home arts magazines, and cookbooks. I reached a pivotal point in my collecting when I came across the work and wisdom of Mary Brooks Picken.
I first discovered Mary in the summer of 2008, while returning from a creative workshop in Omaha, Nebraska. I began reviewing several vintage newsletters and magazines that I had collected while hunting for artwork for The Vintage Workshop. They were published by The Woman’s Institute of Domestic Arts and Sciences in Scranton, Pennsylvania, between 1916 and 1934, and they were inspiring. Combing through the aged pages of these wonderfully illustrated and beautifully written publications, I realized that they were still relevant today and provided a blueprint for a simple, fulfilling life.
I began to research further, scouring flea markets, antique shows, and the Internet for more material about Mary and the Institute. I tracked down her living relatives who graciously shared their memories. I even made a trip to Mary’s beautiful townhome in New York City and her summer home in Pawling, New York, a beautiful country home overlooking the Hudson Valley, and visited with her nephew.
Researching and writing Vintage Notions has been an odyssey for me. And while my endless hunting for great vintage material will never stop, I understand the drive behind it now in a way I did not before I encountered the work of Mary Brooks Picken. It seems that all along, part of me was searching for the answers that Mary and her work provided. Her work shows that dignity, joy, and meaning can be derived from the home arts.
Mary has become a beacon for me, both personally and professionally, and I want to share some of her light with you.