Sunday, September 29, 2013

"If more of us valued food and cheer and song

above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world." ~J.R.R. Tolkien

There was a time when food was valued so much that it was preserved for the winter when the harvest was completed.  Think about the times when people were not working 24/7...when they had time to can food or make jams or sauces from scratch.  Perhaps the concept is romantic, or women did it out of need like during WW II.
But, today the canning jar functions in a whole new world even though there are people out there who do can regularly.  If you prefer the grocery aisles, they are great for storing food like pasta, rice, or dried beans.  Ball has reproduced their blue jars in the pint size in honor of the 100th anniversary of the first "Perfect Mason" jar.  From their web site...

  • Limited edition 100th anniversary of the Ball brothers’ “Perfect Mason” blue jar
  • Maintains same quality and structure as current regular-mouth pint jars
  • Made in USA

  • They are selling that case of 6 for $12.99.  The Ball Corporation owned and operated many plants, but in 1993, Ball spun off the jar business to Alltrista Corporation (which is now Jarden Corp.).  Since 1993 the Alltrista Corporation has been manufacturing the Ball glass canning jars. They also make Kerr, Bernardin (Canadian)  and Golden Harvest canning jars.

    The canning jar dates to 1858 when an inventor and tinsmith from New York City, John L. Mason, invented the mason jar. He invented a machine that could cut threads into lids, which made it practical to manufacture a jar with a reusable, screw-on, lid. This was the  difference between his design and predecessors, the sealing mechanism:  a glass container with a thread molded into its top and a zinc lid with a rubber ring.  The rubber created the seal, and the threaded lid maintained it.  The jar included his patent: "Mason’s Patent November 30th. 1858."
    Ball took over as a more common name since they were the prolific manufacturer of these jars.  For example, check how their logo has evolved...
    These jars are made from soda-lime glass which is relatively inexpensive, chemically stable, reasonably hard, and extremely workable, because it is capable of being re-softened and re-melted numerous times and is ideal for recycling.
    Colored jars were considered better for canning use, as they block some light from reaching the food, which helps to retain flavor and nutritional value longer. More rarely, jars will turn up in amber, and occasionally in darker shades of green. Rarer still are cobalt blues, blacks, and milk glass jars. Some unscrupulous dealers will irradiate jars to bring out colors not original to the jar.

    Another manufacturer was Hazel-Atlas Glass Company, in business from the late 1800s until 1964.
    This was called the "Strong Shoulder" and was similar to the mason jar. The cracking was a common problem with shoulder seal jars.

    Sometimes you find an odd jar...here is a Mom's Mason Jar...this was produced in the 1970s by the Home Products Company in Columbus, Ohio.
    A recent interest in the jars has driven up prices even at the flea markets.  They have become a common feature at the country weddings.  But, they are part of our past, and they really do make one think of times gone by...what was in that jar...what family enjoyed those stewed tomatoes or peaches on a dark cold snowy night in January...
    for as Molly Wizenberg write in her book A Homemade Life: Stories and Recipes from My Kitchen Table:

    "When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone.  Whether we know it or not, none of us is.  We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten.  Food is never just food."

     
     
     




    Sunday, September 22, 2013

    "I am only one, but

    still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something.
                                                                    ~Edwin Hale 

    I have tried in running my shop to be fair in pricing which is always a challenge in this secondary market.  What The Roadshow says something is worth, and what it is worth in reality may be worlds apart.  But, I try to keep sticker shock at a minimum so that people are not overwhelmed.

    I try to buy American made products to accent our vintage/antique finds, but sometimes I have to go to the import market for those d├ęcor items that I know people are looking for.  In an attempt to have unique items for gifts, I have found a wonderful business that promotes Fair Trade...Sevya...
    According to the Fair Trade Organization with which they are affiliated, "Fair Trade is about making a tremendous impact on artisan and farmer communities while offering great products to the public.  Fairly traded clothing, coffee, food, furniture, home decor, housewares, jewelry, tea, toys, personal accessories, and many other products are available from Fair Trade Organizations.
    Communities are improved; nutritional needs met; health care costs are covered; the poor, especially women, are empowered; the environmental impact of production, sourcing, and transport is mitigated to the fullest extent possible. Such an impact is created because Fair Trade approaches development as a holistic process."

    We have a variety of silk and silk and wool scarves that are just stunning, and we have teamed them with some vintage jewels...everything old can be new again with the right scenario!

    From Sevya's site...
    “Sevya” means caring through service; caring for humanity and for the environment we live in. Sevya is dedicated to preserving the indigenous art forms of India by supporting the artisan communities who uphold these traditions.
    So, come on in and tie one on!



     
     We also have silk throws...57 X 74.

    They are made from ahimsa or "cruelty-free" silk.  This is wild silk that is cultivated on forest trees.  The silk is harvested after the worm has become a moth and left the cocoon.  This silk is textured, but these throws are so soft, and they go nicely with our USA made throws...see we can live together peacefully (those who chided our new Miss America-shame!).  Women used to harvest the silk by rubbing the threads over their bare thighs.  But, with Fair Trade stepping in, foot pedal and power spinning machines are now part of their work days. 
    In addition to my trying to buy new American made products, I now can look for Fair Trade.  At least it is produced by people who are treated fairly and kindly.  You know how I like to start and wrap my weekly essay with a quotation (yes, I am a quotation hoarder), well, imagine my surprise when I found this quote from a past President...

    "Goods produced under conditions which do not meet a rudimentary standard to decency should be regarded as contraband and not allowed to pollute the channels of international commerce."
               ~Franklin Delano Roosevelt

    Sunday, September 15, 2013

    "Down here, I am.

    Find a ladder, I must.  ~Yoda (Frank Oz)


    I have resumed my teaching, and I look at all the eager faces in front of me, all waiting to climb the ladders of success, and, of course, ladder catches my curiosity.  Lately, ladders have been best sellers in the repurpose world.

    Ladders are ancient tools and technology. A ladder is depicted in a Mesolithic rock painting that is at least 10,000 years old, depicted in the Spider Caves in Valencia, Spain.  The story behind the painting is that a person is harvesting honey from a hive, and he is on some sort of rope ladder.
    The Bible has the story of  Jacob's Ladder in Genesis, and I always liked William Blake's rendering of Stairway to Heaven (not to be confused with Led Zeppelin's--showing my age...old I am!)
    What is interesting is the number of ladder-related injuries in the United States increased by more than 50 percent from 1990 to 2005, says a study in an issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.  I am sure those DIY or HGTV shows have a part in that number! Oh, yes, you can do that ...no problem!
     
    However, they found that more than 2.1 million people were treated in hospital emergency departments for ladder-related injuries from 1990 to 2005. That averages out to more than 136,000 cases a year. Almost 10 percent of those 2.1 million people needed to be hospitalized, about twice the overall admission rate for consumer-product related injuries. Males accounted for nearly 77 percent of all ladder-related injuries. Fractures were the most common type of injury, and legs and feet were the most frequently injured parts of the body.
     
    The study also found that, among cases were location was recorded, 97 percent of injuries occurred at homes, farms and other non-occupational settings.
     
    John Balsey who lived from 1823-1895 was a master carpenter and invented the practical folding ladder.  He received the first US patent for that in 1862, and, although stepladders had been in use for many years before 1862, his primary contribution to safety was the replacement of round rungs by flat steps. He became a wealthy businessman because of his inventions.
     
    Now we have some little ladders that work quite nicely for display...not for climbing!
    They work as end tables in an urban farmhouse setting...and there are different styles when you stop to look at them...

    You know we love ladders...our crystals hang brightly from the back rungs of our mega ladder in the front room.  So, take your old ladder to new heights...new uses...new rungs!
    "The rung of a ladder was never meant to rest upon, but only to hold a man's foot long enough to enable him to put the other somewhat higher."  ~ Thomas Huxley
     

    Sunday, September 8, 2013

    "Everything old is

    new again." ~Peter Allen

    That quote happens to be a song that Peter Allen wrote with Carole Bayer Sager in 1974.  He performed the song in 1981 with the Rockettes at Radio City Music Hall...the first male to ever kick it up with the girls!
    The song was also used in the 1979 film All that Jazz and again in 2003 in the Broadway show The Boy from Oz.  That brings me to today's commentary.  I do not allow my students to write "in conclusion" because what concludes?  Things are constantly revolving and evolving...and the antique world is front and center in retail evolution. 
     
    The modern consumers are really old fashioned in buying habits...they don't buy to collect...they buy to use.  Can you imagine someone in the Depression checking the Sears catalog and buying several toys to stash in the closet for the future?  The collecting trend of buying everything of a category is a modern notion although as my best friend reminded me they collect apps for the phones now.  So true...collecting air...ah, yes.  That could put the Hoarders show out of business.  But, how many people have Hess trucks in original boxes in the basement?  Or, boxed Barbies hidden under the bed?  Remember the Beanie Baby craze?  I know some of you were trying to forget, and I just brought it up!  Just in case you had zoned out during the early 1990s...
    Old should be new again...but a useful way...not simply because it is old.  And that goes for people also...just because you are old does not mean you have to fade off into the sunset!
     
    Consider some of these old...antique even... objects reborn as useful and beautiful. A early 1900s yellowware pitcher provides a beautiful setting for some freshly cut Chinese lanterns.
    Of course, sometimes things are just beautiful to look at...but how neat would this be as a bookend...so it can serve a dual purpose even though it is nearly 100 years old.  How many of us will be dual purposeful at 100?  This is a signed plaster sculpture of a nurse designed by Gustave Van Vaerenbergh (1873-1927), a Belgium sculptor, known for his women and children.
    Antique or vintage wine glasses work just as well with 21st century Bordeaux clarets and whites as they did with the folks from Downton Abbey.  Wines That Rock, a company that already produces the Rolling Stones and Pink Floyd-branded wine, will be producing a Downton Abbey  wine in collaboration with Dulong Grands Vins de Bordeaux, a 130-year-old wine-making business.  Everything old is new again!
     
    Collecting old wooden hangers from various hotels or cruise lines would be fun additions in a guest room or coat closet. 
     I think the jewelry artisans understand better than many folks the act of making old into new...the typewriter keys into earrings, bracelets, necklaces...the old belts into cuff bracelets...
     old beads and old earrings recycle nicely also.
    So, think of this old New England proverb as you consider that stash in boxes in the basement or garage...
     "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without."

    Sunday, September 1, 2013

    "A business that makes nothing but money

    is a poor business.  ~ Henry Ford

    Ah, Labor Day!  The farewell weekend to summer even though temperatures may betray summer's demise in this new climate of ours.  Anyway, for us "down the shore", it is a time to slow down, to reflect, to take a deep breath.

    We do need to thank all of our new customers...to relish our returning customers...we loved sharing your happiness...your sadness...your friendship...because we hope we have a business that makes you feel good because you stepped inside.  And, yes, we love that you appreciate our atmosphere (men included), "It smells good in here," and "I love the music-it is so relaxing."   We get a kick out of your giggling over buttons and magnets.  We are not big...we are not multi-booths...we are just 800 square feet of "stuff", and we certainly have heard the line, "You have so much stuff!"  Yepper, stores do, but our shelves actually make you stop and think!

    The small individually owned shop is not common in this new world of big boxes and co-ops.  Big and little cities with downtown areas are probably the last vestiges of those unique boutiques, but we are fortunate to live next to the store so we can maintain individuality and creativity because we are the store.

    So, that is why when someone comes in the shop and says, "I have 3 boxes of McCoy," I can say, "Yea!" and price it to sell.  And, here are some of the pieces out of that stash! 

    McCoy represents American labor when it was the only way to produce.  Nelson McCoy and his father found five stockholders in 1910 to establish the Nelson McCoy Sanitary and Stoneware Company in Roseville, Ohio.  They produced utilitarian stoneware until 1918 when they joined with eleven other stoneware potteries to form the American Clay Products Company. 

    According to my research, all of the member potteries produced stoneware to be marketed by the new company. The ACPC designed sales catalogs of the wares that were produced, which purposely had no trademark, and had salesmen to advertise and take orders. The pottery orders received by the company were shared among the different potteries based on production capability, and the revenue received was proportionally distributed.  It worked until 1926 when the ACPC was liquidated because demand for utilitarian pottery was diminishing, and the companies had to compete against each other.   This is a piece of the utility stoneware.  Shape and style are anything but utilitarian.
    In order to re-establish its own identity, and also to reflect the changing times, the Nelson McCoy Sanitary and Stoneware Co., by 1929, had changed its name to the Nelson McCoy Sanitary Stoneware Co. Additionally, it was around this time that the company began the practice of marking its wares.
    No evidence has been found that the company had ever marked any of its wares prior to this time. In 1933, in response to a further decreased demand for food and sanitary wares, and an increased demand for decorative pieces, the name of the pottery was changed again. The pottery became simply, the Nelson McCoy Pottery Co.  Here are some pieces from their production lines.  This is an early decorative piece...simple...small...
    The collection has some little pieces I have not seen outside the books...

    And there is more...I am working in identifying it...I hate tags that just say McCoy...and a price...that teacher gene is me is strong...here's your research not just here's your sign!

    Nelson McCoy, Sr., Nelson Melick, and later Nelson McCoy, Jr. operated the pottery for 57 years until it was sold in 1967 to the owners of the Mt. Clemens Pottery Co. although Nelson McCoy, Jr., remained as president of the pottery.  Name companies today where the children carry on the production.  Of course, we have to find American companies before we go looking for heirs!

    After about seven years of operation the Lancaster Colony Corporation purchased the pottery in 1974. In 1981 Nelson McCoy, Jr., retired, and in 1985 Designer Accents of New Jersey bought it along with Holiday Designs and Sunstone Pottery, but they closed in 1990 and the pottery offices burned down in 1991.

    So, in honor of Labor Day, consider the American worker...the product that is--or was--made in America...the artist who is crafting something special for you...the small retailer who does not have bank accounts in the Caymans.  Above all, remember, as Confucius says (and he did!), “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”