Sunday, October 27, 2013

"It is better to fail

in originality than to succeed in imitation."  ~ Herman Melville

There was quite a stir in the craft world this week when one of the larger wholesale companies was accused of stealing a crafter's ideas for their own use with no regard for her.   She had done paintings of animals wearing elaborate jackets...they took those paintings and designed Christmas ornaments.
Her blog neatly details the piracy if you are interested...

Her concern is not the money but is directed at the retailers who purchase these items.  It seems like this is the proverbial tip of the iceberg.  The small independent artist is often unaware of what is going on as these companies cruise sites...Pinterest becomes a candy store for them, I am sure.

Interestingly, here is a direct quote from Anthro who obviously had ordered this line..."After a thorough investigation, Anthropologie has decided to sever its relationship with Cody Foster & Co, remove any current items from our site and stores and cancel plans to include the company’s products in our holiday assortment. Unfortunately it is too late for us to make changes to our catalog in which a few items appear. While visible in photographs, they will not be credited or offered for sale."

Crafters are facing new forms of competition...Pinterest, Facebook, blogs...they all put everything out there for all to admire...but also to copy.  But, it has been going on for decades...even Steve Jobs quoted Picasso on copying..."Good artists copy, great artists steal."  Guess the Cody Foster Company thought they were great.  I think though there needs to be some integrity, Picasso or not...when I used to frequent Cash & Carry wholesale shows, one would see a vendor with some truly unique items, and then at the next show, 4 or 5 vendors would have similar items. 

But, hand crafting existed first out of necessity, and then it evolved into an art form or handicraft.  Quilts were made to keep people warm; pillows were actually used on the beds; candles provided light not just aroma. Every object was made with hands, using physical human skills, creativity and patience, as there was no automation or technology available to make anything mechanically. 

According to my research, it evolved into a decorative art when the industrial revolution in the nineteenth century fulfilled the functional and utilitarian needs of man. It gave people the opportunity to pursue crafting as a hobby and as a form of art to please their senses and as an expression of their creative faculties. In the early part of the nineteenth century, craft related ideas and suggestions began to appear in women's magazines and became highly popular.
Near the turn of the twentieth century, several manuals and instruction guides on crafting had been published that took the crafting ideas and techniques.   Crafting skills began to be used for creating family scrapbooks and albums. This became a great family activity and people prepared specially crafted scrapbooks for momentous occasions in their life and as souvenirs and gifts for the loved ones...sound familiar?  But, will future generations have to depend on their I-phones for souvenirs?

This time of year finds the 21st century artisans, these crafters, at shows in school gyms, church halls, and open houses.  Perhaps this year is a good time to consider the independent crafter as he or she creates.  I am lucky to have wonderful artists to create for the shop.  For example, here are some signs as we prep for the holidays.
Not done with machines, but by hand...with glitter accents...and there are matching cards...also handcrafted...not done in a Chinese factory.

The small business is able to work with these artists and not for mass production.  For example, my talented card maker was able to design cards and tags for me with my latest favorite saying...I cannot ask Hallmark to do that!
She also created some spectacular specialty wonderful would this be with a tin of homemade cookies or brownies.
I featured some scarves from India, and, when doing some investigation for this entry, I was surprised to find that India has been crafting for thousands of years.  The traditions involved their religious beliefs, local needs of the commoners as well as patrons and royalty, and now all with an eye for foreign and domestic trade.  I thought this was an interesting quote from one site:  These craft traditions have withstood numerous foreign invasions and continue to flourish, owing to the multi-cultural, assimilative nature of Indian society and its openness to new ideas.

And, speaking of crafting, I have a new stash of repurposed sari silk, as well as silk that has been turned into embroidery thread (wound on little clothespins!), and some velvets also!

Granted, original ideas are not rolled up like that velvet above, but maybe the Cody Foster uproar will help to put people on alert...and maybe you want to buy from that small indie crafter/artist at the local show or at a small brick and mortar shop instead of off a big box shelf from a company who may have acquired that item surreptitiously.  And, remember, made in the USA prices may be a little more than the Chinese labor minimum many of you want to work a 12 hour day for an average of $1.36?
Perhaps imitation is not flattery as Charles Caleb Colton wrote in the early 1800s.  It this new age maybe Frank Lloyd Wright retooled it better...
"Imitation is always insult--not flattery.”  

Sunday, October 20, 2013

"Good advice is always certain to be

ignored, but that's no reason not to give it." ~ Agatha Christie
I love the antique/vintage world because it is bathed in history.  Today's "insta" this and "pin" that does not pay attention to the past.  And, sometimes, when you research, you find something really unique, and this week it is the story of a young girl who did not follow her mother's advice..."frozen Charlotte".
The doll traces its name to a poem written by a man named Seba Smith called "A Corpse Going to a Ball", and, if you thought Stephen King's Carrie was odd, you have to read about poor Charlotte. (I have included the poem below for giggles and grins.)  Interestingly, when you read about Smith, he was known as a humorist!

The ballad of Fair Charlotte was first published in The Rover, a Maine newspaper, on December 28, 1843.   It is a story of  a young girl called Charlotte who did not listen to her mother and who refused to wrap up warmly to go on a sleigh ride to a New Year's ball. Upon arriving at the ball, her fiancé discovers that she has frozen to death during the journey. According to folklorist Phillips Barry, Smith's composition was based on an incident recounted in a 1840 New York Observer article of the same name.  The Observer reported on February 8, 1840, that a girl had frozen to death on her way to a ball on January 1, 1840.  A version of Smith's poem was subsequently set to music, leading to the creation of the ballad. During the 20th century, a version of the ballad was sung by Almeda Riddle under the title Young Carlotta.

There are more tales to go with frozen Charlotte dolls.  They were all made in the form of a standing naked doll.  They were also called pillar dolls, solid chinas, or bathing babies and ranged in size from an inch to 18 inches.  The smaller ones sold for a penny...hence the penny doll theme...and the minis were often baked in Christmas puddings (teeth be damned, I suppose).  Little ones also lived in doll houses and sometimes were frozen for real and put in tea to cool it off.

Occasionally versions are seen with a glazed china front and an unglazed stoneware back. This enabled the doll to float on its back when placed in a bath. Frozen Charlotte dolls were popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries in the United States.  Most were made in Germany. They are also made in bisque, and can come in white, pink-tinted, or, more rarely, painted black.

Well, we have frozen Charlotte heads repurposed for a truly unique accent piece!  We have sold a couple of these, but more are coming...great hostess gifts or special holiday treasures!   Made by a local artisan, these definitely make a can create your own cautionary tale to go with them!

So, if Charlotte had listened to her mother and put a coat on over her beautiful gown, she never would have gone into the ballads of history!

"When your mother asks, 'Do you want a piece of advice?' it is a mere formality. It doesn't matter if you answer yes or no. You're going to get it anyway."  ~Erma Bombeck

For those who are is the Seba Smith poem:

Now, Charlotte lived on the mountainside, in a bleak and dreary spot,
There was no house for miles around, except her father's cot;
And yet on many a wintry night young swains were gathered there,
For her father kept a social board, and she was very fair.
One New Year's Eve as the sun went down, far looked her wishful eye,
Out from the frosty window pane as merry sleighs went by;
In a village fifteen miles away, was to be a ball that night,
And though the air was heavy and cold, her heart was warm and light.
How brightly beamed her laughing eye, as a well-known voice was heard,
And driving up to the cottage door, her lover's sleigh appeared;
"O, daughter dear," her mother cried, "This blanket 'round you fold,
It is a dreadful night tonight, you'll catch your death of cold."
"O, nay! O, nay!" young Charlotte cried, and she laughed like a gypsy queen,
"To ride in blankets muffled up, I never would be seen;
My silken cloak is quite enough, you know 'tis lined throughout,
Besides, I have my silken scarf to twine my neck about."
Her bonnet and her gloves were on, she stepped into the sleigh,
Rode swiftly down the mountain side, and o'er the hills away;
With muffled face and silent lips, five miles at length were passed,
When Charles with few and shivering words, the silence broke at last.
"Such a dreadful night I never saw, the reins I scarce can hold."
Fair Charlotte shivering faintly said, "I am exceeding cold."
He cracked his whip, he urged his steed much faster than before,
And thus five other dreary miles in silence were passed o'er.
Said Charles, "How fast the shivering ice is gathering on my brow."
And Charlotte still more faintly said, "I'm growing warmer now."
So on they rode through frosty air and glittering cold starlight,
Until at last the village lamps and the ballroom came in sight.
They reached the door and Charles sprang out, he reached his hand for her,
She sat there like a monument that has no power to stir;
He called her once, he called her twice, she answered not a word,
He asked her for her hand again, and still she never stirred.
He took her hand in his - O, God! 'Twas cold and hard as stone,
He tore the mantle from her face, cold stars upon it shone;
Then quickly to the glowing hall, her lifeless form he bore,
Fair Charlotte's eyes were closed in death, her voice was heard no more.
And there he sat down by her side, while bitter tears did flow,
And cried, "My own, my charming bride, you never more will know."
He twined his arms around her neck, he kissed her marble brow,
His thoughts flew back to where she said, "I'm growing warmer now."
He carried her back to the sleigh, and with her he rode home,
And when he reached the cottage door, O, how her parents mourned;
Her parents mourned for many a year, and Charles wept in the gloom,
Till at last her lover died of grief, and they both lie in one tomb.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

"As from a large heap of flowers

many garlands and wreaths are made, so by a mortal in this life there is much good work to be done." ~ Buddha



I was fortunate this past week to meet up with a talented wreath artist whom I had known from 15 or 16 years ago, and I am thrilled to have some of her work in the shop.  It seems that this time of the year brings more interest in wreaths although they are happy accent pieces all through the year.

The history of the wreath dates back to ancient Greece and Rome.  What would we have done without these creative ancient civilizations?  Really?  These societies used wreaths made from fresh tree leaves, twigs, small fruits, and flowers.  Wreath actually means a thing bound round from the Greek word diadema.  The laurel wreath is probably the best known ancient wreath since it was used to crown the winners in their Olympic Games.  The use of this wreath comes from the Greek myth involving Apollo, Zeus’ son and the god of life and light, who fell in love with the nymph Daphne.  She fled and asked the river god Peneus to help her, and he turned her into a laurel tree (he could have been a little more discriminating...a tree, seriously, Peneus?).  From that day, Apollo wore a wreath of laurel on his head.  Laurel wreaths became associated with what Apollo embodied; victory, achievement, and status and would later become one of the most commonly used symbols to address achievement throughout Greece and Rome.  This statue of Julius Caesar shows a rather elaborate wreath.
The harvest wreath is also an ancient custom.  In Greece, it was a sacred amulet, using wheat or other harvested plants, woven together with red and white wool thread. The harvest wreath would be hung by the door year-round.  Maybe we need to get some of those for these economic times!
Christianity used the wreath to symbolize the immortality.  The "Advent wreath" dates back to 16th century Germany.  Johann Hinrich Wichern, a Lutheran, used a wheel from a cart to educate children about the meaning and purpose of Christmas, as well as to help them count its approach (obviously pre-Black Friday). For every Sunday of Advent, starting with the fourth Sunday before Christmas, he would put a white candle in the wreath and for every day in between he would use a red candle.  The Advent wreath is constructed of evergreens to represent everlasting life brought through Jesus and the circular shape of the wreath represents God, with no beginning and no end. The Advent wreath is now a popular symbol in preparation for the coming of Christ, marking the beginning of the Christian Church’s year and as décor during the Christmas festivities.

Here are some of the wreaths we have in the shop...all made locally...

She does some incredibly creative work...check the deserted wasp nest in this wreath..
A wreath on the door is welcoming...a wreath in the house provides a touch of elegance for the coming winter days...a wreath symbolizes the circle of life...and much work to be done...

“She wore a wreath of roses, / The night that first we met.”

       ~Thomas Haynes Bayly

Sunday, October 6, 2013

"That depressing moment when you

dip your cookie into milk for too long, it breaks off and you wonder why bad things happen to good people." ~ Anonymous

It is a crazy time in the U.S. of A., but we cannot deal with it 24/7.  Some days, we just have to escape...and a cookie can help make that first step...or just come see us!
We are trying to bring in some unique gifts for holiday the cookie cutter gifts found on shelf after shelf in some stores.

And, with that in mind, how about those cookie cutters?  (I am the queen of transition paragraphs!) Actually October is National Cookie Month! 

I have my very own "Picker Sisters", and they have been bringing me some wonderful finds like this box of cookie cutters...
There is a Cookie Cutter Collectors Club, and they hold conventions every other year.  Their web page lists Pittsburgh, PA, for 2014 in case you are interested. 
The Egyptians cut out shapes for their biscuits, but they were more along the line of molds that stamped the dough and then were cut into small shapes.  It appears the gingerbread man is the first shaped cookie.
According to my research, "documented history accounts for the first gingerbread biscuits making an appearance in the court of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Apparently she had these cookies made as miniature, edible replicas of some of her more esteemed guests. Off with their heads! (and arms and legs... and gumdrop buttons.) As these gingerbread cookies started to become popular requests from bakeries in the 1600's, bakers started using tin cookie cutters to expedite the process of cutting them out."  Tinsmiths designed and crafted simple shapes, but Elizabeth's cookie making actually made Ripley's as you can see by this illustration...
By the mid 1800's, machinery had replaced the tinsmiths, and in 1869 cutter appeared in catalogs. 
The 1920s saw the introduction of aluminum cutters, and the 1940s brought the plastic cutters to the market.   In the 1950s, the Korean Conflict caused scrap plastic to be used and colors were mixed together and marbleized cutters were produced out of necessity not creativity.
The 1970s and 1980s saw the surge in crafts...think Martha-it's a good thing...and decorated cookies also became popular.  The demand, however, sent production overseas so that profits would remain high, but there are still companies here producing cutters.  You can find several companies online...this is from the American Cookie Cutter Company in Vermont who started in 1976 and has managed to stay in business!
So, as the holidays creep upon us, remember to check the little brick and mortar shops for little creative unique gifts...we will be featuring ideas as the weeks go on, but even a vintage cookie cutter tied on to a plate of homemade cookies...someone would surely love that because... 

“A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand” ~ Anonymous