Margaret Mellis(1914-2009) is a kindred spirit of scraps and color. Her work begins with painting, and moves into sculpture and driftwood collage, the latter which she began in her 60’s. She describes her concern:
‘I wanted the colours to find the kind of strength which would simultaneously let them work at full strength and integrate with themselves and the shapes of the structure.’ (National Galleries Scotland)
Mellis eventually was acknowledged as at the beginnings of British Modernism and she had a Circle of artist friends at Cornwall. I remember taking a class as an undergraduate at Hampshire College called, “Mary Shelley and Her Circle” and being taken with the idea of the constellation of friends all being part of the story.
The driftwood constructions reminded me of the Laura Petrovich-Cheney exhibit I saw at the Michener in November 2015, of sculptures in wood from Superstorm Sandy. Ian Collins describes Mellis’ materials as “combining beachcombed finds of vividly coloured bits of boats and beach-huts, kippering boards and medieval timbers gouged by deathwatch beetles into honeycomb.”
Margaret Morse Nice(1883-1974) caught my eye because of her bird passion. My only experience as a girl in birdwatching was one week at summer camp where a counselor took us walking to look for Red-Winged Blackbirds. That someone would be looking for birds in regular life was a surprise to me. Margaret Morse Nice received a copy of Mabel Osgood Wright’s Birdcraft field guide as a present for her 13th birthday, and she started writing down her observations of birds around her.
I discovered that Nice grew up in Amherst, MA, where I lived when I went to Hampshire College. Nice was born just 3 years before Emily Dickinson died. She went to Mt. Holyoke College, which gave her a reprieve from her parent’s emphasis on getting married and housekeeping. She graduated and returned to the stultifying role of “daughter-at-home,” rather than the world of learning and discovery. The thread of her desire to learn persists through enrolling at Clark University graduate school in 1907, and researching Bobwhites, marrying a fellow graduate student, moving with him for his academic appointments in Norman OK, Columbus, OH and Chicago, IL, raising 5 daughters, and studying her girls’ language and behavior at the same time she observed the most common of birds in her own backyard like the Song Sparrow.
The librarian in me is fascinated by the title of her autobiography: Research Is a Passion With Me: The Autobiography of a Bird Lover. She studied birds in their environment rather than collecting them, and took their life histories. In my own researching this post, I came across an article, with double Margarets! The authors describe the absence of women’s experience in comparative psychology, and write about these two Margarets who were both accomplished, one unmarried and teaching at Vassar, and Nice, who married, had children, and published papers, books and reviews, without formal academic appointment. The article describes Nice’s frustration with the implication that her children and husband had brains, and she had none ~ “He taught, they studied. I did housework.” To be passionate, observant, engaged in the natural world and meet her subjects on their own terms was ultimately influential in the world of ornithology, is a life history that moves me.
If you have traveled in Britain, you have been surrounded by the work of designer and typographer Margaret Calvert(1936-). While studying illustration at Chelsea School of Art, she had to the opportunity to be the assistant to Jock Kinneir in designing signs for the new motorway, and this turned into designing for all of Britain’s roadways and they became Kinneir, Calvert and Associates, and took on the railways and many other projects. Take a few minutes to watch the video President’s Lecture: Margaret Calvert, where she describes her feeling for the letters, the white space as important as the text itself, and her sense of play in drawing and drafting.
Her self portrait is just perfect. She found a Men at Work sign from her design in the street, and took it home and turned it into herself: Woman at Work. She describes how the signs are about the people who use them: how will this look to someone driving 70 mph? Can it be read at that speed? Calvert and Kinneir met with controversy at first because they used capitals with lowercase letters instead of the traditional all capitals.
Typography is near to my heart because of the house numbers I create along with my husband at Nutmeg Designs. Flowing around number forms gives me an intimate sense of each digit. I didn’t expect to find this so rewarding. We want our house numbers to be beautiful and visible. I remember when my husband saw a hapless pizza delivery guy on the sidewalk looking for a house. He pointed to our neighbor’s house, with the number we had created, and said “I can read that number,” and wished that all were that easy to make out.
I have a fondness in my heart for creativity that bursts out in more than one way. Margaret Fabrizio came to my attention by her quilts, but she is also a well known harpsichord player who played with the Grateful Dead, and had one of her collages on one of their album covers. I also dig curiosity, and she followed her curiosity when she first saw a kawandi quilt exhibition, Soulful Stitching, at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. Kawandi are created by the African Siddi women of Karnataka, India, and Margaret Fabrizio traveled to India in 2012 in order to learn more, and has a series of Kawandi videos on YouTube from her visit and the process of learning.
The Siddi’s are descendants of enslaved Africans brought by the Portuguese to Goa on the West Coast of India between the 16th-19th Century, and who eventually escaped to their own diaspora communities in the mountains of Northern Karnataka. Siddi women collect worn out clothing and when they have enough for a quilt, buy a cotton sari and use it as the backing for the patchwork that they sew with a continuous running stitch. The corners are finished with Phulas, meaning flowers, a multi-layered triangle. It reminds me of those old fashioned photo corners for affixing snapshots to albums, and also half of a Log Cabin quilt block.
I came across another Margaret at the Lansdale Arts Festival 2015. I was looking for a basket to hold my keys and wallet and other miscellany, and of course this fabric one in orange caught my eye. Margaret DeCook calls herself The Versaltile Artisan and hails from Allentown, PA.
I wrote a check for my purchase, and she said the only other check she received that day was from another Margaret. We were out in force. I believe she was the one that asked the question I usually pose: Do you go by Margaret? She goes by the whole thing, just like I do. Margaret is a name that has a multitude of nicknames, and people have the tendency to pick one and apply it, but I recognize myself in Marge, Peggy, or Maggie.
I love how this fabric coils around in yellow orange from the center, and then incorporates red orange up the sides. It’s called a Centerpiece Bowl, and I will use it to help center me, and keep important objects in one place. I once read a book on organizing where the author said as long as you keep things moving in the right direction, point them on their way, that was good enough: the receipts on the shelf, ready to travel downstairs, the coffee cup from nightstand, to dresser and then downstairs. I still imagine the objects in my house on a journey toward their home place.
Margaret Walker(1915-2015) had her Centennial in 2015. I wrote about her poetry for a previous Margaret Monday, and it was a pleasure to discover that places were planning events for the Centennial. The University of Delaware Library had an exhibit, Margaret Walker: A Centenary, with a cool series of book covers, which you can view online.
I resonate with this quote:
“When I was about eight, I decided that the most wonderful thing, next to a human being, was a book.”
I love the arrow implied within the African Black Granite, and the green trees behind filling in the color. This sculpture was part of a retrospective of Pepper’s work at The Grounds for Sculpture in 1999, when she was 75. She’s still making art in 2015. What I aspire to, yes, indeed.
Stratoz had the fine idea to try the new tearoom for my birthday, The Village Teahouse in West Point, PA(Lansdale address). We have a history of going to tearooms at least 20 years, with Stratoz usually being the only man in the room, which doesn’t bother him because he enjoys taking tea. We used to go to Thyme for Tea in Lansdale, and were sad that it had closed, so it was a treat to visit The Village Teahouse. When I called to make a reservation, the woman on the other end said “Oh, you are a Margaret too.” The owner is Margaret Miley Shaffer.
The theme is Alice in Wonderland, and we were seated in the Mad Hatter Room. I was tempted by the tea with lavender and if it had been a black tea, I would have gone with it. Instead I tried the Wedding Tea, with rose petals, which was more frilly than I usually like, but when the server asked if I wanted more tea, I ordered the Oolong(which is what Stratoz had) which was more my speed.
The Full Tea started with a two tiered tray topped with scones and tea bread, lemon curd, cream, and fig jam. The tea sandwiches were a nice array for a bacontarian such as myself since there was a tasty variation on a BLT in miniature form, in addition to vegetarian options of egg salad, carrot salad on raisin bread, cucumber, and then Stratoz ate both roast beef sandwiches.
Dessert included banana cream tarts(which made me think it was Stratoz’ birthday since he enjoys bananas and I don’t ;-), but I ate both chocolate cherry cupcakes, followed with a lemon meringue tart and a chocolate dipped shortbread cookie shaped like a teabag.
In addition to satisfying my sweet tooth, The Village Teahouse is a Victorian designed by Milton Bean, Lansdale architect, in 1896. I had heard a talk by Drexel Librarian Leopold Montoya at the Lansdale Historical Society. Montoya became entranced with Bean when he discovered his house was designed by him, but little information was available, even though Bean designed over 1000 area homes and churches. Our house was built in 1900, so the The Village Teahouse had a 4 year head start on us.
The Village Teahouse opens in Upper Gwynedd article in North Penn Life, July 20, 2015. As we were leaving, the owner told us it was always nice to meet another Margaret. Even though she goes by Meg much of the time, she does have Margaret’s Late Day Tea on the menu, so she is Margaret approved.
There is a quote that has circulated with great vigor on the internet ether, “Sometimes your only available mode of transportation is a leap of faith.” It is attributed to Margaret Shepard, and as I searched to find more about the author, nothing came up except more permutations of the quote and then finally, someone mentioned this Margaret is a calligrapher. Then I found Margaret Shepherd, and I suspect the quote is an example for calligraphy in one of her books.
I had been eager to move from printing to cursive in the 2nd grade. I loved making the joins, and studying the letter forms. When I was a junior high student, I bought a book about learning calligraphy(which may have even been written by Margaret Shepherd), and some of those chisel tipped pens that purport to be the key to beautiful writing. I carried the book and pen around for many moves, but calligraphy happened in mostly my imagination. For someone who lived for reading, an art that incorporated words was thrilling, but again, I was first and foremost a reader, not a calligrapher.
Margaret Shepherd helped create the Boston Calligraphy Trail, which I hadn’t known about, and which sounds wonderful. There are 26 beautiful letters to discover in the Boston Public Library and surrounding neighborhoods by following the trail guide. On her blog she writes of returning from Finland with photos of Art Nouveau lettering and numbers. I love that she was photographing typography in the wild.
As someone who spends a lot of time surrounding letters and numbers with glass mosaic, I do now practice a craft that incorporates reading. Many leaps of faith led me to this work.
Artist & Illustrator Lisa Congdon has a cat named Margaret(named for the artist Margaret Kilgallen, who I will save for a future Margaret Monday.) When I started drawing again, I found an online class from Lisa Congdon, which allowed me to revel in pens, and her encouraging nature. That she has a cat named Margaret makes me like her all the more.