For my current fantasy story, I was wondering where a character might hide an amulet. Quick research on clothes turned up a delightful Victoria and Albert Museum post on the history of pockets from the 17th to the 19th centuries. Among its illustrations are three photographs of this doll—"Lady Clapham"—showing her in different layers of clothing. Surely, she herself can suggest a story for children, the motive or crucial clue in a mystery, or one of those novels that involve researching the contents of a trunk. Her pocket, by the way, is tied to her waist.
Picturing a World
Kathleen Jennings’ ink blots
Another Jennings blog alert: What did I tell you? Kathleen Jennings' Tanaudel blog is always worth looking at. I love her post this week on Inkblots as creative stimuli. You wouldn't even have to be as good an artist as she is to make blots, doodle pictures, and then string a few together to make a story—at least as an exercise. (Though, let's be honest, some of us might want to keep the results private instead of giving them to the world!)
Kathleen Jennings face masks
Blog alert: In catching up on artist Kathleen Jennings wonderful blog, Tanaudel, I found her post on PPE face masks made in fabrics from her designs and available at Redbubble. I've ordered some. I hope you are finding masks that lift your spirits, too. And do scroll through her blog: it is full of delightful art and great suggestions for creative people.
A semi-staged dramatization of Jane Austen's Emma is a Christmas bon-bon scheduled at Shakespeare & Co., in Lenox, Mass., and a group of us has already ordered tickets. Fingers crossed that the company can safely perform in December!
Ahead of the play, I read Emma recently and therefore smiled at this pretty, pretty, instantly recognizable depiction of Harriet Smith meeting Elizabeth Martin and her brother in Ford's linen drapery shop. It appears in the May 25th blog post by James Gurney, and it sent me searching further. I turned up an interesting web essay on Jane Austen's Emma at 200, including mention of Henry and Charles Brocks' illustrations for late-19thC "chocolate-box" editions of Austen's work. How these particular illustrations continue to influence readers' visualizations and moviemaker's visions of Austen might be a topic worth following up.
During Massachusetts' stay-at-home order, I have been sorting family papers and came across these two vibrant, witty little watercolors by Knoxville artist, Mary Etta Grainger (1880–1963). I knew they were souvenirs from a bridge party; but, not being a bridge player myself, I did not know what to call them. A little poking around on the web introduced me to "bridge tallies." They are like dance cards. At a bridge party, guests sign each other's cards to assure a rotation at different tables. Sets of printed tallies were all the rage in the 1920's, and you can see scads of them at the Laura M. Mueller Bridge Tally Card Collection. But how much more delicious to receive a unique, individualized card!
Make a miniature book
Website alert: The British Library has posted a children's activity that could be fun for anybody: Make a miniature book. The post includes images of one by Charlotte Brontë and other historic miniature books, links to more information, and instructions for making your own. Worth exploring!
Six feet apart
Okay, a follow-up to the follow-up. When I was looking at Šimon's prints of Paris, I chuckled over this one as an example of, what?—early Parisian "social distancing"? Notice that not only are the people in the picture widely spaced, but we're looking at them from waa-aaay across the street. Anyway, that set me thinking how much I dislike the phrase social distancing. It's so vague! Six feet apart is explicit and emphatic. Say it and mean it: the more we keep six feet apart now, the sooner we'll be filling up those empty streets again.
Yesterday, I was tempted to illustrate the post on Bookshop with an image of Paris booksellers along the Seine but couldn't think of a particular one, so I went with the organization's logo instead. But isn't this print by Tavik František Šimon a lovely follow-up? If my character-in-progress Mattie went to Paris in 1908, she would find such a scene, which would have little changed from when Edward browsed there in Where the Light Falls—and booksellers on the quai are still there, for that matter, in the real Paris, not fictional at all. Since it may be a while, however, before any of us are traveling much except in imagination, try browsing the graphic art of Tavik František Šimon as if you were at a print seller's stall.
The very real need to close bookstores and libraries during the coronavirus pandemic has been a frustration. It will be a while before they can reopen, but, hurrah! I have now discovered Bookshop. It's a way to buy books on line and support independent local bookstores at the same. I've just placed my first order.
Ancient classics, modern fiction
My sister mailed me Daniel Mendelsohn's An Odyssey: A Father, a Son, and an Epic just when I had run out of library books (yea, Janet!). I was primed for it because, as it happened, I had recently read Emily Wilson's 2017 translation of the poem (more about that in a minute). Mendelshohn has written a multi-threaded memoir of his teaching Homer's Odyssey to a freshman seminar at Bard College, his eighty-one-year-old father's attendance in that class, a Mediterranean cruise the two men took together afterwards, explorations of the poem's themes, and many circlings back to each of their earlier lives. It is artfully written, deep and rich, while all while seeming (only seeming) to be a candid, easy retelling of one unusual semester. I recommend it highly to anyone who has ever taught, or grew up on Long Island, or loves the classics, or is fascinated by the relations between a father and a son.
But, wait, isn't this blog mostly about women's creativity? Well, yes, and that's where An Odyssey pointed me in the end. Enough of fathers and sons! Let's reframe the picture to highlight wives, mothers, daughters, sisters, lovers, and slave girls.