10 December 2009

the making of a friendship & the gift of giving

heirloom patchwork quilt New England

sample from my collection for a wall treatment (Sandford Peele)

 December is a month we frantically dash about-shopping, doing things for people we should have done for all year. I confess to being of a generous nature-Some say too much so. I say-So Sorry-it is just my nature. I was given a lot- love, attention, not too much of the material-but more than enough. We give to those we love, admire, trust, rely on. I've never given to get back- In fact, I might even be uncomfortable with the Getting part of giving. Having a grandmother that held court on Christmas Eve with presents from every family member-I learned gracious acceptance. Gracious acceptance is a part of the giving.

close up of a japanned table by Sandford Peele

December 31st will mark one year of my beginning this blog. On that day I wrote :
"I also begin with an ending of sorts- a dear friend and sometimes mentor died on December 15th and I made a promise to keep just a bit of his wit and wisdom alive by sharing it whenever possible. Hopefully this Little Augury will do that and more. Surely it will evolve- follow along if you'd like to see just how."

A Library 
Clarence House fabric on the walls, decoration of doors in Botanical specimens of gilt by SP

Thinking back on the friendship Sandy and I shared- I'm reminded of all the absolutely incredible gifts he gave me over the years. The endless conversations-The books we swapped. The films we critiqued. The coffee. Sandy walked my beloved dog Moses for 8 years almost every morning- rarely missing an outing. We worked together on projects- collaborating, pushing each others ideas to produce the desired results. The last time I saw Sandy he was cleaning out a storage unit full of unfinished projects, paint galore and books. I started looking through the books- Take whatever you want dear-I am pitching it all. Rather than cajoling him-I started the task. Sandy you won't be pitching these. Some of them are mine! We both laughed-not surprised at the "your pile and my pile" I had started. Just take them all- No more painting for me. Of course I protested then, but somehow I had the feeling he was right. I took some of his most cherished books on painting flowers, Chinese art, Chinese embroidery, Besler, Redoute, tapestries and so on. I had hoped he would ask for them at some point- when he was ready to start again. They are treasured. Tucked inside- an unopened bill, a grocery list-usually consisting of "cigs, Scotch and milk." Some things one just can't live without.

a battered oak sideboard SP japanned-stylized flowers in bronze powders and gilt
 the home of my friend and business partner

Sandford on a dining room project-aubergine lacquered wall and hand stencilling

a glimpse at a formal den with walls of a turkish apricot
painted by SP along with John Tracy.

my one time living room with walls, table and shutters painted by Sandford Peele

my one time living room-another incarnation

the end result of a foyer, stairway and second floor halls finished in stone
by SP

a project from his New York days

his Georgian japanned chest with Chinese figures in gilt

a close up of my much abused japanned and figurative table by SP

Sandy loved dogs- his breed of preference the dachshund-his own and most beloved ZETTA (I named my current dog in honour of Sandy, Moses and the 2 Zettas. But if Sandy had been an animal- he would have been a cat. perhaps in his youth a panther- whatever the man had at least 9 lives. He had a chameleon like quality and whatever he was doing was wonderful, nothing appeared to phase his grandeur- the flannels, jeans, toboggans or the constant frustrations of a too old truck, Nor the lack of a shirt in the hottest summer months. No-the confidence was always there. Off Sandy and Moses would go, trotting down the street in jogging shorts, no shirt, a cap and pure joy. One particularly sticky day we met at a client's to deliver a coffee table he had painted. The results were quite good. I knew she would be pleased. I however was not pleased when Sandy got out of his truck-to my eye practically naked- to pop the table into the room. We talked about a few things in the drive before going inside-

She's waiting, Let's go, get it over with.
Sandy you must put on a shirt before you go in to deliver this table.

Really Gaye what a prude you are!  
Sandy you are practically naked. 

Put the shirt on or forget it. He did have a shirt- thank God and would have likely been thoroughly pissed off -but the client was waiting and Sandy could charm the client, I somewhat relied on it. I took the low key approach-Sandy could do the dance. It was part of the process.

He was an English teacher. He was a dancer. He was an actor. He was an editor. He was a set designer. He was a painter. He was a writer. He was a book seller. He was a cruise lecturer. What else? One of his client's asked- an astronaut?

To say the friendship was priceless is understatement. The most valuable thing was the friendship-but Sandy was a giver- He gave me some beautiful gifts. He gave everyone beautiful gifts. He gave little pieces of his life's collections. He was still collecting things-but he was letting things go. Whether it be for an occasion, a holiday, birthday-whatever-mostly they came in brown bags, newspaper wrapped, dust filled- but always beautiful and with a story.

The few photographs of Sandy and John Tracy- another wonderful painter and friend are here. We went out to lunch during the Christmas holiday and amazingly someone had a camera. I love the second photograph of Sandy's reflection in the window taking the picture. He was a mentor to both John and Me- fitting that he keep us in his view, and somehow now that feeling that he watches over us both.

Here are some of the beautiful gifts Sandy would bring over in those brown paper bags- I pulled this or that out out from under the bed, this just appeared in the storage unit-I'd forgotten all about it. This is much better here than at my house. I would ahhhhhh! Thank you- You can use it here. Always a place in mind.

One of my favourites- a patchwork quilt- a gift from Sandy's partner to him and then a gift to me. The crazy quilt patchwork design is beautifully executed, said to have been done by a crack needlewoman of note-SP's partner's grandmother. The patches were gathered from her husband's silk lined jackets and the like, with the back, a wonderful silk tafetta, her wedding dress. The quilt dates back to before the turn of the 20th century. So full of lives, memories, stitchings that link these unknowns to Sandy and to me.

Sadly, Sandy's friends heard of his death after his family had buried him alongside his father and mother. He died last year on the 15th of December. We hadn't talked for several months. Moses left me in October- and it was hard to tell Sandy the news-so I didn't. In a rare call from him- my mother told him about Moses death. Silence. He couldn't talk to me about it either. So we didn't speak about that loss- if you have loved a dog and shared a friendship-you understand.
It was a shock to know this brilliant friend was no longer. Paying homage to him has little to do with standing by a graveside. Sandy charted his course many times-the twists and turns made it a fascinating, sometimes lonely journey-
He is missed.
He is remembered.


  1. Dear Still Young Witch,

    This is the soul of your heart. Deep thanks for sharing. I think the crazy quilt is a perfect metaphor for your relationship with SP: a dreamy quotidian elegance, touched by hand and heart. Perhaps a square of it on your header to remind us all to charge forth straight up the middle without compromise of left or right, but to give what the heart needs to give and to take what the soul requires.

    When we are young, if one friendship doesn't work out, we move on to find others. As we age, we treasure, if and when a true friend comes our way. I think December 15 should be Friend Remembered Day. I might even have to toast him with Scotch (not my preferred drink, but I am think about making a butter scotch pudding so what the hey).

    Thank you for this authentic celebration of a life well lived and well shared. Hugs, always.

  2. Such a sweet remembrance -thanks for sharing. So lovely to have all of these items to remember him by.

  3. Thank you for sharing these cherished memories.

  4. Beautiful photos. Lovely post. Those old friendship quilt say so much.

  5. Oh, Gaye, that letter might be the most remarkable love letter of all time, without actually being one at all. Look at that gift. Whenever you feel lost, whenever it hurts it guide you back gently and lets you know it could be worse, it will be better, you are deeply loved. I hope it is framed at your bedside and is allowed to reach out and keep you feeling safe at night. Thank you for sharing this, it is magnificent and certainly could not have been easy.

  6. the letter, of course is the best of all gifts, beautifully expressed and I am sure cherished. We should all have someone in our lives that can bring so much to a friendship.

  7. Miss Tapp,
    Before I left Raleigh I had occasion to talk with him a few times. What an interesting and interested person. I discovered that we had a number of mutual interests and we discussed everything. I really enjoyed getting to know him a bit better. As close as you two were I know you must really miss him. It was so nice to look back over all your photos of his work.

    I first met Sandy shortly after I had gone to work at National Art Ints. when he was working with one of the designers on a project. I've never forgotten the samples that he had worked up - a deep, broken cerulean blue ground with silver leafed chinoiserie scenes. There was a palmette border similar to that on your black lacquered table. I'd never seen anything like that before and it really opened my eyes to a whole design aesthetic that I might not otherwise have encountered. I often wish I'd asked him for the sample mock up as that was really a touchstone in my "design journey." Alex

  8. This post has touched me deeply. I too had a friend like Sandy. My friend was named André. He died in 2000. He also loved dogs. Sandy's letter is a treasure and I will come back to read it again & again. It's an amazing gift to have a friend like SP. Thank you for sharing his delightful spirit with us.



Related Posts with Thumbnails