William Shakespeare anniversary

Detail of a vintage William Shakespeare tea towel | H is for Home

It was the 400th anniversary of the death of William Shakespeare this week. There’s been lots of Shakespeare related stuff in theatre-land, in the papers and on on TV. To commemorate the occasion, the BBC is running a Shakespeare Festival.

Vintage William Shakespeare tea towel | H is for Home

This is our humble offering – a pretty vintage tea towel that we picked up this week – good timing! Made of pure Irish linen, it was produced for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust and designed by Julia Killingback – probably in the 1970s.

We’ve previously seen this tea towel in shades of yellow & orange, but never in this lovely blue & purple colourway. It’s unused and in excellent condition – very suitable to frame and display. Drop us a line if you can give it a good home – £8 plus P & P.

Measure for Pleasure

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section of a vintage metric measure tea towel

We recently featured some lovely vintage tea towels that we’d bought at auction. We’ve just acquired another one that we thought we’d share with you lovers of design from this era. This one dates from the late 60s/early 70s and features imperial & metric measurements.

section of a vintage metric measure tea towel

Here it is in its spectacular entirety! It might only be a humble tea towel, but it’s really a period artwork. Fabulous design & wonderful colours. We think they’re great value – you can pick up unused examples like this one for about £20 – less if your lucky. Nicely framed for another £30 or so – and you’ve got a vintage, original and distinctive wall decoration for £50. Your piece of art might even be unique – most tea towels were actually used and thrown away when they became tatty. You might have the only one left!!

vintage metric measures tea towel

This one has gone into our own growing collection of textiles – now that would be a major framing bill! This one’s heading to the top of the pile though, as we really fancy it in our orange kitchen!

Tammis Keefe teatowel

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detail from a Tammis Keefe teatowel with red & white hearts and the words, "Home is where the heart is"

We’ve long admired the designs of Tammis Keefe. No relation to Justin, although you may not have to go too far back in history before their family trees meet. It’s interesting that her middle name was Thomas – and her father’s name was Thomas – and that she adopted the name Tammis which we think is a Gaelic form of Thomas. Justin has the same marked tradition of Thomas Keefes & O’Keeffes in his family. Father, grandfather, great grandfather, great-great grandfather – stretching back to the 18th century.

Tammis Keefe teatowel with red & white hearts and the words, "Home is where the heart is"

Anyway, we’ve promised ourselves an example of Tammis Keefe’s work many times and it arrived recently. It’s very dangerous buying that first piece as it can be the start of a mad collecting frenzy. We’ve resisted for years, but this gorgeous “Home is where the heart is” tea towel was just the final straw! We had this piece shipped over from the States where most examples are to be found. It will look great when framed and be perfect for the kitchen wall – combining a vintage touch with warm sentiments. There’s also something very Christmassy about it so we might even save it for festive season appearances.

Tammis Keefe teatowel showing her signature

Tammis Keefe was born Margaret Thomas Keefe in Los Angeles in 1913 and, after initially studying maths at college, transferred to the Chouinard Institute of Art where she studied painting. Her early career was spent at Disney Studios – she then moved onto the influential Arts & Architecture periodical. Then followed a spell in the studio of textile artist Dorothy Liebes who was well known for developing the work of young designers. This was obviously a significant move with regards to her future career.

detail from a Tammis Keefe teatowel with red & white hearts

Her work from the 40s & 50s is very distinctive – full of wonderful graphic detail, colour, charm & wit. It was used on a great variety of home furnishing textiles, tea towels, place mats, napkins & handkerchiefs. Also clothing, crockery & glassware, wallpaper, stationery, product advertising & packaging. Sadly, she died relatively young in 1961, but has left such a wonderful legacy. And we’re pretty sure that this won’t be the last piece we acquire!

Here’s a list of further reading and examples of her work:

NWFestival | Making it Fun | Tammis Keefe | Flickr group