Sunday, November 30, 2008

You've got mail...




This screen that we are all staring at has impacted the greeting card world. When I was young (yepper, I am old enough to use that line)…anyway, in the 1950s we used to get mail 2 and 3 times a day during the Christmas season. Piles and piles of cards!!!

Now, the numbers have dwindled…and e-cards have flourished. It is nice to be remembered, but it is not the same even though they may come complete with music and dancing elves!

I noticed over the past weekend how many antique postcards sold.
They are so affordable…most only a dollar…and yet they hold so much history. I tuck them in inexpensive frames also...good gift for someone in a nursing home...or to put anywhere...powder room...guest room...or even on a nightstand...

In 1898, American publishers were allowed to print and sell cards bearing the inscription, "Private Mailing Card, Authorized by Act of Congress on May 19, 1898". They needed a one cent stamp, and it may have been the turning point for USPS! You could only write on the front/picture side of the card though!


In 1901, the U.S. Government changed the regulation to allow "Post Card" only to be printed on the undivided back. You could not write on the back though!
As other countries began to permit the use of a divided back, England, France, Germany instituted changes from 1902-1905, the U.S. made the change in 1907 so that messages could now be written on the back leaving the design to shine. So begins the "Golden Age" of postcards as millions were sold and used.
Most postcards were printed in Germany since their printing methods were far more advanced (after all, remember where the first Bible was printed!). The time brought rising tariffs, and WWI brought the decline of the beautiful German cards.

After WWI, American printing technology created cards, but they were inferior, and they flooded the market~Americans just cannot seem to deal with quality over quantity~anyway, public appeal declined, and the only attraction was the new style of “white border cards” and the “view” card…better known as the picture postcard.

From the 1930’s on, technology enabled publishers to print on linen paper stock producing bright colors. Photochromes came on the scene in the late 30s, and these are still the popular cards that we buy on vacation!

So…even at Christmas…maybe an antique postcard would be a neat treat for someone instead of a Hallmark moment…a truly different “wish you were here” thought!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thank You!


In a way it is sad that we only set one day aside to celebrate giving thanks. Interestingly, our ancestors did celebrate several times thoughout the harvest seasons(the first Thanksgiving was in 1621 in case your history fails you!)...anyway, when George Washington declared it a holiday in 1789, only New England rallied in support.

President Abraham Lincoln was urged by poet Sarah Hale (best known for "Mary Had a Little Lamb") to declare a national holiday. She had lobbied the previous 4 Presidents as well. Lincoln decided it would unite the nation and in 1863 declared the last Thursday in November a day of thanksgiving.

In an attempt to rally the nation to go shopping in a post Depression era (and you thought that was W's idea) in 1939, 1940, and 1941, Franklin D. Roosevelt, seeking to lengthen the Christmas shopping season, proclaimed Thanksgiving the third Thursday in November. But, Congress balked and passed a joint resolution in 1941 decreeing that Thanksgiving should fall on the fourth Thursday of November, where it remains.

And now, it has morphed into the kick-off for Christmas shopping so FDR would be proud, wouldn't he? I have a hard time thinking Christmas until Thanksgiving...I just started to decorate my shop...here is a tree with vintage ornaments and tussy-mussies from Meadow Street (www.meadowstreet.com).



Then, I found if I put an ornament in a candle holder with the hanging side down, it reminded me of mini gazing balls...you could do a whole series of these! Different heights...colors...or keep them all the same...



I ordered some soap from a local soap maker...mint...and set that up with some bubble type marbles...I am trying to promote Made In America...I am fortunate to have antiques since I do not have to rely on pure retail.

Set up a mannequin with roses from Meadow Street...


So, it is not the purist's Christmas...but it is mine...











So, bottom line...it is eclectic, edgey, and erratic in my little shop...

And to carry that theme out, we are going to my Mom's on Thanksgiving...she lives over 3 hours away...and we are going out for Chinese! I am thankful for egg rolls, dumplings, veggies, lo mein, and, above all, being able to share the day with my Mom and my husband.

But I am thankful for every hour I have and for all of the humanity and creatures who touch my days...for all of you who take the time to read what I write and to comment...thank you...I am grateful for the creative spirit that lives in the artisans of the planet...thank you all, for sure!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Ye Olde Repurposing


I have to chuckle at the new buzz word...repurpose. For awhile it was vintage or retro...but what the labels do is to provide legitimacy to the items from the 50s,60s, & 70s, not to mention shabby & chic, that in the "olden" days would not darken the door of an antique shop.

The “100 year” label is a government designation for imports based on customs regulations, but it has been used quite loosely. I hear them call something antique at auction that I received for a wedding present in 1976! I have learned that many people in the "antique" business are not skilled at determining what is old and what is not. Looks old...must be old! You only need to look at the shelves in Marshalls or TJ Maxx to see things with the "look."

The term “vintage” came into vogue when the “real” antiques were not in the open market although the current economic crisis is shaking out all kinds of things as people look for new sources of cash. I think antique is a little burdensome for the younger consumers who are used to stores where the imagination is not challenged...Pottery Barn or Target...or looking through catalogs where everything is laid out also...antique shops push your imagination...my tags tell people what to do with the things I sell(nicely, of course)...and then the young consumer also understands internet buying where you google what you want...voila`...there it is.

I know I buy for my shop based on decor not necessarily antique. For example, this desk is from the 1920s, not quite antique since it is only 80+ years old (and I am sure every senior citizen would appreciate that line--just like the boomers can handle retro or even vintage better than old!)

I chose it because of the colors...thought it would be a good Christmas focal point...colors are subtle...not garish...a nice holiday feel for my shop. But someone who walks in the door may see "Oriental" and not picture as an accent.













I also picked up some magazines from the 20s and 30s at auction. I love to look through these.
There is nothing more than an old magazine to show how America has changed. In doing a little research, do you know what magazine has the largest circulation today? Modern Maturity! 20 million subscribers! The first magazine originated with Ben Franklin in 1741, but the Saturday Evening Post was the first successful magazine which came on the scene in 1821.

Women's magazines represent the most financially successful magazine category. Advertisers target women since they are the ones who buy the most.

One of the most successful groups of women's magazines has become known as the Seven Sisters. These are Better Homes & Gardens, Family Circle, Good Housekeeping, Ladies' Home Journal, McCall's, Redbook, and Woman's Day.

The ads are worth the money you pay for the magazine alone. Some are worthy of being framed...and you do not have to rip them out...with today's new printing you can have it reproduced for a couple dollars.

For example, here is an ad for the celluloid I talked about in an earlier commentary.


















Ironically, I found an article on antiques that talked about using an old glass decanter at a luncheon...repurposing 1920s style...















Here is a great car ad...you have to chuckle at the idea of the woman driving!!!


Of course, the patterns and fashion ads are fascinating also...it would be neat to have some of these designs revived. I wonder how many of the new designers study the old magazines...there is a new way to repurpose...tweak some of these designs..

















It was Plato who gave us the line that "necessity is the mother of invention". Perhaps an economic downturn or a global climate crisis can spurn imaginative ideas to carry us to new inspirations...

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Glass Chicken...


Following on last week's metaphor for the election, I have to say that it seems the Americans were not "chicken" about getting out to the polls! So...it inspired my new store display...and, hopefully, people will cross the road ~ or the parking lot ~ to come by to buy!

So...by now you are thinking...what are we studying this week...well, it is the "My Grandma had one" glass chicken on a nest.

These covered dishes became popular in America during the Victorian era, but covered dishes in animal shapes originated in China centuries before(note...China always seem to be in the picture, does it not?), and the Europeans began producing them in the 17th.

Animals were easier to cast than plants or fruits, so that is why you see the animal form in earlier pieces. Nowadays, the newer molds can replicate designs better.

The dishes were originally designed for poached eggs or to hold butter or condiments. Around 1900, mustard and spices were sold in the containers so that they could be reused. Ah, the good old days before plastic containers!

The hen above is by Westmoreland Glass in PA. In business from 1889-1984, it was one of the first items the company produced in 1889. The Victorians loved all of the specialty items for their tables and buffets. Fenton Glass, W.Va, introduced their line in 1905. They are still in business, and they are still producing.

Indiana Glass operated from 1907-2002, and many of their hens are still nesting in shops, flea markets, and tag sales. The amber and green hens are from the 1970s.


The mini hens were sold as trinket boxes although there are some even smaller that were individual salts. The minis on the shelf are probably from Durand Glass, a French company with a plant nearby in Millville, NJ...southern NJ was well known for its glass factories in the early part of the 20th century.



The white milk glass chicken in the photo below is probably Vallerysthal, another French company.
Martha Stewart offered reproductions of the covered dishes from 1999-2002. There are other reproductions out there also. It is interesting that an entire price guide has been released on these dishes.

Price guides are fun to look through because they always have unique things to showcase...like this set below...

These dishes make wonderful serving dishes for chicken salad (albeit a tad sadistic) or egg salad...also serving chicken soup...had a customer once who collected service for 8 in them! You could also serve cranberry sauce in one!

It is funny how chickens and roosters have remained a mainstay in kitchen decorating for over a century. They truly are classics in the design world, and one of my favorite poems is by William Carlos Williams...honoring the little things in life...like Grandma's glass chicken!

The Red Wheelbarrow

so much depends
upon
a red wheel
barrow

glazed with rain
water

beside the white
chickens.


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Divided...

With the Presidential election in the wings, I was thinking about how divided we have become, and I am hoping that this election will bring a new spirit to the country.
Now, once again it is a true leap of faith to this post since my mind works in unique ways (to say the least)...I was setting up some new displays in the shop, and I started pulling a variety of grill/divided plates into action. Get it...divided plates...oh, well...it has been a long election!

Interestingly, the plates I have in stock are more fall/winter looking, and it does seem as winter nears, folks do think of meals. But, as a child, I hated when my food touched each other...mashed potatoes with peas in them...no way...so I am attracted to the "grill" plate. I used to think these were called this because the grills separated the food, but I read that restaurants were known as grills, and these plates were designed for use there, not necessarily in the home.

Anyway, I realize I have quite a variety of turn of the century European grill plates. You see them done in depression glass, but I have 4 varieties in porcelain. I thought this would be a good way to introduce you to how to track the manufacturer. The best guide is Kovel's
...the name Kovel is well known in the antique world since their guides are virtually "bibles" for those of us in the business. They have general price guides as well as specialty books.
Many people wonder how prices are set on antiques, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of price guides. The reality though is that something is worth what someone will pay for it. Interestingly, ebay not only drove prices up on some items, it crashed the market on others. Once people realized they could get something with a click, it made for an even playing field.

When I was looking for some plates to put on the wall in my display, I thought...hmmm...I have quite a variety of these late 1800s-early 1900s grill plates.
Even a shopkeeper ends up collecting without being aware!!!


The first in my stash is by Wagner and Apel...pre 1945 Germany...


Here is the mark...you can look up the mark by design or by the initials.

This plate is simply labeled Persian Ware...another German piece...
This Delft-designed plate is by Ridways/Bedford, Staffordshire, England. The company was eventually absorbed by Royal Doulton.


The plate below is from Holland...labeled in some places as Gaudy Dutch...it is a folk art style...but it dates to 1887.


If you have a picky eater...yes, I have outgrown it...you might want to check out the grill or divided plate! And, hopefully, even if the mashed potatoes, corn, and meat loaf are divided, the United States will not be in the months to come!