Friday, May 30, 2008

Etsy Vintage: Play to Win

It's contest time! Well, I've never done this before, but Sunday June 1 my shop is going to be part of the Etsy Vintage Street Team scavenger hunt.

It's easy to play--search one shop for a clue, then on to the next shop. Everyone who completes it gets a code worth 25% off one item in any participating shop. There are going to be 16 shops in all, so that's a lot of vintage goodies to choose from.

If you want to play, you can find more details on the Etsy Vintage Street Team blog. (To get a closer look at the treasury above, go here.)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Ways I can waste time

Like most other people (except those annoying overachievers), I have many, many ways of wasting time. One of them is curating treasuries, a collection of gorgeous and gorgeously photographed products available on Etsy. It's like my own mini art gallery, and I go back to look at it again and again, so pleased am I with the results. This is my latest one (available here if you want to go leave a comment).

Here, in no particular order, are another five of my favorite ways to waste time (for the complete list, you'll have to wait for my book...if I ever write it):
  1. Get another cup of coffee, or heat up the one I already have.
  2. Spend some time in the Etc. section of the Etsy forums, reading about someone's marital woes or participating in discussions on weighty topics (current threads--and I'm not saying whether I contributed to them!--include snorks vs. smurfs, cutest dog, dumpster divers, disgusting but true medical conditions, and anus waxing).
  3. Watch the fights at the bird feeder.
  4. Check the view counter to see how many people have visited my Etsy shop in the past five minutes.
  5. Clean the house.
OK, that last one was a joke (my husband reads my blog). That's the kind of thing only an annoying overachiever would do.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Photo album: Memorial Day weekend

We have had the rainiest weekend--severe thunderstorms, marble size hail, and rain, rain, rain. In between showers, I've gotten out to a few parks and taken along my lovely camera.

On Saturday, before the rains came, Forest Park in St. Louis was filled with Old English sheepdogs--hundreds of them. My friend Lou, who is a lovely person but a questionable driver, stopped in the middle of the road, transfixed. Here are just a few of those big boys and their people.
We had lunch at the boat house and were going to go out on a paddleboat, until the deluge. These people got drenched but looked like they were enjoying it.

The next day, after the rain and before the hail, there were a few nice hours and we went for a picnic at Laumeier Sculpture Park.

It was a small group of friends--about eight people and five dogs. This is Bruno. Bruno was bad. Bruno's in time-out. There was a small debate as to whether Bruno saw the error of his ways and was thinking, "If only I'd been nicer to those other dogs."

Friday, May 23, 2008

Steam Team takes off

One of the fun ways of promoting your products on Etsy is joining a street team--a group of people with common interests, whether it's a locality, a medium, or a favorite cause. Some time ago I joined the Etsy Vintage Street Team, which has been a great way of meeting and learning from other vintage sellers. I recently joined another team, the new Steam Team, which includes artists and artisans in the steampunk genre. Some are like me, with only a portion of their stores devoted to items that could be considered steampunk, whereas others are thoroughly involved in both the art and the lifestyle.

And it's been fascinating, as you can see from the above treasury curated by ClockworkCrow--such a variety of approaches. There's gorgeous jewelry but also interesting artifacts and wild fashion. Keep an eye on their new blog for ongoing interviews and highlights from Etsy's steampunk community (plus, if you scroll down, some more of my cool postcards).

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bird fetish

"Do you have birds?" the woman asked me. I don't, but I was purchasing six vintage bird postcards from her, so I could see why she'd ask. In fairness, I also bought a polar bear, a beach, and a couple of wild futuristic air ships, but for some reason the birds were what attracted me most (many were set in Florida--maybe I just need a vacation).

These are a few of my favorites. The top one, a barn swallow, is from 1910 and was illustrated by the popular and prolific Ellen Nash. The two that follow are colorful linen postcards published by Curteich in 1948 (bird lady) and 1940 (flamingos).

Makes me want to get my binoculars and a ticket south.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Flea Marketing

This past winter and spring, I've been going to estate and garage sales--some marvelous finds, don't get me wrong, but to get to that 50 cent Trifari pin you have to bypass outgrown toddler shorts, boxes of romance novels, yellowed Tupperware, and tables and tables of ugly coffee mugs. It requires perseverance.

Yesterday, in contrast, I went to an honest to god flea market in Belleville, Illinois, and oh my what a difference. Stall after stall of wonderful stuff--even if it was ugly, it was wonderful. Vintage plates and planters, hats, buttons, tools, weapons, souvenirs, costume jewelry, toys, postcards, pictures. It was sensory overload. I'd look at a table and only be able to really see three things, then have to look at it again to see three more. Fortunately, I was with friends, so we were able to point out to each other the treasures, the hideous, the absolutely laughable.

The downside, of course, was that most items were priced appropriately, meaning that I couldn't afford them. This was particularly painful when it came to some gorgeous bakelite jewelry, especially a translucent carved pin that looked like applejuice bakelite only green. I'm glad I was about out of money by that time.

So yes, I did manage to come home with a few goodies, including a cute cake cover, a little duck planter, a pile of postcards, and a tin of buttons (you can see some of them above, with my photography assistant, Stella). And it was interesting to talk to some of the vendors. Several of them said they had cut back the number of days they did the flea market to save on gas money back and forth. Many of them lamented the economy, and more than once the price came down as we walked away from a table. One woman told me her son said he was getting a tattoo as soon as he turns 18. Another showed me her Fiestaware price book and told me which colors are most valuable.

I won't give up on my garage sales, but it was nice to be in a place where people really knew and appreciated what they had. Even if most of it was out of my range.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bloggers block (and other ramblings)

I think I'm getting worse at blogging instead of better. I started out with ideas and energy--what happened? Now I look at my last post and realize it's been a few days and think, aagh! What crap can I put up quickly?

In that vein: Here's a couple of necklaces I recently listed in my Etsy shop. More steampunk, yes, and fun to do, although I find myself in my basement sawing the pointy pieces off old clock parts, wondering if there's an easier way and also wondering why my children are so spoiled (or busy) that they turned down my offer to pay them to help (maybe this summer).

Recently someone on Etsy had a hilarious treasury (collection of artwork) saying that steampunk had jumped the shark, but given that most of the people you talk to are still unclear what it is, if they've even heard of it at all, I think we have a bit of time left before this goes the way of 70s shoulderpads. I figure I live in the Midwest, where people still wear Crocs. It takes a long time for styles to get here, even longer for them to go out of fashion.

Besides, as far as I can tell, it's alive and well. Witness the recent article in the NY Times, and now Etsy has a steampunk street team--a group of people who get together to promote a particular style or product. It's just now starting to get under way, but already has a blog and plans for a contest. (I'll have more on this later.) The more I see and read, the more fascinating the style is.

If nothing else, it gives me something to blog about.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Retro, kitsch, and cute: what's not to love?

The 1950s contributed so much to our culture, from the Big Bopper to poodle skirts. Much of it was something your mother might have called "tacky," "tasteless," or "junk."

The rest of us know better. The photos above (a picture of a Treasury, or curated selection of items, I put together on Etsy) show a few of my favorite figural planters from that era. Lambs were popular, as were swans and other animals (often hauling a wagon or something, where the plant went). Many seemed to have been designed as baby presents (which makes sense, during the height of the Baby Boom). Yesterday at a garage sale, I found a planter in the shape of a gigantic blue bow, a perfect gift for little Jimmie or Bobbie.

If you want to see more examples, visit the Vintage Figural Planters collection on Flickr (my own little pink boy is a recent addition). Cute, kitsch, and retro. Dig it.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Steampunk Style: Is WalMart Next?

Is steampunk going mainstream? A recent piece in the New York Times calls it "that rarity, a phenomenon with the potential to capture a wider audience, offering a genteel and disciplined alternative to both the slack look of hip-hop and the menacing spirit of goth."

The steampunk style, a neo-Victorian amalgam of a modern cyberpunk and the past world of Jules Verne--dirigibles and brass, high hats and lace--is stepping out of the shadows of places like The Steampunk Workshop and Etsy and into bricks and mortar stores like Gypsy Moon and the Bombay Company.

So if Target is the next thing to go steampunk, is that a bad thing? Jordan, one of the citizen reporters on the website NowPublic, poses this question in a recent article and has so far received a number of responses from his readers, most along the lines of "once these types of things get to the public eye, they are just over-produced and cheapened." (Jordan's article includes a slideshow of a number of steampunk designs, including one of my necklaces.)

Like everything else, if there's an interest in it and a way to make a buck, you can be certain that the retail giants will follow. So keep your eyes peeled--and tell Oprah I'm ready for my close-up.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Will work for trash

I have a new plan for stocking my vintage shop on Etsy: I'll help you clean out your mom's house when she moves into that nursing home, and all I ask for in return is a trunk of junk.

Last weekend I did that for a friend of mine whose mother recently moved into an assisted living apartment. They'd already had the estate sale and were sending some items to a consignment shop (plus her mom was there, and I didn't want to look too much like a vulture), so I didn't get the best of the best. But there was plenty left in the Good Will box for me to pick through.

This was a woman who hadn't moved in sixty years, who liked antiques, and who had a bit of a shopping habit. For a couple of hours, I helped bag up clothes to give away (including some suits that had been in the attic for 40 years and crumbled to the touch), and I hauled some things to the garage. In return, I came away with milk glass, pressed glass, drinking glasses with Andrew Jackson on them (who wouldn't want those?), junk jewelry, old silver plate utensils, a few squashed hats, and another bag I haven't really looked through yet.

So call me. I'll even bring my own trash bags.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The substitute teacher

Today I feel like the substitute teacher who is a little lazy and a little overwhelmed, so she puts on a video and doesn't even mind if you fall asleep during it.

Today, class, I'm going to show you a few of my favorite photos that I've taken lately.

First, the pink dogwood blooming in my back yard.

Next, a few new buffed celluloid buttons. Note that the ones on the left and right in the top row look like little logs. How weird is that.

Finally, a new postcard in my shop. This one dates to about 1910 and is illustrated by Frank Reynolds. It's titled "Racing to Supper."

OK, class dismissed.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Moesewco's That Girl Hat

Can't you just picture Marlo Thomas wearing this with a little mini-dress and colored stockings? Or maybe Mary Tyler Moore, throwing it up into the air?

Emily of Moesewco has done it again. Her lovely little mod cloche, in a bright cherry red, features one of my funkiest little pins--a mixture of vintage buttons in chocolate brown, pink swirl, and red bakelite ball.

Emily's hats are entirely hand made--blocked using vintage wooden hat blocks and stitched by hand. So it's a good match for my vintage buttons, which hail from an era before mass production. I love seeing how artisans can take the styles and processes of the past and update them for today.