Sunday, July 29, 2012

"The most important thing in the Olympic Games is

not winning but taking part; the essential thing is life is not conquering but fighting well."
     ~Pierre de Coubertin
The opening quote this week comes from a 19th century French educator who was primarily responsible for the revival of the Olympic Games in 1894, and, since the Games opened this past Friday, I thought it was a good lead in for this week.  "USA! USA! USA!" 

That is a chant that will be heard echoing throughout the venues as the events occur.  I have been on a USA kick this year.  So many people are trying to survive this new 21st century economy.  It is an opportunity for creativity to flourish, but the demise of manufacturing is not a new trend.  For example, take this Chein world bank.
Julius Chein started the company in a loft in New York City producing toys for the Cracker Jacks snack line. The American Can Company provided the lithographic printing for Chein's early output until 1907 when Chein opened their own full production plant in Harrison, New Jersey. With their new facilities, they were able to produce piggy banks, noisemakers and model horse-drawn carriages. They also manufactured a number of toys under license from companies such as King Features Syndicate and Walt Disney Productions, producing Popeye, Felix the Cat and various Disney character toys.

In 1926, Julius Chein was killed in a horse-riding accident in Central Park.  His brother-in-law took over the company, and produced complicated mechanical toys such as  Ferris wheels and carousels.

During World War II, the company suspended toy production, instead producing nosecones and tail units for bombs and casings for incendiary devices. After the War, Chein returned to toy production with considerable success. When the US occupied Japan,  increasing competition came from Japanese manufacturers who produced mechanical tin toys for lower prices.  Then, in the late-1950s and early-1960s, as Woolworth's began to offer more inexpensive plastic toys, Chein was faced with the dilemma of competing with plastic toys that could not only be produced more cheaply but could also incorporate electronics.

So, the Made in China is really nothing new...Japan was responsible for the demise of many of our factories mid-century.  We will not stop Chinese imports, but we can value "USA".  I have a variety of unique items that are from our "Olympic" artisans.  Here is a video about Katie, the artist who creates the Vintage Vinyl Journals we have.  Note that these are not mass produced! (Hope the video works...this is my first time embedding a video!)


And, she was mentioned in a blog post by Ty Pennington....http://www.typennington.com/post/music-monday-vintage-vinyl-journals-ty-pennington-2012


Keep in mind that when you buy from a small shop, that owner is more than likely going to spend their earnings on more artistic finds and on merchandise for themselves in local stores.  It is not going to "corporate."  I know I will buy from folks at the flea market, from artists from around the "USA", and I will use my extra money at local produce markets, bakeries, and thrift shops.

When a shop owner can deal with an artist directly, it is so much more satisfying than paging through a catalog.  I am into "steampunk," and I was able to work with my "jewelry elf" to create some necklaces to fit that theme.
Of course, she also creates some wonderful work using old earrings...
as well as some creative "dangles" that can work as key rings or sophisticated "steampunk" creations hanging from some handcrafted ribbon necklaces.
Of course, my BFF "elf" comes up with some unique birdhouses...
We have silk flowers made in California, scarves from Florida, and all natural laundry soap from New Hampshire (and that soap is amazing!).  Of course, scattered around the shop are the cards and tags from a Texas artisan...one shown below with a repurposed typewriter key bracelet.  
When you consider all of these made in America products, you must remember that these products are made with wonderful old parts and pieces, not some unknown metal or fabric.  They are truly labors of love not of profit, and, despite what people may think, most of these creators probably make less than some of those Chinese factory workers, but they "fight well"! 

If you travel around the world~or just around USA! USA! USA!
consider supporting a local shop...look for those "Olympic" artisans who need your support as much as those volleyball players or amazing gymnasts.  The unique touches will surely cause someone to look up from their "Smart phone" and think how smart your gift or treasure find is!
So, if you watch any of the Games, remember there are "gold medal" people everywhere in this country giving you "Olympic" shopping experiences...support your local shops and artists...as one watches the parade of nations in these ceremonies, it is impressive to see the variety we have on this globe, and, that as a shopper, I cannot imagine that you would only want to see Walmart as the only store in your town (no offense, Walmart, but sometimes unique is the treat).

"There is something in the Olympics, indefinable, springing from the soul, that must be preserved."                     ~ Chris Brasher

Sunday, July 22, 2012

"The diner is

everyone's kitchen. ~Richard Gutman

Since we packed our suitcases last week, I thought we should hit the road this week, and I got some inspiration from a visit to my friend's shop, The White Whale, in downtown Cape May Court House here in NJ.  I showcased his shop last year, and it is still a treasure trove of goodies.  But, what always catches my eye is his diner china display.
New Jersey, the "diner capital of the world", with more than 500 diners, has the largest concentration of diners in the United States.  The Jersey diner ranges from the shiny chrome rail-like cars with neon signs and lighting to the more modern stonewalled structures that are replacing the rail-like car, brightly lit buildings.

The ownership of diners is undergoing change though. Anyone who has eaten in a diner associates the ownership with first generation Greek immigrants. Today, many of the children of the Greek immigrant diner owners have been through college and have become non-restaurant professionals and are not interested in the long workdays and limited vacations. With this, the Greek owners with no children to pass their business to, are selling out to other immigrants, mostly Asian, who are willing to endure the sacrifices of time.
Another change in the traditional diner is the hours of operation. In the past many diners in New Jersey were open 24 hours a day and now there are probably no more than a dozen diners in NJ open 24 hours a day.  But, New Jersey was not the birth place of the diner.

According to my research, Walter Scott, a part-time pressman and type compositor in Providence, Rhode Island supplemented his income by selling sandwiches and coffee from a basket to newspaper night workers and patrons of men's club rooms. By 1872 business became so lucrative that Scott quit his printing work and began to sell food at night from a horse-drawn covered express wagon parked outside the Providence Journal newspaper office. 

The American Diner Museum site states that "wagons evolved to allow customers to stand inside, protected from inclement weather or sit on stools at counters. Night lunch wagons or 'Nite Owls' began to appear in many New England towns and cities during the late 1800's. Some models were elaborate and were fitted with stained and etched glass windows, intricately painted murals and fancy woodwork. The lunch wagons became very popular because workers and pedestrians could purchase inexpensive meals during the day but especially at night when most restaurants closed by 8:00 pm."
 Philip H. Duprey founded the company in 1906 as the Worcester Lunch Car and Carriage Manufacturing Company. It was named for Worcester, Massachusetts, where the company was based. In order to increase business, particularly from women who secured the right to vote in 1920, diner owners cleaned up their image, adding shrubs and flower boxes, offering booth service and repainting their diners. Many dining car owners included the word "Miss" in their names to help feminize and soften their image.  The company produced over 600 diners between 1906 and 1957, when manufacturing ceased. All of Worcester Lunch Car's assets were auctioned in 1961.
Diners lost their charm as fast food took over, but consider these diner dishes...
Don't you think these are so much more appealing than styrofoam boxes and fake aluminum foil?

Along with the diners, many of the pottery companies that produced dinerware also closed in the 1950s and the 1960s.  Syracuse survived until 2009 when its production went overseas.  Homer Laughlin, know for Fiesta, is still in production in West Virginia--amazingly!


At one time, Trenton, NJ, was second only to East Rutherford, Ohio, in pottery production.  Lamberton China/Scammell Pottery, until it closed in the 1950's, was well known for its custom designed restaurant and hotel China and  B&O R.R.  Centennial China.
 
You must admit that these creamers are far more appealing than cream in a plastic cup.
Diner/restaurant china has many faces...whether promoting its hotel, restaurant or organization...and how neat would a table set with a variety be...



or...look for the decorative patterns...




So, if you are in our area, check out The White Whale, 27 E. Pacific Ave...George is open Saturdays...email for other hours or an appointment...   whitewhale17@hotmail.com

And, remember as you travel, these words from Camus:  "All great deeds and all great thoughts have a ridiculous beginning.  Great works are often born on a street corner or in a restaurant's revolving door."

Sunday, July 15, 2012

"Our battered suitcases were piled on the sidewalk again;

 we had longer ways to go. But no matter, the road is life.”
                                ~Jack Kerouac

Here at the Jersey shore...southern style not Snooki style...summer vacation season is happening everywhere.  And, with Americans trapped in the June, July, August mode, they pack the suitcases and head out.
But, once again, we can study the ancients and realize we are just following the trails of the ancient Romans.  Remember the Romans designed roads, and they packed their belongings.  Now, much of the travel was done by the military according to my research, but again...that is still the same in the 21st century.

This illustration shows a luggage tag found in Chester, Britain, which reads: “The Twentieth Legion. [Property] of Julius Candidus.” The hordes of soldiers made me think of airport carousels as one waits patiently for the conveyor belt to burp out one's bag!

Yes, luggage...who thought of something more than a bag to pack into.   From buckskin back packs to steamer trunks to carbon fiber carry-ons, the story of the suitcase parallels the explosion of travel and tourism.  And, now with airlines charging by weight for the suitcases, I think back to returning from Europe decades ago...it would have cost me thousands!!!

The term luggage dates to the 16th century, from lug (v.) "to drag;"  "what has to be lugged about" (or, in Johnson's definition, "any thing of more bulk than value"--well, that could apply to a plethora of stuff!).

From my research, here is timeline I found...
1153 - The first wheeled luggage appears in Palestine and was used to carry weaponry and equipment. (Sad that war created a neat utilitarian assistant.)

1851 - Queen Victoria awards Prince Albert three gold medals for his Travelling Carry-All Omni-Conveyance, Bewheele.

1854 - Louis Vuitton as we know it was born, initially specializing in luggage.

1910 - Samsonite launches.

1970 - Briggs & Riley introduces modern "wheeled" luggage, offering four wheels and a rope tow.

1972 - U.S. Luggage patents wheeled luggage.

1989 - A Northwest Airlines pilot becomes the first person to carry wheeled luggage

1994 - Don Ku was granted a patent for wheeled suitcase with a collapsible towing handle.

2006 - A ban on liquids over 3 oz. in carry-on luggage is announced.

Late 2000s - Airlines begin charging bag fees for checked luggage on domestic flights.


I found several pieces of luggage on my recent flea market jaunt...one thing about suitcase buying...you can pack them!!!

No Louis Vuitton for those who may be wondering...I did get a 

Naugahyde is a composite of a knit fabric backing and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic coating. It was developed by United States Rubber Company, and is now manufactured and sold by the Uniroyal Engineered Products division of Michelin. Its name, first used as a trademark in 1936, comes from the Borough of Naugatuck, Connecticut, where it was first produced. Uniroyal asserts that Naugahyde is one of the most popular premium "pleathers." 

This suitcase has the strangest key though...you have to push down on the tab while turning.  I did look like a bumbling fool trying to open it on the guy's table.   

This suitcase is beautifully worn, but the latches are pristine.  I know some collectors want everything as though it had just come off the showroom floor, but I prefer the past lives that come with the item...not in total tatters but historically worn.

I wonder what caused the circular stain...where the case has been...originally, suitcases were made of wool or linen.  Then, leather was used to cover wood suitcases or just on its own for collapsible suitcases.  Like all produced consumer goods the materials chosen to construct suitcases are truly a product of their time. Wool, wood, leather, metal, plastic, fiber composite, even recycled materials, are all common suitcase materials. During covered wagon times trunks were a popular form of transporting goods. The ride was rough, so the luggage had to be strong. The theme of suitcases becoming less cumbersome over time could be directly related to the advancement of better transportation.  Even this 1940s era cardboard suitcase shows the trend to lighter cases...even though this has leather corners.  Can you picture the man or woman getting on the bus to seek a new life in the big city?


Remember...suitcases are not just for traveling...in our repurpose world, they provide storage...so much more inviting than a rubbermaid tub.  You can stack these in the corner of a room without looking like a hoarder!   So, happy trails to you on your travels!

"Most travel is best of all in the anticipation or the remembering; the reality has more to do with losing your luggage".   ~ Regina Nadelson

Sunday, July 8, 2012

"Time spent with a cat

is never wasted." 
  ~ Colette

 My cat...one of many...but this is Deuteronomy...named after the old guy in the musical Cats.  If Colette's adage is true, no time is wasted in our household.   But...time is this week's topic.  Of course, there are hundreds of quotes about time...but who created this thing...time...we can't save it...really...we can't buy it...truly...we can't make it...seriously...all those sayings just do not hold time in the bottle, do they? 
 I came into a stash of old clocks...not working...but that is all right with me...I can have time stand still for awhile!  And one has the hour on the loose...we have all had those lost hours though, haven't we!
 The 60 seconds and 60 minutes was probably devised by the Babylonians about 5000 years ago. They divided the imaginary circular path of the Sun into 12 parts and then divided the periods of daylight & darkness into 12 parts each, resulting in a 24 hour day.The Babylonians invented a number system with a base of 60. 360 degrees in a circle. Each degree was later divided into 60 minutes. We use a base of 10. 

The 24 hour day came from the measurement of the Earth's rotation. The year came from the rotation of the Earth around the Sun. The choice of 24 periods was an artificial designation. A year is the only time measurement that is real. There are 365 1/4 days in a year which is marked by the Sun's full circle around the sky, in one cycle of seasons. Months & weeks are artificial units of time.

There is no history of the first clock, but the sundial was the earliest device for measuring time.  The Egyptians had water clocks.  These clocks measured time "by the weight of water flowing from" it. 

In Greece, a water clock was known as a clepsydra (water thief). The Greeks considerably advanced the water clock by tackling the problem of the diminishing flow. They introduced several types of the inflow clepsydra, one of which included the earliest feedback control system. Ctesibius invented an indicator system typical for later clocks such as the dial and pointer. The Roman engineer Vitruvius described early alarm clocks, working with gongs or trumpets. In my stash, I love the bell on the top of this clock.
 
Islamic civilization is credited with further advancing the accuracy of clocks with elaborate engineering in the 1st century.  None of the first clocks survived, but various mentions in church records reveal some of the early history of the clock.
 
The word horologia (from the Greek ὡρα, hour, and λέγειν, to tell) was used to describe all these devices.  The word clock (from the Celtic words clocca and clogan, both meaning "bell"), which gradually superseded "horologe", suggests that it was the sound of bells which also characterized the prototype mechanical clocks that appeared during the 13th century in Europe.

A mainspring was invented by Peter Hele, or Henlein, a locksmith of Nurnburg and allowed for the small table clock to make an appearance.  In the 16th century, the watch was developed, and Galileo discovered the properties of the pendulum.   By the 17th century, Geneva was the center of watchmaking, and glass was introduced as protection and the second hand was added. In 1840, the electric clock was made by an Edinburgh clockmaker Alexander Bain. In 1884, the meridian (an imaginary great circle on the Earth's surface connecting the North Pole and the South Pole) of Greenwich was adopted by international agreement as the zero or prime meridian from which the longitude of all places in the world is measured.

In researching this, I found it to be a rather complicated and mathematical study. Bottom line...as Chicago sang, "does anybody really know what time it is?"   If you buy any of these clocks, you probably won't know what time it is since I am not sure of their viability, but they sure make a dramatic display...I love the design...some have labels on top...and one had labels that had been worn so someone typed new labels...

 
For the lover of things French, we have a neat French clock...love the design, the hands, the numbers... not to mention the brand is JAZ!   In 1919, a small group of French engineers, playing into the industrial revolution workforce,  realized there was a market for alarm clocks.  They decided to create a manufacturing process that would "produce an alarm clock in large quantities, of superior quality and pleasing presentation, capable of competing with foreign imports."  (And that was pre made in China!)

The brand name has two origins...either it is from the first letter of the family names of the original three engineers or it was a reference to the new American music sweeping the Continent.  I would put
my money on the engineer names...cannot imagine the French naming anything after American interests...but then they did give us that big lady statue.
 

This model dates to 1920 and was called the Replic.

And, as the song goes..."it is 5 o'clock somewhere!"


 
“I don't understand people who say they need more "Me Time." What other time is there? Do these people spend part of their day in someone else's body?”
Jarod Kintz, This Book is Not for Sale