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Michael Ingino --Collection

A guide to the Normandy Inn's Collection of 19th and 20th Century
Ladies Handiwork.

The elegant dining room of the Normandy Inn is the setting for a varied and impressive collection of domestic craft  known 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 publications such as Godey's Lady 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 Med. 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.

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 1880'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. Note the hand-wrapped metal curling. 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. Note that the leaves were also fashioned of  cotton, combed and splayed.

The gilt and 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 a 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. Note 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 Colrick, Preservation & Interpretation

You can visit the Normandy Inn in Spring Lake, NJ
800 449-1888

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