Crankies are an old homespun form of storytelling. Some were told, some were sung. Illustrated scrolls go back hundreds of years and in the 1960s Bread and Puppet Theatre made the crankie a popular folk art. I love the combination of songs and images. Click on the images to watch and listen, and scroll down for more about crankies and a workshop in Alaska!

homespun storytelling set to music

Miner’s Pay is the first crankie of a collection of eight family stories made into songs. I call it, “Right As Rain, Tales of Times Gone By.” My mom was the eldest of three western Pennsylvania coal miner’s daughters. Her stories are the legacy of a woman raised with a belief that family is everything. This crankie was made on Tyvek using black contact paper, India ink, sharpie marker, Lamp black watercolor and shadow puppets lit from behind.

homespun storytelling set to music

Farewell Angelina was my first crankie, made with applique fabrics and front lit. The song was written by Bob Dylan in 1965. It highlights the contrast between the love of two people and the lunacy of the world around us. Permission to illustrate this song given by Special Rider Music, 1994.

homespun storytelling set to music

The Farmer Feeds Us All, a fabric, front lit crankie is a nod to “The Farmer Is The Man”, a folk song from the 1880s when farmers began to organize the Farmers Alliance. Pete Seeger made this song popular in 1956 with his belief of music as social reform. This goes out to all my farmer friends, male and female and their families.

homespun storytelling set to music

Wind and Rain is a Child Ballad dating back to 1656. There are hundreds of versions of this song about two sisters. Oh, the dreadful wind and rain! To tell this story I used a fabric crankie, backlit with shadow puppets.

I built my crankie frame with encouragement from The

Alaska City Folk Arts Camp is a long standing tradition in Anchorage, Alaska run by Mary Schallert, a music teacher who single handedly produced many brilliant musicians. One year I held a crankie workshop to combine the art classes with the music so the artists had a chance to be on stage for the final performance.

The Alaska City Folk Arts Crankie Workshop with Sahara

We created Fox in the Henhouse in fabric with the older kids and the help of parent volunteers. “Cindy,” “Stewball,” and “Oh Susanna” were inked on paper by the younger artists. The kids performed the music with the help of a few musical mentors. Jack Dwyer is the songwriter for Fox in the Henhouse and here he is performing it with the kids.

Watch the video here!