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Linda Alstead | all galleries >> Relight my Fire - 2013 > 2nd March 2013 - lost and found
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2nd March 2013 - lost and found

2nd March 2013 - lost and found

I donít think I can milk my sewing box for any more pics after this one. Strangely even though Iíve looked at it over the years many times for a PAD, it only ever appeared once or twice before and one of those was only its lock and key.

This exquisite thing was lost for many years. It was given to me with its veneer hanging off, all rippled and torn, covered in paint, cobwebs, muck and other nasty stuff having been in my ex-mother-in-lawís shed acting as a shelf for tins of paint for many years when she dragged it out, said ďitís a bit scruffy but itís a sewing box, would you like it?Ē I took one look, thanked her profusely and escaped as quickly as I could with the box firmly tucked under my arm. I didnít want her to change her mind. I knew from that first glance that the box was something Iíd love and cherish even though it was completely manky. I felt as though I had found a great treasure.

Luckily for me, my Dad worked for a company that made and sold beautiful hand-made furniture and employed skilled craftsmen whose every working hour was spent making magnificent things from wood. Sadly, although the company still exists and it still sells lovely furniture, these days they donít make anything themselves, importing all of their pieces from the Far East so the factory they once owned closed down and the craftsmen have all long gone elsewhere. Dad took my new sewing box into work and asked the factoryís most skilled craftsman to look at the box and see if it could be repaired.

Iím deeply sorry and embarrassed to say I canít remember the manís name but suffice to say he was such a wonderful, talented man who made the most fantastic job of restoring the box to somewhere close to its pristine new glory. He carefully lifted the veneer in the marquetry, saved what he could and where it was beyond help, he replaced it sympathetically. He re-polished it and I got it back looking splendid. He told my Dad that he thought it was probably a piece made by an apprentice to demonstrate to his boss that he had mastered the skills of the trade. He also said it had probably once had long legs that had at some point been cut off to leave it short. I just know that it was probably the only good thing to come out of my first marriage.

I am not sure what happened to him when the factory closed, although I do know that my Dad has seen him once or twice since. To me it seems like such a tragedy that the company my Dad used to work for chose to switch over to buying in ready-made pieces when they had a man of such talent here in the UK but sadly, as Iíve said before, that seems to be the way of the world at the moment. Weíre losing all of our traditional skills and crafts because labour is cheaper elsewhere. What a great shame Ė I do hope we donít live to regret it.

The photo is of the pin cushion compartment that I photographed from the other side a few days ago. The marquetry is lovely, the little handle is, I think, ivory and no matter what I think about how an elephantís tusk came to be inside a sewing box, I do still appreciate its loveliness. Somehow though its best feature for me is the fact that itís curved rather than flat. Not only did the person who made this yonks and yonks ago go to the trouble of inlaying all that intricately patterned veneer, but they did it on a curved surface. You just never see that sort of attention to detail any more. Itís another example of those lost skills.

I was told by ďer-ooĒ that the box came from the home of the Bowes-Lyon family, although I have no idea whether that was true or if so, whether it was taken from there legitimately. Iím not even sure how my ex-mother-in-law came by it. She was a bit of a Hyacinth Bucket and possibly invented the story to give her some kind of spurious connection with royalty. Anyway, I am jolly glad to have ďlostĒ her and found my box. I reckon itís a really good outcome.

Canon EOS 5D
10s f/22.0 at 100.0mm iso100 full exif

other sizes: small medium original
Sheena Woodhead03-Mar-2013 17:10
It is beautiful and a treasure. Wish I'd got something like this to put my sewing bits and bobs in.
Martin Lamoon02-Mar-2013 21:55
Great to see there is still skilful people around. v
faye white02-Mar-2013 21:33
Great story about this treasure!
Ric Yates02-Mar-2013 21:15
Great story - whether it's true or not it's great to think "What if...?"
SRW02-Mar-2013 20:56
What a wonderful story... -- although I too bemoan the loss of home-grown craftsmanship.... It's good, too, that such an object -- representing many hours of skill and care (and probably love) -- is so very cherished. Personally, I think you should keep milking it a bit more...!