Saturday, October 22, 2016

"To be creative means

to be in love with life. You can be creative only if you love life enough that you want to enhance its beauty, you want to bring a little more music to it, a little more poetry to it, a little more dance to it.”

Something about fall where the seasons change that seems to foster creativity...whether it is designing pumpkins
or creating warming soups...
In my attempt to bring American creativity into the shop, I have just ordered some handsewn pashmina scarves in wonderful plaids from a woman who is in New York...more on them when they arrive...
But,  I am promoting special gift giving with a special local--not necessarily your local American...think small shops and the traditional craft shows that pop up this time of year.  Obviously not every gift fits into that criteria, but, if you buy locally, it brings more money into the community. The more people that you have shopping at smaller businesses helps everybody. Local businesses have handmade, quality goods that you may not be able to find anywhere else.

And think of treasures that combine creativity with the present and keep in touch with the past...these ornaments are made with beads and pearls from broken necklaces...hang in a window or on the tree...tie on a gift...

So, some thoughts on business before the shopping hysteria hits...
“You can't use up creativity. The more you use, the more you have.”  
 Maya Angelou

Sunday, October 16, 2016

"Women derive a pleasure,

incomprehensible to the other sex, from the delicate toil of the needle.”
Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter

Perhaps in today's world we should all consider some "toil of the needle' to give our minds a rest.  I always buy needlework pieces when I see them.  I know there are still needlework artisans out there, and this time of the year you do see the "needle" projects at the various craft/holiday shows.  And, while I am on that topic, please remember that these artisans are not 2 cents an hour laborers.  When you admire handcrafted items, remember you are not at the dollar store or at a big box store that has just sent mega bucks to a Chinese-based company.  Those of us who carry American made items often see people admire the items, but, when they look at the prices, they put them down.  Respect the American artisans who design, create, and market their efforts. 

Anyway, back to my history lesson...cross stitch and needlework can be traced to the sixth century B.C.  In research I found that... "In the Eleventh century, tapestry was the most popular and famous of embroideries depicting the Norman invasion of England in 1066.  Catherine of Aragon, who was Spanish and the first wife of Henry VII is credited with bringing blackwork to England in the sixteenth century.   Blackwork was believed to be the beginnings of what we think of as cross stitch today.  It was worked with black sheep wool on white linen.  Blackwork is still popular today, but here is an example from medieval times.  I think this looks so modern...
I love the old cross stitch pieces.  I buy them whenever I see them, and I think of the time someone put into creating them.
I also love old embroidery...can you imagine the loaves of homemade bread that rested under this hand embroidered cloth...
Then there are the white on white linens that were probably done as part of a wedding hope there is something we do not talk about today! 

I also like to look at the intricate finishing on some linens...yes, machines can reproduce all of this now, and you can find doilies at the dollar store, but there is something about handling a piece that has a paying homage to the woman who lovingly "toiled".
For the white linen crowd some hints about laundering...
1. Wash your white linens separately. Mixing them with non-white laundry or with dissimilar textures (such as towels) can often cause pillage.
2. Always wash in cold water. Unless your linens are heavily soiled, there’s really no need to wash on any temperature other than cold. High heat can break down the fibers in your linens, thus reducing their durability and lifespan. Plus, cold water is washing is the most energy efficient method…an added bonus.
3. Use only mild detergents. Regular detergents contain fragrances, dyes and harsh other chemicals that slowly eat away at the fibers in your delicate linens over time.
4. Never use bleach. Bleach also eats away at the fibers in your linens and can cause a gradual yellowing of your whites. If your linens are extremely soiled, spray any stains with an enzyme based cleaner (Shout) which will help lift stains and then launder in warm water.
5. Avoid fabric softeners. They will decrease the absorbency of your linens.
6. Use a mild drying method. Line drying is best but if you don’t have the time or the outdoor space for line drying, tumble dry on low.

So, as you wander the fall craft/antique shows, look at the work with respect...and remember...
“You don’t make art, you find it.”
~Pablo Picasso

Saturday, October 8, 2016

"Everything you see

I owe to spaghetti."
~Sophia Loren
I am fascinated with all the Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest posts about food!  Videos, recipes, photos...nonstop...and, as we head into the holidays, food does dominate, but how many sit down at the table and enjoy that meal?  We grab and go; we drink our meals; we drive-through.  I was pricing a couple platters, and I got to thinking about plates and their history.

I think a platter makes a neat food tray for the sports fan who is glued to the TV...World Series and football come to mind.  But, the idea of people eating from their plates is interesting.  In the Middle Ages, plating basically consisted of ladling stews or porridge into trenchers–hollowed out “plates” cut from loaves of old bread, the staler the better. And you thought you were being "nouvelle cuisine" with your soup or spinach dip in a bread bowl!

A little research brought this tidbit.. Marie-Antoine Careme, arguably the first celebrity chef, who brought plating into the modern world. Careme, who was born in 1784 and died in 1833, was an avid amateur student of architecture–he even considered pastry making “the principal branch” of the art. As chef de cuisine to personages all the way up to Napoleon Bonaparte, he presented dishes in the shapes of famous monuments, waterfalls and pyramids; he’s believed to have invented the croquembouche:
(A side note for those who are familiar with Atlantic Cape Community College where I teach...their culinary program has a restaurant called Careme's.)

Originally in Europe food would have been brought to the table on platters and carved. People would then use their fingers to take what they wanted from the platters to eat. Breads and fruit would be placed in baskets on the floor for diners to help themselves.

According to my research, when slabs of bread would be used to hold the meal, sauces, even salt for the diner, the bread was hard enough that the bread would be used as candle holders as well as being carved to hold food.
During a particularly elaborate meal, several trenchers would be carved for each diner. Well, they would be carved for the more important diners at the table. Those of lesser importance were expected to carve their own trencher from the nearest loaf.

Upon finishing the meal, bread trenchers would be thrown to the dogs to eat, or would be given outside to the poor as alms. After soaking up all the juices from the foods they would actually have been quite filling and nutritious. Certainly they would have been easier to chew.

It was a very hungry man indeed who would actually eat this bread. A very coarse flour would be used in the making of the breads then they would be left to sit and harden for several days before being sliced.

In the middle ages, those who could afford them bought plates of pewter. The lead used in making pewter would leach out though, especially when highly acidic foods were placed upon them, causing lead poisoning. One food which especially caused this was the humble tomato, hence the origins of the belief that tomatoes were poisonous.
The poorer people could not afford plates of pewter, and they had trenchers of wood instead, and these trenchers generally weren't washed in between meals. The resultant bacteria and worms inside the wood caused people to develop mouth sores. This is where we get the phrase "trench mouth".

Over time, plates became more elaborate. They went from being made of pottery to pewter and other metals. As techniques progressed, plates were made from finer porcelain and china.

So, appreciate that plate in the cupboard!  And consider a platter for a TV tray or an appetizer tray and not just to plop a turkey or chicken on!  A couple 19th century ironstone platters in stock...


There is a difference between dining and eating. Dining is an art. When you eat to get most out of your meal, to please the palate, just as well as to satiate the appetite, that,my friend, is dining.”  
                                                                           ~Yuan Mei

Saturday, October 1, 2016

"Where your treasure is,

there will your heart be also.”
~Anonymous King James Bible 
The antique/vintage shop is not a normal retail shop venue.  We cannot go to a catalog and buy 6 of these or 12 of those.  We are dependent on seek and find whether it is a flea market, auction, yard sale/estate sale or having someone come to us with merchandise.  Of course, those who want to sell to us need to understand that we need to buy smart to sell smart, and they need to understand what the shop owner wants.  There are those who think we buy things for pennies on dollar and make big money, but, in many cases, the profit margin is not the 2.5 that is standard in regular retail.  Ebay actually created a false price guide for those trying to resell.  "I saw one on Ebay for $100!"  Yes, but how long has it been on Ebay and how many sold for that.

In this current market, collectors are not abundant.  Many Gen Xers and definitely the Millenials do not understand the china cabinets full of figurines or service of fine china for 12.  They do collect, but not for posterity...oh, in days past this will be worth more down the road (how are those Hummels or Beanie Babies working out for you?)...they buy what is useful or what will accent a certain look.  In the past couple years, many baby boomer parents and grandparents echo the kids will haul this stuff to the curb!

The shows American Pickers and The Picker Sisters brought the term picker to the public eye.  American Pickers is still on, but The Picker Sisters faded away although they were fun to watch.  Many shop owners have people who come by trying to sell merchandise, but those of us who have specialized pickers are fortunate.  I have a new "picker" who is helping me with the Jeanne d'Arc Living look...she is creating some wonderful ornaments from broken pearl necklaces...
And she has studied some of the photos and displays in the magazines and brought some antique dresses...forgive my poor display...

This one shows the care with which clothing was made...look at the snaps....they are inserted into the fabric...
Then there is an amazing jacket...
And along the clothing about some made in Japan pearl accents...a collar...and purses...

Also in this style are some wonderful old books...

And glass swizzle sticks wrapped with a doily, a container with some treasures, and a Bread doily just in time for Thanksgiving rolls!

So, I am very fortunate to have someone to "pick" for me, and, if you think of it, I am supporting an American not a company importing from China.  Above all, trying to find things that bring you joy and appeal to your heart...and isn't that what collecting and buying should be?Image result for sometimes the smallest things winnie the pooh

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