Mary Hambidge papers

Mary Hambidge papers

Descriptive Summary

Repository: Hargrett Library
Creator: Hambidge, Mary, 1885-1973
Title: Mary Hambidge papers
Dates: 1910-2001
Quantity: 17.8 Linear feet 26 document boxes, 4 oversized boxes, 1 box
Coll. Number: ms3265

Biographical/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where wealthy buyers could purchase these handwoven fabrics, the former center director Mary Nikas Beery wrote in an unpublished history of the center, "The Hambidge Center in the Betty's Creek Community."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." - Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences - (

Scope and Content Note

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.


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

Index Terms

Weaving--Georgia--Rabun County.
Women artists--Georgia.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation note

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

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
Exhibits, 1970-1999
7Weaving Correspondence, 1972-1999
Cloth 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

1918Dynamic Symmtery
OS Box
20Drawings, pictures, and texts about Greek architecture, temples, pottery, statues
OS Box
21Hambridge sketches, book, photograph

5. Miscellaneous

OS BoxItem
221Examples of Greek and Pompeian Decorative Work by James Cromar Watt
2Photographs of Greek statues
3La Ceramique Japonaise by G. A. Audsley and James L. Bowes
OS Box
23La Ceramique Japonaise by G. A. Audsley and James L. Tome 2
24Hambridge Library books
2Photographs and negatives
271-3Undated correspondence
4Jay Hambridge personal info
5Jay Hambridge papers
6Greek items
7McWhinnie, H. J. writings
8Millie Mather
9Frank Coleman
281-2Mary C. Hambridge writings
3Mary C. Hambridge poetry
4Miscellaneous writings
5"Living", February-December 1938
6Mary- adult Bible class
8-11Miscellaneous articles and notes
291News clips, 1920-1929
2News clips, 1930-1939
3News clips, 1940-1949
4News clips, 1950-1959
5News clips, 1960-1969
6News clips, 1970-1979
7News clips, 1980-1989
8News clips, 1990-1999
9News clips
10News clips- Greece
13A. B. Maygard typescript, 1963
14Latimer Lodge stories
301Mary Hambridge school writings, 1900
2-3Mary Hambridge memorial, 1973
4Mary's estate
5Mary- personal
6About Mary
7Elizabeth Walter thesis on Jay Hambridge, 1978
321Calendar, 1959
2University composition book
3Mary's planner, 1910
4Mary's address book
5-6Cassette tapes
33Yarns dyes (4 colors)
Miscellaneous photographs