November 13, 2017

Team Tea Caddy

For the past few months, I’ve been working on a project with two friends: the exhibition “As Precious As Gold: The History of Tea Caddies from the Bramble Collection.” Since that’s a bit of a mouthful, we call ourselves Team Tea Caddy because each of us has had a critical part in putting together the exhibition, which opened last week at Homewood House & Museum in Baltimore: Mark Bramble is the collector, Stiles Colwill is the curator and I am the tech support, photographer, scribe and general dogsbody.image

In the early 1700’s, tea was as precious as gold, and was parsed out in small batches, and kept in a place of honour in the home, often under lock and key. imageThe journey from China to England, Europe and America was long and arduous and so tea was quite expensive when it reached its final destination. And today, after water, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world.

If you were affluent enough to have tea, you stored it in decorative containers that would be brought to table and the hostess would mix the tea with hot water in the presence of her guests. imageThe word “caddy” comes from the Malay Chinese “kati,” which means a measure of tea weighing about a pound and one-third. By the second half of the 18th century, tea mania had taken hold in Europe and especially in England where it was all the rage.image Of all the different items used in the tea service, the caddy is the object upon which craftsmen and artists lavished their greatest skills and materials.image

Mark Bramble, who is a Broadway author and director, has traveled the world with his shows, and that’s given him the opportunity to also scour antique shops and markets searching for tea caddies.imageHe took over the collection from his mother after her death and has made it into one of the best and most extensive in the world.

Because he wanted to share his knowledge with the world, in conjunction with the exhibit, Mark has also published an accompanying book, A Tea Caddy Collection. image

On Thursday, November 16, a reception, tour, book talk and signing will be held at Homewood House and Remsen Hall at Johns Hopkins. imageMark will discuss his multi-generational collection as well as stories of how and where he found some of the caddies and the history of tea and tea caddies.image

The event is free, but you must make a reservation here. I know that it will be an amazing evening and you won’t want to miss how beautiful these caddies look in a historic house of the same period. I hope to see you there!

November 6, 2017

Dinner in the Barn

On Saturday night, I was lucky enough to be invited to “dinner in the barn”, which, on first thought sounds like it might be a hoe-down or a square dance. But I assure you, it was neither. Okay, I concede the food was country-like with amazing fried chicken and a delicious cobbler, but everything else was more elegant than most people’s homes!IMG_5768

The barn is a big rectangle, and in three of the corners, little gathering areas had been set up to have a cozy chat with a few friends. IMG_5786


There were seven tables, ranging from six to twelve seats at each. Seating was a combination of Chippendale-style chairs, small love seats, benches, and casual bamboo and cane chairs at each table. Old chairs had all been re-covered with fabrics in a variety of brown and green prints, some the reverse of others. IMG_5764IMG_5773IMG_5779IMG_5791

Many of the tables had the same cloth, but all had the same china, silver and glassware. The centerpieces varied wildly – one had a classical staircase in the center, IMG_5769another had a rosemary plant, IMG_5776and a third had a small farm scene. IMG_5784

The walls were lined literally from floor to ceiling with artwork the hosts had collected over the years. The pictures ranged from early 19th century architectural plans to an assortment of male nudes (my view at dinner!). Small vignettes of farm life dotted the tables, like this one of the farm’s two pet steers, Alexander and Napoleon. IMG_5815

Despite the heaving rain outside, the inside of the barn was warm and cozy, lit by iron chandeliers hanging from the rafters, table lamps on many surfaces, and dozens of battery-powered candles scattered everywhere. IMG_5775

All in all, it was a great celebration of the opening of our friend’s tea caddy exhibition and the publication of his accompanying book… more on this in the next post.

November 2, 2017

The Holidays

It is absolutely SHOCKING that it is November! I am in the run up to the last of the three major events in three weeks, with the opening of the Tea Caddy Exhibition at Homewood House in Baltimore previewing this weekend. Here is just one of the 23 cases! (more on these next week!) imageAnd since it’s November already, you and I, and everyone else we know are thinking about presents for our friends and family. Last year, I had dozens and dozens of orders for my tea towels. So I wanted to take the opportunity to remind you that if you’re interested in purchasing tea towels for this year’s holiday season, I need your orders by November 20th. This will allow plenty of time for ordering, fabricating, and shipping. And remember, the tea towels, especially those with maps, can be customized with a specific location. blog

And of course, for everyone in and around Maryland, this is the most popular of the tea towels. maryland crab

To order tea towels as well as the other one-of-a-kind items on my Etsy shop, click the link!

October 24, 2017


It’s really amazing what a HUGE event Halloween has become. I think that it’s now second only to Christmas in terms of buying and decorating. But it’s really easy to go overboard and veer into the tacky category of decorating.

If I had children, I am sure I’d put a lot more effort into decorating for Halloween than I do now. Having access to old medical books and their scary illustrations would make a perfect launching point for a line of Halloween decorations. deformed spine

However, I thought I’d share some of the prettier and more elegant decorations I’ve found.

My friend Loi at Tone on Tone has Halloween down to an elegant science.image

Black rails + orange pumpkins + white stairs = Perfectionimage

All you need to make these is a drill.image

You knew I’d have a dome in this collection!image

Spiderweb tableclothimage

Oh, look! More domes.image

If you’re going to have spiders, make them elegant!image

Wine bottles spray-painted matte and gloss black, with black candles. image

A good use for the antique apothecary bottle I found earlier this year.image

Because of the big tea caddy exhibition I am working on that starts on November 4th, I am probably not even going to be home on Halloween. I usually just leave a big bowl of candy, and I have to say, it’s usually got a few pieces left when I get home.

October 11, 2017

What’s Happening

People ask me all the time to tell them what’s happening in Baltimore, so I have two upcoming events to tell you about that I am involved with.

First is the Valleys Planning Council’s Art  for Land’s Sake Show & Sale, a biannual event featuring local artists. The Valleys Planning Council’s mission is to conserve land and resources, preserve historic character and maintain the rural feel and land uses in the valleys just north of Baltimore, a place where I spend a lot of time.

Here are some of my favourite pieces in the show.Paula 3


michael 4

Art for Land’s Sake is held at the stunning Caves Farm, a large historic equestrian center just north of Baltimore. caves valley farmTickets to the Preview Party on Friday, October 20th are available here. Tickets for Saturday and Sunday are $5.00 per person. Click here for more details.

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I am a charter member of Team Tea Caddy, three of us working on a major exhibition of historic tea caddies at Homewood House at the Johns Hopkins University, beginning Sunday, November 5th. I didn’t know much about tea caddies until recently, and have discovered that they tell the fascinating history of the movement of tea from China to England and then on to America. In the 1700’s, tea was more valuable than gold, and these caddies show how it was treasured. image

The earliest were made of china and porcelain, and then silver, wood, tortoiseshell and ivory. blog pic

While many of the forms are similar, their decoration and origin is literally all over the map!image

This amazing collection has been assembled by Mark Bramble, Broadway producer, director and the writer of 42nd Street, which just re-opened in London earlier this year. Because of his extensive travels writing and producing Broadway shows, he’s had the opportunity to add pieces to his collection from all over the world.

The exhibition will be open from November 5th through December 15 at Homewood House & Museum. Mark will be giving a free lecture (tix are required) on his collection and signing his book on November 16th at Johns Hopkins University.

I hope to see you at one or both of these wonderful events.

October 5, 2017

I’ll Take This… Even though it’s in the country!

I went out to see my friend Sam, who painted the beautiful portrait of Connor several years ago, and realized that another house on the huge old property where he lives is for sale. Then I saw some pictures of it on a friend’s Instagram feed and just knew I had to hunt it up. image

It is a 6 bedroom/6.5 bathroom that clocks in at just over 9,000 square feet. But the best part is that it’s the original house on a huge farm property that has now been mostly tastefully subdivided. image

Unlike a lot of houses, this one has been left to age gracefully. No one ripped the wisteria off the porch, image

added a brand new “chef’s” stove, image

tore out the old radiators with plate warmers, image

added tacky plastic shutters,image

glassed in the original sleeping porch,image

or demolished the old picnic pavilion. image

It would be criminal for the next owners of this house to modernize it. image

If you’re going to own a place like this, you are obligated to be a good steward of the property, and not ruin it for the next generations of owners. For more inforation and images, please click here.