Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Dad says there are more than

three thousand letters in the Japanese alphabet, which could pose a problem. There are only twenty-six letters in the English alphabet, and I get into enough trouble with them as it is.”
~ Rin Chupeco,
The Girl from the Well   

I walk the Avalon beach every morning, and the other day I noticed some small squares in the sand, and, thinking they were mini tiles, I picked them up.  I did not notice until I brushed the sand off of them that they were old scrabble tiles, and I did not realize what they spelled until I pulled them out of my pocket today.  Of course, I have to wonder how they stayed together, so to speak, in the tides, but I just thought, what a wonderful find.  It does not take much to make my morning out there!  I am already overwhelmed by the sky and sea.
This got me thinking about simple letters.  I watch grown people in the shop going through a box of block letters.
Trying to spell out that special just need the right...
Of course, today words are morphing into letters...U know?
This did get me thinking about letters and words, and Scrabble came to my mind.  I never knew the history of Scrabble, but it dates to the 1930s and an unemployed architect, a victim of the Depression.

Alfred Butts studied games, and he realized word games had no scoring motif.  "Attempting to combine the thrill of chance and skill, Butts entwined the elements of anagrams and the classic crossword puzzle into a scoring word game first called LEXIKO. This was then refined during the early 1930s and 1940s to become CRISS CROSS WORDS. It’s been suggested that he also drew on a story he’d read as a child, Edgar Allan Poe’s "The Gold-Bug", in which a pirate’s treasured map is decoded by matching symbols to letters based on how often they appear in the English language. Either way, the upshot was to limit the role of chance and allow knowledge and strategy to play a part, resulting in a blend that’s crucial to Scrabble’s enduring popularity."

Butts studied the front page of The New York Times to make his calculations for the letter distribution in the game. This skilled, cryptographic analysis of our language formed the basis of the original tile distribution, which has remained constant through almost three generations and billions of games.

His guinea pig was his wife Nina who, in a twist that would seem scandalous today, had been his schoolteacher growing up. Was it her fault that Butts always claimed to be a terrible speller? Invariably, Mrs Butts beat him at his own game, reportedly once playing the word ‘quixotic’ across two triple-word scores, notching up close to 300 points in a single turn.

Nevertheless, established game manufacturers unanimously slammed the door on Butts' invention. It was only when Butts met James Brunot, a game-loving entrepreneur, that the concept became a commercial reality.

Together they refined the rules and design and then, most importantly, came up with the name SCRABBLE - a word defined as 'to grasp, collect, or hold on to something'; and a word that truly captured the essence of this remarkable concept. And so the SCRABBLE Brand Crossword Game was trademarked in 1948.

Brunot rented a small, red, abandoned schoolhouse in Dodgington, Connecticut. Along with some friends, they turned out 12 games an hour, stamping letters on wooden tiles one at a time. Only later were boards, boxes, and tiles made elsewhere and sent to the factory for assembly and shipping. In 1949 they made 2,400 sets and lost $450. 

Then in the early 1950s, the president of MACY'S discovered the game while on vacation and ordered some for his store. Within a year, the SCRABBLE game was a 'must-have' hit, to the point that SCRABBLE games were being rationed to stores around the country!
From 1952 through 1989, the game went through several owners, and it finally was purchased by Hasbro on 1986.  The 1950s games were marketed by Selchow & Righter.  Then in 1986 the company was bought by Coleco.  When Coleco went under, Hasbro, owner of Milton Bradley, bought Scrabble and Parcheesi.

There is a National Scrabble Day!
So, now you know those scrambled letters went through a lot to get to game night...and now to your ipad or iPhone!  But...pre digital Scrabble...

Everyone must know by now that the aim of Scrabble is to gain the moral high ground, the loser being the first player to slam the board shut and upset all the letters over the floor.
Craig Brown

Saturday, August 5, 2017

"Anybody can buy.

 It takes an artist to shop.”
Jennifer Finney

Every now and then, you know I have to vent about being in business.  I read several articles this week about the demise of shopping malls, iconic stores, and consumer buying.  All in all, it felt like the phrase I sometimes use...stick a fork in is done.  Has shopping been so "Amazoned" that we are losing another cultural motif?  I have had my shop 26 years now, and I confess that I am a little overdone myself.  This is an excerpt from one of the articles about the death of malls..."the grandmothers and goths, the flirting teens, the mall walkers and mall rats. They're all online now, face-to-screen, interacting in ways impersonal and impulsive. It's a different sort of marketplace, unsurpassed in its efficiency and with its own code and culture, but without the skylights, the sweet smells, the splashing fountains, the ethereal Muzak--all of which are still around, but you have to look hard to know it."

That got me thinking about what is missed when you just look at the flat screen...and many times the smartphone index card sized screen.  You cannot appreciate the colors or the shapes of vintage pottery.  A fellow dealer who visits every summer always brings me a tote of some wonderful pottery from out her way in the Midwest.  Consider this piece of Abingdon Pottery, a pottery that was established in 1908 by Raymond E. Bidwell as the Abingdon Sanitary Manufacturing Company. It started making art pottery in 1934 and stopped production of art pottery in 1950. Abingdon Pottery was known for its plumbing fixtures and its dense, white vitreous china, resistant to hairline cracks and chips, yet here is a wonderfully shaped vase in this coral color that seems so soothing.  Now, here it does look nice but to feel the cool porcelain on a warm day and see the shape up close and personal...a different experience.
Or consider a Royal Copley vase with the coral blended with the now popular gray and a touch of white.  Royal Copley china was made by the Spaulding China Company of Sebring, Ohio, from 1939 to 1960.  Just the colors alone attract the eye...
I am wondering if the younger generation is losing touch not just figuratively with life.  Another article on smartphones and the younger generation quoted a 13 year old...“We didn’t have a choice to know any life without iPads or iPhones. I think we like our phones more than we like actual people.”

So, as I put out vintage pottery, I wonder what the vintage shops will be like in another 26 years.

There has been all the chatter about making America great again...what about the shops that are preserving what was great in American arts and crafts and supporting those artists who are creating even as we speak?  What about the shopkeepers who are still searching, cleaning, displaying for your pleasure?  We agonize over cheap Chinese labor, and then we expect these shopkeepers and artisans, the protectors of our past and the creators of our future, to work for pennies also.  

So, if you love to shop and not just point and click, step away from the screen and head out into the wilderness of stuff!

     "If you wait until you have enough money to decorate and make your home your own, it will never happen.  If you wait until you can afford to buy everything new, you are missing the point.
It is the old, the new, the hand-me-down, the collected, the worn (but loved) things in your home that make it your own."
  Stacy Risenmay

Saturday, July 29, 2017

"If a picture paints a thousand words,

 then a let a picture inspire a thousand words.”
 ~Nicholas Boyd Crutchley

Found some framed photographs in my reorganizing because I always buy the orphan photos, and it made me think of someone in 100 years...what will they have?  Photos on some phones?  I am sure there are those who still print out photos, but how many have them framed and mounted those pictures behind glass and on walls?  It is the old good intentions until life continues to wash up on your shore!

And how many people get professional portraits done?  Periodically I do see photographers and families on the beach posing for the summer vacation photos.  I have a former student who is a professional photographer...No Filter Photography...always happy to feature a young entrepreneur!
But I look at these antique photos and try to imagine who they are, what they did, and why they are lost in the auction world or flea market world.  I am always drawn to photographs...maybe it is a English professor in me who blends pictures and words.
Sometimes the back provides some clues or information.  This photo showed it cost $1.20 to frame and the deposit was 25 cents!  Who were these men?
 Many times you will see the backs of old framed works have been cut open.  There is always the chance that there is something of value sealed in that frame whose secrets died with its owner perhaps. 

A collector who spent $4 at a Pennsylvania flea market for a painting because he liked the frame found himself the possessor of a first printing of the Declaration of Independence. It brought $2,420,000 at a Sotheby's auction.  David N. Redden, head of the book and manuscript department at Sotheby's in Manhattan described the document, found behind the painting when the collector took the frame apart, as an "unspeakably fresh copy" of the declaration. "The fact that it has been in the backing of the frame preserved it," he said. Of the 24 copies known to survive, only 3 are in private hands, he added.

Portable wooden frames as we recognize them today come from 12th-century Europe. At first they were sculpted from the same piece of wood that backed the paintings they surrounded, but eventually it became clear that building a frame separately would be cheaper and more efficient. Soon, furniture craftsmen were attaching mitered wooden strips to artworks after they were complete.  The growing number of amateur photographers in the mid-19th century also created a boom in homemade frames.

In the United States, the first picture frames were made from simple pieces of wood made like generic wall moldings, known today as the Early American Empire style. Eventually, American framers developed their own motifs based on the country’s growing agricultural prowess, incorporating imagery of tobacco leaves, corn, and wheat, in contrast to older European motifs such as acanthus leaves.
 That wooden back is on the photo below.  An interesting mix...2 men...5 women...and not a clue as to who is who...mother...father...maybe daughter and son-in-law or son and daughter-in-law.  They always look so selfie smiles on these folks!
 The women below present another puzzle...who are they?  What did they do?
The next time you see some antique photos, either loose or framed, imagine the story behind those faces!  Maybe even adopt them and make them part of your own family.  Years ago a customer bought some framed photos of women whose outfits and expressions she loved.  She hung them in a hallway, and at Thanksgiving that year various relatives talked about the women as though they really had been in the family!  So, they were claimed!

“Photographs are a bridge to the past. Black and white reminders of the way things used to be. Links to those who are no longer with us. Priceless treasures.”
~Jim Starlin

Saturday, July 22, 2017

"Here's looking

at you, kid!
   Rick in Casablanca

Image result for heres looking at you scene
Based on my reading, this phrase was actually repeated 4 times in the movie.  The phrase sans "kid" actually dates back to the late 1800s as a toast before the script writers of Casablanca made it famous in 1942.  One of the sources was from a story in Ballou's Monthly Mahgazine [sic] (May 1884):
            "Ah," said the colonel, as he threw out a chew of tobacco, and took the bottle. "Here's looking at you."
            "Drink hearty," the young man replied, and taking the bottle he held it up, and added, "Here's to the hair of your head."

What got me on this was a stash of head vases I just unpacked.  They are all looking at something!
 For some reason, these are so 50s!  Actually they were produced by florist companies to hold the bouquets they sold. Their small openings helped to maximize sales by limiting the number of blossoms each container held.  There is method in retail madness no matter what decade!  

Initially the head vases were made in American studios.  Betty Lou Nichols, Ceramic Arts Studio, and Dorothy Copley were among the early manufacturers.  According to a collector site, "Nichols’ distinctive vases often showcase ladies with intricately curled hair and fabric ruffles along with pouting lips and her signature three-dimensional black eyelashes, all in hard ceramic."

Then came World War II and the ceramics industry was part of our attempt to help Japan when we occupied the country.  We go off on Made in China, but we forget the Japanese companies that eventually buried our American ceramic factories.  Enesco, Lefton, Napco. and Ucagco went into production with cheaper products.  Soon Japanese head vases were in vogue...even a Japanese lady...which is a little interesting considering the war, but it seems that people moved on much quicker than today's folks.
There are over 10,000 styles with ones modeled after Marilyn Monroe, Lucille Ball, and Jackie Kennedy more in demand by collectors.  I like the "winker"...
Then there are the regular 50s girls...
This one looks like she is thinking...not tonight, I have a headache...
There a couple can see size next to the larger one...


I have seen mention of conventions in some of the articles, but no recent information on that.  Again, the idea of collecting is slowly fading from the culture...I know curating is a current term, but that does not mean one buys every item in that field.  These could be used for make-up brushes or even flowers as originally intended...even air heads the real world...
"Remember, having a good head on our shoulders is not just for decoration purposes."
~ Sunday Adelaja

Saturday, July 15, 2017

"Thrift shopping is all about going into the thrift shop and

 having no expectation of what you might find.

A couple years ago Macklemore, the person I quoted above, released a song about thrift shops.  To be honest, in a way vintage and antique shops are "fancy" thrift shops although some thrift shops do price like antique shops.  The problem is that shop owners have to buy their inventory, and many thrift shops get their inventory donated to them.  I understand that those shops do have overhead, and they have expenses also, but sometimes those shops are not really thrifty, but I found a gem in Habitat for Humanity's foray into the thrift/recycle business.

ReStore...welcome to Habitat for Humanity's venture into the recycling world.  From their web page..."ReStores are independently owned and operated by local Habitat for Humanity organizations. Proceeds are used to help build strength, stability, self-reliance and shelter in local communities and around the world."  There are more than 850 ReStores around the country, and one just opened here in Cape May Court House (NJ).
 This just opened last month, but it looks very promising for adding some decorator pieces to your home!  They have set up some nice displays... 

They have mirror, mirror for your wall to tell you that you are the fairest of them all!
Dining tables...
And a variety of furniture that you do not see in the smaller thrift shops...I did not get photos of all the nice couches, but there is a variety of other furniture.

This is a neat marble topped coffee table for $70! The top alone caught my attention!
Also available...bed rails!  Sometimes you might have a great idea for a headboard...then...well, bed are shelves of them!
Want to be creative with some sinks?
Appliances also...
And...neat some tiles for a small project...also building never know what you might find at a fraction of the cost of you-know-where...

I love to promote local businesses, and I have donated to Habitat.  So, check your area if you are not local, and see if there is a ReStore around.  Very impressive!  

And words from a rather wealthy icon...
       I believe that thrift is essential to well-ordered living.
            ~John D. Rockefeller

Saturday, July 1, 2017


Perfection. Patience. Power. Prioritize your passion. It keeps you sane.”  
~Criss Jami

I have heard a couple times in the past week..."Gosh, you are never open..."  Well, folks for 25 years I was open fairly consistently for 6 days a week in season, but this year life just seemed to step in, and I decided life was important.  I wanted to support World Giraffe was on a Wednesday morning at the zoo, and I went.  I had spent March and April following April the giraffe and her pregnancy, and I did become a little infatuated with giraffes.  Who knew they were going extinct?
Then about 2 weeks ago I read about a missing puppy on Facebook.  Now, I am an Avalon certified cat feeder (yes, I even have an official badge), and, since the puppy was from around my 30th street tribe, I became involved.  And, so for 10 days, I was part of a "rescue" squad on the search for Molly, the elusive bichon, and, finally last Sunday, her Mommy and I were able to catch her...this is from her visit to vet where we took her immediately after we found her...she is recovering is her Mom!
Every evening I walked the streets of Avalon following leads and sightings.  Some interesting things did show up as we searched.  I saw the "marble house" being "deconstructed"...

At least they are saving the about conspicuous consumption through!  But, the giant houses in the dunes present a unique perspective to shore life, for sure!

Then I have my 91 year old mother in assisted living down the road, and the company changed hands in the winter, and I have not been real thrilled with the situation.  So, I have been dealing with that.  Sometimes I think people have more respect for stuff than people!  Our elder care could use a Roadshow of its own to highlight care across this country.
In the meantime, I have been trying to get things in the shop...many have asked for these soaps...the egg soaps and Sea Salt...they are from a Rhode Island company, and they are back in stock.

And I am finding some treasures among things I have had packed up for many moons...
So, if you need to contact or message me on Facebook...I am trying to get back to my regular schedule...10:30-4:30...
In the meantime. as one of the signs in the shop says...

“There comes a moment when you realize what matters the most in your life. Let that moment be now and that matter be your love and kindness.” 
~ Debasish Mridha