Category: DeeDee Wood

History of the oyster plate

The oyster plate is collected by many antique aficionados who enjoy the beauty, elegance and nautical lure of such an object. There is a rich Victorian past with the oyster plate, as well as hostess rules and impressing affluent guests with these little wonders of artwork in porcelain. The oyster plate was first conceptualized in the time of the Victorians. Oysters, at the time, were thought of as a shellfish delicacy, and the plates represented your ability to project your knowledge and wealth of the world around you. The plates were beautiful, sometimes intricate, delicate, and showcased the food delicacy with flare. Oyster plate production went into full swing during Victorian times with hand painted motifs, floral patterns, unique patterns and makers from around the world. Plate production slowed down after World War I when the lifestyle of the Victorians and serving such a thing as a “delicacy” became a thing of forgotten times. In the United States, factories that made porcelain responded to the obsession with this special delicacy by designing plates for the elite class to serve their guests. Silver-plated forks also were designed to accompany the plates, and lavish dinner parties among the East Coast elite in the 1870s and 1880s served dishes made by famous companies such as Union Porcelain Works, Limoges of France and other fine European and American factories. Increased affluence from the...

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The history of kites

As the breezes of early spring blow into March, one’s mind turns to flying kites. What is the history of kites, and why do we fly them? It all began in Asia, particularly China, and had many versatile uses through the years. Kites were invented in Asia, most likely China. Materials such as silk, used for the “sail” and string, were plentiful and aided in the construction of the air-worthy item. Earlier kites, from B.C. Chinese philosophers, such as Mozi and Gongshu Ban, around 549 A.D., were using paper when flying kites. The earliest known Chinese kites were flat and often shaped like a rectangle. Early kites were used for messaging, measuring distances, signaling, testing wind directions and military operations, such as placement of troops. Kites were decorated, in those early days of China, with military motifs and mythological tales. Sometimes, depending upon their use, they were fitted with whistles and other objects, that, when flown, would whistle in the wind or make sound, probably to locate them, and to signal. They would also make musical sounds when flying, a whimsy that was purely aesthetic in nature. Eventually the kite concept made its way into India, where it was used in festivals and as a celebratory object to honor religious deities. Kites also made their way into New Zealand and Polynesia in these early times, utilized as a festival...

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Sailor’s Valentines

Sailor’s valentines were shells arranged in intricate, symmetrical designs, encased in glass cases, hinged in the middle, so when you opened them, it was a sort of “valentine” made of shells. They were marketed to sailors as gifts to bring home after long voyages in the service to the sea, to loved ones who were awaiting their arrival from the journey. The name of the item implies that sailors made these shellcraft boxes themselves. However, most of them were made and sold to sailors, a large number of these objects being made in Barbados, which was a large seaport to sailors during the period the valentines were most popular, 1830 to 1890. Research into the boxes of shellcraft suggests that the women of Barados made the valentines using local materials and shells, although sometimes they would import items needed from areas of the world such as Indonesia. Some valentines that are deconstructed have newspapers backing them from Barados, further supporting the story that many were made and sold in that area. The idea of an encased glass case with shell mosaics was initially developed by a few seaman wanting to bring home a special gift to loved ones, but two Englishmen, George and B.H. Belgrave, changed all of that. Entrepeneurs in their own right, they recognized that seaport shops could make money in Barbados using the local shells and...

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The Bayeux Tapestry

The Bayeux Tapestry is an embroidered linen cloth that is nearly 230 feet long, and depicts the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England, famous warriors, and the ultimate Battle of Hastings. It is said that it dates to the 11th century, and most scholars agree that it was made in England. The tapestry is miraculous because it has survived almost intact for over nine centuries. It fascinates restoration experts and admirers for it’s subject matter, workmanship, coloring and condition. The tapestry’s earliest known recognition comes in the form of a 1476 inventory of Bayeux Cathedral. French legend says the tapestry was commissioned by Queen Matilda, William the Conqueror’s wife, and her ladies-in-waiting. Analysis and research of this time period conclude that it was probably commissioned by Bishop Odo, William’s half brother. It is said it was possibly commissioned to coincide with the building of the cathedral for display at the dedication. There are many theories about who ordered the design of such a large work of art. The tapestry is actually an embroidery, not a tapestry, which is woven into a piece of cloth. It is crewel wool yard on a woven linen. The colors used in the tapestry were primarily terracotta, dull gold, blue, olive, sage green and later repairs worked in orange and lighter tones. It used two different types of stitch, an outline...

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Victorian Christmas traditions

The Industrial Revolution in England helped Christmas reach more homes in the Victorian Era, an influence we still see today in our holiday decorating, cards we send, and traditions we hold dear. Queen Victoria and her family set the example of the ideal family unit, with children, presents and times at home. The Victorian era and mass production helped fuel what we see today in the holiday market. One very Victorian tradition was the Christmas card. A process called chromolithographic reproduction aided the mass production of the Christmas card, and it made this product more affordable for the average person. Scenes of religious depictions, nature, snow and the season adorned beautiful cards that could be sent, via post, to relatives and friends far and wide. Instead of time-consuming letters and hand-rendered depictions, one could send a mass produced card over and over with ease. The tradition of sending a card had begun. Industrialization of the era caused more of the middle class to have disposable income. Due to this new concept in households, there was a rise in the mass market for toys, decorations, and trinkets of all kinds. The Christmas cracker, or cookie, was inspired by French sweets wrapped in paper, and was first invented by Tom Smith, a candy store owner in England in the 1840s. The first Christmas cookies coming out of this era included a...

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