Sunday, December 26, 2010

"We can only be said to be alive in those moments

when our hearts are conscious of our treasures." ~Thornton Wilder

I would like to take a moment to wish you the best for the coming year. It has been a fun year for me, and, as we go into year 20 with the shop, I am grateful for all who have passed through the shop's door. I hope the treasures you have purchased have given you pleasure, and for those who just stop by here and read, I hope you have learned something about treasures...and learning really is more valuable!

Enjoy the final week of 2010! And all the best for 2011! I will be back next week for Show & Tell...have some wonderful costume jewelry to discuss!

Remember~during the winter the shop is open weekends! I will be teaching Tuesday/Thursday/Friday this semester, so, if you are around Monday or Wednesday, give a call, I can open by appointment also.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

“A good book on your shelf...

is a friend that turns its back on you and remains a friend.”

I purchased several pairs of bookends at auction Friday night...and I thought how it was a neat metaphor for a between January and December, we have all the chapters in another volume in our personal encyclopedia of life...then I thought of the new Kindle bookends needed...the gadget needs no bookends. Will bookends and book shelves go the way of the TV antenna?

What is funny is that there is a neat book about books called The Book on the Bookshelf, and I could not remember the author's name - it is Henry Petroski - and, when I went to Amazon, only the Kindle version is available.

Petroski calls bookends "curious constructions that are supposed to hold books back as a dam does water." He says, "They may or may not support the slender or the squat." Having been trained as a librarian, there is a logic behind arranging books vertically. The boards that form a book's cover can warp if placed horizontally and if the surface isn't flat, or there are heavy books stacked on top.
Even if books are placed vertically, the same can happen to both the cover and the spine if they are packed too tightly or too loosely. Ideally, books should be packed just tightly enough to keep them upright but not so tightly as to invite damage when removing them. Also, if they are allowed to lean for extended periods of time, spine deformation will almost inevitably occur in the form of twist, slant or lean.

Bookends can help prevent all of these problems. Petroski also quotes a Victorian guide that claimed the most effective bookend ever was a simple wooden block cut in half diagonally. Strange coming from the ornate Victorians! Technically, bookends were created to keep books from falling on people's heads!

During medieval times, books were really only found in monasteries and a few other scholarly locations because as books required a great deal of time and special skills to produce. Books were chained in study areas (ye olde reference books must be used in the library)and read on slanted surfaces in carrels. The outside of the reading seats had lists attached to them, showing the books to be found in that particular seat. Each row had a specific topic and a list of books assigned to that desk. Need to use a different book? You had to change where you sat.

During the Renaissance books became available to more and more people. Those lucky enough to have collection of books, generally kept them together, as they were still quite valuable.

Before books became so much more regular, a small pile of books might be stacked flat, or horizontally; but as the quantity of books increased, forming mountains of books didn't seem to make much sense, even just considering safety reasons. Shelves and book chests came into use; eventually books began to be stored vertically by the end of the 16th Century.

As libraries and collectors formed categorical systems for arranging books, and shelves grew taller and more accommodating, bookends became a means for keeping books neatly horizontal on an otherwise unfilled shelf. Bookends of sufficient weight would keep the shelved books safely in place and reduce book avalanches, making vertical book storage and the use of bookends a definite improvement over horizontally stacked book mountains.

Bookends can be found in many different shapes and sizes. It was not uncommon for bookends to be made from bronze, brass or solid marble. Here is a solid marble set that I bought at auction.
Bookends made of solid pewter and silver plate were common around the turn of the twentieth century. There has always been a decorative use for bookends, mostly as accents for a theme. Cast iron bookends come in a variety of themes and styles. This pair is cast iron.
As the years have passed, and fewer people kept personal collections of books, bookends lost some of their utility. It was not uncommon for out of work bookends to find new uses as doorstops and other mundane functions.

Famous pieces of art and sculpture have been the inspiration for bookends. Replicas of The Thinker by Rodin, busts of the great Caesars grace some of the world's great book collections. There are even bookends that are images of the collections owner. Public libraries' bookends are utilitarian, often just stamped metal bent at a ninety degree angle, literally holding the accumulated knowledge of human history.

The professions have Attorney bookends and Physician bookends. Animals are popular when it comes to bookends. Other wildlife that people celebrate in this form are eagle bookends and frog bookends. Lucky animals include elephant bookends. Many people believe that elephants are lucky, especially if their trunks are facing upwards.

Sports are popular in this field especially golf bookends. Bookends are a great way to decorate the house with a theme. One popular home decorating theme is a throwback from our great beach vacations, the nautical theme and the nautical bookend.

But, the librarian/English teach in me cannot ignore books or bookends! Like a bloodhound, I will seek and find!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

“Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle,

and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~ Buddha
In the spirit of sharing, which the holiday season is all about, I am lighting a candle for a co-op in Cape May, NJ, The West End Garage.
My shop is north of Cape May...about 15 miles...but you know when I find a neat place, I will feature it Bittersweet Farm, Etc in Salem, NJ, or even Anthropologie. Many in retail are not into sharing...I believe small shops in particular need to hold on to each other in these times when Walmarts, Targets, and TJs are constantly taking aim.

We took a night off from auction to go to Cape May for a Holiday Art Extravaganza in the ballroom at the Wilbraham Mansion. I believe it is important to support the American artisan in these days when Made in China is so prevalent.

There were wonderful treasures...I got a new hat, a wonderful necklace, and a neat print reproduced on a card.
When we came out, we looked across the street and saw a shop all lit up.
Not one to pass up a shop, we wandered over, and here was the home, The West End Garage, for these artisans who were a part of the extravaganza. In the front of the shop are the artists' booths...

Then, as you wander through the rest of this converted building (a former car dealer & garage), small booths mix old and new treasures.

How about picking a vintage outfit off the rack for that holiday party?

Or, some old ornaments for your tree?

How about a unique piece of furniture - real wood - not pressed sawdust!
Some of the accessories have been replaced...but handles that were grabbed for decades do wear out. The purists when it comes to vintage may not appreciate the piece where some care has been taken to restore it, but, in my mind, that is what this business is all something a chance to live again. Would we be so lucky to be renewed for another 100+ years!

I think these kinds of places and events are what the season of giving should be all about. Not the madness of a "black" Friday or camping out all night-or week-for a piece of electronic equipment. Just strolling about and when something catches your eye, it invokes a reason for the season. I found a neat scarf for my best friend who is politically wired will be neatly tucked into her Christmas box...a wonderful last minute was karma that I did not have the box ready to mail! Here are the scenes from the little shops within the West End...far more appealing than stuff on metal shelves and end caps!

So, wherever you live, maybe you could search out that little shop
...or take a drive to town instead of to the mall.
You can still go to the big box or the mall, but for a touch of the spirit of Christmas past try lighting a small candle for that little shop down the road or in town.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

How did it get so late so soon?

It's night before it's afternoon. December is here before it's June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? ~ Dr. Seuss

I always think of December as a month where everyone is rushing to get to the end, and the holidays play a big part in this hysteria. As a college teacher, I am looking at finals and grades mixed in with cookie making, card sending, and gift wrapping.

Every now and then, it is just fun to remember life before all that growing up took place. Whenever I pick up some vintage ornaments or decorations, I am 6 not 62.

I love the faded paint on these 40s-50s ornaments.

Then, you have the boxes that are proudly labeled "American Made." Lots of luck finding a new box of balls with that label on today!
I love this box and contents...

And I also love the boxes when the previous owner carefully wrapped each ball in tissue before putting it away. Something about that gesture says caring...
Then you have the Santa planters...they held candy or a plant...the faces on the Santas are comforting...
The 50s brought all the plastic accents also...these little boots originally held lollipops or candy canes, and after the candy was eaten, they became ornaments. The cotton batting around the top has disappeared with time, but they are still charming.
So, as you march into December, consider a piece of Christmas past...

Sunday, November 28, 2010

"Even if something is left undone...

everyone must take time to sit still and watch the leaves turn."
~~Elizabeth Lawrence

There is something about this time of the year in the colder climate areas that brings the feeling of country to decorating...the smell of the wood burning fires, the leaves floating around, the soft gray skies overhead...

I have noticed that some of the big companies like Pottery Barn and Restoration Hardware are getting into the "old school" country decorating...

So, I thought I would feature a couple old country collectibles...items that tend to fit with winter better than summer...a touch of pewter...a little copper lustre...

Antique pewter is 85-99% tin, with the remainder consisting of copper, antimony, bismuth and lead. Copper and antimony act as hardeners while lead is common in the lower grades of pewter, which have a bluish tint. In early America, colonists only had the pewter they brought with them since there were no tin mines, but, as Americans are known to want to be "upscale," silver eventually replaced pewter. Most people think of tin cans when they hear the word tin and that makes them think "Cheap". Tin cans were in fact made from iron that was dipped in tin to prevent rusting. Today's "Tin foil" is actually made of aluminum!

Pewter gained an audience during the Art Nouveau and Art Deco period. Pewter pieces like clocks, inkwells, candlesticks for example are highly sought after. Collectors find prices starting $500 for some pieces, depending on maker's mark and condition.

Antique marked pewter is generally worth double that of unmarked antique pewter. Values for antique pewter can be confusing because there were so many different types of items made from pewter, from so many different makers and regions. Collectors understand the criteria of the pewter they collect. They may choose only plates or tankards, for example. Pewter is still being made in America, and lead is no longer part of the alloy.
Copper lustre in its varied forms of decoration was made in Staffordshire and other English potteries from about 1800 to 1860. Some of it is marked with either an impressed name or letter; much of it bears no mark. Dating to ancient Persia, lustre glazes were applied to pottery in Mesopotamia in the 9th century; the potters in England managed to duplicate the technique with Wedgwood being the company to perfect the style. The base under the glaze is a good earthenware...similar to ironstone in many cases.Very dilute amounts of powdered gold or platinum were dissolved in aqua regia and added to spirits of tar for platinum and a mixture of turpentine, flowers of sulfur and linseed oil for gold. The mixture was applied to the glazed ware and fired in an enameling kiln, depositing a thin film of platinum or gold. Platinum produced the appearance of solid silver and was employed for the middle class in shapes identical to those uses for silver tea services, ca. 1810-1840. Depending on the concentration of gold in the lustring compound and the under slip on which it was applied, a range of colours could be achieved, from pale rose and lavender, to copper and gold.

"I saw old Autumn in the misty morn
Stand shadow less like silence, listening
To silence."
- Thomas Hood, Ode: Autumn, 1827

Sunday, November 21, 2010

As we express our gratitude,

we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. ~John Fitzgerald Kennedy

I do want to thank everyone who stops by here to read...some of you comment...some of you email...some quietly read and move on...I do this not so much for responses but to teach; after all, that is what I do...have done...will do until the day I die.

I think Thanksgiving does get lost in the pre-Christmas shuffle. It used to be that we would take it a holiday at a time, but, in our commercially driven world, that was tossed in the discard pile. The first Black Friday was September 24, 1869--a stock market disaster (history repeats and repeats). Now, it is related to stores going into the black supposedly,and, despite statistics that show the most shopping is done the Saturday before Christmas, the Black Friday myth continues to flourish.

The history of the day after Thanksgiving being the official start of the holiday shopping season is linked with the tradional parades and Santa coming to town to take orders.In the late 19th century and early 20th century, Santa parades or Thanksgiving Day parades were sponsored by department stores. These include the Toronto Santa Claus Parade, in Canada, sponsored by Eaton's, and the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade sponsored by Macy's. Department stores would use the parades to launch a big advertising push. Eventually it just became an unwritten rule that no store would try doing Christmas advertising before the parade was over. Therefore, the day after Thanksgiving became the day when the shopping season officially started.

After the Depression, the fact that this marked the official start of the shopping season led to controversy. In 1939, retail shops wanted a longer shopping season as they recovered from the Depression, but no store wanted to break with tradition and be the one to start advertising before Thanksgiving. President Franklin D. Roosevelt moved the date for Thanksgiving one week earlier, leading to much anger by the public who wound up having to change holiday plans (Lincoln had declared the last Thursday as the official Thanksgiving). Some even refused the change, resulting in the U.S. citizens celebrating Thanksgiving on two separate days. Some started referring to the change as "Franksgiving."

So, this Thursday, enjoy your if you must...but remember to live thankfully!