mary Hambidge. These range from her personal correspondence between friends and colleagues to business correspondence directly relating to her work. Much of the collection concerns the Rabun Studios and other financials that Hambidge encountered in her career. There are a significant number of sketches and drawings, both identified and unidentified. Some are from the work Dynamic Symmetry. There is a also a collection of items such as yarn, jewelry, textiles, books, and photographs in this collection.

Organization and Arrangement

The collection is unprocessed but has been roughly sorted by record type.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Mary Hambidge papers, ms3265, Hargrett Rare Book and Manuscript Libraries, the University of Georgia Libraries.

Related Materials and Subjects

Subject Terms

Series Descriptions and Folder Listing


1. Assorted Correspondence

1Correspondence, 1914-1938
2Correspondence, 1940-1971

2. Named Sets of Correspondence

3Correspondence, C-F, 1972-1999
4Correspondence, H-R, 1972-1999
5Correspondence, S, 1972-1999
6R-T and Other Correspondence, 1972-1999
6Exhibits, 1970-1999
7Weaving Correspondence, 1972-1999
7Cloth samples, 1970-1999
8Diaries and calendars, 1960-1999

3. Financials

9Foundation and land plans, 1960-1999
10Rabun Studios information
11Checks, receipts, and royalty accounts, 1930-1999
12Rabun Studios Financial Records, 1940-1949
13Rabun Studios Financial Records, 1940-1959
14Rabun Studios Financial Records, 1940-1969
15Financial Records, 1960-1969

4. Drawings

18Dynamic Symmetry
19Dynamic Symmetry
20Drawings, pictures, and texts about Greek architecture, temples, pottery, statues
21Hambridge sketches, book, photograph

5. Miscellaneous

221Examples of Greek and Pompeian Decorative Work by James Cromar Watt
222Photographs of Greek statues
223La Ceramique Japonaise by G. A. Audsley and James L. Bowes
23La Ceramique Japonaise by G. A. Audsley and James L. Tome 2
24Hambridge Library books
262Photographs and negatives
271-3Undated correspondence
274Jay Hambridge personal info
275Jay Hambridge papers
276Greek items
277McWhinnie, H. J. writings
278Millie Mather
279Frank Coleman
281-2Mary C. Hambridge writings
283Mary C. Hambridge poetry
284Miscellaneous writings
285"Living", February-December 1938
286Mary- adult Bible class
288-11Miscellaneous articles and notes
291News clips, 1920-1929
292News clips, 1930-1939
293News clips, 1940-1949
294News clips, 1950-1959
295News clips, 1960-1969
296News clips, 1970-1979
297News clips, 1980-1989
298News clips, 1990-1999
299News clips
2910News clips- Greece
2913A. B. Maygard typescript, 1963
2914Latimer Lodge stories
301Mary Hambridge school writings, 1900
302-3Mary Hambridge memorial, 1973
304Mary's estate
305Mary- personal
306About Mary
307Elizabeth Walter thesis on Jay Hambridge, 1978
321Calendar, 1959
322University composition book
323Mary's planner, 1910
324Mary's address book
325-6Cassette tapes
33Yarns dyes (4 colors)
33Miscellaneous photographs

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University of Georgia
Athens, GA 30602-1641