TRAVEL THERE: THE JEWEL OF BIRMINGHAM
When the possibility of visiting Birmingham first came up, I checked out the city online. The city seemed to be a foodie haven with a great art museum and a nice botanical garden, but comparing their hours to our flight schedule and the hours of the thing I can’t tell you about, I wasn’t going to have time to do anything about any of that. So, I dutifully went about my business. Still, something in my subconscious kept clanging. I couldn’t exactly recall why, but I knew I really wanted to see the museum.
One day at lunch, before we took off on the Birmingham adventure, I mentioned to Hannah Beth that I regretted we weren’t going to have time to do the touristy thing. She assured me the museum was well worth seeing and mentioned a couple of possibilities we might have for seeing it. I assured her I had checked for evening hours, so that wouldn’t work, but skipping the final session – that would do.
I just happen to be one of those people who believe God is personally involved in my life. I also believe that if I’m willing to put Him first, He does everything he can to fulfill Psalms 37:4, “Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desire of your heart.” In fact, He’s proved it to me too many time to deny it.
So, while we were keeping an ear to the ground to find out how significant the final session would be, God was arranging to keep things ahead of schedule so that we could get out in plenty of time to make it to the museum. You may call that a coincidence. I don’t believe in coincidences.
An Embarrassment of Wedgwood
If you’ve been hanging around this blog for very long, then you know the Decorative Arts Wing of any museum is my prime objective when I make a visit. I love Decorative Arts better than anything else produced from the artistic mind. I can spend an entire day in a Porcelain gallery – a passion I learned from my mother.
What’s more, Wedgwood,especially their Jasperware, (matte porcelain with relief decorations) is among my most favorite porcelains. Don’t believe me? Take a gander at the photo of the fireplace my husband and I designed for our home. You don’t have one of these unless you love Wedgwood. It was inspired by two I’d seen in Mount Vernon.
Along with representative Wedgwood pieces gracing the mantle piece, there are various Wedgwood and Jasperware pieces spread throughout the house. For good measure, my everyday china is Wedgwood. Not Jasperware but Wedgwood. So imagine my delight when I glanced over the map of the Birmingham Museum and saw three galleries designated by the word “Wedgwood”.
The Dwight and Lucille Beeson Wedgwood Collection
If you love Wedgwood the way I love Wedgwood, then go ahead and book the flight. I’ve been in a lot of museums and so far, I’ve never seen one with so much Wedgwood. I haven’t been to The Wedgwood Museum at Stokes-on-Trent yet, but that’s only because it didn’t exist decades ago when I visited the city. I can assure you, this is the most Wedgwood you are going to see anywhere outside of Britain.
The galleries contain mostly Jasperware in a rainbow of hues, but they have samples of other forms of Wedgwood collected by the couple. I swear I could have visited the museum every day for a week and been perfectly happy studying the exhibits in the three galleries. Here are some samples.
That blue and yellow vase on the jade pedestal would be great in my yellow and blue French decor but the dark blue wine cooler with the white flowers must be the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen. I’d leave it in the museum for others to share.
Giving the Rest of the Art Its Due
Even if you don’t like Wedgwood, the Birmingham Museum of Art is still a good thing to see. Porcelains from other places are prevalent throughout the museum, but there are also paintings and statues and other things to enjoy. I did run through the balance of the galleries at a high speed and then rushed back to gander at the Wedgwood a little more. However, I did get these two postcards to prove the museum has variety.
In this digital age, when you can find almost any piece of art you’d like to see by searching it online, art books might not seem a good investment to some people. Maybe other people spend their time cruising museums online, but I’ll confess, I want to be there and see it in person. Seeing it online is better than not seeing it at all, but it’s not even on the same continent as first hand observation.
By the same token, while I have broken my habit of buying a book in every museum I go to, sometimes I just have to take a catalog home. This was one of those times. In fact, I anticipated facing down the fury of my husband if the only thing available was some $160 hardback number.
I guess God was doing me another favor, because there was a reasonably priced soft cover edition of the catalog – only it had a large sticker designating it as the display copy. I chatted up the clerk, who was a volunteer. She looked in the stockroom – nothing. She offered to have someone take a gander in the warehouse in the next day or so and call me if they had anymore. I just stood there clasping the display edition as if my life depended on it. “I’m leaving town this afternoon,” I all but wailed. “Oh we can ship it to you,” she assured me.
I put off replying to her suggestion by telling her about my fireplace. Then I mused as to what in the world I would do if there were no more of the books in the warehouse. She decided to sell me the display copy at a discounted price. BINGO! I’m getting a whole lot better at this negotiating thing than I used to be. I’d have paid full price just to have it, but I’m sure the fireplace story did the trick!
The flight home was not as trouble free as my flight to Birmingham. The flight was delayed for hours and as a result I know more about the food vendors at the Birmingham airport than I should. I’d been on a diet, which had been seriously threatened by the fast food offerings served to us at that thing I can’t tell you about, but what damage had not already been done got done. So much for dieting. And so much for Birmingham. Come back next week and see what I’m up to.