Monthly Archives: October 2011

Art Pottery: An Artisan at Work

Through the power of modern day tools such as Youtube, the centuries old techniques and work  that this artisan (potter) demonstrates in this video becomes a powerful testimony to the skills and techniques passed down through generations and utilized in order to create a modern example of an ancient Greek vase.

It’s techniques similar to these which have contributed to some of the most well known American collectible potteries such as Rookwood, Napco, Lefton, etc.

In modern times, we tend to take for granted all the manufacturing processes that are involved in making the pottery and ceramic items we use everyday.  Perhaps watching this video  will allow you to see just what goes into making all the ceramic ware that is used in our daily life, such as dishes, cups, mugs and saucers in a new light.

Before modern day manufacturing techniques, this was the only way a household could obtain dishware or decorative items for their homes.

Ceramic Terms

I have  included a few ceramic terms that are pertinent to this video:

Fabric :  the clay body or paste of a ceramic.

Leather Hard:  The stage in which unfired pottery is no longer in a plastic or wet state, and can be handled without distortion to the form.

Paste:   The clays and other materials that constitute the body of a vessel.

Press Molded: A vessel or vessel element ( such as a handle or spout) which is formed by pushing wet clay over a mold.

Slip:   A liquid mixture of clay and water applied to vessel surfaces.

Throwing:  The manufacture of pottery by  hand on a wheel.

Distinguishing Between Terms for Different Collecting Eras

Vintage Typewriter

Q.  I’m confused what is the difference between the word “retro”, “vintage” and “antique” ?  Vintage resellers on Ebay and other online shops seem to intermix these terms  all the time.

A.  You’re right, I have experienced this myself when searching at online shops or in antique malls; however, based on my research the terms for collecting eras or time periods  are loosely defined as follows and these definitions usually refer to clothing styles:

Retro – Anything 30 years and younger

(Example:  Since its 2011, that would put us around 1981 when guys were wearing Ocean Pacific corduroy shorts and Ocean Pacific shirts , or designer jeans and Members Only jackets or Rock Concert T-shirts and jeans.  Girls wore peasant blouses, Jordache designer jeans, platform or wedge high heeled sandals and yes, Farrah Fawcett hairstyles!  The television show “That 70s Show” is a great example of this era.  These are only a few examples, if you went to high school around that time you can remember more than the above mentioned styles as your classmates, depending on what clique they belonged to, wore different popular styles.  Ask your mother, or other fashion conscious female relative about fashions worn back then, if you are not old enough to remember this era yourself.)

Vintage – Over 30 years but not sufficiently old enough to qualify as an “antique”

Here we are most likely referring to clothes worn in the 60s, 50s, 40s, 30s and 20s.  As you can see this is a wide range of fashion styles, you can go from a 60s leather miniskirt, a 50s cashmere twin sweater set with a poodle skirt,  a 40s day suit, and a 20s flapper dress and they would all fall under the term “vintage”.   Please be aware that all of these examples are the tip of the iceberg as representative of each decade’s clothing.  Then as now, there is a huge variety of styles within each decade or fashion era. I think the TV shows Pan AM and Mad Men are representative of the 50s  and 60s era.  You would have to watch William Powell’s The Thin Man Series of Movies to get a feel for clothing and styles popular during the 20s and 30s.

Antique – 100 years old and beyond

(These are clothes that were worn over 100 years ago, usually you are talking about the Edwardian period, around the turn of the 20th century, where women wore floor length skirts, long-sleeved Victorian style blouses and their hair in a bouffant.  The term “Antique” also includes anything pre-1900, clothing worn during the Civil War (1860-1863) for example, this clothing is usually of museum quality as few pieces have survived this era and are collected more for the clothing’s value rather than to be worn as everyday wear.)

While I know there will be those that will argue that the above terms are not exactly correct, this was meant to give you a general idea to help you when shopping for vintage items online and in resale boutiques, or  antique malls.  It’s a good idea to invest in a reference book that gives you a general idea of the various eras  of the past, preferably by each decade, so that you can determine the item you are looking at by the style and which era it fits into. But, please realize this general rule applies only if the item is an original and not a reproduction.   Another research method, and one I enjoy using, is to watch the Turner Classics and American Movie Classics movie channels, where time spent watching a few of these movies will give you a glimpse into fashions and accessories worn in the past and entertain you as well!  If you love vintage and retro shopping, these activities will be a great source of fun as well as design & style  knowledge!   .

P.S. One thing that I must mention is that the above terms refer to fashion eras  in the United States and possibly the UK, our European friends would laugh at our definition of “antique” as they have collectibles  and clothing that go back hundreds (if not thousands) of years!

*Did you know that Levi’s jeans are the only item of clothing that is still worn by the general population for over 100 years?

A Quick Story on How Rhinestones Got Their Name

rhinestone-jewelry

If you collect vintage rhinestone jewelry, you are already aware of the brilliant and sparkling qualities of rhinestones but you might not be aware of their illustrious history.

Rhinestones were made of a leaded glass usually backed with a metallic foil of either gold or silver to bounce the light off the glass for added sparkle. The term rhinestone came from the Rhine River in Austria, back in the 1800s, when the river was filled with quartz pebbles in brilliant colors.   Rhinestones were made to imitate the brilliant colors in the quartz pebbles.  Although faux gemstones, or jewelry made with them, were initially looked down upon by the upper classes, this attitude changed when the higher quality standards in rhinestone production soon made beautiful jewelry an affordable investment for the masses and the rich gentry as well.

Snowflake-rhinestone-pin

Since the 13th and 14th centuries, glass was manufactured from two major regions, Czechoslovakia and Bohemia.  Initially glass was manufactured for functional objects like perfume bottles, vanity items, and other uses.  By 1918, the Czechoslavakian industry improved manufacturing methods and began to design and incorporate rhinestones into jewelry designs.

snowflake-rhinestone-pin2

But most notable of all was an invention in 1891 by Daniel Swarovski, who revolutionized the jewelry industry when he created a machine that could mechanically cut faceted glass. His invention replaced the industry’s practice of finishing the stones by hand.  In addition, he increased the amount of lead content in the glass to 32% which produced rhinestones of exceptional brilliance. He also developed a process that would vacuum plate the rhinestones with silver or gold foil reducing the need for this work to be done by hand.  Swarovski’s unrivaled improvements in the quality of his rhinestones and the streamlining of his company’s manufacturing processes skyrocketed the demand for Swarovski rhinestones.  He soon became the major supplier for over 85% of the American jewelry companies.

Still in production today, many of the vintage rhinestone jewelry pieces currently sought after by collectors sparkle with the brilliance of Swarovski rhinestones.

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Image credit: Flickr – Sherry’s Rose Cottage

8 Ways to Use Vintage Wallpaper in Your Creative Projects

Vintage Wallpaper

If you are looking for something unique or want to spend more on the gift itself instead of the wrapping , you ought to try  to wrap a gift with vintage wallpaper.  However, don’t stop there!  There are many uses for this wonderful paper product.

Use vintage graphic wallpaper and or vintage fabric to cover boxes or scrapbooks.  Often these paperboard boxes can be found in varying sizes at discount stores for a few dollars each. The image below is a digital image of vintage wallpaper, click on the image below to access the free digital paper assortment available at Free Pretty Things For You.

pink-rose-vintage-wallpaper

Vintage Wallpaper Ideas

  • You can also use vintage wallpaper as giftwrap.  Whenever you go thrift store shopping keep your eyes out for wallpaper rolls.  Rolls frequently surface at flea markets, thrift stores and on eBay.  Wrapping presents with wallpaper, which is usually a little stiffer, can be challenging. In order to achieve crisp corners and creases, I suggest you invest in a bone folder tool which can help you achieve crisp, straight creases.
  • Search online for specialty shops that sell vintage wrapping paper.  Expect to pay higher prices as many of the wallpapers sold are discontinued patterns.
  • Use new wallpaper that has a vintage pattern.  Look for these remnants at decorating stores or ask friends or neighbors if they have leftovers from recent home renovations.
  • Even small remnants of wallpaper can be used with any scrapbooking project you may have.
  • Consider giving a favorite crafter friend several rolls of pretty wallpaper as a gift, which can be used to cover boxes, to line drawers, or to paper the inside of a cupboard.
  • If you have a roll of wallpaper that has very little paper left or you want to use sparingly, consider investing in a few rolls of Brown Kraft paper.  You know the kind of paper that is often used to cover packages you will be sending through snail mail, this paper can serve has a paper base for your gift and then you can use contrasting vintage wallpaper strips or trim to finish the project.
  • If you can’t bear to part with your beautiful paper, consider color photocopying the pattern and use it to wrap a small gift.  Many do-it-yourself office/print shops, such as Kinko’s or Staples, will color photocopy a single page 17” x 11” for under a dollar.

As with most vintage things, you won’t be able to go to your nearest Walmart  or Target to  pick up these items.  However, there are many e-shops on Rublyane, Tias and of course, Ebay that sell vintage wallpaper.  A recent addition to the handcrafted and vintage online shops is Etsy.  Many of the vendors on Etsy have made your search for vintage wallpaper easier as they provide scanned digital wallpaper available for printing at 300 dpi or digital wallpaper images at 72 dpi for online digital scrapbooking.  Prices will vary per vendor.

Esty Vintage Wallpaper Shops

Now more than ever, you will be able to find a whole lot of options for your vintage wallpaper needs.Try using the term “vintage wallpaper” or “ephemera” as your major keyword for your search.  Good luck and happy hunting!

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Image Credit Flickr by studioreb

Halloween Collectibles : Book Review

Halloween book

Book Review:  Vintage Halloween Collectibles by Mark B. Ledenbach

Published by Krause Publications, c.2007, 207 pgs.; paperback – Subject : Halloween paper and decorative collectibles – List Price $33.99

This book is a price and identification guide for Halloween paper and decorative collectibles.  According to the author, since Halloween decorations were generally used once and then thrown away, unlike Christmas decorations which are usually used from year to year,( and thus put back into storage)  these items are very hard to find and highly collectible.  Their scarcity makes these collectibles more expensive than most other paper ephemera  and Holiday decorations.

The book is divided into several chapters that cover games, lanterns and shades, candy containers, noisemakers and diecuts.  Since this is a very niche collecting field of the larger ephemera collecting area, it’s no surprise that the bibliography only references five other books on the subject.

The book also includes:

  • 700 full color photographs – many items are in the author’s personal collection
  • Each entry is accompanied by a photograph, manufacturer’s name, date of production, dimensions, price for condition shown and a relative scarcity index scale of 1-5
  • The author has also included a brief history of Halloween collectibles, the current state of the market and advice on how to spot fakes or reproductions

If you collect holiday decorations and enjoy ephemera with vintage imagery, than this book is a must-have for your collection.  The book’s downside is that the history  section is very brief, only a few pages, but it makes up for this failing in great full-color photography and corresponding details for Halloween collectibles.

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The following video produced by Kovel’s Antiques on their Youtube Channel gives a pretty thorough view of what these collectibles look like.

What Is Ephemera? Paper By Another Name

Vintage Halloween Postcard

Ephemera is a beautiful word for what some people depending on who you ask would call plain old paper.  According to Webster’s dictionary, ephemera is defined as “something of no lasting significance” or “collectibles (as posters, broadsides, and tickets) not intended to have lasting value”.  Since paper items are easily torn, mangled and susceptible to sun and humidity they don’t often survive the ravages of time.  Yet exactly some of those authentic old papers are bringing in big prices on Ebay and other similar auction sites.  Take Barnum & Bailey original posters for example, (you know the colorful posters that the company would post on fences and walls to let townspeople know that the circus was coming into town) a c.1898 Barnum & Bailey Coney Island poster sold for $700.00 on Ebay.

And  the word ephemera has extended itself to include all manner of paper items including:  postcards, vintage costume jewelry advertisements, fashion ads,  famous concert and opera tickets, sheet music and turn-of-the-century stock certificates which are all highly collectible.  A Clapsaddle Halloween postcard depicting a young African-american boy holding a pumpkin sold for $290.00 and seven 1946-1952 Miriam Haskell costume jewelry ads sold for $122.50 on Ebay.

If you are interested in this type of collecting or you just need this type of material for your altered art or digital scrapbooking projects, you  can search completed listings on Ebay for these items and find out the going current prices.  In fact, there are even greater valuations for paper items especially if you were related to some historical person or someone famous and can prove the provenance, the history of ownership of a valued object or work, of the item.  Television shows like “The Antique Roadshow” and others often feature great stories about people finding valuable paper treasures in a dumpster or at a garage sale for a few dollars.  While these stories are more the exception rather than the rule, it pays to think twice about throwing out those circa 1950s fashion magazines or any other paper item you might find when cleaning out the garage.

You will get better prices if the condition of the item is “like new” although some yellowing is acceptable; however, even greater damage, tears or spotting are acceptable to some altered art designers it just depends what the final use of the paper will be.

You could find a local dealer who might give you a fair price for the item or try selling it on Ebay yourself.  It just might be worth your while and put a little extra paper, the green kind, in your pocket!

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Image Credit: Flickr by riptheskull

Your First Blog Post Is Sometimes the Most Difficult

Some people hit the ground running when they set up their blog! They already know what they are are going to write about and they are bursting at the seams to express themselves while others find it a chore close to the most difficult household jobs you need to perform like cleaning the oven or other tough cleaning jobs.   If your sole object for writing your blog is to serve as a journal of sorts for only yourself and a few friends to read that is fine.  However, your whole plan will have to change if you want to attract visitors to your site.

So  here goes, the official beginning of this blog and the first few words in print.

This blog was created to provide articles, book reviews, shopping reviews of stores in the Los Angeles and Orange County area and online resources, and some personal stories on vintage costume jewelry, decorative home decor, vintage collectibles, vintage ephemera,  and retro fashion accessories—many of the things which I collect.  While I wouldn’t consider myself “cool” or “hip”  (I’m not young enough) nor in the granny stage (I’m not old enough), you’ll find this blog to be a collection  of some of my  musings. Probably a mish mash  of my thoughts and observations in my pursuit of vintage collectibles and retro finds, ideally, an area for like-minded people who like and enjoy vintage, retro and antique collectibles.