Ohio River Pottery: Russel Wright for Steubenville Pottery, American Modern

The dinnerware designed by Russel Wright is included in the rather broad [and vague] category, Mid Century Modern.  Russel Wright designed the new line of American Modern Dinnerware in the 1930s. His designs were, in part, a reaction to the formality of the late Victorian dinner table. Many courses served with service changes that required “help” in the kitchen. A way of living,  that was certainly at odds in the 1930s when many could no longer afford imported fancy serve ware or a household staff to serve. His stated intent was to bring design to everyone – American Modern would become the best selling dinnerware in American history.

His design took another turn; the post modernist turn. He looked to the form and function of each piece, first, and then applied glazes that reflected the natural world. You might even say, he used organic shapes and colors that soothed a generation in an era of unsettling news –  economic downturns, political unease and total war on a global scale. As much as his design fascinates, his later avocation to restore land that included abandoned quarries near the Hudson River inspires me. I plan to visit . .

The first piece of Russel Wright that I found was in a box in an abandoned trailer. Although I didn’t know who made the piece, I was captivated by the color and shape. I soon discovered the pitcher was manufactured by Iroquois China and designed by Russel Wright. The pitcher is definitive of Wright’s design – curves that do not end. There are no hard edges. Truly wonderful to hold and behold.  And the color  . . .  drawn from the forest at sunset.

Inspiration: First Comes Love

Songs and stores from childhood are simple which is why we are able to learn them quickly and recall them years later. Like this one:

Jack and Jill sitting in a tree,

K-I-S-S-I-N-G

First comes love . . . then comes marriage . . . then comes Jack  with the baby carriage.

Boys and girls chant this rhyme at the first whisper of romance particularly in primary school.  In fourth grade, I received a locket on Valentine’s Day. After that day, he would not speak nor look at me.  He was tormented by our classmates who sang the song relentlessly on the playground.

K-I-S-S-I-N-G is not just a childish taunt; the song represents the socially accepted order of love and marriage. Breaking social rules and crossing boundaries is not easy even if we think that we are modern. The Jan van Eyck portrait of marriage still raises eyebrows; the pregnancy of the bride is unexpected in a Renaissance painting perhaps. But then as now, life is not always orderly nor simple. Marriage does not inevitably follow love;  marriage does not always last a lifetime and sometimes, the baby carriage remains empty.

Vintage Ephemera: Reading Both Sides of a Postcard

Recently, I came across two postcards that were very very funny. Not so much because of the humor of the printed postcard but rather, because the written message was the punch line.

Don't you think its time to marry?
Don’t you think its time to marry?

This postcard was printed in 1908, a leap year. The woman with the gun reflects the common stereotype that

 women who asked men to marry them were desperate, aggressive, and unfeminine.

Books Have Their Own Destiny: The Margaret Tarrant Christmas Book

There is a stack of books in my study catalogued as “books that I want to read.” This stack of books has existed as long as I can remember – as a young girl it was a mental list –  over time, the stack of books has steadily increased. After all , the more we read, the more we want to read; the older we become, the more books we collect. I refuse to shelve books that I have not read; so I have resorted to different stacks – fiction and nonfiction for instance. One stack next to the bed,  another in the kitchen . . . the neat stacks have grown into piles of books. You see, last year, most of my reading was devoted to rather feeble attempts to understand internet publishing. As the stacks grew, so did my longing to linger with a book. At long last, I have taken the time to rest, relax and read. One of the first books that captured my attention was The Margaret Tarrant Christmas Book. I surmised that I would quickly go through the illustrated treasure and then properly shelve it with Christmas Books. But then I stumbled upon a poem titled, Immanence by Evelyn Underhill. I was taken aback – and then way back to an undergraduate research project on mysticism. You might say, that Evelyn Underhill wrote THE book on mysticism.

Immanence; Margaret Tarrant, Illustrator
Immanence; Margaret Tarrant, Illustrator