Sunday, July 26, 2009

Memories, Momentos, Myths


A cabinet that I bought at auction was the spark to light this week’s post…technically, it is a wine butler…and it is not old…but it can easily be repurposed. We thought it looked neat as a bath piece. You could roll towels and store below, the surround shelf holds bottles, the top…a multitude of things. I have an old shaving stand there now.

Nowadays, there are the traditional antique seekers, but, more and more, in the 21st century, it is about the “look” and repurposing, recycling, reusing. I like the mix of old and new. An old piece, whether it is pottery or furniture, grounds a room filled with new. But, it made me think of the “new” antique dealer…and why dealer? And, what does exemplify "Antique?"
Dealer traces its roots to seller or merchant. The term has come to mean “wheel and deal,” but that evokes the open air flea market. And flea market has its origins in Paris since the term comes from the French marché aux puces, a name originally given to a market in Paris. The fleas were thought to be in the goods because they were of the kind to attract vermin. The earliest English use we have found dates from 1922.

Antique actually relates to paying taxes…The Tariff Act of 1930 defined for the U.S. Customs an antique as an object that was made before 1830 when mass production became commonplace. In 1966, the standard of 100 years old was adopted as the defining characteristic to determine if an object was an antique and its import would be duty-free. Before this Act, importers often claimed all sorts of objects as antiques to avoid the tax.

On December 8, 1993, Title VI of the North American Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act, also known as the Customs Modernization or 'Mod' Act, became effective. These provisions amended many sections of the Tariff Act of 1930 and related laws. One key change to the Act concerns restoration. If an item has over 50%, it loses the antique status.

Being old, even 100 years or more, doesn't equate to value. Rarity, quality, condition, and provenance all play into the picture, and that is where the antique dealer comes into play. I had to chuckle at a site that sets the parameters for being an antique dealer. It is recommended to have:
knowledge of past trends and styles in art, design and
manufacturing;

knowledge of present buying trends and prices in antiques
skill in valuing antiques;

knowledge of how to clean and care for antiques;

skill in handling antiques that may be very old and brittle;

display skills;

negotiation skills;

good customer service and sales skills.

The list also included understanding retail and business along with an interest in antiques and art. The final criteria made me chuckle…the ability to be “patient, tactful, polite, honest, reliable and have a good memory” not to mention they “need to be reasonably strong to lift furniture. They should also have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses).

Still, I always say, buy it because you love it not for its possible value which is why I do like the new trend of repurposing…the crystals and old faucet that become a new suncatcher…
the old shutter that is reborn into a cabinet…
pieces of salvage wood that get reworked into a shelf

or redesigned into a birdhouse…

At the same time, in my shop, a beautiful teacup and saucer can be purchased for under $10,
and a Victorian clambroth glass water bottle--$15.
Sure, the "book" values may price the items way over, but those guides are compiled from the high bidders at auctions or shop prices where the market may bear high prices. Sometimes I think people do want to pay a lot for that muffler (to rework that commercial).

But the antique shop is full of memories, momentos, and myths. It should not be mysterious, and every "dealer" should be able to validate the merchandise that passes through their doors. And, if things are priced sensibly the first time, you don't have to deal...remember, folks, most antique dealers mark it up to mark it down anyway! Having a Library Science degree has been invaluable to my business...note how many times "knowledge" is listed in the antique dealer job description. Just because something is old does not make it priceless...unless it is alive!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Gonder yonder...

You knew I had to do that title pun...sorry...but this week I am going to give you some insight into a pottery company that does not get much attention even though it was one of the Ohio art potteries that made fine ceramic wares. I never have many pieces in the shop...in fact, I only have 2 in stock now. It is just not a common pottery, yet its being rare does not command the prices of the other Ohio potteries like Roseville, McCoy, or even Robinson Ransbottom.

Lawton Gonder's parents had worked for Weller Pottery, and he began his career in ceramics when he was a teenager running molds and casting parts.

In 1915 Lawton went to work at American Encaustic Tiling Co., where he stayed for 11 years. He moved to Florida, then on to manage a New Jersey plant for American Encaustic Tile (always amazes me at how many people pass through NJ on their life journeys). There Gonder supervised the production of the first tiles guaranteed to not craze.

In 1936 Gonder moved out of the tile business, becoming manager of the Florence Pottery, but, when fire destroyed Florence Pottery in 1942, it opened the door to establish his own pottery company. Superior glazes were introduced, notably 25K gold crackle, Chinese crackle, glazes in celadon, blue and ming yellow and flambe effects.
When you see the pottery in person, you can tell the difference in the glazing techniques compared to McCoy or Shawnee. The factory closed in 1957, and, although I do not know why, I would imagine it was a victim of the post WWII imports.

From 1946 to 1954, Gonder also operated the Elgee Pottery (Lawton Gonder used his initials LG to create the name), which made ceramic lamp bases until a fire destroyed the plant in 1959.

So, on your travels, you may want to keep an eye out for this company. Although it existed for only 15 years, it is another piece of the American pottery puzzle that needs to be filled in on the board.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The glove...

I always try to relate the present to the past…and this week’s events surrounding Michael Jackson give me a unique transition to the glove.

On Tuesday at the weekly flea market scavenger hunt, I happened on a pile of gloves. As MJ tunes played from the boom boxes around me, I was amused about buying gloves on the day of his memorial service(no sequins in the batch though).

Everyone knows about his signature glove, but then I got to thinking where did gloves originate? Again, we go to the ancient past—the Egyptians had gloves available in the shape of bags, without finger holes and resembled a mitten. Egyptian women protected their hands during work and meals.

There are references to gloves in Homer and some of the other ancient poets, but the Middle Ages gave gloves status and power. Leather gloves were used for riding and falconry, and knights used them in ceremonies as well as throwing down the glove to challenge an opponent. If a lady gave a man a pair of gloves, it was a symbol of love.

Queen Elizabeth brought the gloves to the fashion front for women. She had over 2000 pairs, and which were looked after by a special wardrobe mistress. In fact, gloves were so popular that they were given as keepsakes to wedding guests, a tradition that continued into the nineteenth century.

After the French Revolution, the classical empire look fostered white or pastel gloves that extended past the elbow to accent the slender, high-waisted dresses of the period. Throughout the nineteenth century, gloves and fingerless mitts were essential components of a lady's wardrobe, worn whenever she went out in public. It could take half an hour to put on a pair of 16-button opera-length gloves, requiring the use of glove stretchers, powder, buttonhooks, and the nimble hands of a maid.
In modern history gloves retained their fashion importance through the 1950s. Many of the gloves in my current stash are from that period. Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, and Vivienne Leigh were all known for their gloved hands.
It still creates an air of elegance to see a woman dressed with hat and gloves, but it is a rare event. Or maybe we relate it to aging now, as Jenny Joseph wrote: ““When I am an old woman I shall wear purple, With a red hat which doesn't go and doesn't suit me, And I shall spend my pension on brandy and summer gloves, And satin sandals, and say we've no money for butter.”
I have the summer gloves…you are on your own for the brandy!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

4 for the 4th!


I am a day early in this week's post...but I wanted to do more than red, white, and blue. Independence Day…there is always constant chatter around this time of year about being independent. But indies…the new term for those who step out on their own in whatever fields that may be…indies struggle as they attempt to maintain a sense of self.

I am an "independent" retailer. I am a little box, not a big box, and, I think indies are better at entertaining as well as being in businesses. Indies give thought to their creations, and the small retailer works to make someone's shopping experience an adventure. Although I am responsible for daily maintenance, I have to give credit to many people along my 18 year journey, but I have selected 4 women I deal with now to give some insight about buying American. Everyone loves a bargain, but those bargains have driven jobs overseas and have closed many of the factories that provided. Historically, when we occupied Japan, we shut the doors on many of our pottery companies. Now, China fills the orders for goods as Japan has moved on to the tech world.

Since I am more vintage/antique than new, I do not have the dilemma of stocking the store with imports, but, when I do buy new items, I want them to represent my philosophy…support those who are trying to support themselves. These are not women who mass produce...they create...they design...they are indies who love what they do.

I want to feature Erica of Meadow Street first…I carry her handpainted silk and velvet roses and her handcrafted tussy mussies.
The roses are pins, but their beauty would give joy to a nightstand or tucked in display. Erica lives in California, and she has been a delight to deal with over the past year or two.

Next is a recent find…Sherri of Punk Rose Paper. She lives in Oregon, and she makes these wonderful tags that can be used in a myriad of ways. I have them tied around some plaster busts…and again…just laying on table with some treasures presents a beautiful sculpture. In this age of cyber print, how wonderful is it to have a beautiful handcrafted card.
My soap line comes from Marie of Savon Marie who is from New York. She is a fellow educator—a retired school librarian; I know I can call or email her, bounce some ideas around and come up with some amazing soaps…like my new Green Goddess soap…or my lavender line to accent my love of purple.



My fourth find is my “elf.” Ruthie is a muse who lives in my town! She creates wonderful birdhouses and benches from repurposing wood as well as reworking old shutters or giving life to an old worn table. I must give her credit for breathing new life into my shop also. She is my ever-ready bunny, and I am so grateful to have her.



And, yes, you can run into a big box and grab some merchandise off the shelves. But, sometimes consider the small shop...think about the artisans...those indies...who work tirelessly to create and display for you. I also appreciate the artists who make their work affordable, and my elf who will redesign my shop in exchange for lunch and chocolate...I know they are not making big money...but I get to showcase their work. So, in the spirit of America, I hope you enjoyed my 4 for your 4th!