Monday, July 28, 2008

So you think you want a shop?

Having a shop of one's own is the dream of many; however, few understand that it is a constant accessory on your wrist. And, in the case of a shop like mine where antique/vintage make up most of the inventory, it is an everchanging set-up. It may mean 6 or 7 hours at auction sorting through piles or waiting for pieces that you want. Maybe one of these weeks, I will take the camera along and show you a night at an auction! Anyway, when you do buy a larger piece,this is the chaos that comes from moving things to get that Friday night auction purchase in and setting it up. I am not complaining~I love my shop in its organic state...that means things are selling...change is good!

Sometimes at auction, you see something that you just have to have...this is the story of my Art Deco mantel...hidden behind a pile of 70s pine furniture, I see a carved corner...I see a blue mirror...what is that? OMG! It is a funky deco mantel...OK...I have to have to it...and so I prepare to wait...waiting is a dangerous thing to do at an auction. You know that you can't eat just one...well, at auction, it is: bet you won't buy nothing while you 5 tables and a coat rack later, my mantel comes up. The auctioneer knows me...and teases..."So I hear $3000?"

But when last call comes, it is mine! My husband has to trek up to the auction house Saturday to pick it up because my van is now filled with the evening's purchases and the tables and the coat rack!
On the back of the mantel in faded writing is "Crystal Palace." That was all I needed to start the research. I found a Crystal Palace in Philadelphia, and I am fairly certain this was probably in that theatre.

This is from a web site that came up in my google search...The venue at 334 South has had a few since the turn of the 20th century. It was Crystal Palace and New Palace Theatre in the 1940s. In the ’50s, actors Anne and Logan Ramsey turned it into Theatre of the Living Arts, a repertory house whose reputation was furthered in the ’60s by director Andre Gregory. It became a movie theater; Ray Murray started projecting films there in 1972 and managed the place until he and his partners took over in 1981 and re-christened it the TLA. In 1987, Electric Factory Concerts got the property and Murray’s TLA Entertainment leased them the name for free as long as it stayed a theater. (

Now I also found out that the place was renovated last year which could account for this piece ending up at auction. Here are some close shots of the detail on the piece...

It is fun though to have one of those pieces that can attract someone's attention when he or she walks in the door...I slowly had to fill in around the piece with merchandise...I do not have one of those shops where you can zip in and out. I try to have treasures have to look...of course, that requires a certain perspective...after all, in this business it is all about the hunt! If you love things on shelves or in display cabinets, you will not like my shop. If you love the sensual...the visual...the escape, then you will enjoy your time here!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Blank Pages Waiting for Memories

I bought a stack of scrapbooks and unused photo albums...the kind with the black or ivory the flea market last week. I cannot resist them. These were never used. They are ready for a 21st century touch. I remember the little black corners we would buy so that we could arrange pictures on the pages. How far we have come with our digital technology...or have we?

When you google “define scrapbook,” you get all kinds of possibilities. I like this one: a book, similar to a notebook or journal, in which personal or family memorabilia and photos are collected and arranged.

For all of the hoopla over scrapbooking today, it is actually traces its roots to the Victorians. The printing press and particularly chromolithographs—color lithography-brought a new dimension to paper goods. By the 1880s, trade cards had become a major way of advertising America's products and services. Both children and adults would collect the cards and paste them into scrapbooks. You may find someone selling the trade cards that have been removed from albums—you will see residue of the glue on the back.

The Baker Library at Harvard owns 1000s "of trade cards representing the full range of products and businesses advertised through this medium from the 1870s to the end of the 1890s.” They are now cataloging and digitizing an initial group of 1,000 trade cards that are representative of Baker's collections and of the genre itself. It is an interesting way to view history by looking at the advertisements of the day.

Other kinds of paper goods were also pasted in the albums. Calling cards printed with a man's or woman's name in a fancy script were exchanged on social occasions and also as tokens of affection. They were saved as a measure of one's popularity—again think of the “counters” we have today on web sites, Facebook, My Space…even the number of comments on a blog!

Holiday cards at first were sent only on New Year's, Valentine's Day, and Christmas. By the 1880s there were cards also for birthdays and Easter. Most cards of the period were not folded but were rectangles or shapes printed on stiff paper or cardboard. They usually had an illustration and either just a simple holiday greeting or a verse. Some were embossed or had a fancy edge of lace or fringe.

Picture postcard collecting was extremely popular from about 1902 to 1915. Though postcards had existed on a modest scale earlier, it was the Columbian Exposition of 1893 that helped create interest in scenic cards. Changes in postal regulations and the appearance of American postcard publishers helped stimulate proliferation of the cards.

Elaborate cards were also given to students in schools and Sunday schools and often found their way into scrapbooks. Perhaps in the attic is your first report card pasted in a scrapbook. Another popular item was a die-cut sheet of "scraps" that could be torn or cut apart easily because the images were held together by small paper tabs. A sheet would reflect a single theme like flowers or children or Christmas. Scraps date from the 1840s onward, and most in the 19th century came from Germany. They were inexpensive to buy and were widely used to decorate cards or to paste in decorative array into blank books, hence "scrapbooks." Nowadays we have stickers, but you can get reproductions of the Victorian scraps like the one shown here.

A scrapbook could be home to tickets, newspaper clippings, magazine photos, whatever struck the owner's fancy. They are the threads of that person's life. Although many of the Victorian era scrapbooks did not survive well, every now and then one will show up.

Ironically, in today’s cyber world, paper has gained importance through the scrapbooking revival. Of course, there are punches, stickers, papers, and elaborate trimmings, but it is good to see a return to something that can be touched beyond the virtual world. But, no matter what time zone they come from, they reflect a time, a memory, a life.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Last week I mentioned my friend Peggy and her health problems...well, the breast cancer has metastasized, and she starts chemo this week...I think this picture symbolizes what I want...I want her to have more time...much more time...I am not ready to lose her...I am being selfish, but we are like sisters. She was my assistant librarian in the school where I worked in Maryland, and even though she moved to Florida, and I moved to New Jersey, we get together every other year, and we talk weekly on the phone. She has a beautiful daughter and a wonderful husband...none of us are ready to let her go!

Monday, July 14, 2008

Message in a Bottle

I come to this Monday's Show and Tell by a circuitous route. My best friend Peggy ~ or BFF ~(on left),
who has battled both Hodgkins and breast cancer in the last decade, was given the green light last year, but now the tumor markers have tripled and some strange physical things are happening. But, she is waiting for new tests...which got me thinking about modern medicine and how far we have come in the last decade even...and I then I bought a stash of pharmaceutical bottles at auction...
And that brought me to today's show and tell...bottles...told you it was a roundabout!

Once again history plays into the lesson. Ancient Egyptian craftsmen developed a method for producing glass pots by dipping a core mould of compacted sand into molten glass and then turning the mold so that molten glass adhered to it. While still soft, it could be rolled on a slab of stone in order to smooth or decorate it. The earliest examples of Egyptian glassware are three vases bearing the name of the Pharaoh Thoutmosis III (1504-1450 BC), who brought glassmakers to Egypt as prisoners following a successful military campaign in Asia. Ancient Romans preferred blown glass containers for their pills and potions.

According to the ancient historian Pliny (AD 23-79), Phoenician merchants transporting stone actually discovered glass (or rather became aware of its existence accidentally) in the region of Syria around 5000 BC. Pliny tells how the merchants, after landing, rested cooking pots on blocks of nitrate placed by their fire. With the intense heat of the fire, the blocks eventually melted and mixed with the sand of the beach to form an opaque liquid.

In the 17th century, King George imposed a tax on liquor to curtail alchohol abuse so herbs were added to the liquid and "bitters" was introduced.
The tax came to the colonies and gin was taxed in America, so once again herbs became useful in creatng a medicinal drink. Popular brands were bottled in amber, brown, and aqua glass.

Perfume bottles were prolific and beautifully decorated, but they deserve their own topic. For now, I will simply mention that Lalique designed some beauties in the 19th century for Coty.

Soda and beer bottles are collectible as well as dairy bottles. The little cream bottles make sweet breakfast creamers and even old milk bottles look cute on the breakfast table filled with milk or use for flowers.

Bottles are dated by production techniques. Before 1845, when a bottle was blown,a pontel rod was attached to the bottom and a glob of molten glass acted as glue so the glassblower could manipulate the bottle. From 1845-1860, the rod was heated to a high temp to afix it to the bottom, and it was snapped off leaving a metallic residue and sometimes a rough edge if it did not get sanded well.
As the machines took over, a seam that reaches from the base to the lip indicates a bottle machine made after 1883 or so.

The crown bottle cap was patented in 1892.
But even the caps have their own well as jars! But...another time!

For now...don't keep things bottled up...make sure you tell someone you love them...
besides, if you keep things bottled up too long, you might need some of what used to come in this blue bottle!!!

Monday, July 7, 2008

Enamored by Enamelware

Enameling traces its routes to ancient China and Egypt as well as Cyprus 3500 years ago. It is made by melting fine glass particles on to red-hot metal. As it cools, it fuses to give glass-coated metal. Cloisonne symbolizes the fine artistry of the enameling technique.

In the late 18th century, a German steel mill applied enamel glazes to iron containers at the same time Sweden was developing a process. Of course, when it was developing into cookware, France joined the production ranks, and, by 1803, the process was perfected. Great Britain also joined the ranks of top enamelware manufacturers.

Germany became known as the major producer in the late 19th/early 20th centuries. In 1848, a patent was issued in the US, but the overseas competition was tough. The European designs were colorful and much better designed than the American wares. That stemmed from the peasant heritage and everyday things were decorated to make life beautiful in their meager lives…or…as my theme echoes…extraordinary touches for ordinary days…

As immigrants came to America, the European techniques made their way into US manufacturing companies. American enameled items came to be called graniteware -- a term that may have arisen from the popularity of Granite Iron Ware, a line first produced the St. Louis Stamping Co. They introduced the gray speckled wares at the 1876 Philadelphia Exposition. You can see the grey strainer on the ladder below...this is the style you see in great quantities at flea markets. Agateware is a label for the swirled an aggie marble. Agate is always popular among the country collectors. The blue agate ladle in the carrier below is a pretty specimen of agateware.
World War I halted production in the United States, and, although wares were produced later, they were never as spectacular as the early European or American Victorian lines.

By the 1940s, aluminum and glass cookware that could go from oven to table took over the market. In the 1950s a resurgence of the white utensils occurred, but they did not have the popularity of earlier wares. Also, in the 1970s, Hong Kong produced a number of the old style colorful pieces like the one below.

Today, Chinese reproductions do exist, but it is easy to distinguish old from new. The news pieces are extremely lightweight and “tinny” sounding. The older pieces feel more substantial, and they probably do show wear. After all, the process is glass fused on metal…it cannot be perfect…it was used everyday. Even though some collectors always want perfection, they tend to forget life is for using…not for wrapping away.