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Of the many dusty and decrepit thrift shops advertising that they specialize in “antiques” that I have been in, the one where I got the bottle was not even especially remarkable. What could one expect from a shop perched at the end of a boardwalk in a seedy little seaside town? Usually I am looking for Victorian photos for my artwork, although it’s very rare that I find any, but “Cosette’s Seaside Antiques” looked promising if only for the fact that it was situated in a crumbling but charming Victorian cottage. Chiefly, there were seashells, as one might expect (I suppose some of the larger ones could be over 20 years old), but among the drifts of knick knacks and bric-a-brac, a certain bottle caught my eye. It was a delightful shape, curvy as a showgirl, and it was so seaworn that it was completely opaque. Some very tenacious barnacles clung to the bottom, and its cork and the wax sealing it were surprisingly intact. I made my way to the proprietess, a woman so old she seemed to be collapsing in on herself, and asked how much. “Zat ees a true antique”, she asserted, “zo I could take no less zan $100. Eet ees from 1854!” She took a long drag from her Gauloise while my left eyebrow arched into my hairline. “But today, a special for you, $10” she said quickly, exhaling a plume of blue smoke in my general direction. My eyebrow stayed where it was and I paid Cosette my ten dollars and hurried back to my bed and breakfast with my overpriced treasure.
I thought long and hard before breaking that seal, you can bet, because even with my crafty skills I wasn’t sure I could recreate the effect. But I simply had to see inside the bottle, so I carefully scraped away the wax with a nail file and pried the cork out. I was more surprised than one might think to find a curled page inside, nestled in the dust of what were doubtlessly other pages that had, tragically, disintegrated. I cursed my shaking hands as I slowly extracted the page with a pair of tweezers and carefully laid it flat.

“27th August, 1854. Day Two of Our Illustrious Journey.
It is our Fondest Hope that Edwina be through with her Seasickness, and through the Beneficience of our Lord, the Day today is Fair. Eunice has been Most Generous in the sharing of her Parasol against the Glare of the unrelenting Sun, and we have been Amused by our sightings of Gulls, Pelican and Albatross, as well as intrepid Sea Creatures destined to become Repast. We have kept little Effie much Occupied with the Rowing of our Vessel, although she is Quite Tiny and the effect is mainly to turn us in Circles. Her delighted Giggles are well worth the Queasiness. Eudora has kept her Silence, as have we, seeing no Point in revisiting the Wisdom of undertaking our Journey in an Oversized Teacup, as was her Insistence. Escaping the Tyranny of our Menfolk is a Worthy Cause, no matter how Doomed its Outcome is feared to be. If it be the Will of the Heavenly Creator, no doubt our Dream of reaching an Island Paradise to call our Own will soon be Fulfilled. I sign off now to apply my Compass to just that Task. Until the Morrow, I remain Yours Truly, Esther.”

In my hope - my desperate wish - that there were further missives from Esther too numerous to fit in one container, I search every “antique” store I come across for bottles, and I always have my ear tuned for a legend of four ladies and a little girl who sailed to an island in a teacup. If you hear of such a thing, please be sure to let me know.

This 6” x 8” x ¾” original collage depicts the heroic journey of Esther, Edwina, Eudora, Eunice and Effie on a stretched gallery canvas in vintage images hand cut and hand assembled. It features Thai lace paper “waves” and “clouds” and is accented by silver toned brass corners, satin ribbon, a seashell and a small working compass. Fully finished with beautiful art paper and signed on back, the piece may be hung from the silver key (accented with silver starfish) at the top. Insurance included in shipping price.


This original artwork and story are copyright Ramona Szczerba 2009. Copyright to this material is in no way transferable with the sale of this item. The buyer is not entitled to any reproduction rights – neither image nor story can be reproduced without my express written permission. Thanks!

Teacup Travelers

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Overview

  • Materials: canvas, acrylic, vintage images, art paper, thai lace paper, satin ribbon, seashell, brass corners, key, charms, compass
  • Only ships within United States.
  • Feedback: 163 reviews
  • Favorited by: 73 people