Saturday, February 20, 2010

The Circus, the Opera & Transferware....huh?

A little over a year ago I was asked to speak to a local antiques club on transferware. I had never done this, not even entertained this idea and, being a little shy, I very well may have declined the request or at least asked if I might be able to think about it…but…Shawn was standing right there and before I could open my mouth, he cheerfully opened his and replied, “Sure, she would love to”! AHHHHHHH!!!! At that moment I was having serious doubts about his future existence on this earth but then decided I’d better quickly compose myself and converse a little with this nice lady who had come in and asked that I speak to her club. For me, the thought of standing in front of a group of women, all eyes on me, talking about a subject I liked, but  didn’t know if any of them would even be interested in, left me feeling overwrought. However, I agreed, somewhat reluctantly…and in addition to the speech, I even offered to host the event at my shop! Talk about digging myself a hole! I stepped into that double doozie all by myself!

The good news about accepting the offer to speak was that A) I had a couple of months notice so there was plenty of time to prepare and B) it allowed me to do more research on particular patterns I liked and could talk about. I did not want to be boring…I used to go to antique club meetings…they are great, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes the speakers would go on and on and I wasn’t always interested in the subject they were talking about. C) It would give me a great opportunity to face one of my fears…that of public speaking. I really wanted my talk to be short with just tidbits of information and then allow my guests to browse around the shop at their leisure, if they so chose.  I had tables presented which showcased various transferware themes and one table with patterns that had interesting and fun histories. I printed and laminated note cards that told the interesting pattern histories.

One of the patterns I chose to display and talk about was Jenny Lind (no, it's not just the name of a baby crib).  It’s a popular pattern by Royal Staffordhire, Royal Crownford and Charles Meigh & Sons, a favorite amongst my customers, and one with an interesting story.

(some of my Jenny Lind - Brown Transfer w/ polychrome hand tinting)

Johanna Marie Lind, more widely known as Jenny Lind, and dubbed 'The Swedish Nightingale' was an opera singer born 1821 in Stockholm.

 It is said that she could repeat a song which she’d heard just one time…by the age of three!  By the age of 10, she was performing on the stage at Stockholm.  Her early life was spent being impoverished.  Jenny Lind grew up living at various times with her mother in a shelter for indigent women or being shuffled from home to home. Her father, from whom she inherited her musical gifts, was a tavern musician and rarely came home to visit. It was not until Jenny was 15 years old that her parents married.

 When Jenny was twenty-three years old, she went to Dresden and sang for festivals held to honor the visiting Queen Victoria. She was received with much enthusiasm throughout Germany which opened the door to more success when she traveled to London in 1847.  Jenny's reputation as one of the most talented sopranos grew throughout Europe and news of her fame found its ways to the ears, and mind, of P. T. Barnum, founder of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Phineas Taylor Barnum, aka the first millionaire of showbiz, and self dubbed 'The Humbug', was born in 1810 in Bethel, Connecticut.  He became a small-business owner by the time he had reached his early twenties and started a weekly paper called The Herald of Freedom in 1829. Five years later he moved to New York City beginning an entertainment career, first with a variety company named "Barnum's Grand Scientific and Musical Theater" and shortly thereafter purchased a Museum, naming it after himself.  Barnum used the museum as an arena to promote  human curiosities such as the ""Feejee" mermaid" and "General Tom Thumb"  and theatrical hoaxes.  By late 1846, Barnum's Museum was drawing 400,000 visitors a year.

When Barnum heard of Jenny Lind,  in 1850 he offered to promote the singer with an American tour.  Without ever having heard her sing, he paid her an unprecedented, upfront, all expense included, $1,000 a night for 150 nights.  Jenny Lind accepted the offer in part because she disliked the opera performances she was doing for in those days the opera singers were known to have bad reputations and hers was that of an unpretentious, shy and devout person, and to endow a music school for poor children.  So successful were Barnum's preparations for the Swedish Nightingale's arrival that, nearly 40,000 people greeted her at the docks of New York and another 20,000 at her hotel.   Jenny Lind 'mania' was born and as a result, many different souvenirs and items were made in her honor and named after her, the most noteable being the Jenny Lind baby crib, which is still today called by the same name. 

P. T. Barnum (taken just before tour with Jenny Lind)

The Jenny Lind pattern can be found in a variety of colors, including polychrome pieces with hand tinting applied under glaze.  The scene depicts couples in period clothing peering through a telescope at the castle in the distance.

(figural handled tea caddy in red/pink above and brown below...I love these)

(purple plate, also in blue, black, brown , brown polychrome, green and red...possibly other to PURCHASE)

(barrel salt and pepper shakers)

( I love this's got an art deco-ish shape)

( brown polychrome teapot)

(black plate with scalloped to PURCHASE)

(Lidded cigarette box)

(polychrome blue pitcher and bowl)

(hand painted to PURCHASE)

(mug / coffee cup)

Panorama of Humbug, engraving published by William Schaus 289 Broadway, New York, c1850. The artist parodies the extravagant publicity campaign conducted by showman Phineas T. Barnum for the series of American concerts by Swedish songstress Jenny Lind, which he produced in the autumn of 1850. Barnum started his promotion of Lind 6 months prior to her arriving in New York on September 1, 1850. On a small platform, beneath a massive banner with the image of Jenny Lind holding a fan and nightingale (a reference to her nickname "the Swedish nightingale"), stand a youth who is half white and half black, a showman, and a man throwing out handbills. The platform is erected outside a ticket office, and sits over a small orchestra pit with musicians blowing wind instruments with the names of several New York newspapers, including the "Tribune, Herald, Express," and "Courier and Enquirer." While a satanic figure to the left beats a drum, the showman shouts to the crowd around him: "Walk up Ladies & Gentlemen and see the greatest wonder of the age--the Real Swedish Nightingale, the only specimen in the Country." Inside the ticket office stands Barnum himself, quietly watching from the shadows. His Museum on Broadway can be seen in the background.

Jenny Lind's nickname, 'The Swedish Nightingale' comes from Hans Christian Andersen's 'The Nightingale' which was inspired by his unrequited love for the famous singer and fellow Scandinavian. Andersen wrote in The True Story of My Life, published in 1847, "Through Jenny Lind I first became sensible of the holiness of Art. Through her I learned that one must forget one's self in the service of the Supreme. No books, no men, have had a more ennobling influence upon me as a poet than Jenny Lind".

Strangely enough, the nightingale story became a reality for Jenny Lind in 1848-1849, when she fell in love with Fryderyk Chopin (1810-1849). His letters reveal that he felt "better" when she sang for him, and Jenny Lind arranged a concert in London to raise funds for a tuberculosis hospital.  She attempted unsuccessfully to marry Chopin in Paris 1849.   Soon after, she had to flee the cholera epidemic but returned just before he died.   Lind never recovered from her loss of Chopin. She wrote to Andersen on 23 November 1871 from Florence: "I would have been happy to die for this my first and last, deepest, purest love."

Jenny Lind died in 1887, so did not live into the age of recording.

This cartoon shown below from the British humor magazine Punch satirizes the American clamor over Jenny Lind, visually suggesting an amusing unruliness and lack of sophistication among Americans. (Source: Punch, October 5, 1850. American Social History Project)

A Jenny Lind candleabra.  Decorative pieces like this, placed in one's home would communicate the owner's desire to emulate Jenny Lind's moral values.
photo credit Strong Museum

Isn't this beautiful? It is a Jenny Lind print from a wood engraving published in a magazine 1866
photo credit:

A Poem For Your Thoughts

From The Philosopher’s Stone

Now she heard the following words sadly sung,—
“Life is a shadow that flits away
In a night of darkness and woe.”

But then would follow brighter thoughts:
“Life has the rose’s sweet perfume
With sunshine, light, and joy.”

And if one stanza sounded painfully—
“Each mortal thinks of himself alone,
Is a truth, alas, too clearly known;”

Then, on the other hand, came the answer—
“Love, like a mighty flowing stream,
Fills every heart with its radiant gleam.”

She heard, indeed, such words as these—
“In the pretty turmoil here below,
All is a vain and paltry show.”

Then came also words of comfort—
“Great and good are the actions done
By many whose worth is never known.”

And if sometimes the mocking strain reached her—
“Why not join in the jesting cry
That contemns all gifts from the throne on high?”

In the blind girl’s heart a stronger voice repeated—
“To trust in thyself and God is best,
In His holy will forever to rest.”

But the evil spirit could not see this and remain contented.

Hans Christian Anderson

Linking up to Show and Tell Friday at My Romantic Home

and to Laurie for A Few of my Favorite Things

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

So, you think know the whole origin of transferware story?

Although John Brooks, an Irish engraver is credited with having the first patent for the transferware printing technique in 1751, it was John Sadler and Guy Green of Liverpool, who independently discovered  the process, who are credited with perfecting the technique in 1756. If you’re a transferware buff, you may already have known this as the names John Sadler and Guy Green are often associated with the early onset of transfer printing. However, did you know just how Sadler and Green came up with the idea? Do you know their history? I bet you’d be amazed to know that Benjamin Franklin made claims to having his finger in the inventive pie of the transfer printing process. Interested? Well, read on.

John Sadler was the son of Adam Sadler. Adam found himself interested in the typographical arts while being quartered with a printer when serving his time as a soldier during the wars in the Low Countries. After his active duty, Adam Sadler married a Miss Bibby and shortly thereafter opened up shop as a printer in the New Market at Liverpool using the skills which he had honed during his time spent in the Low Countries. Adam, apparently, was also known to be a good musician and made the printing of music and loose ballads his specialty.

One of Mr. Sadler’s loyal customers, a poor urchin by the name of Guy Green, who, when he had a penny to spare, would visit Mr. Sadler and buy a ballad. Mr. Sadler befriended Guy upon realizing he was a sharp young lad and took him into his service. The two developed a father–son type of relationship which continued on and eventually Guy succeeded his benefactor in the print business. Adams son, John, born around 1720, was apprenticed as an engraver and opened his own shop in 1748 which was very successful. In fact, John’s shop was so successful that envious shop owners, on the grounds of a very old regulation that only freeman of the town be permitted to keep shop, asked the Corporation of Liverpool to remove him. Sadler was able to defend his business against the Corporation, proving they did not have the right to the outdated law that would shut him down. The lawsuit drew attention and, as a result of Sadler’s victory, many outsiders to Liverpool set up shops which ultimately furthered prosperity there.

Like his father, John was a kind man who showed compassion to the less fortunate. He would give extra prints he had to the children living nearby who would in turn go the local potteries and ask for the ‘wasters’ which were broken or un-saleable pots and pottery. The children would affix the prints to the pottery and use them as decoration in doll houses and play. When John saw the decoration he wondered, “What if pottery could receive an impression from a wet print, and then be fixed by firing afterwards”. This thought sparked what would later come to be known as one of the greatest stories of mass production ever. John, who had apparently developed a close relationship with Guy Green, probably like that of brothers, upon envisioning the idea of a piece of pottery with a print upon it, immediately and confidentially called on Guy Green to explore the possibilities of his new idea.

John and Guy first chose tiles to print on and after seven years of experimentation, had nearly perfected the process. Tiles were chosen because they were flat which made them easy to print on, and Liverpool had developed a competitive market with Holland for producing tiles that almost universally decorated the hearths and chimneys of the time. The two men claim to have printed upwards of 1200 tiles in a six hour period, using copper plates.

Soon, the famed Josiah Wedgwood entered into a business agreement with Sadler and Green and sent thousands upon thousands of pottery pieces to their factory to be transfer printed on his creamware. Shortly thereafter, many English potters, including the great Josiah Spode, began using the transfer printing process.

I like history…it’s like a romantic fairytale but played out and come to fruition, so I’m fascinated by the story of transferware. I am a person of catechism-ic what if’s? What if Adam Sandler had never stayed with a printer during his time as a soldier? What if he had not had a son? What if John’s shop had been closed by the Corporation? What if John was a man of little imagination? I tend to play these questions out in my mind (I do this with ALOT of things) and ponder different outcomes. The one thing I know for sure, regarding transferware, is that it would have ultimately made its mark on history…and my home. In fact, doing some research on the subject, I found this very interesting letter written by Benjamin Franklin in 1773, which in part reads:

"Now, we are speaking of inventions, I know not who pretends to that of copper-plate engraving for earthen ware, and I am not disposed to contest the honour with anybody, as the improvement in taking impressions not directly from the plate, but from printed paper, applicable by that means to other than flat forms, is far beyond my first idea. But I have reason to apprehend that I might have given the hint on which that improvement was made; for more than twenty years since, I wrote Dr. Mitchell from America proposing to him the printing of square tiles for ornamenting chimneys, from copper plates, describing the manner in which I thought it might be done, and advising the borrowing from the booksellers the plates that had been used in a thin folio called "Moral Virtue Delineated," for that purpose * * * Dr. Mitchell wrote me in answer that he had communicated my scheme to several of the artists in the earthen way about London, who rejected it as impracticable".

 An early printed blue tile by Sadler depicting a British ship within a border of scrolls and plants below.  Circa 1756-61 photo credit: National Maritime Museum

An extremely rare creamware plate by Wedgwood, of which only 15 are known to have been printed, entitled 'The Cock and The Fox' from Aesops Fables.  Circa 1770-75
photo credit:


by: Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)

THE Body
Benjamin Franklin
(Like the cover of an old book
Its contents torn out
And stript of its lettering and gilding)
Lies here, food for worms.
But the work shall not be lost
For it will (as he believed) appear once more
In a new and more elegant edition
Revised and corrected
The Author.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Happy Valentines Day

Shawn and I are celebrating Valentines Day at home with our six children tonight.  I'm setting the table now with, guess what?  Red and pink transferware.  I love to mix and match so I'm using a different plate at each setting.  I'm showing the Tonquin pattern below.

I used my Kings Ware Thumbprint glasses with cranberry trim and some handmade linens I purchased overseas.

 I just love the napkins with their lace trim and embroidered pink flowers.  My sweet Trevor gave me the pretty pink carnation~

 I like to put little treats around the table  for my kids so tonight I've placed a vintage transferware egg cup that I filled  with chocolates and mints by each of the settings.  Nuts, mints or small flowers could be used as well. 

My Mother-in-law gave me the red heart candleholder last year and I thought it looked so pretty here.

I'm all about using things I've already got, so for my centerpiece I used a candleabra stand that I've had for years.  It's got the bling factor with the red and clear glass chandelier teardrops!  Instead of placing large pillar candles on this I first used some of my transferware coasters and butter pats, topping each with a small votive or crackled glass candle jar and finished it off with a red rose topiary ball topped with my pink carnation Trevor gave me.  I placed a bouquet of (silk) roses and babies breath at the base.  All of these items were at my home already.  My youngest daughter and I contemplated making a dash to the supermarket for some fresh flowers or things to use on the table display and I just thought, let's stick with what we've got and not spend any money if it's not necessary.

The Roberts 2010 Valentines menu:

Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin w/ Blackberry Red Wine vinaigrette
Spinach Salad w/ Toasted Nuts, Blue Cheese, Apples & Blackberry Red Wine vinaigrette
Herbed, Buttered Rice
Bread or Rolls
Cookie Crusted Cheesecake

Pecan crusted pork tenderloin with blackberry sauce (this is a lean, heart healthy recipe and one of our family favorites...all six of my kiddos love this!)

1 Pork Tenderloin
1 1/2 cups fine, dry breadcrumbs (I have used Progresso and Walmart brand Italian bread crumbs... I like both equally well for this)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped pecans (I chop them in the food processor so they're very fine)
5-6 tsp rubbed sage
4 lg eggs beaten
8 tsp olive oil

Remove the silver skin from pork tenderloin.  Cut pork into 8 slices.  Place pork between plastic wrap, and flatten to 1/4" thickness using a flat side of a meat mallett or a rolling pin.
Mix pecans, breadcrumbs, sage and a dash or two of salt in shallow bowl.
Dredge pork in breadcrumb mixture, dip in beaten eggs, and again dredge in the breadcrumb mixture.
In a non-stick pan, cook over medium-medium high heat in olive oil, about 5 minutes each side.
Remove from heat and serve with Blackberry sauce drizzled atop (recipe below)

Spinach salad with toasted & glazed nuts, apples, blue cheese and Blackberry Red Wine vinaigrette dressing

6-8 oz fresh spinach leaves, washed
1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
1 red apple, thinly sliced (I like Gala, Jonaglo or Pink Lady)
1/3 cup (appx) glazed, toasted nuts (recipe follows)
Red Wine & Blackberry Vinaigrette dressing to taste (recipe follows)
Toss all ingredients and you're ready to serve this delicious salad! 

Toasted & glazed nuts

I mix walnuts, pecans and almonds.
For each cup of nuts, combine 1 tblsp butter and 1 tblsp honey in skillet over med-low heat and stir until smooth.  Add nuts and stir to coat.  Sprinkle about 1 tblsp of sugar and appx 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper over nuts.  Stir until sugar dissolves, about 2-3 minutes.
Lightly spray a cookie sheet with a non-stick cooking spray, such as Pam.
Evenly spread the nut mixture over the cookie sheet and place in a 300° oven for about 10-15 minutes, until lightly browned.  Stir every few minutes to prevent sticking.  Cool.

Blackberry Red Wine vinaigrette dressing (this is also the sauce for the Pecan Crusted Pork Tenderloin)

1 C red wine vinegar
5 tablespoons blackberry jam
1 1/2 C chicken broth
1/4 C brown sugar (not too tightly packed...I've made this a little sweeter before as well with 1/3 cup)
1 tblsp cornstarch

Heat vinegar until boiling, stir and continue boiling until reduced to 1/2
Reduce heat to medium
Add blackberry jam and stir until dissolved
Add chicken broth, blend
Add brown sugar and dissolve
Remove about a 1/4 cup or so and add to this the cornstarch, stir to dissolve and then return to mixture and stir until slightly thickened.

I have also mixed this with equal parts of Wishbone brand red-wine vinaigrette in the past to make it go further on a salad (we had company and I made a huge salad).  This keeps well in the fridge.

I served the salad from a red transferware footed compote by Mason's in the Vista pattern and used my vintage cut glass serving utensils

 Shawn stayed up until 12:30 last night making this fabulous Cookie Crusted Cheesecake for dessert.  We served it simply with Strawberry jam over the top.  It was so yummy.  The crust is a little like a sugar cookie and the texture of the cheesecake was not so dry and pasty as many seem to be, but instead was creamy and smooth.  I am trying to resist the urge to have another piece! ;-)

Cookie Crusted Cheesecake

Cookie Crust:

1/2 cup butter (one stick)
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
 pinch of salt
1 egg
1 & 1/3 cup all-purpose flour


five (5) 8 oz. packages cream cheese (softened)
1 & 1/3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3 eggs

1. In seperate bowls, allow butter & cream cheese soften 

2.  Make the crust by creaming together the butter, sugar, vanilla & salt. Add the egg and mix well. Add  flour and stir well to combine.

3.  Preheat oven to 375° then press half the dough onto the bottom of a springform pan. Bake 5 - 7 minutes, or until the edge of the dough begins to turn light brown. Cool.

4.  Take the remaining dough and press it around the inside edge of the pan. Don't go all the way up to the top though. Leave about 1/2 inch margin from the top of the pan.

5.  Crank oven up to 500° . To make the filling, combine the cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and lemon juice with an electric mixer in a large bowl until smooth. Mix in the sour cream and flour. Add eggs and mix on low speed until combined.

6.  Pour the cream cheese filling into the pan and bake for for 10 minutes at 500° . Reduce the heat to 350° and bake for another 30 to 35 minutes more, or until the center is firm. Cool completely, then cover and chill in refrigerator for several hours or overnight before serving.

From Ashton...she asked me to post this fun Valentines game...see if you can find all 7 hearts in the photo below.

I am happy to love and be loved. Happy Valentines Day to everyone!

 Love poem for today:

I wish to be surrounded by your love
For your love to hold me so near
Your love is all that I dream of
And all of which my heart holds dear

Nancy M Roberts ©1994

For more tablescape ideas please visit Susans blog, at Between Naps on The Porch, where she hosts this fun event every week! 

For more recipes please visit Designs by Gollum!