Tuesday, September 10, 2013
I dropped by Maria's this afternoon to return the little figures she had loaned me to draw at home, and somehow I was lured into drawing two of her intriguing dowry chests. The one on the left is from China, although Maria bought it in New York from her yoga teacher who was selling some furniture. Drawing this chest was a lovely experience. I sat on the cool, wood floor of one of Maria's living rooms under a gently moving ceiling fan. Every now and then a light sweet-smelling scent, sort of like sandalwood but not exactly, sort of like an old attic, but not exactly, wafted my way. I would lean in closer to try and smell it again, but it wasn't a scent that could be sought after. As I sat still drawing, eventually it would drift past, lightly. The chest itself had several compartments that lifted out like trays.
On the right is an Indonesian dowry chest. Maria didn't know which part of Indonesia it is from, but it is old, she said. The box seems to be made of bamboo and palm leaves, and decorated with cowrie shells. The surface is covered with patterns of palm leaves that have been painted indigo in many places. The cowrie shells are sewn to the front with waxy thread. It resembles a small building, I think.
When I got home I drew a couple of my own interesting containers. On the left is a tobacco humidor that a friend of ours bought in England in the late sixties and brought home on the plane with her and her then-two year old son. For many years she lived near us and had it in her house, where we admired it greatly. One day a few years ago it arrived at our house in Asheville, wrapped up for Christmas, a gift from her. It's lined with copper, and its slightly injured handle is just an interesting part of its history.
On the right is a strange little wooden case that came with one of my old treadle sewing machines, a 1907 Singer. I've researched it a bit and learned that in its early days, Singer included these gorgeous, velvet-lined accessories kits with sewing machines. This one still has all of the extra feet and odd little parts inside. It opens out like a four-sided flower. Stamped on its side is an oval with the words "Patented February 19, 1882".