Monday, June 30, 2008

How About Some Hanky Panky?

Nothing is more exciting to a linen lover than seeing a stack of hankies at a flea market or auction. You never know what charmers that pile holds.
Handkerchiefs started their lives among the aristocracy, carried them in the folds of togas since pockets had not been created. They have been woven with threads of sentiment, intrigue, and romance since the first century BC. In Pathos, Cypress, birthplace of Aphrodite, there is a sacred tree at the entrance to Agia Solomoni Church where people still hang handkerchiefs in hopes of wishes coming true such as finding healing or true love.

In 300 AD using a cloth to wipe one’s nose is mentioned. During the same period it was customary to wave handkerchiefs to greet the appearance of high ranking persons in the theater or in place of applause.

It found great success with the lords and ladies in the court of Henry II, and during the Renaissance, handkerchiefs were considered an essential accessory, prompting Erasmus to note that ''To wipe your nose on your sleeve is boorish.'' It became a display and fashion object of the greatest importance.

When snuff usage became common in Europe during the 16th century, people used large colored squares on which the brown tobacco stains were less visible.

In the 18th century, the handkerchief found another use in the theatre, where it became the prerequisite in tragedies in France and eventually throughout Europe.

Marie Antoinette was so enamoured by the beauty of the square handkerchief, that Louise XVI decreed that all hankies be made square. In many communities, elaborately decorated handkerchiefs were exchanged as symbols of betrothal. Personalized with names, dates or locations, hankies were also sent as remembrances between those separated by distance and war although I am not sure how "Chubby Nellie" liked her gifts!

During the 19th century ladies regarded the handkerchief as an indispensable accessory for an elegant costume. It no longer disappeared in the bags that they carried but were artistically decorated articles to be displayed. Ladies carried them openly in the hands, even in the streets. Handkerchiefs became more ornate, at which point they also began to serve as tokens of a man's love for a woman, and vice versa.

The custom made it easy for young people while chaperoned to evolve a system of signals that enabled them to carry on a discrete conversation across the room. For example: drawing a hankie across your cheek meant “I love you”, a hankie held to the right cheek meant “yes,” but, if it was held on the left cheek, it meant “no”.

Let it up to the Americans to create a disposable handkerchief. In 1924, the Kleenex brand of facial tissue was first introduced. Kleenex tissue was invented as a means to remove cold cream. Early advertisements included endorsements from movie stars who used Kleenex to remove their theatrical make-up. By 1926, Kimberly-Clark Corporation, the manufacturer of Kleenex, became intrigued by the number of letters from customers stating that they used their product as a disposable handkerchief. A test was conducted in the Peoria, Illinois newspaper.

Ads were run depicting the two main uses of Kleenex: either as a means to remove cold cream or as disposable handkerchief for blowing noses. The readers were asked to respond, and when 60% responded that they used Kleenex tissue for blowing their nose, by 1930 Kimberly-Clark had changed the way they advertised Kleenex and sales doubled proving that the customer is always right. But how much more fun for a child to blow his or her nose on this hankie!

The handkerchief was not gone. Hanky Greeting Cards became more popular during the 1940's and 1950's when a handkerchief and a greeting card were combined to reflect the sentiment of an occasion.

I think many learned to iron when Mom let them do the hankies! I know it was my job, but now looking at a pile of hankies truly reflects how much our culture has changed in the last 50 years.

Who wants to iron them? So much easier to grab a tissue, blow, and toss. Oh, yes, the bride still carries one…the businessmen still have them in the lapels and workmen wipe their brows with them. When you think of the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into those little squares, you realize how much they life they carry. Now that is some real hanky panky!

Monday, June 23, 2008

Get Plastered! Literally--well, kind of!

Plaster of Paris…and, yes, it does have something to do with Paris! A large gypsum deposit at Montmartre in Paris is the source of the name.

When the dry plaster powder is mixed with water, it re-forms into gypsum. Plaster is used as a building material similar to mortar or cement. When plaster powder is mixed with water, it creates a paste which emits heat and then hardens. It remains quite soft after drying and can be easily manipulated with metal tools or even sandpaper which enables it to be used for finer sculpture work than mortar.

It seems that from the 1930s through the 1950s a demand for the antiquities’ reproductions must have been a popular decorating trend. Two popular manufacturers are Marval Ind Inc and Alexander Backer…see labels below.

I have seen several ethnic styled busts done in African, Asian, and Eastern figurines from both these American companies. I would imagine these were post WWII after we made our mark as a world power, and we were expanding our horizons.

I must confess that I only buy the figurines that appeal to me…they are the angels, the women, the urns...

These figurines do tend to get overlooked at an auction or sale because they are not bronze or marble, yet they have a soft charm about them. And, yes, many times they have some flakes and chips around the edges…but don’t we all?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Blog Award! Moi!!

Thanks to Inka of Inkling's Designs
and Carolyn The Odd Sparrow
for the honor of receiving the Arte y Pico award ...I received Inka's message while I was watching the Tonys, and I felt like I needed to pull out my folded acceptance speech! Chuckle!

The Arte y Pico is "given to those who have a penchant for art."
Here are the rules:
1. You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserving of this award for their creativity, design, interesting material, and also contribute to the blogging community, no matter what language.

2. Each award has to have the name of the author and a link to his/her blog to be visited by everyone.

3. Each award winner has to show the award and put the name of and a link to the blog that presented it to him/her.

4. The award winner and one who has given the prize have to show the link of "Arte y Pico" blog so everyone will know the origin of the award.

5. You must also post these rules.

So, here are my 5. . . the winners are

C'est Chouette
For inspiring me to attempt this! Look! I can even create links!

Treasured Heirlooms
For fun things to look at!

The Polka Dot Rose
Just oozes sweetness...

The Delights of Anticipation
Because I am a clothes freak!

The Enchanted Valley Boutique
For creative presentation!

Monday, June 16, 2008

The "Real" McCoy

McCoy Pottery actually started in 1848 as a stoneware crock and jar manufacturer. Until 1933, their pottery remained utilitarian...bowls, crocks, jugs. I have a set of 2 of these mugs that were my grandparents...they date to 1913.
In 1934, Nelson McCoy hired an English designer, Sidney Cope, who designed many of the collectible pieces people seek. When he died in 1961, his son took over until 1966 when Nelson McCoy's wife took over. (Bet that was an interesting dinner converstation!) This is McCoy's "art" pottery...still a poor man's Roseville, it does have its own charm. Here is a picture of Lily Bookends and a decorative vase.

One of the more dramatic lines was called Butterfly and was manufactured in the 1940s. There were 26 different shapes and 6 pastel glazes: blue, yellow, aqua, lavender, pink (although called coral), and white. This is a pink jardinere.

In 1950, all of the buildings were destroyed by fire, and they rebuilt with all new technology. They were the largest pottery producer in the U.S., shipping millions of pieces per year.

The pottery of the 50s included violet pots and a Garden Club Line produced in 1958...that line is very streamlined. The Floraline, produced in 1960 for Teleflora, FTD, and Smith Bottle, was a little more decorative.

In 1967, the company was sold to David Chase who in turn sold it to Lancaster Colony Corp. in 1974.

Throughout the changes, Nelson McCoy, Jr. remained President until he retired in 1981. Four years later the company was sold to Designer Accents who failed to maintain production and it closed in 1990. Interestingly, the McCoy line has held its own in the collectible world. Although prices have come down some, they still hover in the 2002 price guide ranges~for what it is worth...since I still say, buy it because you love it!

Sunday, June 15, 2008


Above is a picture of my Dad and Mom(L) and my aunt in 1945…3 years before he knew he was going to be a Dad!

Father’s Day…my Dad died almost 10 years ago, but my Mom says as long as I am alive so is my Dad. I was an only child, and, even though I was supposed to be a Michael, my Dad persevered! He even asked the doctor if he was certain, and the doctor told my Dad that I did not have a stem winder!!! Unknowingly, my Dad raised me in the feminist tradition…be strong…look out for yourself…don’t let any man take advantage of you! This was in the 1950s! My mother though was the traditional mother.

The first Father’s Day was held in 1908 in West Virginia. A service was held to memorialize 361 miners killed, but the same time frame saw a Mother’s Day service 2 months earlier, also in West Virginia, so it may have influenced by that.

In Washington, a woman wanted to honor her father who raised 6 children alone after hearing about the movement to create an official Mother’s Day.

In 1966, President Lyndon Johnson made Father's Day a holiday to be celebrated on the third Sunday of June. The holiday was not officially recognized until 1972, during the presidency of Richard Nixon.

Americans are expected to spend $11 billion on gifts for Father's Day in 2008. This is about $7 billion less than the amount spent on Moms for Mother's Day.

Monday, June 9, 2008

In keeping with our June themes here, I thought the pearl, this month’s jewel, would be an interesting topic. Every woman used to have a good set of pearls although to be called a pearl has some strange connotations since the pearl is produced when a foreign material enters an oyster and the creature tries to get rid of it by secreting an organic substance which coats over the foreign body. This substance is called nacre or mother of pearl. The resulting pearl may take years to develop. A cultured pearl (which the Japanese perfected in the early 1900s) is the result of implants by man. We are not a patient lot, are we? And we do have a thing about implants!
I found some fascinating information about the history of the pearl. Until early in the twentieth century, the principal oyster beds lay in the Persian Gulf, along the coasts of India and Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), and in the Red Sea. Chinese pearls came mainly from freshwater rivers and ponds, whereas Japanese pearls were found near the coast in salt water. These regions dominated the international pearl trade for more than forty centuries, yielding the famous pearls belonging to Cleopatra, Julius Caesar and Marco Polo. Now, in the realm of cultured pearls, China and Japan dominate.
Before the creation of cultured pearls in the early 1900s, natural pearls were so rare and expensive that they were reserved almost exclusively for the noble and very rich. A jewelry item that today's working women might take for granted, a 16-inch strand of perhaps 50 pearls, often costs between $500 and $5,000. At the height of the Roman Empire, when pearl fever reached its peak, the historian Suetonius wrote that the Roman general Vitellius financed an entire military campaign by selling just one of his mother's pearl earrings.

The color of a pearl is complex as its origin since it depends on of the water. Supposedly white pearls are formed in deep water, and the dark pearls are formed in surface water bathed in sunshine. Each pearl is an intricate layering of color. Experts describe the color of pearls as a combination of the predominant color and a secondary color, the overtone or tint. To observe the overtone in white pearls, experts recommend viewing the pearls on a white background under direct light. In contrast, black pearls should be viewed under diffused light.

Pearls were commonly dedicated to Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, who according to mythology, emerged from a shell in the sea.

Mother of pearl comes from the clam or mussel shell. Best know as a button, it can also be designed into jewelry like the bracelet below.

Errors like straws, upon the surface flow,
He who would search for pearls must dive below.
-John Dryden, Prologue to All for Love, 1678.

Monday, June 2, 2008

"O, my Love's like a red, red rose
That's newly sprung in June."
Robert Burns (1759-1796)

Ah, June…weddings…I love the English tile in the picture above…I was married in June…32 years this month…in the tradition of weddings and white…although that symbol has faded a tad…I decided to collect some milk glass for this week’s “show and tell” although milk glass is not always white since it can be turned blue, pink, yellow, brown, and black. It is made from the white oxide or dioxide pigments and can glow in UV light like white clothing will glow violet under a black light.

Milk glass dates at least to ancient Egypt(1500 BC), but “beaders” will enjoy learning that it was produced in Jamestown as beads to use in Indian trading as early as 1609.(Hey--maybe we could offer the gas station attendant some white beads!!!)

It did gain popularity in the 1800s both here and in England, and all kinds of items were made from milk glass. Dresser sets, pin trays, water bottles, candy containers, and trinkets were popular. The glass was not ultra white but had a ivory tone.

As far as collectors, milk glass reflects a love/hate relationship. Many baby boomers grew up with the milk glass candy dishes, compotes, and hens on nests since these were popular shower gifts for our mothers. I know I have a piece my mother received as a wedding gift.

The best milk glass was produced by Westmoreland (PA). In business from 1890-1985, they maintain a current following. Fenton Glass (W. Va) still holding on for dear life, also is know for their silver crest line…the milk glass with a “clear” the right of the tile in the first picture…and their hobnail…the sugar and creamer below.
The earliest pieces here include the basket weave compote with the hand painted moss roses…a popular Victorian line…and the Victorian mantel vase.

I do believe we can credit Martha Stewart for upgrading milk glass…even Fire King’s…the basket weave plate in the picture…it is so versatile. It can blend with anything, and it works even in the winter…winter whites, you know!

The marked pieces of the big lines bring good money, but Fire King(Anchor Hocking), like the lace-edged piece under the Fenton sugar, is often found in thrift shops, and they do not book high either. Still most milk glass can be acquired for under $50 if not less in this current economy. But…no matter…buy it because you love it not because you think it will be valuable!