The old and the new: Making a house a home

What do . . .

this cracked piece of ceramic . . .

this discolored lid . . .

and this cracked piece have in common?

They are all part of a ceramic canister set Mother made many years ago for our first house.  With less countertop in the new kitchen, I have to pick and choose what goes there.  Functional rules over sentimental. So, I’ve been distressed about parting with the cracked set that is missing the smallest canister.

The set represents a time in Mother’s life when she was still able to hold a paint brush in her arthritis-curled fingers.  To me, she became one of the best ceramic artists around at the time.  And now, I think it might almost be a lost art.

So this morning, I was about to photograph the set for posterity and later print the photo and hang it in my kitchen as a reminder . . . when a moment of clarity crept in where cobwebs reside and cut through the fog with a bright idea:  “Honor thy Mother, and her artwork in your new kitchen”.  I climbed the step ladder, stood on top of a barstool, and placed the canister set in its new spot.  And I love it.

I rushed to the old house and gingerly gathered each piece, brought them to the new house and cleaned them.  To the left is a piggy bank she made for The Captain.  He left it behind, not knowing where he would put it in the new house.  (To the right is a pitcher Shoreacres sent me.)

It seems Mother’s artwork had no boundaries:  She chose greenware with wild animals, fruits, and even flowers.  I had never realized this before now, because before , everything was spread throughout the house.  Now, I have a place for each piece of art, like a gallery showing of her best work.

And for those of you whose eyes are scanning the countertops and noticing all the clutter I’ve already accumulated, would you like a closer look at that little mug to the right of the sink?  I haven’t found its final display spot yet, but I will.

This is one of her finest pieces and shows in great detail her ability to visualize a piece before actually seeing the finished product.  For those of you who have never worked with ceramics, the painting of an item is done before firing, and it is very hard to project what the colors will turn out like after the firing.  It’s not like painting a picture where the colors are as they appear right up front.  I love the “fish handle”.

Her attention to detail in the old man’s face and eyes warrant a very special spot somewhere in our new home for him . . .

but I’m not sure yet where that will be.  The rest of the pieces she made for us were stolen years ago . . . .

This gallery has hopefully helped me turn the corner in dealing with the rest of the items in the old house that are not as meaningful as these.

I can only hope . . .



Where should I put the butcher block clock Daddy made?  I had it in my “girls only bathroom” in the old place but would like to display it more prominently in new house.

Maybe on the wall behind Mother’s player piano?  And then I can go dig out the charcoal portraits they had done the last time they were in the French Quarter (which was where they went for their honeymoon during Mardi Gras back in 1954.)

After retirement, Daddy took up woodworking of all kinds, trying his hand at this and that.  Then he got serious about it and fell in love with an art form that deserves a post of its own, built a shop, and sold his work at juried art shows and craft shows in a couple of states.  More on that later, but for now . . . where should I put this clock?

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  1. Wow! Your mother did fantastic work! I didn’t know you had a painter in the family! Your kitchen looks wonderful. I can’t wait to see more pictures of your new house. Please post soon!

    1. She learned by an old method they called “tole” painting. Let me clarify: The roses and fruits are decals, but the stein and the captain mug, she painted.

    2. Love seeing your mom’s beautiful ceramics. They are beautiful in your kitchen.

      I have the “chef” (holds kitchen utensils) she gave me one Christmas. Surprisingly, it has survived a few moves.

      Love the clock! It is wonderful to be surrounded by all their gifts made with love!

    1. I’m just now remembering there was an owl cookie jar that she made for The Captain. I think it got shattered. The canisters have been glued back together from years of use with careless boys in the house. It happens, but they can’t stand up to daily use any more. They should be retired from use and displayed as art!

  2. The fisherman mug needs to go on top of the corner cabinet. It looks like there would be plenty of ceiling height for it. If not, a very simple self could be added above the window. If you have another small piece to add, you could put them next to the bowl and pitcher piece.
    What size sketches do you have? How large is that wall area? I like the idea of hanging the clock over the piano, but it is too small to hang by itself on a large. wall. Just one persons opinion, and I’m NOT a decorator!
    BTW, I do like the pieces and I’m glad you found a place for them.

    1. Oh I wouldn’t hang it alone on that big wall . . . I do have a little design sense!!! a little! Oh, I have way too much stuff to “add” that’s the problem!!!

  3. I am absolutely sure I have stuff that has been boxed away since 1975 through 4-5 moves and storage. Add to that the stuff from Mom’s estate and it gets to be a burden. My brother lives by the rule if it isn’t used get rid of it. 7 days and gone. He tosses and donates or trades with charity groups. Sometimes he has to get back stuff he donated. I got gobs of stuff to clear out.

  4. Your mother was a very talented lady. I’m so glad that you made that last minute decision to keep the canister set and display it in your new kitchen, with your other treasures. (BTW, your kitchen is lovely!) I’ve a feeling that, if you had discarded them, you’d have never forgiven yourself.

    I’ve done a bit of ceramics work and I know what you’re talking about, with judging how the colors will change after firing. With the pieces I’ve done, it didn’t really matter all that much, though they did turn out the way I visualized. Your mother’s work was much more exacting and the colors had to be just right.

  5. OH! That clock is fabulous. Your Dad was very talented, as well. That needs to be displayed prominently, where it can be enjoyed and admired.

    My Dad’s younger brother does woodworking and has made quite a number of pieces of furniture for their house and their children’s houses. I have a small table he made, as well as things like a decorated cutting board and a trivet. He also refinished/repaired my maternal grandmother’s old Singer treadle machine cabinet and got it all back in working order for me.

  6. Oh BW, those are lovely pieces and your multi-level tops-of-cabinets are perfect for gallery-like showings. You get to preserve history, homey-up the kitchen and reduce clutter simultaneously. Keeping the genuinely loved pieces makes it easier to get rid of the mass-produced ‘stuff’ ‘ and thrift shops/goodwills love the donations!

    There’s nothing like a yard sale and watching smiling faces haul away ‘new-to-them’ treasures to dissolve all the hanging-on-to-stuff blues.

    It sounds like you’ve turned a corner; our hearts are with you.

  7. Your kitchen cabinets were just made for showing off those items! I like the cup right where it is. You have a pencil holder next to it, just move the pencils into it and your good to go. Put a piece of aluminum foil inside of it though so a leaky pen won’t stain it. Don’t get rid of all your precious stuff yet, I think you’ll find lots of places to put stuff as time goes by. I still have boxes and boxes of bells in our attic that I’ve collected since I was 6. I wish I had room for them in the “new” house we’ve been in for 10 years, lol. Maybe some day…..

  8. Your parents were/are very talented. The ceramic’s are lovely and you found the perfect spot for display with cluttering up your counters.

    My husband builds furniture and does all types of woodworking. He has given several things to my son and daughter in law and they don’t appreciate work involved and often get rid of things. He won’t make them anything else.


  9. Everything looks so good. I also did ceramics years ago and I have a pitcher and bowl set. I also like the way you are displaying the family love.

  10. Oh, my gosh! I was so caught up in everything I missed the pitcher I sent you up there in the kitchen. I’m just honored beyond belief!

    And that clock is wonderful. Treasures and treasures – and a wonderful new home for them. It will take time, for sure – but I’ll bet memories have begun making already!

    1. I wondered when you were going to see your little pitcher up there. I need to find some sort of little stand to put under it to give it more height and make it more visible. Thank you again for the lovely package!

  11. I have the clock and a stool your dad made for my parents. I cherish them and use the stool almost every day. Do you remember my parents did ceramics and pottery too? Papa started throwing pots after I made him go with me to a class one time. Us girls bought them a kiln and potter’s wheel one Christmas.

    They also did porcelain dinnerware and even dolls. Papa would string them and insert their glass eyes after Mom painted all their different parts. She even hand-made their little clothes, down to the flap-hinged bloomers.

    Our parents sometimes met at craft shows with their talented wares. I have Mom’s blue ribbon-winning, hand-painted tiles. They’re French Quarter scenes. Your parents won blue ribbons that outing, too, but can’t remember exactly for what pieces.

    Such artistic abilities. You got it and my older sister got it; “it” being the inherited talent. Beautiful work they did, huh? I still marvel at the steady hand it takes to achieve such detail!

    1. Yes, your folks were quite talented! I had forgotten they did some shows together. I was thinking of you today as I looked up on the dead remains of Jade. Finally brought myself to pull out the freeze-dried hulls . . . and wishing I could come see you to get a replacement. I promise to not forget to bring the next one inside during a freeze.

  12. I still have one here for ya. Hope I get to you before heck freezes over and kills it. Ha!

    Wait…………what do you mean you thought of me when you looked at a dead thing????