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 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.
January, 2016 was a month that had to be wrestled and flung to the ground. When it was good, the snow floated down lazily and soft under a sky the color of a grey kitten. I made pear biscotti and baked bread that I shared with the birds and squirrels. When January is mean, the nights are long, dark, and cold in old houses and buildings across town. The sharp wind rattles the old windows and sneeks in through gaps around doors. There was 1/8th of an inch of ice on the interior side of the steel door and windows. Inside, I wore big sweaters, snow boots and a scarf around my neck. Now, we have stomped on old January and walked over it.
The shop was closed for the whole month. Customers dwindle down to one or two a day when the sidewalks are covered with ice and snow. Some building owners don’t shovel or de-ice their sidewalks because they aren’t here. Even with a #10 shovel, I couldn’t break the sidewalk ice after sprinkling ice melt on it the night before. I held on to the buildings when I walked to the mailbox and took ginger steps. Two shopkeepers slipped on the ice; one broke her leg. One day, I went inside Sweet Angeline’s Gourmet Bakery and Cafe and spend a comfortable hour with my friends, Angie and Jim, with a huge, steaming cup of their fabulous coffee. It is the most welcoming place with pastry worthy of a Parisian boulangerie. Walking home while reading their new menu, that I will post under the glass on the shop desk, I am again amazed that we have such a cosmopolitan cafe in this little town of 2000 people.
Now on to February and I think we are going to have an early spring. The sun is out again and it feels strong. Almost all of the ice is gone from the sidewalks on the north side of the street. We have three new (and interesting) shops in Richmond.
This post is about something fabulous that happened. Last fall, I was walking around the corner of my building, carrying, with my friend, Roger, a huge replica of someone’s farmhouse that I bought at a barn sale. The house was quite big and a man, walking to a restaurant across the street with his wife, stepped up to help carry it. Everyone walked into my building and the house was set down. The man, Ron Warwick and his wife, stayed for a minute to talk and as one topic led to another I mentioned that I wished I had a replica of my grandparents house. It had recently been torn down in Northbrook, Illinois. A developer was building a McMansion on the property as happens everywhere now. Ron said that he would turn the house that we were carrying, into a house as close to my grandparents’ house as was possible. I don’t know what kind of a look I had on my face, but I think it looked like a big question mark. I said, “Why would someone do that for a complete stranger?” I realized later that he is simply a selfless artist who must create, for not only did Ron with the help of his friend, Rich, make me a replica of my grandparents’ house, but built a completely new house, from the ground up.
We sat down only a few times and talked about the house. On Google Earth, we watched as the last remaining images of it disappeared forever. Ron whipped rulers around and did some kind of complicated mathematical and geometrical figures in his head while I tried to remember where the windows belonged. Then he started telling me, from his calculations, where the doors and windows belonged.
Nothing like this ever happened to me before, nor will it, I expect, ever happen again. I told Ron, and it is true, that I like the house as much as I liked my brand new 1972 convertible Mustang on the day that I got it. Every time I look at the house, I get a joyous and magical feeling.
Now, the real house, our grandparents and their children are gone. And just as they had to go on living as they lost their loved ones, our generation must go on, too. It is still hard. But, we were lucky to have all those people once and I was lucky when I came around that corner and, just by chance, met Ron Warwick.
Some nights, after I climb up the 17 stairs to where I sleep, I make a mad dash to get under the feather blanket where it is cozy and warm. And sometimes, in the dark, I stand by the house and angle a flashlight to shine in one of the windows, just as the street lamp did and I can hear Grandma and Grandpa, in the den, singing the songs of their youth, following the lyrics on the television screen as Mitch Miller* smiles and waves his hands in time to the music.
*In the early 1960s, Miller became a household name with his NBC television show Sing Along with Mitch, a community-sing program featuring him and a male chorus: an extension of his highly successful series of Columbia record albums of the same name. In keeping with the show’s title, viewers were presented with lyrics at the bottom of the television screen, and while many insist there was a bouncing ball to keep time, Miller correctly said this was something they remember from movie theater sing-alongs and cartoons.
And, this is the roof I spent most of September on.
I was tuck-pointing, roof-tarring, glass-glazing, window painting and dealing with other issues that needed attention in the back of the building. (Let’s not talk about it.)
Besides this work and the shop, I took care of six of the village’s gardens. I added another garden to the list this year. Many people stop to talk throughout the hours, as you can imagine. Gardening is a social event in a small downtown area.
It is autumn and I have been washing and ironing the textiles I found over the summer. I still have more to do. These American quilts are wonderful, aren’t they? The blue on the Victorian postage stamp quilt is indigo dyed and the red color is the infamous Turkey Red.
Last night, I finished tucking in the last of the flower gardens for a winter nap. The night was warm with that kind of soft, wild wind that we have in Illinois in October. I wanted to cross the gardens off my list so I gardened until 8:00 pm under lamp and moonlight. The town is closed on Monday night so no one saw the crazy gardener in the dirt-covered blue jeans. I didn’t care if anyone saw me, anyway. It would be something to talk about.
And the “In a Pickle” dining room cabinet? I could have sold a half-dozen of them!
Today, as Dad sometimes said, “Everything turned to mud.”
The day began with the last bowl of the black raspberries. The bushes planted themselves and ask for nothing from me. They are a gift I get every morning.
I tied up some string at 7:00 a.m. for the morning glories to climb because the leaves shade the kitchen windows and give the cats some shade when they go out the window into their pen. In two weeks, these windows will be completely covered.
I painted eight 1890 bent wood kitchen chairs black. That took awhile.
I went to work on a big 1930 dining room cabinet that turned out nice. I varnished the interior and painted the outside with a rich green milk paint and a dark wax. All I needed was to put the glass back in the door and screw on two big, old, metal lion head drawer pulls that I’ve saved in the basement for a piece like this.
The basement is a lovely, cool place to work. But there is a problem. The fluorescent ceiling lights don’t work in July and August. I hired an electrician to work on them about eight years ago. He said there is nothing wrong with them and that it is impossible for them not to work for two months of the year. Well, they still don’t work in July and August. I looked it up and it is a real thing. Something to do with the humidity.
Downstairs, one fluorescent tube out of eight comes on. Hmmm, better than usual. I plugged in the magnifying worklight and I can kind of see the lines I marked on the trim boards that hold the glass in place. Then, switching the electrical cord from the light to the saw, I cut the pieces. Eight pieces. Perfect. I need to find a tiny drill bit and switch the electrical cord from the saw to the light. Now the light doesn’t work. Ten minutes of changing electrical cords and switching the light off and on, I see that I have a 1940 RCA table radio plugged in, not the light. The cords were next to each other on the work table. It takes time for a tube radio to warm up so it never came on. Okay, not I’m back on track.
Back upstairs I walk past the eight chairs that I’ve painted black. They look funny. And then, it slowly, slowly, oh no, dawns on me that I have painted eight chairs with an unmarked can of black chalkboard paint.
So, I went outside for a while to think about an umbrella stand.
I’ve been trying to think of how to make an stand. Why don’t I just go buy one, you ask? Why would I spent 100.00 on a junk umbrella stand when the umbrella is junk. Here is the plan: I lined a modern, well, 20-year-old umbrella stand with a thick clear plastic bag that fit it perfectly, taped down the edges, placed a heavy duty cardboard tube in the center and filled the area outside the tube with Portland cement. I really think this is going to work. Well, it might work.
Talk to you soon, friends. After a cup of coffee and supper, I’ll be back on the job.
I spent part of last week working on a couple of assemblage art projects. I used old parts and old artwork and some vintage linens to create a 1940s Florida motel door and a make-do child’s circus toy. Whether these things will find a new home or not is up in the air, but they will get some people to stop and look in the window.
This is my imagined door to Unit #8 at The Pink Motel in Florida.
I made the following diorama from a student’s art project created during the late 1930’s at the Art Institute in Chicago. The artist’s name was Jean Romano and I purchased a stack of her art work a couple of years ago. Her work is so charming, but the toy, painted on cardboard, needed a firm structure to hold it up. I moved it into a wooden crate, just the right size, and turned the crate into a circus tent. I dyed soft, old cotton with food coloring to make faded flags and strung them from one end to another. I added the night-light cord so that my toy might catch peoples’ attention as they walk past at night.
The red, blue and white canvas was a sample of outdoor furniture all-weather fabric.
The center ring actually spins.
These uncut hand-drawn and painted characters can be cut out by the new owner of the circus. There is a marching band, a poodle dog act, clowns, elephants and a couple of politically incorrect acts that were acceptable in the 1930s but are now in poor taste. I didn’t show them here and it is encouraging to know that humans are evolving, with the passing years, into higher forms of being. Good for us! We are getting better!