December 16, 2016

While sketching some of Mrs. M. ———— 's objects during her absence in Mexico, one of her assistants came across some writing she did on her newly acquired tyg. Mrs. M. ———— has given her permission to share her notes on the tyg's origin here and welcomes you to learn more about the history behind this fascinating object.

This tyg was made by the talented English potter, my now dear friend, Mr. Edward Bingham at Castle Hedingham in Essex, England sometime between 1870 and 1890. I shall have to contact him for a more precise date now that I know it was his creation. He stylized it to look like other pieces that came out of Wrotham in the seventeenth century, such as the old tyg in my cabinet next to the fireplace.

The charming figure on the front of the tyg is King Henry, or should I say a King Henry. This figure either references King Henry IV of Navarre or King Henry V of England. Based on our dear potter's own origins, I am inclined to assume the latter. In the second half of the nineteenth century a story began circulating that King Henry invented multi-handled cups. The story goes that he stopped at an inn to get something to drink. As the servant girl attempted to hand the king his cup her nerves got the better of her and she spilled his drink on him which ruined his gloves. Perturbed by this, the king set off. When he returned from his hunt he had the royal potters make a multi-handled cup and sent it to the inn in hopes that the extra handle would allow him a more secure grasp at the tyg.

This story, while false, is interesting- I prefer to use the term etiology to describe it. An etiology is the explanation of why something is the way it is, but this doesn't mean the explanation is true... or does it? The tiny king sits atop his handle as if saying, "My presence here is truth!" Each time the story is published or the figure placed on a piece of pottery his influence on the tyg's history becomes greater.

The tyg serves as a reminder to us that etiologies shape our world just as much as histories do. They shape our world and guide our perceptions.

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December 15, 2016

Mrs. M. ————  invites you to read her reflections on her journey to the Columbian Exposition and a new object she purchased there. She also provided instructions for its display in her absence that one of her assistants has shared here.

I visited the Columbian Exposition and picked up this George Washington vase from an agent of a British fellow by the name of Sydney Starkey. He was ecstatic about this creation, even raving about Starkey's successful patenting of the vase just a year before. I glanced at it myself, and requested a copy for my archives. It is such a peculiar object, I am continuously ruffled by sheer amount of British craftsmanship here at the Exposition.

I was drawn to George's gaze and struck by how unsettled it made me feel, I couldn't escape his stare. The amount of George Washington Character Jugs available for purchase here is astounding! A George for any occasion!

I wonder if George knows the fractured patriotism he now represents... oh how I wish he could encompass a more complete idea of America. Yet, I've never seen George quite in this guise before, perhaps he and his friends belong in my collection for their curiosity alone!

Mrs. M. ————  communicated to one of her assistants that she wished to display George in the style of a miniature diorama to explore her ideas of America as a crucible for the mixing of ideas, people, and not simply the white "New England" she found at the Exposition. Mrs. M. ————  was perturbed by the fractured patriotic narrative present at the Columbian Exposition. Who does George Washington really represent?

By turning George on his head, Mrs. M. ————  feels that she can best express her hopes and desires for her cosmopolitan country by disposing of the racial and cultural biases she witnessed and experienced into a pot where they belong! Mrs. M. ————  notes, that she would now like to "fill" George's head with the "smelting pot"- a wonderful expression she read once in a Ralph Waldo Emerson piece. With this action, Mrs. M. ————  wishes to remain critical of George Washington and the ideals he represents while creating a fruitful progression that includes the viewpoints she's collected from around the world.

"A George for any occasion!"

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December 14, 2016

In regard to the seemingly candid cataclysmic ceramic she has been studying of late, Mrs. M. ————  is delighted to share the deeper significance she has unraveled among the images it depicts.

I have recently acquired a new addition to my collection, the Chicago Pitcher, which has resulted in a revelation. Although I doubt that when Frank Burley designed the pitcher for the Columbian Exposition he could have anticipated my reaction. The vignettes on the pitcher relate many aspects of Chicago's storied history. I find myself particularly drawn to the scene where Catherine O'Leary's cow (supposedly) kicks over the lantern that started the Great Chicago Fire. It has inflamed my own deeply held conviction that women often are the easy scapegoat for events beyond their reach. I have placed the object within my Cabinet in a very specific and intentional environment and invite my dear friends and guests to explore at their leisure, so that they might have the same visceral reaction to the piece as I did upon its purchase.

I ask that you reflect upon the story of Eve in the Garden of Eden and the supposed folly of women that is so often reflected in "cataclysmic" ceramics, such as this pitcher. Upon discovering the hiding place of my object, you will notice a delightfully conceived contraption (if I might say so myself) which, upon activation, lights the pitcher as well as the objects I have placed around it to allude to the argument, which I myself will explain to you at length at my upcoming gathering for friends and family at my home next Saturday. 

The bitten apple and the flames that surround the pitcher remind us of Eve, whose sins would likely lead her to the fires of Hell, as well as to the Great Chicago Fire and the supposed role of Mrs. O'Leary in its beginnings. I find it interesting that so many still wholeheartedly believe in the myth of Mrs. O'Leary, whose cow was said to knock over a lantern in her shed and start the blaze, when it came out not long ago that the scandal of a journalist, Michael Ahern, fabricated the entire tale so that he might increase his newspaper's ratings with a sensationalist story. How is it that it is woman's folly that is the cause of a great many disasters, including in the case of Eve, where her sins bring about the downfall of man? What of Cleopatra, Persephone, Hester Prynne, Tituba and countless others whose stories have become mythologized as examples of women's destructive and immoral nature. This type of scapegoating of women as the harbingers of tragedy and cataclysmic events is found throughout history and literature, and I find great offense in the vilification of womankind in this way.

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December 13, 2016

Mrs. M. ————  invites you to read her journal entry discussing a complex new object she has received, and the challenges it has presented to her curated collection.

I have received a gift recently, from a dear friend, which is troubling to me. It is a gaudy and ostentatious vase which commemorates the centennial of our nation. The vase consists of three Eagles with shields bearing text which commemorates the centennial. The trouble is this is not an object that I would like to display in my cabinet. The vase does not fit the aesthetic which I have carefully curated for my cabinet. I am hence faced with the task of finding a space for it. The nature of the relationship in question is such that I would be remiss not to display it at all.

I do not object to the idea of commemorating the centennial celebration but the decoration of this vase and the unbridled display of, dare I say, aggressive patriotism is not in keeping with my vision of America nor my vision for my collection. My collection aims to highlight works made by those who are not represented otherwise. This vase, and indeed, the celebration of the centennial, is a celebration which does not represent all of america. Worse than that it hides the history of those who have been here since long before European men set foot on this land. The signing of the Declaration is not a celebratory landmark for the native peoples of this country.

I have recently acquired a copy of The Language of Flowers written by Henrietta Dumont. It is a fascinating look at the meaning one can convey with only a bouquet of flowers. Perhaps there is a way in which I can use this to display this so as to make it clear that this vase does not speak for me. A veiled criticism, but yet not too veiled so as to be passed over entirely. I need to select a grouping of flowers which will convey the idea that this vase hides more history than it represents.

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December 12, 2016

Regarding another fascinating object she has recently obtained, Mrs. M. ————  invites you to read an inquiry she sent out to one Mr. Frank Austin, a researcher from Dartmouth College. After reading about the story of young Eddie McCarthy, the first person in America to have a medical x-ray picture, done by Mr. Austin, Mrs. M. ————  knew that such technology would help her better uncover the mystery of her newly acquired "memory jug".

To Mr. Frank Austin,

I have read about your amazing discoveries using x-rays at Dartmouth College, and that poor Eddie McCarthy boy. Your work is truly fascinating and I am writing to inquire about a fascinating object that has recently come into my possession. It seems to be a vase, but it is covered in an assortment of varied and interesting objects. Unfortunately, the vase seems to be coated in some sort of paint, and it is proving quite difficult to make out most of the objects. Your pictures with these x-rays may help us see some of this object more clearly. Please respond if you are interested in examining the object, and I will have it sent to Dartmouth at your earliest convenience. It will be such a pleasure working with you and this exciting new technology.

With Gratitude,

Mrs. M. ———— 

Mrs. M. ————  invites you to study her newly acquired "memory jug" and accompanying x-ray pictures.

Mrs. M. ————  is particularly excited about being able to use this groundbreaking technology in order to study the jug more clearly.

The jug is probably from south eastern US African American communities, and reflects Mrs. M. ———— 's interest in showcasing ceramics that create a truer and more complete representation of American culture. For now, the jug is placed on the back wall of her office, along with the fascinating images. See if you can find some of the hidden mystical objects and symbolic patterns that are on the surface of the jug.

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December 11, 2016

Regarding the project soon to be underway at her desk, Mrs. M. ————  is delighted to share with you a letter sent to her dear friend shortly after her visit to the Centennial Exposition in Chicago.

When I attended the World's Fair in Chicago, I had no idea that such wonderful and innovative things would be available for the public to see. As I was walking around, I saw an enormous object off in the distance... and as I got closer I discovered it to be the world's largest stove! I can safely say I have never seen the like anywhere else. This piqued my interest in the company that created it, as I was in desperate need of a new stove for my home. I feel as though the fates were in my favor when I came across a lovely earthenware German stove tile shortly after this. As I have been on the hunt for new acquisitions for my collection, this seemed to be an odd one out in that its date of origin was much earlier than my others. This tile was made in the sixteenth century according to the man I purchased it from, but I had to have it nevertheless. I have come across a number of these tiles on my journeys but none so simple as this one. As I was looking at it closely one day and trying to decide where to place it, I had an ingenious idea. I would make this orator (what better name for this figure?) into a panel on my new stove. This tile had once been a utilitarian object. Should it not be the same now? It deserves to be revived. The Michigan Stove Company had many motifs that were, by all means beautiful, but they did not suit my tastes. But I knew this orator would.

I am in the process of making some sketches to send to the Stove Company so that my humble orator may decorate my contemporary heating appliance, just as he did three centuries ago. I am hoping to send out these images to the company shortly and that they will be accommodating to my request. My mother was particularly close with the Dwyer family in Detroit so perhaps they will do me this small (or perhaps rather large) favor. I suppose I will find out. Preferably I would like him to decorate a front heating panel so that every one of my visitors will be able to admire him as I do. Perhaps when I am done working with the tile I can place it in a new vitrine I am having built.

There were a select number of stereocards of this stove and I knew I needed one for memory's sake. If I wouldn't have purchased one, I may have forgotten about this company. What would have become of my orator tile then?

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December 10, 2016

Regarding a new acquisition to her collection currently awating more in depth study on her desk, Mrs. M. ————  invites you to read her journal entry on its strange arrival at her door:

I met my now dear friend, Edward Bingham years ago, after identifying an object he had forged! During a trip to Essex I made up my mind to pay a call to his studio to discuss my discovery. He expressed much surprise at my arrival and of course at my bold confrontation of his practice. After soundly berating him, he only smiled and good naturedly requested I keep it a secret just between us. Of course I was not sure I should encourage him, but after some discussion, we became fast friends and I could not imagine giving him up to any authority. In the years since we have kept up frequent correspondence and when his latest letter arrived it carried with it a package and a letter that said:

My Dear Mrs. M. ———— 

I've got a new puzzle for you! I look forward to hearing your judgment on my latest recreation. It started as a curiosity but has turned into quite a labor of love and I have rather enjoyed the mystery I have put into my interpretation. Tell me, my dear Mrs. M. ————  what you think of my latest project and hold nothing back. Of course, if you cannot figure it out, I am no more than a letter away!

I look forward to your undoubtedly witty response to my challenge,

Edward Bingham

This recreation of a sixteenth-century puzzle jug is certainly a strange object with liberal interpretation… I look forward to investigating it further as soon as my current project is finished—for I do not for one moment believe that he would have simply made such a thing only for the technical challenge…

What could you possibly mean by recreating this puzzling new object, Edward?

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