A Legacy of Thoughtful Things
When I was in textile design school, one of my professors gave us a prompt on the first day of class. She grouped us together and asked us to design a teacup that would last at least a hundred years. In our small group of students from around the world, we talked about materiality and the durability of certain materials. Should it be made of steel or something unbreakable? We talked about usefulness, and making something that was used frequently so that it held value. We talked about form, and what shapes are classic and timeless, but also durable.
As we came back together, we shared our idea for a steel teacup that had been painted to mimic the delicate beauty of porcelain, but we all knew it would be a rather poor imitation. After several minutes of discussion we presented our idea to the class, only to find that most groups had come up with a relatively similar ideas. As we finished sharing, our professor changed our thinking. and asked us to consider the teacups we see in a museum and how they came to be there. We discussed the idea of traditional craft and beauty and the idea that when something is crafted with intentional beauty, it becomes precious, lasting because we care for it.
Here at Heirloom Art Co. we are constantly talking through what gives an object permanence. While the word "heirloom" is part of our name, what does that actually mean to us? While the idea of an heirloom is something already old and already in the family for generations, we also want you to consider what you want want to add to that legacy of thoughtful things.
For us, we try to make sure that the items we bring into our shop, and introduce to you and your homes, always fit these three categories: beautiful in form, functional in use and material (multi-functional is always the best), and that it sparks joy and memories. It is with this in mind that we want to talk about some of our favorite heirlooms and why we feel like they are worth investing in for yourself and for future generations.
Our world so frequently prioritizes usefulness over beauty, which is why true beauty is so quickly disappearing from modern society. It is for this very reason that we find ourselves speaking first of beauty. It truly brings us happiness to discover things that create that sense of beauty, to show the real in the light of the ideal.
Many of my favorite thoughts about beauty come from Sir Roger Scruton, who was one of the great aesthetic philosophers of our day. He died just two years ago, but I highly recommend watching the BBC documentary "Why Beauty Matters" or reading his book Beauty: A Short Introduction. He once said: “Through the pursuit of beauty we shape the world as a home, and in doing so we both amplify our joys and find consolation for our sorrows." In a sense, beauty will feel natural and harmonious to each one of us, and will helps us not merely experience life, but to flourish.
Beauty is inherent in the natural world, so it stands to reason that objects inspired by nature almost immediately have that feeling. It's why we love paintings, pottery, and jewelry inspired by nature. You will find our collections of prints and originals teeming with landscapes. We are rather obsessed with this collection Portuguese nature pottery. The jewelry I always choose to wear is merely human imitations of nature's impeccable genius. The natural world is beauty personified.
Roger Scruton also once noted that "ornament liberates us from the tyranny of the useful." Decorative details are part of what helps an object to come alive, and they help us appreciate the beauty of an object before anything else. We love small details that capture our hearts, which is part of the reason why we love a cuckoo clock in the kitchen or a these hand-carved Norwegian candleholders on the dining table.
A paperback will eventually fall apart, but a hardcover book will last. It's why we believe in investing in beautiful versions of our favorite books. It makes it so magical to have a beautiful copy, and it immediately signifies to someone that it's an important book to you, it's contents worth reading. One of our favorite sets of classics are these Macmillan classics. Take a look and see if your favorites are there.
While we believe beauty to be the primary value of an object--and that beauty in and of itself is a use––we love an item even more that is both beautiful and useful. I hate investing in a beautiful item, for it to be poorly or impractically constructed for its intended use. Some of my very favorite items in my home are the things that pass through my hands on a daily basis, and bring me exquisite joy each time.
One of those items for me is this brass peppermill. My husband mocked me a bit when I first brought home from the shop, but this solid little daily grinder has won him over. You can feel the satisfying crunch of the peppercorns as you turn the handle, making the food more flavorful.
Another personal favorite is our brass toast stand. When we first discovered this item, we saw the beauty of this object and intended use as a toast stand. But once I brought one home and lived with it, I began to see many more uses for it. Suddenly I needed one to hold and organize my mail and another for my nightstand to bring order to my stack of current reads. An object that makes itself useful in ways becomes instantly more valuable.
JOY & MEMORIES
When I consider the items that have been passed down to me as family heirlooms, I have found that it is this "precious" nature that has kept the legacy alive. It is the story or the memory that is carried on in the soul of an object that makes . The object isn't inherently valuable, but its memories are more valuable than gold. While objects aren't scientifically necessary to survival, they do inspire connection and have emotional value that brings joy into humanity.
The older I get, the more fond I become of my childhood memories. It's like this constant game of trying to recall details of a period of life I remember with fondness. Often, this memory game leads me back to the tangibles: a beloved doll or stuffed animal. My mother so graciously saved some of my favorites, and I eagerly watch my nieces and nephews enjoy them, and wait for the day my own children will love them too.
Toys are remarkably memorable. As a shop curator, I have discovered things that I know my childhood self would have loved. These German dollhouse dolls and puppets would have been right at home in my games of imagination. These are the dolls I hope my future children come to love as I hope to infuse their childhood with play and imagination.
It seems that every time a quilt or wool blanket comes out of the cupboard, love and memories unfold with it. I think of my ancestors wrapped in a favorite quilt to stave off bitter winds. I think of a mother wrapping her crying infant late at night. I think of picnics and blanket forts where the quilt was an essential part.
Holidays were such magical and memorable times. They are filled with sounds and smells that stick in our minds, and come alive again each year. The smell of incense brings to mind the wooden smokers my mother had on the mantle. The prickle of a pine tree instantly transports me December evenings spent decorating the tree with a mish mash of holiday ornaments. Straw always reminds me of placing each nativity piece atop a bed of hay. Each holiday is filled with its own bevy of objects and traditions.
Many of the traditions we share with you are ones that our parents shared with us. The same is true of the objects we share with you. They are an amalgamation of past memories and future hopes. They are a treasure trove of our real and romanticized lives. We hope to find kindred spirits among you as you choose to intentionally bring an heirloom into your personal legacy of thoughtful things.