Thursday, October 6, 2011

Vintage Thursday: The Morse Code Board

It was under a pile of odds and ends--plastic containers with no lids, a faded yard flag, etc. I thought it looked interesting. Who would take the time and effort to burn the Morse Code into a piece of wood? It was beautifully done too, nicely edged and even the maker's signature was burned into the wood. I added it to my purchases, thinking I might be able to sell it on eBay to someone into railroading or into the old telegraph items--I had noticed many of these for sale online.

At home, I looked at the board again, and the signature. Jan Fleck. Who was Jan Fleck, I wondered? I typed the name into Google and added woodburning to the search. There seemed to be two Jan Flecks, an artist in Louisville, Kentucky and a rocker in Europe. I clicked on the artist.

This Jan Fleck, I found, worked with her husband Mel to create beautifully intricate Egyptian-themed art using metal etching to create acid prints which we then hand-colored. There was a telephone number listed so I called and left a message, feeling fairly certain that this could not be the same person--and yet metal etching and woodburning were similar, so maybe...

My phone rang later in the afternoon. It was Mel Fleck and he told me that yes, the Morse Code was a piece by his wife, made probably in the early 70's when she was just beginning her art career. He said that a descendant of Samuel Morse, the creator of the code, had purchased one of the board from Jan years ago, and that she sold others at art shows in various places. How did this one end up in a yard sale in West Virginia, I wondered? Mel told me that one of the shows at which they exhibited was in Myrtle Beach--West Virginia's #1 vacation location. I am sure that is where the piece was purchased.

The Flecks developed an interest in Egyptian art and learned to create pieces together, with Jan doing the etching and Mel working with inks' both did the hand-coloring.  Jan Fleck passed away in 2008, but Mel Fleck continues to tour the art circuit and still creates new pieces.


"So what you have is an early Jan Fleck," Mel told me. I offered to return the piece to him, but he said he had several; he was just pleased to know I had found this one and had followed up on the signature.

I think I'll be keeping this little piece of art. Thank you, Mel Fleck for helping me solve the mystery of its origin.

 I'm linking up today with Colorado Lady's Vintage Thingies Thursday. Stop by her place to see all sorts of fun vintage items and links to other blogs.

15 comments:

A Vintage Green said...

What a great piece of art and history.
- Joy

A Vintage Green said...

ps: I hear another story telling time in the making.

Annie said...

I'm so glad you searched and then found the husband of the artist of this piece! You should write down the story and keep it with the art so that future generations will know about it!

Mama-Bug said...

So glad you're keeping the beautiful morse code board. That's definitely a keeper and a lovely piece of art. And you know it's story.

Granny Sue said...

I was thinking the same thing, Joy. Even kids would be interested--I can tie in the story of telegraph and Morse code, with themes of lost things found, value in hidden places, connecting with people, and the importance of knowing the story of our belongings. It's a simple tale with complex messages.

Granny Sue said...

That's a great suggestion, Annie. I could just print out this blog couldn't I?

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

What a wonderful piece of Art! and to be able to find out the history is more intriguing..I wouldn't sell it..I'd keep it with other things I don't need :o)

Granny Sue said...

I hear you, Ginny! Some things we keep just because we like them and for no other reason.

Brighid said...

So great to have the history of the Morse Board. It needed to be found by someone like you who would enjoy it and all it's provenance. Thanks for sharing.

Crow Jane said...

What a great story!

Favourite Vintage Finds said...

Enjoyed reading about this great find!

Marie (once The Tile Lady) said...

Wow! What a true treasure...I would keep it as well!

Charm Bracelet Diva said...

What an interesting find! Don't you just love it when perseverance pays off? This would be perfect over at my Club G.W. {Goodwill} party going on right now. Love to see you there!

Anonymous said...

I have met Jan Fleck a few times while she was exhibiting at the St. James Art Fair in Louisville. She was a beautiful lady and a lovely person. She would tell the story of the etching and what the various symbols represented. Just fascinating! I had a chance to see her husband Mel last year, and he informed us that Jan had passed away, far too soon. He continues to exhibit their etchings. He told us that they loved this life and it helps to keep her spirit alive. What a sweet couple. I feel so badly for Mel. Their partnership was one to be admired.

June said...

How interesting the story behind the piece of art by Jan Fleck. I was at a yard sale today here in Houston, TX. and picked up a framed piece of art called KHEPRI SCARAB 179/250 signed by Mel Fleck and Jan Fleck. I love it. I was sorry to hear that Jan Fleck had passed away in 2008.

June

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