Sunday, August 25, 2013

"Collecting is more than

just buying objects." ~ Eli Broad

A comment a customer made in the shop this week has inspired this post.  I had two head vases from a recent auction, and I price to sell in my shop not to gather dust.  Anyway, she asked the price on the one since I had not gotten them tagged, and when I gave her the price, she responded, "Why is it so cheap?"  Here is the key question in the resale world...what is it worth?  So, I will let you in my head for some business commentary.
If nothing else, Ebay clearly illustrated that what is rare on the one side of the world may be piled in boxes on the other side of that world!  Prices in the vintage/antique world can be easily compared to the ultimate crap shoot.  What is someone willing to pay?  Why do you think the term antique "dealer" is used?  Many people in this "business" ~ and I use that term loosely ~ see something somewhere marked high, or Roadshow or American Pickers mentions it, and they may assume (key word) that it is worth money.  And, I use business cautiously because many people in this antique/vintage resale world do it as a sideline not as a "real" job...and many shoppers do think we do this as a hobby.  For those who do shows, believe me, they will tell you it is a phenomenal amount of work...and for those of us with the independent brick and mortar shops, we have taxes, licenses, utilities, rent or mortgage, etc etc etc.  So, just a little "heads up" about the resale world...those of us who do this business for an income cannot afford to have things languish on the shelf...so we sell it so that we can buy more!

And here is a little information on the head vase that prompted my commentary.
Head vases were used by florists in the 1950s and 1960s.  They were made in a variety of sizes and were decorated with "jewelry" and accessories.  Most were manufactured in Japan (the China of that period) and some in the United States.  As so many things in the manufacturing world, costs rose and production ceased.  Betty Lou Nichols, a talented California artist, created some of the more sought after vases as well as those by Ceramic Arts Studio and Florence Ceramics.  Based on this photo of a Betty Lou vase, I can imagine the survival rate would not be great...check the eyelashes, the bow, the hat!
 There were vases done to depict TV and movie stars as well as Jackie Kennedy.
What gave me a chuckle as I researched the topic was that there was a convention of head vase collectors in July in Minnesota, and it was combined with the Jim Beam Bottle Club Convention.  I know there are some great lines for that combo, but I will be good!  Anyway, if you are interested, the Japanese makers are Napco, Inarco, Lefton, Enesco, Relpo and Reubens, and American ones that are sought after all the Nichols ones or Howard Holt.   
 
So, here's looking at you... and remember~buy what you love not because it is worth, or may be worth, money someday!
 
  “Collecting, like most passions, has the capacity to let (the collector) live in another world for a while." ~ Kim A. Herzinger

Sunday, August 18, 2013

"In every tool we create...

an idea is embedded that goes beyond the function of the thing itself."  ~ Neil Postman

The new movie The Butler provides a fictional account of a butler who served eight Presidents.  I just happened to unwrap a "silent butler" in the shop today.  Now I would gladly have a noisy butler...he could talk all the time for all I care if you know what I mean!
But, this little gadget was designed to hold ashes from ash trays (when smoking was in vogue) or even to sweep crumbs off the tablecloth (when sitting down at a table to eat was in vogue).
The term was coined in the 1930s-40s according to the dictionary, but I found nothing about their origin...usually someone is named as the creator.  The dustpan was patented by African American inventor, Lloyd Ray on August 9, 1817, and I suppose one could deem the "silent butler" a variant of this design.
Silent butlers are made of tin or aluminum, but there are some valuable ones made of precious metals.  Sterling silver ones would command prices for the bullion content alone.  Add historic or aesthetic appeal and research deems the pieces can command several hundred dollars, but the pieces one sees in shops are usually in the $5-$15 range,  or should I say they should be in that range.
Many are aluminum...I like the tole ones...there are ones that look like books...of course, I would like those...

 But, next time you see one of these little contraptions, think of the days when the lady of the house would carefully scrape the crumbs or dump the ashes into the decorative box.  Sometimes it just takes a little tin box to remind us of how society has changed in such a short time.

All our words are but crumbs that fall down from the feast of the mind. ~Khalil Gibran

Sunday, August 11, 2013

"Anyone who has never made a mistake

has never tried anything new."  ~ Albert Einstein

A shelf of "crackle" glass drew my attention this week at auction.   Crackle, also called craquelle, overshot or ice glass, is actually the result of a process that was used to cover up imperfections.  
Supposedly Venetian glass makers invented the process in the 16th century (before you could buy "seconds" at the outlets).  If a glass piece came out with lines or swirls, it was submersed in cold water to cause the "cracks".  Then it was reheated to smooth the surface and seal the cracks.   Instead of disposing the damaged material, it became a manufacturing process.   Recycle, repurpose 17th century style!  And we think we are so innovative!
It became popular in the U.S. in the 1930s and maintained its popularity until the 1970s.  West Virginia was the home of five major glass companies that produced crackle, and it is well-known for its production of "off hand glass" or glass that is mouth blown.  Bischoff, Blenko, Kanawha, Pilgrim, and Rainbow all produced cruets, cups, decanters, glasses, jugs, pitchers, and vases.  Blenko is the sole survivor though, and Walter Blenko, the grandson of the founder, is President of the company.  It is always so pleasing to read about an American company that has survived since the 19th century.
Many items were copied, but reference books are available.  The new buyer of vintage is not so taken by the company name as he/she is about the look and, in this case, the color.  But, for those who are purists, research material is available, and there are some clues to the maker.  Blenko has sandlasted their name on the bottom of some pieces with an image of a hand underneath the name.  Some Pilgrim Glass pieces had a mark on the bottom that resembled a strawberry.  Tapping a file while the glass was hot made this imprint.   There are paper labels also.  So, welcome to the world of crackle...
There is a crack in everything, that's how the light gets in.
                      ~Leonard Cohen

Sunday, August 4, 2013

"All life is an experiment.

The more experiments you make the better." ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Retailers constantly are experimenting.  Will this display work?  Does it create interest?  Is it unique, or are you just repeating the same thing but expecting a different result?  It is the paint everything white or whatever color motif.  At some point, things just blend boring.  (Hey...there's a reality show title...Blend Boring!)

I thought about experiments because it seems apothecary/scientific equipment has garnered great interest in the shop this summer.  And, I came upon a box of test tubes and beakers at auction.  As I pulled things out to investigate...really repurpose...I wondered about who invented that tiny little tube that has founded so much.
Interestingly, prior to the early 1800s, special items did not exist in research, and then only for rich scientists (again...that echo chamber of rich having it all).  It is thought that Antoine Lavoisier who lived in France from 1743-1794 may have been the creator of glass vessels that could be described as test tubes.  The actual words test tube date to 1846 though, but Lavoisier is said to be the "Father of Modern Chemistry", and from the look on his face in the portrait below, in more ways than one!
Anyway, Lavoisier discovered that oxygen played a role in combustion, and he named both oxygen and hydrogen.  He helped to construct the metric system, wrote the first extensive list of elements, and reformed chemical nomenclature.

He was involved in political and economic activities which helped him fund his scientific research, and he used his findings to push for better public health.  His drive to help the poor came at the height of the French Revolution, and for any aristocrat it was a dangerous time; however, it appears Jean-Paul Marat, a fellow scientist and doctor, and a leader in the Reign of Terror, targeted Lavoisier because Lavoisier had mocked one of Marat's inventions. 

Lavoisier was arrested during the French Revolution and accused of selling watered-down tobacco, but his real crime may have been as an investor in a private tax collection company (Ferme Générale). The company had not been popular with the general public in France as it made its profits from the collection of taxes. This put him in a very difficult position during the Revolution. 

 According to my research, it is probable that once arrested Lavoisier had little chance of avoiding the guillotine. Marat portrayed him as a man who, as an investor in the Ferme Générale, had bled the poor. Appeals for his life were ignored. A revolutionary judge stated that Revolutionary France had no need for scientists. 
Where have we heard that?

So, there is the story behind the test tube...now what we have in the shop is not at all revolting...some neat beakers...talk about fun bar items...a stash of test tubes...


 and couple neat holders for test tubes...
You could fill every spot with a test tube...neat for flowers...rooting plants...or maybe you area a closet chemist!  The ultimate repurposing...that is what this new antique/vintage world is all about...not just buy it, sit it, stash it.  Experiment...make the world your test tube!  As Walter Lippman said, "When all think alike, then no one is thinking."