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"Exploring our common past deepens our understanding of who we are and where we came from, why we believe what we do, what defines us -- as individuals and as nations. The patterns created by the many-colored threads of our stories is a complex tapestry. Sometimes we see only the back, with its confusing tangle of knots, but from time to time we may glimpse the beauty of the design as it was perhaps meant to be seen. I hold to those moments...

“I love the sweep of history on the grand scale -- conflicts, battles, the flowering of the arts, incredible scientific breakthroughs, the rise and fall of great leaders, be they kings or presidents or the most spiritual of humans. But more, I love the stories of the common folk, the diaries and journals that let us see our history through the eyes of a person perhaps more like ourselves than not. What they wore, what they ate, how they entertained themselves, what (and whom) they loved or feared, what they were willing to fight and die for -- that is history on a more human scale, and learning the answers to those questions makes it no longer abstract but our own...”


Through her writing, art, and pottery, Johnson explores history, whether of the courageous men and women who held to their honor against all odds or of the struggles for freedom or knowledge or beauty. Primary documents and the early artists who acted as our eyes aid in that exploration; they are signposts to the past. She has written several books of interest to living historians or interpreters (see Catalog), as well as articles for magazines such as Early American Life, Americana, and Country Living, and finds drawing from the past a lifelong learning experience.

Johnson has researched the use of miniature portraits -- history's precursor to the photograph or snapshot -- and now often finds herself commissioned to capture an ancestor or loved one in this historic form. See examples of her work.

Another historic craft explored by the artist is handbuilt redware pottery. She creates pinchpots in the style of early colonoware and other folk pottery of this continent and abroad, or slab-built pieces using her own press molds -- primarily plates, pie pans, bakers, and flasks.
Slip decoration in the style of the 18th and 19th centuries are of particular interest. She has done demonstrations of these early techniques at Missouri's Fort Osage, and continues to research these forms at museums and historic sites across the nation, including Valley Forge.


Two colors of slip or liquid clay were used to decorate this redware pie pan, pictured at right, with its typical rope border. Decorative as well as functional, redware pieces such as these have been snapped up by collectors and historic sites.

Click on artwork for enlargements.

For more on pottery, click here.

"Reenacting history is a hobby, as well, specifically the 18th and early 19th centuries; she spends much of her reenacting time at Fort Osage National Historic Site in Sibley, Missouri. She also helps the Middle Waters Group present The Grand Fete each fall in Sibley, Missouri.

She is caretaker of three email discussion groups and moderates another, all with an historical focus, and has a small publishing company devoted mostly to subjects of interest to living historians and interpretors. Links below:

Revlist
Historic Fort Osage
Middle Waters Living History Assoc.
18th Century Woman

Click on artwork for enlargements.


Woodstove: Material culture and learning by doing are part of the study of history. Watercolor.



A selection of compasses from Living History; Drawing on the Past, pen and ink and watercolor.



Ste. Genevieve: The back garden of the Bolduc House, pen and ink journal sketch.



The construction of this cabin is typical square-hewn log; preserving all the old cabins is not possible except in art and memory. Watercolor pencil.



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