Charlotte Bronte’s Little Books ….

Another of Charlotte’s miniature books has been returned to it’s home at the Bronte Parsonage and to celebrate, this wonderful event, I decided to focus on ‘Charlotte’s tiny books’.

The work of the Bronte sisters has had a massive impact on the world and is beloved by many. Looking back at them today, we understand what a winding path they all took towards being the famous authors that they were to become. They all travelled and taught, even tried to start a school and when finally Charlotte plucked up the courage to publish some of their work, Emily refused. Indeed the book of poetry, once published, was not an instant success – with only a few copies being sold. It’s clear, that very often and for a long time it was not at all obvious, that the huge and enduring literary success they acheived was to be their destination! However, a look at their early works shows us that they had a passion for literature well beyond the norm!

It was thanks to their ‘papa’ – Patrick Bronte that all the Bronte children were taught to read and write. He encouraged them to read many things (including some that would have been considered inappropriate for young girls, at the time). He felt it was vital for them to be well read and well informed young people, especially the girls who would need to go out into the world and make their own way and earn their own livings.

It’s but a small step from reading to writing and before long Branwell, Charlotte, Emily and Anne had all taken it. As children and young people they wrote stories, plays, poems and more, some of which survives today. The most beguiling of the ‘Bronte Juvenilia ‘ as their childhood efforts are collectively known, are the ‘tiny books’ or ‘miniature manuscripts’. The earliest is a joint effort by Branwell and Charlotte and dates to 1829 and is their version of the popular periodical Blackwoods Magazine. We don’t know how many they produced.There are several by Charlotte that are held by the British Library and the Bronte Parsonage and to my reckoning the are now 11 that we know of. Earlier this year one popped up at auction in New York and thanks to the help of the Friends of the National Libraries (FNL), a UK charity devoted to saving the nation’s written and printed heritage, it was aquired by the Bronte Parsonage and I cann’t wait to go and visit it!

Some of Charlotte Bronte’s tiny books.

These incredible tiny books are handmade, written and illustrated, mostly by Charlotte. They measure around 4 inches / 10 cm tall and the writing is so tiny, that most adults struggle to read it! They’re clearly a labour of love and contain articles, adverts, poems and stories that the Bronte children created, around a set of toy soldiers that Patrick had given Branwell for his birthday when he was 9 years old. Over the next few years the Bronte children created characters and a whole intricate world for the toy soldiers and these feature in the tiny books. It’s believed that some of the tiny books were gifts between the siblings and also for the soldiers and they are indeed the gift that keeps giving!

Thank you for reading & have a great week!

Sarah X

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How To Enjoy A Staycation Summer!

As I write this we’re at the start of summer. We’re slowly returning to ‘normal’ but that’s not going to happen overnight and for many of us a ‘summer holiday’ may not be possible. I was thinking about this and realised that this is something that happened for me and my family before we’d even heard the words ‘lockdown’ and ‘travel restrictions’. Being self-employed is great and has always given us lots of freedom, but the price we pay is an unstable income and cashflow, and we’ve had several years where a staycation has been our only option, so here’s a few things I’ve learnt along the way…

We all need a break and a break is just a change of routine, it doesn’t need to be very long, far away or expensive, but it is vital to our wellbeing.

We’ll need a plan! If you’re looking at (what we hope will be) a long hot summer, with trepidation and wondering what on earth you’re going to do, then the first step to actually enjoying this time of year is to have some ideas up your sleeve.

It’s OK to be bored. Science has your back on this one. Recent reseach has clearly shown that a little boredom is really important to our wellbeing. we can all heave a sigh of relief and relax, knowing that we don’t have to fill every waking moment with entertainment and activity – Phew!

So what are we going to do? Here’s a few thoughts and ideas to keep the summer fun going during your staycation.

Taking care of business. One of the best ways of having lots of fun over the summer is too make sure that the jobs, chores and business doesn’t pile up and spoil it all. So one of the things to do over summer is to ensure that they are taken care of! Make a list of all the things that ‘Need to be done over the Summer’ – front load it, so you get the less fun stuff out of the way and then you’re free to enjoy yourself.

Have a day off. Make usre you get a proper break from routine. Do nothing, achieve nothing. Get up late, go back to bed for breakfast, stay in your pyjamas, do some nature bathing, take a nap, read book, try a bit of gaming, watch TV, take a walk, have take-away for tea. Do as little as possible and just relax!

The picnic is your friend – embrace it. If you take a picnic lunch almost anywhere, you take your trip to another level and you can stay longer and really make a day of it!

Make some sarnies, grab a picnic blanket, a good book, a frisbee, a sharing bag of crisps, some fruit and a pack of sweet treats, fill your waterbottles and go.

Where? A park, river bank, beach, field, a friend’s garden, anywhere that you can settle down and relax for a few hours and enjoy. This is the perfect way to take a proper break from your everyday routine.

Here are some ideas that when added to a picnic make for a perfect staycation! Some are inside home, so we’ve got you covered even if the finances or weather are not ideal!

Visit a museum or art gallery.

Go for a walk.

Visit a park – one you don’t usually visit.

Spend the day at the beach.

Go for a coffee, milkshake or icecream.

Fill the paddeling pool and have a paddle – don’t leave it unattended if you have little ones around.

Air anything that needs it.

Do some art and crafts.

Read a book.

Eat each meal outside at least once.

Play board games.

Visit a new park or outdoor space.

Learn a new skill or trick.

Tidy & declutter your space.

Bake.

Visit friends.

Have a BBQ.

Watch a film.

Cook something new.

Tidy & update your outside space.

Fly a kite.

During lockdown I also made a list of 60+ things to do, so check that post – there’s tons more ideas in there.

I hope you find this helpful and have a restful summer!

Thanks

Sarah x

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Blonde – the story inspired by Marilyn Monroe…

The tragic story of Marilyn Monroe continues to facinate the world even decades after her death.

In life and death she’s a complex and captivating icon and her story is just as interesting, so it not a suprise that Netflix are about to drop a film adaptation of the fantastic book Blonde by Joyce Oates.

The book is an incredible read, it deftly weaves fact and fiction to create an astonishing story around her life. It envelopes you and draws you in.

It’s a hefty book and neither Johnny or I could put Blonde down. Although our reading tastes rare overlap they did on this occassion, so we both recommend it. Enough said really!

Reading Blone has sent johnny on a mission to create another Marilyn portrait and our upcoming project for August is to create some t-shirts, art prints, mugs, hoodies and some other goodies with Johnny’s Marilyn Monroe portraits.

He’s done a few portraits of Marilyn over the years and is facinated by trying to capture the complexity of her character.

I hope you get time to read the book and maybe see the film – but don’t forget the book’s usually better!

Have a great week and thanks for reading!

Sarah & Johnny xx

PS: This blog contains affiliate some links, so if you click and purchase through them we get a (very) small comission which helps support the blog and pay our bills, so thank you for your support!

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Summer Eco-Gifts & Clothes

Ahh here in Yorkshire the sun has finally shown it face! So I wanted to share our latest summer collection of eco-friendly gifts and t-shirts. We’ve got eco-friendly organic cotton Japanese inspired t-shirt & sweatshirt featuring the artwork of Johnnyinthe56, handmade earrings by Revive Vintage crafted with vintage 1980’s reclaimed beads, a set of 3 hand-printed lino print cards featuring the Mushroom Girl design by Gray and finally a really pretty handmade Lavender bag crafted from reclaimed vintage 1930’s embroidered cotton and more items are on their way!.

I hope you enjoy our eco-friendly creations, thanks for taking a look!

Have a great week!

Sarah X

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The Bronte Sisters Mourning Jewellery

A lovely client has just ordered a pair of beautiful hand carved Victorian Whitby jet bead earrings from me. Whilst she was placing the order we got chatting about mourning jewellery and she very kindly recommended a couple of books and a film that had inspired her love of mourning jewellery. Whilst I’m not a collector, I’ve always been facinated by mourning jewellery and quite recently two pieces of mourning jewellery belonging to the Bronte sisters have turned up. So, off I went down an inspirational rabbit hole – lets take a closer look at mourning jewellery and specifically that owned by the Bronte Sisters.

We tend to view mourning jewellery as a very Victorian concept, as it reached it’s peack of popularity and fashion following the death of Prince Albert. On the death of her husband, Queen Victoria threw herself bodily into the act of mourning and created a an instant and veritable fever around mourning jewellery and specifically Whitby Jet mourning jewellery. It became so popular that demand for Whitby Jet mourning jewellery outstripped supply. The clever French glass artisans saw a gap in the market and came up with a cheaper alternative that could be mass-produced. Known as French Jet or Parisian Jet it is in fact Black glass. If you’re intrested in Whitby Jet and it’s substitutes, please check out my blog piece on it or indeed the lovely earrings I make from reclaimed antique and vintage Jet beads.

Despite the Victorians popularising mourning jewellery and taking it to the mass market, it had already been around since, at least the middle ages. It had also been very popular amoungst those who could afford it during the Regency era. On her death in 1817, Jane Austen’s Sister Cassandra had a mourning brooch made from locks of Jane’s hair.

Prior to the Regency period, hair jewellery was not popular, as there was concern that the hair in the jewellery would not be the loved one’s but that belonging to a stranger, as it might have been swapped. A concern that had mostly dissapeared by the time of the Regency and Victorian eras. Hair workers were highly skilled and sought after. Their work was often very intricate and delicate.

Whilst mourning jewellery and specifically hair jewellery feels very gothic and slightly macarbre, in our modern world, it was clearly a very loving and personal way of creating a memorial to a lost loved one. Without photgraphs and with the cost and inaccuracies of hand-painted portraits, it is easy to see how a piece of hair jewellery would provide a lasting and very personal way of keeping loved ones close, even after death. You could wear hair jewellery in plain sight of conceal it under layers of clothing, carrying an actual piece of your loved one with you, wherever you went. Mortality rates were very high during these periods and most people lost children, spouses, friends and loved ones and with death being such a constant presence, it’s not suprising that people took comfort by memorialising their dear departeds in such a manner.

The Bronte Sisters were no strangers to death. Their home in Haworth overlooked the graveyard and their father conducted funeral after funeral as typhus, cholera and consumption raged through the town. They lost their mother whilst still children and then also their two eldest sisters died in childhood. Their brother; Branwell died as a young adult, shortly to be followed by Emily and then Anne, and Charlotte died just months after her marriage. Consequently, it’s no suprise that there are several pieces of mourning jewellery belonging to and memorialising the Bronte sisters.

Most recently, a small ring was discovered in an attic, it was engraved with Charlotte Bronte’s details and is believed to have been given to her lifelong friend; Ellen Nussey on Charlotte’s death. The ring features a small hinged panel which opens to reaveal a plaited lock of Charlotte’s hair.

Engrave mourning ring containing Charlotte Bronte’s hair.

There is also this very famous and beautful Amethyst bracelet made from plaited strands of Emily and Anne’s hair.

Charlotte Bronte’s bracelet – she had it made from the plaited locks of her sisters Emily & Anne’s hair after their deaths.

The Bronte Parsonage hold a collection of jewellery and it contatins two rings that hold Emily’s hair and Emily and Anne’s plaited hair. The mourning rings are top right and bottom left in the picture and the one on the top right has a panel that opens to reveal the hair.

There is also a necklace made from Emily’s hair and two bracelets simply fashioned from hair, one belonging to Anne and one belonging to Charlotte.

A piece of mourning jewellery belonging to Charlotte Bronte. A necklace made from Emily’s hair.

The Bronte Parsonage & Bronte Society also have a Jet bangle that belonged to Anne and indeed it was noted as a piece of evidence that the Landseer Portrait was of the three Bronte sisters. In it ‘Anne’ is wearing a Jet bangle with a bow fastening very similar to that which she owned.

The portrait by Landeseer that is believed to be the Bronte Sisters.

To close I must say that I totally understand the comfort that mourning jewellery gave it’s wearers and it may even prove useful in detecting ‘lost’ portraits. However, the rumor that Charlotte mended her mourning shoes with Anne & Emily’s hair is nonsense. It as a mistake in the reading of an exhibit label that was then tweeted around the world!

I hope you’ve enjoyed my little look at the Bronte Sisters mourning jewellery.

Thanks for reading & have a lovely day!

Sarah x

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