February 7th, 2007

Present day History

My grandmother, Dorothy Chestnut, was instrumental in instillling a love and appreciation of decorative art in me. In the late 1950s-the 60′s she took classes in all manners of surface art, including bronze powder stenciling, pontypool, theorem painting and strokework for decorating tin. Her house was full of painted trays and tinware, spice boxes and pretty chairs. I am fortunate to have some of her work and her books, the most prized of which was written by Esther Stevens Brazer who founded what is now know as HSEAD, The Historical Society of Early American Decoration.


I have belonged to this organization on and off-never having the time or opportunity to take any classes. Just recently looking at the work on the website has inspired me to join again, even if just to support the work of these talented people and to receive their publication, The Decorator, which is full of photos of exquisite work.


Looking at this recent award-winning work by current members, I can’t help wondering how long it will be before there is no more work produced like this. The time, focus and energy involved in learning and perfecting these kind of skills and then applying them is something that we seem to have less and less of in our society. True craftsmanship at this level is definitely in shorter and shorter supply. My guess is that most of these woman are in their later years, which makes their work seem all the more precious to me. I hope you enjoy!

2 Responses to “Present day History”

  1. Nancy Kimball Says:

    Hi Melanie -
    As you know, I share your love of early american decoration. You need to come out east and visit one of the HSEAD conventions to see this stuff in real life! There are 2 every year and they are amazing! I have a dear friend who is painting and teaching these techniques in Kenebunk, ME. She is now taking classes from one of the older HSEAD teachers in preparation for submitting a piece for memebership. I visited her at a recent meeting that was held here in RI just minutes from my house. The exhibit is awesome and the sharing of information is phenomenal. SO hopefully the tradition will continue!
    Take care – I’m enjoying your site!
    Nancy Kimball

  2. Melanie Says:


    Lucky you! That is great to hear. I did rejoin and hopefully the timing will work out one of these days to be able to attend. It all seems to be focused in your neck of the woods there!