I remember the first time I saw The Gentle Art of Domesticity in the book store; I scoffed at the title. Domesticity, said I, aren't we finished with that sh*t???
You see, I was a bit young to join the feminists of the 60s and 70s, but still old enough to know they were doing and accomplishing great things. And I truly believed that women would continue on that track with ne'er a look back. Thus, I often find myself frustrated by young women who appear completely unaware of what their forebears sacrificed, and the freedoms we owe them.
But I digress... Back to the book:
It's funny...The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home (STC Craft, Aug. 2008) is no longer a new book, but it's new to me every time I pick it up. Endlessly inspiring, author Jane Brocket's photography is luscious, and her writing draws me in immediately, regardless of the page I land on (on which I land, for the grammar fiends--like me--out there).
In fact, this may be a bit sick, but on a recent seven-week stay on the West Coast, I almost bought a second copy to enjoy while there! Yeah, now that I look at it in writing, that is a little sick, isn't it...?
Among the many joys The Gentle Art has afforded me is a reconnection with early 20th (and late 19th) Century women's literature. Specifically, those published by Persephone Books -- a UK-based company whose catalog I'd like to purchase in full, NOW. I own three, which I found in paperback in Barnes & Noble, but long to own Persephone's elegant hard-cover British editions.
Brocket's affection for, and interest in, "domestic literature" reawakened my early fascination with authors like Rosamunde Pilcher, Elizabeth Bowen, Rebecca West, Maeve Binchy, Barbara Pym, Dorothy Whipple, Elizabeth Gaskell, Frances Hodgson Burnett, and Edith Wharton (I know, purists may chafe at the inclusion of some authors above, but go with me on this: a book's domestic focus does not disallow it's place amongst "real literature.")
Moving on, The Gentle Art features several essays on quilting and descriptions of Brocket's own quilts. Her personal designs showcase her love of, and genius for, color and the rhythm of blocks, strips, and triangles. (Please forgive my lack of terminology--I am not a quilter...yet.)
My personal favorite is a pink and brown confection inspired by the boxes of chocolates women once brought to The Opera. It appeals to my desire to time travel to a more elegant, cultured age in which art and beauty were ideals and topics of many a philosophical discussion and/or argument. (Read up on Whistler, if you're not sure what I mean.)
Then we move on to the knitting. Yes, the knitting, including a lovely pale blue scarf (for which the pattern name is missing), socks the color of candy, a series of colorwork pillows, and more. If you knit, you'll definitely pick up a serious case of "startitis" from Brocket's book.
In fact, I have some startitis I need to attend to (the kind where you start the day's work on a project you need to finish TODAY). But I'd like to talk more about this gem of a book. So stay tuned while I get some photo permissions, and I will soon post "Review, Part Deux" of The Gentle Art of Domesticity--one of my all-time favorite things...
PS. Special thanks to Suzyn Jackson for reminding me to include a link to Jane Brocket's terrific blog, Yarn Storm