Sunday, May 30, 2010

Attractions & Points of Interest in Pittsboro

A small town that is big on culture – that’s Pittsboro! From historic landmarks and museums to art exhibits, concerts, stage productions and outdoor festivals, residents can enjoy a little savior faire right here in a town known for its uniqueness and hospitality.

Carolina Tiger Rescue
Carolina Tiger Rescue, formerly the Carnivore Preservation Trust, is a 501(c)3 nonprofit wildlife sanctuary whose mission is saving and protecting wild cats in captivity and in the wild. For more information:

Chatham Historical Museum
Exhibits in the museum include artifacts from the museum’s permanent collection and topical displays that change three to four times a year. In the conference room next to the museum, one display illustrates the early settlement and formation of Chatham County and a second traces the history of the county courthouse. For more information:

Pittsboro Historic District
Roughly bounded by Chatham St., Small St., Rectory St., and Launis St., Pittsboro: 590 acres, 131 buildings, 1 object. Historic significance: Architecture/Engineering. Architectural style: Early Commercial, Queen Anne. Area of significance: Community Planning and Development, Architecture.

Fearrington Village & Gardens
Eight miles south of Chapel Hill resides Fearrington Village, a bustling village of shops, restaurants and homes tucked away on farm land dating to the 1700s. Farm pastures, home to Fearringtons famous Belted Galloway Cows and Tennessee Fainting Goats, surround the village center which offers a collection of high quality shops and dining options. You will find an independent bookstore, plant nursery, home and garden shop, flower & gift shop, restaurants and a deli. The Old Granary is a full-service restaurant that serves lunch and brunch; The Belted Goat, serves sandwiches, salads, coffee, wine and ice cream; and The Fearrington House is North Carolinas only AAA Five Diamond Restaurant. The gardens at Fearrington Village are open to visitors seven days a week, year round and include: the fragrant white garden; the Dovecote garden, site of many weddings; the Herb garden, which is utilized by the award-winning Fearrington House restaurant; and the Inn's English courtyard and knot garden. Formal tours are conducted by our horticulturalist and can be arranged through the Potting Shed. The inn offers guests a delightful overnight experience with a full gourmet breakfast and traditional English afternoon tea included in the rate. Fearrington Village is open daily to the public. Visitors are welcome to explore our gardens, check out our curiously striped cows and goats, and browse our collection of charming stores.

Rosemary House
A 1912 Colonial Revival home in the heart of Pittsboro, Rosemary House B&B offers five comfortable guest rooms with private baths, telephones, cable TV/VCR, ceiling fan, fireplaces and two-person whirlpools, and a full gourmet breakfast. Relax and rejuvenate in a comfortable historic home convenient to the Triangle's many attractions.

The Woodwright's School
You’ll be doing early Anglo-American style joinery with English-style tools. That’s what this school is about - early music played on the original instruments. Many people like to work with Japanese tools these days, but we will not be using them in this class. As one respected teacher put it, “That would be like stir-frying grits.” For more information:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

What is Neo-Victorian?

Neo-Victorian is an aesthetic movement which amalgamates Victorian and Edwardian aesthetic sensibilities with modern principles and technologies. A large number of magazines and websites are devoted to Neo-Victorian ideas in dress, family life, interior decoration, morals, and other topics.

Examples of crafts made in this style would include push-button cordless telephones made to look like antique wall-mounted phones, CD players resembling old time radios, Victorianesque furniture, and Victorian era-style clothing.

In neo-romantic and fantasy art one can often see the elements of Victorian aesthetic values. There is also a strongly emerging genre of steampunk art. McDermott & McGough are a couple of contemporary artists whose work is all about a recreation of life in the nineteenth century: they only use the ultimate technology available, and since they are supposed to live anachronically, this means the use of earlier photographic processes, and maintaining the illusion of a life stuck in the ways of a forgotten era.

Many who have adopted Neo-Victorian style have also adopted Victorian behavioral affectations, seeking to imitate standards of Victorian conduct, pronunciation, interpersonal interaction. Some even go so far as to embrace certain Victorian habits such as shaving with straight razors, riding penny farthings, exchanging calling cards, and using fountain pens to write letters in florid prose sealed by wax.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Pittsboro By Gaslight...

Take a turn about downtown Pittsboro and you will find many businesses in the downtown area boasting a feel that is markedly ‘Steampunk/Neo-Victorian’, a new cultural movement in which people admire elements of bygone Victorian times and combine them with technology and art in exciting new ways.

S&T Soda Shoppe, General Store Cafe, Davenport & Winkleperry and The City Tap all boast a cozy atmosphere in which dapperly dressed ladies and gentleman can find refreshment and entertainment. Also, Chatham Mill hosts a variety of sights and events that would be of interest to the local Steampunk scene.

We are looking at planning our first event in the fall of 2010. There will be numerous (perhaps humorous) activities to experience throughout the day. Appropriate attire is encouraged.

The Art of Wax Seals

Wax seals have been used for centuries. Long before adhesive envelopes were invented, wax seals were used to prevent a letter from being tampered with or opened by unwelcome, prying individuals. They were also used to convey authority and identity, as seals were often stamped with initials, symbols from a family crest, or other unique identifying marks. (Think Scarlet Pimpernel...) Today, wax seals convey an inexplicable sense of romance, mystery and elegance. In certain states and commonwealths, there are still legal requirements on the books that obligate certain official documents to be sealed, rather than embossed. Documents are wrapped with flat red binding tape and sealed before witnesses, some of whom then apply 'seals' or signature rings to the warm wax so any tampering will be immediately evident. And while the United States Postal Service doesn't always like to deliver sealed mail, the federal law requires that they do so.

Today, there are many different colors available for sealing wax. In the Middle Ages, the sealing material was initially pure beeswax, ranging in color from almost white to yellow to brown. During the 11th century, pigments were added, e.g., red, green, yellow, black. In addition, manufacturers began to experiment with adding various resins in order to make the wax harder and the images to appear sharper. Unfortunately, this resulted also in rendering the seal impressions more brittle. The composition of the sealing wax changed over the centuries and from country to country. For example, in 19th century England the material for royal seals was almost pure shellac. The color used denoted the substance of the letter's contents or the relationship between the sender and recipient. For instance, letters of mourning were sealed with black wax, while letters of business used red wax. In addition, the sizes of seals varied throughout the years. The general tendency for seals of royalty or nobility was a steady growth through the centuries. Sigebert III, a monarch had a seal designed for him in the year 638 that was barely 1 centimeter (3/8 inch) in diameter. Russian czar Alexander II had an enormous seal designed in 1856 that measured 26 centimeters (over 10 inches). City seals in many European countries were often very large. Most seals of the 13th and 14th centuries were approximately 9 centimeters (3 1/2 inches) in diameter, but these official seals became smaller throughout the centuries.

Learning to use wax seals is very easy. First, clear a workspace for yourself where you can lay out paper, a candle, your wax sticks, seal, and any ribbons you would like to use. Then, holding the pointed end of your wax stick to candlelight, warm your wax stick until it is softened and begins to drip. Drip a generous portion of the wax over your envelope or letter, where you want to seal. If you are using ribbon, place two short strips of cut ribbon on envelope before dripping wax. Drip on ribbon and envelope. Using your seal, press firmly on soft wax. Clean seal properly when finished.

Friday, May 21, 2010

How to make your own Victorian Centerpiece

Every table can become an eye-catching display when adorned with a beautiful Victorian centerpiece. You can use a tall candelabra or compote for this arrangement. The following project uses winter flowers and greenery intended for a Christmas centerpiece, but you can use different flowers depending on the season.

Silk or fresh flowers such as red roses
Florist's clay
Ivy (or other greenery)
Gold spray paint

1. Begin by spraying gold paint over paint twigs and pine cones in a well-ventilated area (preferably outdoors). Let dry.
2. Cut florist clay to fit the size of your bowl. If you are using a candelabra that does not have a bowl for a floral arrangement built in, use a florist bowl. If you are using a compote or a candelabra with a place for centerpiece, then your arrangement will go directly in the compote or center.
3. Place the florist clay inside the bowl. If you are using fresh flowers, you will need to first soak the clay in water, and also add water to the bowl.
4. Cut ivy or greenery to size, such that they will drape down the bowl.
5. Stick stems into the florist clay along the outer edge, like a crown.
6. Cut the roses to size and add roses into the centerpiece, beginning with the tallest rose at the top, and working in a circle, like a nosegay.
7. Stick gilded pine cones and twigs in the arrangement as desired.
8. Accent your table with red votive candles, red glass stemware, and a bowl of sparkling red and green ornaments as a display piece.

How to make a Victorian Tussle Mussle

A tussie mussie is a round nosegay bouquet comprised of several varieties of flowers. As such, the tussie mussie conveyed different messages of romantic sentiment when given from a special admirer. They were usually wrapped in a lace doily and tied with a ribbon. Later, silver tussie mussie holders became popular, and Victorian brides often walked down the aisle carrying these elaborate and beautiful bouquets. To make your own tussie mussie, you can choose fresh or silk flowers. Consider creating a fresh arrangement as a centerpiece for your next dinner party, or a silk arrangement to brighten up your home for the summer. You can make a random arrangement of flowers, as shown in the picture below, or a more formal arrangement. For a random arrangement, you can exercise your artistic creativity and place flowers in any fashion that pleases you aesthetically. Let your personal imagination run wild! The instructions below are for a formal nosegay arrangement.

A large rose or cluster of roses
1-2 varieties of smaller "filler flowers" like Baby's breath, pansies or hydrangeas
Large, leafy stems such as violet leaves, or lamb's ears
Florist tape (or hot glue if you are using silk flowers)
Paper or cloth lace doily
Colorful ribbons

1. Trim down extra leaves from your flowers so you have a clean stem to work with.
2. Begin by holding your large rose or cluster of roses. This will be the center of your bouquet and you will work around it.
3. Add your filler flowers around the rose(s), making a full circle around the center.
4. Repeat the process for your next layer of filler flowers.
5. Wrap large leaves around the arrangement, making sure not they are low enough just to frame the flowers.
6. At this point, wrap floral tape around the arrangement. If you are using silk flowers, you can hot glue the arrangement together and let it dry.
7. Wrap your lace or paper doily around the entire arrangement and tie with colorful ribbons.
8. You can also include a Victorian charm or some pretty faux pearl sprays in the arrangement.

The Victorian Art & Language of Flower Arranging

In the time-travel romantic comedy, "Kate & Leopold" (2001), Hugh Jackman's character, a Victorian duke, pays particular attention to the type of flowers to choose for a lady, and admonishes a young friend who casually picks out a bouquet at a flower store for his date. Similarly, in the BBC miniseries, "Wives and Daughters" (1999), hopeful lover Roger Hamley asks Molly Gibson to choose a flower from a bouquet he gathered for her, as a pledge to him. Molly's choice of a red rose for Roger ultimately signifies something more than a random choice based on fragrance or appearance. The Victorians were familiar with various meanings that were associated to different flowers, such that a bouquet often conveyed an understood meaning to the recipient. For example, ivy conveyed fidelity, and was therefore a popular filler for a bride's bouquet. Sometimes a specific colors of a specific flower had different meanings as well. A red rose meant love, while a yellow rose friendship. A gentleman who gave a red rose to a young lady had to be certain that the sentiment was appropriate at their stage of the relationship. A tussie mussie, or hand-held bouquet, was often a careful, deliberate gift during the Victorian age. The giver spent much time not only choosing the flowers, but putting together an arrangement that would convey a hidden message. Below is a list of flowers and herbs, along with their Victorian meanings. And keep reading for instructions on how to make your own Victorian tussie mussie or holiday centerpiece.

Almond flowers -- Hope
Anemone -- Forsaken
Balm -- Sympathy
Basil -- Best wishes
Bay leaf -- "I change but in death"
Bell flower, white -- Gratitude
Bergamot -- Irresistible
Bluebell -- Constancy
Borage -- Courage
Broom -- Humility
Campanula -- Gratitude
Carnation, red -- "Alas for my poor heart"
China rose -- Beauty always new
Chrysanthemum -- Love
Clover, four leaved -- "Be mine"
Convolvulus, major -- Extinguished hopes or eternal sleep
Coreopsis, arkansa -- Love at first sight
Cuckoo pint -- Ardour
Daffodil -- Regard
Daisy -- Innocence, new-born, "I share your sentiment"
Fennel -- Flattery
Fern -- Sincerity
Forget-Me-Not -- True love
Furze or Gorse -- Enduring affection
French Marigold -- Jealousy
Gardenia -- Ecstasy
Gentian -- Loveliness
Geranium -- "You are childish"
Hare bell -- Grief
Heartsease -- "I am always thinking of you"
Honeysuckle -- Bonds of love
Heather -- Admiration
Ice Plant -- "Your appearance freezes me"
Ivy -- Fidelity, friendship, marriage
Jasmine -- Grace
Jonquil -- "I hope for return of affection"
Lavender -- Luck, devotion
Lemon Balm -- Sympathy
Lily -- Purity, modesty
Lily of the Valley -- Purity, the return of happiness
Marigold -- Health, grief or despair
Marjoram -- Kindness, courtesy
Myrtle -- Fidelity
Oregano -- Joy
Pansy -- Loving thoughts
Periwinkle -- Happy memory
Phlox -- Agreement
Poppy, red -- Consolation
Rose, cabbage -- Ambassador of love
Rose, red -- Love
Rose, pink -- Grace, beauty
Rose, yellow -- Friendship
Rosemary -- Remembrance, constancy
Rue -- Contrition
Sage -- Gratitude, domestic virtue
Snowdrop -- Hope
Star of Bethlehem -- Purity
Sweet Pea -- Departure, tender memory
Sweet William -- Gallantry
Tuberose -- Voluptuousness
Tulip, red -- Reclamation of love
Violet -- Loyalty, modesty, humility
Violet, blue -- Faithfulness
Wormwood -- Grief
Wheat -- Riches of the continuation of life
Willow, weeping -- Mourning
Wallflower -- Fidelity
Yew -- Sorrow

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Historic Pittsboro: July 1939

Dorothea Lange (May 26, 1895 – October 11, 1965) was an influential American documentary photographer and photojournalist, best known for her Depression-era work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA). Lange's photographs humanized the tragic consequences of the Great Depression and profoundly influenced the development of documentary photography.

With the onset of the Great Depression, Lange turned her camera lens from the studio to the street. Her studies of unemployed and homeless people captured the attention of local photographers and led to her employment with the federal Resettlement Administration (RA), later called the Farm Security Administration (FSA).

During her work with the FSA, Dorothea Lange visited Pittsboro, NC on a Saturday afternoon in July of 1939. She was staying in Chapel Hill, and she would have traveled down highway 15, through the mill town of Bynum, across the Haw River and into Pittsboro from the north. It looks like she took a few shots of the approach to the Chatham County Court House as she came into town. She probably parked along Hillsboro Street when she got out of the car, mixed and mingled with the Saturday afternoon crowd.

Her photographic haul included an arresting shot of locals dressed up and conversing in front of the Poe building on the corner of Hillsboro and West Salisbury. For many years the building housed Edwards Antiques, and now boasts our neighborhood watering hole, the venerable City Tap.