The Melody of Hiraeth: Celebrating West Virginia’s Makers

Hiraeth is a Celtic word that evades translation. It is the ache, the longing, the belonging of a place that unceasingly whispers our name, a place that claims us. Our spiritual home.

West Virginia is my ancestral home. The hiraeth that beckoned my fifth great grandfather to the western frontier of the American Colonies has anchored nine generations of my family. Through the French and Indian War, the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and into statehood, my forebears carved out their lives amid the ribbons of valleys and mountains that lace our landscape.

Years ago, decades now — I staked my claim in these hills as a business owner. Women who lead production companies are rather oddities still today, imagine 36 years ago when MotionMasters was formed. And formed, no less, far from the production hubs of New York or L.A.

Since 1987—today, that dash has been filled with a tapestry of stories. We’ve produced a number of documentaries about the history of our people and the forces that forged our state. You may have seen them on West Virginia Public Broadcasting. We rolled out one of our titles on a European tour, with broadcasts in Sweden, Switzerland, Spain and Poland, to date. “Outlier: the story of Katherine Johnson” was a multi-year effort that began before the release, and subsequent fame, of “Hidden Figures.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the watch. You can find on Amazon Prime.

In the fall of 2021, we released “Treason Island: The Blennerhassetts and Aaron Burr.” The hauntingly beautiful, yet sad tale, was produced during the height of the pandemic, to wide acclaim. It has now been picked up by PBS stations nationwide and can also be watched on AmazonPrime.

As a maker of films about our state, and a gospeler of entrepreneurship, I am drawn to stories of those who make their living inventing, designing, creating, building, shaping and producing items “made in West Virginia.”

Our latest endeavor, “West Virginia Makes” will be a television/social media project showcasing the best of West Virginia. Designed as a multi-episode series which will initially air on WV Public Broadcasting, “West Virginia Makes” falls squarely into an area of personal, and professional, interest. It is in my marrow.

To produce “WV Makes,” we will travel the nooks and crannies of West Virginia to showcase the astonishing assortment of handcrafted and manufactured goods that are made here. The list of companies and crafts that could be spotlighted in this series is far too many to fit into one, hour-long documentary which is why this project is designed to be broadcast as multiple episodes, each an hour in length.

Iconic crafts such as wood, pottery, quilts, etc., will be profiled along with iconic manufacturers, artisanal foods and agri-businesses. Not just finished goods, but component parts, used in industrial sectors such as aerospace, will be featured as well.

Likely segments include Homer Laughlin’s Fiestaware, J.Q. Dickinson Salt, Mister B’s Potato Chips, Blenko Glass and Marble King. These will be interwoven with stories about home-grown successes such as luxury leather goods maker Morgan Rhea, West Virginia Great Barrel Company, Bear Wood Company, Alcon Manufacturing, and many more. Micro businesses and cottage industries will also be showcased.

In short, there’s an abundance of stories to be told! In addition to giving viewers a behind-the-scenes glimpse into some iconic brands that are familiar, the goal will be to wow viewers with unusual or unique stories they don’t know about, from all geographic areas of the state. You can help us tell that story! Send your story ideas to [email protected]. If you’re interested in supporting the project with a tax-deductible donation, checks can be mailed to the Discover the Real WV Foundation, Inc., 405 Capitol Street, Suite 512, Charleston, WV 25301. Checks should be made payable to: DRWV Foundation – WV Makes.

And, always, support the makers whose hearts hear the hiraeth song of these hills and choose to create in this place we call home.

More details about the project can be found at Watch the trailer here

About The Author

Diana Sole has been weaving tapestries of words and video for several decades. A Weirton native, she has produced thousands of hours of award-winning productions designed to educate and motivate. In addition to her work for corporate and non-profit clients, her company’s productions can be seen on Public Broadcasting, FidoTV Network and AmazonPrime.

Her community leadership has earned her accolades such as the State Journal’s Who’s Who in West Virginia Business award and the prestigious Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year award. Junior Achievement presented her with a Laureate award and selected her for membership in its Business Hall of Fame.

​Diana’s first degree, which she refers to as her left-brained degree, was a B.A. in Journalism. Years after owning her own business, she decided a right-brained degree (M.B.A) might come in handy, too. Both degrees are from Marshall University.

She can be reached at [email protected] or 304-345-8800.