Saturday, November 29, 2008
Charleston, South Carolina and Savannah, Georgia are sometimes called "Sister Cities." They are quite different in plan and have their own unique variations on Lowcountry architecture. Charleston was settled in the late 1600s and Savannah in the early-mid 1700s. They share a commitment to historic preservation, art, manners, excellent cuisine and are key destinations for domestic and international tours. Savannah and Charleston are sought out for the wealth of authentic high-style architecture tempered with vernacular materials and methods and the historic events that occurred in both cities. (At least that's what I think...)
They are part of a small group of American cities whose relatively long histories, slower growth during American boom-times when other cities were clearing the deck for modern buildings, and active historic preservation communities make them a treasure trove of historic architecture, urban design, and industrial design (found in old buildings and antique shops.)
Saturday, November 22, 2008
On a recent visit to Charleston, South Carolina, I was really excited to find a collection of lovely drawings of Charleston street scenes, rooftop views, garden gates, and buildings on small postcards at the Gibbes Museum of Art gallery shop. I learned from helpful docents the drawings were of Elizabeth O'Neill Verner who was "part of a group of artists who were dedicated to reviving an interest in art in the Charleston area in the 1920s and 1930s." She was also a preservationist and dedicated advocate for her City. The postcards were salvaged from her studio on the corner of Tradd Street and Church Street, likely printed in the 1940s or 1950s.
"Verner genuinely loved the city and its people and through her drawings, etchings and dry points she tried to preserve as much of the charm, flavor and uniqueness of her home..."
What a worthy mission.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
A symmetrical double house on the edge of the page will require some surgery in the end. It would appear they were built at the same time with the conjoined parlor level landing; however, the left side was built in 1852 and the right side in 1871. Ironwork at the street level gates, vents, and stair rail.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
About six months ago, on a Tuesday, I left the office where I spend my weekdays carrying my little old book case filled with 5 copies of This is Savannah Vol. I and walked down the street to shopSCAD. If I were a visitor to Savannah or a loyal local, I would love a special handmade souvenir reflective of its unique architecture. I would love a small accordion book of drawings, unfolding block by block. I would surely look in Savannah's special emporium of unique art and craft treasures, shopSCAD. It is a wonderland of creative compositions in all manner of materials. I walked inside at opening time and a little bird was perched on the door, content to ride as it swung open, before flying away after we marvelled at its tameness. Amy and Kyle kindly took my books into their collection. A wonderful temporary home until they are discovered by some such souvenir hunter and taken home. I hope they make someone happy as they have me, in the years of making. Now, a few of my note cards and postcards live there, too, happy as note cards can be I am sure.
I wondered what it's like to show these things to an interested visitor or Savannahian and see their reaction. I wished I could be there, to pop out of the book and say....Hi. I'm trying to draw the historic district, block by block and these are my first fourteen blocks. It's an accordion book, so if you untie the ribbons at the spine, the pages unfold to a really long streetscape. Just in case you ever wnat to do that. Ha ha. It took about two years to draw these, but I am working on Volume 2 now and....etc. etc.
Over the past two months, I've had the experience of standing behind my work and engaging with some of the nicest, most interesting people in Savannah at the DeSoto Row gallery shows and a Savannah Market Bazaar. Friday night, I set up under ominous grey skies in 99.99% humidity. My postcards began to curl a bit and I was prepared to make a dash for the car with my cards if the skies let loose. The rain held until 11 pm, just after the show wrapped up.
It takes a lot to set up. It's always exhausting - but exhilarating. Thanks to all the people who come by and make it worth it. It's great fun to see friends and make new friends as you realize there are really only two degrees of separation among residents of Savannah. You never know who you might meet from out of town, too. For me, meeting Don Alexander Hawkins, a city planner and "dean among Washington DC's residential architects" at my booth seemed like serendipity. We talked about historic maps and cities and his 1987 Jaguar which he'd driven with his family to Savannah for the weekend after picking it up for the shop with a new motor. That's confidence in your mechanic. Frida of Frida Flair Interior Design invested in two books and told me about her pedigree of Fridas, including her young neice, Frida, who smiled shyly. I love to hear suggestions like...You should draw a 1963 Chevy Impala SS, red or a 1970 Cadillac Sedan de Ville with the floor mats. Or which Savannah blocks or buildings are favorites. I take notes, and I'll get around to it. It's also wonderful to see the creative works of other artists and craftspeople and talk to them about their work. What talent in this town!
The whole exhausting process restores my faith in human kindness and motivates me to make more and do better.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
I have been making Christmas cards for the past month - printing, painting, and even sewing. I tried really hard to avoid the sewing machine, but finally conceded I must yield to the 1970s Kenmore Model 1431 Zig Zag I got at a yard sale a few years ago. After a trip to the sewing machine fix-it shop to be instructed that the button that turns on the light is also the power button - (so that's why it wouldn't work...) - about 3 years ago, I set it aside with a growing pile of clothes in need of mending or alterations. I love the slightly moldy manual that came with it, but can't bring myself to actually read it. I struggled for about an hour of trial and error until I learned which stitch would work best with ribbon and cardstock and then got to work! It was fun. I embellished the CHRISTMAS TREES of Vintage Wallpaper cards of 2006 (my first turn-of-the-centuries cards) with ribbon around the door trim. I also printed the ARCHITECTURAL TREE-TRIMMING cards I designed last year with Savannah buildings as trim and gifts adorned with hand-painted red ribbons. I transformed Savannah Interiors raised-ink flat cards into neo-Victorian Christmas Interiors, inspired by historical photos from Savannah homes with a hand-painted tree and gold ink frame. I had a tree farm on a card table -until my new-found old 3-legged table collapsed.
My favorite is a simple combination of the tree and a chandelier, printed to thick Fabriano rag paper.
Find them all here: http://www.turnofthecenturies.etsy.com/
I think I made about 250 cards. I don't have quite that many friends...so hopefully I will sell some this weekend at the Savannah Market Bazaar on Henry Street.MERRY CHRISTMAS! HAPPY HOLIDAYS!