Monday, July 27, 2009

Influences on me as an artist: My Great Aunt Eileen

This wonderful old picture is my Great Uncle King and Great Aunt Eileen. It was taken in 1923. I love his bowtie and boater and her fabulous hat and peek-a-boo sleeve dress. They were always snappy dressers. They never had children, but treated my dad and his sister and brothers more like grandchildren than nieces and nephews. He was always called Uncle King, in the English tradition of calling an Uncle by his last name, rather than Uncle Lester. Aunt Eileen always called him King, too. Her real name was Dora, which she loathed, so when she reached 18, she chose a new name for herself and was henceforth, Eileen. They lived in Buffalo, New York where Uncle King worked for Remington Rand. He was always very good with money, and so they were able to retire early and build a house in St. Petersburg, Florida where he and Aunt Eileen moved in the early 1950's. (This is the house in which my parents now live.) He was a woodworker and Aunt Eileen was a great hand with the sewing machine.

This picture, from 1967, is Aunt Eileen with my grandfather Warner. They were brother and sister. Their mother (my Great Grandmother Warner) was the only quilter in my family. I blogged about her here. Aunt Eileen really looked like her mother.

This is one of the only examples I have of Aunt Eileen's work. When I was little, I had a Ginny doll that was my most prized possession. In those pre-Barbie days, there was no real doll furniture for this type of doll, so one Christmas, Uncle King made me a bed and a wardrobe for my Ginny doll. Aunt Eileen made all the bedclothes for the bed. She made a mattress, sheets, pillow in a pillow case, a brocade spread, and this gorgeous little quilt. It's a postage stamp setting and contains some old feed sack fabrics as well as some of the decorator fabrics Aunt Eileen used to make curtains and cushion covers.

Aunt Eileen lived long enough to meet our son Danny and she knew I was expecting Anna. She was so pleased that I liked to sew and she loved embroidery work, so I always made her an embroidered wall hanging or a pillow for Christmas each year since her eyesight wouldn't allow her to embroider at the end of her life. My mom has carefully preserved all of these in the house in Florida. Aunt Eileen was my inspiration for home decorative sewing, as well as fine embroidery. Thanks, Aunt Eye.

Really I don't dislike to cook, but what you cook is eaten so quickly. When you sew, you have something that will last to show for your efforts. ~Elizabeth Travis Johnson


quiltcat said...

What interesting and talented family you have! i just went back to read about your great grandma Warner as well. I had a Ginny doll, too! in fact, i still have her, on my chest of drawers. Some of my first sewing attempts were to make clothes for her.

Jean Baardsen said...

That's a lovely story. My mom taught me to sew. I guess she was one of my biggest influences.

Dana W. Fisher said...

Hi Cat--Doll clothes were also the first thing I sewed. My Mama Hehr would give me her scraps and later, I'd save my allowance to buy those little rolled up remnants. Thanks for your kind words about my family.

Thanks, Jean. I think all my family history research has gotten me thinking about these influences from my past. It's certainly a tangible way to cherish the memory of dear ones.
All the best,

Terrie Sandelin said...

What a touching story. The photos are really wonderful. And there is nothing a like a doll quilt with history -- yours is really beautiful.

Dana W. Fisher said...

Thank you, Terrie.

Mary on Lake Pulaski said...

What great memories! You have such wonderful photos to go with your stories.

Dana W. Fisher said...

Thanks, Mary. I am very fortunate to have these photos. They really are treasures.
Kind regards,