Thursday, December 11, 2008

Vintage Wonderland, Day 14

Two weeks into the $10 gift certificate give-away on the Etsy Vintage Street Team blog, and it's finally my turn!

That's right, boys and girls. Hop on over there, make a post with your cyber-name and e-mail and a link to your favorite thing in my shop (bet you can't find just one!), and after 9 pm tonight (EST) there will be a drawing for one lucky person to win a $10 gift certificate to Callooh Cally.

The give-away will be going on through the rest of the month, with a different fabulous vintage shop every day, so be sure to check back!

Pictured here: Some of the fun new things I've added to my shop in the past month:
  • An Olive Oyl marionette from the 1950s. This is one I'm really tortured about selling, which of course makes my kids just laugh. How could one be sentimental about a marionette? Of course, if I tried to sell my French bayonette, then they'd understand.
  • A fabulous Hawaiian flower 1950s tablecloth. How retro can you go?
  • A cruet and caster set in pressed glass and silver plate. At one time, every well-appointed table had one of these.
  • Disneykins Babes in Toyland toy soldiers, by Marx. Babes in Toyland was one of the first movies I remember seeing--or rather, I remember the emotions of watching the film, with its terror and romance. These toy soldiers were released in 1961 after the film came out. Oh Disney, I don't know how to quit you.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Walking in a Vintage Wonderland

My posting on this is a little late (mea culpa), but there's still time to get in on the Etsy Vintage Street Team's $10 gift certificate give-aways. Every day in December (extended until the 31st), a different and wonderful Etsy vintage shop will give away a $10 gift certificate. All you have to do is to post a comment on the EVST blog with a link to your favorite item in that shop (complete details are available here). Today's featured shop is abbysrelics, who carries some of the most fabulous vintage postcards around (a weakness of mine).

If you're just finding out about this, sorry to say you've missed some great shops, but there are more than 20 to go (including my shop), and you can sign up every day. More important, great vintage shopping is available every day on Etsy. Put "etsyvintageteam" in the search bar for some of the best.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Here's a fun fat turkey from my shop--a vintage postcard with embossed vegetables (my favorite kind). Makes me kind of sad about the bird we'll be roasting in a few hours, but I'll get over it.

I subscribe to Bon Appetit and each year scour bask issues for recipes (I always save the November issues). One year we brined the turkey--put it in a salt bath for a few days, changing out the water every so often--and it was absolutely fabulous but (like the year I made chestnut dressing and nearly killed my hands peeling chestnuts) something that's not to be repeated. The memory of that moist bird lives on; both my parents and my in-laws mentioned it.

So this year we're trying a rub with kosher salt mixed with herbs, put on the bird the day before. This is also a Bon Appetit recipe, from this year's issue--unearthed yesterday in our massive housecleaning effort and necessitating a trip to the store for kosher salt (along with eggs and other inevitably forgotten items from our list).

I'll post something later and let you know if it measures up to brining. I suspect it won't, but not having to bathe a turkey for two days will be worth it.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Mr. John: Milliner to the Stars

There aren’t very many biopics I’d like to see made, but I just found a character who’d be perfect for one: larger than life, incredibly talented and successful, flamboyant, and yet with a touch of humor, even irony, about himself.

I’m talking (if you haven’t guessed) about Mr. John, one of the glitterati among mid-century U.S. milliners. His accomplishments, in a career spanning almost 60 years, were legendary, yet today he is largely forgotten

Mr. John--John Piocelle, or John P. John as he dubbed himself--led a sophisticated, glamorous life in Hollywood and produced some of today's most sought after vintage hats. He was also noted for work, before their split in 1948, as half of the John-Frederics duo, whose most famous hat was the straw and green velvet bonnet worn by Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind. Often using pseudonyms, Mr. John designed Garbo’s hat in Mata Hari, Dietrich’s cloche in Shanghai Express, and Monroe’s headdress in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.

Outside of films, Mr. John designed hats for everyone from Eleanor Roosevelt to Gypsy Rose Lee, from Jaqueline Onassis to Wallace Simpson. Even my mother owned a Mr. John hat, one with a bobbing flower similar to the one in my Etsy shop (pictured above), which she assures me was considered quite fashionable. His hats often showed his sense of humor—a bannana hat with a zipper, a hat for an elephant at the Republican National Convention, an Eiffel tower hat, an airplane hat.

This sounds like enough for a great movie, but his personal life was equally flamboyant. His Central Park West apartment had a white and gold décor he described as “Louis Unrecognisable” and had free-roaming macaws, cockatoos, and parrots. Once he visited a friend wearing a floor-length gold cape and with a bird on his shoulder.

Despite all this flash and glamour, Mr. John was known primarily for his flattering, wearable hats. Even with the bobbing flower, my mother said she always felt great in her Mr. John.

Now for casting that biopic: I'm thinking maybe Robert Downey Jr?


Much of this information came from a fascinating article by Drake Stutesman.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

The park and John Waters

Yesterday I took a dozen pieces of my jewelry over for consignment at one of my favorite local museums, Laumeier Sculpture Park. It's a wonderful place where we frequently picnic or walk the dog, with trails through the woods dotted with hidden sculpture, as well as a vast expanse of lawn and massive constructions of steel. The picture above is of Ricardo Cat, which used to be in the children's sculpture garden, right next to where they hold the art summer camp that my boys attended for years. Behind that you see the museum building, where they have indoor exhibits and the gift shop that heavily features local artists (and that is, not coincidentally, run by a woman who used to teach my youngest at summer camp). Below is another of the outdoor sculptures, La Libellule.

The current exhibit--well worth the trip if you live in the St. Louis area--is by one of my favorite film makers, the very twisted John Waters (yes, the guy who made Pink Flamingos and Hairspray). And it's just as funny as he is. The only other people at the exhibit when I was there was a woman and her granddaughter, who was taken by the sculpture of Michael Jackson as a baby (with an adult face and hair), crawling toward another baby/man. The girl was amused by Michael Jackson but didn't recognize the other baby as Charles Manson (complete with beard and swastika on the forehead).

My favorite pieces, I think, were his photographs, often presented in a long series and taken from films or the news--photos of Jackie Kennedy in the pink suit she wore in Dallas, interspersed with pictures of various actresses playing Jackie Kennedy in a pink suit; a whole series of Lana Turner's back, showing her in various films turned away from the camera; and similar series of Grace Kelly's elbows and Dorothy Malone's collar.

I had planned to see John Waters when he was in town for the opening of the exhibit (and a series of appearances around town), but events conspired and I missed him. But the exhibit runs through January 11, so I do plan to see it again and drag my children (if not my dog) along. We'll check out the gift shop while we're at it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Catching Up

It has been so long since I blogged, a friend asked my husband if I was sick. A few other friends (who I didn't realize were regular readers) told me they missed me! Aw, so sweet. But blogging is like going to the gym--once you stop, it is so hard to get going again.

And I need to do that too--but one hurdle at a time.

My life has been pretty crazy lately (whose isn't?). But so as not to blow all my blog posts in one sitting, I'll just mention one project I've been working on: getting some jewelry together for Steam Powered, the California steampunk convention going on now in Sunnyvale. I'm not there, but my jewelry is! Some wonderful people from the Etsy Steam Team (a group of Etsy steampunk artists who work together) have several vendor tables where they're showing jewelry from team members who couldn't make it there themselves. This is my first art show, and I'm not even there! But I've seen a few pictures and know that they look better in costume than I would!

It was fun to get together a group of pieces of one theme, and while I was doing this I listed very little in the way of new steampunk pieces in my Etsy store. But who knows? Some of them may return to me and be available soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Eureka Eureka--world beads and a bit of history

I don't make beaded jewelry, but after spending some time with Debby Arem and her Etsy shop, Eureka Eureka, I'm sorely tempted to begin. Debby's shop has several things I love: rocks, gems, and stories of far-off lands. With her husband, Joel Arem (who worked for the Smithsonian and authored seven books on gems and minerals), Debby traveled all over the world in search of the finest and most unusual beads.

The ones I'm showing here are her favorites: glass beads from West Germany. Some of these are from the 1950s, and as anyone who sells or loves vintage knows, they don't make 'em like they used to.

The rest of Debby's shop is equally fascinating, with beads from Pakistan, China, Japan, Italy, Czechoslovakia--you name it. To read more about her beads and her career as a jewelry designer, check out this interview on the Etsy Vintage Street Team blog.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Last Sale Day--Whew!

My week has been too busy--listing lots of new vintage items in my Etsy shop in honor of the vintage sale that's been going on all week. OK, today is the last day of the sale, and I've sold almost ten things through it so I'm happy. But I haven't blogged, haven't cleaned house, and haven't done much jewelry making all week.

So here's to the end of the sale! It goes till midnight tonight. The above treasury gives you a taste of what's available. To the right is something new I listed, a Fire King cottage cheese bowl. To see what else there is, go to Etsy and search for evstsale.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Vintage Sale Time!

The only thing better than buying vintage on Etsy is buying it on sale--and now's your chance. August 8 through 17 will mark the first annual Etsy Vintage Street Team $12 and Under Sale.

Participating shops will have a wide variety of vintage goodies for $12 or less. To find them using Etsy's pull down search menu, click on "All Items: Tags and Titles" and search for EVSTsale. The sale lasts for a good 10 days, so check back--new items will be added as it goes along.

I'm not ready for this yet, but here's a little preview of something I added for the sale.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Garage sales: August '08

The middle of the country has many drawbacks, including no oceans and teeny mountains (yes, the Ozarks are mountains). But one thing we have in abundance is great summer garage sales. Hot, humid, crowded, and full of good junk at great prices.

Last weekend I hit a bonanza with two older women (now defined as anyone older than me) who were closing down their antique shop. I practiced great restraint and left with three bags full of goodies, including six vintage hats that I'll be listing over the next several weeks in my Etsy shop. The picture above shows some of my other finds, including a Red Wing Lexington pitcher, Red Wing planter, Hull swan planter, hand-painted Japan pitcher, tin of buttons, and a couple of trays.

These were great, but what really got me excited was the hats. Once I started looking at them, one of the woman started hauling them out of the house. And kept hauling--more than 50 in all. Unfortunately, many were not in great shape, but I picked out a number of the best. Pictured to the right: a rabbit fur felt number from Saks Fifth Avenue, probably late 1950s to 1960s. So soft, and it matches my eyes (but sadly not my head size).

Monday, July 21, 2008

Quiz of the week

This is an easy one: Guess where I'm going on vacation. Wish I could take you all...I'll bring back some photos (though I think I'll be fighting my son for the camera the whole time).

Friday, July 18, 2008

Loving my readers

As anyone who has been here more than once knows, I'm not a regular blogger, not always an interesting blogger (maybe sometimes?), certainly a rambling blogger. So I am so impressed when the same people show up here again and again to see if there's anything new. Thanks to you all (as well as to those who stop by once and decide, meh, not for me).

Yesterday I created the above Etsy treasury to show my blog reader appreciation. (Note: I know I have some regular non-Etsy readers [hi guys], but they do a lot of lurking, rarely if ever leave comments, and really couldn't be included in an Etsy treasury. But I appreciate them too!) The most fun thing was visiting all these wonderful shops, which I'll admit I don't do often enough. So please visit the treasury and click around to see some fantastic art, vintage, and other items. I'll be switching out some of the photos throughout the next day, but still I know I'll miss some of you. Nevertheless, I appreciate you all! Thanks.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

My history in smoking

There was a time, I can't remember if it was high school or early college, when I smoked cigars. I mean, how cool was that, a girl smoking cigars. Wow, the people I must have impressed. I can still taste the nasty things, dainty little cherry-flavored chick cigars, the smoking equivalent of Boone's Farm wine. Then later, sometime after college, I took up the pipe. That was somewhat more refined, and I had (still have) some feminine pipes, a little metal cloisonne one and a purple painted wooden one. Neither worked worth a damn, and I remember the amusement of my uncle, who smoked a pipe for real, trying to teach me how to keep the stupid things going.

Neither of these habits was long-lived, fortunately, but I thought of them the other day when I was doing research on a new garage sale purchase--a beautiful antique cigar humidor. I was attracted to it because it's a beautiful box, a dark oak with a tin lining and a removable filter that could be wetted to keep the cigars moist. When I started looking around, trying to discover its age (1890s to early 1900s), I was reminded of the subculture that has grown up around different smoking options.

One of the most interesting websites I discovered was one that sells new humidors but also refurbishes antique ones to modern standards of cigar preservation. They take beautiful boxes like the one I'm selling (and, of course, ones much fanicer, made out of beautiful, rare woods with inlays and metal adornments and fanciful shapes), remove the lining; clean and refinish the wood if necessary; reline it with Spanish cedar; and fit it with modern moisture control devices (a humidifier and hygrometer).

Perfect for people who buy $10 cigars. (For those smoking cherry-flavored, girly cigars, a different receptacle will do.)

Friday, July 11, 2008

The vintage seller's alter ego

Vintage sellers are a creative lot. Even if they aren't directly involved in arts and crafts, they have "the eye." They have a finely honed aesthetic sense, able to pick out the wonderful lost in a sea of the mediocre and just awful.

Many of them, however, are also artist and artisans in their own right. I've found that a number of vintage sellers on Etsy have another shop where they sell hand-made items (often made with vintage components), or they carry a mixture of handmade and vintage within one shop. Here are just a few of the secret lives revealed (I'll highlight more in a later blog post).

AmbrosianBeads is run by Carol Holmes, the owner of RetroThreads. (You can see an interview with Carol on the Etsy Vintage Street Team blog.)

HerRoyalMajestyBags and SurrenderDorothy are products of the same creative mind.

backhomeagain is the crafty counterpart to 300nmulberry.

artsfarm combines vintage items with hand-crafted accessories, jewelry, and art in one shop.

Finally, AuntiePrincess moonlights as lamplighter, creator of extraordinary Victorian lampshades.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What's going on

I've been in a neglect-the-blog mode again, so here's my quick remedy: five things that happened lately (hope I don't have to pad the list):

  1. I got a request from a writer to include a photo of my vintage California Pottery bells in an upcoming issue of an Israeli home styling magazine.
  2. I won a pound of coffee from Vintage Indie for a photo I took of a coffee cup (one of my lovely Russel Wright chartreuse mugs, sitting on a napkin that I intend to list in my shop if I can ever find where I put the other three of them).
  3. I became a contributing writer to the Etsy Vintage Street Team blog (my first interview is in the works). Just what I need, right? Another blog?
  4. I found a photo of one of my necklaces on Gothic News, a website that is too cool for me.
  5. I had my 6-month Etsy anniversary. The stats: 76 sales, 156 items currently listed in my shop, 1119 hearts, 2965 forum posts, almost 8000 Flickr views, and 2263 blog visitors. (There's something wrong with these figures--I talk way more than I sell.)

Thursday, July 3, 2008

The Etsy Pledge

Etsy, whose tagline is "Your place to buy and sell all things handmade," is also host to a thriving community of vintage and supply sellers, including some wonderful shops that make the online experience like a comfortable trip to the very finest antique mall.

And then there are the others.

The ones who have cheap cameo bracelets they bought last week at Walmart. Or the sugar bowl that's not too bad, except it was made in 1994 (and thus not considered vintage by Etsy's 20-years-old standard). Or the skirts that were made in a factory in Southeast Asia.

What happens to these rulebreakers, these cheats--who contribute to the impression that Etsy is "an online flea market" (as one online columnist called it)? Some of them eventually get shut down (sometimes to reopen under another name). One of them I know of has made more than 100 sales in 4 months of business; maybe the boom will be lowered some day, but it does seem to take forever.

The community at Etsy is starting to fight back. This past week, the shop owner of Keys and Memories set up the Etsy Pledge Blog to highlight vintage and handmade sellers who publicly affirm that they "don't mistag or resell new items under the guise of being vintage or handmade." The blog already has 34 so-called Seal of Approval Shops (mostly vintage) listed and is adding more daily.

It's tempting, of course, to give you a link to those shops selling Walmart jewelry or brand new accessories. But maybe, if Etsy does its policing job right, by the time you read this they'll be gone.

Or maybe not--and there'll always be someone new to take their place. Caveat emptor indeed.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The weekend haul

Saturday I found some marvelous garage sales, including this one house of wonder that was packed, just packed with stuff--most of it good, some of it overpriced but some of it a great deal. There were two stories and a basement, and every single room was jammed full. The sad part: my older son was with me (he sells computers on e-bay, so he was making the rounds with me), and he was bored stiff and constantly on my heels, wondering why I was looking through a stack of old hats or rummaging on a table of pottery.

So I didn't get as much as I might have otherwise, but still found quite a few treasures. My son's just turned 17, and I don't see too much of him these days, so it was worth the foregone booty. But I'm still thinking about that house...wonder if they'll be open next weekend too (surely they couldn't have sold everything!).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Do I need a new model?

Things started out amicably enough. He was right there, usually in front of the TV or playing a video game in the basement, and always willing to help me out. He seemed to instinctively know the right way to wear my vintage hats--like a young Barbara Stanwyck, perhaps, or even Grace Kelly. That kind of elegance, that poise, cannot be taught.

Lately, however, I've been wondering whether I'm wrong to confine myself to just one model. I've had this happen before, you nurture their talent, teach them everything you know, and then one day New York calls, or Milan, and they're gone on the next plane without a glance back. To a life so exciting, even our new Halo 3 game cannot compete.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still happy with his work, but there's something I can't quite put my finger on. Some glint in his eye, a distance perhaps, that tells me he's thinking more about his next career move than my needs. Take these photos from our recent photo shoot--he starts out happy enough, but by the end... well, you be the judge.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Branching Out: The Pear Project

Beginning this week, I'm pleased to say that, in addition to my Etsy shop, some of my jewelry will also be available on the Pear Project, a website that carries a variety of goods made by artisans from all over.

Brooke Fuller, founder of the Pear Project, runs the business from her studio in North Carolina. In addition to being a savvy marketer, Brooke is a photographer, jewelry maker, and big believer in using recycled items (her bracelets made from repurposed tin are a great example).

"Artisan goods for everyday life" is the Pear Project's tagline. "A purse can come from a department store, or you can buy something unique that was made in a small quantity," Brooke explains. "Not only do you have a gorgeous bag, but you are also supporting an independent artist or craftsperson who is making a career out of what they love."

The shop carries bags and purses, household goods, jewelry, fine art prints, and paper goods "with a modern twist and utilitarian appeal, hand picked from a variety of submissions," she says. This is a small venue (one of its advantages), but it's expanding and constantly adding new artists and items. Here are a few of the other goodies you'll find there. (Guess which one's mine.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

My Studio

The headline is a bit of a joke. I've been looking at other blogs with pictures of cute little cabins in the backyard, full of windows and light with ivy climbing the sides, where the artist can be an artiste. What I have here is a corner in the basement with a few shelves and a card table. But, on the plus side, the basement is three-fourths finished, a project we started and abandoned more than a year ago (and, if I had to bet, one that will remain undone until some time far in the future when we sell the house).

My basement also has a number of windows and a rarely used air hockey table that I can spread things out on (when I was growing up, it was a rarely used pool table; every basement needs something like it). So I can't complain. I don't imagine I'll ever get a little freestanding studio of my own, but if I can train my kids not to set their Nintendo controllers down in the middle of my work bench, at least I'll have my own little corner.

....And, on an unrelated note, here's a picture of a new necklace I finished this week. Why not?

Monday, June 16, 2008

My blog's smarter than I am

I just found out my blog is a genius. Yep, that's right. (Oh no. Did it just drop a few IQ points? Do geniuses say "yep"?)

Someone in the Etsy forums gave a link to a site that will rate the readability of your blog, from grade school to genius. The Blog Readability Test supposedly rates what level of education is needed to understand your blog. Of course, it says nothing about the quality of the layout or features, the value of the information, or the uniqueness of the views presented. And having a high level in the blog world is not necessarily a good thing.

I used to work on a professional journal where we thought it was fine to challenge the reader, even make them crack their dictionaries once in a while, but publications with a broader audience often find it necessary to "dumb down" the vocabulary and monitor the length and complexity of the sentences.

I'll admit I'm a snob though. I cringe (don't we all) when listening to speeches by our fine leader, still-President Bush, and it's sad to compare that with the level of thought and range of vocabulary displayed by your average person not fifty or seventy years ago. Our knowledge of words is contracting, and our patience with complexity has all but disappeared.

I could lament this sad state of affairs, along with the decline of the American newspaper and the quality of our education, but instead I'll share this quote by the great Nobel Prize-winning writer V.S. Naipaul: "There can be no showing off in literature. You want simply to be read." I think this applies to blogs as well.

Genius, shmenius.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Debra Drexler: The Pre-New York Show

My friend Debra is leaving in a few weeks for a one-woman show in New York at the Blue Mountain Gallery, but she held a preview for a few friends at her St. Louis studio. Debra's on sabbatical this year from her job as a professor at the University of Hawaii, so she's been splitting her time between St. Louis (home) and New York (opportunity).

Here's a few of her new paintings, from a collection she's calling Pool of Reflection (but another friend fondly dubbed Volcano Heads). My pictures are not that great (a little skewed), but the paintings are really striking--very large (as is most of her work) and with wonderful colors and movement. I'll be going to New York myself later this summer to catch the show (it runs July 8 to 26) and as many other New York sites as I can cram into five days!

A few other photos from the preview: Debra with a painting of the red tide, in honor of our ill-timed trip to Florida last fall, and
Debra in one of the hats I made her model for me (and I'm still grieving that they don't fit me).