Bram­ble’s tea caddy col­lec­tion on dis­play

Kent County News - - SOCIAL SCENE - By JACK RODGERS jrodgers@thekent­coun­

BAL­TI­MORE — Nes­tled in plex­i­glass cases through­out the Home­wood Mu­seum on the Johns Hop­kins campus are sto­ries cen­turies old — told through tea cad­dies, a merg­ing of art, and func­tion.

The mu­seum’s ar­chaic lay­out and his­tory serve as per­fect am­biance to dis­play the cad­dies, as each ex­hibit room emits a rus­tic feel, and his­tory. A few rooms even have dis­plays of ac­com­pa­ny­ing china, ar­ranged on a din­ing table, im­mers­ing the viewer in the past.

The ex­hibit, ti­tled “As Pre­cious as Gold: A His­tory of Tea Cad­dies from the Bram­ble Col- lec­tion” will be on dis­play from Nov. 7, through Dec. 15.

“My mother ac­tu­ally be­gan the col­lec­tion,” Mark Bram­ble, au­thor of a new book, “A Tea Caddy Col­lec­tion,” and col­lec­tion owner said. “One day she just pulled me aside and said, ‘Come here I want to show you my tea cad­dies, and I want you to look for them for me while you’re trav­el­ing.’ So I got com­pletely hooked on her hobby, and it was a won­der­ful thing for a par­ent and child to share.”

Bram­ble, a three-time Tony Award nom­i­nee for writ­ing, di­rect­ing and pro­duc­ing plays world­wide, has uti­lized his

trav­els to ex­pand his late mother’s col­lec­tion — ob­tain­ing cad­dies from Bri­tain, Ger­many, Ja­pan and many oth­ers.

“My trav­els have pro­vided me a unique op­por­tu­nity to look for tea cad­dies all over the world,” Bram­ble said.

His book, “A Tea Caddy Col­lec­tion,” is filled with back­ground in­for­ma­tion on tea pro­cess­ing, the his­tory of har­vest­ing tea, and many other small over-looked as­pects of tea ac­qui­si­tion.

“A Tea Caddy Col­lec­tion” fea­tures pic­tures of each caddy, or­ga­nized by de­sign and coun­try, with in­ter­mit­tent notes on cu­ra­tion of the col­lec­tion from the au­thor — the ad­ven­tures of which he’ll re­mem­ber for­ever.

“In Rus­sia my guide fer­reted out a lead on cad­dies; we found two,” Bram­ble said. “Go­ing through tiny, dark streets to a dirty, grubby, base­ment where this man had a caddy wrapped in rags to pro­tect it. I think that was the great­est ad­ven­ture.”

An­other favorite story of the au­thor’s within the novel is the dis­cov­ery of porce­lain, which was an ac­ci­dent, he said. The first per­son to dis­cover the white, mal­leable clay, de­tected it while on horse­back, when the an­i­mal’s hooves got caught in the ground.

The rider then brought the sub­stance to the fa­mous Meis­sen porce­lain com­pany for mass pro­duc­tion.

“The recipe at Meis­sen, which was called the ar­canum, was guarded as care­fully as any state se­cret,” Bram­ble said. “The peo­ple em­ployed in the Meis­sen fac­tory were deaf, and dumb, so they would be un­able to carry the recipe out of the fac­tory.”

Cu­ra­tor of the mu­seum, Julie Rose, spoke briefly in an email about the event, ex­press­ing the uni­ver­sity’s ex­cite­ment to host Bram­ble’s col­lec­tion.

“The wide va­ri­ety of tea cad­dies and sil­ver are won­der­ful to view and they also stand to rep­re­sent the com­plex po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic hold colonial na­tions im­posed on the 18th and 19th cen­tury world,” Rose said.

“The ex­hibit is an in­cred­i­ble op­por­tu­nity for Home­wood Mu­seum to ex­plore the ties among ob­jects of beauty, crafts­man­ship and world his­tory,” she said.

Bram­ble is to give a lec­ture on the cad­dies and his book Nov. 16, at the Home­wood Mu­seum.


A look at the de­tail­ing of Chi­nese Porce­lain, one of the many col­lec­tions on dis­play dur­ing the “As Pre­cious as Gold: A His­tory of Tea Cad­dies from the Bram­ble Col­lec­tion” event.


Mark Bram­ble de­tails the dif­fer­ent uses of tea cad­dies, pre­sent­ing some of the old­est in his col­lec­tion.

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