Sea Going Primitives

In addition to gardening and calibrating sundials, spring time also gets me thinking about sailing, the sea, and coastal New England life, generally. One of the things I’ve always loved about this region is the close interplay between the maritime and the pastoral that seems to be one of its hallmark features.

I have quite a number of pieces of primitive decor that reflect that, as well. Here are several of my favorite maritime pieces — A Nantucket basket, carved oxbone box, and a sweep oar paper weight:

Nantucket straw sewing basket, ox bone box, and sweep oar

The basket (technically a sewing basket) is reminiscent of baskets sailors often used to hold personal belongings while aboard ship. The oxbone box is likewise inspired by the “ditty boxes” sailors might’ve fashioned from carved whale bone during long voyages. (I use mine to hold interesting old iron nails I’ve recovered throughout the course of my restoration work). Finally, the oar is a gold plated paper weight I picked up at a Head of the Charles Regatta in Boston, some number of years ago (not exactly a “primitive”, but so be it).

All of these primitives are modern reproductions; they’re not antiques. But like many of the primitive textiles I’ve also acquired, I think reproductions in an old house are perfectly fine. I’m not an antique purist in that sense. As long as a piece is well designed, and of a durable, lasting quality, it counts as a legitimate primitive, in my humble opinion. Today’s “modern primitive” is tomorrow’s heirloom-antique, in the final analysis.

About John Poole

My interests include historic homes, architectural preservation and restoration, improving the energy performance of old houses, and traditional timber frames.
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4 Responses to Sea Going Primitives

  1. The basket in particular is quite appealing. I imagine you’ve collected all kinds of interesting things over the years.

  2. Ginny Powell says:

    Living in New Hampshire for 9 years gave me a chance to learn about The Shakers and all their amazing inventions. I learned about Shaker boxes which can come in a stack, large to small. I still use them in my house!

    • John Poole says:

      Good point, Ginny. The Shakers were geniuses at combining simplicity, functionality, and simple aesthetics. Those boxes are one their major trademarks, just like their chairs and pegboards. While the stuff I’ve shown in this posting isn’t necessarily Shaker, it has a very similar appeal!

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