Write to the Point!

A Neighborhood Studios Program at the Mark Twain House

Archive for the tag “Ashaya Nelson”

Twain Studios 2013 Anthology

Anthology cover

This is the cover of the 48-page anthology of work by the Writing Apprentices of Twain Studios. You can see the whole thing by following the link below.

For six weeks in July and August, 2013, a dozen teenagers from diverse backgrounds, different schools and towns, came together as a group at The Mark Twain House & Museum.

This group, the newest of the Neighborhood Studios of the Greater Hartford Arts Council, originated with a great conversation between the arts council and Julia Pistell, who is part of the Mark Twain House communications team.

Led by Master Teaching Artist Jackie Majerus, the teens practiced reporting, interviewing and writing creative non-fiction. They learned about Mark Twain, his Nook Farm neighborhood and neighbors past and present and about each other. Lasting friendships formed. They explored Nook Farm and the state Capitol and learned from an array of guest speakers.

The program was called Write to the Point! and the students, who were writing apprentices, called themselves The Jakes, their shorthand for “Journalism Kids.”

The teens, who ranged from age 14 to 18, worked individually and cooperatively on all sorts of non-fiction writing. They wrote a lot. Most of it is on this blog. Much of their best work was printed in a 48-page anthology – their crowning achievement distributed at their showcase last month, where the youth read their work aloud to an audience of family, friends and others interested in the arts.

Besides the written work, and some artwork of the youth in the studio, the anthology also includes many photographs of these wonderful young people throughout their summer adventure. It is impossible to fully capture a lively group of creative young people on a blog or on a printed page, but this blog, and the anthology, should offer a glimpse into an amazing summer experience.

Thank you for taking time to explore this blog and the anthology.  Comments are welcome, too!

To see the anthology in PDF form, follow this link:

 Twain Studios 2013 Anthology

Guilded Age Included Luxury Fashions

By Ashaya Nelson

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

The Gilded Age following the Civil War, is known for women wearing corsets, so they could have the perfect silhouette, with long heavy skirts. Men’s outfits were set off by spiffy bowler hats.

American author and humorist Mark Twain created the term “Gilded Age.” At the start of this time, the country experienced a rapid increase in the population and growth in the economy.

But Gilded Age fashions were for those who could afford it. The upper-class wore these extravagant costumes.

I believe that clothing at this time was valued more than fashion is today. In the eyes of the people, fashion wore was like art. Women wore luxury fabrics, and dresses were detailed and fitted.

According to Patti Philippon, chief curator at the Mark Twain House & Museum, people wore a variety of outfits for different occasions in the Gilded Age, which ended in 1893 because of the bad economy.

Women would have a different costume for going to an opera, visiting or doing work such as washing clothes.

Fashion even mattered in times of grieving. There were stages to the mourning costume. For mourning or funerals, black dresses with pansies were worn, Philippon said, explaining that pansies were flowers that represented thoughts and remembrance.

Teenage girls had to dress as women in long dresses. The younger girls would wear shorter dresses.           Toddlers and babies – both boys and girls – wore embroidered dresses that were very detailed, Philippon said.

Women would either go to their own seamstress or go to a boutique to get new clothes. The Clemens family bought their clothing from Arnold Constable & Co. in New York. They also sometimes had their clothes made for them.

Olivia, Mark Twain’s wife, had a woman in Paris who created her dresses.

The dresses were so big and bulky; they couldn’t fit into a closet. There also weren’t hangers at this time. So they used wardrobes to store their clothing.

Clothes brushes were use for dusting off dresses. Also in this era, washing machines were not yet invented.

During the winter, everyone wore dark clothing, and in summer, they wore light colored clothing.

Upper class men wore dark suits that Mark Twain called “crows,” but in old age, Twain didn’t follow these customs.

He often wore white wool suits out of season, sometimes with colored socks. Twain called it his “don’tcareadamnsuit.”

In February of 1906, he wore the suit because he knew it would attract attention before testifying about copyright before a Congressional committee.

In a Gilded Age exhibit at the museum, a bicycle and clothing are on display.

Bike importer Colonel Albert A. Pop of Boston created the “Drop Frame.”

It was a safer bike for women that was lowered for skirts. The Divided Skirt and Bloomer Costumes were made for women who rode bikes.

The Divided Skirt looks like a flared skirt, but are actually pants. Bloomers were made for women who wanted to engage in activities.

The bloomers are still worn for athletic purposes, and also for fashion. They’re used for toddlers and infants to cover their diapers.

The accessories, just like the clothing, were interesting. The women wore hair combs, hair jewelry, and extensions.

Hair was weaved and made into jewelry and was given to someone else, symbolizing remembrance and mourning.

Some of the unique fashion of the Gilded Age has been revived today. Women still wear hair extensions and combs. Harem pants were inspired by the style of bloomers.

Fashion shows the evolution of history.

Ashaya Nelson: Ready For Senior Year, In Her Own Way

Ashaya Nelson photo

Ashaya Nelson

By Molly Miller

Writing Apprentice

Twain Studios

Seventeen-year-old Ashaya Nelson dreams of writing about fashion in her favorite city, Madrid, and possibly having an affair on the side with President Barack Obama.

But first, she must make it through her final year of high school at the Metropolitan Learning Center in her hometown, Bloomfield, Conn.

Nelson has been attending the school since sixth grade, and she has mixed emotions about her final year.

“I’m happy, but I’m kind of scared to be a senior,” she said.

What scares her the most? This coming school year, Nelson will complete the dreaded senior project, which includes a presentation in front of a panel of teachers, as well as a service-learning component.

“The seniors tell you that they ask a lot of questions, and I don’t think I’ll be prepared,” she said. “I have a bad memory.”

Nelson has a good idea of what she wants her senior project to be about, though. This past March marked the anniversary of her older brother’s death.  Javon Turner was only 18 years old when he died in a car crash in March 2012.

Now, Nelson wants to use her senior project as an opportunity to educate other students about safe driving. For the service-learning component, she’ll speak to other students about drinking and driving.

Her brother, Nelson said, was drinking and speeding when he drove into the back of a truck.

She’s nervous about presenting her senior project, but she is excited to graduate and move on.

“I do not like my school,” Nelson said. “I am ready to leave.”

Besides being with – and growing tired of – the same classmates for seven years, Nelson is frustrated with the lack of typical high school activities and traditions.

“Other schools have a lot of sports, and they have a homecoming,” she said. “I wish we had what other schools had.”

Part of Nelson’s dislike for her school comes from her passion for fashion. She loves clothes and accessories, especially when they’re from Forever 21.

“It’s youthful,” said Nelson, calling the store’s clothes “different and unique.”

At her school, Nelson isn’t allowed to wear her shirts, blazers, or nude pumps from Forever 21; she is required to wear a uniform.

But that doesn’t mean she dresses like everyone else.

“I’m out of dress code all the time,” she said. “They want us to be simple, but I can’t do that.”

Nelson decorates her uniform with non-regulation shoes, necklaces, headbands, bangles, and scarves.

“I guess I get away with it because I’m not loud about it.”

As much as she loves fashion, she worries that she won’t be able to make a career out of it.

“I feel like [fashion] won’t be useful,” she said. “I feel like it won’t get me anywhere.”

No matter what career Nelson pursues, she will always incorporate fashion into her daily life.

She loves wearing the colors white and blue, and she’s taken inspiration from Mark Twain, whom she has been studying about this summer. “I think I want to be like Mark Twain, and have a white ‘don’t-give-a-damn’ suit.”

If Nelson does become a fashion writer, she’d love to live in Madrid, where she traveled two years ago with her school. She fell in love with the vibe, the people, the architecture, and the sculptures.

It’s easy to picture her living there one day, writing for Elle, and meeting some of her favorite celebrities, including Obama, whom she has a huge crush on.

But for now, she just needs to make it through senior year.

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