Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Talented Tuesday: Tracing The Cake Lady Gene

My sister, for those of you who haven't had the pleasure, is a Cake Lady.  Here she is behind her creations at a friend's recent wedding as proof.  She bakes, perfects, decorates, frosts, and uses all those around her as very willing guinea pigs.  We guinea pigs are convinced she could probably make a nice living at it if she had the confidence.

We knew she came by this from my dad's side of the family.  Our great-grandmother Marie Mauracher was a pastry chef when she came to Colorado from Austria in 1921, though the passenger list has her as a cook.  Her pastry was the stuff of family legend, so we figured that was where the Cake Lady Gene came from.

But today, when preparing for my digital storytelling workshop (more on that next post), I found this note among the poetry of our maternal great-grandmother, Alta Branson Evans:

Nov. 1953
My last day at Cake Decorating School
To my teacher, Orma Farnham
It's really been a pleasure, working with you my Dear, 
I've looked forward to every lesson, but not sleeping too well, I fear.
I wake up at 4 in the morning and make roses until 6 am
Alta and Raymond Evans
But mine never turn out like yours
For yours really are just gems
Now here it is, our very last day,
and my Wedding Cake's ready to go,
How I wish I could make lovely things like you
For yours are truly just so.
But maybe with practice I will improve
Can't really get very much worse,
And maybe a little bit better, who knows,
I've room for improvement of course
There'll be many times when I'll think of you
And wish you were standing by, just to give me
A little helping, for I'll need it and that's no lie.
But always give out with your charming smile
For it helps falters along life's way
And now may God bless you and keep you my dear
So my prayer in His name, I pray.
Love and Best Wishes, 
Alta Evans

So apparently the Cake Lady Gene came from both sides.  Marie Mauracher, I have been assured, was never lacking in self-confidence, so I may have found the source for the lack of confidence as well.  Clearly, more things are hereditary than I ever expected.  Now how to prove to the latest Cake Lady that she can make a go of it?

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Talented Tuesday: 170 year-old Embroidered Linen

At Christmas 1937, my great aunt Dorothy got a note and a gift from her aunt Lila.
If you wish to preserve it as an antique, I would suggest you put it under glass in a frame or as a tray . . . It must be one hundred years old.  The cloth (linen) was woven by your great great grandmother Laura Potter.  The flax from which it was made was gathered by your great grandfather Thomas Brayton Potter and your great aunt Olive Potter.  She also did the etching on it . . . I hope you like it and preserve it for as long as possible.

The little box with the linen that was sent to Dorothy is now in my possession.  I don't know how old it is, precisely.   Laura Potter was born in 1783.  Thomas Brayton was born in 1820 and Olive in 1833, so if the flax was gathered by them, it must have been done in the 1830s or 1840s.  Olive's embroidery may have been done later.

It must have been quite a process, the creation of this beautiful, soft linen.  Growing the flax, gathering it, combing and spinning the thread, and then weaving such fine cloth.  Laura was clearly a precise weaver, it is beautiful work.  My sister (also a Dorothy) is a weaver as well, so one wonders, as with quilting, about the heredity of such a gift. 

Front of embroidery
Back of embroidery
Lila's letter to Dorothy talks about the other embroidery that Olive had done for her nieces, so it was clearly her love as well as her talent.  As someone who does embroidery, I encourage you to appreciate it not from the front of the piece, but from the back -- that's where you see the real skill, in the neatness and smoothness of the back of the piece. 

So it is probably about 170 years old now.  And (ahem) it is still not preserved, sitting in the box that Dorothy received in 1937.  It's been 75 years since Lila made that request, I am going to get to work on it.  But in the meantime, I wanted to share its loveliness with you all.