Friday, 21 November 2014

Sepia Saturday 255: Handcrafts

Well I don't know any silhouette artists like the picture for this weeks Sepia Saturday, but my great great grandmother, Mary, was into handcrafts such as embroidery.  So I'm posting a photo of her with some other ladies who also look like they were into embroidery and other crafts.

From left to right:  Jessie Susan Wright nee Harris and two children, unknown girl, Mary Lord nee Meng and likely her daughter Elise May Lord (known as May), unknown child and woman.

This photo was most likely taken in Ohoka, as Jessie and Mary lived in Ohoka at this time (around 1898).  The unknown girl of about age sixteen has a black band around her white sleeve, indicating that a family member has recently died.

The woman on the right who is unnamed, has some close relationship to Mary as she is in a family wedding photo that I own.  I have no idea who she is however!  Very frustrating.

I like the way the photo is set up.  It is casual but has a sheepskin on the ground for the children to sit on and a couple of cushions, also a rug I think, to add a tiny bit of luxury.  Behind are what look like some hollyhocks and climbers going up a fence.  Where the photo was taken exactly, I have no idea, but it was likely in Ohoka in someones back garden.  I like the way the babies in the photo have gone blurry as they wouldn't sit still long enough to capture their wee faces correctly.  So they are still a blur over 100 years later.

The Harris and Meng families must have been very close and were friends their whole lives.  Mary and the Harris girls would have gone to Ohoka School together in the 1870s.  I can imagine them as young Mums getting together to do their craft work and have a cup of tea occasionally!

We still have many pieces of craft work done by Mary.  I'm guessing she probably did the dress on May Lord who is sitting on her lap.


  1. A lovely group portrait, but having to sit still must have been a real problem for photographers and their subjects, 'back in the dark ages'.

  2. Yes they look ‘crafty’ to me too!

  3. Charming photo, for sure. I wonder what that fur piece is the lady on the right is holding or sitting on -- it seems to have devoured her arm. I hope you learn the story of this group of ladies and children. I'm wondering about the relationship of the girl in mourning to the other women. Judging by her skirt length, she must have been quite a bit younger than them.

    1. Oh, I never noticed the fur devouring her arm! I was wondering if it was fur or a sheepskin, either dyed or from a black sheep. I can't imagine huge fur rugs being that common in NZ in the 1890s but maybe they were? Anyone know? We don't have any native large mammals in this country and certainly no bears or anything furry, only what has been introduced by humans (e.g. rabbits, possums etc). We did have a lot of sheep in this country way back though.

  4. The older (and fatter) I get, the more I marvel at those women and their costumes. We live in such free and easy days nowadays. But their fashion makes for more visually interesting photos I think. And I love the blurry babies - a sign of life!

  5. Great old family photo! I'm fascinated by vintage photography, especially the clothing and hairstyles as anyone who has seen my blog will tell you. This was obviously taken by a professional photographer as fur rugs were a usual prop used by photographers of this time period and they often photographed people outdoors.

  6. A lovely old photo & like Alex, looking at the women in those long mutton-sleeved dresses & long skirts, I think how lucky I am to be able to run around in cutoffs, a t-shirt, & bare feet!

  7. I also am glad that I don't have to wear dresses like those women.

  8. A wonderful photograph. It would make an interesting contrast to pose women and children of today for a similar photo. I don't think present day fashion would have the same classic quality.

    And as for me I am also glad that I don't have to wear dresses like those women.

  9. Casual, but so well executed. the quality of the photograph is fantastic - a tribute to what photographers could achieve all those years ago.

  10. A great group photograph. We would be hard put to put such a group together these days.