Thursday, April 23, 2009



An old box was among several items that I bought at an estate sale several years ago. When I opened the tattered, antique container, I found newspaper clippings, old letters, and keys – fragments of a family’s life. I learned a great deal about these people by the simple mementos someone had hidden away. More than just satisfying my idle curiosity about a family, this discovery inspired me to create a series of objets d’art named "Sepias."

To create my Sepias, I started with an old photograph, preferably one of the sepia-tinted photographs so common in the 1800’s. Then, I made a pouch for the photo using an antique-looking fabric. Within each pouch I placed other items, often antiques themselves, depicting a life I imagined the woman in the photograph might have lived. The items acted as a catalyst to jolt my intuition into action. Then, I wrote a vignette from the woman’s life as I imagined it from my study of her photograph. This, too, was placed in the pouch.

When I started this series, I thought it would be fun to offer sequels to my readers. I told them I intended to send the next episode in each woman’s life as the stories unfolded to me. However, I stopped creating the series after only 2 of the first 3 sold. I couldn't sell the last one for some reason even though I personally loved the story of Jessica Whaltman. She is still up for grabs if anyone is interested. If I sell her, I'll probably be inspired to continue the series, but I'm not so sure about the sequels.

Here, I'm including the story of an Italian-looking woman from one of my original Sepias. I called this woman Benedetta.



My darling Benedetta,

I looked up your name in the dictionary today and found that Benedetta means blessed. Your parents must have known even when you were an infant how truly blessed they were, for you are, my dear one, truly a blessing.

Our chance meeting in Perugia two years ago, when I was attending university there, changed my life completely. I would like to have slowed time to a halt that year so that I could remain in your presence forever, but, as you know, my career called me back to the new world, even though my own Italian heritage beckoned me to stay in the old country with you. I would never have guessed that a vast ocean would keep me from the happiness that I had finally found.

Enough about my sorrows, dear one. Please be so kind as to tell me how your life has been going. Has your father found more workers for his food distribution business? I was amazed when I saw all those huge drums of cheese he keeps stored in his warehouse. And those kegs of wine! Is your mama still making that wonderful gnocci that I couldn't get enough of? How lucky you have been to grow up in such an atmosphere. There is no race, even if I do say so myself, quite as wonderful as the Italians. I guess it is the importance that they give to the family that makes them that way. Of course, that was our problem, wasn't it? Your parents will never allow you to leave Italy. We both know that. We also know that you, sweet Benedetta, would never be able, no matter how much you love, to leave them either.

It is with a heavy heart and hand that I must continue this letter. I must tell you of a choice I have made which left me with many a sleepless night. I have become engaged to my law partner's daughter. We are to be wed in June. Her name is Keely O'Sullivan. She is very Irish, with a temper much like her father. I fear that I will never find the happiness with her that we shared during our year together, but somehow I know that life must go on and our separate worlds will never allow us to be together. I can only hope and pray, dear one, that you will find contentment and peace of mind and someone to share your life with in this sometimes strange world we live in.

Please forgive me if I have deceived you in any way. You know that it would never be my intention to hurt you if I could avoid doing so. I will keep your garter and the few pearls from the strand we broke that night. They will remind me of my broken heart I guess.

I must admit something to you in closing, my darling girl. I still love you and always will.

Your Sebastian



This is the story of my poor orphan sepia that never sold.


Dear Diary,

As sure as my name is Jesica Marabel Waltman, I swear what I am about to write to you, dear diary, is positively true. Being a 16-year-old girl from a little town like this in West Virginia, who will believe me anyway other than you diary. No one believes kids my age anymore. The problem is, I can't even tell anyone about what I found for fear of getting everyone in this town up in arms.

I followed the meanderin little path past the out house today for a simple stroll. It was a beautiful spring day and I finished all my chores and decided to take my sketch book down to the river to do a little drawin. I noticed something at the corner of it that drew my eye in that direction. I didn't want to put my hand in all that jungle weedy underbrush but I just had to see what it was. It took me a full 30 minutes just to dig it out, and when I did, I even cut my hand on the dang thing. It was a small trunk. Not the kind that I've seen the rich people load around with all the fancy latches on it, but a ragged looking thing that looked like something someone had purposely buried. Now is when it gets exciting. There was a real key inside the keyhole and it was just beggin me to open it. I did and found the most exciting treasures I have ever seen.

The first thing I pulled out was this strange kind of purse. It was actually made of feathers! I can't imagine what anyone would use it for. I opened it and there seemed to be bits of tobacco left inside. This purse rolled into a little pouch that looked like it could be hidden away in a pocket somewhere. I started wondering if it could have been carried by one of the trappers that used to travel this way. Next, I pulled out some foreign looking coins and a few pieces of sassafras that looked like someone had chewed them to bits. But now it really gets exciting. There was a picture inside of an old bearded man. This man looks exactly like the one people used to talk about in these parts. He looks like the man who held up all the banks up in Charleston. Rumor was that he drifted into town from Missouri somewhere. They said he got away with loads of money and gold! Now, here is where the problem begins. I found that gold in this trunk! I have decided to tell no one about it and keep it hidden right where I found it. Lord knows, diary, how I have been aching to break away from this place. I am so sick of these coal mines and all the blasted accidents. I have inhaled so much coal dust that my whole insides must be black! I am going to make my escape very soon diary. I don't know where I am going diary but I am leaving soon. Anywhere has to be better than here. I will write to you again soon as I get to where I am going.


I'm showing here the contents of Jessica's pouch which includes (left to right): An old feather purse, picture of trapper, key for trunk and piece of bark. As you can imagine, these items go well with the story and are quite unique, especially the feather purse. (which may also be valuable.)

If anyone is interested in purchasing her, you can e-mail me at . The price is $78.00 plus $5.00 shipping. I accept Master Card, American Express, Visa, and Discover cards or checks. I never have any of the items I collect appraised. I have a feeling the feather pouch is worth a lot of money. If my hunch is correct and you find out that it is, please enjoy your windfall.

I have just finished two additional Sepias. Tess and Adeline..yep..I'm at it again. These are absolutely addictive although time consuming.

Tess (from the Roaring 20's-she is a very spirited gal).

The beadwork on the front is extremely old and most likely from that era. Inside the purse I have placed a pearl necklace and hair net, shown on the left.
Click here to view Tess at my Etsy shop

Adeline is a schoolmarm from the 1800's
Click here to view Adeline at my etsy shop

Contents from Adeline's purse include a very ancient-looking
leather sewing pouch and leather curlers used way back when.

I promised to have the story of my experience with the Hopi Indian tribe today but I was not happy with my scanned images. This was an incredible encounter and deserves pictures equal to it. I'll proceed with that story soon!

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