Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Merry, Merry. . .

Christmas Thimble

The Thimble shown is "Winter Village" by Joan Dodge, available from Gimbel & Sons Gifts and Collectibles.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Humble thimble, holy work.

This is a photo of a thimbled finger embroidering a Kiswa--the beautiful, gold-embellished, black-silk cover for the Ka'aba in Mecca. The Ka'aba is covered with a new Kiswa every year on the 9th Dhu al-Hijja, the ninth day of the last month of the Islamic year, on the eve of the annual Hajj--pilgrimmage--to Mecca. The old Kiswa is then cut up and presented to various esteemed Muslim individuals and organizations.
The Kiswa comprises 47 pieces of the finest silk cloth, totaling 28,524 square feet (about 1477 pounds), embroidered with nearly 33 pounds of gold-plated silver wire. The Kiswa is wrapped around the Ka'aba and fastened to the ground with copper rings. The current cost of making the Kiswa is roughly US$4-6 million.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Franz Ruckart Marroquin

Franz Ruckart Marroquin was born in Guatemala in 1928, to a German father and Guatemalan mother. Mr. Marroquin's thimbles typically depict Guatemalan images. The right-hand thimble, above, has a Guatemalan corn god, corn being the main food staple there (According to the book Omnivore's Dilemma, by Michael Pollan, the United States' main food staple is corn syrup.). The outer two thimbles both show a quetzal, the national symbol of Guatemala. I have one of Mr. Marraquin's thimbles that has the corn god, the quetzal, andTikal, Guatemala's largest Mayan pyramid. It is similar to those shown above, but the silver encases a gun-metal-colored inner core, which is seen through the cut-outs in the silver. It is absolutely one of my most beautiful thimbles, and one of my favorites.
Mr. Marroquin's thimbles are available sometimes on eBay, most frequently through the seller ProSilversmith, which is based in Guatemala and has a number of other items from Mr. Marroquin.

Update: See comment from Luis, AKA "Prosilversmith." It is sad that there has not been more interest in Mr. Marroquin's thimbles. They are absolutely exquisite. I think that collectors tend to flock to what they have heard of or seen in books or whatever, and don't use their own judgment as to what is beautiful and of value. I understand that there is a need to distinguish between, say, genuine antiques and "instant collectible" junk, but I think we also need to appreciate that there are artisans creating beautiful pieces today that are just as worthy of being collected as any "antiques" out there.

This is beautiful.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Patent: No. 1263002: Thimble

Patent No. 1263002, Leonora Terry, ST. Joseph, MO,
April 1918.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Skimbleshanks: The Railway Cat

There's a whisper down the line at 11.39
When the Night Mail's ready to depart,
Saying "Skimble where is Skimble has he gone to hunt the thimble?
We must find him or the train can't start."
All the guards and all the porters and the stationmaster's daughters
They are searching high and low,
Saying "Skimble where is Skimble for unless he's very nimble
Then the Night Mail just can't go."
At 11.42 then the signal's nearly due
And the passengers are frantic to a man—
Then Skimble will appear and he'll saunter to the rear:
He's been busy in the luggage van!

He gives one flash of his glass-green eyes
And the signal goes "All Clear!"
And we're off at last for the northern part
Of the Northern Hemisphere!

You may say that by and large it is Skimble who's in charge
Of the Sleeping Car Express.
From the driver and the guards to the bagmen playing cards
He will supervise them all, more or less.
Down the corridor he paces and examines all the faces
Of the travellers in the First and the Third;
He establishes control by a regular patrol
And he'd know at once if anything occurred.
He will watch you without winking and he sees what you are thinking
And it's certain that he doesn't approve
Of hilarity and riot, so the folk are very quiet
When Skimble is about and on the move.
You can play no pranks with Skimbleshanks!
He's a Cat that cannot be ignored;
So nothing goes wrong on the Northern Mail
When Skimbleshanks is aboard.
Oh, it's very pleasant when you have found your little den
With your name written up on the door.
And the berth is very neat with a newly folded sheet
And there's not a speck of dust on the floor.
There is every sort of light-you can make it dark or bright;
There's a handle that you turn to make a breeze.
There's a funny little basin you're supposed to wash your face in
And a crank to shut the window if you sneeze.
Then the guard looks in politely and will ask you very brightly
"Do you like your morning tea weak or strong?"
But Skimble's just behind him and was ready to remind him,
For Skimble won't let anything go wrong.
And when you creep into your cosy berth
And pull up the counterpane,
You ought to reflect that it's very nice
To know that you won't be bothered by mice—
You can leave all that to the Railway Cat,
The Cat of the Railway Train!

In the watches of the night he is always fresh and bright;
Every now and then he has a cup of tea
With perhaps a drop of Scotch while he's keeping on the watch,
Only stopping here and there to catch a flea.
You were fast asleep at Crewe and so you never knew
That he was walking up and down the station;
You were sleeping all the while he was busy at Carlisle,
Where he greets the stationmaster with elation.
But you saw him at Dumfries, where he speaks to the police
If there's anything they ought to know about:
When you get to Gallowgate there you do not have to wait—
For Skimbleshanks will help you to get out!
He gives you a wave of his long brown tail
Which says: "I'll see you again!
You'll meet without fail on the Midnight Mail
The Cat of the Railway Train."

--T.S. Eliot

So, I know that I should have a little picture of a thimble with the poster of the musical Cats here. The thing is. . . dare I confess it?. . . I hate that musical. Hate it. I'm not so very fond of any Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals, period.
Duhhhm-dum . . .dum-dum-dum-dum-dum-duhhhm-dum.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Madonna of the Evening Flowers

All day long I have been working,
Now I am tired
I call: "Where are you?"
But there is only the oak-tree rustling in the wind.
The house is very quiet,
The sun shines in on your books,
On your scissors and thimble just put down,
But you are not there.
Suddenly I am lonely:
Where are you? I go about searching.

Then I see you,
Standing under a spire of pale blue larkspur,
With a basket of roses on your arm.
You are cool, like silver,
And you smile.
I think the Canterbury bells are playing little tunes.

You tell me that the peonies need spraying,
That the columbines have overrun all bounds,
That the pyrus japonica should be cut back and rounded.
You tell me all these things.
But I look at you, heart of silver,
White heart-flame of polished silver,
Burning beneath the blue steeples of the larkspur,
And I long to kneel instantly at your feet,
While all about us peal the loud, sweet, Te Deums of the Canterbury bells.

--Amy Lowell

Friday, December 07, 2007

Anouk Johanna

This little Peter Rabbit thimble is made from genuine fossilized mammoth by Anouk Johanna, a native Dutch woman currently residing in Santa Cruz, CA. She creates many lovely scrimshaw items. Her thimbles are about 1 1/4 inches high and about 1 inch in diameter at the base. Her website features several more examples of her thimbles, including thimbles featuring Jemima Puddleduck; Pig Robinson; Pooh, Piglet and the Honey Jars; The Three Bears; The Tailor of Gloucester; Tommy Kitten; Pooh, Owl & Piglet; and Christopher Robin and Friends. The color thimbles are about $425.00 (it varies) plus S/H, with the monochrome (dark brown) thimbles priced at about $325.00.
You can also get a matching itty-bitty thimble stand for $15.00. The items on the site have already been sold, but Anouk can replicate any of the designs or create a custom design (more expensive). She also does custom watercolors.