A Ribbiting Collection of Frogs in Sandy Springs
Treasure TroveOpinion

A Ribbiting Collection of Frogs in Sandy Springs

The frogs in this collection are too beautiful to have been part of the second plague in Egypt.

Chana Shapiro is an educator, writer, editor and illustrator whose work has appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines. She is a regular contributor to the AJT.

  • On the deck a large metal frog greets visitors.
    On the deck a large metal frog greets visitors.
  • Lavine’s favorite pair of ceramic frogs.
    Lavine’s favorite pair of ceramic frogs.
  • A metal frog reclines while holding African violets.
    A metal frog reclines while holding African violets.
  • A mosaic frog looks down from a glass table.
    A mosaic frog looks down from a glass table.
  • A glass frog climbs up a turquoise vase.
    A glass frog climbs up a turquoise vase.

Lauri Lavine’s plant-filled home is the perfect environment to feature her collection of frog art, which can be found on nearly every surface — here, there, and everywhere.

Climbing, cavorting, leaping and hiding among the greenery, the amphibians display their sticky, padded toes, protective coloration and huge bulging eyes. Sometimes their protective coloring camouflages them so efficiently among the lush plants that Lavine herself has to search among the leaves to find them.

Lauri Lavine relaxes in her frog-filled home.

Lavine’s abode is warm and welcoming, eclectically decorated with colorful art, large, comfy furniture, all kinds of orchids and exuberant plants and family artwork. Her father, Herbert Karp, was a skilled artist, photographer and craftsman. Lavine showcases his huge ceramic sculpture on a mantelpiece and displays a multi-media wall-hanging he made.

Lavine’s parents were both talented — her mother, Estelle, was a performer and singer — and their shared interest in Japanese Sumida Ware led to a curated collection, hundreds of pieces of which are now in a Japanese museum. Lavine owns a good-sized representation of the handmade pottery from her parents’ personal collection.

A small free-standing Sumida frog sits on a table near the front door, a harbinger of frogs of all colors, sizes and shapes performing acrobatic feats among the verdant public rooms of the house.

Lavine’s favorite pair of ceramic frogs.

Many of the whimsical bas-relief Sumida pieces depict frogs interacting with other animals and each other. A frog on one Sumida bowl perches on the rim, looking down at another small, carved wooden frog Lavine placed in the bowl’s center. The wooden frog was Lavine’s first frog purchase. “It seems like those two are curious about each other, maybe communicating,” she notes.

Lavine’s collection includes a paper mosaic frog made by her granddaughter Ava when she was 7 years old. A pottery frog was decorated by granddaughter Olivia at the age of 4. Three tiny cloisonne enamel frogs were once worn by relatives, including a pin from Lavine’s mother and another from Lavine’s Aunt Pansy. Another mosaic frog looks down from a glass table.

Meticulously handcrafted silver frogs and three small, enameled frogs put their ersatz strong legs and suction-cup toes to good use. All feature huge bulging eyes, which enable real frogs to survive. Because frogs cannot turn their heads, the nearly 360-degree eye scope enables frogs to spot food (insects) and grab it by their long, darting tongues, or to escape from a dangerous predator.

Frogs also use their eyes to help them swallow food. After a frog has caught prey in its mouth, its eyes retract, pushing the food down and allowing the frog to swallow.

A glass frog climbs up a turquoise vase.

Shiny handcrafted metal frogs cling and climb wherever one looks. An outstanding example is a pointy-nosed tropical frog with red ceramic eyes. Another silver frog uses its toe pads and strong, slim limbs to keep from falling off a plant branch.

Even glass frogs gambol about. A frog climbs a turquoise vase, making its way to the top. A Baccarat crystal frog takes advantage of the sun pouring through the window. A bright red frog does its best to get to the top of a metal table.

On a trip to Cabo with best friends, Lavine found a pair of frogs vibrantly decorated with traditional Mexican designs. “I knew exactly where they’d go,” she says. They now climb up a brick wall near a large green ceramic frog on another brick wall. A cheerful pink ceramic frog patiently awaits complete foliage coverage, and deck visitors are welcomed by an amiable painted metal frog enjoying his pride of place.

By day, Lavine is the owner of Lavine Sales, which offers quality products (not clothing) for infants, children and mothers-to-be. Her family company represents major manufacturers to retailers in the southern United States. She travels a lot for business and also for pleasure, always keeping an eye out for frogs to join her frolicking collection.

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