Sunday, March 25, 2012

“Creativity is the ability

to see relationships where none exist." -- Thomas Disch

Ah...the cottage industry...
It is defined as: "An industry where the creation of products and services is home-based, rather than factory-based. While products and services created by cottage industry are often unique and distinctive given the fact that they are usually not mass-produced, producers in this sector often face numerous disadvantages when trying to compete with much larger factory-based companies."

And so, when I find "cottage industry producers" who are trying to compete, I try to support them and offer their products in my shop. Many times the cost of the items will be higher than the mass produced, but how many Americans do you know who want for the 80 cents per hour that the Chinese earn? The workers from rural provinces usually earn about $200 a month, working six or seven days a week. I am sure though many of the American artisans, not to mention small retailers, do not make much more than that some months either, but, when you see products made in the USA, pause and think about the American cottage industry.

Here is a new addition to my "repurposed" theme. Talk about seeing a relationship where none exists--journals made from old records! These are amazing, and they make great gifts if you think about the titles in relationship to the gift. Consider a truly fun gift for the graduate!How about for a young girl becoming a teenager?The front of the journal is the actual album which has been bound into the cover, and the back is the album sleeve. Sometimes the record itself is creative...what a great gift for someone for whom "1999" was a memorable year!Or maybe Purple Rain speaks to someone?How about someone from California? Check into the "hotel"?I have other classics also...Breakfast at Tiffany's, Bruce's Born in the USA, Cher's Gypsies, Tramps, and Thieves. And, Katie from Pennsylvania, the creative spirit behind these journals, presents her products with total panache.

Another cottage industry creator is Andrea from Florida. Her cotton scarves will add interest to your spring tees...and each has a pin which could be worn separately as well. I have asked her to work on some hats for those summer evenings on the deck or the boardwalk. Unlike dealing with importers, I can communicate with the artist...a personal touch in this impersonal world.

And last some fun soaps made in Georgia. From sweet egg soaps, to molded birds and bunnies, what a neat gift or accent for your bathroom. And, no need to worry about what chemicals might be lurking in the product...triple milled shea butter only...interestingly, shea butter is a fat extracted from the nut of the African shea tree. It is widely used in cosmetics as a moisturizer, salve or lotion. Shea butter is edible and may be used in food preparation, and occasionally the chocolate industry uses shea butter as a substitute for cocoa butter although the taste is different (you think so?).

So, as the economist Theodore Levitt said, "Creativity is thinking up new things. Innovation is doing new things." I am grateful for my fellow Americans who are doing wonderful things so that my shop can offer the extraordinary touches to brighten up the ordinary days. The big boxes may be cheap, but remember the "little boxes" and those "cottages" where the true American dream is still trying to survive despite apps, point and clicks, and midnight madness.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

"There are only two kinds of people in the world,

The Irish and those who wish they were."

I am part Irish...mother's side of the family are Devines...and part Dutch on my father's I have enough stubborn speech in my genes to outlast anyone even though years ago I did kiss the Blarney Stone!

But even though I am a day late, I need to pay homage to Ireland. I "lucked" into some neat Irish plates....these are from an Irish manufacturer who is no longer in is not just American companies folding. But, I did not realize that there were so many Irish potteries. Throughout the 20th Century there were a number of potteries in Ireland manufacturing goods in volume using largely or wholly mechanized methods, their products ranging from everyday utilitarian ware to fine ware. Probably the best-known of these is Belleek Pottery, established in the 19th Century and still producing their sought-after fine Parian ware today. I received a piece as a wedding gift in 1976. As with many other manufacturing industries, the Irish pottery trade was severely affected by large-scale imports of cheaper products from the Far East, and a number of potteries established during the 20th Century are no longer in production.

Arklow Pottery was founded in the 1930’s. From my research, they went to England for guidance bringing in nearly 30 potters from the Staffordshire Potteries to teach their 150 employees the tricks of the trade involved in ceramic production.
In their early earthenware, a mixture of hand painting and transfer prints were used - different colored pansies, daisies and wild flowers. The blending of different techniques was well described in the Irish press in 1937 -"No one seems to paint a complete pattern, but each article, cup, saucer, jug or bowl is passed from one worker to another down a long table. One does a flower, another a stem and so on."
During World War II, the quality of Arklow Pottery was impacted by restrictions on the coal used in their firing ovens. Slack, wood and turf were used as replacement to coal during these lean years, but they maintained production of tableware and decorative ware.

Towards the end of the 1990s. it was taken over by Noritake, the famous Japanese Company who is still in business, but they closed Arklow in 1999. Rather ironic that the same companies that put businesses out of business buy the companies giving them hope, only to dash their production lines.

But, it is the cycle of business...unlike nature that returns every year, companies do not always have the ability to bloom again.So, remember,
"Never iron a four-leaf clover, because you don't want to press your luck."

Sunday, March 11, 2012

"It was one of those March days

when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade." ~Charles Dickens

Yes, the extremes of spring...and that brings me to my thoughts this week...the extremes of pricing in the "secondhand" world. I said I would periodically give you some insight into this business. Well, my new issue of Country Living came, and I always flip to the appraisal section, and this month I see this...first, the person bought it on ebay...does the $65 include shipping...I find that no one seems to factor in shipping when buying online...and then the appraiser says it is worth $100. I just simply feel like this...Those of us in the antique/vintage/retro world are faced with pricing issues after every buying trip. How to price an item to sell, but how to gain some profit for that is no different than an American artisan trying to sell his or her work and still make some money...I tend to go with the "I got a buy, you get a buy." This still needs to fit into the business venue...wholesale prices should be calculated on...the cost of the item...the overhead...the profit...then consider the retail price.

If you notice, JC Penney is getting rid of the sales gimmicks, the .99 as in $10.99, and flaunting it. In the antique world, the phrase is "can you do better?" And, in many co-ops and some shops, retailers raise the initial price so that it looks like they are giving the consumer a buy. A flea market may be another level of buying, but, even so, those people had to pack and fill their vehicles to head out in the early morning mist to sell. I still think, price it right within reason...let it sell.People use ebay as a guide for pricing, but any auction is really based on unrealistic prices...what one person is willing to pay may be totally out of the realm of reason. I call that person a "statue of liberty" bidder...won't put the card down...if anyone watches that program, Storage Wars, the bidding war is evident even if blown out of proportion for reality TV. The same with Antique Roadshow...I would love to see how many of the appraisals turn into cash. Yes, there are always some winners, but in the big picture, what is the final count?

Then, in the spirit of American capitalism, we have the make a buck at any costs. For example, I purchased a large collection of flower frogs. In the grouping, is "Draped Lady." This is a Cambridge Glass piece, and a 2001 price puts the value at $60. On ebay she averages $75 plus shipping costs which run $12-$15. So, there you have a price that is already way over the old book price.Not to mention some have the Imperial Glass version listed as 1920s Cambridge. And, the reproduction cycle continued...Mirror Images of Michigan and Summit Glass of Ohio manufactured Draped Lady in colors that Cambridge never did, and then you see that listed on ebay as "rare" because the seller never really did his or her research. Here is the Imperial glass mold...although it is hard to see, the base is more of a "ribbed" base.
Bottom something because you love it...not because it is worth X amount of dollars. If you are a retailer, if you make money, why not price it to sell? The super high prices are scaring away the new buyers...this economy does not tolerate speculation...and hedge funds are not just Wall Street words. I know many "dealers" who think they are going to make it big on some piece of pottery or glass. There are great buys these days in the antique world...I can offer Draped Lady for half of her book value, and even more off of the ebay price.

Remember these words from 19th century writer Oscar Wilde that sadly are even more relevant in the 21st century: "These days man knows the price of everything, but the value of nothing."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

"March is the month of expectation,

The things we do not know,
The Persons of Prognostication
Are coming now
...~Emily Dickinson, From...XLVIII

Did you know that March was originally the first month of the Roman calendar and was named after Mars, the god of war? We changed to the 'New Style' or 'Gregorian calendar in 1752. The Anglo-Saxons called the month "Hlyd monath" which means Stormy month, or "Hraed monath" which means Rugged month. I am sure the people who are dealing with the horrible storms in the midwest will definitely agree with that characterization.

Back here, the crocus have finally agreed to show up...And, with the blooming of the flowers, so does my shop start to come alive, and so today's blog is show and tell. With the help of my able bodied friend and elf, we...really she...created displays alive with color. That is something many of you who are not shop owners may not realize. Unlike a big box store, where things just go on shelves, the true independent shop owner creates scenes. An online seller may set up some photo displays, but the brick and mortar person is setting up the total experience.The flower frogs...actually birds...are ready to fly into your homes...And now that they are unpacked and lined up, there are some real charmers...the one in this photo has a bird which sits on the rim as well as a traditonal ceramic "frog" inside...I have the parts taped down...not to say people are not careful...but...Then there are other charmers...

Plus...some non-birds...check the monkeys!
Not to mention a couple fair maidens...
So, if you want to show off your spring blossoms with a little finesse, please stop by...we are creating, designing, and waiting to show off..."Blossom by blossom the spring begins..." ~ Algernon Charles Swinburne