Thursday, March 11, 2010

my Shorpy crush

I swear...sometimes I feel as if I was born in the wrong era. I mean, don't get me wrong -- life would not be complete without having seen U2 and Springsteen in concert -- but I've always fancied big band and swing music. When we built our new "old" house on the Colorado prairies in 2003, claw foot tubs and built-ins were an absolute must. And of course we filled it with vintage farmhouse wares and antique furniture.

So imagine my delight when I recently discovered Shorpy, a blog of vintage photographs from the 1850s to 1950s. It's named after a young lad, Shorpy Higginbotham (seen here - front and center), who worked at the Bessie Mine in Alabama (photo circa 1910). Thankfully someone had the vision to preserve and share these everyday snapshots of our history. Shorpy has become my addiction.

Take for example the photo below of Weller's Pharmacy (circa 1915). At first glance one might ask why I'm making such a fuss about a store. But, I say look closer (click photo for a hi-res image). There is immense beauty in the ordinary: the signage for the 5 cent cigars, the packaging of the soap tablets, the bin of sea sponges. If given the chance, I'd buy one of everything in the place. What's even harder to ignore are those display cases -- those gorgeous display cases! Just look at the intricate wood carvings of animal heads. What's the story behind that? What I do know is that craftsmanship of this caliber is sadly too often missing from today's landscape.

Another great example is this portrait of a girl working in a Georgia cotton mill. "Little Spinner" is hauntingly beautiful. Being smitten with natural and organic textiles, I was immediately drawn to this photo. I feel so lucky to get a "personal tour" of the factory. And yet, at the same time, I'm haunted by the reality of child labor back then. I am glad we have progressed in that sense.

The last photo I'd like to share is this one of a Texas farmhouse in 1938 caught in the midst of the Dust Bowl. When I study this photo words like loneliness, sorrow, hopelessness and devastation come to mind. But I also see a home that is still standing and words like resilience and purpose come to mind. Perhaps I'm also fond of this photo because I'm knee-deep in everything Dust Bowl these days...a place of inspiration for my next painting project.

Thanks for stopping by. Perhaps Shorpy will become your choice of time travel? It's definitely mine.


(all images via Shorpy)

Saturday, March 6, 2010

things most cherished

My great-grandmother's solid birdseye maple rolling pin. And her milk pitcher. The art and countless drawings of horses brought to life by my daughters. Having built my own home. Restoring our current home (turns 100 this year). Past opportunities. Family traditions. Old photographs. New photographs. Heirlooms. A painting by my husband's great aunt. Daughters who are compassionate. Having experienced country living. My multi-cultural, multi-racial family. My easel and paints and brushes. The promise of time to paint and sketch and draw. Dear friends of my daughters. Their parents. Embarking on a photo essay project of my mother's family. Memories of our two trips to China. My 20-year marriage. A supportive network of family and friends. These are just a few of the things I cherish.