A Legend, in Her Own Time

Author: Kirsten K., Books, Literature, Nostalgia

Tasha Tudor 1Today would have been the 100th birthday of beloved children’s book author and illustrator Tasha Tudor. During her long and fruitful career, she illustrated close to one hundred books and produced thousands of original paintings, many of which have been turned into cards and prints. Her work is highly sought after by collectors, but—despite having received numerous awards for her books and critical praise for her art—Tasha’s personal life began to eclipse her artistic life when she became equally, if not more, famous for her 19th-century lifestyle.

Tasha Tudor 2Unlike many children who grew up in the second half of the 20th century, I was not raised on Tasha Tudor’s books. It wasn’t until the late 1980s that I was first introduced to her through the pages of Victoria magazine, which has done a number of features on Tasha’s life and work over the years. I became captivated by this artist and author who, with her talent and resources, could have enjoyed every modern convenience, but chose to live her life as a woman of the 1800s.

Tasha Tudor 3Beginning with The Private World of Tasha Tudor, a series of books about her lifestyle was released in the early 1990s with elegant photographs by Richard W. Brown showing Tasha going about the daily business of milking her goats, cooking on a woodstove, spinning wool into thread, and quilting in front of the fire. Blurring the line between life and art, she found beauty in the simplest tasks and once said, “I’ve never worked a day in my life!” Convinced that she’d lived before in the 1830s, Tasha said that everything from that period came easily to her. She seemed to excel at any craft she attempted, whether basket making, woodworking, knitting, or weaving, but her favorite pastime was gardening.

Tasha Tudor 4Tasha lived in rural Vermont in a house that was built by her son. Although constructed in the 1970s, her home was modeled on a 230-year-old house and erected using hand tools, so it looked—like Tasha herself—as if it belonged to another century. The magnificent garden she cultivated on her vast property was her pride and joy. It was celebrated in the book Tasha Tudor’s Garden by Tovah Martin and featured on an episode of the ABC news program Primetime Live in 1997. She called it “Paradise on earth!”

Tasha Tudor 5Although she was in her early 90s when she passed away in 2008, Tasha never lost her childlike spirit and sense of wonder. She had a lifelong love of marionettes and dolls, and the contents of her immense dollhouse were put on display at the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in 1996. Christmas was her favorite holiday, for which she began preparing months in advance. She wrote and illustrated several Christmas books and created annual holiday-themed images to be made into Christmas cards and Advent calendars.

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Tasha also had an affinity for animals, but was especially fond of birds and Welsh Corgis. She produced a popular series of books about the fictional town of Corgiville and christened her home Corgi Cottage in honor of her beloved dogs. Animals appear frequently in Tasha’s art, which she drew from life. With inspiration all around her, images of Tasha’s home, garden, children, pets, and household items can be found in the works of art she created by a window in a small corner of her kitchen.

Tasha Tudor 7Tasha’s conversation was peppered with quotes from books she’d read or people of note. Her favorite came from a letter written by Fra Giovanni in 1513 and included the lines: “No peace lies in the future which is not hidden in the present moment. Take peace! The gloom of the world is but a shadow; behind it, yet within our reach is joy. Take joy!” It is from this quote that the titles Take Joy! The Magical World of Tasha Tudor and Take Peace! A Corgi Cottage Christmas were appropriated for a pair of short documentaries about Tasha’s life.

Tasha Tudor 8While she enjoyed quoting others, Tasha was highly quotable herself. She once said, “I think I’ve done a good job of life,” which is more than evident to anyone who has read her books, seen her paintings, or had a glimpse into the idyllic world she created in the New England countryside. A believer in reincarnation and the fluidity of time, she declared, “When I die, I’m going right back to 1830.” For all we know, she’s there right now (or, rather, then), tending her garden and gathering wood for the stove.Tasha Tudor 9

Later today, I plan to enjoy afternoon tea—a daily ritual for Tasha—with a slice of cake from her “receipt” book to celebrate a woman for whom life itself was a work of art and whose indomitable spirit didn’t let a little thing like the 20th century interfere with her desire to live in the 1800s.

Happy 100th Birthday to Tasha Tudor: a legend, in her own time.

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Tasha Tudor

 

Books by and about Tasha Tudor can be purchased from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. For original art, prints, rare books, and other Tasha Tudor collectibles, visit Cellar Door Books. Explore the Tasha Tudor Museum to learn more about her life and art.

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All Hail Queen Victoria!

Author: Kirsten K., Literature, Magazines, Nostalgia

Victoria 1Tomorrow we say goodbye to spring and usher in the lazy months of summer. Every year, as we straddle these two seasons, I think of the Spring/Summer 1987 issue of Victoria magazine, the one that started it all.

I first encountered Victoria in the fall of 1987 when my mother passed on an issue that a friend had given her. I immediately swooned over the elegant fonts, feminine design, and dreamy photographs by Japanese photographer Toshi Otsuki. When I discovered that this was the second issue of the magazine, I quickly ordered a copy of the premier issue. I had no idea then that this was the beginning of an enduring romance.

Victoria 2The magazine’s mission statement could be summed up in a single line within the pages of that first issue: “A Return to Loveliness”. The editors stated that, “We have looked to the graceful, gracious days of the Victorian era as inspiration for Victoria—for that was the elegant time that brought loveliness to everyday American life.” As a modern-day American girl whose heart was in 19th-century England, I was hooked.

The magazine went from being published twice the first year, to seasonally, to bi-monthly, and finally to monthly in the fall of 1989. The first four issues said Good Housekeeping’s Victoria on the cover, but by the fifth issue it was simply called Victoria. On the cover of the May 1998 issue, the word “Bliss” appeared above the name and has continued to be used in the magazine and on special issues to this day.

Victoria 3Over the years, I have struggled to describe Victoria and how it makes me feel when I read it, but this one word—bliss—sums it up. It’s difficult to categorize the magazine: a mix of fashion and beauty, home and garden, cooking and entertaining, travel, literature, enterprising women, and so much more. There is such a wealth and variety of features in each slim issue that I can savor it over days or even weeks, instead of mere hours.

There have been three Editors-in-Chief of Victoria, each with her own personal style. Under the direction of founding editor Nancy Lindemeyer, Victoria was shamelessly feminine and romantic. When Peggy Kennedy took over with the November 2000 issue, the magazine took on a cleaner, more streamlined look and started featuring longer, in-depth articles on weightier topics. During her tenure, there was an unfortunate redesign of the logo and layout that didn’t seem too popular with readers (myself included), but the content was excellent.

Victoria 4By this time, Victoria had seen me through my difficult college years and was a beloved and constant friend, so I was horrified to discover in 2003 that the publisher, Hearst Corporation, had suddenly and inexplicably shuttered the magazine. After years of badgering Kirsti to subscribe, I’d finally decided to give her a gift subscription when I was told that the June 2003 issue would be Victoria’s last. Without any advance warning for the editors, there would be no farewell issue, no thank you to the loyal readers, no look back at 16 years of loveliness and bliss.

I was devastated. Victoria had been my port in the storm of modern life. Whatever ugliness I witnessed on the news or in the streets could be wiped away by a few minutes spent within the genteel beauty of its pages. I felt as though someone close to me had died.Victoria 5

In the ensuing years, I would regularly flip through my collection of back issues, but I lamented the fact that there would never be another new issue of Victoria. However, unbeknownst to me, there was someone else who felt as I did, and she was in a position to do something about it.

Victoria 6In the summer of 2007, I received a postcard in the mail with the words I never expected to read: Victoria was coming back! Phyllis Hoffman, CEO of Hoffman Media (which publishes Southern Lady magazine, among other titles), had been a huge fan of Victoria and took on the task of bringing it back to life, becoming the third and current Editor-in-Chief. In a true return to loveliness, Victoria resumed publication with the November/December 2007 issue. All was once again right in my world.

Victoria 7The magazine took a little while to regain its footing and become the Victoria I’d known and loved, but after almost eight years, it remains a familiar oasis of loveliness and bliss. The reincarnated Victoria has continued the traditions of a yearly Writer-in-Residence and Artist-in-Residence, as well as annual British- and French-themed issues and one devoted to women entrepreneurs. It is published bi-monthly, but there are special issues seasonally, such as Gardens of Bliss and Holiday Bliss—plenty to provide me with a regular dose of beauty and peace amid the chaos of a rapidly-changing world.

I swoon in my appreciation of Phyllis and all of the editors and contributors who have worked together over the years to deliver the gift of Victoria to its readers (they are Staff Worthy Of Our Notice). I hope you’ll discover the wonders of this magazine for yourself and join me in saying, “All hail Queen Victoria!”

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Victoria Magazine

 

Victoria is available on newsstands and in digital format for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Android devices. The first 208 issues of the magazine (from 1987-2012) can be found on the Victoria Complete Collection DVD, which features two searchable DVD-ROMs that are compatible with both Windows and Mac.

High and Dry

Author: Kirsten K., Flowers, Home & Garden, Inspiration

Whatever is the opposite of a green thumb (a black pinkie?), I have it. I’d love to surround myself with live plants and flowers in my home, but, like those people who have trouble growing long hair or nails, I simply can’t grow them. They eventually give up and die in my presence. It’s a curse (in fact, my nickname rhymes with cursed, but that’s another story).

Purchasing cut flowers from a florist or market is an option, but can be pricey to indulge in on a regular basis. Plus, I always forget to change the water until the putrid funk of decomposing greenery escapes the confines of the vase, nearly causing me to swoon (and not in the good way). But the alternative—artificial plants and flowers—is so joyless. Even high-quality versions can gather dust and fade with time, and they won’t decompose in a vase…or a landfill.

High and Dry 1The solution: dried flowers. They’re already dead, so I can’t kill them. They’re already faded, so they won’t change with time. And if they gather dust, I can throw them in the compost bin with a clear conscience.

There are a number of rose bushes in my yard that are far enough away from my aura that they haven’t been affected by the curse. When they’re in bloom, I like to cut the best specimens for drying. I hang them from the rafters in my garage, but you can hang them in a closet, a laundry room, or anywhere that’s relatively warm and dry where they can be suspended upside down and undisturbed for at least two weeks.

High and Dry 2When I first began drying flowers, I tied them with twine, but some of the stems slipped their moorings as they shrunk. I came up with a quick fix by threading the twine through the handles of small binder clips before tying them to the rafters. After that, it was an easy task to hang the stems, and the clips held tight throughout the drying process.

Since the flowers in my yard that dry well are limited to roses, and since I don’t have much of a knack for arranging bouquets (my horticultural handicaps are legion), I appreciate a vessel that does most of the work for me. I snagged a Wedgwood for Williamsburg Restoration five-finger vase on eBay, but the Williamsburg Marketplace sells a similar version, along with beautiful tulipieres that also make flower arranging idiot-proof.

High and Dry 3Waiting until after the roses have dried to remove the thorns makes snapping them off a snap. I also removed the leaves, because I was going for a flowers-only theme, but you can use your own creative license. I grouped bunches of blooms in similar hues, arranged them in a symmetrical fashion, and put them in each “finger” of the vase, working from the center outwards…et voilà! I have a simple, yet swoon-worthy arrangement that requires no more care than occasionally blowing off the dust with a hairdryer.

With spring here and summer on its way, I’ll have plenty of blooms to dry and arrange for the next few months. I may even attempt something more ambitious without the crutch of a special vase. Who knows? It might just blossom into a new talent.

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Williamsburg White Five-Finger Vase
Williamsburg Blue In Bloom Tulipieres

 

Binder clips can be purchased at Staples and Office Depot.