Saturday, May 20, 2023

Celebrating Another Wonderful Casket Finish!

Tracy Hall in the UK has finished her Harmony Casket and it is just wonderful!  It is always fantastic to see the pieces finished and hear the stories and sense of accomplishment from the students in these classes.  Their pieces will be long time family heirlooms!

Look at the super cute shoes and how well Harmony is worked on the top.  At first I thought I was seeing a picture of my example.  Her finishing is just so crisp too!

Congratulations Tracy!  She is now working on a double casket - it is hard when you get hooked!

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

Missing Sampler - Have you Seen It?

I don't normally get emails from detectives every day - but my inbox had an unusual request this week.  A police detective from the Newburyport Police Department contacted me about a cold case he was trying to bring back and solve.

Way back in 2014 as I was working on geneology regarding a set of samplers from Newbury and Newburyport with the curator of the Museum of Old Newbury, I brought out of my folder a picture of a 1820 sampler by Lydia Comb Bartlett to show him.  It was a listing off Ebay.  He was stunned and upset and immediately rushed to the object files.  

The sampler was owned by the museum and had been in storage.  Now I had just shown him that it had been recently sold on Ebay.  Yes, it was missing.  I had also tracked it to a 2011 auction where a better picture was held.  It was reported stolen and unfortunately didn't rise to the level of investigation at the time or as the detective said, it fell though the cracks.  

So the detective contacted me to have me use my knowledge of the sampler field as well as Newbury samplers to help them generate leads.  I have already turned over several as well as notified many who come across collections and large amounts of pictorial data on samplers.  The major sampler dealers are now on the look out.  But he asked if I would put the call out on blogs so many eyes will be checking as well.  The sampler was purchased by someone innocent, not knowing that the sampler was missing from a museum.  And it is pretty clear that the sellers did not know that the sampler was museum property too.   It is very easy for antique material to get back into the market without being noticed and passing hands quickly.  That is why major auction houses and buyers above a certain amount are keen to know the provenance of objects and that is often listed going back into the 19th century on auction listings.  Few people want to buy something that is ill gotten.  

If you know the whereabouts of this sampler.  You can contact:

Joshua Tierney

Newburyport Police Department

(978)462-4411 EXT. 1066

Sunday, April 2, 2023

Thistle Threads Openings Spring/Summer

Travel has returned with a vengeance this year.  I thought 2022 was stacked with events but this year hasn't let up.  We had a stretch of a month with a robot competition every weekend we had to fly to as soon as my youngest son recovered from his brain injury from concussions (we are all still recovering from that trauma).  This has been followed by travel regarding admitted student days and now the World Championship is just around the corner.  Then work trips regarding textiles, two graduations to host and a family trip.  On top of it my robotics team which is disbanding gets one last hurrah!  We have been invited to compete in the off-season PanAsia Tournament in Australia this summer.  And the kids decided to go!  So we will be dragging the robot stuff (somehow) to Sydney and then traveling in a pack around Australia for a few weeks before they all move into their colleges.

So I have looked at the calendar and chosen all the periods where I could ship in volume for a few weeks and posted them on the shop.  

April 4-14th

May 9th-16th

August 1-18th

As always, if you make an order in between, I will do my best to fill it that week and if I can't, I will let you know.  But for obvious reasons, I can't post my exact out of town dates.  

I will be doing some amazing work travel late spring - visiting some new production places in Italy and visiting old friends to cook up new threads.  Those trips always result in a few years of amazing things we all get to enjoy.  

I am still hoping for a Frostings Box this year, but production of threads for it stopped for many months because of the Coronation and I am sure the professional embroiderers are now stitching 24/7.  Suddenly discussion of thread back-production has restarted.  I have boxed what I have and in this batch is something I have been working on since the Plimoth Jacket to get back into production.  I seriously thought about just keeping it all for myself as it has been so hard won.  

I am still on track to introduce my completely revamped Sampler Design course in a few months.  I have been busy constructing units on design, filming shorts, and charting motifs.  I have several other smaller courses in development but until all the threads show up, I am waiting to talk about them.  And I am testing some licensing agreement ideas with a major museum right now in the hopes that I can find a way to put some of my popular historical lectures online through my teaching site with ticketed views.  It has taken me six months to finally get someone in the dept to listen to the idea and agree to estimate a proposal.   Cross our fingers!  

Saturday, April 1, 2023

Cleveland Museum of Art - Blog Part 2

Robin and Holly have published the second half of their blog on the Lord Chancellor's Burse with more of their story and lots of really wonderful pictures.  There is quite a bit of context about many of the burses that are known and their larger research project which included a summer 2022 workshop on gold thread manufacture and embroidery I ran with Robin at CMA.  

Tuesday, March 7, 2023

English Needlework 1600-1740 The Percival D. Griffiths Collection

There is a new book out on the 23rd of March that will become one of those 'rare library' books almost immediately.  There are many interesting facets of the book set to mention - many storylines.  But first, some pictures and video of the unboxing of this massive 2 volume set covering furniture and embroidery.  

This week the Magazine Antiques and Art Weekly have an article on how the books happened.  Avid collector John Bryan Jr. commissioned the project before his passing in 2018.  I feel fortunate to have visited his collection years ago, seeing many key objects that have fed into my research.  We owe John a debt of gratitude for funding this piece of research to pull together the existing pieces from this monumental turn of the century collection by Percival Griffiths so new research can happen.  

William DeGregorio graduated from the Bard College around the time of the seminal exhibit Twixt Art and Nature and worked at the MFA Textile Department as well as for Cora Ginsburg in NYC.  While not well known to the embroiderers of today, he is well known in the research and collecting sphere.  It was fun to get an email from Billy, as he is known, with pictures of rooms in Percival Griffiths home with a object on the wall circled and a 'do you have any idea where this is!?'; an invitation to join him for an afternoon in the detective hunt for where these magnificent embroideries have ended up.  Billy knew a handful of us who have been hunting in private collections or the back rooms of museums who might have a visual memory of something he was having special difficulty tracking down.  I remember the day when I was able to email him back and say - YES - I knew where a particular small set of baskets were - behind me in the dining room!  I had been able to acquire a set of them before people knew they were originally part of this huge collection.  So I am happy to have my pieces in the volume and identified.  

The volume on embroidery is about the story of how needlework collecting happened and of Sir Griffiths collection in particular.  This is fascinating as you wander through the inventory of pieces and realize that the majority of several seminal collections on the topic are dominated by what he found to be interesting.  This is important to me as I am doing some large survey work and was starting to wonder about numbers of types of objects that could be found and wonder if that was meaningful.  I have readjusted that thinking now that I have wandered the volume realizing how what we see today is so much the product of a handful of collectors in the late 19th century and their personal interests.  

Griffiths left two bread crumb trails for Billy to follow.  A set of photographs of his home's interiors and a book where he pasted photos of the objects collected.  This volume has a new photograph of an object and its location if it could be found and uses the older photo if not.  This is enormous as it means that some pieces we haven't seen have been modern photographed and others that we didn't know exist do have a picture now published.  I can't tell you how many "AH HA" moments I had wandering through the pages for hours on Friday when my advance copy arrived. 

I know that the cost of this volume set may be prohibitive at $300 and the run is only 1200 copies.  Perhaps you can convince a large local library that it is a must for their collection.  But there may be one or two readers who decide this is a must have for themselves, especially if they love furniture.  It can be preordered through many outlets.  But at the very least it is interesting to see how much of an influence collectors have on preservation and our museum collections, how their personal interests affect what we know, and how their largess can enable more research to occur.   

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

Cleveland Museum of Art Blog

Earlier this year I worked with Textile Conservator Robin Hanson at the Cleveland Museum of Art on a gold threads workshop for the American Institute of Conservation.  One of the absolutely amazing artifacts we pulled out for the workshop, and had inspired Robin to contact me, was a Lord Chancellor's Burse.  She and colleague Holly Witchey, Adjunct Professor of the Department of Art History and Art at Case Western Reserve University have started a blog about this object with many close pictures of the amazing embroidery.  It is worth a read into the background of this piece!

Lord Chancellor’s Burse (Purse) with Royal Cypher and Coat of Arms of George III, 1760–1801. England. Red silk velvet, silk embroidery, goldwork, pearls, jet, sequins, pendant tassels; 78 x 50 x 5 cm. The Cleveland Museum of Art, Gift of Mr. and Mrs. J. H. Wade, 1916.1366


Wednesday, December 28, 2022

Where are the 12-Days of Christmas?

For several years I have had a 12-Days of Christmas giveaway and that was again the intent this year with a bunch of giveaway stuff ready in a pile.  As Christmas came and went without it up I almost gave into the stress of not having it up on the 26th but drew a deep breath and decided to go with not posting at all.  Sorry to disappoint and perhaps things will get to the point where it is in the cards.  I hope so as that means that I have excess time to spend!!  I have read that all super-successful women with children really got going after 50.  I believe it!  Think about the extra effort in being a mom and when that weight is lifted after they launch, that energy gets poured into career/job.  Watch out - my empty nest is coming up.  But life is certainly throwing in quite a few curveballs trying to get there.

As I breezed through the news yesterday, I came upon another article on the theme of 'women doing too much' on CNN.  There have been quite a few in the last two years brought on by the shear exhaustion borne by women during these pandemic years.  They concern the new understanding (now didn't all us women know!?) that there is significant energy and work in the process of thinking about everything that needs to be done and it isn't shared equally at home.  In the past we called it 'wearing too many hats'.  In this particular article it pointed out that it is usually the woman of the family who is keeping track of all the to-do items regarding the holidays.  The mental lists of who you need to get a gift for, what to get, shipping schedules, etc.  That takes energy to make sure things don't slip through the cracks.  And often because we are all socialized for this, we end up holding in our heads the tasks that our spouse said they would take on to 'help us' and hasn't gotten done yet (i.e. forgot about).  Yes that one hit hard as on the 23rd, hours before my extended family was to show up I asked my husband as he was cooking (yes, he does do a great job with that - as long as I plan it) - did you get that gift for your mom?  Uhhhhh...I grabbed the keys and back out again I went to save the day.  Exhausting.

I had a business trip to work at the MET mid-Dec on some amazing embroidery research for several days and that added to the balancing act and likely was the time that would have ended up being the 12-Days giveaway.  But at the same time, I needed out of dodge badly and I didn't realize it until I had been on the train a few hours.  The experience of the last few months melted away as 'it wasn't my job' at that moment to be Dr. Mom (ok, so the Dr. Dad texts were coming in for me to dispense advice on what to do).  As I was able to focus for a few hours on my work, I realized how much I haven't been able to do that for months.  My son at home had three concussions since late Sept and the dizzying set of symptoms have kept me on a knifes edge constantly.  I swear that even when I get him to school, he shows up a few hours later back with a migraine and I go into high gear again figuring out the triggers, calling the school, etc.  While the doctors are caring, they don't have answers.  My friend who is at Children's Hospital admitted to me that the research on recovery and thus their recommendations are changing every six months (yes, I agree!).  And on top of it, people who have learning differences are removed from all studies as they 'mess up the data' and doctors don't know what to do about their different symptoms.   

So I have had to dig into current research myself and figure out what is going on in my son's head and search out the right people to help him.  I play 20-questions with him constantly to tease out all the cause and effects daily in an effort to deduce what is going on.  We play small games to figure out capabilities as his abilities/deficits are confusing.  He can 'robot' like normal now but will often throw up after taking a math test.  I kept track of all the complaining and realized that he was right - he wasn't forming proper memories of new material.  All the while, holding him up emotionally, dealing with his teachers and the school about the big picture, and listening to my husband (who feels powerless) endlessly worry while keeping my worries to myself.   It got really dark for about a week and I stopped doing anything but making things move forward so my son had hope.  Since our other son was in the middle of his own exhausting competition and needed support as well - oh my gosh I felt like a ping-pong ball.  He tried to collapse here for Thanksgiving but couldn't as he had to do grad school applications, due days after his robotic competiton - so I spent that weekend being his muse and editor for the dozens of essays and videos he had to pop off so quickly.

Things are looking up, we have found the right specialist.  The therapies are slowly working - I am doing them with the kid daily to get them done and extend his brain time with them (they work at minimizing headaches in dyslexics so good for me too).  He and I stayed back from the family Christmas vacation because he isn't allowed to fly.  So we are alone here since Christmas in 'brain bootcamp' as he calls it.  He isn't liking the low-inflammation diet.  His brother has been a saint - offering immediately after his apps were done to tutor his brother in all his AP courses to catch him up on 12 weeks of high school.  Since they both get up insanely early this time of year, they work on it between 5-7 am.  That was one of the huge issues, the kid can't really read well at the moment and is toast at the end of school day - so we couldn't hire anyone to catch him up during normal hours leading him to be despondent.  His brother has been fabulous at getting a moody 18-yr old to do everything he doesn't want to do.  It's a whole family affair, I would have to say.  We have about three weeks in the new year to catch up the entire semester so his college apps are valid and move forward.  It is so much pressure - the Canadian colleges who would have already made a decision have put his apps on hold and he is starting to get deferrals from his early admissions applications.  The elephant in the closet is that with the high stakes college environment where the slots are going early, this short term injury may change his result and that is so hard for him to swallow after four years of just doing everything right.  

Once the new year gets going, I have to manage the school.  He has taken all the tests for Q1 but they still aren't graded as the teachers are in a slow-down, impending strike action.  God, I hope they don't strike that week or I will go nutcase.  Some colleges are waiting for the results of the incomplete transcript to put his application on the evaluation track again.

So I have had to take my 'Thistle Threads' hat off daily to put on my 'Dr. Mom' and 'Dyslexic Concussion Expert' hat on instead.  I was going to launch the Stumpwork Course again next week.  I was going to do a ton of new things - lectures up - papers written - new projects up.  Even those things that are pretty much ready to go - I have put aside as I just can't add to my mental load until late January.  Sometimes your injured family needs you to help carry them across the finish line.  I hope then I can celebrate with a 12-Days of Valentines Day or something like that!