Gorgeous Goods and Cherished Chattels
As Time Goes By
This is not our oldest 'treasure', but As Time Goes By, our Grandfather clock ages - and at this moment is over 135 years old.
Even more remarkable is that he began his impressive life as a wedding gift to my husband's grandparents, from the people of the small town of Nr. Broby in Denmark, as a loving tribute to the man who had been their Postmaster and general 'overseer' of right and proper conduct in their village for many, many years. And for many more years now it has held pride of place in the Lounge rooms of our various homes.
Presently, our treasured time-piece hangs on the wall of our beloved old stone farmhouse - Circa 1878 - making the clock seem much younger by comparison.
Like a more detailed story? here's my Ezine article -
Some call their possessions 'material' - others refer to them as goods and chattels - we prefer the title of 'beloved treasures'.
Meanwhile, Down Under
our Grandfather Clock, more cherished chattels 'hang out' on top of our dear old Oak writing desk. Bought at a clearing sale at a farm in Western Australia in the late 1960s, for an amazingly low price (mainly because it was already quite an ancient piece of furniture), it was old and ragged and unloved. We could see its promise and we particularly loved its mellow charm and character. It's one of those writing desks with little hidey-hole type dividers hidden behind the drop down desktop lid. It's a little hard to see, but each side of the top drawer are a couple of pull-out 'arms' for the drop down top to be supported on, ready for writing.
I love dreaming about the letters that have been written on it. Can you imagine the whole gamut of news and feelings that would have been expressed at this writing desk? The joyous; the heartbreaking; the gamut of Life and Death and every moment in between.
Meanwhile, back at the restoration story - constant oiling and smoothing and repairs here and there were required, plus a heap of 'elbow grease' to return this old dear to glowing beauty once again. It soon earned its place as an irreplaceable part of the scene below the Grandfather clock.
This particular grouping has lived together for many years now, in two States of Australia and several different homes. We think they are inseparable - from each other as much as from us.
They all Live Together - ...in harmonyClick thumbnail to view full-size
And each one has a Special story...naturally!
Antique Brass Iron - c.1850
The Brass Iron is most certainly an antique - it has been in the Danish Larsen family for five generations.
Although appearing purely ornamental, it was a working item, once upon a time. A square hole at the back with a 'guillotine' trapdoor, encloses a space containing a spearhead-shaped piece of Ironstone. This was heated on the top of a wood stove, wrapped in absorbent cloth and inserted into the iron. One imagines there would be two ironstones alternately heating and/or in actual use. Can you imagine the work involved in ironing those mountains of petticoats and long, full skirts? And the cotton nightgowns and other 'unmentionables' of the day - ALL requiring ironing!
Two Beautiful 'Birds'
The Little Mermaid is a replica of the statue in the harbour of Copenhagen, Denmark. It celebrates the heroine of the famous Hans Christian Andersen story of the same name.
The Little Robin
For most of us Australians, temperatures that drop far below zero are all but impossible to imagine. Some of my husband's clearest memories of Denmark include propping up 'sheaves' of hay on a broomstick for the birds, because they could not forage on the ground due to its snow and ice coverage.
Typically, small birds puff up their feathers' to fullest capability for warmth. The beauty and faithful attention to detail depicted in this 'Robin' ornament are a hallmark of the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain factory.
Antique Brass Mortar and Pestle - also c.1850
The heritage here is the same as the Antique Brass Iron above, and when I tell you this two piece item is solid brass, you'd better believe it. Together, they weigh 2-1/2 lb. (1109 grams). I wonder if my marble mortar and pestle will last the same distance? Hmm...
The French Connection - ...Down under??
And hereby lives a tale. The full story is told in my Ezine article - but the condensed version is that these two original oil paintings were given to us by a young Danish painter as payment for full board (and a bit of touring around) with us for some days when we lived near the city of Perth in Western Australia. He was working his way around the world this way, always paying with paintings from a recent 'port of call'.
For years they lay safely between the pages of a large book - and I say years, because our lifestyle and address changes made us forget all about them. They were discovered at last by my Mum, secreted away, beautifully framed...and given to me for my 50th birthday. They have been proudly on display ever since.
The only thing we don't know is whether he ever became rich and famous from his works - or simply unimaginably rich from his wonderful experiences? We can't decipher his signature on the paintings, and we can't find any listing of a Danish artist with a name evenly vaguely like the letters appear. It's nice to imagine he is happy and wealthy - in all the ways that count most.
Innocence - ...only a 'print' this time
...but as it's one of Sir Joshua Reynolds' masterpieces, this is as close as we will come to the reality!
OK...so what's the story with this one? Well-ll-ll, almost 46 years ago, my husband and I were married. My parents had been quite magnificent in all they had done for us in countless ways...and whilst we knew our happiness was the only gift they wanted in return, we had different ideas.
We searched and agonised over just what would be an appropriate way to thank them for everything. Until we saw this painting - and fell in love with it. Somehow, 'The Age of Innocence' seemed symbolic of their evergreen love for me and how they had 'raised me up'. In so many ways it was so right.
I can't remember how we organised it, but someone transferred this neatly wrapped and be-ribboned gift from my wardrobe to my parent's bed, after Dad and I, my bridesmaids and flower-girl, all drove away in the wedding cars to the Church. They would not discover it for many hours, until they finally returned home, exhausted and emotionally drained - and then it was their turn to have their flagging spirits 'raised up'.
After we lost both of them, our 'Age of Innocence' came home to us again. And has featured in our bedroom ever since. Isn't it dreamy? She looks as though she is somehow 'seeing' all the years ahead - with a little trepidation, and a whole lot of faith.
***Aarghh! Look at the flare in the photo! Ah well...one day, I'll get the hubby (on a good day!) to lift down the 'masterpiece', and I'll attempt a better photo than you can achieve holding the camera somewhat wildly and randomly above your head...and hoping and praying a whole lot!.
SHADOW BOXING?? - ...well-ll-ll, NOT quite!
From the first time I went to my parents-in-law's home, I loved the triangular 'shadow box' hanging above the fireplace in their Lounge. Filled with tiny ornaments, each one bursting with its own story of why it was so highly prized - it was a virtual treasure trove of memories.
Early in our marriage, my husband, the qualified carpenter, made mine for a present for me for a special birthday - and my collection of these particular memories began.
My eyes start on the top shelf, with the two tiny Persian kittens I made in the midst of my 'Ceramics' period. How well I remember the difficulty of getting those tiny eyes to match. The centre top shelf displays a small china-painted jug and vase that my mother made for me - that she declared 'amateurish' - but I loved. And on the right, a small brass water pump and bucket - a 'thank you' gift bought for me by an old lady I was a 'Carer' for, many years ago.
Then, on the second shelf, some tiny liquor bottles - but the Danish Akvavit and the Benedictine ones are particularly special. We shared them at dinner one night on our honeymoon - 46 years ago - in a flash restaurant at the notorious 'Kings Cross', in Sydney, Australia. (In those days, notorious for brothels and strip clubs!) Center stage on this shelf is a collection of:- a pretty, once-fragrant oil bottle; a tiny 'Willow' pattern cup and saucer (from Denmark), and another of my 'Ceramic' period creations - a tiny wizened old Chinaman. To the right of centre, two china 'trophies' from my husband's brief ballroom dancing career - in Denmark, at the age of 12! (Never pursued further here in Australia - but succeeded in making him a really good dancing partner.)
At last, the bottom shelf! Far left is a creation from my thankfully brief 'glass painting' period - my version of 'Little Boy Blue'.....under the haystack, fast asleep.' Then three small copper pots were spied and bought in Western Australia many years ago; a white china candle holder depicting the famous 'Holly Hobbie' was a gift from a much loved, but now deceased sister-in-law; and a weird little snake-like creature clings desperately to a sign - 'Warning - Quicksand' - a gift from our best man, also now deceased.
And last of all, on the far right - a small replica of the much-loved British 'Paddington Bear', sitting on his suitcase - just waiting. (For a bus, maybe a train? Or to be loved? )
**NB** Please!.....at this moment in time.....DO NOT PANIC!
I do NOT have a story behind EVERYTHING we possess!
Oh yeh, right! And if you believe that, you probably believe in the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny, too! (Sh-h-h-h......I DO!)
Stitching a Picture - ....and weaving a story.
Before our first wedding anniversary, my husband's work necessitated a move to the other side of Australia - to Western Australia - 'far from the home (and families we loved' - and that would last for 6 years.
As a special gift for my parents one year, I painstakingly stitched this tapestry picture. (Why a European scene? And a church in the foreground? What significance could it have? Well, none that I can think of or remember. I think it was just cheap...and we were pretty poor at the time!) What 'counted' was that they loved and treasured it all of their lives - and Mum continued this love when she was on her own, living in her elderly citizens' unit - hanging it on the wall at the end of her bed - "to see first thing in the morning and last thing at night," she often told me.
At that time, I was a 'Carer', and two of my dear 'folk' lived in serviced rooms at a residential care facility on the other side of Adelaide from my Mum. Imagine my shock therefore, as I went along the long passageway to their rooms, and saw 'MY' tapestry in the plain white frame (a recycled one of our own) that I had framed myself, to save money - innocently hanging on the wall.
You know that feeling, when your heart pounds SO loudly, and the blood rushes hotly through your ears, and you go all hot and cold and even imagine you just may faint? Yes, well-ll-ll...., all of that, plus - How could she?....Why not offer it back to me if it was not loved anymore?
It was with great trepidation and the heaviest of hearts that I went to see my Mum, later that day - anticipating, at best, a deeply traumatic 'event'. I didn't mention it right off. How could I, after receiving my usual effusive hugs and kisses and affirmations of her great love for me. Instead, I made an excuse of needing a visit to her ensuite bathroom, so I could see the space on the wall where MY tapestry should have been.
Nothing......I repeat, nothing..... could have prepared me for the fact that it was still there - intact! When I checked back at my 'oldies' home - that one was still there, too. Well-ll-ll......what would be the odds of the exact same tapestry being created and framed in the identical frame and style - 1600 miles apart, by different people? Stranger than fiction - but true!
And the one in the photo above is MINE - at my place for the past 12 years - in yet another 'recycled' frame - but this one is carved Oak and was professionally framed. A perfect choice for this particular heirloom, don't you think?
**Note to self - make a lens about my tapestries - it would fill one, you know it would. Yeh sure...I'll put it on the 'To Do' list!
AND THEN THERE IS THE 'WHATNOT' - ...do you know of what I speak?
I'll just go take a peek at Wikipedia - is this of British origin - or American? Who knows?
(And some may be tempted to say - "Who cares?" - sorry, some of us DO!) Like, to me, this is yet another treasure trove of memories and celebrations - despite the fact that Wikipedia coldly tells us -
A what-not is a piece of furniture derived from the French Ã©tagÃ¨re, which was exceedingly popular in England in the first three-quarters of the 19th century. It usually consists of slender uprights or pillars, supporting a series of shelves for holding china, ornaments, trifles, or what not, hence the elusive name. In its English form, although a convenient piece of drawing room furniture, it was rarely beautiful. The early mahogany examples are, however, sometimes graceful in their simplicity.
Aargh!...get over yourself, Wiki. MINE is extremely beautiful - and whilst not mahogany, still is exceptionally graceful...to me!
I say - Why not a Whatnot....why not, indeed?
Atop my Whatnot is a most special vase. It belonged to my Great-Grandmother (on my Mum's side) which tends to make it just SO precious. The stamp underneath says it was made in England - but the maker's name and symbol are impossible to decipher. How strange that the Salad Bowl and Servers on the bottom shelf are so similar in design, and this is also English china, but the maker appears to be Bridgwood.
This set also has engraving on its brass rim, because it was a trophy awarded to my Grandfather on my Dad's side. These words say -
'Presented to A.J. GRAHAM (GM) as Capt. Initiation Team, Lodge 43, 1915'
This was the local Freemason's Lodge, and the (GM) stands for Grand Master - an extremely honourable title to hold - but not so surprising for a gentleman looked up to and admired by many people, apparently.
On the second shelf is my attempt to mimic these two beauties. How could the sweetest shaped pot be such a total horror to make? But despite the blood, sweat and tears, the thing I'm proudest of is that I only managed to put one of the four Decals (or prints) on back to front! Luckily, that one faces to the back at all times, and nobody knows - until they lift it up. I discourage that as much as possible, for obvious reasons!
And the beautiful shallow 'Pansy' bowl was actually hand-painted by my Father-in-law, some years before they left Denmark in 1956. Harry was actually a house painter by trade, but part of his apprenticeship examinations had included the delicate painting of flowers on a tall Grandfather clock he had made himself. He developed a love of china-painting - but I am guessing it was WWII that changed all that. As far as I know, he never painted like this ever again. Certainly never here in Australia. How sad. It looks talented and skilful work to me.
Let's Look at them again - ...up close and personalClick thumbnail to view full-size
MY Grandfather's Clock - ...along with a couple of other 'treasures'
Not to be outdone, and insisting he is in a class all of his own, MY Grandfather's clock was another trophy awarded to him from his beloved Lodge. The brass plaque on the front under the clock face, tells us this clock was -
BRO. A.J. GRAHAM, GM
IOOF Juvenile Picnic Committee
for Services Rendered
GM = Grand Master (the boss?)
IOOF = Independent Order of Oddfellows (no, I don't know why....go Google it, why don't you?)
***Note to self - POLISH up that brass - aren't you ashamed? (Well-ll-ll...trying!)
And that's a whimsical fairy I made, sitting irreverently atop the clock. Once upon a time she was a set of dressing table doyleys - but I 'transformered' her into an angel. Isn't she lovely? (A little blonde myabe...but so is our gorgeous grand-daughter...what can I say?)
And to the left is one of my Mum's masterpieces - a beautiful urn style vase with fancy gold handles - made for me for my birthday in 1976. She loved her roses - and so did I.
And to the right is one of my Ceramic-period creations - one that I felt proud of - a Swan in a soft Pink, with Gold 'bubbles' all over it. There's truly a better name for this process, but at the moment, it's buried in my archives...somewhere, back there! (Haloes, or haloing...maybe?)
**Note to self - if found in the dark recesses, add it in an edit!
** 'Nother note to self - make a lens about my Ceramic-period. Yes, yes...when I have time...Ha!
AND - sharing pride of place, and actually dominating the scene - is an oil painting from Denmark, also inherited via our parents. It hung on a wall next to the Dining table at my parents-in-law's home - and witnessed untold numbers of lavish dinner parties, for usually about 20 or more people.
Those two dear people sure loved to entertain - with gusto!
Meanwhile, back at the painting, I can't tell you a lot about it, except that it's a very traditional fishing boat scene, and the red sails are common there. It appears to have been painted by a C. Holten - and we believe its creation to have been before the 1930's.
Well-ll-ll, NO actually... wrong, on both counts. These 'material things' are living memories for us - and they can NEVER be replaced. Don't you have some 'treasures' like these - in your home...and your heart?