Sunday, July 19, 2020

Historic Annapolis on the 4th of July 2020

     I always look forward to going to Annapolis.  The city has a certain feel to it, the historic buildings can give you a sense of walking back in time.  This was the fifth year for the group that I organize to interpret for the 4th of July.  We only had three, and we were in the gardens as the house was closed due to a Maryland State mandate for COVID-19.

I made the mask to match my gown, and the umbrella was used 
to keep sun off of me was made by Barrington Brolly

     We were able to interpret without a modern mask and ensured we were safe with visitors and employees of the site by holding up a fan or the historic mask to our faces.  This was in-line with how they did things in the 18th century.  It was 1776 after all!  Mr. Paca, while in Phildelphia, was gracious enough to allow us to enjoy his gardens while he was away.

Kerry and I on the terrance.  Photo by Robin Matty.

     I am sure that you want to know more about these masks!  A friend of mine, Philippe Halbert, has done research about them.  He talks about how "protective face coverings have emerged as a potent multifaceted metaphor the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite inconsistent examples set by elected leaders and conflicting recommendations made by public health officials, unisex masks have steadily assumed a greater role in social distancing measures and become mandatory in certain settings outside the home. Options range from standard blue and white surgical masks to creative DIY improvisations and “Corona Couture.” Some museums are looking to add homemade masks to their collections as a way to document the crisis. Worn for slightly different reasons and more implicitly gendered, the masks owned by early American women and even children were no less symbolic in terms of practical use, commodification, or controversy."

The Antigua-born Penelope Royall Vassall (masked and socially distanced), 
by Joseph Blackburn, circa 1755, Massachusetts Historical 
Society taken from Philippe's article.

     "Notwithstanding their association with pre-Lenten carnival and the masquerade, early modern masks also served utilitarian, health-related purposes, namely protection against sun and windburn, and the preservation of a light or pale complexion for European women and those of European descent living in the Americas.  Believed to have originated in sixteenth-century Italy, oval masks sometimes referred as “vizards,” “visors,” and even “invisories” in early English sources were available in black, brown, green, red, and “natural” colored velvet. They appear to have changed little in overall design and materiality as they made their way across Europe and the Atlantic Ocean by the mid-seventeenth century."  To read more about this go to this - link.  

Kerry talking with visitors, our indentured servant (Carolyn) sitting behind, 
and me listening intently.  Kerry is holding up her mask to talk with them.  Photo by Ken Tom.

I was reading to Kerry from a pamphlet I had just received about coffee.  Photo by Ken Tom.

Kerry holding up her mask (fan from my shop).  She made her mask from 
leather and covered it with cotton velvet.  Photo by Ken Tom.

A closer detail of me and my mask.  You can find mask forms at 
your local craft store.  I covered mine with a cranberry felt.  Photo by Ken Tom.


Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Martha Washington's Garnet Earrings

     I was blessed today to be able to go to George Washington's Mount Vernon here in Virginia - what I like to call the 8th Wonder of the World - to look at the garnet earrings owned and worn (and cherished) by Martha Washington.  Martha Washington had an amazing, simple, and elegant style.

     A year or two ago, I recreated the garnet cluster teardrop that had been converted into a screw back earring in the early 20th century.  The reproductions are currently being offered in the George Washington's gift shop as well as my Etsy shop.  Mount Vernon also offers my reproduction garnet necklace and another style earrings in their shop.  (Go check it out!)

On the left is the original pendant (turned screwback earring) and the right my 
reproduction with an earwire back - Courtesy Mount Vernon Ladies Association

     In 1760, George Washington recorded the receipt of an invoice dated December 26th, detailing his latest purchases from London. Therein he listed "A pair 3 dropt Garnet Earings" bought from a jeweler named J. Grymes to grace the ears of his wife, Martha. Martha Washington was no stranger to garnet jewelry, having received a necklace and hair ornament the year before. In the 18th century, "dropt" earrings referred to earrings with removable dangling pendants. Prized for their versatility and elegance, the earrings could be changed to accommodate the occasion for which they were worn.

Rosette Forget Me Not Earring and Chinese Bow drop next to the teardrop 
cluster that was once a pendant and hung from the rosette

     My point in going was to measure the rest of the earring and pendant - above left - in which to reproduce it.  It was absolutely amazing to hold the earrings that Martha Washington actually wore - and subsequent generations of owners until they ended up to be preserved for posterity.  This was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I am very grateful to the Mount Vernon Ladies Association and Associate Curator, Amanda Isaac.  Thank you!

Garnet moon shaped brooch (converted and originally started out as a hair ornament and a future project of mine) next to the earrings



Friday, July 3, 2020

Independence Day - 4th of July

     Happy Independence Day from the Gray Horse!  I will be at the Paca House and Gardens tomorrow, and wanted to send everyone a greeting for this special day.  Those of us that do living history for this time period, which is my favorite to interpret, it will be a glorious (and probably hot) day!  Well, our country continues to be awesome because this document is what set our country in motion for the freedoms we have today.  Each generation continues to progress to get better and better that many around the world want to live here.  

(Taken from the National Archives website)

     I posted the below meme from Grunt Style - which I found hilarious.  I actually write about tea from England in my book Tea in 18th Century America and many in the colonies boycotted it due to the political issues going on in the day - today we would call it "cancelling" it.  However, many continued to still order it!  We do not know if they ever received it, and many shamed others if they had it and insisted that they dump or burn it.  You can find out more about my book on tea at this link - here.

(Taken from Grunt Style)

Saturday, June 20, 2020

Summer 2020

     We are now into the Summer of 2020, and it feels like spring here in Virginia.  The Gray Horse continues to offer good quality special jewelry and accessories for your living history needs or just to wear everyday.  With events and shows cancelled, my Etsy shop has allowed me to continue to care for my horses.  I have been restocking items, making custom pieces, and doing research as usual.  For everyone that has supported my horses (because that is what this is about), I thank you from the bottom of my heart.  Horses are about spirit, low energy, and peace.  Mine also love to eat peppermints!

     I finally received the pin ball rings a few months ago that I started working on last year in design and then into reality.  They turned out wonderful, and are now in the shop!  Perfect to hang from your equipage or chatelaine.  You see these being worn in the 17th on up into the first quarter of the 19th Century.  I also offer equipage in my shop.  Hang it with other items or all on its own.

Pin Ball rings realized - offered in silver, gold, or a matte gold

     The next item that I will be working on and is in development is the Martha Washington rosette earwire (or often known as a fish hook) and hanging Chinese bow pendant set (below).  This set is unique in that the pendant will be able to come off which creates two different looks.  In the time period, earrings like this were common for the lady to wear the top portion during the day for a less formal look, and adding a pendant for a more evening or formal look.  This also was the case for collet necklaces of the time.  You will see a hook that was there for a pendant.  I have the same style in my shop with this feature - the Duchessa collet necklaces.

Martha Washington garnet earring - Courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association 

Martha Washington garnet earring - Courtesy of the Mount Vernon Ladies Association 

     I hope to also offer the teardrop pendant that was a part of the the above earring set so that it too can attach to the rosette.  For those who would like a pair of the teardrop style - you can find it in my shop at this time as earwire earrings.  The original teardrop was modified into screwback earrings, and why I offer them to you - but with earwires!  The screwback style did not come into existence until the early 20th century.  I can modify the earwire to hang from a clip-on/screwback finding for those who do not have pierced ears and have done so.

     I have seen Martha's jewelry in person, and you can read all about my visit at this link.  George Washington's Mount Vernon is also selling the teardrop style earrings so if visiting or if you would also like a necklace like Martha's - check them out.  It supports me and this amazing museum.  This collection is considered "Martha's style."  

     I have found the garnet teardrop earrings to be amazing with anything.  I do offer them in a gold or silver-plate to give a unique look.  The originals were a gold wash over silver.  They are the very same size as the pendant that Martha had.

Teardrop earrings now offered in the shop

     That's it for now, but I will be back with more research and new offerings.  Please subscribe to my newsletter - you won't see a lot of them as I do not spam, but I do occasionally offer a deal or pre-order of items coming out.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Updates for Spring 2020

     It has been over a month since I wrote or posted on my blog.  Lots has been going on with the COVID-19 virus shutdown of businesses, and the cancellation of all events in the entire United States and the world.  I hear everyday that these are unprecedented times, and I agree.

 Bespoke Watch Chain

     So what has been going on?  I am ever continuing to do research, make new items for the shop, take in custom requests for jewelry (watch chain above is just one of those), care for my horses and cats, and I decided to spend some time doing things that I never have time for within my home.  So there has been a lot of painting within several rooms and other upgrades where possible.  Yes, I am doing the painting using historical paint colors!  That keeps me off of social media quite a bit, so if I do not respond or see something right away, now you know why.

One wall of my Dining Room.  The area above the chair rail is a sage green, the
bottom had a faux paint finish from the prior owners.  I used Great Barrington Green - 
a Historic Paint color by Benjamin Moore Paints below which turned out amazing.

     With the cancellation of all events, my Spring income for the horses did not come in to pay for several months board, their spring vaccines, physicals, and insurance.  I am, however, grateful for everyone who has been supporting the horses via my Etsy shop.  Without the Spring events, it makes it hard to develop or invest in new items or restock some of my current products as all monies go to pay for the horses or back into some business expenses.  Many new items are things that I have already had, so everyone will benefit from unique and lovely pieces.

     The Journal of the American Revolution wrote a great review of my book, Tea in 18th Century America and I advertised for a couple of months on their siteIf you do not have a copy, it is a wonderful book (yes, I am a bit biased).  When buying from my shop, I can send you a signed and/or personalized copy.

     Will be working on a refresher of my presentation on tea given at Historic Annapolis, hopefully will be able to sell at the Fort Loudoun Market Fair & Firelock Match from Friday, 26 June to Sunday 28 June, information on a program for the 4th of July in the Paca House and Gardens.

     Horses today.  


Nelson begging for a peppermint

Handsome Diablo

Mallory and Mindy - Thug Life

Haddy - she still has a small area on her face that is healing from a cut a few weeks ago




Friday, April 10, 2020

Autumn Duchess - Book 3 in the Roxton Family Saga by Lucinda Brant

     So very excited about the release of the new book cover and behind the scenes video of Autumn Duchess by Lucinda Brant!  

     In the very best style, Lucinda has done it again with her research in creating a beautiful and accurate book cover.  I am very proud to be a part of this project.  

     With this cover, you can see that Antonia (Alissa Bourne) is wearing her emerald and diamond jewelry (necklace, bracelet, earrings, and ring).  Added is a five strand pearl bracelet which is now also available in my shop!  The "portrait" within the bracelet are from Noble Satyr.

     That isn't the only wonderful thing about this cover, what is inside is also just as wonderful.  The story line is fabulous.  For those of us who love historical romance, we also like historical accuracy.  When reading her books, you always receive those accurate details that some other authors don't go to the trouble to truly research.  Lucinda's blog post on why she decided to update the covers of her books is located - here.

     To watch the Behind the Scenes video - you can see it below.  My jewelry is highlighted in the video, thank you Lucinda!


Friday, March 13, 2020

Puzzle Ring for Historic Jamestowne in Virginia

     It is my pleasure to announce my connection to Historic Jamestowne in Virginia!  They are now offering select items in their gift shop, and I was able to work with them on a custom ring found in their collections!

     Historic Jamestowne in Virginia is the original site of the first permanent English settlement in America.  It is a treasure for our country to be able to visit and understand what they went through, where they lived, and how they lived. 

Original Ring - it is thin

          The other item that I was able to help them realize as a reproduction, and offer in the shop, is the gold Gimmel/Puzzle ring that was found on-site and in their collections.

     The three gold wavy and twisted hoops fit together to form a finger ring called a puzzle ring.  The original has a small heart just found in the twist on one of the rings that also makes it unique and also a gimmel.  Gimmel rings, also called joint rings, were commonly used in the 16th and 17th century to signify a betrothal, marriage, or a friendship.  Finger rings were popular dress accessories at the time of Jamestown’s settlement. 

Reproduction Gimmel / Puzzle Ring

On my finger

     You can see lots of portraits and prints on my Pinterest board which I use for my research - including on that has 17th century and before portraits within it and another with rings.

     These rings are exclusive to Jamestowne, but will also be offered in my Etsy shop!  They will come in vermeil (gold-plate over sterling silver) and sterling silver.  So there is an option for those with allergies to gold plate.

     On my YouTube channel, I have created a video on just how to put the ring together.  You will receive a step by step picture guide on how to do this, but some people (like myself) learn better by mimicking.

The video can also be seen by clicking HERE

Friday, March 6, 2020

Presentation - Mrs. Mary Chew Paca - One of the Best of Women

     I had the honor to be asked to present again during the Winter Lecture series in Historic Annapolis. This time, we gave a presentation about Mary Chew Paca on 29 February.

     As with many women from that time period, there is not a lot written down, left, or found about them.  In Mary's case, it is the same; however, I decided to delve into her family, friends, and acquaintances in order to "paint a portrait" of her and her life.  This is especially due to the fact that we do not have an actual portrait of her that either survived or that we know about right now.  That clever title came from Kerry McClure who assisted me with the presentation.  

 Henrietta Maria Lloyd Chew Dorsey by by John Wollaston circa 1750s

Margaret Chew Bordley 1752 by John Wollaston the Younger 
The Huntington Collection

     However, we do know of the existence of portraits of two of Mary's sisters by John Wollaston (above) which I would like to think that Mary had one painted as well.  Would she have had a different gown and color on?  Mary's mother, Henrietta Maria Lloyd Chew, married Daniel Dulany, Sr. after Samuel Chew (Mary's father) passed away when Mary was a baby.  Mary's mother was smart, and it was an extremely well made match.  She had already had a considerable fortune, he had a considerable fortune, and both had amazing family connections.  This brought the two together.  Another thing that I found out during my research was that Mary's father was also a descendant of John Chew, one of those who came into Jamestown in 1622, and there is a connection to the Cliveden Chew Family of Phildelphia.  She was also connected to Edward Lloyd below (Mary's mother was a Lloyd), and Edward was a second cousin.

Edward Lloyd with wife Elizabeth Tayloe and daughter Anne 1771

     During my presentation, I did not compare Mary to other women in the time period, as I feel that based upon the description in her obituary she was an amazing person in her own right, and well loved.  No reason to compare her.  She did grow up privileged, and was in the very highest of society in Annapolis and the colonies during the time.  

William Paca by Charles Willson Peale, 1772
(Mary was alive when this was painted, and they knew Peale - 
did he paint her as well?  That is what I want to know.)

     In my opinion, Mary was the reason that her husband, William Paca (a signer of the Declaration of Independence) was elevated in his law career and station in life.  She came to the marriage with a considerable dowry, amazing family connections, and thus was able to also build what is now the "Paca House and Gardens" in Annapolis, Maryland.  There was a lot of building in the town from 1765 onward of the most amazing large brick houses.  Mary also inherited, from her brother, half of the Wye Island Plantation and other land, which William Paca owned after her death in 1774.  She died shortly after giving birth to her son, William.

Mrs. Ogle, Mrs. Paca, and their servant Sarah

     With this presentation, we added a living history aspect with Mary (Gema Gonzalez) and Ann Tasker Ogle (Kerry McClure) to the mix talking about things in town and the latest gossip.  We also had two servants to help.  I provided  background information on Mary's life in Annapolis, the city she knew, the things going on based upon the articles in the Maryland Gazette.  I know that I have only scratched the surface of her life.

The hair has been started!

Gema (Mary) sitting having her hair done by Eliza (her lady's maid)

     We then added an element of Mary getting ready for an evening Ball, so she had her maid prepare her hair and make-up and then dress her.  Mrs. Ogle left to change for the Ball, and returned waiting for Mrs. Paca to finish dressing.  Eliza Vincz Lichack and Robin Marchionni were the servants of the day, and did an amazing job.  We believe, but are not certain, that Mary would have had an enslaved person tending to her.  That person may have come from her mother's estate when she passed away (1766), and/or came with Mary when she married William to her new household.  It probably would have been someone she grew up with, knew, and trusted.  We just do not know.

Hair is finished!

Dressing for the Ball (Eliza, Gema, and Robin)

Final details and Kerry returned waiting to leave for the Ball

Ready for the ball!

     When doing presentations like this, I had to delve into Mary's genealogy and we focused on 1772.  Reading the Maryland Gazette also allowed me to know the things going on in town, in the colonies, etc.

     Erik Lichack was also there with us, providing support.

Erik, Eliza, and me
As always, the site provides snacks and something to drink for the visitors

The assembled cast

Pure shenanigans!  Mary is ready for the ball and her servants are happy because she was one of the best of women.