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?
A Beautiful Mindfulness
Linnea Harris on Pinterest
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.
“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
Loveliness” – 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!
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.
By one o’clock yesterday afternoon we had three-quarters of the ground floor of an estate packed into a U-Haul trunk and a van and we were bouncing back down the road toward home. It is a friend’s connection and job, I was hired to fill boxes while he packed the vehicles. It was hard work under any circumstances but made more so because the previous owner was an antique dealer and artist with a pennant for iron, stone fossils and giant balls of string.
The string is not only visually interesting but more so because the tied together pieces were saved by people before the invention of rubber bands, twist ties, various tapes, Rubbermaid tote bins and other forms of containment. What would surprised the thrifty savers of yesterday’s string is today’s value of their frugality. Values starting at 300.00 proved that winding string was time well-spent.
The antiques and vintage things in the shop come from Midwestern auctions and from people who inherit things and come into the shop to sell them. I always ask about the people who owned them. I record their names, where they lived and sometimes I am given a photograph of the person which I pass on to the new owner. There are many different types of art in the shop and this month I have the pieces included here. I show customers (and children) how to tell the difference between a lithograph, etchings, engravings, etc. with the help of a jeweler’s loupe. It opens up an entire new world to people.
Jean Romano, a graduate from the Art Institute of Chicago, watched her plans for a commercial design career dissolve when WWII began. Shown above are two of her design ideas from 1939. The first and second photographs show some of her 3D kits for making shadow pictures. (Just double-click the image if you would like to see them close up.) The photograph to the right is of an advertising idea that Jean wanted to pitch to Ivory Soap. The prototype shows a bathtub toy duck that rode a floating bar of Ivory Soap.
The accomplished artist, William Thompson, began his career sweeping the studio floors of William Henry Chandlers studio. One of the stellar moments in the shop was when I met his niece. I think he was America’s greatest pastel artist.
Paul Krause painted church murals in the late 1800s. I easily found his grandson, a Milwaukee realtor. Paintings like this one would be presented to a church board as a sample of his work. The tiny details are mind-boggling.
I recently won this oil painting at an auction. It is larger than the section I am showing. It has a lot of tobacco smoke on its surface. It is so yellow now that I can’t read the signature. Someone has already spent a sizable amount to have the painting relined. See the back? Do you see the age on the second lining? It will be interesting to see if the sky is blue. I love this painting. I think it dates to the time when people let their cattle run loose and then had to go find them.
Hand-painted post cards mailed to an art benefactor by the artist Karl Priebe, one of the Six Magic Realists School of Art centralized in Wisconsin between 1920-1945. He drew an image and then had the image printed on postcards. The glossy surface of the postcards were wonderful to float watercolors upon. Karl used these for travel correspondence. He was quite a traveler and spent many vacations painting and drawing animals and birds at local zoos.
Sometimes, someone comes in whose family is part of an American dynasty. One of the Goes family autographed the back of my old “Found” print, originally painted by Albert Schenck. The Goes family ancestors created many of famous original prints we see hanging in shops and homes today. Goes Lithography Company has been in business since 1879. They created chomo-lithograph posters for Buffalo Bill, the Columbian Exposition in 1893 and the 1933 Chicago Worlds Fair to name just a few of their many accomplishments. They sell prints of some of their famous posters and I am sure they are of the best quality.
So many lives, so many people, so much to do, so little time. Some roll through life in the comfort of routine and quiet dignity, some striving for but never reaching their dream, some reaching it but finding that it didn’t bring what they hoped, and always the love, the making do, the family, the fights, the love and always coming back to the love. All telling the story of the American people, your family, my family, there is no difference. We all belong in the family of man.
Last week, I had the most delightful surprise when three people found the shop through this blog. Melissa, from the Comfy Home blog came in the shop and I was so delighted to meet this warm and personable new friend and surprised to learn that her husband works in Northbrook. Northbrook is my hometown.
The next week, sisters Linda and Carol stopped in while they were on a day trip. They were having the kind of fun only sisters by blood or bond can have and we laughed a lot.
Later that day, I noticed this fabulous woman and her big chunky bracelets. She must be an artist.
All new friends united over shared interests and a love for this old stuff, the things that tell the stories of the American people, our great big family.
I found a carton of 100 bars of black pumice soap for 2.00 at a recent sale. Last night, I rubbed a bar on the dried milk paint on my blue jeans and the paint came out. The pumice is very fine. It even smells great. I have a mind frame that anything made in America before 1970 is better than anything for sale in the stores today.
Everything in this picture was found at a rummage or garage sale and all but the crocks and the chair sold the first weekend I had them in the shop. These Victorian folding rocking chairs are only suitable for displaying a doll as the original upholstery probably wouldn’t hold up for to many more years. There are a zillion of these in the marketplace because they were popular during the Victorian era. But, most don’t have their original wool tapestry fabric. A woman could take one of these out on the porch on hot summer evenings, easily move it near the bed to read to a child or pull it in close to the stove in winter.
I found these windows at farm moving sale that my friend Janet talked me into attending with her. She said we would be gone for an hour and we got back six hours later. The windows were up in the rafters of a garage. Black with decades of dirt and in the dark recesses of the high ceiling, I almost didn’t notice them. The windows in the middle picture are truly that vivid. What a once in a lifetime find and all because Janet stopped over for coffee on the way to a sale. This is the first summer I ever went to garage sales. I fill my thermos with coffee, pack a couple of sandwiches and head out towards farm country. My GPS is the most fabulous invention of the last three decades as far as I’m concerned. I rarely have any idea of where I am but I never get lost. What a marvelous bit of technology.
I meet the friendliest people and have wonderful conversations. I never try to bargain people down from their asking price. If I think the price is too high, I just don’t buy it. The prices are usually so low that it would be an insult. I heard this conversation yesterday. A woman was selling a new attractive, fine quality set of dinnerware. It was blue and white in a floral design. This wasn’t Walmart china. It was good, hard-fired porcelain. The seller, probably in her early 80s was selling the set for 10.00 which she explained to an interested woman was 10 cents a piece. I heard the customer say to the seller, “Would you take 8 cents?” The owner said, “No, I wouldn’t.” and the customer drove off. One hundred pieces of fine china for 10.00 was not a good enough deal for that garage sale shopper. It makes me crazy. Well, it makes me crazier.