Preparing for Fall at the Headley-Whitney: Changing Exhibits

It’s hard to believe that summer is almost over and that classes have been back in session for nearly two weeks!  With the change in the seasons come changes at the Museum.  We’re bustling behind the scenes at the Museum preparing for exciting new exhibits and workshops!

Last October, we received “Within the Emperor’s Garden: The Ten-Thousand Springs Pavilion” from the Smithsonian.  The impressive, one-fifth scale model represents one of the pavilions still standing in the Forbidden City in Beijing and stands in testament to traditional Chinese carving techniques.  A traveling exhibit, the Pavilion arrived at the Headley-WhitneyMuseum in twelve separate (and very large!) crates!  The Smithsonian’s Senior Conservator Don Williams and a team of seven dedicated volunteers assembled the Pavilion in less than three days, carefully angling, moving, and arranging the separate pieces into the impressive 10’x10’x10’ structure—no small feat considering the gallery the Pavilion is housed in also contains four Marylou Whitney dollhouses!  The Pavilion has been at center stage of our Museum for nearly a year, but it is time for it to move on.

How do you move a 10'x10'x10' replica? Very carefully!

This week, we began relocating crates stored around our grounds back into the main Museum building.  Armed with a pallet jack and dolly instead of a team of volunteers, we were able to maneuver the crates back into the Study Gallery in preparation for the Pavilion’s departure.  We should begin disassembling the Pavilion the first week of October—be sure to stop by the Museum to see this impressive structure before it moves to its next destination!

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Family Events at the Headley-Whitney

We have recently made a push to offer more children and family programming at the Museum.  It is our philosophy that childhood is a time to explore and learn new skills, and children’s education allows parents not only time to bond with their children, but also a fun excuse to excercise their own artistic muscles!  Over the past month, we have reinvigorated existing programming for a new audience in addition to trying out new workshops!

On August 4, we held our first-ever Family Tie-Dye event.  We had eight families participate, with our youngest participant being only a few weeks old!  Armed with rubber bands and baby pools filled with dye, we taught families how to twist and tie cloth to achieve certain patterns and how to mix the three primary colors to create a rainbow on their clothing!  We’re excited to pull out our baby pools again next year for this summertime favorite!

On August 18, we celebrated the opening of our new woodblock prints exhibit by trying our hand at this centuries-old art, but instead of using wood blocks, we used a decidedly modern material: Styrofoam!  Attendees carved designs into Styrofoam blocks using pencils before inking and printing using our hand press.  Several artists experimented using different colored papers and layering prints to create art to take home and cherish.  This workshop was so successful that we will be offering it again in December, just in time to block print your own holiday cards!


We plan to offer more educational programming for children and families in the future, beginning with Jewelry 101 in September to finish up “Jewelry Month.”  Be sure to keep an eye on our Workshops page and our Facebook for the latest information on upcoming classes and events.

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George Headley’s love for art was second only to his love for his pets.  Pets played a large role in Headley’s legacy, becoming as known for his love of dogs as for his bibelots.  Always eccentric, locals remember that Headley was never without his beloved dogs.  Some remember that his dogs would precede him wherever he went, heralding his arrival: wherever the dogs were, George was sure to be following shortly behind!

George Headley with two unknown dogs.

Pets were treated as beloved members of the family and were often featured as prominently in photographs as their human counterparts.  The Museum’s collections house several scrapbooks dedicated solely to the Headley pets and their exploits.  In one, a family celebration for a pet’s birthday was commemorated with a photograph!

“Baby Louise has a birthday party
LtoR: Sovey, Jetty, Louise, Biffy, Sparky, Buttons

Headley’s pets also played a prominent role in his marketing schemes at his jewelry boutique in the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, California during the 1940s and 1950s.  According to legend, during a lull in sales, Headley would send one of his beloved dogs out to the pool modeling one of his lavish jewelry designs in the hopes of bringing customers back to the shop!  In this photo from the Museum’s collection, one of Headley’s dogs, a Dachshund named Ernie models some of his master’s jewelry designs.


Ernie models some of Headley’s designs.

Additionally, Headley loved his pets so much that he constructed a “Pet Cemetery” to commemorate their lives.  Stones give glimpses into his beloved pet’s personalities, from the poignant to witty:



Snored So Gently



“There was a little ern”

Little Bibelot

Only 3 months old

July 8, 1969


My Buddy for 18 years

May 1980

Kitty White Sox

Thought She Was a Dog

The pet cemetery, still on the Headley-WhitneyMuseum’s grounds, commemorates the lives of twenty-one of the family pets (twenty dogs and one cat) and is still a part of the Museum tour.

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Black Tie Gems

ImageLast week, we kicked off an exciting new season of events at the Headley-Whitney beginning with a class in bead weaving, creating a “Black Tie Gem.”

Bead weaving is an ancient technique found in many cultures, and uses weaving techniques to weave together tiny seed beads into intricate patterns or pieces.  In our case, we created pendants to take home!

The Black Tie Gem pendant was created by Kelly Graves of Whimsy Beading.  A native of Versailles, Kentucky, Kelly is a self-taught bead-weaver and has run a successful Etsy shop for three years.  She instructed our class with ease and guided us through the initially-daunting craft of stringing the tiny seed beads into a beautiful pendant!


There is truly an element of magic in this pattern–the inner ring of Swarovski crystals and tiny gold seed beads is strung first, then an intricate mesh pattern expands around the ring of crystals.  However, the magic happens when the center gem is put into place–a few tugs of the string and the entire piece transforms from a pretty design to a stunning, elegant pendant before your eyes!

All of our workshop participants left with a completed pendant and instructions to follow at home (and at least one participant has tried to recreate the magic at home!)  Kelly also unveiled her design for her next workshop for September 22:  Nouveau Pearls!  Be on the lookout for more workshops with Kelly this year!

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Designing: Concept to Reality

The founder of the Headley-Whitney Museum was a gentleman by the name of George Headley III.  Born in 1908, he became one of the preeminent jewelry designers of the twentieth century, designing jewelry for starlets and celebrities including Joan Crawford, Mae West, and Fanny Brice.

In addition to designing jewelry, Headley also designed “bibelots.”  Bibelots (pronounced “bib-a-lo”) are small decorative objects akin to knick-nacks, but made from precious and semi-precious materials.  One of Headley’s most famous is the Jade Lion.

Click image to see full sketch 

Headley was not a metal-worker or gem carver, preferring to send his designs to other jewelers to be completed.  In this instance, the lion itself was from a friend’s collection.  Headley sketched out his completed vision of the Jade Lion adding several embellishments:


2 Cab. rubies in eyes

4 Lapis Lazuli

4 Pear Shaped Cabochon Rubies

8 Round Diamonds

Base in Black Onyx or Obsidian

4 Gold Flexable (sic) Gold Square Link Chains


Click image to see final bibelot

The images simply do not do the final piece justice.  The Jade Lion is a part of our permanent collection and stands in testament to the innovation and ingenuity of a creative designer.

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Summer at the Headley-Whitney

Summer has certainly arrived in Kentucky, and the Museum is celebrating the best of the season!

We kicked off our fifth-annual Headley-Whitney Wednesday Workshop series with a delicious and colorful workshop: painting with chocolate!


Participants learned how to paint chocolate molds, tried their hand at creating chocolate creations on white chocolate canvases, and made abstract candy bags to take their goodies home in (if they could wait that long!)  This is a perennial favorite from the Headley-Whitney Wednesday series for children; look out for a chocolate workshop for adults in the future!


The following week, we celebrated the first day of summer with a tie-dying workshop for kids.  Participants learned about the color wheel, how to tie cloth to make groovy patterns, and about the basics of tie-dying before diving in and creating their own colorful creations!


Next week, our workshop will focus on Eco-Jewelry, and participants will make several pieces to take home.  Call the Museum at 859-255-6653 to register, and stay tuned to see what our workshop’ers create!

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Art After Hours at Tuska House

Well, we couldn’t have asked for a better event to end our first “season” of Art After Hours.  The Tuska House is an amazing place and we are thankful we got the opportunity to introduce this unique Lexington treasure to more of the community!

John Regis Tuska (1931-1998) was an artist educator at the University of Kentucky, spending his career here in Lexington from 1963 until his passing. Originally from Pennsylvania, educated in New York, his life was spent teaching and creating his college trained interest in ceramics and his self taught study of the human form in various media. He loved process and technique and taught by inspiration. While he spent 35 years teaching students, he never stopped teaching himself. Tuska chose to rarely promote himself, immersing himself within his own study and work. Visit for more information.

We can’t say thank you enough to everyone who made this night a success! Thanks to Seth Tuska for helping promote the Art After Hours program and allowing us to share the Tuska House with the community! We couldn’t have had such a great event without your hard work, marketing efforts, and amazing ideas (We love the community art mural)!  Thanks to Season’s Catering for providing us with such great food and drinks and Tim Fowler for the great music! And lastly, a special thank you to Brandi West and Kentucky Mudworks for allowing the participants to get their hands dirty by creating clay sculptures!

We already have a full line-up for our fall season of Art After Hours so mark your calendars now and be sure to “like” our Art After Hours- Lex facebook page to get all the updates on the upcoming events!

Thanks again to the organizations that participated in our first season:

Headley-Whitney Museum

Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center

International Museum of the Horse

Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate

and Tuska House

Thank you for helping Rasheedah El-Amin and myself (Shayna Shia) turn our program into a success!

See all the photos from the event on our Flickr page here.

See you in the Fall!

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Art After Hours at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate

Our second Spring Art After Hours was held at Ashland, The Henry Clay Estate on April 18th.  We- had- a -blast.  From the photo booth by Isabel Sam Photography to the delicious food from South Van Events to the amazing tour by Ashland docents.  This event is going to be hard to top!

The event was centered around the 120th wedding anniversary of Nannette McDowell to Dr. Thomas Bullock. This wedding was such a big deal 120 years ago so we wanted to relive the excitement today!

The guests arrived at Ashland for some networking and a create-your-own wedding attire station. The group was introduced to the Museum by Curator, Eric Brooks and Director of Tour Operations, Avery Malone. We heard about exciting reenactments and other opportunities at Ashland. Then came the tour. The participants had to be dragged out of the entertaining tours – well not literally. The group tried to retain as much information as they could because they were going to be quizzed on the information for a chance at a $50 gift card to DeSha’s Restaurant and Coffea! I want to thank everyone who came to participate and make this event so special, especially Chelsea Sparks, and our volunteers-Amanda McClain and Jessica Kral. We are looking forward to our next AAH at Tuska House and hope to see everyone there!

Check out all of the pics from the event here.

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Art After Hours at the International Museum of the Horse

We kicked off our 2012 Spring Art After Hours last Wednesday at the International Museum of the Horse. This unique Museum features several amazing exhibits which are stationed on the grounds of the Kentucky Horse Park. The participants got to hear from Bill Cooke, the Museum’s director of over 30 years, who explained the evolution of the Museum as well as from Jeanette Tesmer, Assistant Registrar and Conor McMahon, Curator of Collections/Conservator. Everyone enjoyed light hors d’oeuvres by DaRae and Friends Catering.

Following the staff introduction, the group was led through several exhibits, including The Horse which is organized by the American Museum of Natural History, having the chance to participate in a special object handling practice. Jeanette and Conor explained the best way to handle large framed paintings, to store textiles (such as a wedding dress) and to move small delicate objects (such as trophies). The group also got a behind the scenes look at their stored collection and the process of acquiring new objects to add to the Museum’s collection.

Enjoy some photos of the evening below and also photos from the Herald Leader here.

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Wedding DIY

This past weekend we were so excited to have our very first ever Wedding DIY Workshop! We had ten different projects for our brides to do hands on plus other ideas for them to take home. From save the date cards to wine bottle table numbers, we had it all. During that time, we asked brides to tell us what there favorite things about weddings are. Here are some of their responses:

“The happiness of the bride & groom” –Rebecca

“The flower toss and cake cutting” –Emily

“The dancing” –Ashley

“Seeing the grooms face when he first sees the bride” –Amanda

“Getting to personalize everything to suit your interest!” -Crystal

“The first kiss” –Joanna

“Family, vows, and having everyone that means so much to you at the same place to celebrate with you” –Lori

“All the love!” –Krystin

“The emotions” –Kari

“The joy & celebration of starting a new life with someone special” –Samantha

“Being with people I care about” –Amanda

All of these are great things about weddings! What are some of your favorites?
We also want to say congratulations to Amanda Nicksic, our prize winner for use of the La Belle House.

And of course, we can’t leave out our vendors who came out:

Events Tenders
Five by Five Photography
Gourmet Goodies
Great Expectations
Tanya’s Passion Parties

Feel free to check out our pics from the day and be watching for our next Wedding DIY Workshop… We would love to have you out!

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