Sunday, June 29, 2014

"In a world where discovery is more important than delivery,

it's the people who find, remix and direct attention to old stuff that should be rewarded, not the people who deliver it or sit on it waiting for someone to show up. ~Joichi Ito

That quotation caught my attention because those of us in this "old stuff" business do a little of all of that.  The old stuff sellers are the true "green" retailers in this world.  We keep things recycling...we keep the landfills less cluttered...even the fancy auction houses are nothing more than high end consignment shops.  It is all used merchandise at this end of the retail spectrum.

The new trend is the repurpose-renew-recycle not just collect, and so this-a pallet--
can become these...made locally, by the way, by a Stone Harbor resident...
 
 
But...a woman came into my shop the other day with the ultimate repurposing piece of art...
a miniature scene in a small storage box...an old piano shaped jewelry box transformed with tidbits of repurposed miniature touches...
Gail Beers is the creator of these wonderful steampunk-themed miniatures (and a side note..we are getting in a new line of steampunk necklaces and earrings from my Texas card creator).  Anyway, I had to go to Gail's display to see more of her creations at the Open Air Market up the road this morning...isn't she cute!
 
 
So, I give you a tour of her work where the small scale makes a big impact...enjoy escaping into the mini world...and the ultimate of repurposing and recycling...like the little clock face table...
 
 The stove is an old little coffee tin...and all other little repurposed goodies...
 
 At the top left corner of this scene is a deserted wasp nest with original spider web!
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 



 
 "...there's a reason people build miniatures. Doesn't matter if it's guys laying out model railroads or women decorating dollhouses. It's about control. It's about reinventing reality [to] get...satisfaction in creating a little world...making things turn out the way they want, at least in their dreams.”  From The Bette Davis Club ~Jane Lotter


Sunday, June 22, 2014

"The worst wheel of the cart

makes the most noise."  ~ Benjamin Franklin
It just takes a flea market purchase to put my mind in gear, and this week's buy got me rolling...literally and figuratively...who really invented the wheel?
I was fascinated by an article that highlighted that there are no wheels in nature even though most inventions are inspired by the natural world.  The idea for the pitchfork and table fork came from forked sticks; the airplane from gliding birds. But the wheel is one hundred percent homo sapien innovation. As Michael LaBarbera—a professor of biology and anatomy at the University of Chicago—wrote in a 1983 issue of The American Naturalist, only bacterial flagella, dung beetles and tumbleweeds come close. And even they are “wheeled organisms” in the loosest use of the term since they use rolling as a form of locomotion.
Another tidbit from an article in The Smithsonian said that The Wheel of Fortune, or Rota Fortunae, is much older than Pat Sajak. In fact, the wheel, which the goddess Fortuna spins to determine the fate of those she looks upon, is an ancient concept of either Greek or Roman origin, depending on which academic you talk to. Roman scholar Cicero and the Greek poet Pindar both reference the Wheel of Fortune. In The Canterbury Tales, Geoffrey Chaucer uses the Wheel of Fortune to describe the tragic fall of several historical figures in his Monk’s Tale. And William Shakespeare alludes to it in a few of his plays. “Fortune, good night, smile once more; turn thy wheel!” says a disguised Earl of Kent in King Lear.
 
Research uncovered that diagrams on ancient clay tablets, the earliest known use of this essential invention was a potter’s wheel that was used at Ur in Mesopotamia (part of modern day Iraq} as early as 3500 BC. The first use of the wheel for transportation was probably on Mesopotamian chariots in 3200 BC. It is interesting to note that wheels may have had industrial or manufacturing applications before they were used on vehicles.
Wheels with spokes first appeared on Egyptian chariots around 2000 BC, and wheels seem to have developed in Europe by 1400 BC without any influence from the Middle East. Because the idea of the wheel appears so simple, it’s easy to assume that the wheel would have simply "happened" in every culture when it reached a particular level of sophistication, but this is not the case.
 
The great Inca, Aztec and Maya civilizations reached an extremely high level of development, yet it appears they did not have wheels.  Even in Europe, the wheel evolved little until the beginning of the nineteenth century. However, with the coming of the Industrial Revolution the wheel became the central component of technology and came to be used in thousands of ways in countless different mechanisms.

"Without question, the greatest invention in the history of mankind is beer.   Oh, I grant you that the wheel was also a fine invention, but the wheel does not go nearly as well with pizza.  ~Dave Barry

 

 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

"I lost my father

this past year, and the word feels right because I keep looking for him. As if he were misplaced. As if he could just turn up, like a sock or a set of keys.”   ~Mark Slouka 

On this Father's Day, I think of my Dad whom I lost nearly 15 years ago, and I think that quote tells my tale all these years later.  I am my father's daughter, for sure.  He was originally from north Jersey, the Paterson-Lodi area where they are bolder, and I do believe my Dad was into women's lib with me long before it was in vogue even though he kept my mother in the true 50s housewife motif.

I don't have much "manly" stuff in my shop since I am a "girly shop" as my antique shop neighbors label me, but I do have a neat shaving set and some shaving items, and some male themed books and oddities like tie tacks and cuff links,  but, let's consider men and shaving.

 
Obviously, cave men could not shave, and then many religions also have prohibitions against shaving. For example, in Leviticus 19:27, the Bible contains a specific prohibition against shaving your beard and the hair on the sides of your head, and some orthodox religions still practice this today.  This is where the Bible becomes pick and choose for things to practice though.

Before the advent of razors, hair was sometimes removed using two shells to pull the hair out or using water and a sharp tool (ouch!). Around 3000 BC when copper tools were developed, copper razors were invented, and it appears that Egyptian priests were into personal hygiene. Alexander the Great strongly promoted shaving during his reign in the 4th century BC to avoid "dangerous beard-grabbing in combat" (the nuns should have practiced that theory with my pig tails). 

Anyway,  once knives and scissors were developed, the refinements lead to the development of the razor -- the sharpest knife possible. With a very sharp knife, it is possible to begin shaving.
According to my research, even with these developments, however, men preferred beards. This may be because shaving with a straight razor is a somewhat dangerous activity better left to a professional. Once again the wealthy had the benefit of being able to have shaving professionals and probably lived in urban areas where those barbers were accessible.

But during World War I in the United States, that all changed. And there were two reasons for that change:
  1. Gillette had released the "safety razor" in 1901, and it was steadily gaining popularity because of a massive ad campaign. The safety razor made it possible and inexpensive for men to shave daily.
  2. Soldiers in the United States army were required to shave. 
­­Certainly one reason for shaving during WWI is the fact that it was the first war to see chemical agents used on the battlefield. Soldiers had to use gas masks for the first time. In order for a gas mask to fit properly, you need to be clean-shaven. The army bought millions of Gillette razors and blades to make shaving possible.
When all of the soldiers returned from WWI with their clean-shaven faces, they were heroes. They appeared in their home towns, and they also appeared in newsreels in the new movie theaters that had sprung up everywhere. Combined with ad campaigns from companies like Gillette, it became the fashion to be clean shaven. Between 1920 and 1960, beards were definitely unfashionable. That taboo has eased somewhat since the 60s, but it is still far more common for men to shave than not. And as you can see, it is strictly a fashion statement, and largely the result of advertising by companies like Schick, Norelco and Gillette.

Or, to put it another way, no one makes any money if you have a beard...
 “Being a role model is the most powerful form of educating...too often fathers neglect it because they get so caught up in making a living they forget to make a life.”
John Wooden, Wooden: A Lifetime of Observations and Reflections On and Off the Court    

Sunday, June 8, 2014

“I wonder what it would be like to live in a world

where it was always June.” ~ L.M. Montgomery
 
Throughout America, students...and teachers...are counting the days until summer vacation starts.
Why does the American school year start in September and end in June? Despite the theory that it coincided with an agrarian calendar, historians at Old Sturbridge Village, a living history museum that recreates an 1830s New England farming village, say not. According to the web site and schoolmistress there, farm children went to school from December to March and from mid-May to August. Adults and children both helped with planting and harvesting in the spring and fall.
 
The modern school calendar has roots, not on rural farms but instead in urban cities. There are multiple reasons that lead to the summer break that students know today. In fact, schools in the early 1800s held school throughout the summer, but it was hot.  We can just turn down the thermostat today, but imagine sitting in an unventilated, urban schoolhouse without air conditioning or indoor plumbing as the thermometer pushed 100.  Not a comfortable environment for learning. For another, wealthier families – and some school administrators – took vacations in the summer.  And teachers often used the warmer months as training time. So organizers of what came to influence our modern school year thought it best to strike summer from the academic calendar and to allow everyone, urban and rural, some time out of class.
As the nation expanded and grew, education became important, and more public schools were built. But the need for academic breaks from learning was always seen as necessary. Nineteenth century and early twentieth century belief regarded the brain as a muscle, and that too much work and strain on the brain may result in injury (I am not going to comment on that at all!). 
 
Now I have some old textbooks in the shop...you know I buy them when I see them! And the second picture is from a page in the everyday arithmetic book...you know those questions would strain the brain! 
 
 
It was believed that younger children whose minds were still developing could be impacted by constant schooling.   As industrialism led to automation and wealth, and the nation recovered and expanded following the Civil War, leisure activity became more important to Americans.

In the American school system, there are no national standards for the length of the school year. Rather, this decision is left up to individual states. A majority of states require a minimum school year of 180 days; ten states require fewer than 180 days; and one state, Minnesota, has no minimum requirement for either the days of the school year or hours of instruction. The American minimums are in stark contrast to the 220 days averaged by top-performing South Korea and the 201 days in Japan, also a top performer. It seems clear that 20 percent more days of school provide more exposure to educational materials.

Finland – which has both one of the shortest school years and some of the best results in international education rankings – there is a push to improve learning by developing novel ways of learning, rather than increasing school days and lesson time.   In Finland, by law there can be 190 school days, but official holidays usually decrease the number. During the school year, there are normally four holidays. Most schools have a week’s autumn holiday, and all schools have at least a ten-day Christmas vacation, four-day Easter holidays, and a week-long winter break in February.  Local authorities have the right to determine when the school year begins, and often it starts in the middle of August. Legislation says that the school year has to end on the Saturday of the 22nd week of the year, either at the very end of May or at the beginning of June. 
As we meet the challenges of the 21st century, schools may have to consider the lazy hazy days of summer in new ways.   In the meantime, let the countdown begin!
 
Start of school year: 4 new packs of pencils, 7 awesome folders, 10 pens, 3 packs of paper and 1 ruler...End of the school year: 1 pencil. ~ Anonymous

Sunday, June 1, 2014

"There's always room for a story

that can transport people to another place."  ~ J.K. Rowling

I am more fascinated by the stories behind the "stuff" that I find, and today's story is about Blue Willow...those plates that seem to be in every nook and cranny of vintage/antique/thrift shops and fleas. 
The pattern on the Blue Willow plates looks Chinese, but it was first made in England. Many English designers copied Chinese plate designs, and it was popular in 18th century England.  It seems that Thomas Minton designed the pattern around 1790, having been inspired by Chinese imports (see-China has always been in the picture!)  Other references give credit to Thomas Turner of Caughley porcelain with a design date of 1780.

Willow actually refers to the pattern, a specific treatment, either applied transfer, or stamp, known as transferware. Background colour is always white, while foreground colour depends on the maker; blue the most common, followed by pink, green, and brown. Assortment, shape and dates of production vary.

In order to promote sales of Minton's Willow pattern, various stories were invented based on the elements of the design. The most famous story, which actually is English in origin not Chinese, is about a rich man named Tso Ling. The house on the plate represents his home. He had a beautiful daughter named Kwang-se who was the promised bride of an old wealthy man (but he did not own a basketball team--just kidding). Anyway, she fell in love with Chang, her father's clerk. Chang and Kwang-se eloped, and Kwang-se's father was going to have them killed. The gods turned them into turtle doves before Kwang-se's father could have them killed. The two turtle doves are on the top of the plate.
The Blue Willow plates in the shop were made in Holland.  The entrepreneurs Winand Nicolaas Clermont and Charles Chainaye in 1851 founded a pottery in the Maastricht neighbourhood Wijck. Their company was taken over in 1859 by the Belgian engineer Guillaume Lambert and transformed into a limited partnership. Four years later it became a limited liability company that became generally known as  'Société Céramique'.
Under the directorate of Victor Jaunez (1863-1913), engineer P.J. Lengersdorff (1902-1915) and Edgar Michel (1915-1954), Société Céramique flourished and became the main competitor of Petrus Regout's firm, which was renamed Sphinx in 1899. Around 1900 the products of Société Céramique vied with those of Sphinx in price as well as in quality.

In the twentieth century, Société Céramique started to focus more and more on the production of sanitary ware. In 1958, to the surprise of many, the company merged with its Maastricht competitor Sphinx. 
The factory premises were demolished in the early 1990's to make room for a prestigious new housing estate, which was given the name Céramique.
 
So, the next time you see a Blue Willow plate you will have a new perspective because the stories are priceless.

"I quite like antiques. I like things that are old and the history they bring with them. I would rather fly to Morocco on an $800 ticket and buy a chair for $300 than spend $1,100 on one at Pottery Barn."
  ~Walton Goggins