Today is Tasha Tudor's Birthday! One hardly knows where to begin in terms of describing such a multi-faceted woman of so many trades and talents, and what to focus on here today. But she is probably most well-known for her children's books and illustrations, although it was her unique lifestyle and the "old ways" of doing things that became a fascination (as well as an inspiration), to many of her fans. Myself included!
Tasha found inspiration within her own family and surroundings; first in a New Hampshire farmhouse where her children were raised, and later, nestled in the woods of Vermont in a house built by her son, Seth. The children depicted in her stories were often drawings and watercolor paintings of her own; and included domestic scenes, events, traditions, gardens, animals and pets from her real world and everyday life. From my bookshelf, I've pulled down a sample of some of the T.T. books I've collected over the years. Some are children's stories, others are thematic, such as All For Love, published in 1984, a collection of poems, songs, letters, stories, folklore and customs revolving around the subject of LOVE. For the romantic at heart.
It's a beautiful book, typifying Tasha's artistic style with floral wreaths and borders, rose festooned ribbons, tussie mussies, all set in a time period of the early and mid 1800's, (think Jane Austen), an era of which she seemed to be quite fond of.
These gorgeous gowns from Tasha's collection were a few that featured in the 2007 Nov/Dec issue of Victoria magazine. They were sold at public auction in New Hope, PA by Witaker-August Auction Company that November. Tasha was quoted in the article, "My antique clothing is a great folly of mine...I myself feel much more at home in an old frock." Indeed! It seems these were things that inspired the direction of her art and dreams.
Lots of books have been written about T.T.'s various hobbies, including a cookbook that she wrote, (which I love and still use often); plus others about heirloom crafts, gardening, and an excellent biography, Drawn From New England, written by her daughter Bethany, in 1979. This book (shown in the second photo from the top, bottom left), is about Tasha's childhood and as a mother, and the utterly delightful activities they did as a family. Like floating a candle lit birthday cake downstream to the child being honored. Of sketch parties and picnics. The Dolls and their elaborate tea parties donned in lovely handsewn gowns, and the doll's annual summer "country fairs" which they all spent weeks getting ready. Tasha would make little cardboard booths, which were painted and decorated to display the "wares and exhibits"; tiny doll-sized items, like edible cakes and lemon pies, flowers and vegetables, with prizes awarded for the most outstanding. Friends came and brought their dolls to participate. And buttons were used as currency.
The doll's post office was run by Augustus Sparrow--Postmaster General. Each of the children had a carboard mailbox on their dollhouse, and for many years kept up a correspondece between their dolls and the doll's of their friends. Tiny letters were written, then delivered by Sparrow Post.
Mouse Mills Catalogue followed. This was a mail-order catalog so the dolls, ducklings, and bears could purchase ready-made clothing. The miniature goods could be purchased with buttons in lieu of cash. Soon after that, a catalog of valentines was created. These had the most astonishingly tiny paintings and verses. Each one less than an inch high! All the dolls and animals ordered them and then sent them to their friends by way of Sparrow Post. On Valentine's Day, there would be an afternoon tea party to which the dolls and stuffed animals were also invited to partake in the festivities. The parlor would be decorated with flowers from the greenhouse; jasmine, scented geraniums, and sweet alyssum. Tulips and daffodils would be purchased from a local grower and they would be set all about the room to create a spring-like atmosphere. Tasha would bake a heart-shaped cake with frosting flavored with marachino cherries which turned it pink. Then a pleasant afternoon by fireside would be spent opening valentines and enjoying the refreshments and flowers.
The doll family also subscribed to a wonderful magazine called 'The Bouquet' which included some of the latest fashions (for the dolls, of course). There was a social column, short stories and pictures, word games and more. It was a quarterly, that Tasha put out four times a year. She also made marionettes and built a theater in the barn for them to perform plays. These marionette shows began as entertainment for the dolls, but children from a nearby school and friends were also invited to attend. Tasha and her children staged fairy tales, such as "Little Red Riding Hood", and "Jack & the Beanstalk", "Saint George & the Dragon", and even "Swan Lake".
And then...there's the DOLLHOUSE with residents Captain Thaddeus Crane and his darling wife Emma who enjoy all manner of comforts and conveniences in their well-appointment home. Complete with wind-up miniature birdcages in every room, including the kitchen, as "birdsong is a necessity", Tasha says.
Oh, Tasha, you have surely stirred our imaginations and given much.
~August 28, 1915 -- June 18, 2008~