Sunday, September 30, 2012

"Always be a first rate version

of yourself and not a second rate version of someone else."  ~Judy Garland
      Retail is an interesting mistress.  Keeping a small shop unique requires constant attention, and many small shops are working on holiday open houses this time of the year trying to lure shoppers from the big box stores.  A stroll in a multi-dealer shop reveals the mirror image though that happens as shopkeepers try to keep up with what is selling.  It is a challenge to be creative, innovative...to think outside the box as I tell my students.
      But, alas, unique is the bottom line...or, in the case of this week's post, off the top of the head...we are talking hats!  My one picker had a stash of hats for me last week!  After 20 plus years in the business, I have never seen the same hat!  It is interesting to think how personal the hat choice was.
      Let's look at the history of the hat.  In the late 1600s,  women's headgear began to emerge in its own right and not be influenced by men's hat fashions. The word 'milliner', a maker of women's hats, was first recorded in 1529 when the term referred to the products for which Milan and the northern Italian regions were well known-- ribbons, gloves and straws. The haberdashers who imported these highly popular straws were called 'Millaners' from which the word was eventually derived.
      By the mid 1800s, Swiss and Italian straws, together with imitation straws made from paper, cardboard, grass and horsehair were available to women, along with the introduction of velvet and tulle.  The bonnet dominated women's fashion as the century progressed, becoming very large with many ribbons, flowers, feathers and gauze trims giving an appearance of even greater size.
 
By the end of the century, although bonnets were still prevalent, many other styles were to be found, including wide brims with flat crowns, the flower pot and the toque - feathers and veils abounded.

Although early in the 1900's most hats were enormous and adorned with flowers, feathers, ribbons and tulle, by the mid 1920's women's hair had become much shorter with the shingle cut and the cloche, which hugged the head like a helmet with a very small brim, had come into fashion. Now, after World War 1, there was suddenly such a proliferation of styles and materials that many women had to rely on the advice of milliners.
This hat is from Merrimac, Amesbury, Massachusetts, in the 1940s the largest manufacturer of trimmed hats and hat bodies in the country.  They made broad-brim beaver hats, fedoras, Girl Scout caps, original Mouseketeers beanies, and some smart little rolled-brim hats endorsed by a very young Elizabeth Taylor.  Founded in 1856, it survived until the early 1970s.  Its buildings are now the Hatters Point Condominiums.
 
From the 1930's to the 1950's it could be said that New York, with its many European immigrants had become the world's leading millinery city, with department stores such as Sacs Fifth Avenue, Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman leading the way with their own millinery workrooms.

By the 1950's the arrival of ready-to-wear clothes was robbing the milliners of their crucial part in the world of fashion. Equally during the War many women, who had not previously worked, found themselves employed and were then loathed to lose their new-found freedom and independence. This new situation meant, however, that they no longer had so much time or energy to spend on being fashionable.
 
In the 1960's the hat was once again overtaken by wigs and hairdressers, who colored, back-combed and sprayed women's hair into exotic 'sculptures'. Both men and women also realized that they could dress less formally and the hat was inevitably a temporary casualty. However, in the 1980's and 90's there has been a revival of interest in women's millinery. This was instigated, to a large extent, by public figures such as the late Princess of Wales's enthusiasm for wearing hats. 
 
I am always fascinated by the labels in some of the hats...they are as intriguing as the hats themselves. 




Then, the hats...not one alike...





 This is the inside of the hat above...definitely a little Victorian charmer.



And, if you are in the area, here is a hat to match the cover of the new Romantic Homes magazine!

 
 
So, just as these hats reflected the women who wore them, so should shops represent their owners...the small shop does not have to follow corporate dictates, and the owner can wear whatever hat fits...and trust me, those of us in business wear many hats!
 
I know many people love to decorate with hats but not wear them, and that reminds me of this quote from Erma Bombeck:
 
"I have a hat. It is graceful and feminine and has a wide brim with a red ribbon around the band. It gives me a certain dignity, as if I were attending a state funeral or something. People are generous in their compliments. Someday I may get up enough courage to wear it, instead of carrying it." 


Sunday, September 23, 2012

"There is no trouble so great or grave

that cannot be much diminished by a nice cup of tea. ~ Bernard-Paul Heroux

The Chinese originally called tea “Kia”.  (And I thought that was car I drive!)  During the 6th century AD that the name evolved into "Cha".  But, on its arrival in the West it became Té which is still the name for tea in many countries.

The tea trade was a significant factor in establishing connections between east and west. In China, tea leaves were used as a substitute for coins.  That would seriously help my IRA!  In Europe, tea was used as a symbol of high status and as a stimulus for many technological developments, for instance, the development of fast sail boats such as the "Clipper", which shortened the time it took to sail from China to Europe and made it possible to provide shipments of fresh tea to the west.

The French drank tea from wooden cups, but the British made tea fit for the royals and the wealthy class by designing ornate porcelain cups.  I find it so intriguing when I do research that historically the wealthy tried to keep so many wonderful things to themselves.  We are so fortunate today to be able to have access to some of the finer things in life.

Tea was sipped from these beautiful dainty cups that became "tea cups".  Hand painted cups were common until the 1920s when mass production took over, and then coffee began its ascent into the beverage world.

A significant rise in tea consumption resulted from the appearance of tea bags at the beginning of the 20th century. The inventor of tea bags was a New York tea merchant Thomas Sullivan who had a custom of sending tea samples in white silk bags to his customers, and they were intrigued by this new ground-breaking product. Upon the appearance of tea bags, the price of tea was lowered. The possibility of drinking tea without special brewing utensils made tea suitable for mass consumption, turning it into the world's most prevalent hot beverage.

These are "sentiment" cups...a Hallmark moment in porcelain...many made in Germany where fine china was a major export.



 
How nice would one of these be with some tea and cookies? Little gifts...unexpected...there are no "apps" for that!
Today the scope of the tea industry's worldwide economic activity stands at more than three billion dollars a year. Tea is grown and produced in more than 40 countries worldwide. Every year, more than 2.5 million tons of tea is produced around the world, most of it in Asian countries.

And, since it is Irish week down the coast in Wildwood, I leave you with an Irish blessing...

“May you always have walls for the winds, a roof for the rain, tea beside the fire, laughter to cheer you, those you love near you and all your heart might desire.”

Sunday, September 16, 2012

"There was a farmer who had a dog...

And Bingo was his name-o.
B-I-N-G-O
B-I-N-G-O
B-I-N-G-O
And Bingo was his name-o."

I cannot see a Bingo card without having that song from my Brownie days come into my head.  My Grandmother used to play Bingo with abandonment.  She and my Aunt would sit with 15 or more cards spread out in front of them.  When I saw a stash of Bingo cards at the flea market, I had to have them.  While doing some research for this today, I realize Bingo "stuff" is big in the scrapbooking and jewelry markets.
Its history can be traced to Italy in the 16th century when they play "Lo Giuoco del Lotto D'Italia" (The Clearance of the Lot of Italy) every Saturday.  The lotto game still exists.

The French picked up lotto in the late 1700s. One version used a playing card with nine columns and three rows, with four free spaces per row.  I got these cards in my Bingo lot...looks like a French lotto style.  The caller reached into a bag and picked out wooden chips marked 1-90~1-10 in the first column, 11-20 in the second, and so on.  The first player to cover a row was a winner. 

The craze spread across Europe, but by the 1800s the Germans turned it into a child's game to help students learn math, spelling and history.  Fast forward to the early 1900s and America.
 
It was called "beano" (little did anyone know it would come to be an anti-gas pill!).  Anyway, it was 1929, and it was being played at a carnival in Atlanta, Georgia, when a struggling toy salesman, Edward Lowe,  stopped by to relax.  He saw a huge crowd playing "Beano."  As numbers were called out, players put a dry bean on the card.  When all the numbers were covered, he or she won.  Lowe inquired about the game, and, true to his roots as a traveling salesman, he realized some big money could be made.   He returned to New York, bought some dried beans, a numbering stamp, and cardboard.
 The game consisted of 12 cards for $1 or 24 for $2.  Everyone loved it, and one night a girl yelled out "Bingo" instead of "Beano" and the name stuck.  Now, the tale gets interesting!  A priest (no comments!) wanted to use the game to raise funds for his church, but he did not think it had enough number combinations, and too many people won.  Lowe saw more money and in 1930 hired a mathematics professor from Columbia University to increase the numbered cards.  The professor agreed, but it is reported that he went mad after he accomplished the task of designing 6,000 different cards! (Sorry...but I had to chuckle...I can fully understand that madness!)
 
By 1934, more than 10,000 bingo games were held weekly, and today $90 million is spent weekly, and I do not imagine that includes online bingo.
These cards are labeled "Radio," and I found a game machine that must have gone with them. 

 So, once again, whatever comes to America turns into a money making machine!
 
Anyway, do not make fun of those folks sitting in those Bingo halls~remember what Ben Franklin said, “We do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing!” 
BINGO!

Sunday, September 9, 2012

"Let's remember you can still go shopping without

 buying, because where buying is a matter of need, shopping is a question of want.” ~Robert Rowland Smith

As I cruise the blogs and postings from various social sites, I note that more and more individual brick and mortar stores are closing.  The co-ops still tend to eek through, but,  in some areas, those are endangered species also.
Are the box stores and online shops finally winning the retail war?  I still say there is something lost in the social media world for all the gains that were made.  Shopping does not necessarily mean spending money; it is about the camaraderie of a being out with friends and sharing experiences and simply talking instead of texting.  I often hear comments as people wander the shop about memories associated with things that they see.  Somehow “pinning” something on a cyber bulletin board or posting pictures on a blog is revealing and perhaps riveting, but it is not the same as working with real people!
For example, my jewelry elf strolls in this morning with these necklaces...


 

She continues to follow the repurpose mantra.  Mini yo-yos (actually used to create amazing quilts during the depression because they used every scrap of fabric) combine with old buttons, jewelry, and chains for a totally unique piece.  If you found them at Anthro, you know you are talking way more than the $12 price tag on these.
She also reworked some old keys I found into amazing steampunk necklaces.

Then, just as I am trying to deal with the chaos in my shop—I have had one of those weeks…back to teaching…school started, bomb scare first day!~root canal on Thursday~ and had to send our oldest kitty Jeffy across Rainbow Bridge on Friday…so I am not really into it when one of my customers pulls in with these pieces that she and a friend have made. 


The spirit of the artistry lifts me up--even the tag is wood…the benches are made from Jersey cedar, swamp magnolia, and bittersweet.  Now, I am excited about decorating for fall (hopefully this Bayou weather will break!), and life goes on.
But, it is not just wood that she works in...it is ceramic mini wall pockets...
fairy houses...
not to mention buoys decorated for the feeling of under the sea!

Small shops…independent artists…once they fade into giant warehouse metal-shelved end-capped behemoths will anyone miss the variety of the small store?  The unique inventory?   The personal touch?  Sure, some shops can buy some of the same items, and they can copy a look, but, in reality, it is not just the stuff on the shelves...it is the whole experience of shopping and the small indie owner that is totally different.  I buy local...that money stays local...the wonderful garden furniture is made by a woman who lives in south Jersey.  It is not something shipped in by container from who knows where.  So, from Robert Spector, author of The Mom & Pop Store: True Stories from the Heart of America:
“[S]hopkeepers… are deep-down optimists. They have to be, because every morning they unlock the doors to their stores, turn on the lights, prepare for the day, and wait for people to walk in and hand them money.”