Dutch Indigo and White Porcelain

Blue and white … two colors that have  vast amounts of shade and nuance … two colors that compliment and contrast each other.

Tuareg nomad, Jingdezhen ceramics, cobalt pigment, izat fabric, indigo bunting










white camellia, cumulus clouds, snowy owl, South Sea pearls, winter snow

This spring the Melchers Museum Shop will showcase indigo blue and white porcelain, reminiscent of Gari and Corinne Melcherses’ antique Delft and Chinese Export ceramics.
From Vagabond Vintage, indigo-dyed throws with Kantha stitches and hand-painted ceramics.
From one of our favorite vendors, Roost, we have an unique selection of porcelain dishes in fantastic new designs and shapes.
Creative Co-op blue and white designs are presented in bowls, plates and paper boxes.
Etched vases and votive holders, as well as delightful cornflower vases, come again from Roost.

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Just follow Albert Einstein’s suggestion …

 “The secret to creativity is knowing how to hide your sources.”

To encourage those whose creative spirit is on the rise this new year, the Melchers Museum Shop may have just the thing to push you on your way…wonderful books that can be your source for those secrets of creativity. 

 Simon Jennings two titles, The New Artist’s Manual and Artist’s Color Manual,  are GREAT references for any artist’s library.  Hands down. GREAT BOOKS.  Perfect for getting your mind  and studio prepared and organized.

These color guides are perfect as a ready reference to answer that color dilemma.

Ian Sidaway’s Color Mixing Bible and another Simon Jennings’ title,  Artist’ Little Book of Colour.

Now, to pick your medium.  If  the fluidity of watercolors is your choice, these titles should interest you.

The Figure in Watercolor by Mel Stabin and Painting Vibrant Watercolors by Soon Y. Warren

Perhaps you prefer the richness of oil paints.  Whether you are a traditionalist or enjoy breaking away from the pack, the Museum Shop has the books to inspire.

Radiant Oils by Arleta Pech   and  Virgil Elliott’s Traditional Oil Painting

For those who like to create with paper and pencil need to look  at  Alyona  Nickelsen’s Colored Pencil Painting Bible.  Amazing. 

Or be absolutely amazed at Albert Handell’s book, Painting the Landscape in Pastel.

Become inspired by the quality of light and how to reproduce it in 2-dimension.  The use of light is what adds drama and tension into a work and these two authors are masters at its use.

Al Gury’s Alla Prima   and   Classic Still Life Painting by Jane Jones

Or is portrait painting your desire?  These books can open the doors to the secrets of capturing a human likeness with brush, paint, and canvas.

Painting Portraits and Figures in Watercolor by Mary Whyte  and Suzanne Brooker’s resource, Portrait Painting Atelier

If you are a gardener who gardens with their eyes and with paintbrush  in hand, these are the books for you.  And, I hope, the gardens and grounds at Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont are where you come to practice your craft. ( By March the gardens will begin to bloom.)

Botanical Drawing in Color by Wendy Hollender  and Botanical Illustration Course with the Eden Project by Rosie Martin and Meriel Thurstan

And another thing  Albert said that is worth remembering …

”  A person who never made a mistake never tried anything new.”

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Book Reviews #9: How To Survive the Titanic


Award-winning historian Frances Wilson delivers a gripping new account of the sinking of the RMS Titanic, looking at the collision and its aftermath through the prism of the demolished life and lost honor of the ship’s owner, J. Bruce Ismay. In a unique work of history evocative of Joseph Conrad’s classic novel Lord Jim, Wilson raises provocative moral questions about cowardice and heroism, memory and identity, survival and guilt—questions that revolve around Ismay’s loss of honor and identity as his monolithic venture—a ship called “The Last Word in Luxury” and “The Unsinkable”—was swallowed by the sea and subsumed in infamy forever.

Books have been written and films have been made, we have raised the Titanic and watched her go down again on numerous occasions, but out of the wreckage Frances Wilson spins a new epic: when the ship hit the iceberg on April 14, 1912, and one thousand men, lighting their last cigarettes, prepared to die, J. Bruce Ismay, the ship’s owner and inheritor of the White Star fortune, jumped into a lifeboat filled with women and children and rowed away to safety.

Accused of cowardice and of dictating the Titanic’s excessive speed, Ismay became, according to one headline, “The Most Talked-of Man in the World.” The first victim of a press hate campaign, he never recovered from the damage to his reputation, and while the other survivors pieced together their accounts of the night, Ismay never spoke of his beloved ship again.

In the Titanic’s mail room was a manuscript by that great narrator of the sea, Joseph Conrad, the story of a man who impulsively betrays a code of honor and lives on under the strain of intolerable guilt. But it was Conrad’s great novel Lord Jim, in which a sailor abandons a sinking ship, leaving behind hundreds of passengers in his charge, that uncannily predicted Ismay’s fate. Conrad, the only major novelist to write about the Titanic, knew more than anyone what ships do to men, and it is with the help of his wisdom that Wilson unravels the reasons behind Ismay’s jump and the afterlives of his actions.

Using never-before-seen letters written by Ismay to the beautiful Marion Thayer, a first-class passenger with whom he had fallen in love during the voyage, Frances Wilson explores Ismay’s desperate need to tell his story, to make sense of the horror of it all, and to find a way of living with the consciousness of lost honor. For those who survived the Titanic, the world was never the same. But as Wilson superbly demonstrates, we all have our own Titanics, and we all need to find ways of surviving them.


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Book Reviews #8: Blood and Smoke


One hundred years ago, 40 cars lined up for the first Indianapolis 500. We are still waiting to find out who won.


The Indy 500 was created to showcase the controversial new sport of automobile racing, which was sweeping the country. Daring young men were driving automobiles at the astonishing speed of 75 miles per hour, testing themselves and their vehicles. It was indeed a young man’s game: with no seat belts, hard helmets or roll bars, the dangers were enormous.



When the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opened in 1909, seven people were killed, some of them spectators. Oil-slicked surfaces, clouds of smoke, exploding tires, and flying grit all made driving extremely hazardous, especially with the open-cockpit, windshield-less vehicles. Most drivers rode with a mechanic, who pumped oil manually while watching for cars attempting to pass. Drivers sometimes threw wrenches or bolts at each other during the race in order to gain an advantage. The night before an event, the racers would take up a collection for the next day’s new widows. Bookmakers offered bets not only on who might win but who might survive. Not all the participants in that first Indy 500 lived to see the checkered flag.


Although the 1911 Indy 500 judges declared Ray Harroun, driving a Marmon Wasp, the official winner, there is reason to doubt that result. The timekeeping equipment failed, and the judges had to run for their lives when a driver lost control and his car spun wildly toward their stand. It took officials two days to determine the results, and Speedway authorities ordered the records to be destroyed.



But Blood and Smoke is about more than a race, even a race as fabled as the Indianapolis 500. It is the story of America at the dawn of the automobile age, a country in love with speed, danger, and spectacle. It is a story, too, about the young men who would risk their lives for money and glory, the sportsmen whose antics would thrill and outrage Americans in those long-ago days when the automobile was still brand new.

Book summary courtesy the publisher, Simon and Schuster.

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Book Reviews #7: Abundant Beauty

A delightful and informative trek across the globe by a witty, intelligent, and courageous Victorian artist and adventurer.

Marianne North was born in 1830 in Hastings, England. The daughter of a politician, North was raised in a socially active and intellectually stimulating household. She cared for her parents until their deaths, taking on the role of her father’s housekeeper and travelling companion until he died in 1869.

In 1871, at age 41, Marianne North, an artist with a keen interest in botany, decided to travel the world on a quest to paint as many plants and flowers as she could find in their natural habitat. Encouraged by scientific friends such as Charles Darwin, North travelled by boat, train, mule, and palanquin and on foot to every continent except Antarctica. She circled the globe twice over fifteen years, parasol and easel in hand, and accumulated an extensive and valuable collection of paintings.

In 1882, North provided a building to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, to house her more than 800 works (showing more than 900 unique plant species); the Marianne North Gallery is still a centerpiece of the gardens and a popular destination. The scientific accuracy with which she documented plant life in all parts of the world, before photography became a practical option, gives her work a permanent value.

North also wrote detailed journals about her travels, which her sister collected and published in three volumes after her death. This book collects the best and most interesting writings from those journals in one volume. Included here are North’s notes of her adventures in Brazil, California, Japan, India, Borneo, Australia, South Africa, and Chile. In entertaining and enlightening prose, North not only provides rich descriptions of local botanical treasures but also regales readers with her delightful accounts of local people and customs, as well as her exhausting and sometimes dangerous travel.

High-spirited, indefatigable, and wise, Marianne North offers a precious window into Victorian culture and society, as well as a valuable and respected botanical record. Of interest to botanists, gardeners, historians, and armchair travellers, Abundant Beauty is a fascinating and informative read.


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Book Reviews #6: Good Living Street


Few people have heard of the Gallia family of fin de siecle Vienna, but few will forget their extraordinary story after reading Good Living Street, a rich and detailed portrait of a prominent  Jewish family living in Austria during a time of Jewish assimilation and affluence, in a contradictory world of rising anti-Semitism.  This book gives intimate details of the daily life of a patron family played out against a larger backdrop of history during one of the most devastating periods in Jewish history.

Tim  Bonyhady, the son of one of the few survivors of the Gallia family,  begins the story with the history of his family’s patriarch, Moriz Gallia, a successful businessman.  Like other Jews of Central Europe, he found economic opportunity in the large cities and came to Vienna to pursue his various and growing business interests.  His marriage to Hermine Hamburger produced four children, and Good Living Street focuses primarily on the story of their daughter Gretl and her daughter, Anne, the mother of the author.

The Gallias were like many other successful middle class Jews, who remained a part of the larger Jewish community but converted to Christianity in an effort to fully assimilate into the larger European culture.  Some of their children did receive instruction in Jewish life, but largely led a secular Christian life, celebrating Christmas and Easter while ignoring Jewish life and rituals.  Many chose atheism over any religion.  But sadly none of this would matter when the Nazis came to power.  The Gallias found that for all their efforts they were considered racially Jewish and had their money and possessions taken from them, while they were shipped to concentration camps.  Gretl, her daughter, and two of her siblings and their families were able to escape to Australia with many of their possessions.

This is also a story of the Secessionist art movement in the early 20th century and the accumulation of great works of art by affluent Jewish families. Much of this property was confiscated by the Nazis but the Gallia family managed to save much and transport it with them to Australia, including the very famous Gustav Klimt portrait of Hermine Gallia that now hangs in the National Gallery in London.

This book will give the reader a personal account of history during one of its darkest moments and the impact  it had upon the survival of one very interesting family.



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The Artist’s Shop Part One: Pencils, Paints, Charcoal and Crayons

One reason Gari Melchers Home and Studio is such a valuable educational asset, is its archives.  It is an archives not only of letters and receipts, photographs and newspapers, it is also a repository of Gari Melchers’ tools.  The palettes on which he mixed his paints are here with tubes and tubes of paints. Watercolor pans and stoppered jars of pigments give first-person account on how this artist worked. Sticks of pastels, in every shade imaginable, are tumbled in boxes, bearing the names of suppliers from over a hundred years ago.


Gari Melchers' tools displayed in his stone studio.


In the Melchers Museum Shop many of those same suppliers’ wares are available for purchase.  Winsor Newton, Sennelier, Grumbacher, Le Franc & Bourgeois, Conte are just a few of the makers whose tools Melchers used and we offer today.


An artist’s studies begins with the basic tools – the tools needed to learn the basics of design, composition, perspective, value and line.  Many artists stay with these basic tools and become the masters of them. 
Next the artist learns color.  They can begin with simply adding  pigmented pencils to their palette.



The next move is into pigments suspended in a semi-solid binders.  In other words, paints.  Many times novice artists will move into watercolors first, drawn to the transparent  fluidity of the media, unknowing that that fluidity is very hard to tame.


Variety of watercolors, from tubes to pans to pencils, transparent to opaque.

Ah, the Master. Oil paints.
The medium that can draw an artist in, seducing with the intensity of the color, the malleability of the body, and the forgiving slow nature allowing time  for expression. The accompanying smell of linseed oil can be quite the intoxicating mistress.


The Melchers Museum Shop offers Rembrant oils by Le Franc & Bourgeois; Sennelier – the premier French company, whose paints the Impressionists used; and M Graham, the new breed, whose vibrant, intense pigments are held together with walnut oil as a binder, the same binder daVinci would have used.


The one medium Melchers did not use was acrylic paints. Developed in the 1940′s, paint manufacturers are still refining their products, responsing to the needs and desires of artists.  One complaint with acrylics had been their too rapid drying time.  Golden Paint has developed their new “Open” line, with long drying times, allowing for manipulation as with oils.


Grumbacher, Golden, M Graham and Liquitex Basics are a sample of acrylic paints available.

For the artist with the true hand comes  pastel.  Pastel is pure pigment (NOT CHALK), the same pigment used in making all fine art paints.  Pastel that has not been sprayed with fixative, that contains no liquid binder that may cause other media to darken, yellow, crack or blister with time, will stay pure in color. Pastels from the 16th century exist today as fresh as the day they were painted. The pure, powdered pigment is ground into a paste with a small amount of gum binder, then rolled into sticks. The infinite variety of colours in pastel range from soft and subtle to strong and brilliant.


Degas used Sennelier's soft Pastels a L'ecu and Picasso worked with Sennelier to develop oil pastels, Pastels a L'huile


Please visit the Melchers Museum Shop for these and many other types and brands of quality art supplies.  In blogs to follow : Tools of the Trade for Artists, Surfaces, and Books for the Artist.

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Book Reviews #5: The Longest Winter: Scott’s Other Heroes

Robert Falcon Scott’s Northern Party played an integral role in his iconic last expedition, but how did they survive? Through the eyes of the men involved, Meredith Hooper recounts one of the greatest tales of adventure and endurance, which has often been overshadowed by the tragedy which befell Scott. Their tents were torn, their food was nearly finished and the ship had failed to pick them up as planned. Gale-force winds blew, bitter with the cold of approaching winter.

Stranded and desperate, the six men of the Northern Party faced disaster. Searching out a snow drift they burrowed inside. Lieutenant Victor Campbell drew a line across the floor in the gloom to establish naval order: three officers on one side, the three seamen on the other. A birthday was celebrated with a carefully hoarded biscuit and they sang hymns every Sunday, so what kept these men going? Circumstances forced them closer together, their roles blurred and a shared sense of reality emerged.

 This mutual suffering made them indivisible and somehow they made it through the longest winter. To the south, the men waiting at hadquarters knew that the Polar Party must be dead and hoped that another six men would not be added to the death toll. Working from expedition diaries, journals and letters written by expedition members, Meredith Hooper tells the intensely human story of Scott’s other expedition.


Book summary courtesy of the publisher, John Murray, London.

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Book Reviews #4: The Man Who Invented Christmas

[This review by Marjorie Kehe from the Christian Science Monitor’s archives originally ran on Dec. 23, 2008.]

On the evening of Oct. 5, 1843, things were looking bleak for 31-year-old Charles Dickens. Even though he was the superstar author of the wildly popular “The Pickwick Papers” and “The Adventures of Oliver Twist” – and that evening’s keynote speaker at an important charitable event – inside the man was in turmoil.

As young celebrities often do, Dickens (the father of five) had overspent. After a string of successful books, the great writer suddenly seemed to lose his way. He produced a couple of duds – and then slipped into debt.

Debt was a particularly horrifying prospect for Dickens. As a boy he watched his father go to jail for unpaid bills, a searing experience of which he would write, “I never afterwards forgot, I shall never forget, I never can forget.”

By 1843, Dickens was mired in woes. “[H]is marriage was troubled, his career tottering, his finances ready to collapse,” writes Les Standiford. The fabled author was even asking himself if he should give up fiction writing.

What happened next seems a kind of Victorian-era Christmas miracle.

After making his speech, Dickens wandered disconsolately through the dark streets of Manchester. But as he walked, an idea for a story suddenly came to him. If he could quickly turn that story into a book – a Christmas story in time for the season – perhaps he could earn £1,000. Such a sum, he reckoned, might extricate him from debt.

So, as Les Standiford recounts in The Man Who Invented Christmas: How Charles Dickens’s ‘A Christmas Carol’ Rescued His Career and Revived Our Holiday Spirits, in just six weeks Dickens sat down and wrote a classic of Western literature.

The story of the churlish Ebenezer Scrooge, the endearing family of his impoverished clerk Bob Cratchit, and Scrooge’s moral transformation after visits from a series of ghosts, did more than restore Dickens’s reputation. The book, which, at the turn of the 20th century was thought to have more readers than any book other than the Bible, is still one of the best known works in the English language.

But even beyond that, argues Standiford, who is an author and director of the Creative Writing Program at Florida International University, “A Christmas Carol”profoundly changed the way we celebrate the Christmas holiday. “If Dickens did not invent Christmas,” he writes, “he certainly reinvented it.”

Before “A Christmas Carol,” Standiford explains, Christmas was “a relatively minor affair that ranked far below Easter, causing little more stir than Memorial Day or St. George’s Day does today.”

For many Christians of the period, Christmas had uncomfortably pagan associations and they preferred to keep it low-key. Certainly, Standiford points out, “There were no Christmas cards in 1843 England, no Christmas trees … no Christmas turkeys … no weeklong cessation of business affairs, no orgy of gift-giving … no plethora of midnight services celebrating the birth of a savior.”

Apart from the Christmas turkey, “A Christmas Carol” did not actually feature any of the above. But it did, as Standiford explains, give a fresh gloss to some traditional Christmas elements of the time: “[B]lazing fireplaces, mince pies and wassail bowls, carol-singing, plum puddings, holly sprigs, mistletoe, fiddling and dancing.”

The effect of “A Christmas Carol,” Standiford claims, “was to make the incorporation of such elements seem obligatory for anyone’s Christmas.”

In addition, says Standiford, the story’s focus on charity, goodwill, and the hope of redemption offered a different kind of gift to Victorian England: It created “a secular counterpart to the story of the Nativity.”

Ironically, however, that first Christmas, his book seemed to have failed him. Although it was an immediate success and sold out in four days, Dickens had underestimated the expenses of its printing and he made only a little more than £100 on that first edition.

He was left to marvel that, “[S]uch a great success should occasion me such intolerable anxiety and disappointment.” Even the many theatrical adaptations that rapidly sprang up (on Feb. 5, 1844, three productions opened simultaneously in London) were of little financial benefit to Dickens as at that time there were no copyright laws to protect his work.

In the end, of course, it didn’t really matter. Dickens had regained his reputation (and his confidence) and he went on to write “David Copperfield”, “Great Expectations,” and the string of other classic titles that have never – to this day – gone out of print. Never again, however, did he have great success with a Christmas book (although he tried several more times, with long-since forgotten works like “The Chimes” and “The Battle of Life.”)

Of course, over time “A Christmas Carol” brought Dickens huge remuneration. (Toward the end of his life he liked to read it aloud in public and could easily fill a theater with sobbing listeners eager to pay for the privilege of hearing him) and it is still honored as one of his greatest creations.

Interestingly, however, Standiford notes, “A Christmas Carol,”as widely read as it is and has always been, it receives relatively little commentary from literary critics.

Perhaps, he suggests, Dickens’s contemporary, William Makepeace Thackery (normally a tough critic himself) explained it best when he said: “Who can listen to objections regarding such a book as this? It seems to me a national benefit, and to every man or woman who reads it, a personal kindness.”

Charles Dickens as a Victorian Patriarch - Reading to His Daughters in the Garden

Marjorie Kehe is the Christian Science Monitor’sbook editor.


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Book Reviews #3: Osa and Martin: For the Love of Adventure

When visitors leave the Gari Melchers Home and Studio, one of the most lasting impressions  is the “love story”, the entwined lives of Gari and Corinne Melchers.  A twenty-year difference in ages did nothing to diminish the partnership, the bond between the two.  So, it is not surprising that we include the story of another partnership that went beyond the normal roles of husband and wife.


“Osa & Martin: For the Love of Adventure” by Kelly Enright tells the story of the small town boy who lures the young small town girl into a life of romance, adventure, and show biz. In 1906 Martin Johnson returns to his hometown of Lincoln, Kansas to give a slide and variety show focusing on his adventures in the South Seas. At first the 16 year-old Osa is put off by Martin’s arrogance, but within one month, the couple marries in Kansas City off they go — all over the world and back again.

Courtesy of the Martin and Osa Johnson Safari Museum


Enright was drawn into this amazing love story by Osa’s 1939 autobiography, “I Married Adventure,” standing out in a zebra print binding. The book recalled their honeymoon in the South Seas, adventures in Africa and fund raising tours of the Vaudeville Circuit in America. Osa was the first woman to get an African hunting license and her autobiography became a New York Times bestseller. It was optioned for the movies and Osa was the star, but sadly, was not much of an actor.


Their legacy is evident in the American Museum of Natural History, in the founding of the National Wildlife Federation, in film and photographic archives (some 20 movies and 70 series shows).  Enright’s portrait of a couple who could make a home anywhere in the world will inspire Kansans to make a field trip to Osa’s hometown of Chanute and the museum that bears her name.

Book summary from the publisher,Lyons Press.






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