Wednesday, October 4, 2023

Meet Jackie Mazzone, Colonial Williamsburg Cooper

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WILLIAMSBURG-Jackie Mazzone, cooper apprentice at Colonial Williamsburg, first became enamored with living history while volunteering at the Strawbery Banke museum in Portsmouth, NH, in the seventh grade.

“I worked for them for four summers doing interpretive camps,” Mazzone said. “My love for interpretation goes way back.”

Mazzone went on to earned a bachelor’s degree in art history at St. John’s University and a master’s degree in decorative arts, design history, and material culture from Bard Graduate Center. She worked as an intern at Colonial Williamsburg for a year and has been involved with the cooper apprenticeship program since May 2022. A cooper is someone who creates buckets and barrels and other round staved containers.

“I knew a bit about what a cooper does from Strawbery Banke, but I had no prior woodworking experience,” she said. “I am literally learning on the job.”

Mazzone is training to build buckets, tubes, hoops, barrels of varying sizes, butter churns, baskets, and other objects.

“We pretty much make anything that you needed to live in the 18th century,” she said. “You can’t get more basic than a bucket. Everybody needed at least one and used them every day. I love seeing my work come to life and telling people about it.”

Colonial Williamsburg currently has three coopers in the trade, with Mazzone being the only female apprentice at the moment. She said there is historic evidence that women worked as coopers during the colonial area.

“Women have always been here,” she said. “I am enjoying what I am doing. It’s been a wonderful environment to work in.”

So far, Mazzone has learned to make buckets of different sizes on her own. She is working her way up to creating a large barrel by herself. In the 18th century, barrels were used as shipping containers and not to store alcohol, which is the more popular use today.

“A cooper was a pretty common trade in the past,” she said. “My goal is to learn to do this the best that I can, and to share the history of what a cooper does. Hopefully I will then be able to train other people who will come after me.”

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