Monday, May 27, 2013

The Answer and a Winner

Mark D. Ruffner
My challenge to you on Friday was to identify this curious structure. Rosemary gets credit for using the word "indigenous" and Gina and Steve get credit for guessing that it's related to fishing. But astute Rugby E. Root knew the answer:

click to enlarge   |
This interesting construction comes from the Marshall Islands, southwest of Hawaii and northeast of Australia.
It's actually called a "stick chart" and it's a map once used by Marshallese fishermen to chart the prevailing currents around their islands. The shells represent the islands, and the sticks (which are usually the spines of palm fronds) represent the currents.

links below
It's interesting that the chart that I displayed (which belongs to my brother and sister-in-law) is very close to the image on the stamp. Because of that, I'm guessing that it might represent the entire Marshall Islands area. Usually, though,  these stick charts were made by individual fishermen for their own fishing locales, and therefore could not be read by other people. Their designs varied greatly, as show above. Sacrificial Materials blogspot (the middle link below) correctly describes these stick charts as mnemonic, more memory guides than maps.

After World War II, modern marine technologies reached the Marshall Islands, and stick charts were fazed out.

The three maps above come from these sites:

Friday, May 24, 2013

Friday's Puzzle — What Is It?

Mark D. Ruffner

Here's something that I've always found intriguing, and I was wondering whether you could guess what it is.

It's made with sticks, shells and twine.

When it hangs on the wall it looks like a piece of modern art (at least to me), but it has a utilitarian purpose. Can you guess what it is? I'll publish the answer on Monday, and if you guess correctly, I'll hold your answer until then.

Have a great weekend.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Illustrator Chris Wormell

Today I'm sharing the art of Christopher Wormell. Perhaps because I grew up with old books around me, I have an abiding love for the art of wood engraving. I've blogged about Thomas Bewick, one of the greatest wood engravers of all time, and about Elliott Banfield, whose pen and ink drawings resemble wood engraving. Now it's time to showcase the multi-talented Chris Wormell of England.

Graphis, January/February 1992
To fully appreciate Christopher Wormell's engravings, it helps to know that he had no formal art training. Early on, Wormell worked a series of manual jobs, including road sweeper and factory worker, earning just enough to take breaks to paint landscapes.

Graphis, January/February 1992
When Wormell decided to take up wood engraving, he bought the tools and taught himself. Working in reverse, which this art form requires, came quite naturally to him, and the results were elegant and soon much sought after — both in England and the United States. These first two images are from the book English Country Traditions, published by V & A Publications.

Graphis, January/February 1992
I like how Wormell has achieved the house's reflection in this engraving for a property development company.

Graphis, January/February 1992
 Here's a Christmas card Wormell designed for Alphabet Typehouse — see the "A?"
Christopher Wormell also creates distinctive images with linoleum. Their highly graphic quality are in the great tradition of English pub signs.

Here's an image from the first of many children's books Wormell has illustrated, An Alphabet of Animals. I like the light green shadow on the zebra's body, or perhaps it's a reflection.
Today, Christopher Wormell is a hugely successful and well-loved illustrator of children's books, now working primarily in watercolor.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Collecting Cobalt Bottles

Have I mentioned that I'm a collector? Two years ago, my friend Sandy gave me two cobalt bottles from an estate sale, and that was all I needed as an excuse to start another collection!

I have one of those garden windows in my kitchen, and because I'm not a green thumb like so many of my blogging friends, I filled one entire shelf with cobalt bottles. (Notice the Spanish Moss hanging in the background.)

My favorite is this violin bottle. I'm not sure what filled it originally, but I'm guessing that it was a liqueur. Collectors call these "viobots" and they're hugely popular among bottle collectors, in fact there's even a Violin Bottle Collectors Association. Below is a sampling of other violin bottles.

This 23 fl. oz. bottle of George Washington was definitely a liquor bottle, issued to commemorate the United States bicentennial.

Here's a milk bottle with the name "Brookfield." The neck has a double baby face, so now we have a good idea of what the god Janus might have looked like at an earlier age.

The last time I was in New York, I ran into Scott Jordan, a man with a most unusual pastime. Scott goes to New York building sites and gets permission to excavate before the heavy work begins.

Back in the 19th century, folks would regularly dispose of trash by throwing it into a backyard pit (researchers hit a bonanza when they dug up Thomas Edison's Menlo Park grounds), and of course bottles and china have survived. 

Scott's holding a cobalt bottle that I bought from him. He dug it up at a New York City building site and it dates to the 1890s. It says 8 OUNCES, S.S. STAFFORD INKS, MADE IN THE U.S.A., and it has a spout.

The bottle is referred to as a "master ink," and was used to fill smaller ink bottles, like the one on the right, which is from the same period.

Collecting cobalt bottles is very satisfying. One might spend a lot of money on early hand-blown bottles, but one can just as easily find lovely examples for just a few dollars.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

One Man's Passion — Sunken Gardens

One of St. Petersburg, Florida's favorite landmarks started out as a private garden. In 1903, a plumber and avid gardener named George Turner, Sr. bought a property with a shallow lake. He discovered that the lake had formed over an ancient sinkhole. Turner drained the lake, which then allowed him to create winding paths and garden areas that reach as low as 15 feet below street level.

There are surprises at every turn.

And there are beautiful flowers.

By 1924, word had spread of Turner's exotic creation, and visitors could stroll through the garden for a 25¢ admission. They could enjoy the carp . . .

. . . and later, exotic animals like Chilean Flamingos and Laughing Kookaburras from Australia.

Today Sunken Gardens has an amphitheater, a small shaded stage, and lots of areas to just sit and enjoy the surroundings.

The beautiful area below has become a popular spot for weddings.

In 1999, the Turner family sold Sunken Gardens to the City of St. Petersburg, which maintains it today. Many of Mr. Turner's original plants still exist.

I thought I'd end with a photo of this bench. It's fossilized limestone that was revealed when the lake was drained. Traditionally, every new Sunken Garden employee starts his first day at this spot.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Thanks, Gina!

I wish to extend a special thanks to my blogging friend Gina, of ginaceramics, who surprised me with the antique button that's featured in my side bar this month.

Knowing my Swiss heritage, Gina sent a button that came, long ago, from a regional Swiss costume like the ones shown below.

One of the many things that makes the antique button special is that a close inspection of the filigree work reveals that it was all handmade. I'm delighted to have it in my collection! Thanks again, Gina!