Bramble’s tea caddy collection on display
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.