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Monday, March 1, 2010

I Call Her Emma

A pocket watch. A faded photograph. A life cut short.
A story that brought tears to my eyes.

"Emma's" picture resided in her husband's pocket watch for decades. When I first laid eyes on it, it was still ensconced in the gold confines of the watch's cover. We took great pains to remove it without further damaging the image on the fragile paper.

As I held the photo in the palm of my hand and looked in the eyes of this lovely young woman, I was strangely touched by her. At my request, the owner told me "Emma's" tale, and as she spoke, my eyes flooded and I found myself wishing I had known this woman.

The details are sketchy, but apparently she was the treasured wife and beloved mother of a small family sometime near the turn of the century. She died young, soon after this photo was taken, and while it is unknown to me whether she lost her life in childbirth or from influenza or some other malady, the tragedy was the leaving behind of her dear family.
At some point, her husband remarried and his second wife became known as the quintessential wicked stepmother. I can only imagine the pain of those little children first losing their loving mother, then perhaps living with the pain of ridicule and rejection.
Through the years, "Emma" has been remembered as a sweet and lovely woman, inside and out. Perhaps this was because of the stark contrast between the two women. Perhaps not. Somehow I believe she was as she is remembered. There is something in her eyes that convinces me.
In any case, her husband chose to keep her picture in his pocket watch, where it still resided nearly a hundred years later. Perhaps his photo is in the locket she is wearing around her neck. Wouldn't it be fun to know?

Notes on this restoration:

First, this is my all-time favorite project. As mentioned above, I was strangely taken with "Emma" and as I worked on the image, I felt as if I got to know her in a small way. I love her eyes and the wa
y her hair is done. The detail on her blouse is wonderful. I imagine making all those tucks so painstakingly. And the locket. How I would love to be able to open it!

The process I went through in this restoration was first to take care of the background. I then progressed through the hair and face and concluded with reconstructing the blouse.

Because the photo was round and the customer wanted an oval, I had to extend the background and resize to fit the frames she had chosen. Here I have left it in the round. I like it better that way.

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