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...