The year was 1915, Babe Ruth hit his first home run, the RMS Lusitania sunk on passage from New York to Britain, and in a hospital room in Boston a little girl was born. Her birth was not notorious, nor was it inconsequential. She came into the world, named Starling, after her father’s middle name, but soon renamed for the Heroine in War and Peace “Natasha”. Her parents called her Tasha and her early creative moments paved the way for a life spent inspiring others. Her talent for the expressive nature of her watercolors and pencil drawings, mostly of children, earned her world-renowned fame.
Tasha Tudor, the daughter of famous portrait artist Rosamond Tudor, began her prolific career as an illustrator at the age of 19. Her self-published book, Hitty’s Almanac, was the first in nearly 100 books she either wrote or illustrated. Her professional career was launched with a book she wrote and illustrated named, Pumpkin Moonshine. It was a story about a little girl trying to get a huge fat pumpkin home for carving.
She received many awards and honors. The illustrations in Mother Goose and 1 is One earned her Caldecott Honors. Her books featured simple and often rhyming text accompanied by detailed and realistic drawings with soft colors. Text and pictures were often bordered by intricate details such as flowers, birds or other charming objects and animals.
During her teenage years she wanted to learn to cook and sew. Her Scottish nanny Gady, not only imparted knowledge of cheese-making, but she taught Tasha how to make ice cream. Gady also taught Tasha the secrets to flavoring food using fresh herbs. She enjoyed cooking and later authored and illustrated, The Tasha Tudor Cookbook.
Her success with Mother Goose allowed her to buy a large farm in New Hampshire, where she spent happy years not only raising her four children, but also Welsh Corgi dogs. She loved the Corgi dogs, and made them the stars in three of her books, Corgiville Fair, The Great Corgiville Kidnapping, and Corgiville Christmas. She thoroughly enjoyed their companionship and idiosyncrasies. At one point, Tasha had 13 Welsh Corgis following at her heals.
Her favorite time period was the 1830s, and mimicked living a lifestyle that impressively kept out the modern world. Although she was born in 1915, the simplicity of the 1830’s marked her soul, and resonated into a more simplistic way of living.
In 1971 Tasha wanted to downsize from the farm and therefore moved to Vermont. Her son Seth cleared some of the land and built her a Cape Cod-style home. He used only hand tools to construct the house. She nicknamed it “Corgi Cottage”. Other outbuildings were added to house her Nubian milking goats, birds, and other animals. She cooked with fresh eggs from her own chickens, used fresh goats milk, and grew and dried fresh herbs from her garden to flavor her food. Mary mastered crafts such as candle dipping, weaving, doll making, knitting, sewing, and soap making.
She wore long frocks, petticoats, aprons, lacy kerchiefs, and handknit shawls as if she truly lived 150 years earlier. It was in Vermont her excitement and passion allowed her to master gardening. Her cookbooks, which she was also known for, included recipes using fresh herbs from her culinary garden. Her life seemed tied to the land. She believed in herbal medicine for herself and her animals. If a goat was sick and off it’s feed, a few leaves of comfrey usually set the goat straight. Her Corgi’s had garlic added to their feed to ward off fleas.
Her daily activities included rising at dawn to milk her goats, collect pears, gather herbs to dry in the rafters, and a myriad of other farming chores. A television was not in her home, nor did she believe it belonged there. Tasha used antiques and chose not to live in modern times if she could avoid it. She was revered throughout the world for her wide-ranging interests and devotion to rural living.
Japanese citizens were introduced to Tasha Tudor when she illustrated the Japanese version of The Little Prince in 1976. Tasha’s work in Japan has grown and several new books have been published as well as several museum exhibitions. A new Japanese film called, Tasha Tudor: A Stillwater Story, will play only in Japan, April 15th of this year. The trailer to the movie is available on my blog page at www.kimberlychaffee.com
There is no way to capture the essence of Tasha Tudor in one article. Her illustrations reveal what she found inspiration in and valued throughout her life. Tasha died in 2008. She left us with a desire within our daily lives to live simplistically, encouraging us to slow down and enjoy our families, holidays, and the nature around us. If you would like to learn more about Tasha Tudor I encourage you to visit two websites.
Kimberly Chaffee is a freelance writer and small business owner. She is married with four children and enjoys raising dairy and meat goats on her small hobby farm in Western, PA. You can reach her with comments at firstname.lastname@example.org