Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Traveling Polaroids

Mabel loaned me her East Coast travel Polaroids to scan.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Gertrude Käsebier

Gertrude Käsebier (1852-1934) established herself in the 1890s as one of the first professional women photographers. Above is her 1901 study of the 16-year-old Evelyn Nesbit, regarded as the most sensational beauty of her day – at the height of the Gibson Girl craze – who had famous men literally murdering each other for her favors. Käsebier specialized in portraits, but most of her subjects led more tranquil lives than Evelyn Nesbit.

"I earnestly advise women of artistic tastes to train for the unworked field of modern photography. It seems to be especially adapted to them, and the few who have entered it are meeting a gratifying and profitable success."

quoted in Gertrude Käsebier : The Photographer and Her Photographs by Barbara L. Michaels (New York : Abrams, 1992)

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Happy Return

Mabel Watson Payne returned from her holiday on the East Coast with a new penchant for reading. This afternoon she was enjoying that timeless classic (first published in 1940) Caps for Sale by Esphyr Slobodkina. Partly of course she was taking an interest out of courtesy for her grandfather who brought her the book as a welcome-home gift, but once the monkeys had stolen the caps and carried them high up into the tree, Mabel Watson Payne was helplessly enthralled.

And when the story was over she took the lead in the discussion that followed.Those monkeys never would give back the caps just because the man yelled at them. Up in their tree, they knew his authority was no better than a hollow reed. But when the cap man threw his own cap down on the ground in rage and frustration, then the monkeys threw their caps down on the ground too! Then he could pick them up!

For an infant barely three months old this was a substantial exertion and Mabel Watson Payne showed signs after a while of growing a little restless, a little sleepy – not that she ever considered lowering herself to fussiness.

Sleep simply overcame her in its own quiet way once she had delivered all her observations.

The adults managed to keep themselves amused with tales of the recent travels. Just in the past week Mabel Watson Payne made the acquaintance of more individuals then she had met in her entire life up to the time of the trip. Her daddy's abundant family went out of their way to make her warmly welcome.

And when wake-up time arrived, new reservoirs of amusement floated Mabel Watson Payne into the next segment of her afternoon.

An Ideal Reader

The Good Neighbour

Somewhere along this street, unknown to me,
behind a maze of apple trees and stars,
he rises in the small hours, finds a book
and settles at a window or a desk
to see the morning in, alone for once,
unnamed, unburdened, happy in himself.

I don't know who he is; I've never met him
walking to the fish-house, or the bank,
and yet I think of him, on nights like these,
waking alone in my own house, my other neighbours
quiet in their beds, like drowsing flies.

He watches what I watch, tastes what I taste:
on winter nights, the snow; in summer, sky.
He listens for the bird lines in the clouds
and, like that ghost companion in the old
explorers' tales, that phantom in the sleet,
fifth in a party of four, he's not quite there,
but not quite inexistent, nonetheless;

and when he lays his book down, checks the hour
and fills a kettle, something hooded stops
as cell by cell, a heartbeat at a time,
my one good neighbour sets himself aside,
and alters into someone I have known:
a passing stranger on the road to grief,
husband and father; rich man; poor man; thief.

– John Burnside
from The Good Neighbour
(London : Jonathan Cape, 2005)

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Muslin Mock-up

Last weekend I made the paper pattern here for the Christmas frock intended to adorn the person of Mabel Watson Payne. This weekend I used that pattern to construct a muslin mock-up of the dress itself, ready to be fitted on the celestial infant at a time when she finds it convenient.

The gathering of the front and back into the yoke has been reduced in bulk from the rather florid model we started out with, but could be reduced further if its poofiness is still perceived as excessive.

Ditto the little puffball sleeves, which I think may need to be reduced in scale another notch or two in pursuit of the most seemly proportions overall.

I forgot last weekend that I would need to cut out a yoke lining, which the model garment did not have – because it had an elaborate collar treatment instead, which my daughter and I ditched in the early planning stages. I had run out of the off-white muslin, it turned out, so part of the yoke lining had to be cut out of a different muslin bolt in bright white. Attaching the lining allowed me to create an accurate neck opening, which is another point where an adjustment may well need to be made to match the divine bodily specifications of Mabel Watson Payne in person.

I tacked down the outer edges of the yoke lining by hand, and then ran up the side seams on the machine. Put gathers on the sleeve openings, but left them unfinished so the fullness can be adjusted – either tightened or let back out. Perhaps we will want the sleeves to be shaped like little wings instead of little puffballs.

I felt somewhat uncomfortable setting in the hem on the machine at the end. Hems are always put in by hand. But this is not really a garment. This is more of a tool on the way to a garment.