Finery & Finishes Boutique and The Richmond Brathaus treated everyone to a unique experience last night. Throngs of people came out on an especially warm December night to watch “It’s A Wonderful Life” outside. People brought lawn chairs, blankets, sleeping bags, Thermoses and an optimistic attitude. It was really fun!
October, damp and cold this year, made lighting the boiler last week a heralded and longed-for occasion. I began mixing rye bread dough this morning at 4:30 just for the joy of baking it. One grey day I stopped on a narrow country road to listen to the wind rattle the corn husks and then noticed a little black cat watching me. The shop is filled with all sorts of lovely old painted furniture, all chippy and time-worn. That is my favorite furniture of all types and I imagine where I would use it in a future home if I were tp keep it. I sand them to remove specks of paint that could come off and seal the exterior with flat acrylic. After washing the insides of drawers, I seal pretty wood with varnish or, sometimes, I paper them with 1940s wallpaper if the interior wood is nothing remarkable. I enameled the exterior of the dresser shown above with Rustoleum’s stock color Marine Blue. With polished brass antique hardware, it makes me think of a sailor’s dress overcoat with brass buttons.
Shown above is one third of the cartons of 1940-1960 Asian kitschy figurines stacked in my apartment above the shop. Those that are not vintage were left out to be given away. The ones for the shop are this type:
How can I display these in a way which would encourage customers to see that a collection of these would be colorful and fun?
The rainbow display is trendy and modern. The colors of the 40s and 50s were various shades of maroon, Chartreuse, dark green, pink, red, yellow, turquoise, black and white.
I like this Chinese boy bookend shown in this person’s collection mixed with natural specimens, a gourd and books. There are bookends in the cartons. I can’t imagine how the braid was never broken.
I am picking up 24 printer trays next week so I can fill a couple of the trays with the three-inch statues. The plan is to use Velcro Dots to adhere them inside the tray.
When my friend Frank was a child in the 1930s, his grandfather walked with him through Chinatown in Chicago. It was an exotic place and his hand was securely held within his grandfather’s larger one. One day, Frank’s grandfather stopped in front of a shop to converse with someone and that placed Frank directly in a shop doorway. Looking deep within the dark shop, he saw an old Chinese man sitting in the back room. The man wore a long Chinese robe, had a long braid, sprouted long fingernails and was smoking a long pipe. He returned Frank’s stare. So, why did Frank begin to collect Chinese and Japanese figurines? Because they remind him of the feeling he had that day. It is the memory of being afraid of the old man and yet, not afraid, because his hand was within his grandfather’s hand.
Frank is a Korean War Veteran. After returning home, he signed up again and spent years, 140 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska. When he came back to Illinois he worked for 30+ years in the railroad yards. This is a man who isn’t afraid of much. His collection reminds me that inside all of us, even the biggest of men, is the child we once were.
No one in Frank’s family wants his collection which is how they came to Fox and Finch. I like them. I remember seeing them everywhere when I was a child. Stay tuned to see how I decide to display them.
Lucille Ball on the set of I Love Lucy standing with her “Oriental” figurines.
In far southwestern Wisconsin, down endless two lane roads, lives a sturdy population of no-nonsense farmers. These farms are not part of an amalgamation, but 500 acre farms grown larger by marrying the girl next door or by purchasing from a neighbor without children.. Angus cattle, Holstein cows and wild-looking horses with manes and tails embedded with burrs are too leery to come to the fence and take an apple from my hand.
These farms are inhabited by people who have owned them for generations. The oldest members of the family retire, no further than to town, when the next generation gets itchy to fill their thick-soled barn boots and get to it. Men and women hunt deer and turkey and watch football games on TV. A squirrel supper is not uncommon. The type of rugged individual who lives here would be good to have with you in an emergency. They wouldn’t hold your hand or say comforting words, but they would get you through it.
The wind blows fierce across these corn stubble fields in January. Roads flung like ribbons across an eider down quilt cause apprehension at the top of hills where one wonders what will be at the top, a sheer drop or a man on a tractor straddling the double yellow line.
I spent a week there in January while my sister and her husband reunited with the sun in their prior hometown of Sarasota, Florida. The white frozen fog lifted high enough on just one day for me to go outside and walk on the property.
It is an interesting feeling to be alone in someone else’s house for a week. I’ve never been able to feel my sister in that house. But, I saw her personality outside hidden under fallen leaves and in the birdhouses riding on wire strung over the thick arms of old oak trees.
Stay warm…I’m back to work at the shop beginning the first weekend in February.
“The stripped and shapely
The ghosts of her
The ground is hard,
As hard as stone.
The year is old,
The birds are flown.
And yet the world,
In its distress,
Displays a certain
– John Updike, A Child’s Calendar
Walking through Haf’s Apple Orchard last month was a picnic of smells and color. Some trees seemed to be chosen for allowing dropped apples to remain on the ground. The smell of vinegar rose from these fallen apples and the bees were having a wonderful afternoon.
If you live near Haf’s, remember that apple season is not over in November. They have coolers kept at 35 degrees and all of the wonderful varieties are still for sale at prices less than the grocery stores. The comparison stops there as there is no comparison between taste and freshness-Haf’s is the winner in that category, also. All of the apples are marked by variety and purpose. My freezer is full of pies now. I look forward to baking one on a cold January and February night.
From where I sit in the dark shop late this afternoon, leaves are rattling down the sidewalk like old chicken bones. I’m still in the Autumn mode of enjoying mystery movies curled up in the chair with an old cotton blanket from the 1940s. Just as the movie begins, I take two out of the drier and curl up covered in soft, old cotton.
I finished three Christmas wreaths, two to sell in the shop and one to send my sister for the door of the post office where she is the postmistress. I made it from tiny envelopes stamped with dates ranging from the 1930s to the 1950s and Midwestern place names.
Before I leave you in November, I want to show you the Princess and the Pea bed I began last winter. I have 22 mattresses finished for this antique doll bed marked 1898. Using only ticking and other fabric made between 1930 and 1960, it is a like a small encyclopedia of fabric design.
If you are a local reader, remember that Haf’s sells bags of apples with tiny flaws (like a real apple) for 1.00 a pound! It’s fabulous!
I have long thought that being a gilder would be a fine way to make a living. It even sounds elegant, doesn’t it? But before I join the Society of Gilders, I want to try this ancient technique with faux gilt.
I can only imagine to what heights one’s anxiety would rise if using real gold sheets even with the gold hammered to a thickness of 1/300,000 of an inch. The composition gold sheets I used are 85% copper and 15% zinc. The sheets are as light as air. I picked up the first sheet with the fan on and the window open. Still, it worked, even if it did have one wrinkly spot. The directions are simple and come with the Mona Lisa Gold Leaf Kit I purchased. When gilding anything porous, one should first seal the surface, in my case cardstock, with a modern sealer for paper. When that is dry, paint the surface to be gilded with the adhesive, wait 30 minutes, close the window, try to float the gold leaf somewhere in the direction of what you are gilding, gently rub with a soft cloth and then apply the sealer in the kit with a brush. What brush you use makes a difference. A stiff brush gives the gilt a burnished finish while a super-soft brush, I used a make-up brush, results in a traditional gilt finish. Well, kind of.
One of my first-time experiments involved a pair of 1930s lampshades which were still with the lamps, but the silk had long since deteriorated. I used yellow cardstock and traced the shape of the lampshade frame, cut it out and followed the directions. It was very easy. The hard part was gluing the woven brass metal trim to the shade. I don’t like the shades with these pretty lamps and I think originally they must have had long bead trim to cover the sockets. They would be much prettier in silk. I’ll worry about that tomorrow.
I am pleased with the second part of the experiment and look forward to next spring when I can use the rest of the kit on selective parts of the exterior door surround. I gilded the finial on the top. It looks nice.
Are you wondering how things went outside with these sheets that are lighter than air? I had to go up a ladder to reach the finial.
I applied the adhesive, waited ½ the recommended time thinking it would dry quicker outside and when I got to the top of the ladder, the wind kicked up a flurry of swirling leaves and the four or five inch square of gilt stuck to the newly dried oil paint further down. You can’t get that stuff off newly applied oil paint. It is still there. I came up with a new idea though. I carefully slid the next sheet of gilt on to the top of a potholder, layered one of the dusted sheets protecting it from its neighbor on top and then put another pot holder on top of that. It was a little more difficult climbing the ladder while holding the potholders with both hands. I’m pretty sure this isn’t how members of the Gilder’s Society do it.
Gilding is a technique that takes years to master, but it can certainly be done in the DIY arena. To see how four other DIY gilders did, check out my friends at: Viva La Vintage For Your Home
and Loving Home
The heavy child’s chair and footstool, which some may remember, sold today. I think I had it for over a year which is too long for a space this small. I could have sold it many times, but no one wanted to pay 300.00 for it and I had to get that. Note to self: Don’t do that again. I held out and this wonderful antique will live on with another lucky little girl.
My friends, Margaret and Kevin, gave me this Empire Birdseye maple beautiful piece. All I had to do was sand it and put an absolutely flat clear sealer on the top. If you would like to see what Birdseye looks like close up, I think you can click or double-click the image.
I found an entire bedroom suite of this furniture a couple of weeks ago. I bought it from the great-grandson of the original owner. It was his grandmother’s bedroom suite in Milwaukee in the 1920s. It is solid mahogany with all sorts of fancy veneers and hand-painted flowers. Each piece, except the bed, has jewelry inserts of glass and mahogany and polished glass protectors. The little knobs on the interior boxes are sterling silver.
The dressing table and mirror sold immediately. The original needlepoint cream-colored seats on the bench for the end of the bed and the dressing table chair are spotless. Can you imagine? This well cared for furniture was wearing, however, 96 years of coal soot, wax and every day embedded dust.
I used New Life Furniture Mask on it, as I did on the mahogany book cabinet shown above.
The last of the zinnias are blooming now. I put bowls full of zinnias all over the shop. I made a little lamp, last week, out of three lamps. The marble base, the porcelain figurine and column and the hobnail glass ball were all in a lamp parts basket.
Our library in town houses a slightly famous library cat. The July 21st, 2016, edition of The Chicago Tribune, ran a story reporting that Newby is one of the last two remaining library cats in service in the state of Illinois. Library cats have been a time-honored tradition since the days when libraries and universities kept them to stop rodents from damaging books. Their jobs are dwindling quickly as people with allergies want their removal and some surveys report that 30% of people have allergies.
Picking up furniture yesterday, I stopped to look at the long rows of corn drying in the fields. The fields seem endless. It was overcast and the cornstalks appeared to be rattling their bones. October…this is the season where we begin to get cozy for winter and have fun with Halloween. I begin to read mysteries in October and listen to scary stories on old-time radio. I haven’t turned the heat on yet as there will be more warm, soft days. An old, soft cotton blanket to wrap up in at night is all I need.
I began this in September and October 1 is tomorrow. It is so nice to send a word out to you all, what ever your season is and where you are.
Fox and Finch
Richmond, IL, USA