Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Painted Ladies

Thoughts on painted ladies were running through my head over the last several weeks. For those of you who have never been to San Francisco you may not know what I am referring to. The painted ladies are bright colored Victorian and Edwardian homes usually painted in three colors. The term was made famous by the book of the same name written by Elizabeth Pomada and Michael Larsen in 1978. I happened to be living in San Francisco at that time and visited many neighborhoods with homes restored to their previous elegance. I even lived in several Victorians in San Francisco. Since then the term has also been used to describe groups of colorful Victorian homes in other American cities such as Baltimore, St. Louis Missouri, New Orleans, Cincinnati, and Cape May in New Jersey.

I've been thinking of the painted ladies in terms of garden cottages or shrines I want to build. I envisioned bright colorful buildings, cheerful, somewhat ornate, with lots of architectural embellishments. I'm a lover of nature but also of architecture and I appreciate many different styles from rustic to modern and everything in between. Cracker houses, dog trots, cottages, mountain cabins, mid century modern homes, prairie styles, Gothic, adobe and more rattle around in my brain. I thought about vine covered buildings like the photo below I took of an abandoned building I saw here in Florida.

If you're new to this blog you may not remember my lavender gift shop I designed and had built, shown below. The shop later evolved into my clay studio.

I still have a hard time seeing this photo, I miss my previous studio, but mostly I miss my gardens and my flowers ever so much. Due to a back injury and other circumstances beyond our control, like the economy and other things, we sold our lavender farm in California and moved to Florida.

Above is a photo of Gary and I in front of one of the perennial garden beds at our lavender farm. And here's some hollyhocks and a bird house in the herb garden there.

Some things are so hard to let go. I wonder if Gary feels the loss as much as I do. I know he misses working on his tractor and having the barn as his man cave. Perhaps if I build a few garden cottages and bird houses in clay I can work through my loss. Anyway I digress, or do I? No, I don't, it's all part of my work.

Years ago I did India ink drawings of architecture, (wish I had some of those drawings) and thoroughly enjoyed it, so it's only natural my love of architecture and my past life, gardens, travels, experiences, and art will influence my present work. As my thoughts rambled along like they often do, the idea of the painted ladies began to coalesce in my mind. I knew I could make pieces which would emulate the painted ladies I saw in San Francisco so many years ago. But before I could act on that thought, the word painted lady conjured up several more images in my mind. Images of painted lady butterflies came to mind.

Later thoughts of women and various make up styles surfaced and how dress styles have evolved for women over time popped up into my mind. I've spent weeks, lived years, thinking and letting my thoughts ramble. Ideas of buildings with bright colors, architectural embellishments, butterflies, women in various costumes, dresses, attitudes, stances, and more were swirling in my head. Words and phrases came to mind like 'up on a pedestal' 'green with envy' 'kindness' 'politics' 'seen and not heard' 'back biting' 'ethics' 'intellectual property' 'caring' 'barefoot and pregnant' 'value' 'public domain' 'feelings' 'women in the workplace' 'dominance' 'virtue' 'petty jealousy' 'good' 'modern woman'. The thoughts and ideas and words and feelings are unending.

Modern Woman, Robert Maestas

I wanted to get my ideas and concepts in print today to help organize myself. These ideas, concepts and my feelings will overlap, blend, evolve, and eventually translate into numerous sketches, and then into new pieces in my ceramic art. Thanks for reading, for being supportive, and for taking the time to comment here on my blog.


  1. Clever tie in with the "painted ladies" buildings and Maestas' version.
    Your lavender farm looks just idyllic. I can see why the nostalgia.

  2. Hi Patti, thanks, yeah years of working in offices with all the negativity and politics had me move to landscaping and then on to clay, I try to stay positive and to surround myself with happy thoughts now instead of negative but sometimes negative or unhappy memories crop up now and again.

  3. Love the pictures of your lavender farm. I'm sure you do miss it. Looking forward to seeing more of your shrines. Love those SF Painted Ladies!
    You and Gary should visit Charleston SC and take a look at 'Rainbow Row.' -

  4. Lovely post, lovely blog. Hello, I saw your comment at Gigi's just now. You find some wonderful, new places to visit that way and I am glad I stopped by. Great photos and your Lavender Farm is very pretty with its gardens, I can understand how you must miss them. I felt that way when we moved from San Diego to our present home 20 years ago. It took me a long time to feel settled.

  5. Linda- this is just a new chapter you are writing in your book of life.
    I love painted ladies and I am surprised when we spot one out here on a back road!
    It is a wonder we all sleep when the brain is wandering with all the possibilities.

  6. Hi Judy, thanks, we did visit Charleston on the way up to Meredith's but we must have missed Rainbow Row, we stayed at James Island, I wasn't able to walk that far then so maybe that's why we missed it. We hope to be able to travel again soon, and we better make it soon the way fuel prices are going. Ha.

  7. Hi Denise, thanks, oh I can see why you miss San Diego, the climate there is wonderful and the zoo and all the gardens, I live there as a child and remember I loved it, all the cottages and bungalows I just wish there was an arboretum near here I could visit. San Francisco's Golden Gate Park had the most wonderful gardens to visit and even though I lived in a city there I could visit the park and get away from it all, and the ocean and the zoo. Here I am still discovering and hoping to find places to take refuge away from our home. I've moved around a lot but still it takes time to adjust especially as I get older. Thanks for stopping by and commenting; I'll come by your blog for a visit.

  8. Hi Meredith, thanks, yes a new chapter, every day seems to be one, your back roads have some great places to visit. I remember driving by a church near your home with some great gothic windows and I've thought many times of building one similar. Gary and I took a trip to Eastern Oregon one time and we saw a church similar to the one near you and all the windows were gone but the church was still there it was rather sad to see it vacant and abandoned so, one of those old buildings would make a great studio wouldn't it? Yeah my brain wanders way to much for it's own good. Ha.

  9. I did think of the 3 color scheme when I was painting the outside of my studio, I just didn't realize it had a name. Thanks for helping me learn something new today.

  10. Love reading your post...from houses to lavender. I think all your experiences will blend into the beauty of your clay work. I'm also doing forms that might be used in the well as replicas of plants and birds and animals to have in the house. Blending nature with our human lives. We have the blessing of all our experiences to help us create. You are doing some inspirational things. Thanks for sharing with me.

  11. I really enjoy seeing your work and I loved this post and learning a little more about your creative processes. I am sorry that you still miss your lavender farm - I sometimes still feel that about our previous house (it was my forever home) but my husband had a different dream and we moved. I am happy, but there is still that small sadness which crops up very occasionally.

    Really fascinating post. Thanks Linda!

  12. I think Barbara said it best..."your experiences will blend into the beauty of your clay work"... Beautiful way of putting it. I was going to say, try to stay in the present, blah, blah, blah...till I read her comment. Good post Linda.

  13. Your flowers looked so pretty! I lived in SF from Sept-Dec 1968 and hated the fog and gloom. That was the 1st leg of my round the world adventure and I'll always remember the wild parties I attended there.

  14. I can understand how you miss your Lavender farm... the pictures are beautiful.
    When I lived in Wilton, NH there was a HUGE victorian mansion on my road. It was white for many years and then was sold, the new owners repainted it in the painted ladies tradition. I thought it was beautiful, some of the other neighbors weren't so keen on it.

  15. Hi Linda!
    Beautiful houses. Your lavendel farm was so wonderful, understand that you missing it.
    Love to you.

  16. You have an amazing history in the creative arts! And, obviously you're only beginning. I loved the photos of your gardens and the hollyhocks. I miss seeing hollyhocks all over like there used to be when I was a kid.

  17. What a lovely post and your lavender farm and gardens are beautiful! I can understand why you miss being there. Love that photo of you and Gary, too, and those painted ladies are awesome!

  18. Hi Lori, thanks, I think the three color scheme works with some types of architecture, but others not so well, my neighborhood now it wouldn't work.

    Hi Barbara, thanks, yes you are so right all of our previous experiences and ideas influence what we do not in clay.

    Hi Elaine, thanks, I know what you mean about how sometimes the small sadness does crop up, but I sure don't miss all the work keeping that place up. Good part is I have more time for clay now.

    Hi Turquoisemoon, thanks, yes Barbara said it well. Yes stay in the present, this was all tipped off by a person from the past trying to contact me, I'll write about that soon. I haven't forgotten your clay mosaic pieces, I am bad for not sending them but I will smash some today.

    Hi Gigi, thanks, I attended some pretty good parties in SF too. round the world adventure, I envy that.

    Hi Michele, thanks, yes I imagine some neighborhoods wouldn't like a really brightly colored home. there were a few of those in Berkeley and sometimes I drive through various neighborhoods and there is one house that stands out like a sore thumb. At least the painted ladies are all complementing each other.

    Hi Gudrun, thanks, yes it was a beauty and a dream of mine I had to give up but on to the present and future.

    Hi Ms. Sparrow, thanks, yes hollyhocks are so wonderful and not often planted nowadays, I'd try some here, but the winds would probably blow them over.

    Hi Marguerite, thanks, that photos was taken by the local newspaper for the town we were in of about 1500 people and the zinnea flowers behind were so wonderful all summmer long. Yea the painted ladies are great to see in person too or for that matter any old restored neighborhood.


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