11 June, 2008

McDowell & Craig Desk, Anglo Saxon Spindle Whorls

I don't generally like mid-century modern style. Art deco waterfall front furniture, inlaid woods, stepped forms, and starburst patterns are what get my heart racing. But when my cousin asked if I wanted his desk before he put it on Craigs List, I said yes, yes! The desk I've been using for years is this tiny little thing that I bought in Chicago at a convent estate sale. The Sisters were selling off the bulk of their possessions, and I scored a few cool items that day. I love my little wooden 1930s desk, but it is only big enough for my monitor, my keyboard, and a cup of coffee. There isn't even enough room for a lamp, and it's not the least bit ergonomic; no wonder my wrist bothers me when I'm working for too long.

So Ted and I drove across town to pick up the desk from John and a book shelf, too. I have to admit, I wasn't really wowed with the desk at first. It was sort of big and industrial looking and very heavy. I've always had antique wood furniture. But when I set the desk up in my office and sat down for the first time, oh boy! I was dazzled by the shiny polished surface, how comfortable it was to work at. And the room! I can now keep all of my critical books close at hand, as well as a few of my favorite knickknacks. I think I'm in love--thanks, John!

The desk is made by McDowell & Craig, a company that's been around since the 1940s. My home office is too tiny to photograph the desk properly, but here's an image I sniped from Retro Office; it more or less looks like this:

Close up of some of the crap valuable treasures I've set out:

A jar of marbles that my dad bought for me at an estate sale; a smoky quartz crystal ball (to dispell negativity and promote healing); a Viking era brooch; one dozen worry dolls that I picked up in Guatemala; a half dozen Anglo-Saxon lead spindle whorls; a Roman winged penis amulet; a 4000 year old (supposedly) goddess figure I bought from an antiquities dealer in London; a lump of amethyst, my birthstone, given to me by my grandfather; an egg-shaped piece of chrysocolla, considered a healing stone; and a gigantic lingam stone I got in India (boy, that was one heavy souvenir to carry in my backpack for three months). The wooden box is one Ted made when he was a kid, and holds a secret treasure.

I like collecting antiquities, and try to deal only with reputable merchants who can guarantee the provenance with money-back offers (i.e., I stay away from eBay for the most part). Of the few dozen pieces I have, some are probably even genuine. :-) I like feminine and domestic items, nothing flashy. Bronze rings. A bead bracelet. The spindle whorls, for example, were dug up in an English pasture by an amateur metal detecting enthusiast who sold them to me for beer money. Stuff like this, he wrote, is quite common. But to me, they're pretty special, a warm, solid connection to some woman who lived a thousand years ago. I like to hold them in my hand and contemplate what this unknown woman must have been thinking about as she tended to her weaving. Her tasks of feeding and clothing her family are not all that different from mine, where I try to make a comfortable home for those I love.

Close up of three of the spindle whorls, uncleaned--I like having my own little bit o' England sitting on the desk.

Hunterian Psalster, woman spinning.

Anyway, having a desk with enough space to set up my toys is a blast. I don't know why I didn't get a bigger desk ages ago. My old nun's desk has been moved to the other room, where we're (finally) setting up the Playstation and the Dance Dance Revolution metal pads.


Jen said...

Wonderful work space. Your knick knacks are very cool. I am happy that you are now able to enjoy them every day.

modernemama said...

Great desk and beautiful accessories. I love the old/moderm mix

John said...

I LOVE your collection. I majored in history, so go figure.

Joanne said...

Jenni-Give it a month; nature abhors a vacuum and so do I; that desk will be buried under junk in no time.

Modernemama-I might have to try the old/new mix more often; I like how it feels.

John-Every once in a while I toy with the idea of getting another degree--an MA in Folklore or History would nicely compliment my English lit degree, no? But at 39, I don't think I have the discipline for school anymore. Should've done the history degree when I was younger.

Marilyn said...

I love the desk and the treasures, too -- I think we should do a round robin of desk posts; nothing is so telling as someone's knick-knacks. Yours are, predictably, just as diverse as you!

Joanne said...

Marilyn! That's a great idea!

Jean Martha said...

LOVE that desk. The Fiance and I both have a steelcase addiction and that desk looks very steelcasey.

Joanne said...

I may be lovin' this desk a little too much. In idle moments I find myself caressing it. (An overshare?)

Anonymous said...

Hi Joanne, it the mouse here, your mums friend.
I have just started to read your blog and it is wonderful, I like to think of the people that went before us too, used to love going around cemetaries in England.
This is just to let you know I am reading and enjoying it, Give your mum a big hug from me.
Katie in Australia.

Joanne said...

Hi Katie! Thanks for stopping by! I'll be sure to let Mom know you were here.