Don’t you just love how our devotion to, and fascination for tea, amazingly seems to be never-ending? I sure do!
With a great sense of appreciation for the works of the architect, Frank Lloyd Wright, I had the occasion several years ago to visit one of his homes that is open to the public for viewing in Chicago. Actually, on a walking tour of that neighborhood in Oak Park, you can see several homes designed by Mr. Wright, but what made me chuckle with amusement and delight beyond the man’s great talent, was to discover that Mr. Wright dyed the natural grass-cloth wallpaper in the dining room of his home and studio – with Earl Grey tea.
That was again one of those moments for affirming that my preoccupation with tea definitely had some merit. But wait – it gets better!
In the gift shop of the same home, I was drawn to something called, “Taking Tea with Mackintosh.” It was the name that caught my attention. They were a set of note cards that featured art work by a Scottish contemporary of Wright, but I didn’t know that until today!
As I was looking for inspiration on what to write for this month’s post, the note cards were sitting right in front of me – calling me to pay attention. I picked them up and studied each individually. I decided to research the artist, Charles Rennie Mackintosh and his wife, Margaret MacDonald Mackintosh.
I had to marvel at my findings. Both Wright and Mackintosh are said to be very influential in the Arts and Crafts Movement (a personal favorite) but in different ways.
What was Mackintosh famous for? Designing tea rooms, of course! Apparently, a rather enterprising woman from the late nineteenth century in Glasgow, Scotland – a Miss Catherine Cranston – wanted to create something refined that offered respite from the alcoholic taverns of the day. She hired the young architect (Mackintosh) to design the interiors of her tea rooms, including wall decorations and furniture. His wife, Margaret, an artist and designer herself, helped with Miss Cranston’s vision.
Charles Rennie Mackintosh did not become famous during his lifetime, as Frank Lloyd Wright did. There was a brief appreciation for his work and the tea rooms he created while he was alive, but it is believed he died in relative obscurity in London, England. How sad, indeed.
His work and designs, as well as those of his wife, were significant in the Art Nouveau Movement, also. His tea room designs were softened with flowing feminine lines and floral motifs, along with clearly a Japanese influence; his work is now greatly appreciated and revered in Glasgow, Scotland, as well as worldwide.
Taking Tea with Mackintosh: The Story of Miss Cranston’s Tea Rooms, is a book by Perilla Kinchin, and you guessed it, I’ll be looking for that next!
On the back of the note cards I bought in 2007 are recipes from Miss Cranston’s tea rooms for scones, oatcakes, perkins and shortbread. Yes, I’ll be giving some of those recipes a try, too!
Purchased some eight years ago, the note cards have been sitting on my desk recently. Occasionally, I send one by classic mail to my daughter who is away studying at art college. I knew she would immediately relish the styles of these two artists. They have inspired me today to look into Mr. & Mrs. Mackintosh with a new sense of appreciation for how the twists and turns of this delightful beverage has once again, led me down another fascinating path.
You gotta love that! I hope you will check them out, too.
Images courtesy of Dharlene Fahl.