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Hot Junk to Get
Well, you can go get glasses at the local Lenscrafters, OR you can hunt down some spectacular vintage hand cut frames at your local antique shop and have them fitted with your prescription lenses. Or maybe---do both. I have some very normal, "don'-t-cause trouble" frames, and some "in-your-face" frames I like to wear when I am feeling "con cohones" and have had a drink or two.
Better to buy "new old stock", if you are going to invest much in the lenses. It is not good to throw money into old frames in bad shape that will fall off your head or lose an arm and need that proverbial piece of masking tape to keep them together.
Unless that is the look you crave--the look of half the boys in my nerdy seventh grade class circa 1965. If so, I have an old briefcase and a pocket pen holder I would like to sell you. I'll throw in the slide rule.
Lawn art and ashtrays
Back when guys stayed home more, listened to the radio and do other things at the same time, they probably labored over homemade lawn art, standing ashtray holders, and door stops. Usually they were made out of plywood, then painted. Look for slightly crackled paint. Many of the best of these were old comic strip characters like Jiggs and Maggie, or the ocasional Disney character. Black cats are plentiful. Also Butlers. You do not have to smoke to appreciate them.
Many of these come from the 20's and 30's. You can often guess the age of the piece by the dress of the person whose portrait it is. Hung together on a wall, they have a wonderful impact.
Old cookbooks by local groups: i.e. Grange cookbooks, church cookbooks, college cookbooks, etc.
I have some of the aprons made by Momomadeit, a shop owner on Etsy. They are wonderful and they make great presents! The only thing better I can think of for this picture would be if she used my phone pattern!
Are you old enough to remember when most diners consisted of a lot of chrome, had wall box jukebox players at each table, and served cream for coffee in tiny little glass containers instead of plastic ones? Do you have other memories of actual car hops coming out to your car and taking orders for food, and then delivering it on tray that hooked to the car by the driver's window? Have you ever had a hamburger, fries and a coke for $.50? Oh good! You are a kindred spirit!
I have strong memories of diners and car hop places going way back to the fifties. For years I could not hear a doo-wap song on the radio without seeing myself sitting in a diner booth. I have always loved diners, their aesthetic and their ambience.
Somewhere around 1979 0r 1980 I purchased this book.
Oh, good! I thought Someone else loves diners and appreciates them.
Little did I know then that I would actually get to know Richard Gutman when our children were at the same school in the 1990s! Here is a nice article about him. I mentioned that I had the book and he told me even THEN it was already a collectible. I subsequently bought this book:
And, to be honest, many others, all with picture of diners that brought back find memories for me.
Since then, some years have passed. I have a book of my own in progress and I continue to seek out as many authentic period diners as humanly possible to enjoy a nice burger in. I also bought one of these, by Jerry Berta:
Until my own book comes out, I have my own little tribute available now: my latest fabric collection! Check it out and look for it at your favorite quilting fabric stores on line and in person.
The gals come in cream,too:
And, how would you know where to pull over, if not for a great roadside sign?
If you can't find a diner, travel back in time to a Car Hop Stewart's drive-in:
And, whatever you do, choose from this selection of gourmet offerings:
Here's a nice little pattern to bring everything together:
You can see the entire collection here. All prints come in black or cream backgrounds. It's called? What else? Barbara's Diner! Bon appetit!
So far, his has been a crazy winter. First, of course, there is all this snow. OK, so what. It is inconvenient, but I do live in New England so why should I complain? Plus, I also lived in upstate New York for nine years, so this is nothing by comparison. So forget the snow already. What else? Well, I've been juggling lots of family stuff. Understand one thing: if you have kids, and they need your help, that trumps EVERYTHING. Need I say more?
Finally, there's my own work. I have been a good worker bee, going off to my painting studio every day to work on my latest picture book, which is being done in real paint, and is very time consuming. I love it, but it is loaded with detail. And when I am not in the painting studio? I am in my home studio designing fabrics, creating images for licensing, and working on writing my books. Not a lot of down time to be out and about. And, as we know, all work and no play makes Barbara very cranky.
So what's a gal to do to decompress? Of course, the obvious answer is SHOP. And for me, that means shop for home goods, antiques and quirky collectables. But if one is snowed in and/or pressed for time? Then, one has to be resourceful.
As an ebay lover since before they were a public company, I know the agony and the ecstasy of on-line collecting. Been doing it for years. I even have the dark circles and piles of junk to prove it.
But who has tine to wait for an auction to end? I cannot spare the extra time to make an appointment for my eagle-eye bid sniping. Yeah, yeah, I'll do "Buy It Now" if I'm really impatient. But, lately, I find that sifting through the listings on Ebay is tedious to the Nth degree.
Enter Etsy! The pickings are somewhat slimmer, and there is stuff that you couldn't pay me to have, but if you look carefully, there are gems to be found.
I've also picked up some neat items from Three Potato Four, another hard-to-resist vintage shopping site, although now I have to compete with the buyers that walk into their Philadelphia storefront.
I also check out the wonderful antiques, folk art and Americana on 1st Dibs, but suffice it to say, most of those things are well beyond my budget. Still, it is satisfying just to look and the wonderful offerings.
One thing I've noticed: more and more antique shops are doing videos of their current inventory. To tell the truth "virtual shopping" is almost as much fun as the real thing. After all, the thrill of the hunt is the best part. Often, I get a kick just seeing the items, which is why I also love checking out blogs about decorating with vintage finds. Taking a look at videos from From Out of The Woods Antiques in Goffstown, NH, ended up with me also taking a drive up there to get some things. And THAT is really dangerous.
I'm sharing a handful of my latest on-line finds. I find that I am drawn largely to Americana and Folk Art. That Tobacco Flag Quilt is one of my very favorite finds of all time. I got it from the etsy shop, Camp Hobachee.
Last weekend I had a bee in my bonnet. Actually, most weekends and even week days I have this same bee in my bonnet, but last weekend the bee was really buzzing. Buzzzz, buzzzz, buzzzz was all I heard. Well, all I wanted to hear. It was, of course, the NEED-TO-ANTIQUE Bee. I did not swat.
It had been on my calendar to attend two Antique shows. One in Concord and one in Needham. I love antique shows, because the dealers usually bring their best stuff to show and be seen with. When one stands there on display with one's offerings, it is much preferred to be associated with better items. This is as opposed to multi-dealer shops or even one-dealer shops where dealers might keep everything and anything, even the much less desirable junk, just in case some fool wants it, and often some fool does. I like Junk just as much as the next guy, but I am getting pretty picky about which junk goes home with me, and lately, I am looking for only Amerciana, and, most often, antiques. Shows give me the best bang for my buck, time-wise.
As is often the case, I had trouble getting out of the house early on Saturday to make it to the Concord show. But, I had discovered just the day before that there was an auction scheduled that day right here in Needham. And, as it turns out, I actually knew the auctioneer from years ago, and I knew she had a great eye for old things. So off I went to the auction, instead of to Concord. Besides, less $$$ spent on gas, means more to spend at the auction!
The item that drew me to the auction is the lovely winter painting above, which was pictured on the auction web site. It is oil and unsigned. I love these anonymous winter scenes. There is something very pleasing about these detailed paintings, done by some unknown, at some point, often many years ago, and obviously with love. Even if signed they are usually amateurs, but those paintings are often just as nice as any done by the pros I have seen. And, more often than not, even nicer. The less-sophisticated hand is my preference, by far. I'd take a Grandma Moses over a Hudson River school landscape any day --IF I were even in a position to afford one, which I most certainly am not!
I had almost passed up the auction because, I thought, I do not really need another snow scene, as nice as this is, but when I checked the site one more time and saw that the painting was 50 inches wide, I couldn't resist. I had to have it; I had the perfect place for it. I ran out the door in a cloud of dust, heading to the auction, after it had already begun, praying that I didn't miss the painting lot coming up for bid.
If you have never been to an antique auction,well, let me tell you--it can be nerve wracking. Those who are smart enough know to get to the preview for a close-up look at the lots before bidding, because it helps mightily and keeps one from going home with the wrong stuff. Auction lots are often not as nice in person as they are on line, or even as nice as they are from in-person, 30 feet away. I am usually not that smart, of course, and have gone home with the wrong stuff from auctions several times because I did not attend the preview, nor could get a really good look at it from my seat in the audience.
When I got to the auction, I could see the object of my desire up front. I loved the way that painting looked from my seat, but I did try to sneak up and see it a touch closer. I asked the women behind me if it had come up yet for bid and they said it had not. Thank goodness! I thought. And then I sat. And I waited.
Here is the danger of having to sit and look at the item you came to bid on for any length of time: other auction lots come up. Lots of other lots ("lot" is the term for a specific auction-bid item). Temptation is very great, and my reistence is very weak. If you put money on the fact that I won other bids, then you win. I did. I went home with some toy trains (above) and an antique game board (also above), neither of which was more than $25 And a strange bronze lamp that looked like a felled log, which cost just a touch more.
The other danger is that as I sat there looking at the painting, while winning my few other lots, it became even more desirable. With the extra time to desire, I mentally calculated just how high I would go. And the longer I sat there, the higher the figure. I shocked even myself at the figure I was contemplating and I am not easily shocked.
After what seemed like forever, my painting was close to coming up for bid. This is the the other thing about auctions: you actually feel physically edgy. Your heart beats a little faster. Your senses are heightened. Your blood pressure probably goes up (you know, it's funny-- I just realized that I experience the same thing when I am going to bid on an ebay item that I am determined to get...). All of that was true for me. I was poised and ready to duke it out.
The auctioneer introduced the painting. She started it out high, and waited to see what kind of interest there was, then brought it down to try to get the bidding going. This is often what happens at antique auctions, so it is wise not to jump in right away; you might pay much less than you thought. One thing had me worried though--this auctioneer was actually "passing" lots if she really thought they were deserving of better prices and no one was willing to start at levels she considered reasonable. I knew that if I waited too long to jump in, I might lose it altogether. A dilemma!
It looked like only one other bidder was as eager as I to own the winter landscape. The bidding began. I sat behind her and raised my number in rapid-fire style every time she raised her number card. I prepared to battle it out; I was determined to go home with it. Take no prisoners! My competition must have sensed that my testosterone level was way up, for she surrendered much earlier than I expected. Happy day! I was going home with my painting, and, thank goodness, it was a bargain. It was a great, CHEAP day! Which was good. I should not really be doing this at all. My husband has a thing or two to say about this buzzing bee. Well, more than just a thing or two.
Besides, there was always the Needham Antique Show the following day....
EDITED TO ADD:
Just after I finished posting I open the Times with lunch to read about this auction of the late Dominick Dunne's estate. These things are surely out of my price range and I am here ands the auction is there (although I suppose phone bids are possible) but one can dream of course!
As my friends and family know, I took a little career diversion in 2009. I went from spending one hundred percent of my time writing and illustrating kids' books to allotting a portion of my studio time for enjoying what I call "Brain Candy"--designing for licensing, specifically for fabrics.
As it happened, if I may continue the metaphor, my sweet tooth was clearly satisfied. I discovered that I LOVE creating patterns. What's more, I also found out that I did not have to design fabric with flowers or fauna some other straight laced icons. I could go totally funky and simply employ the kinds of images I already embrace and love drawing, decorating with and writing about: vintage kitsch! And so, Really Really Retro TMwas born, got its own web site and is now a trademarked name and brand. In addition, my first fabric collection came out with Elizabeth's Studio and my second is on the way.
But what is funky cotton cloth for, if not used to make something? Designs are one thing, but they need to be taken to the next step and turned into something. Of course, the problem is this: I do not have the time to do much sewing. My book work and the design work keep me totally occupied. But I want to see my cloth made into things, I say. Lots of things. What's a girl to do?
As it happened, a girl has to do nothing. Those things have been made--made into wonderful things, for that matter. And here is the first fantastic use of my Really Really RetroTMdesigns that I discovered and will feature in this blog-- Beautiful aprons by Joan, the gal behind the MOMOMADEIT Etsy shop. Joan decribes her aprons as "Everyday Housewife TM Aprons with classic fit and style."
I'll say. Her designs are so very stylish that they make me think of the very late Barbara Billingsly who could wear an apron in high heels, wearing pearls, and still cook up a rounded meal to feed the Beaver, Ward, and Wally. Here is a little more from the artist behind Momomadeit:
"I grew up in the fifties, came of age in the sixties and seventies, and worked at a tedious and mind boggling job until 2006. Etsy makes me feel like I am back in the sixties and seventies again!
There are lots of Everyday Housewife™ aprons here to choose from - for everyday, every season and any reason! And even some sweet things for your little one! I LOVE being able to offer you quality made items at affordable prices, ESPECIALLY COOL APRONS! What a fun way to make everyday special!!
My aprons have been featured on Good Morning America and in several magazines. I personally make each and every apron I sell. My customers have referred to my work as "impeccable", "stellar", "absolutely beautiful" and "just the best!".
Look for my aprons in the project book "A is For Aprons" and in the Simplicity Pattern Book."
The above bio alone makes me want to buy her aprons!
I also love this quote: "If you're going to be in the kitchen, you might as well look as hot as the food! "
BTW, the beautiful young lady wearing these fabulous aprons is the artist's daughter, who teaches chemistry by day and moonlights as an apron model by night. Can't wait to see her in my next fabric designs!
If you are looking to be hot in the kitchen, and want it to not be about the food, do yourself a favor and get one of these snazzy aprons. And, of course, I would love it if you got one with my fabric designs on it! Happy shopping!
Here is my first grade class. I am here. Bet you cannot find me! I can still recall this day and all the fun it held, as well as the promise to come of long hours out trick-or-treating after supper. When I was young, quite early in life, I went out by myself and did not come back for many hours. The year of this picture I most certainly did, and I was all of 6 years old. It was great fun and I had tremendous independence, as well as absolutely no fear. I mean, NONE. That year, in Rahway, New Jersey, I actually went so far from home that I got a little lost. Fortunately I made it home, none the worse for wear. To this day I wonder how my grandmother and mother let me go out like that at night, unencumbered by the worry I have today for my kids. Ah, well. It was a different time, a different place. There were many hundreds of kids all over at the same time, because we are talking baby boomers in full and splendid form. Somewhere there is an alternative universe where kids still roam the streets without the specter of the worst kind of horror coloring the evening.
Way back then we also had "Mischief Night," as it was called in Elizabeth, NewJersey, and "Gate Night," as it was called in Rockland County. That was what we called the night before Halloween. On that night we felt it our holy obligation to do certain "things" of mild trouble making. A rose by any name is still mischief and I got into my share for sure. A bar of soap and I left many an early illustration on many a store window, and, even a few boyfriends' car windows. And did you know that Elmer's Glue and toilet paper will stick to things for, well, YEARS? Me neither.
Halloween has always held a very special place in my heart, although, for years now, it has sneaked up on me every autumn as I am getting busy with the back to school grind and before I know it, I have not had time to decorate at all.
This year was no exception. I am working on the last details for a new book I am illustrating. The book dummy sketches are due tomorrow! No time for carving pumpkins, that's for sure.
Instead, I 'll just share this old picture, my memories, and also a few items from my house that are kind-of in the spirit of the day.
Just when you thought you were totally out of party ideas, I offer up this one: the old fashion sewing bee! Because if you can happily sit and sew, you will have a A happy life. I promise!
Seriously, I love the graphics and ideal settings on these old needle cards, which has officially become my latest collection. I've loved them for years, but finding a bunch in one fell swoop during my latest antique jaunt, just cemented yet another category of "must hunt for" things.
This one above is the oldest of this group. My guess is that it hails from the early to mid thirties, based on the dresses and the hairstyles. See--it says invite your friends over for tea and crumpets and present them with a nifty party favor--a brand new pack of needles! And isn't it amazing, yours and their picture is already on the front of it! "How did you manage that, you clever girl?" they will ask. After refreshments, you change rooms. Off comes the table cloth, out come the fresh flowers. You can move on to the racy, hot topics while you sew your little hearts out.
The next needle card appears to be newer. My guess is that this one is late forties or early fifties. I like that the gal to the left is intimately sharing her technique for threading a needle. It IS a Sweetheart needle pack, after all. Still, one is left to ponder: Just how many ways can you thread a needle? And are two threaders better than one?
Fast forward a couple of years. Change rooms, add more make-up and change their clothes, plus replace two guests with two others, and the same gals are at it again. And--tricky chicks--they are STILL pretending to work on that same piece of cloth! The gal to the right asks, longingly, "Honey, will you thread MY needle???
Listen, if you find the whole symbolism of needle threading too subtle on the previous cards, this one gets right to the point about all that needle work and what it will do for you: you'll see stars, Baby! Whoa, Nellie-- that's some needle this couple is riding!
And finally, if you ride that needle (wink, wink) and sew your little heart out, then this is what all your handy work will get you: a happy family of giddy kids and a smiling husband! Amazing what a little sewing (of oats?) yields.
Of course, now that they are a respectable married couple with kids, the needle riding is done in airplanes. Much more appropriate, don't you think? Still--let's all go home and do some stitching!