Hand Décor

If you Google the words “hand décor” you get images of hands…in different poses, made from various materials. They are artistic, for sure. However, years ago the words were used to designate that an art piece was made “by hand”. Often those very words were written across the backing board on a framed work of art or a pottery base, along with the artist’s name and a date.

My feature items tonight, for a Vintage Story, are two hand décor pieces that I have hanging together, although they are very different styles of art. These pieces came from the home of Greg’s parents, after Bob passed away and the house was being readied to sell. I call them the Butterfly and the Rooster.

Hand Décor

Because they came from the Moore’s home in Arkansas, I thought both pieces were made by Greg’s mother, Leta. This sweet and endearing woman possessed a very artistic soul. She was always creating something. Having watched her complete many needlework or crochet projects over the years, it has been my honor and my privilege to bring Leta’s art into my home.

Hand Décor

I witnessed the creation of the crewel embroidery butterfly. The date written on the back is 1985, well after I joined the family. I have several embroidery pieces made by Leta. She seemed to enjoy this kind of detailed, intricate work. Crewel embroidery uses a heavier wool thread, creating a nice textured look. This type of needlework has been around for at least 1,000 years.

I love the butterfly. It was my symbol several years ago and I feel a connection to this piece. The colors are still bright and I’ve lately cycled back around to appreciating warm vivid colors.

The rooster is a fun piece, made from a variety of seeds and beans. I believe my mom made something similar to this when I was a child, so I knew this art piece was older. Dried beans and seeds, some painted, are arranged on a board and glued down. The finished work of art is then coated with shellac to protect the beans. I estimated she made this fine rooster in the 1960s.

Hand Décor

I could easily read the name and date on the butterfly. However, age had faded the writing on the back of the rooster bean art work. Standing near the window to catch the evening light didn’t help however a powerful flashlight did. I realized the name on the back was Ruby Moore, not Leta Moore. Ruby was Greg’s grandmother, and Leta’s mother-in-law. The date was barely legible: January 1964. More words were written next to Ruby’s name. Frame handmade by Bill Moore. Bill…Greg’s grandfather, Ruby’s husband.

Although I was surprised to discover the rooster wasn’t made by Leta, I love the unwritten story that this vintage piece tells. I believe the bean art must have been a gift to Leta, who collected chickens and roosters. Because both the artwork and the frame were hand crafted, it speaks to me of love and affection expressed to a daughter-in-law.

Hand Décor

I like being the keeper of these art pieces. They remind me of the artists…two strong women with very different personalities, who held in common a love for art and creating. I’m glad that I had the opportunities to watch them as artists. Ruby Moore was still making things and stripping furniture up until her death in the early 90s. Sadly, Leta Moore had Alzheimer’s the last nine years of her life. As her world shifted, she created less and less.

Clearing her house I found projects that she started and was never able to complete. I have unfinished embroidery and needlepoint pieces that still have the threaded needle slipped into the fabric, mid stitch. Although I feel sad when I hold these hand décor pieces, there is a stark beauty and a poignancy contained in the art that bears witness to the passing of time.

I felt inspired tonight, holding the Butterfly and the Rooster in my hands. I could imagine the two Moore women, one standing on either side of me, smiling and expressing joy that I delight in their hand décor. I could feel their enduring love and those twin sparks of creativity that burn brightly and never die.

I think it’s time for me to create something new.

Flowers from Grandma Ruby

When I began this year of stories, one of my intentions was to occasionally feature one of the vintage items that I own. I wanted to share the stories behind those special pieces. I began recently with the story of my mom’s wooden shoes from Holland. Tonight’s vintage story features beautiful floral needlepoint pieces, from Greg’s grandmother, Ruby Moore.

Flowers from Grandma Ruby

Even though she was not my biological grandmother, this matriarch of the Moore family was always Grandma Ruby to me. She insisted. Our families actually had connections that went back generations. The first time I met Grandma Ruby, Greg and I had barely begun dating, and had not considered marriage at all. Grandma greeted me enthusiastically and told me immediately that she hosted a baby shower for my grandmother, when she was pregnant with my mother, back in the “hollow”. “And now look,” she announced, “you are part of the family!”

I was both amused…and embarrassed!

Flowers from Grandma Ruby

When I did eventually become a part of the Moore Clan, I was a bit intimidated by Grandma Ruby. She was a strong woman, with strong values and equally strong opinions, about everything. I was afraid to speak up to her, and certainly never wanted to cross her or cause her disappointment. In her strength, she could appear severe, or even harsh. And yet, I sometimes caught glimpses of her tender heart.

The first family Christmas gathering I attended, prior to my marriage, was at Grandma and Grandpa Moore’s house. They were not expecting me, and I was not expecting a gift. Grandma Ruby slipped away to her bedroom and returned moments later with a gift she had hastily wrapped. She gave me one of her own bottles of perfume.

My relationship with Grandma Ruby shifted while I was expecting my first child. At least one afternoon a week, she would drive to my house, while Greg was at work, pick me up and take me home with her. There was always a plate of food waiting for me. I’d watch as Grandma Ruby worked on the old cradle that held her sons when they were infants. We sat together for hours as she stripped layers of paint, applied fresh stain and waxed the wood to a soft finish. The cradle would hold my baby when she was born, and as I sat watching her restoration progress, I felt the love that Grandma Ruby poured into that project.

Flowers from Grandma Ruby Ruby Moore, about 1915.

The best part of those afternoons with the Moores was listening to their stories. Grandma Ruby would haul out an old battered suitcase, full of photos, and tell me story after story from their youth. I heard about their early lives, their fun escapades, and their hardships. Their faces softened into smiles and Grandpa Bill would shake his head and chuckle as he remembered the young man he once was. I loved these glimpses into their pasts, and into their hearts.

Some of their stories were quite shocking. Perhaps because I had not grown up with them as my grandparents, or perhaps because freedom is won in advanced age, they felt comfortable telling me things that their own grandchildren had not heard. Whatever their reasons, I treasured those stories. I came to love and appreciate Grandma Ruby very much.

Flowers from Grandma Ruby Ruby & Bill Moore, March 2, 1916, ages 17 and 18, respectively.

Later, when Grandma Ruby and Grandpa Bill were gone, and their house with all its contents had sold, I was allowed to run in and grab one item. I am grateful that Grandma Ruby showed me the suitcase full of photos. That’s what I grabbed. I rescued those old photos, with those young smiling faces and sparkling eyes. As a bonus, we discovered bundles of letters and postcards within the suitcase, correspondence between Ruby and Bill before their marriage. He is polite and friendly as he writes. She is playful and flirtatious and sometimes downright naughty! I love that about her.

I have more than those photos and letters and that vintage suitcase that I create vignettes in. Through Greg’s parents several pieces of exquisite needlepoint came to me, crafted by Grandma Ruby in the 1960s and early 70s. Those pieces have places of honor in my home. The footrest shares my studio with me, parked near my thinking chair. I often tuck it beneath my writing table and prop my feet on it, if I’m going to be working for a long period of time.

Flowers from Grandma Ruby

The other two pieces hang on a wall in my bedroom. They are both florals as well. The bell pull has a working bell that does indeed ring merrily when the pull is tugged on. My granddaughter has a fondness for that pull, and uses it to announce her trips to the bathroom. Ironically, the cat that shares Aubrey’s middle name also rings the bell, if she wants to go outside and I’m ignoring her.

I think of Grandma Ruby every time I look at the footrest, the bell pull and the framed flower needlepoint. I remember her great heart and how generously she shared it. I look at photos of her near the end of her life and now I can see beyond the serious expression on her face and the somber demeanor. In her face I can see the young woman there, eyes crinkled up with a mischievous glint, a hint of a smile at the corners of her mouth.

Thank you, Grandma Ruby, for the flowers that will not fade. Thank you for the gifts of your time, your presence and your stories. And thank you for loving me as one of your own.

Flowers from Grandma Ruby