Sunday, January 26, 2014

"A lot of people like snow.

I find it to be an unnecessary freezing of water.”   ~ Carl Reiner

OK...that is enough winter...there is something about seeing "3 degrees" on your car's dashboard, and it is not the Sirius music informational site for the song and group playing on the radio.

But, life goes on, and I am working in the shop even if snow and ice keep it closed to the public.  So, back to frozen water...a.k.a ice cubes...that is where frozen water belongs!  And, with that in mind, I have some seltzer bottles so let us explore.  

In the late 18th century, scientists made important progress in replicating naturally carbonated mineral waters. In 1767, Englishman Joseph Priestley first discovered a method of infusing water with carbon dioxide to make carbonated water when he suspended a bowl of distilled water above a beer vat at a local brewery in Leeds, England. His invention of carbonated water (also known as soda water) is the major and defining component of most soft drinks.

Priestley found that water treated in this manner had a pleasant taste, and he offered it to friends as a refreshing drink. In 1772, Priestley published a paper entitled Impregnating Water with Fixed Air in which he describes dripping oil of vitriol (or sulfuric acid as it is now called) onto chalk to produce carbon dioxide gas, and encouraging the gas to dissolve into an agitated bowl of water.

Another Englishman, John Mervin Nooth, improved Priestley's design and sold his apparatus for commercial use in pharmacies. Swedish chemist Torbern Bergman invented a generating apparatus that made carbonated water from chalk by the use of sulfuric acid. Bergman's apparatus allowed imitation mineral water to be produced in large amounts. Swedish chemist Jöns Jacob Berzelius started to add flavors (spices, juices, and wine) to carbonated water in the late eighteenth century.
Carbonation was introduced in 1790 in France, but the modern "syphon" as selzter was originally called, was invented in 1829.  Again, in France, a couple men invented a hollow corkscrew that could be inserted into a soda bottle, and a valve would allow small contents to be dispersed but would keep pressure inside the bottle so the soda would not go flat.
Soda syphons were popular in the 1920s and 1930s, but many of the plants that produced the bottles in Europe were destroyed in WWII.   The procedure for these bottles which were refilled required their being cleaned out with a vacuum pump and a rubber hose slipped over the nozzle.  The bottle is then held upside-down under the surface of a tub of carbonated water which is drawn into the bottle by the vacuum once the valve is opened.

Antique seltzer bottles are not useable.  The fittings were designed for commercial facility recharging so the bottles become collectible for their ancestry.
 Modern bottles are made of aluminum with heavy fittings and solid metal parts.  One of the modern ones or new machines for making your own soda...
Convenient and modern...and useful...but sometimes the "un"useful just has a little bit more appeal! 
"The water in a vessel is sparkling; the water in the sea is dark. The small truth has words which are clear; the great truth has great silence." ~Rabindranath Tagore

Sunday, January 19, 2014

"It is an anxious, sometimes a dangerous thing

to be a doll. Dolls cannot choose; they can only be chosen; they cannot 'do'; they can only be done by.”   ~Rumer Godden

       And do we ever have dolls to choose!  My able-bodied designer - also known as my "elf" - came into a phenomenal collection of Annalee dolls.
 If you have been following my train of thought (when it is on the track), I have been promoting made in America.  These dolls were made in America-in Meredith, New Hampshire, actually,  for 65 years, and, even though they did go to China the first part of this century, the current owners are trying to have some assembled here.  Their explanation:
            "We worked very hard to find a company that could manufacture our dolls to the quality level coming from Meredith, which we did. However, we always had the goal of bringing the manufacturing of Annalee Dolls back home to New Hampshire.  After a positive response with our seven-piece Christmas, Home for the Holidays line, we have decided to take the next step. In March, we will be launching our early season, Home for the Holidays Assembled in America collection! It will consist of about 18 styles including Spring and Easter, Patriotic and Everyday designs! Our goal is to see if you, the folks who enjoy our products, would like to see us continue to expand this offering. Whenever you see the American flag heart symbol next to a design in our catalog, it means that it has been Assembled in America! We hope you will decide to make these pieces part of your seasonal gift giving and decorating traditions."
        This doll artist was named Barbara Annalee Davis, and, according to my research, she designed the faces to resemble hers!  I was only able to find small photos of her...guess she figured...look at the doll...look at me!
Born in New Hampshire in 1915 and called Annalee, she loved to make dolls, and, when her friends went off to college, she took her doll making to an entrepreneurial level by selling them through the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen and later moved to Boston and sold through S.S. Pierce.
Now, the story gets 1941, she met Charles "Chip" Thorndike, a Harvard graduate. They married and moved to Meredith, New Hampshire, where they raised a family and opened Thorndike's Eggs and Auto Parts (I am not making that up!  Fix the wipers and scramble an egg?). 
That business survived until 1950 when the price of eggs and poultry fell, and Annalee wanted to see if she could make money selling her dolls again.
The Thorndikes sold off a section of the poultry farm and used the profits to create a small line of skier dolls. The line was a success, and slowly the Annalee doll "Factory in the Woods" was born. This continued until, in 1955, Annalee Mobilitee Dolls was incorporated as a company.
Her dolls did sell...the faces do pull you really are forced to stare back!  From Santas to mice to bunnies and the beloved "Logo Kids," these felt-and-wire characters all meet their creator's stated goal: "To make people smile!"
And, by 1960, the dolls were in 40 states, Canada, and Puerto Rico.  Up to this point, the dolls were being made in their house.  Then, the Annalee Doll "Factory in the Woods" was located on Reservoir Road in Meredith on fourteen acres of land dotted with seven buildings containing 34,000 square feet.  In addition to being the location where the dolls were made, it was a major Lakes Region tourist destination, including, among other things, shaded picnic and play areas, a display of antique cars, a covered footbridge, the Annalee Doll Museum, and a gift shop.
Annalee Dolls came into the spotlight again when, in 1975, a New Hampshire state legislator gave President Gerald Ford a selection of dolls to decorate the White House Christmas tree.  In 1990, Annalee Dolls became the headgear sponsor for Christopher Pederson, a member of the United States Ski Team. The Annalee logo was placed on all of his headgear, and, in exchange, the company sold a special "Victory Ski Doll" of which five percent of the sales went to the ski team.
Now, if you read last week's post, you know I talked about how Mom and Pop style businesses did not seem to work with sons and daughters.  In 1992, Annalee and Chip gave each of their sons, Townsend and Charles, 48 percent of the doll making company, and in 1995, Charles took control of the everyday operations of Annalee dolls.  In 2001, the sons outsourced production to China, but kept the design and marketing ends in the Meredith.  They decided that buyers did not care where they were made, and that collecting anything was not in vogue.  They were not out of's buyers go for the look, not necessarily the authenticity of something.  Anyway, Annalee died in 2002, and I have to say it was probably a blessing because the sons created a series of lawsuits over company ownership that even went to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.  The lawsuit started in 2003 over a Santa doll.  The one brother had interest in Annalee Mobilitee, the other in the Design Studio.   The lawsuit made its way to the New Hampshire Supreme Court, and it appears that it was settled in 2008.
The company was eventually sold to David Pelletier, Bob Watson, and the Imagine Company of Hong Kong, the company which builds the dolls.  They sold off the factory property to a theatre company, but they did keep the corporate headquarters (chicken farm building).
Annalee dolls are durable and bendable due to wire construction, but have a soft felt body on the outside.  In the original construction of the dolls, Chip Thorndike would make the wire frames while Annalee would sew and paint the dolls. Chip also would create small wooden props to match the theme. Starting in the fall of 1986 the label sewn onto each doll began to include the year the doll was made.
When you see one of these dolls, now you know the rest of the story.  And, from another New Englander, a thought about the creative spirit that obviously filled Barbara Annalee Davis Thorndike..."Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found." ~James Lowell

Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.

Creativity is not the finding of a thing, but the making something out of it after it is found.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

"There are two kinds of people,

 those who do the work and those who take the credit. Try to be in the first group; there is less competition there." - Indira Gandhi 

2014…so many treat January as a new beginning every year, but, having taught school for all of my adult life, this is mid-year for me…September is my new year, but that aside…let us talk about the small retail business world as I have done at the beginning of every year.  The independent shopkeepers work hard to keep their stores vibrant.  In many cases, only 2 or 3 people are part of a small brick and mortar business.  It saddens me to see the demise of the small shop as well as the closing of co-ops or to have them turn into a mismatched display of whatever can be found at yard sales or repainted.

I saw a sign on the way home the other day-- Going out of business after 59 years…the Mom and Pop shops are closing because the son and daughter, in many cases, do not want to be bothered.  HGTV, DIY, and its various counterparts in Pinterest , Instagram, and digital have spawned a new format.  Rather than go out physically to touch all the senses, sight on a screen is the new wave of retail.  Of course, many realize there are issues…delivery and identity theft ranking high this season at the famous “Tarjay”. 

Even though statistics show that 90% of retail is still done live and in person, I guess it is just the changing times and the nostalgia of a passing year, but I do think for all the social media that we have we are not “social”.  Not to mention, one appreciate the craftsmanship of a handmade birdhouse, but can you really admire the workmanship in a flat photo? 

Can you smell the scent of a candle? 

Run your hand over the patina of a wooden bowl? 
Consider the work that goes into repurposing a vintage belt into a cuff bracelet?  
Many small shops have unique cards not produced by a corporation but by small business people who create, print, design.  
These are handcrafted cards...not mass produced.  Just a gift tag with some little treat would be truly appreciated by anyone.

...or how about lavender for remembrance...we have carried organic lavender for years...local when available or from well as lotions, soaps, and culinary salt and sugar.

Or, consider Clover Market…a Pennsylvania juried show, it features American crafters and vintage/antique purveyors.  
From a recent article…"Starting with a winter pop-up a couple of seasons ago, Clover Market’s winter edition moved to a full-fledged market venue at the 23rd Street Armory in Philadelphia, attracting big crowds last January."  It returns for 2014 on Sunday, January 19, with regular hours 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. A VIP pass will get you early admission at 9 a.m. and other goodies.

Perhaps the current economy will revive Mom and Pop or Mom and Mom or Pop and Pop shops.  If there are no jobs, create them.  I know I look for things that are made in the USA or imported fair trade items.  I had to laugh at one business who calls the regular imports “Crap from China”!
The big boxes have far more buying power than the person with the small shop down the road, but that small shop owner spends his or her money in the town.  Keep in mind the independent shop owner does not keep all the money he or she makes either.  We pay self-employment one is kicking in half the Social Security or benefits.  Granted, not everything can be purchased at a small shop, but why not think of a small shop for gifts or even treats for yourself?  Why not look for that unique accent piece locally?   The smaller shops can keep the inventory changing.  We went to the Philadelphia Gift Show this past week, and it is funny to see products that were in only one or two booths showing up in ten times that number this year.  It is hard to come up with different products because wholesalers/retailers will copy each other, but a small shop can retool much quicker than a large box.

So, look forward to some fun new products to make you feel better all over!  We keep it changing, and we will not let our basic bones break, but we will give you variety!  As Leonardo da Vinci wrote,
"Life is pretty simple: You do some stuff. Most fails. Some works. You do more of what works. If it works big, others quickly copy it. Then you do something else. The trick is the doing something else."