Make room for some white space! That’s what I always say! Morning MUSICA! I have a little story I wanted to share with you: Back before most of us even met, way back when, just after my first book (Heart of the Home) came out, I had the most interesting thing happen. Most of it, actually, wasn’t good, even though it definitely started out good, and ended up okay, I think, overall I could have done without it. Out of the blue I was contacted on the phone by the New York ad agency that represented Pepperidge Farm ~ they said really nice things about my new book, and asked me if I would like to design an ad for Pepperidge Farm using my handwriting and watercolors. I was very flattered, as you can imagine. Leaping and jumping occurred, calling of parents happened. I traveled to New York to meet with the agency, and gave my new book to the all the Pepperidge Farm executives at the meeting (to take home to their wives), and said I’d love to. But something happened, I never quite understood what, but it all short-circuited, and even though it never made any sense to me, for some unknown reason I stopped hearing from them. Disappointing and kind of embarrassing, but for all I knew, this was normal in big-ad-New-York-world. I put everything I’d done for them in a shopping bag and pushed it under my desk. A year later, when I saw my own handwriting and my favorite wooden spoon (among other things) watercolored in a New York Times Magazine double-page ad for Pepperidge Farm,
and then People Magazine too, my heart fell. My own personal spoon. Really, the nerve of some people’s children. Apparently what happened is that they sent my book to another artist in New Jersey and paid her to copy my work and do the ads. And because I was just beginning my career and very naive, and I thought this was so wrong on all levels since this book felt like my baby, I found a lawyer and took them to court. Talk about David and Goliath. As you might guess, I didn’t fare all that well, mostly because, unbeknownst to me until the very end, there was a limit of $10,000 that could be awarded and that’s only if you WIN the case, which I did, thank goodness! It took two years for it to get to court, but by the time we were finished I’d easily spent that $10,000 on the legal retainer, postage, Mary Tyler Moore city clothes for court, travel and the hotel room in New York where I had to go for a whole week for the “trial.” It could have been way worse I found out later, they could have made me pay the lawyer the $250,000 bill it took to do this, but instead, thank goodness, they made the other side pay it. (Moral of the story, unless you are a lawyer try to stay out of court.) For a few days, I thought I’d have to pay the lawyers myself, tears came out of my eyes horizontally when I first heard about it, but luckily when the ad agency appealed, the judge made the lawyers settle and let me go. Whew! Anyway, one fascinating thing came out of it, my “style” was defined by an expert (and, as it turned out in the end, it was protected by the law 😊). The ad agency brought in all kinds of evidence, that I didn’t own “my style,” I didn’t own hearts, they said, I didn’t own handwriting or wooden spoons (I said, “Even with the little lines?”); they darkened the court room and showed an old black and white movie of the venerable foreverness of Pepperidge Farm, they would have brought in Margaret Rudkin in a coonskin cap and calico apron if they could have, to try and show that perhaps it was me that had copied them! But one person they did bring was an art expert from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Very impressive to me since I’d never had an art lesson and at the time, didn’t know I had a “style.” She was supposed to analyze my art (on the stand) and tell the jury if it had special properties that should be protected. She showed everyone the wide white borders and a few pages with almost nothing on them. And SHE said, the expert said, pointing and holding up my book, that I was, and I quote, “A master of the white space.” HA! A master! Of the white space! I almost fell out of my chair. So there. And I have lived off that bit of information for the last 30 years.
And there’s really no doubt it was true ~ I probably never would have seen it on my own, but it’s so obvious, what shows off splotches of glorious color better than white space?
Even in the bubbles . . .
Even in my first painting, I’ve always liked the paper as much as what I put on it and left a lot of it blank.
A little white space, especially in the pages of a book, gives the eye a rest . . . just like quiet listening during a conversation, gives gravitas and meaning to the words . . .
This is one of the pages the art expert held up to the jury to make her point. Who knew? But I’ll tell you, it means a LOT when someone from a museum says something like that to you.💝 After all she was under oath. Made it all worthwhile. 😜
When I look back at what has inspired me, what I’ve surrounded myself with, such as these embroidered tea towels, it all makes sense, I see how good those little stitches look against the white.
I particularly enjoyed designing a line of white quilting fabrics . . . What is an old quilt without white? I don’t know!
White gives flavor to everything . . .
. . . and more white . . .
. . . in every shape . . . that blue would be nothing without the white! Subconsciously, it was probably quilts that turned me into a “master of the white space.” Perhaps “mistress” would be better. Inspiration comes from everywhere!
White makes the perfect background . . .
It has such freshness . . .
and perks up and softens any room . . .
White lightens hearts, smooths away troubles and makes black and white kitties the perfect decorating accent.
And something else about white, it makes a room like a movie set. Change the pillows to black floral needlepoint, put in a brown and red quilt, and you’re ready for winter. Add a Christmas tree or a basket of spring flowers to the room, glass candlesticks and a bowl of oranges in the spring, brass and wood candlesticks in the winter, and you get a complete change with very little work. Not that this is the only way to go, some think white is hard to keep clean . . . but,
Maybe that’s why so many New England houses are painted white, because the seasons change, and there is never any color clash since white goes with everything, looks fabulous with snow, beautiful with colorful falling leaves, excellent with forsythia. This is our backyard yesterday morning. Spring has sprung! Tomorrow is May! Rabbit-rabbit!
And palest pink, almost white flowers, look luv-lee against the green . . .
Mix and match old vintage white yard furniture does too!
Everything shows up better with a white frame . . .
This was the table for a wedding shower I did for one of my girlfriends. Nowadays white space has a much broader meaning for me, it’s a kind of emptiness and space, whether it’s in decorating, or in open places left free for dreaming. Quiet mornings are perfect for white space. Reading a good book is white space with a story. A massage is black-out white space.
Like bubble baths and birdsong. It’s downtime. The nonthinking thing. Ommmmm. Know what I mean? Like 1864, when there were only ticking-clock noises, the sound of the turning of a page, the flicker of a candle, the scratch of a pen, the purring of a cat, the soft snoring of a dog, the rustle of fabric. These are my favorite sounds and always hardest to hear. The chick-chick-chick of the lawn sprinkler going round and round on a warm summer day. But it doesn’t just happen, not in this wild world of ours, like everything else, if you want it, you have to make it yourself.
Take note: even Downton Abbey knew the power of white . . . that table just would not be the same in green.
Perhaps not quite the same in grandeur, but pretty good considering the serious and bewildering lack of a downstairs staff!
So that’s what I’ve been doing to my own little home sweet home … since we got back from California, I’m my own downstairs staff, putting my house back together, smoothing things out, making space. I’ve been writing books, designing cups and calendars, and traveling so much, my home, my first love, got out of hand with clutter. Spring cleaning was number one on my list of things to do when we got home, I want my house back! I have a long way to go, but here I begin, by clearing everything off the kitchen table (a feat in and of itself) and oiling the wood top, so there’s more contrast between the cute white legs and the wood floor, and the wood table and the white wainscoting.
I oiled both the table and the wood counter top ~ because we have our furnace on all winter, the color gets dried right out of the wood . . .
You can see how it works here on the handles of my pans ~ I can’t believe they got this bad, they practically have splinters! A little mineral oil makes such a difference! You just brush it on your wood boards, spoons, whatever you have, and leave it to sink in to bring back the mellow colors of the natural wood.
Here you can see the table when the oil is about halfway soaked in. Takes a few days.
This is me ⬇️
While I was working in the kitchen, I would step out into the salty cold spring air, to take Joe a cup of tea while he was de-thatching and reseeding the lawn (and give him brilliant advice, lucky man) and gaze at the tulips and daffodils blooming . . . note how good they look with a white picket fence!
And we put a new roof on the house, because the rain was coming into my sewing room!
And birds were landing and frolicking in the birdbath . . .And I put bright spring flowers in my little vases . . .
I washed all the dishes in my open cupboards in several dishwasher loads . . .
But anything hand-painted, or gold edged I washed by hand . . .
And dried . . .
And put away on my shiny clean shelves above my luv-lee oiled counter . . . the dishes and glassware sparkly and colorful against the white space . . .
ready for garden tea parties.
And then there was a joint April birthday party for myself and two of my best girlfriends! Which was wonderful of course! But, what I wanted to mention, as you can see by my outfit, I seem to have a new thing about the color blue.
I’m normally such a pink person, and now, all of a sudden, this yearning for blue. Kind of like all the years I couldn’t stand blue cheese dressing, and suddenly now I can’t get enough of it! I’m so happy new things keep happening! And I’ve learned, the only way to it is through it, so, hello blue, here I come! I kept thinking about changing the look of my newly clean and spacified kitchen . . . so finally, I went on line thinking, “rugs” ~ and sent away for some rag-rug samples . . . Something cool and fresh for the long hot summer . . . something, to be specific, blue.
I asked Jack, “Choose the one you like best.” And so, being the brilliant cat that he is, he did. I got out some dishtowels to see how they would look, and my new imaginary world began …
I thought, I wonder how Jack’s choice will look with fall colors?
Okay I said, how will it look with my new cups . . .
Within two weeks, and for about $300, I went to the Dash and Albert website and got three new rugs (there’s another of those lighter, windowpane rugs just out of sight on this side of the kitchen table) . . . I took all the little magnets and pictures off my fridge, and gave myself more white space and took a big deep breath of the clean emptiness. If anyone dares so much as set a newspaper down in here, I will have a fit. I’m warning me!
I shopped my house for other blue things . . . I changed the red-checked kitchen-table lampshade to one from the guest room that had bluebirds on it . . . the red checks will come back in the fall, when the seasons change again and all hearts turn to “cozy” . . .
I put away the red and pink potholders and pulled out the yellow and blue crocheted vintage potholders for the top of my stove . . .
And hunted through the dishtowel pile for some blue and yellow ones that showed up very nicely on the oven-door handles for which they were made . . .
I thought my little blue-flowered cup would be darling on top of my stove . . . with the miniature white chair as background.
Away goes the red-heart teapot, and out comes the blue one . . .
I lined up some of my favorite blue mugs . . .
And remembered the paper mockup of the blue-bird cup and thought I’d try it here . . . and decided this is a must-do mug, and so the real thing, lovely bone china from England will be coming into our web store hopefully by August! Oh the power! To be able to design a cup to match my kitchen! What a world!
And here it is, peaceful, calm, and plain, don’t you think? Almost Amish. Possibly Swedish. Definitely hyggeish. And the perfect backdrop to a summer filled with flowers, watch that vase on the kitchen table! I’m thinking perhaps next I need some new chair pads . . . perhaps in white . . . ?
I get to turn my calendar to May tomorrow, I peeked ahead and I was so happy to see it’s blue! Perfect timing!
My Beatrix Potter People have lived through years of my decorating transitions (transgressions!), but they are as they are forever, color matters not at all when it comes to them.
Blue schmoo. I love you just the way you are. 😘
Other than that . . . I’ve been getting the garden ready . . . the strawberries are doing really well, and there’s a fresh new layer of compost over everything. Spring rains are working their magic . . .
And I’ve been designing new dishes, interesting casual little things for serving and displaying . . . I love this little teapot plate! It’s whiteness is the perfect background for art, and for lemon cake or cookies too! I’ll do three different designs, this one and two with center art, so that they could either be used on the table or hung on the kitchen wall. I’ve been designing cat dishes too, and some other things . . . but not to put the cart before the horse and get us too excited, first we have to make sure this is all do-able before it is written in stone.
These, on the other hand . . .
in stone . . .
. . . and ready to ship from England on May 4th!!! I’m so excited. Did I tell you how strong fine bone china is? An English gentleman named Jon, from the manufacturer in England, came to visit us today (I gave him tea in my new Love cup in my plain but gorgeous new kitchen) and he almost gave me a heart attack with a little surprise demonstration of slamming the cup on the table edge! It didn’t break, neither the cup, nor the table! He was very proud. And now, so am I. Quality is so rare. And another thing, bone china is so dense it holds the heat really well. I already knew this ~ I could tell from drinking from them, but he confirmed it. I gave away two of the only samples I had to my birthday girlfriends, so I am waiting just as hard for them as the rest of you! Soon girlfriends, soon. And, btw, they are almost all gone! Which is good/bad, but I think everyone who wanted one has it by now, I hope so. Those designs will be retired. They are all yours. And I’m in the studio again, designing three maybe four more cups, including my bluebird, and this Santa Claus ~ all new designs, for fall, and tea, and the holiday season ~ Jon brought me some other sizes to choose from too. I love hearing your ideas, about what art you’d like to see on a cup, I wish we could afford to do all we’d like to do because there are SO many wonderful ways to go! One day at a time!
So, this is where I’ll be on the Thursday before Mother’s Day! The perfect thing to do to celebrate my favorite holiday, raise money for children in need . . . If you’re in the neighborhood, put on your Easter bonnet, and please bring your mom, your sister, or your best friend and join us for this luv-lee Tea Party, mom-celebration, and book talk and signing in Massachusetts . . . for tickets and more information go HERE . . .
One more thing, speaking of white, have you all seen The White Queen? There are ten episodes, followed by eight more of the White Princess. Wonderful! Joe and I just started the White Princess, but the Queen was great! Look for it . . . it’s on Starz now, we get it by talking into our remote. Which makes me wonder, was talking into a remote really necessary? Anyway, that’s how we get it.
Last but not least, something else wonderful and new: you know how they call different generations by different names? How they slot us by age into our little Baby Boomer, Gen-X, Millennial, or Centennial boxes? Well, I just heard about a new one this morning ~ a group they are calling “Perennials.” Just the name made me want to join! And this label has nothing to do with date of birth, it’s for all ages, people from every generation are welcome. It’s for anyone who manages to weather the winter storms and survive, for those who stay current with the world, with technology (accepting talking remotes with grace), are passionate, creative and compassionate truth seekers . . . who keep curious about the world and stay involved. Those are the Perennials. So us. Ever-blooming. No more generation segregation! Don’t you love it!? I hope this spreads like wildfire. And I decided to try something new . . . just to see if I like it. I’ve been meaning to for quite a while . . . Instagram! So I finally did it about a week ago, I’ve been over there introducing myself, and it’s been really fun meeting new people. If you want to see, here’s a link to my page . . . I don’t have it all figured out, but apparently it’s something that can only be done from your phone.
Sun’s coming up, the bottom of the sky is palest pink going up to lavender, then periwinkle blue, a gorgeous beginning to the day, trees black against the dawning light. Yesterday we took the first storm windows off, so this morning my studio is filled with bird song. And me? I just had a bowl of the biggest juiciest red ripe strawberries. And now I’m off to clean out the sideboard in the dining room! Bye Girlfriends, 💞 have a wonderful day!