A guide to the Normandy Inn's collection of 19th and early 20th century "Ladies Handiwork"

The elegant dining room of the Normandy Inn is the setting for a varied and impressive collection of domestic craft know as " Ladies' Handiwork." According to the book "Collecting American Victorian Antiques:" "The Victorian lady was continually busy with 'art recreations,' the name given to all sorts of Victorian fancywork...including shell work, cone-work,. wax work, leather work, moss work, feather work, hair work and taxidermy." Directions could be obtained in publication such as Godey's Lady's Book dating from the mid-19th century. The examples at the Normandy Inn include decorative and sentimental remembrance collages.

Upon entering the dining room, the wall to the left features an oval frame with a brown-toned design, resembling flowers and pine cones, fashioned of human hair. Directions and patterns for creating such three-dimensional pictures specified the number of strands of hair required. Because hair does not deteriorate, it was well-suited for this type of craft. Carol McD.Wallace, In her book" Victorian Treasures," quotes from an 1860 article in Godey's: "Hair is at once the most delicate and lasting of our materials and survives us like love."

Moving along throughout the Inn, a circular case with a round wreath with a centered cabbage rose design has an image in the form of a moth at its center. An adjacent oval with a gilded band holds a wreath of tiny white and cream-colored wax flowers was a memorial for "our darling Eddie." It is thought to date from the 1800's and bears a Philadelphia label.

The wall to the South features an artful display of more collages, all set in wooden shadowbox frames. The first is a crescent-shaped wreath of string art with a centered corsage on a wire armature, with hand-wrapped metal curlings. 
Next within a large oval, is a wreath made of artfully-trimmed white chicken feathers. The green leaves are dyed feathers also, trimmed with a pinking shears.

In a large rectangular shadowbox frame is a graceful sheaves of wheat, bound in a purple bow. This is believed to be a memorial or mourning piece.
A square frame contains a brightly colored wreath of dyed natural cotton and wool yarn.
Above is a circular wreath with a portrait memorial with wax elements. Molds for individual forms could be purchased from which to fashion the graceful flowers.

The large oval to the right features a crescent-shaped wreath comprised of dyed natural cotton balls. I noted that the leaves were also fashioned of cotton, combed and splayed.
The guilt & gesso oblong frame contains an oval design of glass beads, hair and crochet. The leaves appear to be fashioned of cut velvet.
In a small oval frame is a hand-woven flower basket, containing a bouquet of colorful exotic feather plumes.
An oval frame contains another crescent design in dyed natural cotton creating multi-colored blossoms and blooms.
The diminutive gilded frame contains a miniature dried flower arrangement in a flower basket.
A large square frame encloses a spectacular, crescent-shaped feather work wreath. I noticed the realistically detailed lilies, fabricated from feathers, and the dyed leaves of cut feathers.

Planking the china closet of the dining room is one silver-toned, teardrop-shaped hair work wreath in a silver frame featuring flowers with delicate petals.
To the right of the china closet is a large rectangular shadowbox frame containing a colorful vegetable-dyed natural cotton with a central corsage design. It features coiled tendrils and salmon-pink lilies.
The final selection is a large, crescent-shaped feather work wreath, possibly with a corsage inset at its center, with lacy, chrysanthemum like flowers.

Prepared by Patricia F. Colrick, Preservation & interpretation.

Note: If A pictures speaks a 1000 words  I guess a visit to the Normandy Inn is a must, because words can not express the beauty that lies within. Hope you can visit soon! Normandy Inn.com

Innkeeper, Michael Ingino
21 Turtle Ave.
Spring Lake, NJ 07762
1 800 449-1888
normandy@bellatlantic.net