Monday, March 2, 2015

Parking Savers - A Uniquely Boston Concept

When your street looks like this (everywhere) and it takes 2-4 hours to dig out your car, you get a bit worried about having a parking space when you get home.  So the City of Boston has a policy - if you shovel it - you are allowed to 'claim' that public parking space for 48 hours.   Now how do you do that?  You use "Space Savers".  That means, anything you can stick in the spot to say "Yo - park here and I will key your car, take off your mirror or smash your windshield."  Yes - all that has happened.
Now deck chairs are the most popular savers.  But there are creative people using whatever they have on hand...

And the very best....

Tomorrow officially the extended (very, very extended) saving policy ends and everyone has to take their stuffed animals, chairs, toilets and other crud out of the road!  Just in time for another small storm.  

Only 3" to go to beat the all time record.  This week we are really gunning for it - storm last night, one tomorrow and then another Thursday.  We will have to beat it!

An Update to answer the question - how is it enforced.  The enforcement is by the holder of the spot using nasty means to vandalize the car that takes the spot.  There have been doors removed, windows smashed or very nasty notes.  People right now put notes on their car if they take a spot and beg to be called to move their car immediately if caught by the 'spot owner'.  There is actually an unofficial list of the 'rules' online.   As soon as the mayor puts an end to the 'legality' of the spot saving - it is announced on the TV/radio and the DPW starts picking up the savers that haven't been removed.  

Today's haul:

Monday, February 23, 2015

Reports of Demise Premature!!

I am reposting what I posted to my Cabinet of Curiosities course late last week when we all found out that there had been a fire at the Lyon-region plant of Au Ver a Soie.  Apparently people have been passing around a story that paints a much more dire and incorrect picture.  So I wanted to get out there and help correct it.  If you have a chance - jump over to their Facebook site and give them a few words of encouragement!  I know it has meant a lot to them to hear that everyone in the needlework world cares.


Hello everyone - I thought I would jump in and add some information before panic runs amuck. Au Ver a Soie is wounded but not devastated. We talked to Nathalie this morning about the extent and will learn much more early next week after Marc can better access the plant. Marc and Nathalie are brother and sister and the current members of the Boucher family to run Au Ver a Soie.

This is terrible loss for Au Ver a Soie because it is on the heals of the loss of Marc and Nathalie's mother in December and their beloved and silk expert Uncle a few months prior (mentioned in the French news article). I hadn't talked about those losses - as they seemed private.

The one thing to know is that this is a family that is devoted to the production of silk and has suffered much deeper losses in the past that they had to rebound from. In fact, their entire factory was bombed by the American's by mistake in WWII and they had to totally rebuild - and did. This is something that is a bonus about ancient family businesses, they often take the long view and this will be something that they come back from. One of the things that they had realized from the former disaster is the importance to distribute the expertise, machinery and stock to ward against singular disasters bringing down a company and had planned for that wisely over the years. While the capability at this plant was severely damaged - they have a network of machines, partners, etc around France they work with who can help them weather this as well as who were already doing some of the braiding and other things we enjoy in our threads. Stock was distributed in multiple places too - phew. That of course has been a benefit to the Cabinet of Curiosities - if they didn't have the machinery to make me something, they knew who did and could coordinate. So, being in the know a bit, I am confident that we are not in imminent danger because of how distributed the manufacturing, dying, and post operations were - especially on our threads.

This will certainly delay some of the new threads I was working on with Au Ver a Soie and we won't know the extent for awhile. And I am sure that some random color will be scarce for a few weeks at some point as delays hit, but it will only be temporary. I am not as concerned about the machinery losses - an example being a new skeining machine that was destroyed - as I know that operation is done at Access for the US threads (we prefer a different size/packaging in this market). So some capability losses won't impact us as they are already shifted to machinery here. What I am concerned about is time. In any small business, there isn't an excess of labor and so things like this delay new initiatives in favor of getting basic operations back running. I know that the time I have to take to shovel snow are hours not spent shipping or working on new things. It will be the same for Au Ver a Soie, with some things taking longer to get back to and thus some new yummies we may have been hopping for will be delayed a bit.

So I am sure you will hear about the fire in the future from me as the reason something is delayed - but don't fear - it isn't about a total loss of capabilities, it is more about a diversion of valuable time until they get this few weeks or months out of the way. I do know already that I can plan in a bit more time on the frostings launch, we already had another delay just two weeks ago on another front -- but that is business.

What you can do though is express to Marc and Nathalie support of the embroiderers who love their materials and efforts. Their mother passed away from a long battle with cancer and it really took a toil on them emotionally. So I am sure they could use some 'appreciation' at the moment. Perhaps a card with a picture of an embroidery of yours using their threads - or one in progress. Let them know that you so appreciate their dedication to fine, quality materials and supporting this course. They are lovely people!

Marc Boucher and Nathalie Borhorel

Au Ver a Soie

102 rue Reaumur

75002 Paris


An additional note - I believe that 2020 will be the 200th anniversary of the company and I really look forward to the celebration when this fire will be but a distant memory!


Friday, February 20, 2015

Interesting Casket

This casket is being sold by Erna Hiscock Antiques.  A really interesting shape and construction.  I have no idea if it shows evidence of being put together later or if the embroidery was original.  The lock is period and I have seen it on other pieces.  If you look at the signature weaving, it looks like 1713 or 1718 in the date line.  I would love to get a listing of all the words on the sides, not on her website.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I Visited a Snow Farm

Quite a few comments about the hilarity of our snow situation here at the North Pole.  I thought I would add the new favorite pictures - including one I took myself while picking up caskets yesterday.  On Tuesday this month of snow became the 2nd biggest season in all of Boston history.  Then we woke up to a few more inches this morning.  Think we only have 7" to go to be the most in history. 
Check out these icicles.  Everywhere.  Every house you pass anywhere is caked in ice.  

I liked this one - really expresses what sidewalks look like everywhere.  Tough to see cars pull out and pedestrians.
I heard a new one yesterday about drivers/walkers -- "You look right, then left and then make the sign of the cross"

I took this today from Richard's (the Casket Maker) window.  This is one of the Boston snow farms.  
And the latest thing that has happened when you have tremendous cabin fever -- the Boston Blizzard Challenge (remember the ice bucket challenge got its steam here in bean town).  Yes - the challenge is to jump out of your 2nd floor window half naked into the snow.  Stupid.  Watch the video of the guy swimming in the snow.  Was funny to me as my teen reported yesterday that he tried to swim in the snow too - its so deep you can try it.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Robe - Royal Collection

I just got the question on where to get a copy of ROBE - May 1667, a tonge-in-cheek booklet that reads like a 17th century fashion magazine with lots of great pictures of embroidered accessories.  It is quite fun.

The Royal Collection still has copies for sale on its website.  It is just under 4 pounds.


Monday, February 16, 2015

Most Absurd Snow Pictures Ever - More Snow Humor

This was BEFORE the Valentines Day Storm...

Snow mound at MIT, dubbed "The Alps of MIT".  It is 5-stories high.

Today, they tried to start bus service and rail service again in a few places.  Didn't go well. This one is totally stuck in Cambridge as the roads aren't wide enough anymore to turn.  And note that the snow banks are as tall as the bus!

How desperate are we here in Boston?  Well, if you are able bodied and willing to shovel the MBTA is paying $30/hour to anyone willing to dig out the tracks.  They even emptied the jails for labor.  Seriously, I am not joking.  

That is pretty nasty to look at down the rails.  Never ends.
We just poked a hole in our ceiling to reduce the risk of the whole thing coming down.  We took out several gallons of water.  So it is a good thing that they are stationing boats at every corner now.

We started to bring in boats - if this all melts we will need the arks!  (There is a boat show in town and they got them stuck in the snow causing horrible traffic - my neighbor got home at 9pm that night - 3 hours to go 10 miles).
Did I mention that it will be snowing when I get up tomorrow morning?

Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Phillips Needlework Picture c. 1670s

This piece really deserves to be read about if you are interested in the question of 'was 17th century embroidery done in the colonies'.  It is one of the few pieces with good provenance for being worked in the 17th century here in New England.  You will recognize the obvious 1670s English reference for design in the piece, but it is worked in wool on a linen ground.  The piece has remained in the family and is being sold with a $800,000 to $1,200,000 estimate.  I am not sure that a museum will be able to purchase this piece, but it really does belong in one here in the area.  We shall see what happens.  Skinner always exhibits the auction pieces before the auction and if you want to brave the snow - come see it!

Skinner Lot 30 March 1, 2015 Auction
More views are online 

The Phillips Family Needlework Picture, Sarah Phillips (b. Rowley, Massachusetts, 1656), Boston, Massachusetts, c. 1670, worked in red, blue, yellow, black, and white wool and silver and gold metallic threads on a blue/green linen ground, composed of two figures flanking the "Tree of Life" at center, the prodigal son at lower right, a brick building facade with mica "window" at right center, a cloud and partially obscured sun at upper left, and a rainbow at upper right, further stitched with a shepherd and his flock, leafy trees, flowers, a pomegranate, several birds, insects, and animals including a dog, a squirrel, a rabbit, a recumbent lion, a beaver, and a recumbent stag, under glass in a molded wood frame, (survives in a remarkable state of preservation, with minor losses, some discoloration), 17 1/4 x 24 1/4 in. 

Provenance: Preserved by the Phillips family for more than three centuries, the Sarah Phillips needlework picture has a long and well-documented provenance. Sarah Phillips (1656-1707) was a daughter of Reverend Samuel Phillips (1625-1696) who immigrated to America from Boxted, England in 1630 on the ship Arbella with his parents Reverend George and Elizabeth Phillips settling in Watertown, MA. Reverend George Phillips (c. 1593-1644) was the first minister of Watertown, MA. Reverend Samuel Phillips graduated from Harvard College in 1650 and settled in Rowley, MA in 1651. He married Sarah Appleton that same year and with her had eleven children including Sarah (1656-1707). Sarah was reportedly educated at a private school in Boston where she likely stitched her needlepoint picture in the late 1660s or early 1670s. 

Sarah Phillips married Stephen Mighill (1651-1687) in 1680 and had at least three children together. The needlepoint picture descended through their son, Nathaniel's (1684-1761) family passing to Nathaniel's son Nathaniel (1715-1788) then to his daughter Hannah Mighill Perley (1753-1812), then to her daughter Hannah Perley (1772-1858). Hannah Perley is documented as having owned Sarah Phillips' needlepoint picture in Thomas Gage's The History of Rowley published in 1840. On September 5, 1839, the town of Rowley celebrated its second centennial anniversary of its settlement. Much of the festivities occurred in a pavilion erected in the town to host a dinner and several orations on the historic occasion. In this pavilion were also displayed "relics" of Rowley's past including "A piece of embroidery of curious workmanship, wrought by Sarah Phillips, (daughter of the Rev. Samuel Phillips, the second minister of Rowley,) more than one hundred and sixty years ago, attracted much attention, and is now owned by Miss Hannah Perley, the said Sarah Phillips being grandmother to the said Hannah's grandfather…" It may have been the needlepoint's exhibition in Rowley that prompted the penning of its short history on the picture frame's wooden backing board reading "This picture was/wrought at a boarding/school in Boston by/Miss Sarah Phillips/ daughter of Rev. Sam./Phillips." Shortly after the celebration, it seems, the needlepoint picture was transferred to Hannah Perley's cousin Hannah Lancaster Sawyer (1754-1851), a great-granddaughter of Sarah Phillips. 

In December 1842 the picture was purchased from Hannah Lancaster Sawyer for thirty dollars by the Honorable Jonathan Phillips (1778-1860). Jonathan Phillips was a direct descendent of Sarah Phillips' brother Samuel (1658-1722) and a celebrated Boston philanthropist. There is no doubt that the needlework picture purchased by Jonathan Phillips in 1842 is the Sarah Phillips needlework. In a letter written to Jonathan Phillips on December 3 by Ann Tracy, a relative of Jonathan's facilitating the sale, Tracy describes the picture and ponders its symbolism and iconography: 

"With how lordly a bearing do those portly sheep trample mid-air as if they were walking on this terrible earth! And that powerful beast - placed in the region of the clouds, & of the rainbow - is the showing fight to his neighbors, or scampering away in fear, while he throws a look of fierce menace, if not of defiance, behind him? We are permitted, in common with yourself to gaze, awe-stricken upon our far-off ancestor with his Spanish cloak, & in his knightly attitude, rejecting, with the extended arm of eloquent rebuke the fruit which the Lady Eve is plucking for him, in her Parisian costume of the Old-Court style of elegance. Can you or Mrs. P. resolve the problem which troubles our doubts respecting the building? Is it, with its nice pediment & supporting pillars, intended to represent the "bower of bliss" provided for the first pair --- or, have the able-bodied birds surmounting it, made no mistake in taking it for a shelter for themselves? Certainly the most natural & affecting presentation is that of the poor Prodigal, still clad in his splendid garments, partaking of the husks which his valorous swine are devouring" 

Phillips family oral history states that upon Jonathan's death in 1860 the needlework picture was given to his only son William (1819-1873). Jonathan's will supports this noting that "All the remainder of my estate, real, personal, and mixed, I give and bequeath to my son William Phillips, to be at his free and absolute disposal forever." Phillips family history also states that upon William's death in 1873 that the picture was given to John Charles Phillips (1838-1885), a fact also supported by William Phillips' will noting "I give unto John Charles Phillips now of New York, merchant, son of Reverend John Charles Phillips, now of said Boston, all my plate, pictures, statuary, engravings, books, household furniture, watches, jewelry, wines and ornaments." After John Charles Phillips' death in 1885 the picture descended to his son the Honorable William Phillips (1878-1968) a distinguished career United States Diplomat. In 1939 William Phillips' wife, Caroline, lent the Sarah Phillips needlework picture to the Boston Museum of Fine Arts where it was photographed and documented, removed from its old frame and remounted by the museum's textiles department. It was subsequently exhibited at the museum during the winters of 1945 and 1946. The needlepoint picture has remained in the family of William Phillips to this day. 

Note: This is one of a very few pictorial 17th century American needleworks known, though of course it follows English design somewhat closely. In a letter to Mrs. William Phillips, dated January 19, 1945, Gertrude Townsend, Curator of Textiles at the Museum of Fine Arts, remarks on "the use of the bluish wool ground, instead of white satin, and wool instead of silk, for the stitchery, is a deviation from the English custom. The result is delightful." The letter goes on to include Ms. Townsend's hope that the Museum be granted "the privilege of exhibiting this embroidered picture with our other New England embroideries," and finishes the letter referring to Sarah Phillips's work as "one of the few important surviving examples of seventeenth century work which can be attributed to New England." 

Prior to publishing her exhaustive work Girlhood Embroidery: American Samplers and Pictorial Needlework 1650-1850 (Knopf, New York, 1993), Betty Ring also examined Sarah's work. She writes in Volume I, "Pictorial embroideries, like samplers, were surely made by seventeenth-century colonial schoolgirls, but only two authentic examples are known" (p. 30). In a footnote on the same page, Ring refers to the present lot specifically: "Unpublished is a pictorial embroidery of wool, silk, metal, and mica on a greenish-blue wool... It features a couple in seventeenth-century dress beside the Tree of Life and a rendition of the prodigal son amid many birds, beasts, and flowers. Inscribed on the reverse: 'This picture was wrought at a boarding school in Boston by Miss Sarah Phillips daughter of Rev. Sam. Phillips.' This fully documented and wonderfully colorful piece was loaned to the MFA [Museum of Fine Arts, Boston] in 1946." On page 31, a needlework, probably made in Boston, by Rebeckah Wheeler of Concord, is pictured (fig. 30). Like Sarah Phillips's needlework, Rebeckah Wheeler's consists of little raised work, and is stitched in wool threads which, Ring tells us, like Gertrude Townsend reported in 1945, is different from similar English work of the time, which was most often in silk.

In Jonathan Fairbanks and Robert Trent's work New England Begins, Linda Wesselman discusses Rebeckah Wheeler's sampler as entry number 318 (Vol. 2, pp. 311-12). She mentions the lack of raised work also, as being in distinct contrast to English needleworks of the period. More, Wesselman describes the "personal translations of pictorial sources" -animals, insects, etc.- apparent in Rebeckah's work, citing two European pattern books from the early 17th century to which Rebeckah had access as source material, and to which Sarah Phillips, at her school, likely had access as well. From a purely compositional standpoint, Rebeckah's needlework follows the English model - fully worked, with vertical figures overlapping horizontals creating the sense of a three-dimensional space, and the result is more restrained and less imaginative. Sarah's sampler shows no such restraint, and profound imagination. Her figures, while carefully arranged to create an overall balance to the work, float freely and give the picture a sense of whimsy.