collecting: fern ware

I'm easing back into this blogging thing. Thought I'd start a series about collecting. As you may know Mr. A and I are pro shoppers. We like stuff. Especially the good interesting old stuff. You could call us collectors but please, do not refer to the things we acquire as "collectibles". It's just a term that makes me shudder. Conjures images of troll dolls and beanie babies (OK fine, I have a couple of beanie babies, but they were gifts from a former boss who was a crazy serious collector of them. Truth. She use to delight in telling us what they were all worth. Seriously hope she sold hers before the bottom fell out of that craze. But I digress). 

Alas, back to the topic at hand, which will be Fern Ware. Now, I guess, strictly speaking 2 items is not quite enough to consitute a collection. Let's consider it a burgeoning collection. This one started about 8 years ago when I gifted this Fern Ware box to my husband on the occasion of his birthday. We have a lovely tradition of buying decortive boxes for eachother. I will tell you more about the box collections later. Today is about Fern Ware. As it happens, we also have a soft spot for fern botanical prints, fern fabrics etc. When we spotted this box at an antiques sale we both admired it. It stuck in my head so I contacted the dealer after the show to see if he still had it. He did. It was fate. 

Fern Ware looks a lot like magic to me. It originated in Mauchline, Scotland (hence why it is also called Mauchline ware) in the 1820s and continued until 1933. The fun thing about Mauchline Fern Ware is that it is essentially a little DIY project that was turned into a deorative arts industry. The effect is produced by laying actual ferns on a sycamore wood object, colouring around the ferns using dark brown, removing the ferns and then varnishing the finished project. (By the by, I once overhead a young buck DIYer claiming ownership over this reverse print idea -- my eyes almost rolled out of their sockets - No, you most certainly did not invent this technique. Some poeple.) As an aside, the same town in Scotland also produced Tartanware. Also love.

Not long after, Mr. A found this pretty volume and gave it to me. It is the Complete Poetical Works of William Cowper, 1870! So in love.

It's probably the most beautiful book we own.

As if I needed further convincing of its charms, here is the inscription in the most glorious hand.

1st Prize

Awarded to

Simon B. Briekes 

For general proficiency

in 5th Class

New Dundee March 23, 1870

C.B. Lawlor

Teacher

Take another look at that P.

So beautiful.