Sunday, September 27, 2009

Autumn is a second spring...

where every leaf is a flower to quote Albert Camus. Well, after this strange wet summer, it will be interesting to see what colors appear. I love orange...the colors of fall...the faded greens, bright yellows, rusty reds.

I thought this fall I would introduce some of the treasures that go with the fall colors. This week, we will take a look at amberina, a blended glass, part yellow amber merging into a ruby red. Interestingly, I only have 2 pieces to show you...several sold before I could get pictures taken...have had a very busy weekend!

Anyway, amberina is created by mixing a compound including gold into the glass and reheating it before letting it cool completely which causes changes to the color of the glass. According to The Glass Encyclopedia, it was first made by Joseph Locke and Edward D. Libbey of the New England Glass Company in the United States in 1883.

While other glass-making companies also made amberina glass, Locke and Libbey patented the glass in 1883, preventing competitors from making it without a license.

The Mt. Washington Glass Company made amberina glass in the 1880s, but, in the spirit of American business, New England Glass sued and forced Mt. Washington to stop marketing any amberina styled glassware.

New England did license the technique to several companies including Gillinder & Sons and Libbey and Co. Libbey produced amberina glass for the 1893 World's Fair and made amberina until around 1920. Companies that still make amberina today include Fenton Glass, Blenko, and Boyd's Crystal Art Glass. Modern amberina tends to have brighter colors, tending to orange rather than the traditional gold and rose colors of earlier amberina.

Remember though we spent the summer smelling the flowers, now it is time to watch the leaves turn!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

In the pink

Turning 61 last Thursday and being healthy, I received a wonderful birthday present that day hearing that my best friend who is Stage IV breast cancer received good tumor marker and scan news. It is funny how the older we get, the more we see health as a gift...we want to be in the pink. We know that the pink ribbon is an internationally recognized symbol of hope and awareness in the fight against breast cancer, but we all want to be in the pink.

But, the earliest use of that phrase was not related to health. Shakespeare coined it as meaning the best of 1597 in Romeo and Juliet, Mercurio says, "Why, I am the very pinke of curtesie." It also appears that Queen Elizabeth I also liked pink since one of her favorite flowes was Dianthus...or Pinks as they are called as well.

In Japan, the color pink has a masculine association. The annual blooming of the cherry trees with its pink blossoms each spring is said to represent the young Japanese warriors (Samurai) who fell in battle in the prime of life.

I remember the first time I saw this scene when we lived in D.C. It is totally breathtaking.

But, how do I relate this to something antique/vintage...aha! It is my latest flea market stash...this time Pink Milk Glass...I can transition anything...ask my students! Jeannette Glass Company in Jeannette, PA produced Shell Pink from 1957-1959. The company originally manufactured bottles as Jeannette Bottle Works Company in 1887, and in 1899, Jeannette Glass automated and mass produced bottles, wide mouth jars, relishes and pressed glass products including automobile headlamp lenses, vault lights and glass building blocks. Jeannette was an early American producer of machine made pressed glassware, and, by the 1920s, was producing a wide range of glass products for medical, industrial and home uses. In 1924, they introduced their tableware products, which are now known as Depression glass.

When milk glass became popular in the 50s, Jeannette used some of their regular molds to create the Shell Pink line. They wanted to compete with Westmoreland and Fenton by doing a unique softer look. Many of the pieces were sold to Napco Ceramics in Cleveland, Ohio, and to the florist industry, but they only kept it in production from 1957-1959.

Here are some of the pieces available in the shop...this is called will see this in clear pressed also.

This is a candy dish in the grapevine pattern. I imagine many of these lids were dropped as children peeked in to see what was inside.

This is called Baltimore Pear...obviously...the lid is quite unique on the sugar though...

There are only serving pieces and floral items in this dinner is one of the serving trays. I guess women combined the pinks with the whites and the pink depression dishes.
Anyway, I am tickled pink to have all this pink milk glass in stock right now...and so hope you are in the pink...and until next week...

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Wooden" it be lovely??

Oh, bad pun, I know...could not resist...anyway, although country decorating lends itself to wooden bowls year round, I tend to think of them as fall/winter accessories. (Yes, I am one who changes with the seasons!) It is something about the texture and color of woodenware works with the fall/winter colors.

In the 18th century, woodenware was sold by street sellers in cities, and in the country, the utensils were made by hand. Treenware is another term for kitchen woodenware, but ebay and online sellers have taken the term to extremes. Truly old wooden bowls...bowls made from burls (growths on trees) do command higher prices, but the bowls shown here are not precious like a 19th century hand crafted bowl despite what some would have you think. I believe good old woodenware is hard to distinguish without handling. I have even seen flea market sellers trying to pass off resin bowls as wood.

Sometimes the large oblong bowls were called trenchers. Originally trencher was a piece of stale bread, cut into a square shape and used as a plate. At the end of the meal, the trencher could be eaten with sauce but was more frequently given as alms to the poor. It evolved into a name for a plate of metal or wooden bowl.

The one bowl that shows up most in the resale market is Munising. The plant opened in Munising, Michigan in 1912. Their story ends with situations that many small companies are facing today. Here is an excerpt from a history of their factory about their demise. That old "foreign" competition started when we occupied Japan, and Americans desire for cheap and quantity runs through many of these stories.

May 27, 1954
Foreign competition in the woodenware line hit Alger County this week when the Munising plant of the Munising Wood Products Co. reduced its operation schedule to a 4 day week. The cutback to 32 hours per week took effect Monday and will continue into July at least, according to Manager Howard Norton. Inventory at the Munising plant is high because of slack sales.

June 13, 1962
The former Munising Wood Products Co. plant on Cedar St., which for many years made wooden bowls, clothes pins, salad forks and other articles of top quality, is now in the process of being torn down. The long storage shed on the east side was taken down first and now the remainder of the plant, all except the concrete building, are now being razed as well. At its peak the "Wooden Ware" employed 300 people.

Another bowl maker was Parrish. Years ago I purchased a large lot of these bowls with a note about the company's history. It said that the stock was discovered in storage, and that the plant had closed during the depression. Supposedly it was located in Indiana. Parrish bowls sometimes are marked with the name in a triangle on the bottom, but one of the main differences seems to be the size of the bottom of the bowl. Parrish bowls have a larger circumference from my observations.

How to care for these bowls is not difficult.
The old bowls will have chopping marks in the bottom because they were sold with chopping knives. They have morphed into salad bowls also. But, this advice is from Heloise...remember her? First, wash it with a mild liquid dishwashing detergent and warm water. Next, rinse well and dry thoroughly. To restore the patina, coat the entire surface carefully with mineral oil. Let stand overnight, then wipe with paper towels. To keep the wood in tip-top shape, repeat this process several times a year. Wooden bowls and wooden utensils should never be washed in the dishwasher or soaked in water.

I caution about using salad oils to coat wood because they can turn rancid, and I advise against any sealer.

And, remember, life is just a chair of bowlies!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Crystal clear?

As I look at the stash of crystal necklaces and bracelets I purchased at the flea market last week, they are anything but clear...they refract, reflect, rekindle the light around them.
Yet, a crystal ball is clear...
maybe because it really cannot reflect the future? Or, as economist Edgar R. Fiedler says, "He who lives by the crystal ball soon learns to eat ground glass." Bet there are many Wall Street bankers eating peanut butter and glass these days!

But, back to my stash...crystal is glass mixed with lead. It was discovered in the late 1600's by George Ravenscroft after much trial and error, discovering that lead added to glass made it stronger, harder, and more malleable. Lead crystal is also known in home decor for glassware.

Crystals were made by hand at first, but, in 1892, Daniel Swarovski, an Austrian glass cutter, designed a machine to cut facets perfectly just like diamonds. This enabled designers to create uniform jewelery. Now computers are used to calculate statistics for the factors that give the beads their beauty.

According to my research, the amount of lead added ranges from 10% for fine crystal to 25% for leaded crystal. Swarovski mixes almost 34% - making it the heaviest crystal bead. A couple of medium sized crystal beads of Swarovski can often weigh almost one gram. So, the easiest way to identify a genuine crystal bead would be to weigh it and the real crystal beads are sure to be heavier than the fakes.

Dyes or chemicals are added to glass to give crystal its colors and there are beautiful color palettes which make crystal beads look just like real gemstones. Again, Swarovski scores here, having replicated many gemstone looks.

This necklace is unique because it is strung on fine chain...

I love the iridescent quality in this one...

The blues here...

A ruby bracelet is sweet...

So, crystals are not clear, and, as Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "A word is not a crystal, transparent and unchanged; it is the skin of a living thought and may vary greatly in color and content according to the circumstances and time in which it is used." So it is for this stash of jewelry...may it be worn in good circumstances and good times!