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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Let us honor Phillis Wheatley, 1753-1784


On the last day of Black History Month I want to share the story of Phillis Wheatley who I learned about from my niece yesterday.  Wheatley was kidnapped in Gambia at age 8 and by age 9 had been sold on the slavery block in Boston to a man named John Wheatley.  He named her Phillis after the ship that brought her to the Americas.  Phillis became the servant of his wife and she and his daughter taught Phillis to read and write, such that she was fully literate within a few years.  At fourteen she published her first poem and by the age of twenty had published a volume of poetry--she was the first African-American and second woman in the colonies to author a book.  It was published in England as the Boston publishers refused to have anything to do with her.  Even worse, she had to go to trial in Massachusetts and prove that she really was the author of the poems being read and lauded by the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Voltaire and others.

By the end of her twenties she was emancipated upon the death of her master, Wheatley, and she married a free black grocer who was eventually sent to debtor's prison.  She died in poverty and ill-health working as a scullery maid at age 31.  Her infant daughter died a few hours later. 

You can download a volume of her poetry at the Gutenburg Project.  Here is a poem inspired by her story:

Phillis Wheatley

Held back by iron
Bars of white
'Twas with a pen
That she did fight

She stuck her fingers
Through the cracks
The words shone bright
Though skin be black

O such tales of gore and grace
Bubbled out from deep within
Where people can't be judged
By the color of their skin

Holding on to the dreams
Of courage and laughter
She was remembered
For eons after

She built elegant wings
By brick
By brick

by Kate W. (age 10)

Statue of  Phillis Wheatley on Commonwealth Ave., Boston

Saturday, February 27, 2010

William Morris meets my artistic Aunt....

Result:  more pretty dresses!



I'm liking the winter outfit.   It might be time to order some fabric and fire up the sewing machine.  You can see more of Anne's work here.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Winter dreams and pretty dresses....

Today my "ant" Anne sent me the this pic, made from a photo I sent her in December and inspiration from the Snowflake Bentley post (can you see the little buddhas in the snowflakes?).  If it looks familiar it is....I will name these the "valentine series".   Anne suggested that I should turn my sights to designing house dresses made from William Morris fabrics (and also here)----how could the NYT style section not love that?  While fashion has never been my strong suit, I was reminded of a picture I took last year of myself and my friend Julia....


Julia has many pretty dresses....I love this pic of her matching the table cloth and the house-warming gifts she brought.

topping up leaky radiator in another sweet dress.....

continued experimentation on perfect macaroon recipe in another....

which of course provides actual real reason to wield machete -- always a good thing.

The wind and rain is howling outside.....I feel my seasonal affective disorder acting up!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Struwwelpeter and other sweet bedtime stories....

the cats cried!!!

the hare's revenge

the horror, the horror....

into the drink...

Shock-headed Peter...

stop your fidgeting!

I wonder if William Morris ever read Struwwelpeter to his two girls?  This German book, a family favorite during my childhood, was first published in English translation in 1848.  Did Jenny and May Morris pore over the pictures of poor Pauline who burnt herself into a tiny pile of ashes after playing with matches?  Or those of Little-Suck-a-Thumb who had his thumbs lopped of by the great-long-legged scissors man?  I can imagine Morris reading these stories with his booming dramatic voice (which I know he must have had!).

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Morris wallpaper in real life....

Here are the Morris & Co. wallpaper books from my local hole-in-the-wall paint and paper store, Waltham Wallpaper and Paint.  They currently have six volumes and a new one is published by Sanderson each year.  You can tell from the duct tape they get a lot of use.  A double roll of Morris paper costs about $140 dollars and the books also include lots of matching fabrics.


I used Fruit in a small first floor bathroom in my last house.  Trim and beadboard wainscotting on lower half of room was painted Benjamin Moore Corinthian White.


This is Acorn (picture is from the wallpaper book).  I have always wanted to do a room with this pattern -- I love its subtlety.

 Acorn (detail)

Two more book accent wall approach.


Golden Lily (remember the dumpster?!)

Chrysanthemum in my dining room


Trim Benjamin Moore 925 semigloss, wall below chair rail C2 Outback in eggshell.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The dark side of the moon...

A map from the United States Geologic Survey. It reminds me of a Jackson Pollack painting.

Friday, February 19, 2010

The Morris Room, Victorian & Albert Museum





A collaboration between William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, and Philip Webb completed in the 1860's.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Plants for Sale....some quite old....

Many shops try to be "precious" and "retro-cool" and then some just are.....

 The center koi pond....with fountain and reeds in rear...



The brick arch originally connected the Lyman Estate pleasure gardens with the kitchen gardens.  Now it connects the older and the less old wings of the greenhouse.



the all important info sheet drawers....

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Two hundred years of mid-winter bliss...

Last weekend I stopped by the historic Lyman Estate Greenhouses in Waltham, Massachusetts. This is one of the oldest greenhouses in the nation, built by Boston merchant Theodore Lyman in 1793. It is a working greenhouse maintained by the Society for the Preservation of New England Antiquities and every February and March their famous camellias, among the first ever imported to the U.S., bloom in profusion in a special wing built by Lyman in the 1820s.



Other parts of the greenhouse complex include the Grape Houses, where exotic flowers and fruits were grown for the winter table.  In the background below you can see the vines of the  Black Hamburg and Green Muscat of Alexandria grapes that are grown from 19th century cuttings from the royal greenhouse at Hampton Court in England.




Another room houses the extensive collection (thousands) of orchids and epiphytes....

I love the cranks and pipes and valves everywhere....

There is another wing that serves as a garden store.  I'll post those pics tomorrow.