Sunday, September 11, 2016

"Education is not the filling of a pail,

but the lighting of a fire.
~William Butler Yeats

This past week there were many photos on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter of students heading off to school.  For example, one of my students has a photography business...No Filter Photography...I featured her in May...but she did some personal photos of her daughters as they faced their first day...and even managed to get the high schooler to pose!  (Her business link is here in case you are local and are interested! )


As a long time English teacher...actually 47 years!...deep breath...that was the first time I have done the math...anyway, I always buy old textbooks for the shop and for me to peruse before I sell them. Many times the books have wonderful covers...
I happened to sit down with the book shown below because of the cover, and I do teach college composition and literature. so I am always fascinated by any language books.
Here is the date at the end of this preface...1891!  125 years ago, and, yes, much can change in a century, but you only have to look at the examples from this book to get a sense of a world long gone!
 I love the work pages...


And, of course, the illustrations in these old books are wonderful...

So much of what is there is charming but outdated, and now for an example of something that will soon be unknown...the infamous cursive writing...

Next time you see an old school book, think of how much has changed...but there is still that excitement of the first day no matter how many centuries have passed!
 It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. 
~Albert Einstein

Saturday, September 3, 2016

"Don't knock the weather;

nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in a while.
~Kin Hubbard

Weather is definitely the topic for Labor Day weekend here in southern New Jersey with the wandering tropical storm.  It does blend in with my show and tell for the blog this week.  I did do a little research about the "batten down the hatches" phrase since I kept hearing that.  This is actually a nautical term from the early 19th century.  When a ship was headed for rough seas, that was the command, and the crew would close all the hatches or doors on the ship's decks and use lengths of batten or rods to secure the hatches in a closed position.

Batten is also a term used with shutters...board-and-batten shutters...vertical wood slat ones like I have available in the shop...
...which brings me to my topic...shutters...which originated in ancient Greece.  They provided light control, ventilation and protection.  These shutters were made of marble with fixed louvers.  When the concept of shutters spread throughout the Mediterranean, wood replaced marble as a more suitable material for production, and designers started developing movable louver shutters to allow varying amounts of light and air into a room.
On Tudor (1485-1547) and Elizabethan (1558-1603) homes, shutters were used inside also and were made of solid boards and covered only the lower half of the window openings, where no glass was installed (glass was expensive in those days). When open, fresh air came into the room and the shutters folded back to look like decorative wall panels. When closed, usually with a bar across, light still came through the glazed upper half of the window.

By the late seventeenth century, double-hung windows were popular. Shutters were still attached inside and decorative, but they covered the whole window. During the Victorian period (1837-1901) when more houses were constructed from wood, shutters moved outdoors. The former stone and brick homes had such deeply recessed windows that exterior shutters would have been difficult to reach from inside, but wooden walls could be built much thinner and exterior shutters could now be accessed easily from the inside.  Many homes had solid panel shutters on the first floor for privacy and security, and the second floor had louvered shutters (also called blinds) to allow air circulation in the warmer months.  Shutters were not always the same color either.  White on the first floor allowed the candle lit interior to be brighter, and the dark colors on the second floor allowed for better daytime napping.

By the 18th and 19th century, the shutter fad had made it over to America. The south, in particular, adopted the trend and integrated shutters into the large plantation manors, hence the name “plantation shutters”. Southern plantations were known for their elegance and grandeur and shutters were an integral part of their design.
One only has to go to Pinterest to see the shutter being repurposed...from indoor classic design...

 to creative artistic designs...
 I have a stash from a Virginia home ready for whatever ideas you may have...

  So, as we deal with Hermine (who came up with that name?), remember...
                                      You can't calm the storm...
                                          so stop trying.
                                       What you can do is calm yourself.
                                       The storm will pass.
                                          ~Timber Hawkeyel  

Saturday, August 27, 2016

"The chicken does not exist

only in order to produce another egg. He may also exist to amuse himself, to praise God, and even to suggest ideas to a French dramatist.”
~G.K. Chesterton  What's Wrong with the World

For those of us in this small business world, not only do we make people happy with their purchases or even just a moment away from daily madness, but sometimes we also have to amuse ourselves, pray to God for customers, and come up with ideas for a reality TV show! 

In this vintage/antique world, as a shopkeeper, you are never sure what will come through your door or what you will find on a shopping excursion.  Chicken-themed items are always popular, and I know a number of people who have chicks and whose chicks produce some wonderful eggs.  A fresh egg is so much better than one that has made its way around the neighborhood.  Anyway,  I have chicken themed items in the shop, old and new.

So, that brings me to the latest stash that one of my pickers brought...chicken feeders...among some other oddities as well as a neat vintage birdbath...
  
Back to the chicken feeders...for some women, their husbands will say...what are you buying that for?



If you have chickens, no problem!  Otherwise, you could check out these ideas from various online sites...




So, remember it is not so much shelf sitting stuff now, but what can you do with that "stuff"!  And, as Henry Ford said:
"Business is never so healthy as when, like a chicken, it must do a certain amount of scratching for what it gets.”

Saturday, August 20, 2016

"An antique is

anything old with class."
~Wayne Mattox

The dictionary definition is "a collectible object such as a piece of furniture or work of art that has a high value because of its considerable age."  I prefer the phrase "anything old with class" and would like to add anything that brings you happiness. 

In the United States, the 1930 Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act defined antiques as, "...works of art (except rugs and carpets made after the year 1700), collections in illustration of the progress of the arts, works in bronze, marble, terra cotta, parian, pottery, or porcelain, artistic antiquities and objects of ornamental character or educational value which shall have been produced prior to the year 1830." 1830 was the approximate beginning of mass production in the United States. These definitions were intended to allow people of that time to distinguish between genuine antique pieces, vintage items, and collectible objects.  Now antique, vintage, collectible get tossed around like towels in the dryer.

Vintage is the new catch-all phrase...not antique...not rare...kind of old...wine requires a year for vintage, but "stuff" could be 10 years old and vintage!  The term that makes me chuckle is "mid-century".  Guess no one wants to admit to the 1950s!  Mid-century sounds more sophisticated.  Google mid-century images, and you get a real mix...urban Ikea...
I know there are collectors who buy thinking of worth, but I know many of those folks now are looking at Beanie Babies and Barbies in those plastic tubs and thinking, what?  Age does not necessarily make something valuable these days in the regular antique world.  Oh, I know the big time shops and auction houses deal in mega money, but most shops and sellers in this business are simply recycling stuff!  Even the big businesses are not doing well with their high-priced merchandise either, and what is fascinating is a Chinese company has purchased a significant stake in one of the industry's most famous names, the auction house Sotheby's.

I often hear people comment that my shop or other shops do not have antiques when, in fact, there are "antiques" scattered throughout the shops.  I will give them my standard lecture...today's consumer is not the old school collector.  The younger buyers do not need 100 compacts or pieces of McCoy, let alone Occupied Japan (what is that?) figurines or cookie jars (who puts cookies in jars), etc etc etc.
That "curated" display in my shop is a mix of pottery from 1920s...yellow McCoy bowl...a York Pottery pitcher...1930s...a newer print, a recent cookbook and a newly made stuffed velvet pumpkin. 

Up the road at The Attic, from their Facebook page, here is a campaign furniture trunk that was made in Dublin, and it was designed to be used for traveling armies since the time of Julius Caesar and commonly associated with British Army Officers of high social position. Their repurposer Tim added a frame to make a fantastic statement piece without changing this rare trunk.
So, "antiques" can be given new life in the 21st century.  The antique collector...interpret that 2 ways...needs to understand that times change and so does "stuff".  Let things be reborn not merely packed in a box, in the attic, in the garage, in storage.  Even money sitting in the bank these days is not doing much...so, if something brings you joy, get it out...use it...don't lose it...and some of you know your kids are going to carry a lot of the stuff to the curb!

Saturday, August 13, 2016

"There is more treasure in books

than in all the pirate's loot on Treasure Island."
            ~Walt Disney   

Before the "i" world took over, the i-pods, i-pads, i-phones, there was paper...and words printed on paper, and that brings me to this week's blog...the Bobbsey Twins!  Being a former librarian and a current English professor, I love books...and words on paper...sure, I have my tech, but I still love books.  So, when I see old books, I have to have them, and that is how I got a stash of Bobbsey Twin books.  And, even better...books that look like they were read and loved!
Researching this series turned up some fascinating history.  Created by Edward Stratemeyer, the Stratemeyer Syndicate was the first book purveyor to have its books aimed at children rather than adults.

At a time when most children's books focused on moral instruction, the Stratemeyer Syndicate specialized in producing books that were meant primarily to be entertaining.  The first series that Stratemeyer created was the Rover Boys, published under the pseudonym Arthur M. Winfield. The Rover Boys books were a roaring success - a total of 30 volumes were published between 1899 and 1926, selling over five million copies.
The Bobbsey Twins first appeared in 1904 under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope, and Tom Swift in 1910 under the pseudonym Victor Appleton.
Stratemeyer published a number of books under his own name, but the books published under pseudonyms sold better(guess simple sells).  Stratemeyer realized that "he could offer more books each year if he dealt with several publishers and had the books published under a number of pseudonyms which he controlled."  Stratemeyer explained his strategy to a publisher, writing that "[a] book brought out under another name would, I feel satisfied, do better than another Stratemeyer book. If this was brought out under my own name, the trade on new Stratemeyer books would simply be cut into four parts instead of three."
Some time in the first decade of the twentieth century Stratemeyer realized that he could no longer juggle multiple volumes of multiple series, and he began hiring ghostwriters, such as Howard Garis and Leslie McFarlane.  Stratemeyer continued to write some books and created plot outlines for others.
While mystery elements were occasionally present in these early series, the Syndicate later specialized in children's mystery series. Stratemeyer wrote and published The Mansion of Mystery in 1911, under the pseudonym Chester K. Steele. Five more books were published in that mystery series, the last in 1928. These books were aimed at a somewhat older audience than his previous series. After that, the Syndicate focused on mystery series aimed at its younger base: the Hardy Boys, which first appeared in 1927, ghostwritten by Leslie McFarlane and others, and Nancy Drew, which first appeared in 1930, ghostwritten by Mildred Wirt Benson, Walter Karig, and others. Obviously the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew were best sellers. 
The Bobbsey Twins are the principal characters of what was, for many years, the Stratemeyer's longest-running series of children's novels, penned under the pseudonym Laura Lee Hope. The first of 72 books were published in 1904, the last in 1979, with a separate series of 30 books published from 1987 through 1992. The books related the adventures of the children of the upper-middle-class Bobbsey family, which included two sets of fraternal twins: Nan and Bert, who were 12 years old, and Flossie and Freddie, who were six.

Stratemeyer wrote the first volume in its original form in 1904, and then 12 other writers penned the remaining volumes.   Two attempts were made to bring back the twins, but it did not work.  I do like the character listing...even included a bully!

  • Mr. Richard Bobbsey, the owner of a lumber yard in Lakeport
  • Mrs. Mary Bobbsey, his wife, a stay-at-home mom (love the description!)
  • Nan Bobbsey, their elder daughter, Bert's twin. She has dark hair and dark eyes
  • Bert Bobbsey, their elder son, Nan's twin. He has dark hair and dark eyes.
  • Freddie Bobbsey, their younger son, Flossie's twin. He has blond hair and blue eyes
  • Flossie, their younger daughter, Freddie's twin
  • Dinah Johnson, the Bobbseys' cook, Sam's wife
  • Sam Johnson, the Bobbseys' handyman, Dinah's husband
  • Snoop, the Bobbseys' cat
  • Downy, the Bobbseys' duck
  • Snap, the Bobbseys' dog
  • Waggo, the Bobbseys' other dog
  • Danny Rugg, the school bully
Initially, the books had the twins age, but then it became apparent that it could quickly change the series so the characters stayed forever 12!

The story of the 1960 update is funny.  Stratemeyer rewrote the stories "motivated by changing technology (automobiles replacing horses and buggies) or changing social standards, particularly in how Sam and Dinah, the African-American cook and handyman, were portrayed." This was done concurrently with the release of a new edition of the series, with picture covers, no dust jackets, and a lavender spine and back cover (replacing the various green bindings that had been used before). Many of the cover paintings were originally dust-jacket paintings that had been added in the 1950s (before a single common dust-jacket painting had been used throughout any given edition), but most were new with the "purple" edition. In all, 20 were completely rewritten, all but two with modernized titles, while 16 were never released in this edition, evidently having been deemed to be dated beyond repair.
It is ironic how old books can carry so much history in addition to the stories within them. And, another thought along this line...
...can you imagine 100 years from now a box of Kindles?


"Fill your house with stacks of books, in all the crannies and all the nooks."
            — Dr. Seuss   

Sunday, August 7, 2016

“Do not compromise

on the quality and your customers will not negotiate on the price.”
 ~Amit Kalantri    

Obviously, Amit of above quote has not dealt in the resale market because that would not matter to the average consumer.  Perhaps in the very high end world...the Sothebys or Christies world...one would not hear the words, "What is your best price?"  And, maybe at a flea market, that is more acceptable than in a store where the people are paying rent, insurance, utilities, taxes, maintenance, credit card fees, etc etc etc.  So, a little insight into the world of the small retailer.

What got me off on this topic was a discussion with a fellow shopkeeper who was at a yard sale and saw ironstone priced quite high.  The seller cited prices she saw on ebay as her reference.  Now, right there is something that has impacted the resale world.  From the thrift shop that copies an ebay listing to justify their prices to a yard sale, the vintage/antique world has become a crap-shoot.  For example, I have this pitcher in the shop compliments of a friend who found it for me...
Her research tracked it to 1883-1913 based on the mark by Johnson Brothers, and then found that it is called Square Ridge that was created in 1890.  Just that little tidbit of knowledge is worth something, right?  It will be in my shop with a $22 price.  Now consider this pitcher..from an ebay listing...see the pricing issue?
Then you have hand-crafted items not Chinese factory produced.  I have these garden ornaments made from flatware and found bolts...they are $15...
I had someone want to "give" me $3.00 for one; needless to say, I was quite taken back and sent her to the dollar store down the road. 

I also have velvet pumpkins made by a woman in Wisconsin, not China...again...priced with American labor in mind.  If you want to pay McDonalds workers $15 an hour, what about the artists who create for you?
I saw an article that talked about how consumers do not think about prices when it comes to certain items...bottled water...coffee...do you ask that Starbucks barista if he/she can do better on that $4 latte?  Or, cut-up veggies at the grocery store?  Convenience, right?  So, when you wander into a vintage/antique shop, or attend a nice outdoor show, and now with the fall coming, the various craft shows, consider the work that goes into their merchandise...

Also, with the local famers selling produce now...remember them as well...they are bringing it to you directly...so whether you are buying or selling, consider the layers behind all the pricing...and, above all, remember when you buy local, you are supporting more than a corporation!

A co-op down the street closed the end of July.  While it is easy to go online and buy, maybe shops will start to disappear. 
So, just some random thoughts about retail...whether you are buying, creating and/or selling in the small business world, we tend to follow Mother Teresa's motto...
          "Do small things with great love."