Thursday, April 16, 2015

Heraldry Follow-Up

Thanks to all of you who have been helping me unlock the clues of the Petit Point Heraldic mystery I mentioned last post.  Since then, we have had many discussions about potential ideas for what images used within the embroidery might mean.

I took Rachel Wright's advice and wrote to the College of Arms in London.  I had no idea that such an institution exists.

The officer in waiting, Clive Chessman, responded within a day, which is very impressive in itself.

I repeat it for you in full as it's quite interesting...

There seems to be a consensus that the embroidery is a decorative piece of some sort and I suspect it isn't too terribly old.  As petit point goes, it's quite lovely and perhaps it was a souvenir kit brought back from a trip to England by someone or it was just a pretty kit with a tapestry feel to it as some of you have suggested.

When I get a few minutes, I plan to call the Antique Mall and see if I can track down the woman I bought it from.  Perhaps she can shed some light on its prior owner.

Thanks again to all of you for helping.  It's been a fun exercise.  

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Heralding Petit Point

Antique malls are akin to nature walks, libraries and museums in my book.  

The panoply of objects that owners once treasured and then discarded is a continuous source of amusement and interest to me. You never know what you will find.

When Jim and I were visiting Dad, we had the pleasure of discovering an absolutely wonderful treasure trove, the Shirley Street Antique Mall in Naples, FL.   It's home to Homer Helter's, the largest military antique mall in Florida...a fact that becomes apparent when you walk through the back door and are greeted by a table full of veterans and friends who gather there on a daily basis.  They were a welcoming band of brothers and offered a chair, a cup of coffee and fellowship to my Dad while Jim and I went treasure hunting.

It didn't take long before I spotted this 6 inch square example of petit point embroidery...

It is petit point stitched with silk floss on silk gauze at 44 stitches to the inch. 

The strange thing about this piece was that I had seen the exact same fragment a couple days before at another Antique Mall in Naples but didn't buy it because it was three times as much.  It was also dirtier and much more faded than this one.

I took that as a sign from the universe.  I mean, what's the likelihood that you see two pieces that are so distinct within one week of each other?  It was meant to come home with me.

Since being back, I've scoured the internet trying to find any information that might unlock the secret of its progeny or history.

Its original frame seemed to be from the 1940s.  When I took the piece out of the frame, I was sad to see that the fragment had been glued to a cardboard backing.

The edges are frayed and the piece does appear to be a fragment.

The image seems to be heraldic in nature, with a lion salient on the left and a unicorn on the right both holding banner poles in front of a tournament tent.  Through a parting in the tent curtain, there's a red shield emblazoned with a lion rampant and a plumed helm and visor...

The lion and the unicorn in this configuration bring to mind the Royal Coat of Arms of the United Kingdom.  

There are quite a number of crests in the piece. In addition to the main red crest in the bottom center, there are four in the corners and two more resting against each other atop the opening in the tent.

There are two banners suspended from the flag poles...

And the date "1526" below the flag on the left...

If any of you can help me understand a bit more about the history of this piece, I would be very grateful.  Jim tends to think it's merely a pretty design created in a heraldic style.  Perhaps he's right.  That might explain why I saw another similar one in the same town.  Of course, they woman who sold it to me could have had a pair and a stall in the other antique mall we visited...but I didn't think to ask that at the time.

All in all, it's just lovely.  The background bounty of bright flowers stitched in soft, romantic colors, brings to mind jousting, knights, and the favors of noble ladies.  It's all very romantic indeed.  I wish I knew more.

Happy Heralding!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Easter Butterflies

Last week Jimmy and I returned to Naples, Florida to spend Easter with my father.

Every day Jim and I trekked through the mangroves to visit the beach...

We were lucky that there was another Osprey pair this year with three fledglings in their nest.  I love to watch the Dad fish.  Last year, I wrote this post where the sea hawk caught a Florida pompano.  This year, he entertained again by catching this gar fish...

It didn't look like a very big meal...

But when you've got three hungry mouths to feed, you eat whatever you can catch...

The weather was calm and mild the entire time we were there which made for perfect beach-going.

There wasn't much of a wrack line this time...

Which was a huge blessing in disguise.

A full wrack line is like having too many choices on a buffet.  You tend to select the larger, more unusual dishes.   If there had been too much competition, I'm afraid we would have missed the treasures that actually were there.

Coquina shells. Donax Variabilis.

Small, edible saltwater clams that live below the sand in shallow water along East Coast beaches.

While I stooped to collect these tiny shells, an older German woman whom I had befriended that week approached with her cane.  She walked the beach every morning and we had struck up multiple conversations throughout the week about shells and birds and clams...basically, any and all wildlife that we saw in the mornings.

When she saw me down low, she said, "Oh, hello.  I see you've found something to collect."

"Coquina shells, " I said.  "Only little shells are here these days."

"Oh!" She exclaimed.  "They are so Be-YOU-tiful.  All those pretty colors.  I have a whole dish of them I keep out.  Just beautiful!  You have to be careful to clean them well though or they stink.  A little bit of the clam sticks to the shell and you have to get that out."

I waved to her as she went on her way, leaving this egret behind fishing in the surf.

I went back to collecting the tiny marvels and found they were most easily spotted in shallow water, as the lapping water lifted them up and they floated back down...

I wanted to find a way to share the pleasure of shell hunting, so I took a picture just for you.  Think of it as a virtual shell hunt.

There are eight coquina shells (3 doubles and 5 singles) in the picture below.  Can you find them all? (I'll reveal the answer in the bottom of the post.)

While I continued the delicate job of picking up wee bitsy clam shells, another woman approached and told me that she had grown up on Coquina Beach.  As children, she and her siblings had eaten the little clams as they played; their parents had made coquina broth from boiling the live mollusks in salted water.  I found a recipe here.  Who knew?

Jim and I weren't up to harvesting live clams, so we took our empty, bitty bivalves back home and followed the German woman's advice of washing the shells carefully...

Spending the time to pick out any remaining organic matter.  It was a tedious task as the shells ranged in size from 5mm to 18mm.

But it was exactly this slow, methodical care with each and every shell that caused me to fall in love...over and over again.

Together they were a kaleidoscope of Easter butterflies...

And individually, they were every shade of pastel with stripes and delightful combinations.

Like a box of antique buttons, each one held its own charm...

As I washed, dried and sorted my delicate swarm of shells, my father watched perplexed.  "What," he kept asking, "Are you going to do with all of those?"

"I don't know yet, Dad.  But aren't they amazing?"

"Hmmpff, " was all he said.

What I was going to do with them?  I didn't yet know.

But when Dad, Jim and I went to an Antique Mall the next day, look what I found...

This kitschy, old-fashioned souvenir bouquet of shell flowers.  It was love at first sight.

And look...

There are flowers made from all those tiny coquina shells.

And the hummingbird has a set of coquina wings...

Yesterday, I unpacked and sorted all the paired coquinas by color and placed them in a collection box...

A palette from the sea.

And I took all the single shells and placed them in a dish...just as my German friend had suggested.

And here they sit as I type this post to remind us that Summer is coming and the world is full of wonder and joy.

My new collection has led me down a path of researching shellwork which was all the rage in 18th century England.  I found this stunning example of shellwork from the reign of George III...

And then I remembered that my friend Mrs. Delany had created shellwork in addition to her 1,000 flower collages and amazing embroideries.  So I'm busy following that lead.

Looks like there's more shell embroideries in my future.  Found on the Beach might have to become a series.

Blowing kisses to you all and hoping that some unexpected delight washes up on your beach ;)

P.S.  Here's the solution to the virtual coquina search...

And here's a few other interesting shells that were also in the shot...

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