Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Tattoos and linens. ohmy.

I have a tattoo. Just one. It sits on the lateral side of my thigh and unless I'm wearing shorts or a swimsuit, you'd never know it was there. It was my 35th birthday gift from my husband, who passed away the next year, so there's a good bit of sentiment attached to it.

Hank had three tattoos. I had always gone with him when he got his ink, and entertained myself by looking at flash (tattoo designs), talking to the artists, and watching the people that came in for tattoos or piercings. The very first time we were at the shop, I saw a photo of a small tattoo and for some reason the design had impact for me. It was very simple, just a small black ribbon that curled into the shape of a small bird, a dove. There was no way to know who had drawn the original art, but there was something that really called to me and I never forgot the picture.

Over the course of several years, we stopped in at the shop probably a dozen times, and in all that time, I never saw another design that I liked as much and when Hank suggested a tattoo as my gift for 1999, I knew right away what I wanted to do. When we went by to talk to the artist, he remembered the picture, and drew up a variation for me, adding a small heart. A couple of weeks later, I got the tattoo, and Hank added his last tattoo: a tribal band around his upper arm.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I've been collecting dishes for a lot of years, but linens are a fairly recent hobby. I've only been actively collecting tablecloths a couple of years, and there are certain makers and artists that I look for. eBay is a favorite haunt, as is Etsy, and it's not unusual for me to key "tablecloth" and "Tammis Keefe" or "Wilendur" or "Calaprint" in hopes of finding some new treasure. I do have one Tammis Keefe tablecloth, a lovely linen with baskets of cherries in shades of aqua, heather, and rose,

I forgot to put "tablecloth" in my search a couple of weeks ago, just searching "Tammis Keefe" on eBay. She was a fairly prolific textile design artist in the 1940's and 1950's. She was probably best known for her handkerchiefs, with wonderfully whimsical designs, but her work appears on a variety of linens. I don't collect hankies, so it was odd when a lot showing an angel caught my eye. There was something familiar about the angel.

An odd thought occurred to me, and I thought to myself, "oh, no way...", but I couldn't resist looking, just in case. I went to Google Images,and pecked " Tammis Keefe dove" into the search engine. The first two images confirmed my suspicion: the inspiration for MY TATTOO had to have been Tammis Keefe lovebirds. How ironic is it that the design that grabbed me all those years ago turned out to be based on a drawing by a textile design artist, fifty or more years ago!

I shared this story on the message board for The Vintage Tablecloth Lovers Club and asked for their help in locating one of those Tammis Keefe hankies to purchase. That same night, I received a note from one of the ladies, asking for my mailing address. That sweet lady HAD the hanky, loved the story, and wanted to send it to me, as a gift. I was completely blown away.
It arrived in the mail yesterday, and I am so thrilled to have it. Thank you, Hankie Fairy!


  1. Thanks for sharing this, Elaine...

  2. Oh no!!! You are branching into hankies now! LOL

    E, that is an awesome story. Thanks for sharing!

  3. What a beautiful and touching story. Thank you for sharing it with us. I LOVE the handkerchief and the design is gorgeous!

  4. I'm so glad you got the hanky, E!

  5. This is such a special story. Thank you for sharing it! I miss Hank for you today, well every day! muah!

  6. What a story, so touching and sentimental!
    Perfect way to start my Sunday.
    Thank you!

  7. I love this story!!! Keep on sharing yourself and keep on collecting, I am glad vintage linen has some one like you looking out after them!