Celebrating the Bicentennial: Crafting the Old Ways

This is the second installment in our series about the United States Information Agency’s Young Film Maker Bicentennial Grant Films. In the previous post, we told you about the program and featured a trippy animated short. Today we have Sharon and Thomas Hudgins’ film Homespun and Stephen Rivkin’s Winter Count, both completed in 1975.


When the Young Film Maker Bicentennial grants were announced, Sharon Hudgins proposed a film about handweaving. She had completed an internship with the USIA in the summer of 1968, so she was aware of the type of films the agency would want, and she had been weaving for some time. With the grant, Hudgins could pursue her interests in filmmaking and handweaving simultaneously while she completed her Master’s project for the University of Texas-Austin Motion Picture and Television School.

Homespun, which was filmed by Thomas Hudgins at a historic plantation in South Carolina and the Hambidge Center for Creative Arts and Sciences in northern Georgia, covers the handweaving process from shearing the sheep, washing, carding, spinning, and dyeing the wool, to weaving on the loom. The soundtrack features the voices of women who work the wool and traditional songs arranged and performed by Edith Card.

Stills from Homespun (Local Identifier: 306.7151).

A few years after Sharon and Thomas Hudgins completed Homespun, Sharon used leftover material—unexposed film, outtakes, tape recordings, and wool that was featured in the film—to create a woven art piece on a three feet by four feet wooden frame.

Sharon and Thomas Hudgins taught film, economics, and political science in Europe and Asia for the University of Maryland University College for two decades.

Winter Count

Winter Count, made by Stephen Rivkin while a student at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design, is about the Plains tribes’ tradition of creating a pictographic history of their people, with a symbol representing each year. The film features an interview with Lydia Fire Thunder Bluebird of the Oglala Sioux (Lakota) describing the significance of the winter count kept by her great-uncle, Moses Red Horse Owner.

In the interview, Fire Thunder Bluebird explains, “The winter count could only be understood by the one who put it down. When he would look at this symbol, he would remember many things from that year. With this, he could keep record of things that happened in our tribe.”

Lydia Fire Thunder Bluebird holds up the buffalo hide winter count kept by her great-uncle, Moses Red Horse Owner, and sister Angelique Fire Thunder. (Still from Winter Count, Local Identifier: 306.10034)

After Moses Red Horse Owner died, Fire Thunder Bluebird’s sister, Angelique, took over the winter count. Red Horse Owner’s winter count was published as a book in 1969.

Stephen Rivkin went on to become an editor on dozens of Hollywood films.

Many thanks to Sharon Hudgins and Stephen Rivkin, who graciously answered questions about the making of their films.