Valentine’s Day: The Love Letter

February 8, 2010 at 3:15 am (Artist Musings)

Many people know from my artist statement that my love of ephemera started almost twenty years ago when I decided to put to paper my family history. I started with my maternal grandfather, Ralph, who told me Turkish folktales and sang to me while he played the mandolin.

After my grandfather died, I interviewed my maternal grandmother, Rebecca, or Betty as we called her, to find out her story. At 17, she met my grandfather and they crossed the state border to get married, since she was too young to marry in the State of New York. During my interview, she went to the closet and took out a pink department store box full of  photographs, letters, newspaper clippings, menus and programs that documented their life together. In that box, were small pieces of paper with notes, love notes that my grandfather had written to my grandmother and placed under her pillow throughout their fifty plus years of marriage.

My grandfather’s notes inspired me to create Postcards and Letters, a series of necklaces and bracelets that celebrate true love. At the centerpiece of this collection is a love letter from Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett Browning written in 1845, which I have affectionately transferred to clay and hand-formed into beads.

Love Letter Necklace

“I love your verses with all my heart, dear Miss Barrett, — and this is no off-hand complimentary letter that I shall write, –whatever else, no prompt matter-of-course recognition of your genius and there a graceful and natural end of the thing: since the day last week when I first read your poems, I quite laugh to remember how I have been turning again in my mind what I should be able to tell you of their effect upon me — for in the first flush of delight I though I would this once get out of my habit of purely passive enjoyment, when I do really enjoy, and thoroughly justify my admiration — perhaps even, as a loyal fellow-craftsman should, try and find fault and do you some little good to be proud of hereafter! — but nothing comes of it all — so into me has it gone, and part of me has it become, this great living poetry of yours, not a flower of which but took root and grew … oh, how different that is from lying to be dried and pressed flat and prized highly and put in a book with a proper account at bottom, and shut up and put away … and the book called a ‘Flora’, besides! After all, I need not give up the thought of doing that, too, in time; because even now, talking with whoever is worthy, I can give reason for my faith in one and another excellence, the fresh strange music, the affluent language, the exquisite pathos and true new brave thought — but in this addressing myself to you, your own self, and for the first time, my feeling rises altogether. I do, as I say, love these Books with all my heart — and I love you too…” [Letter from Robert Browning to Elizabeth Barrett, January 10, 1845]

Another one of my favorite pieces from this collection, photographed beautifully by Robert Diamante, is this French script necklace. For this piece, I transferred pieces of a vintage, French marriage contract to white polymer clay. The necklace is strung with crystals and pearl “coins” and finished with a marcasite clasp.

It was almost twenty years ago that my Grandma Betty showed me that box filled with handwritten love notes from Grandpa Ralph. And though I didn’t know the name for it at the time, that is when my fascination with ephemera began. All of these notes, letters, photographs and clippings told a story – a love story – of my grandparents.

So this Valentine’s Day, forget e-mail and skip the text message. Sit down and handwrite a love letter to your sweetheart. After all, how would Robert Browning’s letter translate if it read… I ❤ U 4 EAE [I love you, forever and everNetlingo.com]?

Love Letter Bracelet

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5 Comments

  1. antique silver said,

    Hi, good comment. I look forward to your next topic. Thank you, Julie

    Like

  2. Caberkid said,

    Hi, sorry for this offtopic question but i dont find the RSS Feed Link to add this Blog to my Feedreader. Could you please give me the URL? Thanks a lot.

    Greetings from Switzerland

    Like

  3. From Studio 109A: The High Price of Commissions – Part 2 « Only Lauren said,

    […] letters moved me and reminded me of the notes my grandfather wrote to my grandmother (see The Love Letter blog post, February 2010). The beads and the necklace turned out very sweet, and more so, will be […]

    Like

  4. http://www.extension.iastate.edu/foodsavings/recipes/flavored-popcorn said,

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book
    in it or something. I think that you could
    do with some pics to drive the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is magnificent blog.
    A fantastic read. I will definitely be back.

    Like

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