Saturday, June 17, 2017

“Books are the quietest and most constant of friends;

they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.”
Charles William Eliot

This follows up on last week's blog about writing...lo and behold...the book...another lost soul in the e-book world...or in the world, period.  Many statistics will highlight that some Americans do not read books at all (and I shall not name names); I have seen a number of 26%, but again statistics may not include reading that is not traditional book reading.  On the other hand, maybe people don't read period!  We are so busy (written with sarcasm and rolled eyes that cannot translate on the net).

Being an English teacher with a degree in Library Science as well, I love books.  Real books.  Not Kindles or e-books or any such gadget reader.  I want a book...cover, paper, substance!  I read every night before going to sleep...love chick lit...or trash as I call it...but I do not need serious thought at bed time...let me escape.  

Actually, book production dates to the Roman Empire.   Libraries were private or encouraged by individuals.  Julius Caesar wanted one in Rome, and this may be the beginnings of the Presidential Libraries and their symbol of political prestige.

In the year 377, there were 28 libraries in Rome, and it is known that there were many smaller libraries in other cities. Despite the great distribution of books, scientists do not have a complete picture as to the literary scene in antiquity as thousands of books have been lost through time.

I love old books.  I love their titles...
I love their covers...
That is the cover to this book...
I think it is a unique combo to Poe.  But, I do have my Lit students rear "The Cask of Amontillado" that was published in the late 1800s in the Godey's Lady's Book...a women's version of a modern fashion magazine with fiction.

I like books where the owner has a name and a date.  The penmanship is always amazing...of course, today any handwriting is soon to be in the collectible world as cursive is going the way of books, photos, talking face to face...I shall stop before I become too nostalgic and feel older than I already do!

Another way to look at history is through old textbooks.  This is from the 1930s.  It would show how much things have changed simply by comparing the articles in the old text books.
 
 Then, there are the novels with illustrated covers...many times printed papers mounted on the book. I always look for these books.
 Sometimes just a strange mix that a book offers will intrigue me.  Who celebrates Longfellow's Birthday?  We really need to bring back that Peace Day though!
It’s not always obvious whether or not a book will be valuable.  I see books in thrift shops and other shops for $5 to $10.  Just because a book is old does not mean it is rare.   First: how rare is the book? In other words, how many copies of it are out there in the world? The rarer a book is, the more valuable it’s likely to be.

Most books printed in the 19th century are fairly common. You would probably have to find something printed in the 1700s or earlier for the book’s age to contribute directly to its rarity.
Also, first editions tend to be rarer than later printings of a book.  What is rare are the items that are fading from our current digital world...manuscripts, letters, journals, and original artwork because usually only one example exists. Importance, condition, and provenance also impact a book's value.  The myth of old equals value is no longer viable if it ever was despite the stories from the flea market find folks.

So, what to do with old books?  I think they make neat gifts for those who still appreciate the printed word.  This is a tiny book of poems by Robert Burns...about 3"x4"...hand sewn...

They provide neat decorative touches also...and, no, I am not talking about the coffee table books!

And, maybe you will even want to read one!

“I cannot remember the books I've read any more than the meals I have eaten; even so, they have made me.” 
 ~  Ralph Waldo Emerson

Saturday, June 10, 2017

"We are all born storytellers.

Our inner voice tells the first story we ever hear.” 
~ Kamand Kajouri 

I teach an Intro to Literature class at college, and this last semester I created the "once upon a time" theme.  No matter how old we are, I think hearing the phrase "once upon a time" will stop us and make us listen.  I hope the digital age does not spoil the storytellers of the 21st century, and so I am on a toot to promote writing with pen or pencil instead of the text or the tweet.  What will the young children remember from their grandparents?  Selfies?  Text messages?  How many of the adults in their lives have told the stories of their past?  We baby boomers lived in a fascinating time...from hiding under desks for air raid drills to protests for civil rights, not to mention assassinations of iconic figures and in the current political scene, think Watergate and Deep Throat!

Ah, yes, before smart phones, we were smart people!  How many of you out there kept diaries?  Complete with keys!
The word diary comes from the Latin diarium ("daily allowance," from dies "day"). The word journal comes from the same root (diurnus "of the day") through Old French jurnal (modern French for day is jour).  The earliest use of the word to mean a book in which a daily record was written was in Ben Jonson's comedy Volpone in 1605.

Diaries have evolved since ancient times.   Initially personal, in the Renaissance some individuals wanted not only to record events, as in medieval chronicles and itineraries, but also to put down their own opinions and express their hopes and fears, without any intention to publish these notes.   Today, the journal has taken over talking about everything from travel to cooking.  Although personal tidbits can be sprinkled within, the diary still has the personal feel to it.  

In the shop, I have some of these repurposed book covers turned into journal or diary possibilities.

This would be a neat gift for a new teacher to record her journey...especially a 4th grade teacher!
Then I have new books for thoughts...that may be a better way to name the diary/journal today...just books for thoughts.  Life gets posted on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, but what about those thoughts that you just need to express without emojis and comments.  What is wrong with actually writing those thoughts down?
What got me thinking about writing was my adventure with April the giraffe and her pregnancy saga.  Several TV stations streamed the YouTube camera starting in February until April finally gave birth to Tajira in April.  What fascinated me was how many people across the world wanted to talk and share this experience.  One group I joined was from a Denver CBS station, and we actually made friends with the social media guy, Jason, and recently he married, and many of us posted good wishes on Facebook...once upon a time there was a pregnant giraffe.

On Saturday, April 15, the Animal Adventure Park’s “Giraffe Cam” channel scored its biggest day, with more than 14 million live views. A peak of more than 1.2 million people watched April give birth live on Saturday, April 15, at 9:55 a.m. ET on Saturday. That makes it one of the top five most-watched moments for a live event ever on YouTube.
What is even more fascinating is that a pen pal group blossomed from this, and people still stay in touch!  That means people do yearn for the written word and the stories people tell, and they are interested in what people are doing and who they are.  April's keepers, Corey and Alyssa, would wave goodbye at night when they cleaned out the stalls and fed April and her mate, Oliver.

My sea glass artist knew I was an April watcher and brought me this adorable ornament, and I do have a necklace available in the store with the double giraffe momento if you know an April fan.


I also have "books for thought"...BFTs...made from old records...I confess to having had these tucked away, but, in my clear out the chaos, they resurfaced! 
Of course, dealing in antiques, there are many once upon a time stories woven into those items.  To buy something from the past is to connect with its stories and add a new chapter to its life. 

You can tell I have been on a journey of my life of 27 years with stuff...I am trying to rewrite the stories of the stuff in the shop...in the meantime, maybe write instead of texting or tweeting...perhaps talk about your self instead of snapping a selfie...connect with something more than the digital box.


“To write a diary is to make a series of choices about what to omit, what to forget.
A memorable sandwich, an unmemorable flight of stairs. A memorable bit of conversation surrounded by chatter that no one records.”
Sarah Manguso

Saturday, June 3, 2017

"All that is gold does not glitter,


Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken,
A light from the shadows shall spring;
Renewed shall be blade that was broken,
The crownless again shall be king.
~J.R.R. Tolkien


The idea that all that glitters is not gold is actually appropriate for the current antique market because the market has changed so drastically, but I am identifying with the second line of this poem from Lord of the Rings..."Not all those who wander are lost..."   I am getting back into the shop and working on my displays.

I actually got some inspiration from Catherine, my sea glass jewelry artisan.  She showed me a new "Happy Camper" line of bracelets and necklaces she was now creating...and there was my light...camping...journeys...travel.  
Even though I am not going anywhere as far as packing a bag goes, I am on a personal journey as far as my business is concerned. I do have the advantage of walking this beach every morning though as I walk, I think  "What to do?  Where to go with the themes?" 

Well, I have it...as the poem states..."the old that is strong does not wither".
So, I am going with those good old treasures that will not wither! And we are on a journey!
And bringing in new treasures to light new fires...journals to record not selfies but selfie words...words that can be read and not fall victim to tech despair. 



I know I am not alone in working through the new retail world.  Every week stories are posted about the topic.  I do think a touch of antique/vintage does help to calm the made in China stuff as it were!  Granted not everything can be made in the USA, but even vintage vases can accent the modern Chinese china!
My journey will be to highlight how the old can be new again and find a place in the 21st century instead of languishing on a shelf or, even worse, tossed into a landfill.  How many collections are packed up in attics, basements, and garages?  Worse yet, how much of that stuff was bought because it was going to be worth big money?  Let's use "stuff"!  Join me as I repurpose! Even like this Mona B bag made from recycled tents or canvas.
 
“Some beautiful paths can't be discovered without getting lost.” 
 ~Erol Ozan
  

Saturday, May 20, 2017

“You can't stop the future

You can't rewind the past
The only way to learn the secret
...is to press play.”
   
~Jay Asher
The retail world is facing uncertainty as the Gen Xers and Millennials shun the shopping mojo that the baby boomers relished.  Rewind to those days when a group of women would meet to shop, eat, and socialize.  Now, socializing is drifting through hash tags, Instagram, and Pinterest.

I confess I have neglected the shop and this blog for many months.  I was immersed in my teaching and waiting for April the giraffe to give birth,
 but I also will admit that I was stymied by the retail scene.  I was trying to wrap my head around where I wanted to take my shop.  I was bored...I will admit it...and I was looking for inspiration.  I was seeing merchandise in thrift shops priced higher than what anyone would pay in my shop, and, if you said something to a helper, the reply was..."well, we saw it on the internet, etc etc etc".
Here is a sweet vintage casserole, but $18?  $10-$12 perhaps on a good day in a shop.  Why not price to move?  Or, is there a fear of someone buying it and flipping it for more in a store or back to ebay?  Who cares?  It was free to the thrift shop!  Not to mention, the area is hemorrhaging year round residents.  Giant "lego" houses, as I call them, have taken over the islands, and the mainland lacks year round employment to support local housing and living.  Retail and restaurants pay the price of ghost town mentality in the off season which lasts almost 9 months now...and we are not birthin' anything in those off months.

But, after 26 years, I have seen the small retail shop go through some serious dynamic changes.  Ebay was probably the first stake in the retail fence.  What was rare in one part of the country was abundant in another, and no one factored in shipping costs...that always boggled my mind!  For vintage and antique merchandise, ebay became the price guide, and price guides have been discontinued except for Kovels.  But, just because somebody listed something on ebay at a certain price, or someone paid an exorbitant price does not mean that is what something is worth.

Then, the Antiques Roadshow added another stake.  Now people thought that Grandma's treasures were worth thousands...even Grandpa did not rate her treasures that high!  With the recession, many people decided they would become shopkeepers and flocked to the newly designed co-ops where the owners were glad to collect rent, and the new retailers were happy to make their rent never understanding that they actually lost money with that mindset.

And do not even get me started on dealer discount!  Many antique/vintage dealers simply add in extra to take it off for the infamous "can you do better?"  No one would think of going into Home Goods or Marshalls or any other major department store, and immediately ask what is your dealer price.  Price it fair to start and move on. 

Enter the cable TV shows...DIY...HGTV...and Rachel Ashwell and her boy toy...Queer Eye...Design Stars...among others on TLC and Bravo.  Even now Flea Market Flip tempts the viewer who does not realize that workshop is staffed with professionals who help the buyers pull off the "flip".  (Don't try that at home with your significant other.)
Image result for picket fence
So, many stakes continue to create that fence that surrounds the small brick and mortar shop in the 21st century.   TJ Maxx is opening a HomeSense which is already the name of a chain owned by TJX that operates in Canada and Europe and is similar to HomeGoods in the U.S.  That does signal that they believe people will shop, but HomeSense stores will be located near TJX’s other inexpensive go-to stores, so customers can conveniently “shop both.”  No need to spend a day roaming about.

And, of course, the point and click world of buying now...Wayfair, Joss and Main, A+R, H & M, and at least 40 to 50 more...but who is counting?

Let's not forget...Buy American...make America great again...why pay $60 for a handcrafted necklace made by an American when one can pick up a Chinese or India knock-off for $6.99?   When an item says "Made in America", consider that you are supporting a neighbor so to speak, not a Chinese laborer making pennies in a foreign factory.  Granted some Chinese products need to exist in the retail world, but do not walk away from American made if you do like the item. 

So, you can see what has been brewing in my head these past months.  I needed to vent so that you are aware of not only my feelings but some of the challenges facing small shop owners everywhere.  Be kind...retail as you know it may be facing a different future, and the small independent shops are trying to find that niche to keep customers happy and to maintain the small shop ambiance...and I am trying to regroup, and, as Maya Angelou writes...
“Stepping onto a brand-new path is difficult, but not more difficult than remaining in a situation, which is not nurturing to the whole woman.”  

Saturday, December 31, 2016

"In the New Year,

never forget to thank your past years because they enabled you to reach today! Without the stairs of the past, you cannot arrive at the future!”
              ~ Mehmet Murat ildan
 
      January 1, 2017...okay, time flies...it really does...or there is something about aging that makes the clock spin faster!  Anyway, new year...although as a life long teacher, this is always middle of the year for me since September logs in as "the" new year for me!  But, I shall celebrate with the traditionalists!
     I am starting the new year's essays off with a business one...I think I have done that in previous years spurred on by all the articles in the magazines and online.  I have been championing the American entrepreneur and artist.  We have lost the concept of quality as we pile Made in China things in the shopping carts at the box stores.
     A few articles really caught my attention this week in Independent Retailer that focused on this new retail world, and I do say new because shopping is not the same as it was a decade ago.  Many times before someone goes shopping, he or she may have cruised Pinterest, Instagram, Amazon, Ebay, Etsy...do I need to go on...you know what I am saying!  And...still end up at Walmart.
    Then again, once your have eyes glazed over, and you are totally confused and do not even know what you were looking for because now you are thinking...I could do that...or look at what they did with command hooks and strings of lights, etc etc etc...you may just pour a glass of wine and turn on Netflix!
      In the first article, this line stopped me..."We have more retail in North America than we need."  There was a time when the more the merrier was fun...shopping mall with levels of stores or antique alley strips...but now it seems the focus is not on things as much as it is on the experience.  The writer says that the "winners will be retailers who don't define themselves merely by what they sell but more importantly by HOW they sell it."
     A friend opened a dynamic enclave this fall...Everly at railroad...I featured Michelle's shop here in before and after blogs.  Everly does fit the how they sell it, and the shop also fits another thought from these articles..."remember it is the customers' world...we [retailers] just live in it."  Michelle is a creative wedding/event planner so she truly understands the whole experience.


One of her fellow creative spirits, Claudia of Stroke of a Brush, featured this piece of furniture that is currently available at Everly...
Painted furniture, very much in vogue, is really a demanding adventure.  Oh, just paint it--Pinterest dreaming...oh, no...not that easy...so when you see a piece that Claudia has worked on, know that she just did not run to Home Depot, get some paint, and a brush and have at it. 
      And that brings me to Made in America...Americans who are creating for you.  Again some lines from Independent Retailer: "Customers want to be thrilled when they shop..."   That is a new mantra for retail...but many small shops work very hard to create a thrill.  Consider these glass hearts found at Captain Scrap's Attic...

   Here is their history...it can be enlarged if you click on the photo...I could not get it full resolution on here.
Now pay attention to the last sentence above..."it takes over 700 hours" to create each piece.  A heart necklace retails for $50, and this glass artist is making 7 cents an hour at that rate.  Just like Claudia painting a piece of furniture, these artists are not raking it in, so, when you ask, can you do better, it may not compute in your head what has gone into these items.
    Another comment that caught my attention because I am dealing with this in my shop..."If you have done nothing in the last five years to reinvent your store, you could be close to being 50 percent obsolete."  Think of the small shops...you expect them to be creative...but you do not hold Home Goods or Marshalls to that, but this is where big shops like Anthro succeed, and, yes, the prices may be higher, but consider the planning and time.  Again...think 7 cents an hour.
   So, in this new world of Make America Great...how about supporting the small retailers out there who work to inspire, entertain, teach, and transact...step away from the screen...iPhone...ipad...CP...whatever...step outside and see things in reality and not virtual reality!  It is really different!  Here's to a new year!  A chance to repurpose, recycle, renew!

"An exceptional future can only be built on the transformation of the mess I’ve made, not the elimination of it.”  
                                                            Craig D. Lounsbrough


Saturday, December 3, 2016

"Christmas waves a magic wand

over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ” 
~Norman Vincent Peale


I thought of this line as I sorted through an auction purchase of Christmas balls.  While I was researching for this, I found an article about "updating" old or faded ornaments, and I thought...why?  There is something in the charm of the faded paint...why get out the glue gun and "update"!

Christmas has enough new about it from technology to sale after sale after sale.  What is wrong with a little old-fashioned touches among the 21st century madness.

Christmas balls are from the late 1800s since decorations were handmade and the only ornaments available in the market were German hand-cast lead and hand-blown glass decorations. But the 1880s saw many German entrepreneurs seriously thinking of manufacturing ornaments on a mass scale and selling these strictly as Christmas ornaments. The idea was soon translated into reality.
 The glass firms around Lauscha, the hub of the glass ornament trade in Germany, had produced glass articles such as bottles and marbles and soon began to create little glass toys like molds of children, saints, famous people, animals and other forms and released them in the market. This new type of Christmas ornament was an instant success and was met with a huge demand. Soon, nearly every family in and around Lauscha became involved in some way or other in the creation of Christmas glass ornaments working either in a factory or in a home-based foundry.
In the 1920s, Japan challenged Germany's dominance over the world market by producing ornaments on a huge scale. (Japan used to do what we get upset with China for doing now!) They brought in newer, more colorful designs and began to bite off the German market. Later, Czech Republic also entered the competition with an impressive amount of fancy Christmas ornaments. By 1935, more than 250 million Christmas tree ornaments were being imported to America.
World War I impacted production in Germany, but Max Eckhardt, a US businessman associated with the glass ornament trade felt that his business could be greatly affected by possible hostilities brewing in Germany.  This made him think of a way of producing glass ornaments right in the heart of America. He knew that the Corning Company of Corning, New York, had a type of machine that ordinarily made thousands of light bulbs out of a ribbon of glass. Now what he needed was only to persuade the Corning Company to determine a way to make American glass ornaments.

In the late 1930's, Eckhardt teamed up with a representative of F.W. Woolworth and succeeded in doing just that! Sensing a golden opportunity, the Corning Company agreed to see if its machine (one of which now resides at The Henry Ford, America's Greatest History Attraction, in Dearborn, Michigan) could successfully produce glass ornaments and meet with popular demand. And this was soon worked out successfully.

The Corning produced glass ornaments met with a resounding success. By 1940, the company was making ornaments on a much larger scale than the manually produced German items, and sending them to other companies for decoration. The biggest customer was none other than Max Eckhardt who by now had established an All-American company known as Shiny Brite.

Then the World War II broke out in 1939 which caused severe material shortages and forced Corning to do away with the earlier practice of making the inside of the ornaments silvered on the inside (to make them shine brightly for longer periods) and instead decorate the clear glass balls with simple thin stripes in pastel colors which required much less metallic oxide pigment. Fortunately, Corning was able to alter its machines to produce an increased variety of shapes and sizes of glass ball without using scarce war material. But the war crisis resulted in a forced replacement of the sturdy metal cap (that held the little hook for hanging the ornaments) to a cardboard one.
Post World War II, F.W. Woolworth's highly popular "Five-and-dime stores" were the main source of Christmas ornaments and decorations. The end of the Second World War also found most of Germany's Lauscha's glassworks turn into state-owned entities. The production of baubles in Lauscha ceased. The fall of the Berlin Wall resulted in most of the firms being reestablished as private companies. Only about 20 small glass-blowing firms are active in Lauscha today.

So, as you decorate your tree, think of the history behind each ball as it graces a branch...and remember...
“Christmas is forever, not for just one day,
for loving, sharing, giving, are not to put away
like bells and lights and tinsel, in some box upon a shelf.
The good you do for others is good you do yourself.”
                                   ~ Norman Wesley Brooks, “Let Every Day Be Christmas