Love All Around

The initial doodle that started it all. I was originally going to call them “The Heartbeatles,” but that seemed a little too unwieldy.

It’s obviously well past Valentine’s Day, and so it might seem odd to be only now posting the Valentine I made for my husband this year.

But it turns out there are at least three saints named Valentine, and possibly as many as eleven, or thirty, all with different feast days.

And while many Western Christian churches commemorate the Saint Valentine associated with romantic love on February 14th, Eastern Orthodox churches celebrate it on July 6th.

For that matter, lots of other days of love are celebrated all over the world, each with their own customs and rituals. Just to name a few, there’s Saint Dwynwen’s Day, observed on January 25th in Wales; White Day on March 14th in several Asian countries; Brazil’s Dia dos Namorados (“Lover’s Day”) on June 12th; the Jewish holiday Tu B’Av, celebrated in August (dates vary from year to year); the marzipan-centered Mocadorá on October 9; and Cleveland, Ohio’s own Sweetest Day on the third Saturday in October.

And, of course, there’s May Day, celebrated as a day of love in many European countries, occasionally in the United States, and lauded in a popular musical.

Ergo… happy May Day! In celebration, let me tell you about the token of love I created for my husband this year.

Except: I cannot give a complete explanation as to what inspired me.

I do not remember.

I mean, clearly, it started with me thinking about Valentine’s Day, and about the Beatles — though I must acknowledge that during any given day, the odds are good I am thinking about the Beatles at some point. (Plus, regular readers of this blog may recall that –as Ringo Starr might say — the Beatles loom large in our legend.)

And I must have been vaguely thinking of this charming-yet- unsettling Valentine by early 20th century postcard artist Samuel L. Schmucker:

“Greetings from me and my weird, anthropomorphic heart-headed beaux”

But what prompted me to make my husband’s Valentine in the form of a puzzle purse, a complicated bit of origami in vogue during the 19th century?

I was re-reading Jane Austen’s Emma in January, and I may have been inspired during my search for the answers to the riddles and charades found in the novel — Austen didn’t supply answers because she could assume her readers would already know them — and in the subsequent wormhole to which all my internet searches tend to lead, I’m pretty sure I  ran across a puzzle purse designed by renowned illustrator Carson Ellis as part of the promotional material for the 2020 film version of Emma.

For reference, here’s an example of an early 19th century puzzle purse in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art:

Valentine: Puzzle Purse, Anonymous, British or American, 1826, paper, watercolor and gold paint, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Richard Riddell, 1981. Accession number 1981.1136.178
Valentine: Puzzle Purse, Anonymous, British or American, 1826, paper, watercolor and gold paint, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of Mrs. Richard Riddell, 1981. Accession number 1981.1136.178

Add all that to my traditional fondness for making gifts for people that are also tactile, interactive experiences. I like opening complicated boxes and discovering something new at every point in the unpacking process, and I just assume other people do too.

The outside, all tidily folded up in a little square package:

It seemed logical to use a song from Meet the Beatles as the poem for the Valentine.  The one which seemed most appropos was the Beatles’ cover of “Till There Was You” from the musical The Music Man. As a bonus, the lyrics were perfectly suited for the puzzle purse structure, and offered lots of visual inspiration besides.

View when all the flaps are open

Bells and birds!

Speaking of birds, Geoffrey Chaucer was among the first writers to connect Saint Valentine’s feast day with romantic love in The Parliament of Fowls,  “For this was on seynt Valentynes day,/Whan every foul cometh ther to chese his make…” (Birds do not actually do this.)
The interior square/flaps

The center image of a 45 rpm single may have been inspired by Chu-Bops, a fad from the early 1980s. They were miniature replicas of record album covers, with bubble gum “records” inside the sleeves. Like all fads, Chu-Bops seem a little silly in hindsight, but when I was in 10th grade, I certainly bought my share.

The bubble gum record inside every Chu-Bop album sleeve, like its baseball card counterpart, had all the texture and taste of glass microscope slides

Last summer, Benjamin Franklin Community Garden — where Mr. B and I have maintained a plot for a couple of years now — invited the North Coast Winds Quintet to perform as part of its outdoor concert series, which inaugurated the garden’s brand new pavilion. I was volunteering at the merch table that night, and roughly sketched the musicians on my phone, having no idea the drawing would come in handy several months later.

Digital sketch of the North Coast Winds Quartet, performing at the Ben Franklin Community Garden, Cleveland, OH, Summer 2021

Close-ups of the center flaps:

I learned a lot about bassoons and French horns while drawing this!

And finally, the center of the Valentine:

And the back. Since ArchieCat is very fond of showtunes, I thought he might like to play the role of Harold Hill in the final scene of The Music Man:

Still Life with Feline Drum Major and Posca Pens, 2022

So, on this first day of May, even if you’re not the Queen of the May…

Stereoscope card of Frances Ackland, May Queen, Mount Holyoke College, May 14, 1927 (my personal collection)

…and even if you don’t leave May baskets for your neighbors, or dance around a Maypole, or wash your face with morning dew, or plant turnip seeds for your garden (to have a little turnip of your own, or better still, a great big turnip in the country), or any other old May Day folk customs, I hope you’ll take some time to share some love.

If you enjoy my work, I hope you’ll consider donating. Thank you!

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