Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Silver Twin's ...Place... In New England Decorative Art - Part One - "Rutted Path"

The Silver Twin's


In New England Decorative Art

Part One

"Rutted Path"

The Silver Twins lived in their rural Maine ancestral homestead (built in 1792).  The homestead was locally titled “The Silver Twin’s Place”.  It was a “farm” at the top of the “Silver Hill Road”  The homestead had the top of “Silver Hill” behind it.  The homestead had an open and clear downhill view to the east-southeast.  What that “eastern” view plane created was a supple fading of light at the farm each afternoon as the sun ‘passed’ to the west and ‘caught’ the top of Silver Hill.  The south eastern view with its dawn and ‘sunrise’ upon the homestead was “always” “brilliant”.  This has been so for the past two hundred years, including the first decades (1792-1812) required to “open” this view.  This ‘opened’ view is still open as I write.

            In 1792, at the bottom Silver Hill Road, was the ‘center of the village’ “of then”.  This consisted of three primitive and small one-man-self-made “saw mills”... on a very small “stream” the was called a “brook”.  That brook then was... and still is... pathetically small to one of today’s vision to be accepted as ‘being big enough to run’... a ...saw ...mill.  These mills, the center of the ‘of then’ village, were at a crossroad that consisted of the “road” ‘passing through’ (the mill village) along one side of the ‘brook’ with a second ‘road’ joining it from the right where this second ‘road’ “crossed” the ‘brook’... at where the three ‘mills’ stood.  This road, going east away from the brook... “went up” (hill) to that hill’s top where... one found... three homesteads ‘in sight’.  This ‘road’ was not a ‘road’ much past the base of this hill.  It was first a ‘path’ and then, by 1792, had become a ‘rutted path’.  The ruts were caused by the oxen hauling the ‘milled lumber’ up the path to the top of the hill to build the homesteads that were ‘up there’.

            This milled lumber was not hauled ‘in a wagon’.  The village did not have ‘a wagon’.  The lumber was ‘skidded’ ‘up hill’ on a ‘sledge’.  Sort of.  Hence... the ruts... on the path... that caused this path to be considered to ‘be enough’ to be ‘a road’ (‘going east’).  Sort of.
            The ‘road passing through’ following the ‘brook’ and passing by the mill village followed the ‘brook’ “down” to “the river” that was “nearly a mile below”.  This river was ‘big’ so before one came to it on this road one came to a crossroad again where paths that were, too, rutted enough by oxen to be considered fair to title as roads... went... “WEST” or “EAST” and had a “PATH” “down to the river ahead” “TOO”.  

Back at the mill village crossroad... the “mill hill” road crossed the ‘road passing through’ and started, across that intersection, up hill.  There this path... that became a ‘road’, was titled “Silver Hill Road” and “went up hill” to the top of the Silver Hill Road where one found the Silver Twin’s homestead just below the top of Silver Hill.
            The Silver Twins; twin sisters, were born in 1886.  They were born on the family’s Silver Hill Farm in a small room in the ‘house’.  They were the first... and only... ‘Silver Twins’.  Before them came ‘their family’ who ‘settled the hill’ with this beginning several decades before 1792.  The 1792 date is “WHEN” “the house” “was finished”.  To this day there is little else ‘up there’; ‘upon’, ‘up’ and ‘over’ Silver Hill and... Silver Hill Road.  “The view” from “Silver Hill” (meaning Silver Hill Farm) is about all of Silver Hill and its road that anyone speaks of ‘anymore’.  In fact, with the “forest” “came back” after it being fully “cut” in the Nineteenth Century... including the “TOP” of Silver Hill (“I CAN REMEMBER WHEN THAT WAS BARE”)... one hears the words “glimpse the view” (from Silver Hill) as an accurate evaluation as to “HOW” the Silver Hill Farm view “is holding up”.  In the end; at the end of this missive, the Silver Twin’s homestead is ‘gone’ and “the forest” “grown up”.

            There are two aspects of ‘small’ about the Silver Twin’s Place I need to treat.  First, the ‘house’ (the homestead structure including its shed extension and barn) were ‘small’.  The house was a twenty-six foot square ‘house’ with a first floor as living space and the ‘up under the eves’ “unfinished” “attic” for storage and for “children” to “sleep”.  Over the two centuries of usage, this never changed.  The shed was a ‘walk though’ enclosure going to the barn.  The barn was twenty-four feet wide by thirty-six feet long.  It was never altered or ‘extended’.  It was ‘finished’ “in 1808”.  “They say”.
            Below the ‘farm’ buildings was the (cleared) “field” or “pasture”.  This was nearly two acres of hill top scant and rock filled “soil”.  The “field” was “for hay” with a family’s kitchen garden at the uphill end before the homestead.  One must understand that “THIS” was “IT”.  It is easiest to understand that, as a ‘farm’, the Silver Twin’s Place was, in total... “very small”.
            If they (the family) ‘grew corn’ it was very little corn that they used themselves.  Hay was ‘very little’ too.  Everything that ‘grew’ was ‘very little’.  “Very little” means ‘not even enough for the family’.  But it ‘had to be’ “enough”.  So it was.  For two hundred years.
            This (“very little” and “very small”) is where one may first broach the notion... and sense of scale... of the Silver Twin’s... place... in New England decorative art.  At the hill top, at the homestead, at the top of the rutted path “road”; at this top of up hill on The Silver Hill Road, in the eighteenth century... did New England decorative art... have ‘sense of scale’ “even there”?

            Even modest beginning; the ‘opening’ of the ‘view”... IS an
            Early New England decorative... art.
            The homestead, of course, “too”.
            The rutted path called “road”?
            Absolutely of a man’s hand in New England... made.

            Need to receive these notions further... deeper; to feel this ‘it’
            Embrace, wrap arms, hug
            This peculiar true
            May you?
            Is it this... rutted mud primitive...
            New England decorative art?
            Why don’t I open this view
            For you.

            The first absolute rule of New England design that affected the Silver Twin’s place was.... “what goes down creates what comes up”.  This means that what went DOWN the Silver Hill Road from the homestead directly determined what came UP to the homestead.  And I have established that we are speaking of ‘very small, very little’.  If there could be a ‘something’ to go DOWN then possibly there could be something come UP to the homestead.  What, then, could go DOWN?
            Trees... cut down trees... COULD go down... and it was (is still) ALL DOWN HILL.  A cut down tree COULD go down to the mill village at the bottom of the hill.  This COULD ... BE... DONE.  There (“down there”) the cut down tree could be sawed in to lumber and:
            Hauled back UP to the homestead... to build a homestead and ‘a barn’.
            Or it could be ‘bartered’ for
            Foremost at a settlement homestead... iron... tools.  A pot.  A pan. A blade.
            An axe
            A scythe.
            And not much more.
            “A kettle?”
            “OK that too”.  But:
            How well did this go?  This trade of cut down trees and iron.  Go?  It was ‘very small’ and ‘very little’.  And always on the rutted path called ‘road’.
            “I did not think we could get this far.  But we have and you’ve
            Opened up the view.  Too.  Dear”.
            Who is “Dear”?
            Who opens a view?

            Of course there could be too... “Things” from the cut down trees ‘right there’ (made right there and then on site)  Does that be too...
            New England decorative art?
            “COULD BE... I suppose.  But not of any finery... could be it
            I suppose”.
            Be not sure... be ye... of thee... sure of that be ‘could be’
            And be ye could be ‘that be art’.  Too?  Up hill on a rutted path?
            Find alone the view plane?  The homestead door is open now and
            Not fastened by an iron latch.
            Its wooden handle is ‘made’ “right there”.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Canary Lustre - Part Three - "These Days... Darlings"

Canary Lustre

Part Three

"These Days... Darlings"

            It; “old” ...Transferware... Canary (lustre) “china”, is
            “Certainly NOT!”
            In any way
            At all...
            From the New England antiquarian’s vantage...
            “Of bad taste”.
            This is the confusion of this point?
            Pretty much.
            And also oddly...
            This includes the “lustre” (“luster”) too for
            With this “these” (transferware canary) one does find lustre applied
            By hand (painted); usually “banding”.

            Now-then... the this third confusion dissected:
            “Isn’t transferware nice” is the setting and
            It is
            But this essay is not about “nice”... transferware.
            Transfers are, actually, a decorative expedient that allowed for
            Quicker... cheaper... decoration of the... canary yellow field earthenware blank.
            A transfer is a decal... snipped by... and applied by... from a sheet
            Of same; “Use ALL of the transfers on one sheet before starting
            The next sheet”.
            Snip, snip, snip and then
            Break for lunch.

            The lustre decorative banding is applied at the ‘finish’; after the transfer has been
            To the blank.
            Not much to it (actual lustre paint)... as hand painted decoration... when ‘compared’
            To the vibrant hand painted ‘mantel china’.  Does that explain that?
            Not quite but... well... the etiquette is that one is ‘ok’ having a transferware canary specimen if it is ‘slipped in’ amongst the ‘a good one’ (hand painted Canary).  That means the transfer canary MAY be included in the collection TOO but ... the one who knows... knows... too... ‘only after’ the vibrant hand painted Canary is “already there”.
            More confusion... allowing for bad taste found in the midst of good taste?  I suppose it “seems so”.  It will take a while for one to, with china-on-mantel, “get this far” (with ones collection) that the taste-tweak among one’s Canary on the Mantel ‘is needed’.  One CAN get that far with this... and if you do you will know... “raw-exactly”... what I am speaking of.
            Subtle and sophisticated it is... over decades ‘of collecting’.

            To make this even more:  Transfer canary is found on traditional yellow blanks such as tea service ..ware.  But...:  It is MOST COMMONLY FOUND on the yellow (mold cast) blanks (with ‘applied handles’) known generally amongst antiquarians as “Child’s”... “Mugs”.  This is flawlessly important to understand for this is the... principal form... of Transferware Canary Lustre (soft paste earthenware) one is going to ... “SEE”, “FIND”, “HAVE”, “KEEP” and/or the “SEE” of each of those TOO.  For example one will ‘see’ a child’s mug being ‘keep’.  Understand that a ‘canary’ ‘child’s mug’ is a ‘your’ best chance of ‘find’ of all of this Canary china... on any given day
            In any given way.

            Stop ...a moment... and get.... this... clear.  I am writing before you of a good taste etiquette of old New England domestic china.  I have presented a rather well ‘not known’ form; “Canary” “Soft Paste”, hand paint decorated... as being an obscure ‘best’ on the mantels of old (school) New England décor (“off to the side”).  Now I am coming back in writing by introducing the “OF VERY GOOD TASTE” canary soft paste transferware child’s mug BUT I am qualifying that by saying that these delightful and charming mugs are steps down in decorum and ...taste... due to their actual design features... when stood up against the hand painted.  SO.... I am knit (nit) picking among a very high order of ...very good... ‘in very good taste’ too... old New England ‘china’.  I say right here that this I am writing of... NEEDS to be understood if one is to be truly participating ‘of this’ sophisticated  New England domestic china taste.  IF... this is ‘seems lost’ on one... then one... may be better off pushing a shopping cart around a home décor box store and ‘going that way’ and... LEAVING THIS to the ‘that’ (New England decorative arts)... “I care about”.  AND... that is what happens ANYWAY... with or without YOU.

            Back to the expostulation.  The mugs are, in design, less art crafted.  They, too, are plentiful... actually abundant...:  They were popular when made, popular ever after, preserved, protected, collected and today... commercially ‘around’.  They are wonderful but they are too... a few steps down the ladder; their decoration is an applied pre-made decal.  That is the third point of confusion;  applied decal transfer or hand painted decoration.  Notice the difference.  “I do”.

            A little more about Canary... Lustre... transferware child’s mugs.  Age:  the early ones are best; the ‘egg shell’ fine mold casting as apposed to the heavier ‘later’ (1830) ones.  Form:  Early cylinder ‘egg shell’ as opposed to the later ‘coffee mug feel’.  Transfer; rust-red is best with black an ‘okay’ and other colors mostly ‘no’.  Rust-Red on a large, detailed, crisp transfer Canary mug:  “Nice”.  No lustre... just rust-red... is ‘best’ That is ‘earlier’.  And:  Not too many in one’s ‘my collection’; be very... very selective.  And again understand; these Canary mugs are considered to be VERY GOOD TASTE.  They ‘are on the cover of the book’ grade.  ONE (a single specimen) is FINE as a whole collection.  KNOWING all this ‘when you see it’ IS just FINE...  as a whole collection.  All of this is NOT easy to see.  When one ‘knows’ one WILL KNOW when one is “SEEING IT”.  IF... one finds self before “Canary”... on the mantel (in an old New England home)... KNOW IT... and show your... good taste.

            Some bad taste?  FRENCH soft paste has ‘Canary’ too.  It is not the same.  Usually it is Empire (Josephine) Style in black transfer.  Very Empire in style.  If one knows that, this is denoted in seconds of a glance.  What makes that easier?
            This is really cool.

            In Old New England a ‘foreign made’ (not English) stands right out.  Due to scarcity... of the English made ware.  The English antiquarians do not and never did like the Canary hand painted ‘china’.  Nope.  “NOT” their “TASTE”.  So don’t go looking for it in their reference books.  It... is what they consider (title) “Peasant Pottery”.  ‘For the lower classes’.  And “America”.  So... ‘only in New England’.  Take that you nasty mantel decorating Yankees.  Just as the English abhor the New England ‘taste’ for their ‘dark blue’ (Staffordshire Transferware) they too... abhor “Canary”.  But with Canary... one finds the English mentioning... nothing about it at all.  It IS the swept under the carpet of peasant pottery ‘old New England’.  That’s right; peasant pottery and... one is lucky to SEE even a Canary child’s mug “For A Good Girl” “EVER”...  Should one happen upon a ‘Canary’ on the mantel... in an old school New England home... that is a rare sighting
            These days.
            “Oh I... didn’t know... you know.”
            She said.
            “Most don’t know...
            And never will know...
            You know.
            But, of course, that does not matter
            To them.”

            “Ouch.” I said.
            “I know... and you do (know) too.”

Monday, November 9, 2015

Canary Lustre - Part Two - "Confusion on the Mantel"

Canary Lustre

Part Two

"Confusion on the Mantel"

            It is difficult to... document... my last... dictate of New England Antiquarian fireplace mantel ‘old china’ decorum (Part One).  Considering Canary Lustre’s ...habitual... deferment to... AND... stoic yet ‘off radar’ flagged mountain top poise in Colonial Home New England... this ‘elegance and taste’...; it (documentation) should be around:  Until one reminds that I speak of the ‘before smart phone cameras’ vantage of the New England.  Et al.  It (Canary on the mantel) is ‘old school’.  It once was one’s mother but now is one’s grandmother’s... doings.  IF she is still alive.  Oh do not worry; the Canary on the mantel was STILL THERE when she ‘died’.  It was only your stupid little sister who
            Threw it out?
            Or did she...
            Keep it.
            Take it.
            And knows what it is?
            She has it on HER mantel in HER Colonial New England home... “up there... in WHERE ...New Hampshire?”.  That is what happens to the stuff (“Canary”); it moves to another mantel... and NOT to the CENTER of that mantel.  Yes... dear... it (“Canary”) has not
            Become not.
            I will say that it is probably more ‘safe’ and ‘valued’ than it has ever been.  It is just a little hard to notice if one is not... traveling in those circles’
            Did I just say your friends and their gatherings of domestic china are tawdry?
            I may have... if ...well... we’ll leave it there for the moment.

            I looked around for a mantel and its canary.  To show you.  I found something that does.  From a well regarded Maine dealer and collector’ collection sale I find nearly satisfactory demonstration of ‘Canary’ in the (old) New England (Maine) home... collected (and here sold) in the (old school) New England way.
            The whole collection was a superior lifetime gathering of classic Maine and New England decorative arts (antiques).  Positioned with little notice I find three examples of hand painted canary lustre ‘soft paste’; three on the ‘mantle pieces’.  The three specimens ARE photographed on the mantel AND are posed on that mantel off center.  The qualifier is that this is a ‘posed’ for the catalog.  They are, and should be noted, correct as a posed.  This, oddly, shows how deep the etiquette is for it is a subconscious ‘default’ pose that IS the correct pose for the ‘those that know’’ and... THAT is the those this catalog and collection sale ‘is for’ (directed at).  So.... it gets there (off center on the mantel) the long way around...
            And is supported by the collection itself.  What that means is that a curious dark edge of Canary-on-the-mantel... is that the (old school) (very knowledgeable) dealer – collector has... in fact... very little ‘other (antique) china’ in their hoard.   That is right:  Very little else.  The best (easiest) notice of this is that there is, in most cases, “dark blue” (deep blue English Staffordshire earthenware pictorial or historical transferware).  Most all ‘antiques collectors’ agree that the ‘dark blue’ is of ‘keeper’ grade merit for one’s hoard.
            Of notice is that the Canary-on-the-mantel crowd maintain a ‘step beyond’ poise that is a feeling... “correct” (I agree)... that their ‘Canary’ ‘one piece’ on the mantel, explains fully their understanding of old china in an old New England antiquarian’s hoard to the “anyone” who ‘does know’.  And:  That these in-the-know... be the only ones who ‘need know’... where an antiquarian’s old New England home’s collection
            Is at:
            One .... piece of true hand painted Canary DOES say it all about one... and all... old china... in old New England and its homes.
            It is just fine to not agree.  WE... (I too)... don’t care what you feel... let alone ‘think’.

            Back within the catalog, the three lots are photographed ‘close up’ too and... they sell (each) for ‘a lot’ ($400 plus each).  They sell to like minded collector – dealers ‘who know’... too.  Never have I seen a lay person’s bid card ‘held up’ for ‘old canary’.  No... the stuff (Canary lustre) always... only... sells the ‘they know’.  And shown in this catalog.. is all of that at work.  That includes my further notice that most.... MOST... of the Those People who I would consider adept at participation in this sale would, too, NOT HAVE NOTICED “the Canary”.  Do not fear:  It WAS noticed. 
For this ‘most’ ‘participation’ group that I speak of, their principal contribution to “Canary” is to always acknowledge ‘it’ and, most often, express that it... is a “IT... SELLS FOR A LOT”.  But:  They... never... ever... “owned a piece”.
            So they are, although “good” antiquarians
            A rung or three DOWN
            On the ladder of the
            “old New England”.

            That should be the nasty part:  Simple snotty antiquarians having a superior aura because they have a single old beat up yellow sugar bowl on the far end of their Colonial fireplace mantel that is never mentioned, never talked about, noticed, touched, dusted or washed “ever” for ...the  half century of their ownership.  I have spent my fifty years pursuing Canary Lustre without ever talking about it to anyone.  I, too, ‘have found it’.  The sale collection’s three piece gathering is ...just about right... for what one may chance to find (three pieces) in one’s life time as an  (New England) antiquarian.  I have found a little more... but... not much
            The stuff is... rare.
            That gives us three points for confusion.

            The first point is that being rare... one has a hard time finding a specimen to “buy”.  With a finding ratio of three pieces to fifty years one may ‘take the hint’.  Finally... and usually suddenly... one finds a specimen, buys it and so... has one.  “There”.  “Finally”.  Take it home and put it on the mantel.  Off to the side.  No one notices it.  It is twelve months before someone does and comments but THAT PERSON has been ‘in the trade’ longer than you have and is... “very knowledgeable”.  THAT becomes point of confusion point two.
            YOU... have... NOT ever... “ahhhh....” compared “a piece” with another “a piece”... that YOU... OR ANY ONE ELSE... “HAS”... including color photographs in old auction catalogs (Part One).  TOO.  NO... you have not.
            That deceptive minor (?) issue WILL bite one’s buttock if one... is too ‘sure’ of self with the ‘I FOUND ONE’ canary.  This is because the “quality” of the decoration on the yellow ground... “ahhhh....” “varies”.  Simply, some are more vibrant and radically decorated than others.  Meaning some have (much) “MORE” decoration “better done” (more radical and vibrant).  You... do not know this... until... you see this with your eyes yourself:  YOU learn by seeing it (the variation of radical / vibrant decoration).  In stupid lay terms this means the more wild (accomplished) the decoration the MORE MONEY IT’S WORTH.
            So.... ‘knowing this’ is.. “crucial” commercially and... art wise personally (“My Preference”).   And again:  Your not gonna know this until you know... you have seen this.

            Further confusing this second point of confusion is the need to understand how this decoration that is “more wild”... is “accomplished”.  It is a backward and redundant process that the collector must absorb to understand what one is looking for as better-best radical/vibrant decoration.  Understand then:
            These ...mold cast and yellow ground “blanks” were hand paint decorated... in a similar ‘ritualized’ decoration... by a woman painting it on ‘them’... all day long, forever, among other women doing the same.  So... one may expect ‘variation’ in ‘qualities’ on ALL decoration.  Starting with ‘skill’ and ‘ability’... one opens the door to variation.  Next come mood, care, interest.  These go to day, weather, time.  Then on to interactions and interruptions (“the toilet” too).  Quickly one denotes... quite a stew... I’ve just made and it (all of this) is being expressed in the application of paint from a single tiny brush... by one single woman... “NOW”.  When done...
            The next one
            Is begun.

            So... for example... a good painter... (“very good”) may well work the decoration of a single ‘waste bowl’ for a ‘longer time’ because she... wants to ‘finish’ just at lunch time.  Meanwhile the eight year old “new girl” beside her ‘can barely paint’... yet.  There is the simple source of variation.  WHOSE decoration is the more “wild” when examined TWO HUNDRED YEARS LATER?
            This is not at all hard to note and notice... once one knows to do this.  It also brings us to the
            Need to examine
            NOT HAND PAINTED
            Decorated ‘canary’:
            The ‘decorated by transfer’...:  The third point of confusion... on the mantel