Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Dedham Blue Rabbits

Dedham teapot

Blue and White
            While Tasha owned several pink luster tea sets and even gave one of them to me, she also loved her Canton china and a special blue and white tea set from the early nineteenth century. Sitting by her fire, I would cradle the deep saucers decorated with simple blue flowers that resembled dianthus, and sip from the thin, handless cups. In The Private Life of Tasha Tudor, Richard Brown featured a photo of Tasha pouring from the blue and white tea pot as she served a young visitor.
            When pausing to gaze around Corgi Cottage, the combination of blue and white appears in the checked curtains, cream and blue crocks, and pillows, and of course, rows of Canton china shine in the kitchen cupboard. Much of the cherished china once served as ballast in Tasha’s grandfather’s ship. The Ice King figured out how to transport ice from local New England ponds to various southern locations, and return with cargo bound for Boston.
            While Tasha loved her antique china, she also introduced me to another, more whimsical pottery. One afternoon, she tossed tea leaves into a cunning teapot with a crackled glaze and a band of blue rabbits racing around its chubby middle.
            “Where did you find such a sweet tea pot?” I asked her.
            We carried the tea tray to the fireplace, where Tasha told me about the Dedham pottery, founded by a Robertson family in 1876. After the Scottish potter, Hugh Robertson attended the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and observed Chinese pottery with a crackled red glaze, he decided to create a similar type of stoneware with cobalt blue designs. The first pottery was established in Chelsea, Massachusetts and about twenty years later, move to Dedham. While the crouching rabbit with its ears back most often decorated the pottery, sometimes other animals, flowers and leaves appeared.
            Tasha showed me a couple of other pieces of Dedham pottery and declared, “A woman can never have enough china. It is her prerogative.”

            About a week later, after returning home, I opened my rural mailbox to find a package marked “fragile”. A twin of Tasha’s Dedham teapot glimmered midst the packing material; its cobalt blue rabbits snuggled among leaves. Each time I fill it with tea leaves and steaming water, I remember another peaceful moment, learning more than history near Tasha’s fireplace.

Canton China

Washing lovely china

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Hollyhocks in my Garden

Tasha loved hollyhocks. Near the middle of June, I can remember her calling me and asking if my hollyhocks were blooming, because in Vermont’s climate, her stately plants would not open for several more weeks. In the early part of the nineteenth century, hollyhocks were one of those cottage flowers that surrounded homes and even appeared near outbuildings. Their iridescent bell-shaped blossoms shimmer in red, pink, deep maroon, white and yellow. For some reason, Tasha had lost her yellow hollyhocks and had not found any volunteers from which she could pluck a few seed pods until she strolled through a living history village.
“But I just didn't feeling right about taking any seeds,” she confessed, as we sat near her hearth.
“Next summer, I’ll send you some from my plants.” While the canaries sang, I poured myself more tea and nibbled on a slice of flaky pastry that held a thick, sticky poppy seed filling.
We reflected about playing with hollyhock dolls, and how the dolls could hold the flowers as parasols or use them as small boats. Slowly, our conversation drifted away from gardening and onto homestead activities, our baby goats, cheese making and how to create pectin from green apples. While none of those subjects would appear in flashy headlines, they illustrated the daily tasks that shaped Tasha’s life. A remarkable life that still inspires many others to delight in those simple pleasures.
Tasha's June Garden