Sunday, October 30, 2011

Fear is that little darkroom

where negatives are developed.~ Michael Pritchard

We don't need Halloween to scare us these days...there are plenty of distractions from economy to ecology. But, negatives do feed fear. Consider my post a couple weeks ago about Jack the missing cat at JFK...the Facebook group never gave up hope...a huge group searched the airport last weekend, and on Tuesday Jack literally dropped in...he was in the area where he had disappeared, but he had made it into the duct work and fell through the ceiling tiles. It was an area where American Airlines had not really allowed the searchers into...He is suffering from dehydration, malnutrition, and some other minor cuts, but he is getting top notch care. American was flying his "Mom" in this weekend to see him, but he will have to stay in the hospital for awhile it seems. Anyway, the power of positive...

The painting continues...again...I wanted to make people smile when they pull into the parking lot. Not done yet...but it is so bright and cheery!
"Occupy Wall Street" has people talking about the economy. On one of my business blogs, this was posted...The small shop does not have the buying power of the big boxes...companies set minimums for purchasing...most of the time $200-$500. Now, for the Maxxinista buyer that is petty cash, but for the small business owner that may mean a big chunk of cash. And, banks do prefer the top 1%...ask anyone with a small business about getting a loan! So, Occupy is more than kids with art degrees and college debt. Again...think positive...not negative...America does have protesting carved into the Constitution...but maybe we all need some gold...I have some Stangl "Black Gold."I thought this was appropriate for Halloween...22 kt. gold brushed on black...it is from 1968. Rather dramatic for the late 60s, I think. It is sad that so many of the USA potteries are gone...it would be interesting to see what a Stangl artist would create for today's decor.I know this week's post resembled the falling leaves of autumn, but at least here the leaves were not covered with snow! I just had a swirl of thoughts that needed to escape!"From ghoulies and ghosties
And long-leggedy beasties
And things that go bump in the night,
Good Lord, deliver us!"
~Scottish Saying

Sunday, October 23, 2011

“Those who shun the whimsy of things

will experience rigor mortis before death.”
~ Tom Robbins


As my shop is being transformed, no one can accuse moi` of not being whimsical--loosey-goosey all the way! Here is one side that is still a work in progress...


And, that whimsy struck big time at auction this weekend. Years and years ago I became fascinated with doll making. Not the porcelain types...but the old fashioned cloth dolls...rag doll. Of course, the most famous is Raggedy Ann, made in 1915 with brown hair and shoe button eyes. Other popular rag dolls sought by collectors are two-headed Topsy Turvy dolls, Babyland Rag dolls from the early 1900s, and faceless Amish examples. They are one of the most ancient children's toys in existence; the British Museum has a Roman rag doll, found in a child's grave dating from 300 BC.

Dolls have always been an important confidante for a little girl. Sure, batteries and bells and whistles are replacing so many of the imagination-driven toys in the 21st century, but I am sure in beds around the nation...and world...little children still have a soft cuddly toy by their pillow. (Just like curling up with a good Kindle doesn't connect for me.) But, rag dolls were a great money saver for families in the 17th and 18th centuries. Instead of purchasing an expensive doll at a store, rag dolls were a creative craft to make at home. Oftentimes, mothers would save scrap material from other sewing projects to be used for rag dolls.

Even though Raggedy Ann is one of the more famous rag dolls, Babyland Rag cloth dolls were sold by FAO Schwartz, Macy 's, and Gimbel Bros. ranging in price from 24 cents to $2.00 in the early 1900s (about $45 today). They were 13-28" tall, white or black, all cloth with a flat simple with little detail, painted face, mitt like hands; some have mohair sewn to top of head, clothing is removable, marked: Genuine Babyland Trade Mark or unmarked. Some may have the date printed on the lower edge of the head plate, PAT'D JULY 8th 1901; it is believed these were made by Albert Br├╝ckner for the Horsman Co.

But...back to auction...and cloth dolls. When I first started making dolls in the 1980s, I was fascinated by a doll designer, Gretchen Wilson. It seems her inspiration was the same as the mothers of the past...young and poor and in search of a doll for her daughter. She found a few scraps of muslin, an old hat, toddler's shoes and hand-me-down clothes. She sat at her kitchen table with a needle and thread, and a doll was born.

Years later, along with a friend, Colleen Charleston, she founded Little Souls in 1986. According to an article in 2001 People, "their plump-cheeked creations, which sell at stores nationwide for between $180 and—for custom-made models—$3,000, have shown up on Oprah and, according to Wilson and Charleston, in the collections of Demi Moore, Whitney Houston and Susan Sarandon. The fiber-stuffed muslin dolls 'have big feet, and some are having bad-hair days,' says Richard Bloom, who sells them in his Portland, Ore., store. 'They have an emotional impact because they're not perfect.'"

The dolls were made in their factory in Bridgeport, Pa., and they had a 28-member production crew that included ex-welfare mothers, a former homeless person and immigrants from Nigeria and Cambodia.
The article also noted that Charleston and Wilson "imported doll clothes made by underprivileged women in places as far-flung as Tibet and Ghana, providing daycare programs for the seamstresses' children. 'They're generating a higher quality of life for people in developing nations,' says Christopher Gallagher, president of the not-for-profit Social Venture Network, a group of philanthropic entrepreneurs."
In a New York Times article from 1991, it talks about how the company was now up to 40 artists who designed the dolls and helped scout flea markets for buttons, tin brooches, toys, handmade socks, overalls, sweaters and shirts. "We try to find toys and hats that are old, and new clothes that have some texture and character," Ms. Wilson said. "We try to see things with a different eye." It mentions that they bought 2,000 hats made in the 1920's. Wool meant for making rugs is used for the dolls' hair, and odd-lot shoes in toddlers' sizes serve as footwear.
So...flash forward to auction Friday night...there they were...lined up...and so, my whimsy took over. I had not seen her dolls since the days when we admired them in the windows of unique shops in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia...she is still designing, but she does them in true designer fashion one of a kind now. These are from earlier production, but they are signed and have a tag with a number. Here is Eve, designed for 2000, and then Mother Goose interpreted as a Little Soul.


So, as this quotation from Heather Kent says, "It has to be fun. Whimsy and wonder are important. Keeping things light makes it easier for people to look at them."

Sunday, October 16, 2011

How beautifully leaves grow old.

How full of light and color are their last days. ~John BurroughsI have found it interesting in my 20 years in the business to watch things change and evolve. For those of you who are not just cyber friends, the shop is going through change also...
I wanted to brighten things up for the next 20 years!

I will not change what I buy though...American made as much as possible in the decorative items...and antique/vintage or things recycled with those characteristics. Lately, it seems that so many are stepping away from "antique store" labels because it is not "in." Well, then someone better tell the cable networks...from Picker Sisters to American Pickers...Pawn Stars to Storage Wars...Cash in the Attic to Auction Hunters...they all celebrate the world of antiques & vintage.

Everyone is bemoaning the weak economy, but manufacturing was the focus of the middle class...and with no manufacturing, it is only logical that the middle class fades into extinction. Not to mention our massive throw it out society.

Take these milk bottles, for example.
My latest auction stash...two carriers of them!

The New York Dairy Company is credited with having the first factory that produced milk bottles, and the first patent for a milk container is held listed as the Lester Milk Jar on January 29, 1878 - US patent number 199837, filed on September 22, 1877.

This photo shows some of better bottles.Lewis P. Whiteman holds the first patent for a glass milk bottle with a small glass lid and a tin clip (US patent number 225,900, granted March 23, 1880, filed on January 31, 1880). The next earliest patent is for a milk bottle with a dome type tin cap and was granted September 23, 1884 to Whitemen's brother, Abram V. Whiteman (US patent number 305,554, filed on January 31, 1880. This bottle has been found with cream line marks and is very valuable. The Whiteman brothers produced milk bottles based on these specifications at the Warren Glass Works Company in Cumberland, Maryland, and sold them through their New York sales office.

The Original Thatcher is one of the most desirable milk bottles for collectors. The patent for the glass dome lid is dated April 27, 1886. There are several variations of this early milk bottle and many reproductions. During this time period, many types of bottles were being used to hold and distribute milk. These include a pop bottle type with a wire clamp, used by the Chicago Sterilized Milk Company, Sweet Clover, and others. Fruit jars were also used, but only the Cohansey Glass Manufacturing plant made them with dairy names embossed on them.

The common sense milk bottle with the first cap seat was developed as an economical means for sealing a reusable milk bottle by the Thatcher Manufacturing Company around 1900. Most bottles produced after this time have a cap seat.

Milk bottles before the 1930s were round. In the 1940s, a square squat bottle become the more popular style. Milk bottles since the 1930s used pyroglaze or ACL (Applied Color Label) to identify the bottles. Before the 1930s, names were embossed on milk bottles using a slug plate. The name was impressed on the slug plate, then the plate was inserted into the mold used to make the bottle - the result was the embossed name on the bottle.

In my auction stash are local bottles like this one from an Atlantic City dairy.

By the 1960s, in the United States, glass bottles had largely been replaced with paper cartons.

And so the end of another group of made in USA companies are gone...the glass manufacturers, the sterilizers-since the bottles were returned, the cap producers, the folks to facilitate all of that...now it is a paper box and into the trash...the end.

Oh, well...as Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote..."All things must change...To something new, to something strange."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

“I would rather sit

on a pumpkin, and have it all to myself, than be crowded on a velvet cushion."
~Henry David Thoreau

It is that time of the year...pumpkins, pumpkins, pumpkins. I love fall...and the colors of fall...there is something invigorating about the oranges, yellows, and reds this time of the year...the fireworks of autumn before the quiet colors of winter.

Did you know that the pumpkin was not always the traditional "veggie" of Halloween?

The Irish brought the tradition of the Jack O'Lantern to America. On All Hallow's Eve, the Irish originally hollowed out turnips, rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets. In the mid 1800s when the potato famine hit Ireland, nearly a million Irish came to America (good thing their "taters" are doing better now-they might be left floating out there these days). Anyway, the legend revolves around Stingy Jack, a miserable old drunk who played tricks on everyone, but the trick he played on the Devil was his downfall.

He tricked the Devil into climbing up an apple tree. Once the Devil climbed up the apple tree, Stingy Jack placed crosses around the trunk of the tree. The Devil was unable to get down the tree. Stingy Jack made the Devil promise him not to take his soul when he died, and once the devil promised not to take his soul, Stingy Jack removed the crosses and let the Devil down.
Many years later, when Jack finally died, he went to Heaven, but Saint Peter said that he was too mean and too cruel and had led a miserable and worthless life on earth. He was sent to Hell, but the Devil kept his promise and would not allow him to enter Hell. Now Jack was scared and had nowhere to go but to wander about forever in the darkness between heaven and hell. He asked the Devil how he could leave as there was no light. The Devil tossed him an ember from the flames of Hell to help him light his way. Jack placed the ember in a hollowed out Turnip, one of his favorite foods which he was always stealing. From that day onward, Stingy Jack roamed the earth without a resting place, lighting his way as he went with his "Jack O'Lantern".So, the Irish hollowed out turnips,rutabagas, gourds, potatoes and beets, placing a light in them to ward off evil spirits and particularly Stingy Jack.
Jack O' Lanterns were placed on porches and in windows, in hopes that Jack would take the light if needed instead of bothering anyone.

As the Irish settled into America, they discovered the pumpkin. They realized that pumpkins were bigger and easier to carve out, and so the pumpkins became the new traditional Jack O'Lanterns. Pumpkins are believed to have originated in Central America. Seeds from related plants have been found in Mexico, dating back over 7000 years to 5500 B.C., but native American Indians used pumpkin as a staple in their diets centuries before the Pilgrims landed. When white settlers arrived, they saw the pumpkins grown by the Indians and it soon became a staple in their diets, too.But, back to Thoreau and the velvet cushion...you can have the best of both...pumpkin and velvet...although I would not recommending sitting on them! Made in America too!“Vegetables are a must on a diet. I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread, and pumpkin pie.”
Jim Davis (American Actor. 1915-1981)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

“If we go on the way we have,

the fault is our greed [and] if we are not willing [to change], we will disappear from the face of the globe, to be replaced by the insect.”
Jacques Cousteau


I have been on a globe trotting buying spree...not traveling just trotting around buying globes and globe influenced merchandise. So, that brings me to history as usual. Around 250 BC, the Greek mathematician Eratosthenes noticed that a post in the city of Alexandria, Egypt cast a shadow at noon on the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. But at the same time in Syrene, a town due south from Alexandria, a similar post did not cast any shadow. Why was this? Here comes the geometry!

Eratosthenes figured the sun must be shining its light at these two towns from different angles. The sun was directly above the post in Syrene, so the post did not cast any shadow. But the sunlight was shining toward Alexandria at an angle. This was because the earth's surface was curved, Eratosthenes reasoned.

By knowing the distance between the two cities and by calculating the angle of the pole to the shadow, Eratosthenes was able to apply geometric theory to determine the size of the earth. He figured out the diameter of the earth was 7,850 miles. He was only off a little. The earth's actual diameter is about 7,926 miles at the equator.

Many Greeks knew for sure the world was shaped like a globe. However, most of them didn't have any idea how this globe fit into the rest of the universe. Aristarchus, who lived in the 200s BC, said the earth revolved around the sun, but not many people believed him. Instead, they believed Claudius Ptolemy, an astronomer who said in 150 AD that the earth was at the center of the universe. Ptolemy said the moon, the sun, the planets and stars revolved around the earth in a series of circles. For another 1,400 years, many people mistakenly believed that this was a true picture of the universe. (Still there are those who think everything revolves around them also!)

In 140 BC, a Greek known as Crates of Mallus built what may have been the first globe in history. It is hard to picture what was on that globe, since the Greeks only knew what a small part of the planet looked like. They had never traveled to China, Australia or the Americas, so none of those places could have been on the globe.

Before European explorers and conquerors sailed across the oceans in the 1400s and 1500s, cartographers in Europe made globes. In 1492, Martin Behaim, a German cartographer, made the oldest globe that still exists today.
Behaim's globe is just under two feet in diameter and has six colors and over 1000 place names. The equator is shown divided into 360 degrees and the ecliptic is labeled with the signs of the zodiac. Also present are the tropics and the Arctic and Antarctic circles. Christopher Columbus was a mapmaker and during his four voyages he charted numerous maps of the lands he saw. Years later, the Dutch would become famous for making the best globes and maps. (Aha...my ancestors were good for more Heineken!)When the kings and queens of Europe gazed upon these wonderful spherical maps, they still imagined the rest of the universe circling around the earth. But in the 1500s and 1600s, Polish astronomer Nicolaus Copernicus, German astronomer Johannes Kepler and Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei debunked the myth that the earth was at the center of everything. They showed that the earth was actually a planet moving around the sun. Many religious leaders refused to believe these new ideas, and these men were cast out...and science still has a hard time being accepted all these centuries later.Sir lsaac Newton, came up with the first theory that explained the movements of the stars, the sun, the moon and the planets. Newton realized the force that causes an apple to fall from a tree to the ground is the same force that attracts the moon to the earth. Newton explained how this force called gravity holds the solar system together. Today, scientists are still getting more information about the universe and the laws of physics, but the rules discovered by Newton still give a good, basic description of the universe around us.

And I think the insects are preparing for their takeover. The spiders are obviously the early predators...check out this web in progress in the back yard!And the next time you see a globe, remember this planet we live on with kindness...like Mark Twain said, “Don't go around saying the world owes you a living; the world owes you nothing; it was here first.”