Sunday, June 28, 2009

Here we go 'round the mulberry bush...

These are the chores we'll do this week,
Do this week, Do this week.
These are the chores we'll do this week,
So early every morning.

This is the way we wash our clothes,
Wash our clothes, Wash our clothes.
This is the way we wash our clothes,
So early Monday morning.

I happened on an auction lot of washboards, and I thought I would give you a little insight into them, not to mention make you incredibly grateful for that machine sitting in your home even as we speak!

A number of myths surround the Monday wash day theme. You have the nursery rhyme which follows a week's worth of chores, and then there is story that the Mayflower landed on shore on a Monday, and you can imagine loads of laundry they were faced with after that voyage. Another thought is that, since Sunday was a day of rest, the women were ready for the task of laundry which was labor intensive. Imagine scrubbing the heavy clothes by hand and then wringing out...makes one tired just to think of it! But, the fires would have been going from Sunday, and the housewife could soak the clothes and have them ready for morning.

Before the mid 1800s, washboards were made by hand, carved from a single piece of wood.Washtubs or copper boilers were filled with hot water, and piece by piece clothing was scrubbed clean.
In the 1850s, pottery companies devised washboards from yellowware and Rockingham stoneware. I have never had one of these, but I know they can book over $200. From the late 1800s on, zinc, brass, glass and graniteware were manufactured. Graniteware is not easily found, and I have had cobalt blue and turquoise in past years but not recently. My stash today is more common, and these run in the $8-$20 range.
Smaller boards were used for lingerie or finer fabrics. Glass boards were also mass produced during WWII when metals were needed for the war effort. This board is odd because the 511 has a reversed 1 - unusual in the quality control department of earlier days.
The numbers supposedly indicate texture of ribbings, but I have also heard the lower the number the older the board.

Washboards are still in production...the Amish do not use washing machines, remember...and there are crafters who repurpose them into found objects of art.

But, as E.B. White wrote: "We should all do what, in the long run, gives us joy, even if it is only picking grapes or sorting the laundry."

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Think of me...

Father’s Day…my Dad died over 10 years ago, but not a day goes by that I do not think of him. Even my Mother says that as long as I am alive, so is my Dad.
He made me a strong woman, and he did that before feminism was even in the vocabulary.

I do not have much in the way of manly things in my shop…but I did happen on a wonderful mustache cup this week at the flea market. It has “Think of me” on it…had to take two pictures to show you…

So, how about a little lesson on mustaches…which my father never had, but it is a "manly" thing…and I have to say I never dated anyone with one, and my husband never had one. Anyway, their history is interesting. Mustaches were all the rage in the Victorian era, and they were kept in form by applying melted wax to the curls.
When hot coffee or tea was brought up to the lips for drinking, the heat melted the wax into the cup. Coffee or tea candles anyone? For those whose mustaches were not full, the tea or coffee would stain the hair. Finally, Harvey Adams, a creative Englishman, came up with the idea of a mustache cup. The mustache guard kept the lip hair dry, and soon all the famous potteries were making these cups.
Some are mug form, and some are regular cup and saucers. They were also produced in silverplate, and there were even designs for the left-handed drinker, but according to my research, these are rare.

So, maybe that fortuitous find of a mustache cup really was a nice Father's Day sign for, yes, Daddy, I do think of you...every day...

Sunday, June 14, 2009

“But calm, white calm,

was born into a swan.” (Elizabeth Coatsworth)
I guess these unstable times call for calm, and I try to create that in my shop...although we can be a bit chaotic with "stuff" coming and going.
But I have always been a patient person, and perhaps that is why I am always attracted to swans, live or creative. I have always been fascinated with them as they glide gracefully in the water. Being an English major and having had to analyze Yeats' poem, "Leda and the Swan" where Zeus turns himself into a swan so he can have his way with Leda, and then studying the related Greek mythology, I think that Hollywood could use some of those plots to work with!!! The swan provides plenty of symbolic intrigue.
Swans are the largest members of the duck family, and one of the largest flying birds. Swans have a gland just above their eyes that enables them to drink salt water. The gland removes salt from the water and concentrates it into a solution that is excreted from the nostrils, which the bird can shake its head to clear. Perhaps those of us dealing with salt water intrusion may have to learn to do that!

Swans will mate for life. They keep their young with them until they nest again, some staying through a second clutch. Just like today...the kids don't is good at home! If one of a pair of swans dies, the survivor usually takes a new mate, and they form a dedicated pair.

Many glass companies created a variety of swans, and today they make wonderful accents for soap dishes or for jewelry or even candies.

Pottery companies also had a variety of swan vases, and my favorite is McCoy's early swan vase shown in pale matte green; it was produced in 1948 in softer colors. In the 1950s it was redesigned and made it in glossy black, white, and yellow, and they sold for $4.80 a dozen. Now the earlier version books at $40-$50 while the later one is $50-$60.

Then there are the swan vases that were probably sold in the dime stores that were imported from Japan. They are ceramic, but no less charming in their lines. Here is a gold over pink swan and a purely pink one!

There are several swan varieties in nature also, and one type...the mute swan only made grunts and that gives us a popular saying. Socrates wrote that the swan sung a beautiful song just before it died, leaving us with the phrase “swan song”. Plato said that Socrates had explained it as a song of gladness because the swan, sacred to the god Apollo, was shortly to join the god it served. So, although this is the finale for this post, it is not my "swan song"...and I hope that tune will be kept at bay for a long, long time!!!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Have you heard about Haeger?

I love pottery. When I was in my early 20s, it was wall pockets…then small cache pots…and now it has culminated in my shop with McCoy, Hull, Stangl, Gonder, RRP. I must confess that I am not into the buzz name potteries…Roseville, Rookwood, Fulper…but I do love what I call middle class pottery.

Last week, this beauty flipped into my shop! Being at the shore, we do have beachy kitchy accents, but every now and then a true decorative piece shows up. This is a Royal Haeger mermaid, and, of course, that brings in a little history.

Haeger Pottery is still in business, the company being run by the great granddaughter of the founder, David Haeger. He came to America in 1871 from Germany and founded the Dundee Brickyard. The plant was located 45 miles from Chicago, and, if you are familiar with history, the year 1871 was the year of the Chicago fire which destroyed nearly 18,000 buildings. Needless to say, Haeger’s company helped to restore Chicago, and yet few people are familiar with that part of the company’s history.

In the true spirit of American ingenuity, one of his sons, Edmund, began the transition from brickmakers to artisans. The company was making clay flower pots for the florist trade, but Edmund saw a market for glazed art pottery, and in 1912, Haeger Bricks became Haeger Potteries.

In 1938, Royal Hickman (yes, his name was really Royal) joined the company,
and Royal Haeger Pottery was born. He designed pottery for Haeger until 1944 when he moved to Florida and operated his own pottery, but it burned (ever note how many potteries go up in flames…kilns are hot!), and he returned in 1950 leaving in to go to California to join Vernon Potteries.

This one a Royal Haeger piece also...the man had a variety of styles!

Modern Royal Haeger is sold in department stores, and Haeger Floral Pottery is available to florists.

Above all, it is a family company still in operation...and in today's bizarre economy is that not a reason to support them...whether you buy vintage at a shop or new in a department store.

Speaking of supporting Americans, I had a talented woman redesign this blog for you so that it would be a pleasant blogging stop! Her site is I need to update some of my pictures, but it really does reflect my style. I thought it was interesting in today's NY Times that of the 133 million blogs that a company tracks only 7.4 million have been updated in the past 120 days. So, 95% of blogs are abandoned...but, I am hoping that you enjoy reading this as much as I delight in coming up with weekly ideas!