Margaret Atwood was one of the first Margarets I remember hearing about when I was a child, and I felt linked to her because of this. My name is an enigma in that there are so many nicknames for Margaret, and people seem to randomly choose one for me. Does this happen with other names? Marge, Marg, Maggie, Peggy, and even Gretchen, Greta, and Meg come from Margaret. I go by the whole thing, which in my experience is unusual. There are a lot of hidden Margarets. I started a Margarets Pinterest board for fun, and have discovered many interesting women, who all share this name. Check it out!
Margaret Lee Runbeck(1905-1956) was the author of 16 books, but her presence on the internet is one sentence at a time. Pages of her quotes come up on Google, but very little actual biographical information. I did discover that Margaret Lee Runbeck recorded a “This I believe” piece for Edward R. Murrow’s radio show(a tradition carried on by NPR), describing her trip to India in the 1950’s, to teach literacy by writing small novels for those who had just learned to read.
The love which came back to me through this work, the opening of Indian hearts which showed me the great spiritual treasures of that civilization, gave me back something as valuable as any American help could give India. I went to give. I came back rich with what I received. . .
We have to meet our neighbors on spiritual grounds. This cannot be done by governments. Only person to person can we express love to each other. When we find our American way of doing this, we can unite the world.
I believe there is a spiritual revival going on all over the world. Because I have written two books on answered prayer, my mail brings me thousands of letters which tell that the greatest revolution happening today is going on in men’s souls. Men are finding that life is good only in so far as it feeds the soul with satisfaction and peace. We have come to this moment on our journey headfirst. I believe we are going on from here heart-first.
Runbeck believes that the United States began with men and women “who loved God enough and humanity enough to leave home in order to worship in freedom.” Usually, I bristle when I hear about “America as a Christian nation,” because I don’t feel the love, or the heart-first journey, but I resonate with finding ways to love each other, and share our treasures, both spiritual and material.
Prof. Margaret Brimble, Chair of Organic and Medicinal Chemistry at the University of Auckland, has a desire to create beautiful and difficult molecules:
Today, the creative process Margaret Brimble uses to build molecules may be compared to a game of chess: “In what we call ‘molecular chess’, we have this beautiful molecule and we have to work out how to make it. We set our strategy, but inevitably things go wrong. You move backward, you go forward, you change to get around problems. Eventually, you do have your molecule, as you capture your king in the game of chess.”(interview with Anne Bougel)
She has worked with shellfish toxins, extremely complex molecules, identifying ways to use them in fighting ovarian, renal and breast cancers, as well as treatment for hypertension, epilepsy and pain. I found her work just after reading Michelle Francl‘s fascinating article on beautiful molecules in the March 2012 issue of Nature Chemistry. She defines elegelant molecules as ones which are “. . .symmetric; unexpected; revelatory of unseen mysteries; have a touch of sabi, a patina of history; a rich set of associations that stimulates our imaginations; useful; logically simple; sometimes whimsical — and sometimes profoundly graceful.” As an artist, I resonate with this lyrical description of beauty, whether of molecules or mosaic, and love that Margaret Brimble sees beauty in the molecules she seeks.
For those who are curious, among Michelle Francl’s top 10 beautiful molecules are ethanol(the wonders of Belgian beer), insulin, and snoutane(with its wonderfully apt name.) For the rest, check out her post The Most Zen of Molecules.
Margaret Goldie(1905-1997), was a first generation teacher of the Alexander Technique(AT). She’s pictured here with F.M. Alexander, the persistent studier of himself, and of the ways we move by habit, and how these habits can cause us difficulties and pain. I started AT lessons when my back was complaining about how I was working in the studio. When I discovered Margaret Goldie’s name, I tried to find a photo, and after searching, this is the only one. Miss Goldie(as she was called), didn’t want any photos taken of her teaching, and published no books(see Miss Goldie: A Little for the Record.)
Alexander developed his technique of “good use” of the body through his relentless observations of his own movements after repeatedly losing his voice while doing public speaking. He started taking students, and these students then started various schools of AT. Miss Goldie was not one to turn her teaching into an industry. She wanted people to experience the same kind of awareness that Alexander found for himself, and that she found for herself. She left a distinct impression on her students, who often write of being both awed and scared of her. John Hunter writes of his experience with Miss Goldie:
This brings us to decision. If we have choice, then we have to make a decision. It is here that many of us get stuck. In my first or second lesson with Margaret Goldie she said, ‘Now I am going to ask you to make a decision, and it will be the first decision you’ve ever made.’ At the time I found this a very strange thing for her to say. Had I not been making decisions all my life? Had I not decided that very day to get out of bed and come and have a lesson with her? This is a very interesting question. We assume that because we end up taking one course of action rather than another that we have made a decision. But is that the case? My suspicion is that we have merely acquiesced to impulses following the path of least resistance.
This moment of freedom, before we act out of habit, is powerful. I see glimpses of it when observing myself, but there are many habits entrenched in how I move, and I get frustrated with all I need to notice, like the proverbial onion, layer after layer. I am learning it is not about “doing” Alexander, but about letting my body go into the positions of most ease. As Fiona Robb quotes Margaret Goldie(as cited in Robert Rickover’s article on Miss Goldie) : ”Any doing is an overdoing.” I like that.
Margaret O’Rorke describes sitting in her garden and showing a friend a vessel she had made, holding it up to the light, and being struck by the beauty of the translucence, and wanting to pursue this quality in porcelain. It’s a process of learning from each piece, because you don’t know how the light will come through it until the piece is finished. She hopes the feeling in her hands when she moves the clay will be felt by those who encounter her work, and share in the pleasure she receives from the clay.
O’Rorke began as a painter, and then became a potter. In 1992, she spent several months with Japanese potter Koie Ryoji and was influenced by his inventiveness, as her amazing clay lights demonstrate. Her manipulation of the porcelain clay reminds of Stratoz when he’s stretching dough for his grandmother’s strudel recipe, stretching it until light passes through. I love how O’Rorke has taken her revelation and had adventures with it, learning a whole process of making functional lighting, as well as invoking wonder with her translucent creations.
For Martin Luther King Day, it is apt to pay tribute to Margaret Walker(1915-1998), African-American poet. I first read her powerful poem, For My People, when I was an undergraduate. The poem first appeared in Poetry Magazine in 1937, and became her signature piece, the poem by which she was known. In 1968 she founded the Institute for the Study of History, Life, and Culture of Black People (now the Margaret Walker Alexander National Research Center). The Margaret Walker Personal Papers Digital Archives includes scanned images of her journals, with her own handwriting. Here are the last two stanzas of For My People:
For my people standing staring trying to fashion a better way,
trying to fashion a world that will hold all the people,
all the faces, all the adams and eves and their countless
Let a new earth rise. Let another world be born. Let a
bloody peace be written in the sky. Let a second
generation full of courage issue forth; let a people
loving freedom come to growth. Let a beauty full of
healing and a strength of final clenching be the pulsing
in our spirits and our blood. Let the martial songs be
written, let the dirges disappear. Let a race of men now
rise and take control.
The full poem and an audio clip are available at the Internet Poetry Archive. Below is a video of Leah Ward Sears, Supreme Court Justice of Georgia, reading For My People, as part of the Favorite Poem Project.
Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh (1864-1933), was a Scottish artist who worked in gesso, textiles, and metals. She and her sister Frances MacDonald enrolled at The Glasgow School of Art at the turn of the 20th century, and some of the first women allowed to attend classes. Later, the sisters left school to start their own studio together. Margaret MacDonald was introduced to Rennie Mackintosh, an architectural student, by the head of the Glasgow School, and Frances to Rennie’s associate, Herbert MacNair. After each pair married, they were known as the Glasgow Four.
The partnership of Rennie Mackintosh and Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh was sometimes characterized as all Rennie with Margaret as a supportive wife, but Mackintosh himself attributed much of their creativity to their interactions, their work together. They collaborated on more than 40 exhibitions, and numerous interiors. In 1927, he wrote her, “You must remember that in all my architectural efforts you have been half if not three-quarters of them.” He believed that Margaret had genius, whereas he had only talent.(Alan Senior)
Margaret MacDonald was the first Margaret to inspire me to do a Margaret’s Board on Pinterest. She also shows up in my Dynamic Duos board. The more Stratoz and I collaborate in our art, the more curious I get about other artistic and creative partnerships. Have you ever been inspired by another person in your own creativity? Known any Dynamic Duos?
My quest to find Margarets for my Pinterest Board led me to an artist who had a proliferation of names, variously Margaret, Margit, Margarete, or Grete, and Heymann then Loebenstein(her first husband who was killed in a car accident in 1928), then Marks(her second husband). It took me awhile to realize this was all the same person. A name becomes so entwined with identity, yet she is called by so many, depending on the author. Her final name seems to have been Grete Marks, so that is what I will call her.
Grete Marks was born Margarete Heymann in Germany in 1899, and studied at the Bauhaus school of design, where she was pressured by the administration to be a weaver rather than a potter, because she was a woman. Marks prevailed, and when she married Gustav Lobenstein, they opened a pottery together. When Lobenstein died, she took over the company herself, but had to flee Germany. She was Jewish, and the Nazi’s called her work “degenerate,” and forced her to sell the factory at a loss in 1934. A former client brought her to England, with her two sons, where again Marks worked The Potteries at Stoke-on-Trent. Her singular vision, and imaginative shapes did not sit well with the traditional ceramics industry in English countryside, and the Pottery let her go.
When you think of “tea set” from 1930’s England, these are not what come to mind. No flowers. No gilded edges. Look at those delicious colors below, luminous yellow, with robin’s egg blue glowing from the inside.
Marks moved to London and continued to make pottery, and also started painting. According to Collection Soehlke, she also made “pottery pictures” with pieces of broken pottery. I couldn’t find any photos of her pottery pictures, and the mosaic artist in me wants to see what they looked like, a manifestation of a desire to reunite a fractured career and life.
Margaret Armstrong(1867-1944), designed over 270 book covers during her career. I am drawn to her swirling designs, detailed flowers, and love of gold and silver imprinting, and deep rich binding colors. She and a group of female friends traveled around the western states from 1911-1914, and took a trip to the bottom of the Grand Canyon(the first white women to do so), and went on to write and illustrate Field Book to Western Wildflowers. (Printed Flower Gardens)
I was interested to discover, since Stratoz makes stained glass, that Armstrong’s father was a well-known stained glass artist who worked with Tiffany, Maitland Armstrong, along with Margaret’s sister Helen Armstrong, using a technique of “plating” where glass is stacked in order to modulate the light. I also covet her monogram, since it is the same letters of my own, and I love the interlocking type.
“She started a vogue for making the book covers themselves artistic and distinctive, and her covers became a sort of identity tag for the author. Whenever I see the dark blue and gold design on the spine of some book on a library shelf I have recognized it as Henry van Dyke’s even before Margaret’s distinctive lettering tells me so.”
One of the pleasures of Pinterest is finding themes for different “boards” and one I created on impulse was “Margarets.” I haven’t know many Margarets, especially ones who might actually go by the full name and not a nickname. Fortuitously, there are some very cool women named Margaret, and the first in my series is the art jeweler Margaret De Patta(1903-1964). She attended Academy of Fine Arts in San Diego, studied metalsmithing, and and had her own studio by 1935. I love this photo of De Patta at work, wearing one of her own sculptural brooches. She was part of of a 1948 exhibit, Modern Jewelry under 50 Dollars at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, with the emphasis on modernist jewelry as wearable art, and in fact, De Patta studied Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, who was a teacher at the Bauhaus in Berlin. According to Marbeth Schon, “De Patta’s work shows the influence of Maholy-Nagy in her use of semi-transparent stones which manipulate light and especially her silver pin with stainless steel screen which bears a resemblance to a Moholy-Nagy photogram. Moholy-Nagy had experimented with three-dimensional construction, light modulator, space modulators, the transition of light through plastic sheets and kineticism.”
Community of Creatives and Mobilia Gallery have some great photos of Margaret De Patta’s pieces, and their capturing of light.
If you are fortunate to live near the Oakland Museum of California, you may have seen the exhibit Space-Light-Structure: The Jewelry of Margaret De Patta, February 4, 2012 – May 13, 2012.