Wednesday, July 5, 2023


Wake up!

It's morning, and time to check all my begonias! My dwelling faces northeast and the bank of windows only catches the early morning sun for about an hour and a half. 


After that, it is just clear light, perfect for rex begonias, which I adore. They thrive in this exposure, but that early sun is powerful and I have learned they must be protected daily from that intense focus.

So while the rest of the world is waking up, I am putting my begonias to bed for a short nap!

Recently, I was offered an astonishing gift: an angel-wing begonia, from the plant that originally belonged to Mary Cleave's great-grandmother!

And who is Mary Cleave? She is a retired astronaut and the very first person I encountered after I had moved here about 4 years ago. We met in the library and immediately found many interests in common...when the subject of houseplants arose one day recently, she mentioned that she has been taking offshoots of her great-grandmother's begonia for years and would I like one? 

Oh yes, indeed, and here it is ...almost three feet tall, and already divided.

Fortunately, it lives in the far corner of the balcony that is shaded from the sun, so it doesn't need a nap.

Which is also true of the gorgeous red-leafed beauty that lives in the pottery swan in an equally well-shaded corner of the living-room.

My two escargot begonias are doing handsomely too...I remember when I first saw this variety, probably 20 years ago or so, in France.

They were very hard to find in this country at that time, and for years my mail-order purchases were very disappointing. Now voilĂ !: beautiful big healthy  plants, found in a local farm stand, and flourishing chez moi.

Everything else is pure impulse buying, and I have filled in with a few rich coleus which are thriving with casual attention.

But the angel-wing keeps me disciplined about feeding and watering. I am always happy to have Quimper pottery from the 19th century, and now I have a plant of similar provenance. C'est merveilleux!

Sunday, September 26, 2021

DOLLS and PUPPETS: a melange of travels and collecting


Dolls and Puppets

We gathered all our funny faces: some perched on tables, some in bookshelves, the total being a result of travels and impulse buying: the people of many cultures. All seemed fit companions to our principal obsession: the folk, and the folk art, of Quimper!
Plus, they showcase the fabrics and costumes of the country, another of our passions!

Santons of Provence


Santons of Provence. These from a Brittany estate, bought at auction. They are true depictions of the Provencal folk,and the French love to use them as part of their Christmas. 

Puppets from Udaipur


From our India journeys, puppets from Udaipur. Found in a tiny shop, we rescued the head from the old puppet-maker himself, before he gaudied it up with paint and tinsel. And placated him by buying the finished one we found in a corner.

Nuthead dolls

 Nut head Dolls are an American folk art form that has rather died out. These two couples were bought from a famous doll collection that was auctioned off some years ago.

Tuareg doll

    "Hassan" is my affectionate name for this souvenir of Africa, found at a flea market in Brittany (the French are avid travellers to all parts of Africa). He represents one of the Tuareg, the "blue men" of  a Berber tribe, who wear this color to offset the UV rays of their intense sun. I named him for the only time I visited there : Marrakesh, where the real Hassan was a handsome young guide.

Caribbean golliwog doll


The Caribbean is full of  myths and creatures (like golliwogs) whose roots are African. This is a carnival figure that I love for his colorful gaudy clothing and direct connection to his African ancestry.

American doll



American family trio. Found in an antiques shop in Venice, Florida, a charming family trio, dressed in crisp blue-and-white (even the little teddy bear is nicely clothed), I found the composition of this group irresistible.

Fantasy Picture. Somehow, this seems to fit in with this grouping; it has a most intriguing history. It was painted by a young Jewish child who was one of a group gotten out of central Europe just before WW II started. An art teacher saved a number of the works they did in grade school: this is the very last of a whole group I acquired some years ago in Denver, where that teacher had just sold them to a good friend of mine. A remarkable journey for a remarkable souvenir!

    And thus does folk art endure: traditions and memories!

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Virtual Visits #4: Some Very Special Books

Come browse at our coffee table! 

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Quimper collector, world traveller, she used her time and talents brilliantly and left this gorgeous record for us all to enjoy. We first met her many years ago in upstate New York and were delighted to renew that connection in Florida, where she established the Ruth Funk Center for Textile Arts as part of Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne.

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Missouri antiques dealer dealer with a discerning eye for country furniture and accessories and a passionate love of old paint. His booth at the Antiques Show in St. Louis, where we first met, was a joy for this folk art devotee to behold!

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 Mme Orsenne is a dentist in Paris who has had a life-long love affair with the Eiffel tower. Since she is the sister of my beloved hĂ´telier, Victor, I knew her slightly and, purely by chance, was at the hotel the day the book was published. I had the pleasure of dining there with her and so was able to ask about the book. For years she had been sending some of her Eiffel Tower pictures as Christmas cards to her patients; one day a patient, M. Massin, who was a publisher, said to her, "Catherine, I think we should do a book"...and so she did!

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 Corky Davidow's career as an artist and collector extraordinaire has led her to many fascinating byways: Bakelite and, happily for us, Quimper as well! We encountered her at an antiques show in Washington, years ago.

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We'd like to end this visit with a word in defense of "coffee table books". Wikipedia notes that the term is often used pejoratively, as being lightweight froth: lots of pictures, not much substance. Every one of these books represents enormous amounts of time, research and expertise...and we are thrilled all over again with reviewing their contents and our memories of the authors.

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Virtual Visits #3: Pin's and "Make-Do's"

Do you remember the Pin's collecting mania of some years ago? All sorts of people were sporting their collections on lapels, sleeves, jackets, hats. Of course, there were Quimper pin's like miniature plates, and of course! we bought a load of them for our collectors here. One ardent collector wanted a pair to be made into earrings, and she very kindly made a pair for us, too.

We found a handful of them in a desk drawer when we moved here, and have put them to good use in the office as thumbtacks for old Quimper affiches.

And two of them had already been (literally!) pressed into service as trompe l'oeil drawer pulls for an odd little hanging shelf that merits its own description.

American folk art dealers have developed some delightful euphemisms; this uses several of them. We who love old painted finishes become obsessed with "original" paint, no matter how worn. "Second-generation paint"  subtly means: original it ain't. "Make-do" means an object, like a simple wooden crate that has had a handle added, to become a nice little home-made carrier or basket... or some other inventive re-use of whatever is at hand.

This little shelf is a "make-do" plus: in addition to the new paint job and the pin's handles, there is a lovely glass flower attached underneath whose delicate stem end was broken off years ago...but it was much too pretty to throw away... now it has a safe permanent spot.

Anything that can showcase Quimper is definitely worth a make-do!

The ultimate Make-Do!

Stay well, stay safe, savor your own surroundings.