Sunday, January 29, 2012

"Nature does not hurry,

yet everything is accomplished."
~ Lao Tzu
I am trying to reorganize the shop, and I am hoping for the theory of nature to kick in...definitely not hurrying it, and, since the semester is in full swing, that seriously impacts my nature.

I found in my stash, some pretty "elegant" Depression sherbets. Traditional Depression glass was made in the central and mid-west United States, where access to raw materials and power made manufacturing inexpensive in the first half of the twentieth century. More than twenty manufacturers made more than 100 patterns, and entire dinner sets were made in some patterns.

Common colors are clear (crystal), pink, pale blue, green, and amber. Less common colors include yellow (canary), ultra marine, jadeite (opaque pale green), delphite (opaque pale blue), cobalt blue, red (ruby & royal ruby), black, amethyst, monax, and white (milk glass). The Quaker Oats Company, and other food manufacturers and distributors, put a piece of glassware in boxes of food, as an incentive to purchase. Movie theaters and businesses would hand out a piece simply for coming in the door. Depending on your age though, you may remember when banks and gas stations gave you "presents" for coming in the door...nowadays, you have to give them mega presents to get their attention!Often confused with Depression Glass is Elegant glass which was a better quality glass and was distributed through jewelry and department stores. A finer glass, it was often etched with intricate designs...few people think of what it takes to do the etching even on clear glass. From the 1920s through the 1950s, it was an alternative to fine china. Most of the Elegant glassware manufacturers had closed by the end of the 1950s, and cheap glassware and imported china replaced Elegant glass. (Note how many times in these articles, I talk about "cheap" replacing American made products. Anyone see the pattern to our current economic woes?) Some of the bigger "Elegant" glass manufacturers included Cambridge, Duncan Miller, Fenton, Fostoris, Imperical, Heisey, and Westmoreland.

So, while we wait for nature to unveil her spring etchings, as the poet Anne Bradstreet, New England's first published poet of the 17th century, wrote, "If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It is memory

that enables a person to gather roses in January. ~ Author Unknown

At this point in the states where January is not represented by palm trees and coconuts, we residents are thinking spring. The garden catalogs are in the mailboxes daily, and, in the east, it has been a kind winter. The snowbabies are not happy, I am sure, but it has been a fairly mild winter. At auction the other night, I got a wonderful white ironstone pitcher and bowl, and I thought of spring and flowers...Ironstone china as we know it was first patented in 1813 by Charles James Mason in Staffordshire, England. It was an improved china harder than earthenware and stronger than porcelain. Freshly cleaved ironstone is usually grey. The brown external appearance is due to oxidation of its surface. Ironstone, being a sedimentary rock is not always homogeneous and can be found in a red and black banded form called tiger iron, sometimes used for jewelry purposes. Sometimes ironstone hosts concretions or opal gems.

Mason's patent lasted only fourteen years, and by 1827 a number of other potters had already experimented with his formulas. All of these wares were decorated with transfer patterns or brush-stroke designs.

Interestingly, plain white was not common. According to my research, an undecorated piece would find its way out of the factory, possibly because it was flawed in some way. But, in the 1840's, England began exporting the undecorated wares to the American and Canadian markets. The English potters discovered that the "Colonies" preferred the unfussy plain and durable china. (Boy, have we changed our tunes over the centuries!) Specifically, it was 1842 when James Edwards marketed the first white ironstone china in America.By the 1850's and 1860's, huge quantities of china were sold to the agricultural communities and called "thrashers' ware." These dinner, tea and chamber sets were embossed with wheat, prairie flowers and corn in order to appeal to the farmers who had to feed all the people that helped with the harvest.

Plain white was also used in 1878 by John Wanamaker of Philadelphia department store fame when he decreed January to be the time for a white sale. Bed linens, which were available in white only, were sold at a discount. It is believed he might have done so to keep linen makers in business during a slow time of year. Wouldn't it be nice if all retailers were so gracious in their ordering and sales today? But, for now, those of us who long for bouquets for the pitcher and bowls in our possession will have to dream of that spring day and of the roses of summer!"The first of all single colors is white ... We shall set down white for the representative of light, without which no color can be seen; yellow for the earth; green for water; blue for air; red for fire; and black for total darkness." ~Leonardo Da Vinci

Sunday, January 15, 2012

"When women are depressed,

they eat or go shopping. Men invade another country. It's a whole different way of thinking." ~Elayne Boosler

Throughout the year, I thought I would give you some insight on being a shop owner. If you are one, perhaps you can add some comments to my ideas, and, if you are not one, maybe it will give you some awareness of the behind-the-scenes world of our shops. Even as I write, there are thousands of buyers and vendors in Atlanta. According to their press, this "market" was founded in 1957 by world-renowned architect and developer, John C. Portman, and it is the nation’s leading gift, home furnishings and area rug marketplace and the largest trade mart/tradeshow complex of its kind in the world. More retailers, from more places, do business at AmericasMart than in any other U.S. wholesale market.
Since I am more antique/vintage than gift items, I do not go to the big shows, but, if you are not in retail, and you shop at a small retailer who has new inventory, perhaps that owner does go to one of the bigger markets to buy for you. New York City also has a large wholesale market. And...the shopkeeper truly does buy for you...ah, yes, she or he may like the product, but whenever we buy something, it is with the idea that someone will like it also.
I am trying to stay with American made products, and everyone knows the Chinese import stories. I went to the Philadelphia Gift Show last week, and it was a challenge to find something that was not made in China or even to find a product that was reasonably priced. Small shops have to compete with the likes of Home Goods, Marshalls, Ross--they have the buying power of quantity that makes the price far cheaper than normal wholesale costs. Not to mention, the wholesale companies have minimum order requirements that can average $500-$1000, and, for your small "Main Street" store that may be a chunk of cash.
I do order from one company who imports. The quilted throws, pillows, and paper florals I carry are made in China.
It is a small company though not one of the biggies. But, as a fellow retailer commented on a forum, "Everyone loves the idea of saving the planet and buying USA... but they don't want to spend the extra $$ to do it."

And, here is the problem of the small shop owner these days...even those who sell in a booth or in a survive in the era of Home Goods or even Dollar stores...everyone has costs from liability insurance to utilities to bags, tissue, and price tags, not to mention operating costs like rent and credit card costs (which can be high...banks charge for every swipe plus a percentage and a monthly fee--then they get the consumer also). I am a rarity in that I do not accept credit cards, but I keep my prices low to compensate, and the resale market is kinder than pure retail. TV shows or articles encourage bargaining with the small shop owner, but they don't tell you to go into Macy's or Walmart and ask for their best price. I have been fortunate to find American made products...pillows made from old sweaters...handcrafted cards and gift tags...
beautiful silk and ribbon rose pins...And...I have a new charmer...handcrafted scarves in cotton for the spring...made in America!So there you have it...a little peek into the retail world. Many small shops have closed in recent years. Online sales are in vogue, but, as I wrote a couple weeks ago, isn't something missing in the shopping experience when you just point and click? Even for the shop owner, imagine the rush of going to the big trade show...or a flea market, an auction? There is no app or X-box experience for that!
"If you don't get what you want, it's a sign either that you did not seriously want it, or that you tried to bargain over the price." ~ Rudyard Kipling

Sunday, January 8, 2012

"A waffle is

like a pancake with a syrup trap."
~Mitch Hedberg

Do you know that we have the Arabs to thank for sugar? According to my research, cane sugar was first used in Polynesia, and, in 510 BC, the Emperor Darius of what was then Persia invaded India where he found "the reed which gives honey without bees". The secret of cane sugar, as with many other of man's discoveries, was kept a closely guarded secret since the finished product was exported for a rich profit.

When the Arab peoples invaded Persia in 642 AD, they found sugar cane being grown and learned how sugar was made. As their expansion continued, they established sugar production in other lands that they conquered including North Africa and Spain.
Until the mid 1800s, refined white sugar was a scarce expensive luxury. Coarse brown sugar, molasses, sorghum and maple sugar and syrup were the sweeteners of the everyday housewife. According to some old catalogues, syrup pitchers (called "syrups" for short) were originally called molasses cans, or syrup jugs. Syrups came in a variety of colorful containers in a different styles of glass products both blown & molded as well as the porcelain beauties pictured here. This is why "antiques" can be fascinating...they hold the secrets of the past...but, for some reason, we tend to fear learning, but it can be so revealing. That is why when I buy something, I have to is not good enough to think, "Oh, I can mark that up." I have to put it in perspective...and so here is the perspective of the Victorian syrup.Maple syrup was first collected and used by Native American Indians. No, the New Englanders did not discover it! It is traditionally harvested by tapping a maple tree through the bark and into the wood, then letting the sap run into a bucket, which requires daily collecting. Molasses, sometimes called sorghum, is a thick syrup by-product from the processing of the sugar cane or sugar beet into sugar.During the Victorian times, which is when these syrups were popular, treacle would have been the generic word in Britain for any syrup made in the process of refining sugar cane, and it can range from very light to very dark. In practice, the lighter syrup which is produced when the sugar cane juice is first boiled, is called light treacle or golden syrup. As you can see in the ad, the product came in a can, and, in better households was transferred to the syrup pitcher.The second boiling produces a much darker syrup, which British cooks call treacle (or dark treacle) and we call molasses (or dark molasses). The third boiling produces what we both apparently call blackstrap molasses, which is very dark and somewhat bitter, and which health-food advocates think is heaven on earth although it is more often used to feed cattle.

The sugar industry in some countries is highly protected. The United States, for example, maintains a domestic price for sugar well above the world price and controls the amount of sugar imported. The European Union protects its beet growers, and the industry in India is carefully regulated to control production and domestic prices. Clearly, interventionist traditions in the industry established long ago remain very much alive. In most countries there are stocks of sugar held against sudden shortages and increases in price. And you thought it was oil?!
“The ability to deal with people is as purchasable a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other under the sun.”
~John D. Rockefeller

Sunday, January 1, 2012

"Everything old

is new again."
~Peter Allen

A new year...2011 was not my favorite having lost my best friend to the big "C", but life goes on...and so, as Alexander Pope wrote in his "Essay on Man": "Hope springs eternal in the human breast."

I like the lyrics I opened with. For some reason, things old have been taking a back seat to the newly made in China stuff, and I think it is about time to reconsider old...antique...not necessarily the museum antique, but just those things that have been loved for decades. The traditional "antique" shops have been closing or changing their names so as not to turn off the younger consumer, but perhaps it is time to discuss the value of things that have been shunned by the microwave diswasher safe, throw-it-out when I am tired of it, bargain seeker.

Every day I see more and more people with their faces in their 2 X 4 boxes...this New Yorker cartoon is indicative of the new world...Maybe this year could be one where people not only think outside the box but also look up from the box. I was reading a review in the NY Times the other day about the revival of restaurants in the department stores in New York City. Shopping used to be an event...a day to get together with some friends...have some lunch...some each other's company. And, there was no "App" for that!

I look at things I am unpacking to put in the shop. Consider these syrups/honey pots (more on these in a future blog)...can you imagine having one of them on your breakfast table with maple syrup or this...and, since buying is so good these days, no need to price it in the stratosphere. That is another issue...younger buyers think antique=expensive. Yes, in some shops where the dealers are happy to have things become still life pictures or where their market is the high end decorator...perhaps...but sometimes the antique is actually cheaper than the made in China. Take furniture, for example...older furniture is made from real wood not some exotic rain forest wood or pressed sawdust. don't need every piece to be old...just one neat old table or chest will ground a room.

Perhaps if each one of us who loves to repurpose, reuse, recycle would show someone who does a scrunch face when someone says antique, we could bring over converts to the "everything old is new again" mentality. I know I try to have my shop been one of those places...reasonably priced...smells good...escape golightly...not only have we been McDonald-lized in restaurant dining, but we have also been Walmartized by shelves and stark lighting. A day roaming in and out of small shops...or even a day in a big city in the big old department stores (what is left of those)...a nice lunch or afternoon tea...because as the song goes:

"Don't throw the past away
You might need it some rainy day
Dreams can come true again
When ev'ry thing old is new again..."

Happy New Year to my faithful readers!