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."


Saturday, July 30, 2016

"I don't like the idea of things

being off-limits to kids - like a fancy sitting room where they can't touch anything. I own vintage pottery cups, and I let my girls hold them. It teaches them to treat objects with respect.
~Debi Mazar

I mentioned my Midwest connection was coming with pottery, and in the tub of goodies were Van Briggle pieces.  Interestingly, the pottery managed to survive for nearly 111 years until the economy forced its closure in 2012.  I say economy, but I am going to call it as I see it...lack of consumers who understand quality and shop for cheap.  I have heard people in the shop say, "Oh, I can't have good things-the kids will break them."  Now,  I do keep my mouth shut, but I guess dollar store trinkets are good enough for the kids, and so begins their love with the dollar store and you-know-what-mart. But, let us consider when artists were revered.

Artus Van Briggle started the company in 1899 in Colorado Springs with his wife Anne Louise.  According to the Van Briggle history, he was an American artist of Dutch descent, and he was established as a world class painter in Europe. Having been trained at the finest academies there, and with paintings accepted by the Paris Salon, he received the highest honors for a painter in his day. Yet his artistic passions would ultimately lead him away from his brush, canvas, and easel toward another artistic pursuit that would ultimately define his genius. From his years as a celebrated artist at the famed Rookwood Pottery in Ohio, he knew first-hand the extraordinary range of expression an artist could achieve with the potter’s materials. His pursuit was the creation of exquisite satin matte glazes, like those he’d seen on ancient Chinese masterworks, in a palette of glorious colors, never achieved by any artist in modern times. 
Clay and glaze are indeed extravagant media, offering the artist a lifetime of challenges and rewards. Artus, however, didn’t have a lifetime - tragically, he had contracted tuberculosis and, though a relatively young man, his future was uncertain.
He succumbed to tuberculosis and within five years and died there in the shadow of the Rocky Mountains, but not before receiving word that, when shown at Exhibitions here in the United States and in the Salons of Europe, his creations had won their highest awards.

 The company went through several owners, bankruptcy, a war-imposed closure and other problems over the next half-century before emerging prosperous in the 1950s.
These are a few of the pieces I have in the shop along with a brochure from the pottery when it was still alive.
 




I liked these lines from the Van Briggle collectors' web site:

"When you hold in your hand a piece of fine artistry and craftsmanship, a human creation with elegant lines and a sensual surface - something experienced by the eyes and hands and ultimately felt by the soul, you’ll know what Artus Van Briggle was seeking - and what he ultimately achieved."


Saturday, July 23, 2016

"I'm just a lucky slob from Ohio

who happened to be in the right place at the right time.
~Clark Gable

For those who may not know that Clark, a la "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn", echoes some of the sentiment about collecting these days.  Gone are the elaborate price guides, except for Kovels, they are still hanging on, but, the younger generations are not looking to collect every piece of Roseville or every egg beater.  That was Grandma or Mom who wandered the yard sales, flea markets, and shops seeking the elusive piece.  Enter ebay...and there it was, along with a hundred or more of its brothers!  And, the tech savvy kids knew they only had to point and click if they wanted something, but, in that mindset, they still do appreciate a nice piece of pottery, not just 100 pieces of pottery.  And speaking of pottery, I was unwrapping and pricing some pottery that I have had tucked in the far corners.

Interestingly, Ohio was the center of pottery in the United States for many decades.  Zanesville, Ohio, was home to many of the potteries collectors used to buy.  From the Zanesville history...Colonel Ebenezer Zane and his son-in-law John McIntire blazed Zane’s Trace, the original pioneer trail into the old Northwest Territory. Zane, a Revolutionary War veteran, was commissioned by the U.S. Congress to blaze a pathway into the rolling hills and the dense forests of the Ohio Valley, and to establish ferry crossings at three major rivers including the Muskingum.
McIntire and Zane’s brother Jonathan took responsibility for operating the ferry at the Muskingum River and they were the county’s first settlers. A town laid out by McIntire called Westbourne quickly grew out of the settlement and in 1801 it was renamed Zanesville in honor of Colonel Zane.
Zanesville served as the temporary capitol of Ohio from 1810 to 1812. In 1814, the city’s well-known Y-shaped bridge was initially constructed to cross the junction of the two rivers in the center of Zanesville – the Licking and Muskingum. Today, the fifth Y-Bridge still stands at the heart of the community.

Rich natural resources such as sand, clay and iron made Zanesville and Muskingum County ideal for the manufacture of steel, glass and pottery. Ceramic tile and art pottery are an important part of the heritage of the community, as Zanesville became known as the “Pottery Capital of the World” and the “Clay City.”

Although we go after China today for taking manufacturing jobs, these companies except Robinson Ransbottom met their demise after WWII when we occupied Japan and gave them manufacturing rights.
  • Brush-McCoy Pottery
  • Burley Winter Pottery
  • Gonder Pottery
  • Hull Pottery Company
  • Nelson McCoy Pottery
  • Mosaic Tile Co.
  • J.B. Owens Pottery
  • Peters and Reed (Zane Pottery)
  • Radford Pottery
  • Robinson Ransbottom Pottery
  • Roseville Pottery Company
  • Shawnee Pottery
  • Watt Pottery
  • Weller Pottery
  • Zanesville Art Pottery
  • Zanesville Stoneware Company
What one can see reflected in the pottery is an artistic society among those Ohio potters.  This is a piece of Weller from the 1920s.   
Samuel Weller founded his pottery in 1872 operating out a cabin with one kiln.  He produces flower pots, bowls, crocks, and vases.  By 1905 the pottery was the largest in the country, and it produced art pottery until 1920 and commercial lines until 1948.  The flower bowl below complete with original flower frog is from the Woodcraft line produced from 1920-1933.  You can see the intricate design and colors in the piece.
Another popular pottery and one of my favorites is McCoy.  Now, before McCoy was on its own, there was Brush-McCoy.  This is a piece of Brush...simplistic and colorful...they survived from 1925-1982.  (China did probably get them!)

McCoy, which is now dubbed the most collected pottery in the states, existed from 1848 until 1991.  They produced over a hundred different styles, but their pieces from mid-century are most appealing.

Another pottery in that list is Shawnee.  They were in production from 1937-1961.  I find their pottery modern.  This piece is in an intricately designed holder, but the planter itself reflects a modern twist.

So, a look at Ohio (which just survived the RNC), and its history as the center of American pottery.  Too bad Americans decided they wanted planters for $1.00 from China instead of unique quality pieces from American potteries, but thank goodness there are those who still appreciate the workmanship of the past.  Maybe they don't want 100 pieces, but at least there are those who can appreciate 2 or 3 on a shelf.

“History has remembered the kings and warriors, because they destroyed. Art has remembered the people, because they created”
~ William Morris


Saturday, July 16, 2016

"Anything in existence,

having somehow come about, is continually interpreted anew, requisitioned anew, transformed and redirected to a new purpose."
~Friedrich Nietzsche

That opening quote is from a 19th century philosopher, and now in the 21st century we have reuse, repurpose, recycle.   We do simplify our philosophical ideas...tweets, emojis, Instagram...but those 3 R's are ones that I use in selecting unique items for my shop.

Flea markets are hit or miss unless you are at the brand name ones...Brimfield...Renninger's...Rose Bowl...but I was lucky to find some fun garden accent pieces this past week and made locally...welded from flatware, nuts, and bolts, and odds and ends pieces metal...bugs repurposed...







I know Pinterest has all kinds of ideas for doing reworking...repurposing...recycling...and that is great for restoring interest in older things.  Even glass is making a comeback.  A local glass factory...Durand...        although now French owned...is adding 100 people to their work force to make glass products...get rid of the plastic!

I have a friend who deals in faux finishing, and she not only paints an old piece of furniture but also can turn it into a work of art...her business, The Faux Chateau at Capt Scraps in Woodbine, NJ, will be Juliana's new business site.  Here are two pieces she has transformed.

She is a trained artist, and I keep reminding you that Americans are great and can do great things if we recognize each other's talents and not think is cheap is better.

Speaking of a transformation that is priced reasonably...only $450...check out this wonderful teak coffee table made out of a old ship's hatch with brass nozzles for the legs...also from an old ship.  It is available at Capt. Scraps Attic up the road from me.  Tim Erwin is the creative spirit behind this and some other creations there.  Again, Tim is a local, and he is creating in his workshop.
Again...American labor...not made in a Chinese factory! 

Or, someone who sees pallets...
 and creates...hold a bottle of wine or a serving plate...or even plants...
Then I do have some products that use fair trade...Mona B bags have an interesting tale...old tarps and canvas get reborn as bags and totes.  Again...not dollar store prices, but the concept is so earth-friendly and creative.

People who create with their hands and are not busy with Pok√©mon are the true gems in our America.  Drawer bottoms converted into mini chalk boards and necklaces created with bits and pieces...
Consider when you see something that someone has reused...repurposed...recycled...even given a fresh coat of paint...that person had a vision and, as Nietzsche wrote, "redirected to a new purpose."  And, do not expect them to work for pennies...maybe you have seen the Pinterest flops...you know it is not all that easy to copy the creative artistic minds.


“There are painters who transform the sun to a yellow spot, but there are others who with the help of their art and their intelligence, transform a yellow spot into sun.” 
 ~Pablo Picasso