Monday, June 7, 2010

Precious History, Preserved

Up in Petaluma they've got a great store called the Antique Bank, conveniently in a building that used to house a financial institution, complete with vaults and deep cavernous basement labyrinths.

It was there, saying goodbye to Jillian a few weeks ago that I spotted my first hand-painted porcelain brooch, set into a cheap brass prong backing.

I wear it nearly every day, around my neck set firmly in a sterling bezel, its back shows the rustic pattern one gets from removing only half the patina from a design, a favorite look of mine.

While I was away I found yet another one in an antique store in Pittsburgh, and my curiosity grew regarding these treasures: where did they come from?
Who painted them?

Well, they're from around the country, and the trend started somewhere around the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial: it came to the attention of fashionable ladies that they could paint and set their own elegant brooches affordably, and beautifully according to their skill and inspiration with a paint brush.

The pair I will be putting in the shop tomorrow were made at different times, likely between 1900 and 1930.

Beyond these dates companies fell into the trend and began mass-producing decals - Limoges comes to mind- and women stopped making them at home, with these affordable options in the stores.

What is left behind from this era of self-made wearable art is a joy to behold: trailing flowers, roses, forget-me-nots, lilies and sunset scenes, all of them valuable, many great works of beauty.

I have taken a few out of their prongs, delicate porcelain rounds set in sterling, given a new chance at fashion instead of being collected and shown inside the home.

I like to think of the benevolent spirits of the women who originally created these brooches having tea in Heaven, musing over the work they created being worn as though it were new some 100 years later.

Listing in the Metal Shop tomorrow: please feel free to convo me with any questions you may have before then!



Jane said...

Oh i would love to be the lucky lady who gets the square one - they are both wonderful!

Linny Kenney said...

So beautiful.

Linny Kenney said...

Oh! I just looked through more of your work. This is all just so SO beautiful!! I can't wait to get some pieces when I am home and able. Wait until my sister sees this beauty!!

mywifesstudio said...


CrowNology said...

These are perfect Allison.
Your supra-sternal notch is amazing! :) heh...

jessi sawyer said...

I love anything with a story, but especially with one as grand as that. You have certainly done justice to the repurposing of these little slices of antique beauty; I love what you've done with them!

MrsLittleJeans said...

Love these truly!


Brooke said...

These are so sweet! I love the settings you chose to make for them. Just lovely.