Sunday, March 30, 2014

“Ours is a culture and a time immensely rich

in trash as it is in treasures.” ~ Ray Bradbury
Having spent the last several months dealing with my elderly mother and with "mother nature" has sharpened my perspectives on so many things.  First, life goes on no matter what, and that is a good thing, and what it does highlight is that we are surrounded by life yet sometimes we get hung up on stuff.  If I had to rename my shop, I would call it "just stuff".  I have new stuff...
old stuff...
and in between stuff in my shop...
  I have handcrafted...
I have reproductions...
but, bottom line, it is just stuff.

There are people who think antiques are precious, and, yes, they are if they have personal meanings.  All those people who thought their collections of whatever would bring them big money have fallen victim to the same fate as Wall Street.  What is that china cabinet of Hummels doing for you these days?  No problem if you love them!  I constantly promote the buy-it-if-you-love-it not for future monetary worth.  But, really, when you strip away the fancy definitions, antiques are, as a friend says, just used merchandise.  And, "junk" has become an acceptable term in the "antique" world--think Junk Gyspies, going junkin',  junk queen.  Even Thomas Edison saw promise in junk..."To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk."

The retail world of the "antique" shop or co-op is in the midst of a serious transformation.  Thrift shops are set up like box stores, and fancy fleas dot the fields of the nation.  A pure antique shop is rare since not many live purely in the antique world; that is the world of a museum.  Granted, there are some shops that may call themselves pure, but shops need to adapt to the modern consumer who blends, blesses, and blooms all kinds of, old, vintage, repro, crafted, created.
The internet has taken over brick and mortar shops just as Kindles have restructured the book and magazine worlds.  I see us returning to a cave existence albeit a tad more sophisticated, but still we do not need to venture out much anymore.  We can saturate ourselves on stuff via Pinterest and shop on Etsy.

Although there was a recent article that said the small business world...Main optimistic.  It may be that people will get tired of being cooped up.  Even in the nearby town of Ocean City, NJ, there is support for a skateboard park, and one man commented that it was the only way to get his children to put down the electronic gadgets.  Perhaps people would like to see Pinterest displays live and in person.  To hold a bar of handcrafted soap or smell the fragrance of a candle.  To escape that flat know that life is round, is fun, and full of just stuff!
So, as we approach April 1, it is foolish to put antiques or antique shops in a lock box.  They need to be reborn again through the new and the creative spirits in the evolving retail world.
To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.


 April 1. This is the day upon which we are reminded of what we are on the other three hundred and sixty-four. ~ Mark Twain, Pudd'nhead Wilson
To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.

To invent, you need a good imagination and a pile of junk.


Sunday, March 23, 2014

“The inauspiciousness of the owl is nothing

but the inauspiciousness of the man who thinks that owl is inauspicious!”  ~ Mehmet Murat ildan

The birders in the area have been all "a-flutter" about the snowy owl invasion that took place this winter (something interesting had to come out of this winter!).  Anyway, I found this photo with an article about the owls that flew into southern Jersey.
These are the largest owls in North America, and according to the article, "they nest in the vast arctic tundra of Alaska, Canada, Russia, Siberia, and Scandinavia, eating lemmings and other small animals.  But, why are so many Snowy Owls being seen this year along the East Coast?  There are several theories among birders, but the one that makes the most scientific sense suggests that a plentiful food supply of lemmings up in the Arctic tundra this year meant more young Snowy Owls survived.  However, once the snow covered the tundra, the owls couldn’t catch their prey. So, they started migrating southward, looking for new sources of food."  They love wide open spaces which is why they are on the area beaches.  By next month, the survivors will head north, and experts do not think we will see this for another 50 years or more.  

Ancient Greeks knew that Athena, goddess of wisdom, had the owl as her symbol, but the owl also came to be an omen of bad luck in Roman literature.  I like the ancient coin from Greece...
The "wise old owl" phrase is from a children's nursery rhyme from the 19th century.  It was used on a wartime poster to remind soldiers to be silent.  I assume the lesson for children was to be seen and not heard.  Sadly, with their little I-pads and I-phones that has come to fruition.
If you are an owl fan, we have some "smart" accents for you--here is a neat piece of steampunk craft...
and pillows...

and jewels...and custom tags...

and decorative accents...
And since the owl represents wisdom, remember...
“Think left and think right and think low and think high. Oh, the thinks you can think up if only you try” – Dr. Seuss

Sunday, March 16, 2014

"I would rather lose a good earring

than be caught without make-up." ~ Lana Turner
Although if you look like that, I am not sure earrings or make-up really matters!  About 7000 years ago, earrings were worn by men (took awhile for it to recycle back).  In ancient Asia, Egyptians and Assyrians wore earrings to signify that they belonged to a higher class.  Picture Donald Trump with tear-drop diamonds!  Anyway, I am using this post to highlight the sea glass earrings made by our sea glass artisan Catherine.
In ancient Rome, the earrings became a slave marker and then the ancient Greeks could identify the prostitutes by the earrings (no comment there).   Ironically, wealthy Greek and Roman women would wear earrings also, but they wore pearls as well as topaz, garnet, and sapphire designs.
The first earrings were attached through piercings in the ear lobe, and ear piercing is one of the oldest known forms of body modification, which was done to symbolize age, status and wealth.  Primitive cultures believed earrings kept evil spirits from entering the body through the ears. In addition to their protective power, earrings were thought to have curative effects. Pierced earrings were recommended to strengthen weak eyes (I should have very wholly ears!), and gold earrings set with emeralds were considered particularly effective (never mind!). Gold ear jewelry has been worn by those seeking to cure headaches.
In the countries of the ancient Orient the preference was for silver and golden earrings set with rubies, sapphires and emeralds. Earrings were especially celebrated in India, China and Assyria.  Earrings are still featured as traditional gifts at festivals, weddings, childbirth and other rites of passage in  India. Beautiful earrings are often passed from Indian mothers to daughters for several generations.
When ships began to sail the oceans, the image of the gold hoop became a common symbol.
A very superstitious group, sailors purchased and wore gold earrings for several reasons. It meant that a sailor had crossed the equator, sailed around the world, or survived a shipwreck. Some sailors believed the pierced ear concept that it would improve eyesight or hearing. And if they didn’t survive a shipwreck, the gold ring in the ear would pay for a Christian burial wherever the body washed up.
During the Middle Ages in Europe male earrings alternated between being popular and being out of style for long periods of time until in the 13th century when the Catholic Church forbade the piercing of ears. This was done in accordance with the dogma stating that a person cannot alter his or her body which is created in the image of God. Only thieves, pirates and representatives of the lower class continued to wear earrings.
Thieves used this means of expression to demonstrate their abhorrence for society while peasants pierced the ear of the only boy in the family or of a child who had been born immediately following the death of another child.
Earrings for women came and went with fashion and hair styles.  Shorter hair styles became popular after World War I, and jewelry designers created long, dangling jewelry for the ear. Clip-ons and screwback earrings were developed in the 1930s and were considered more sanitary than the pierced.
The Art Deco period between the two world wars introduced a flurry of new designs featuring strong geometrical patterns in everything from jewelry to architecture that reflected influences of the Far and Middle East, Greece, Rome, Egypt and the cubist style in art.
Ear piercing returned to Western culture in the middle of the century. By the 1960s, ears were being pierced in jewelry stores, physicians’ offices and teenage girls’ parties. Around the same time, jewelers were selling gold earrings and earrings of other materials for daytime wear; previously they’d been largely reserved for evening.

Some men, especially in the gay and counterculture communities, began wearing earrings, usually a small stud or hoop, in the late 1960s. The idea that it symbolized something faded and became a popular accessory for men again.  And, speaking of men and earrings, there Holly Golightly's line from Breakfast at Tiffany's...

 "You could always tell what kind of a person a man thinks you are by the earrings he gives you."

Sunday, March 9, 2014

"If we had no winter,

the spring would not be so pleasant: if we did not sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity would not be so welcome."   ~Anne Bradstreet
We definitely had March come in like a lion here so it needs to spring ahead to its lamb mentality now!  Do you know that phrase actually dates back to a 1624 play by an English writer, John Fletcher.  In his play A Wife for a Month (described as a tragic comedy...and he did not even know the real housewives!), he wrote: "I would chose March, for I would come in like a Lion...But you'd go out like a Lamb when you went to hanging."
Yes, spring is coming...with the time change, the extra evening light does harken to those warmer days.  Still, there is always a chill in the air especially on spring nights.  And, for that spring, we have American made....yes...made in America...afghans.  The rose pillow is from an American company also.

The knitted or crocheted blanket we call an "afghan" is actually named for the people of Afghanistan.  The noun "Afghan" first appeared in English in the late 1700s as a name for the Pashtuns of eastern and southern Afghanistan. (The name is not Pashtun in origin; however,  "afghan" is the Persian name for these people.)

Afghanistan is known the world over for its textiles - particularly its carpets and karakul (sheep breed) wool - so it's no wonder that "afghan" was soon used in English to refer to knitted or crocheted wool shawls or blankets. This use of "afghan" (always lower-case) arose in the early 1800s.
I thought these informative tidbits were fascinating.  Even though the original afghans were woven, we tend to think of the knitted or crocheted versions now.  With that in mind, there are three styles...the mile-a-minute afghans, join as you go afghans, and motif afghans. Mile-a-minute afghans are usually made in one piece and with a minimum of stitches; they are the simplest style to make and are especially popular with beginners.
 Join as you go afghans are made up of many different pieces, one of which begins where the last leaves off.
Motif afghans, such as the granny square, are composed of many different small pieces, called motifs, squares, or blocks. These motifs may be all of the same design or of different designs, but they are typically the same size, for ease of joining. Some favor the motif style because of its portability and versatility of design. The motif style is still a very popular and a complex design for making a blanket or a scarf.
And, since today marks the switch to daylight savings time, this plays in with our discussion of afghans (really blankets), when told the reason for daylight saving time, the Old Indian said, "Only the government would believe that if you could cut a foot off the top of a blanket, sew it to the bottom, and have a longer blanket.”

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"I must be a mermaid...

I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living." ~ Anais Nin

Legend has it that mermaids could change the mighty course of nature but were forbidden to do so by Neptune, the stern, watchful god of the sea.  One dark, storm-ravaged night, with sails ripping and masts cracking, a schooner fought to find safety in Friendly Cove off Nootka Island in the San Juans. 

The ship was familiar to the mermaid who swam along its side since she had weathered many crossings with the ship and its captain. As the ship heeled in the violent wind, the captain lost his hold on the wheel, tumbling perilously close to the raging sea. 

In an instant, the mermaid calmed the wind and tamed the waves, changing the course of nature and saving the life of a man she had grown to love from afar.  For her impetuous act, Neptune banished the sobbing mermaid to the oceans depths, condemning her for eternity never to surface or swim with the ships again. To this day, her gleaming tears wash up on the beaches  as sea glass . . . crystalline treasures in magic sea colors, an eternal reminder of true love. 
Alas, the tale of sea glass is far more appealing than broken shards of glass that have been ravaged by water and time!  Sea glass is actually from salt water, and beach glass is from fresh water.  Sea glass has a natural frosted appearance because of the weathering process whereas beach glass has a different ph balance and it less frosted.
 I have developed an interest in sea glass because I have a local artisan who is creating jewelry and ornaments for me. Catherine Smith is a retired teacher (who probably has taught many of my college students), and, when she heard she was my blog feature of the week, she messaged me...Can you mention how lucky I am to have had two careers / jobs that I love???? That is rather evident as exemplified by the photos here--this is just a small sampling, and my photo skills are not the best today.

Although one can buy this glass, Catherine roams the local beaches searching for treasures.  One has to remember that the ocean used to be where waterfront communities worldwide would discard their trash because the water carried it away.  According to history, landfills were a health hazard because they were filled with vermin that carried dangerous diseases like the Plague. The world was a much larger place in those days and the population was much smaller. It just made good sense at the time, and this practice is still followed in many third world countries.

It is fascinating when you learn about the different colors.  Cobalt is the "sapphire" of the beach and came from apothecary bottles such as Milk of Magnesia, Vick's Vapo Rub, Noxema, Nivea, and Bromo Seltzer.  Red is rare.  It would trace its roots to tail lights on old cars or lantern lenses.  Anchor Hocking made Schlitz Beer bottles in ruby in the 1950s.  
Pinks, purples, and pale colors came from perfume bottles or art glass.  Some lavender glass was clear glass that was clarified with magnesium (lavender) or selenium (pink).  Glass is clarified because the sand from which glass is made is actually amber.  Green, brown, aqua glass shards come from beer, soda, or clorox bottles.
The pits in the surface of the glass, giving it its soft feel, come from a process called "hydration", where the soda and lime used in making the glass is leached out of the glass, leaving the small pits. The soda and lime also often react with minerals in the sea water, forming new mineral deposits on the surface that give the glass a "sparkling" appearance.  
So, in my never ending attempt to feature American made and, even better, local, Catherine's creations will be available.   The ultimate shore remembrance for you or for a special gift!  Not made in China..not mass produced...keeping it local and Jersey proud!
“We are like islands in the sea, separate on the surface but connected in the deep.” ~William James