Archive for the ‘Vintage/Antiques’ Category

Mid-Century Ceramic Elf Joins the Crew!   Leave a comment

My collection of kitschy ceramic chickens were cackling with glee on top of my refrigerator a few days ago at the sight of the latest addition to my world of kitchen kitsch, namely a polka-dotted mid-century elf, complete with violin and woodland log.  The poor character was sitting forlornly in the corner of a wooden box at an outdoor flea market/garage sale…hardly a fate fitting for a little guy who had probably at one time graced a shelf in someone’s kitchen back in the days of Perry Como and Mitch Miller.  A sticker denoting 3 dollars as his going price, which given his six inch height…one of the larger elves I’d come across, seemed fairly reasonable.

Still, I hesitated.

Did I really need to spend the 3 dollars?  I went home without him.

I thought about him for the next three hours.

Having a weakness for vintage kitsch of all types, I was having a tug of war in my mind between wanting to save that 3 dollars and wanting to preserve a piece of kitschy history.

Guess what won?

Here he is.  The chickens can go ahead and laugh at him, but personally I think he’s extremely cute…in a kitschy sort of way, of course.

Here he is on the porch…in all his polka-dotted glory…

However, he really wanted to be outside in a more dignified setting….so I complied with his request. Gotta make the new guy feel at home, after all.

I think it was his goofy smile and green eyes that got me.  That, and the fact that he can play the violin…or at least fakes it well.

Or  maybe it was the small gold heart on his chest, which I discovered upon closer inspection.

Let the chickens laugh. I think he is sweet.  Dorky pointed ears and all.

And I hope he brings a smile to your face on this Monday in June.

As someone before me enjoyed him, so will I give him a place of honor on my windowsill where he will again be appreciated.

Enjoy your day!


The Purple Finger Rides Again….and lands squarely in “hat-dom”.   Leave a comment

I am happy to report that the purple finger acquired on my last antiquing safari is finally starting to look and feel more like an actual human digit, rather than the multi-colored  gherkin it has resembled for the last six days.  I think there’s hope for it.

So it was with the knowledge yesterday that there was to be a large area antiques show and sale practically right around the corner from my home, and the belief that:

a.) antiquing provides a chance to see a bit of history up close,

b.) antiquing on a frequent basis is a way to train one’s eye to spot the “good” pieces from the “not-so-good” pieces,

and c.) antiquing, as proven last week, has the mysterious power to feed the soul and heal the purple fingers,

..that I set out early in the morning to visit said show.

The building that housed the event was large…very large, with another set of heavy doors.  Doors that looked as if they were lying in wait for any unsuspecting hand or finger they could grab.  Luckily, as I approached them, a gentleman old enough to be my grandfather held the dastardly doors open for me and I hastily slipped through, keeping the purple finger and all his neighbors safely inside my coat pocket.  If a finger can give “the finger”,  I’m sure the purple finger gave “it” to the door as we passed by…..but of course I wouldn’t know.  My fingers are usually quite well-behaved in public.  And I was rather more intent on seeing what treasures were on the other side of that door that would spark my enthusiasm.

Well, as it turns out, there was plenty to spark my enthusiasm, but little that was actually affordable…unless one had a couple thousand dollars worth of disposable cash floating around in one’s wallets that day.  I saw pairs of Staffordshire dogs for the mantle, beautiful burl wood chests,  genuine early 19th century portraits done by itinerant artists, antique crystal, silver, flow blue china, and plenty of large old transferware pieces, and the most gargantuan andirons I have ever seen.   Where oh where were the chickens and kitsch, I asked myself?  There appeared to be a little bit of fine costume jewelry tucked in here and there, but otherwise it was a rather “hoity-toity” affair……until I spied one forlorn old Good Housekeeping magazine under a pile of books in the corner of one of the back booths!  My interest peaked, I uncovered it to reveal the year…1952….mid-century….I knew it could hold great photos and illustrations.  I asked the price.  “Oh that?” said the boothkeeper. “That was in the bottom of one of our boxes, and I just put it there to get it out of the way.  You can have it for two dollars.”    Well, that was all I needed to hear!  I handed over my whopping two dollars and all the secrets of the mid-century good housekeeper were instantly mine!  And look…it promised a big article on hats!

That was my big purchase at the show.   While others were spending their thousands, I had my little two dollar magazine.  But it delivered on its promise…many good photos, wonderful illustrations and funny old ads…and the hat article makes you realize how much thought and attention was given to overall personal appearance back in the day. Even when one was casually dressed, one was still supposed to appear polished. I like that.  I also like those big hat boxes that apparently came with many store-bought hats!  I remember my grandmother had some, and I suspect that my mother did as well.

Here’s an example from the article about hats and face shapes, along with a rather pretty, very feminine hat.  This style is for the “pear-shaped face”.  If you can read the text, it’s interesting and at times funny….

Here’s another hat specifically for oval-shaped faces…..also very feminine with flowers.  Note the gloves too!

And this page shows the many steps to a good appearance as well as how to work with hats to fit and flatter.  Looking finished and put together was of utmost importance…..

I also came across this old clip touting the hair artistry of one of the mid-century hair stylists.  Not sure I’d have let him near my hair!  I love birds, but I’m not sure I’d love “The Parakeet”!  HA!  Here it is, just for a laugh..

Bad puns and all!!

Enjoy your day.  I think I’m going to make sure I look polished when I go out the door today…no parakeet feathers though.

Yeah. It Was Worth a Purple Finger.   Leave a comment

Every so often I have a David Byrne moment.  David Byrne as in the Talking Heads.  Specifically David Byrne singing Once in a Lifetime.  You may know the lyrics and even have the vision from the video etched into memory as most people do who listened to radio in the 80’s…….”And you may ask did I get here?…..And you may say to yourself…my god what have I done!?!………same as it ever was…..same as it ever was…..”

Well the story starts like this….Mr. FreshAir decided yesterday afternoon that he was tired and in need of a nap. Not being in the napping mood myself, I decided that an inspirational Sunday Spring drive was in order.  You know…..fresh air, pretty farmland, all of God’s creatures frolicking…that sort of thing.  And if all went well, my car’s autopilot would be set to the same antiques store that I subjected Mr. FreshAir to last weekend….except now he wouldn’t have to be subjected to it…..he would be in dreamland!  And I might have a second look at some vintage Better Homes & Gardens magazines which had called out plaintively to me last weekend but had to be left behind in the name of “smart money management”.

All was going well as I cruised along the country roads, the smell of Spring blowing in through my half opened window and the sight of the new dark earth where fields had begun to be plowed filling me with joy.  I flew past old clapboard farmhouses constructed in the early 1800’s, their ancient apple orchards still standing and in the first stages of bloom, fulfilling the same promise of fruit year after year.  Barns of all ages and sizes appeared at every turn and I delighted when a flock of birds took flight from an only partially harvested corn field left over from last Fall.  Around another bend, a beautiful herd of Guernsey cows had been turned out into a pasture that offered fresh new greens for their enjoyment and consumption, and it was plain to see they were doing both….enjoying and consuming!

After about a half hour of Spring scenery I reached the shop that held the objects of my desire.  I got out of my car, stretched my legs and headed for the large heavy double door of what had obviously at one time been some kind of a fairly good- sized warehouse.  Now it held thousands of treasures!  As I opened the weighty door and started to step through, a sign caught my attention.  It said “15% off Sale!”.  Like metal to a magnet, I was staring hard to see what exactly it was that was discounted by 15% . This was one time where being an artist and a very visual person backfired terribly.  I was still glued to the idea of saving 15%, but my hand was still glued to the outer edge of the door as my closing motion, helped along by a sudden gust of wind, closed the door….. with my fingers failing to come inside.  My right middle finger caught the brunt of it and when I was able to regain my senses and pull it to safety, I saw that it had a rather nice dent in it just above the second knuckle.  My eyes were smarting from the pain, but of course I had to look as if nothing had happened in order to save face….so I walked on in and tried to focus my thoughts on the wonders of the shop, while praying that I hadn’t broken anything too terribly important.

One thing that strikes fear into the heart of any artist or craftsperson is the thought of losing either your eyesight or your hands.  As I walked around the shop trying to hone in on those elusive vintage magazines, I watched my middle finger turn ever more purple as the bruising made its way toward my big knuckle.  I was too afraid to try to move the finger….I didn’t want to know the truth just then as to what damage had been done, so I carried on one-handedly in my search.  I looked high and low. I peered in nooks and crannies. I went round and round until I was convinced that they…now by this point they had ceased to be  just magazines they were my magazines… had been whisked off to some other home in my absence.  And then I spotted them.  Back behind a bookcase which I had passed at least twice, they were lying in their little wooden crate….waiting for me.

Now, I believe in the healing power of a lot of things, but I never knew that antiques have this mysterious ability as well. But I swear that the pain in my finger was markedly less the more I rifled through those Better Homes & Gardens.  I decided to try to move the finger.  It moved.  I moved it again. It didn’t fall off.  I said at least 25 “Thank you God!”s  People passed by and probably wondered what in the world I was doing crouched in a corner, kneeling on the ground looking so exulted at finding a pile of old magazines.  But that’s OK.  I had my treasures and my finger, however purple.

I was only able to take home four of my new BH&G buddies (yes, in the name of smart money management), but I promised the others I would come get them as soon as I could.  And the next time I’ll keep my eyes away from any sales signs.  My fingers will thank me.

Due to my throbbing finger, my photo taking was distinctly hampered, but I managed to get one shot of one of the big barns I passed on the way home. It’s not too far from my house and it may end up as a reference photo for a painting…

……after the purple finger disappears!  And yeah.  It was indeed worth it!

Enjoy your day.

A Few Additions to My Flock..a Day at the Antiques Shop   Leave a comment

My birthday occurred this week, and my dear husband, Mr. FreshAir I will call him, asked what I would like to do.  One of my many passions involves visiting antique shops and flea markets to spend hours digging through “one man’s trash” to find my version of “one man’s treasure”.  Usually “the treasure” equates to something kitschy, humorous or offbeat…something that makes me smile every time I cast a glance at it as it sits in an appropriate place of honor in my home.  Of course this drives others crazy.

One has to have a certain mindset and sense of humor to appreciate kitsch.  And one has to have stamina and patience in order to withstand a day of antiquing with me.  It’s a good thing my birthday only comes once a year, as I don’t think Mr. FreshAir would jump for joy at the idea of these types of forays every weekend…and I don’t blame him.  But he was an excellent sport and wandered the shops with me as I visually (and often manually) inspected every cubbyhole for possibilities.  That, my friends, is true love.

Although my wants were many, my budget was miniature due to this wonderful economy we are currently experiencing…but I did manage to snag a couple of new buddies to add to my menagerie of kitsch.  We see below a very diminutive and very kitschy ceramic ladybug, most likely mid-century and most likely of Japanese origin.  She stands only 2 and a half inches tall so the daffodils right in back of her are actually towering over her…..look!…..

She has a vibrant glossy red glaze on her backside….

And the best part of all?  Someone apparently cut art class the day they were studying proper eye-set……because she is most definitely CROSS-EYED!

She has no maker’s mark.  She’s not half of a salt and pepper set either….but I wonder if somewhere out there is a long lost mid-century manbug with crossed eyes!


On another note, I was also able to add yet a new addition to my ever growing flock of ceramic poultry.  My collection of roosters, hens and turkeys currently resides atop my refrigerator in the kitchen, but their numbers have increased as the years go by, and I fear if they were real, that I would probably be cited for bad animal husbandry. I need to find a place where they can spread out a bit….but I haven’t found that place yet!  At any rate, here’s my new guy….a vintage Japan-made Enesco rooster, probably from the 60’s or early 70’s if I had to venture a guess.  Do I detect a bit of “attitude” in his eyes??   That’s part of his kitschy allure.

Enesco is a company that began around 1958 as the import division of the N. Shure Company, which was one of the oldest and largest general merchandise catalog companies in Chicago.  When N. Shure was sold, the import arm spun off and became an independent company.  The root of the name is the phonetic spelling of the parent company…N.S.Co…..hence Enesco.  Interesting, eh?  I love some of those old time company names.  At any rate, through many twists and turns, Enesco is still in business today and is a major player in the world of giftware and figurines.  An old Enesco item will often have a red and silver sticker stating it is imported from Japan….Mr. Rooster has his on the bottom.  Here he is inspecting our small barn…..little does he know, he’ll soon be on top of a refrigerator.

He stands about 8 inches tall and has round eyes, unlike some of my other Japanese- made roosters and hens who exhibit a more almond shaped eye. Perhaps at another time I’ll show you some of those.  Very interesting.  Like I said, you have to have a certain mindset to appreciate the details of kitsch.  At any rate, at 8 inches, I suppose he could qualify as a hood ornament….if I were really excentric….which I am only mildly…..

So I’ll leave you with that.  If you want to start your own flock of ceramic poultry, there are plenty of characters awaiting homes on eBay.  In fact, I’ll bet there is an old round-eyed Enesco hen pining away for my newly acquired rooster……..I’ll have to look!!   Even ceramic poultry needs someone to love.

Enjoy your day.  If you see something kitsch I  hope it makes you smile.  Sometimes things are so bad…..they’re good!

Of Bonnets and Spring Hats   Leave a comment

Today’s wet and rather dreary weather is tempered with a good old-fashioned cup of tea.  In my particular case,  since I’m still sporting some battle scars from my recent digestive free fall,  I’m relying on some newly purchased chamomile  and lavender tea to soothe my soul.  Drinking herbs and flowers sounds like a good alternative right about now, since I’m certainly not seeing any of them out in the garden yet!

At any rate, as mentioned yesterday, today’s quest was to seek out some visual curiosities in the world of women’s headwear, i.e. hats.  Hats that somehow covered or enhanced all those hair extravaganzas I came upon in yesterday’s visual trip down memory lane….not my memory lane of course, but someone about a hundred years older than myself.  The little numbers below are from a slightly later date than the hairstyles previously mentioned, but as hair was still fairly complicated in the 1880’s and 1890’s, I think they will qualify.  However….they only get bigger and better after these….

Having new articles of clothing at Easter is a custom that shows up in documents from as far back as the late 16th century.  Wearing a new outfit for this important time of year symbolized a renewal, the beginning of a new year and spiritual renewal as well.  The wearing of flowers also represented Spring and the rebirth of the year, so it seems natural that flowers and bonnets would find a common home…in this case, on a lady’s head!

In fact, there is early documentation that it was even considered ill luck not to have some new clothing at Easter….so of course any self respecting lady could not possibly go without at least a small article of something new!  So why not a wonderful and gregarious (if hats can be called gregarious, which I think they can) hat!  And why not just segue right into June with the same theme!  Why..but of course mes amis!  Voila!  June 1898!

Frankly, I don’t blame the ladies at all.  I think that I would have been one of the wearers of those hats, and after seeing all the wonderful vintage millinery materials still out there on Etsy sites and the like, I might even be tempted to try to construct a hat at some point in my life.  Maybe it runs in the blood.  My father told me that we had milliners in our family a few generations ago.  Perhaps they were constructing some of these very designs.  Food for thought while I take another sip of tea….

And leave you with some  Easter postcard images….and yes indeed, a couple of Easter hats have sneaked their way in too!

Long live hats!  Even if no one wears them any more!  They still inspire me!

And many thanks to for some of the neat hat images!

How’d She ‘Do That?? Interesting Hair of a Past Age   Leave a comment

Well I’m sorry to report that my blogging was temporarily snuffed out due to an unexpected (it’s Spring for goodness sakes, I thought these things were supposed to be gone!) bout with a particularly nasty germ that hijacked my digestive system over the past few days….the kind that whips you around like a giant dog shaking his toy…and you are the toy!

Needless to say, when I wasn’t lying on the bed in a stupor, I had time to peruse some interesting images from my own collection and that of others.  Victorian hairdos seemed to hold a fascination, not only for the incredible amount of hair needed to create such ‘dos, but also the extreme complexity of some of them.

I think I have the hair, but I suspect I lack the manual dexterity for most of these creations. I would have needed some kind of helper to make me look presentable!  Look at these, all from an 1868 issue of Peterson’s Magazine…

Now we get a little more complex….

My fingers are getting tired….calling for helper….!


All images above come from Public Domain art, kindly scanned by, a great site if you love old images and also need a quick smile in your day.  My quick research into hair styles of the day indicates that these multitudes of curls, braids, etc. were oftentimes partly made up of small hairpieces…and since AquaNet hairspray was not even a twinkle in its inventor’s eye, if not hairpieces, the curls were held in place with…..grease or lard….oh DEAR!

Tomorrow I think I’ll check out hats….something to cover all that hair!

Ahhhhh….the Weekend!   Leave a comment

Time to settle in with a cup of coffee and a few of my favorite publications.  Nothing like a good dose of Spring eye candy to stimulate the imagination. …whether it be an Easter crafts article or pages packed with beautiful images of the season at hand.  I’ve always been a magazine junkie due to the inherently visual nature of the format.  Some people love to cook and eat…..for me, images are my food!

The weekend is also the time to light out into the woods to see what progress has been made in nature’s attempt to reawaken from winter slumber.  At the edge of a small meadow at the far end of our property I happened upon something I had not realized existed….perhaps because I may have actually crossed the property line and might actually have been trespassing on a neighbor’s property….but we won’t talk about that…it was really close to being in my yard, so I’m claiming it!  So there!

Anyway, it was a clump of Snowdrops…one of the very earliest blooming flowers, so named because it often shows up in late winter, its petals rising above the snow.  This particular clump must have been the more intelligent variety, waiting until all the snow had melted!  They were a pleasure to see.

What were these little guys doing in such an odd location?  I surely don’t know, but I’m glad I came upon them.

In the Victorian times flowers were very important in conveying messages and emotions.  Each flower had a meaning associated with it.  The Snowdrop stood for consolation or hope…which may be why it appears on many Victorian Easter cards.  Here are a few examples from my own collection..I find them delightful, almost like a trip back through time…

May you enjoy your weekend and the blessings of nature.

Posted March 22, 2010 by freshairfour in Nature, Vintage/Antiques

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