Friday, August 29, 2008

How it Was Made - 1930s Wedgwood etc.

Just a quick post here to share a web discovery I just made over at the Potteries website: I'll post a link over on my favorites list.

Being that I come home a couple of times a month with a bag full of old pottery, and that lots of this stuff is English, I am frequently over at The Potteries website doing a little research. It's a great resource chock-a-block with free info. about the famous potteries of North Staffordshire. I am not sure how the site is funded but they are doing a great job informing the public about one of England's seminal industries and still one of its most important. Next time someone puts an old plate in front of you, maybe at Thanksgiving, you might want to flip it over and check out the mark. If you can remember anything about it next time you are at your computer, take that scrap of information to their website and you might find out some fascinating bit of history about your dinnerware (or not, but why not try).

One fabulous aspect of the site is that it includes among its riches some period publications on how the pottery was made. Remember poor Charles Dickens at the glue factory? No children in evidence by the time we get to the 1930s but look at the circles around the eyes of the Einstein figure:

Looking through the 22 cards that show Wedgwood manufacture, probably in the 1920s, maybe the '30s, you get a glimpse right back into the industrial revolution. Ditto the brochure from the Parrot &Co. factory of 1936. No wonder the early 20th century involved that huge and cataclysmic divide between bosses

and workers.

Smile everyone, smile - hold still...

Don't these pictures tell a tale of a vanished world? (good riddance too). Check out the state of the window by our lady transferring a print to a plate. I don't think Dickens got a window, so I guess it probably represented a general improvement in conditions.

And what a copywriter! Who'd have thunk of dishmaking as involving any "plunging" or "attacking"? Not I, until now.

What a lot of sweat, dirt and labor went into making pretty dishes.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Not That You Asked, But Here's What I Did Today - Check Out the World's Coolest Teapot

Back to the Stowe Rec Path this AM. I know, I know, you've seen one path winding through the woods you've seen 'em all. Move on. Yawn. Sorry, by every time I get there for a walk I am struck again by how beautiful it is and snap, snap, snap. I must photograph it. I'll post these few and then we'll have a moratorium on bike path pictures for a bit.

This charming little edifice is one of the nice little surprises of the path. It's a memorial to somebody. I think I would prefer this to a tombstone for my own self when the time comes.

Onto each beautiful bike path a substation must fall.

Remember what I said about some of the local maple trees rushing into their fall colors? It was true.

It was not a work day for me today but in an uncharacteristic show of effort, I went to the office anyway. Mostly I went in to fill out a time sheet and an expense report but I also checked email and phone messages. Oh, and on the way out of town, it occurred to me that I had just time enough before it was time for my son's dental appointment to stop by my favorite antique store, M. Lewis of Waterbury.

Talk about Aladdin's Cave! "M" stands for Martha and she and I had a nice chat over my purchase of the most beautiful teacup in the world back in April. She wasn't there today; the store is usually manned (resist snide comment here) by her helper. While he was wrapping up my teapot and plate (coming up in just a moment) he told me that Martha's weakness, the one that eventually led her into the antiques trade and this store, was for teacups and teapots. I sensed she was a kindred soul...

This is just one of several tea cup displays in her shop. It's like a kind of pornography for me.

My grandparents had this same bit of needlework on the wall of their dining room for as long as they had a dining room. My mother and her twin sister bought it for them when they were little girls. I am tempted each time I go in the shop to buy it. I always think, well, that's pretty good, isn't it? Is more ambition than that necessary or even desirable? Dime store profundity. Sign me up. Except now that this is out of Woolworth's and in an antique store it costs 35 dollars. I'll make do with the picture...

And, at last, today's purchases. Yes, another plate. Didn't I ask someone to stop me before I bought another plate? Of course, none of you few dear readers was around to stay my grasp. This lovely old "flow brown" platter just called to me and I answered the call. I don't know if there is such a thing as "flow brown" but the blurring of the image makes me think it isn't transfer ware or that it is some particular flowy kind of transfer ware. It has a great horking crack in it to, which accounts for it's thirty dollar price tag (undamaged it would have been a lot more). I got them to knock three dollars off the price in combo with the teapot, which also got a three dollar discount off its 20 dollar price;

et enfin, the teapot. I defy anyone to say that this is not a super cool teapot that could have been owned by Gladys Peto (see the sidebar) or Buck Rogers or someone similarly fabulous and or fictional. It is English, no doubt dating from the 20s and 30s. It is crazed and stained and has a little scrape on the lid, but the shape, oh the shape. Watch out! It may take flight at any moment.

This teapot, maybe with a better picture, is going to have to find a place in the sidebar, it is just that wonderful.

Here, by way of a postscript, is a poor little picture of the Made in Japan bookends I picked up at that other little antique shop I wrote about recently. That place is basically a junk shop without pretensions to being anything else and the prices reflect that sensibility. These were, some of you may recall, 2 dollars.

And last, but not least, this is the book I have been reading, page by page, for the last several weeks. You know how I am about Handsome Books. Isn't this a beauty? It may have more detail about Alfred than we care to know (all those "Ethels", i.e., Ethelbald, Ethelred, Ethelbert, Ethelswith, Ethelthis, Ethelthat); but it is actually very well written by a lady Oxford scholar. It is ex at least two libraries; the Craftsbury Academy Library and the Bolton Public Library. I bought it at the book sale at the Stowe Library, though I don't think it was in their collection. Another 2 dollars well spent.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Back on the Bike Path - Oh So Vermonty!

I had an hour to myself this morning between kid drop-off and when I had to be to work, so back to my old favorite haunt, the Rec Path in upscale Stowe, Vermont. It was a particularly beautiful morning and Vermont scenery, not so cliche in person, demanded to be recorded by yours truly.

An entreprenuerial farmer whose cornfield borders the Path sets up this corn maze every year.

To lure passers-by into the maze he employs Junior and Brownie. (I don't know if those are their names, but they could be). As you can see, they are very fetching. I know the Smiths would not approve. I can't look at a scrubbed up little calf without hearing Morrissey intoning, "This Beautiful Creature Must Die" (I was in college in the 80s), but Junior and Brownie don't seem any the worse for wear for being a kind of living sign for a corn maze. I hope they have a future as milkers and not as burgers and handbags.

And meet Junior's mother, or possibly her aunt, or some other female relative or acquaintance, the charming "102" as per her necklace. Where can I get one of those? Every time my kids see a diet commercial these days they say, "Mommy why don't you try that?" That cow is like a sister to me.

My Dad grew up on a dairy farm and my aunts told me it meant rain when the cows laid down, but I think they were having me off. It was beautiful all day today. I think when cows lay down it means they are tired or lazy; or they are just crappy forecasters.

Ohh, and here's a salamander surprise!

The part of the path I like best is lined by trees on either side. It feels so continental somehow. Remember that '70s shopping-mall-poster-shop favorite of the French guy (i.e., guy with a beret) on the bicycle riding along with a loaf of French bread on the back of his bike? He's riding on a narrow road with a those skinny French poplars lining the route. Well, this reminds me of that, without the French guy or the poplars, or the bread.

I was dusted by Grandma here, though. I walk on the path for exercise, but I walk slowly, apparently. And this isn't just because I stopped to take a picture. She had been gaining on me steadily for quite awhile.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Something New; Something Old; Summer's End

The last day of summer doesn't officially arrive until September 21, but, up here on the Canadian border, a few leaves on some stressed maples are already showing red and some of the ferns, lush green a week ago, are going brown. More drastic, the kids are going back to school tomorrow. Goodbye Summer 2008. Short, sweet and wet.

I went skipping around my corner of the blogiverse today and found that most of my frequent haunts have been lightly maintained of late. The same has been true here. The "something new" in today's title refers to this fresh post, the last one having gone stale almost as fast as a Montreal bagel, and some time ago. I assume that most of my favorite bloggers have been dealing with their lives away from the computer. Well, there is that whole child-rearing, family and friends visiting, earning a living business with which to deal. These distractions have occupied me nearly completely for the last week or two. Work, dentist appointments, school shopping, etc. Worse, we had a party here this weekend, and what a time-suck that was.

The point was partly to celebrate Whusband's achievement of a Great Age earlier this summer (the party had to wait because his birthday arrived while I was visiting my mother in Florida); and partly for a last hurrah before the school schedule enforces its discipline on all of us. We had about 20 people here last night to feed the mosquitoes. Poor things. (The people, not the mosquitoes.) Let me tell you, in case you didn't already know, but it is a deal of work getting a lawn party for 20. Oh, now I remember why we don't have big parties! I had part of a glass of red wine at about 6:30 PM. It often makes me sort of flushed; between that, 12 hours on my feet, 90 percent humidity and a sheen of bug spray, I looked and felt like an escaped mental patient. Still, everyone was as nice as pie and, who knows, now maybe we'll get invited some places. We have great leftovers too. The silver lining: salsa, chips, and vegetables already cut up into little bits.

This being my last blog post of the summer, I will go out with one more book-collecting note. This AM, while my company was sleeping in, I went out "for milk." Oh, and, uhm, I might swing by the auction too, I told the kids, quietly, away from the Whusband a/k/a BatEars.

Result, a half gallon of 2 percent and a box of kids' books from the 1940s. Alas, the library book sale season has ended for another year, and I am back to paying auction prices. Oh, and the Last House is chock-a-block with musty books from the basements and attics of my fellow Vermonters. I really have to stop buying books and plates, someone help me! But, this box, the box in question from today's auction, contained Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a first edition, and I happen to know that it is my mother's favorite children's book. She's getting it for Christmas.

The great fun for me of an auction box lot is getting it home and prowling through it for treasures. This lot contained a few others, besides Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle. Nothing with terribly great monetary value, although a few might get ten or twenty bucks on ebay on a good day. Some may head that direction. The great thing about them was, as usual, the covers and the illustrations. I think my favorites, on this basis, were two books about the "Teenie Weenies" by William Donahey. Until today, I knew nothing about these two-inch characters or their creator. Luckily, we all have Wikipedia now and here's some of what I learned:

William Donahey (19 October 1883 – 2 February 1970) was a U.S. cartoon artist and creator of the Teenie Weenies, a comic strip about two inch tall people living under a rosebush.[1][2] The strip appeared in the Chicago Tribune for over 50 years.[1][2] He drew the Teenie Weenies characters for a total of about 2100 strips. His work appeared in places all around the world.

The color illustrations were particularly fabulous. Does MOMA have this guy's stuff? they should.

Here ya go:

And now to bed. Goodbye, goodbye summer...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Light in August

At last, a beautiful Saturday in this rainy summer and your hostess was fighting a summer cold. I did get out long enough to take out the trash. On the way to the barrel, I noticed how beautiful the light was in the leaves. So, here you go, it's all I got for today.

A good friend told me once that he thought, or someone said, that William Faulkner had the best titles of any novelist. Light in August, The Sound and the Fury; Go Down, Moses, Absalom Abasalom! Pretty good, aren't they? I don't think I have ever made it through one of Faulkner's novels but I am a champion reader of titles... I can't look at the Light in August and not think of Faulkner. I guess that's an achievement in itself (for him).

Friday, August 15, 2008

Happy Bennington Battle Day!

(Photo from

The great state of Vermont today honored the victory of the Americans at the Battle of Bennington. That battle was fought on August 16, 1777 and is commemorated in Vermont by a big Monument (q.v.) in the lovely southern Vermont town of Bennington and, equally important, by giving a paid day off to all us good state civil servants. It was really an important battle. Wikipedia to the rescue:

The Battle of Bennington was a battle of the American Revolutionary War, taking place on August 16, 1777, in Walloomsac, New York, about 10 miles away from its namesake Bennington, Vermont.[1] An American force of 2,000 New Hampshire and Massachusetts militiamen, led by General John Stark with aid from Colonel Seth Warner, along with elements of Vermont's Green Mountain Boys, defeated a combined force of 1,250 dismounted Brunswick dragoons, Canadians, Loyalists, and Native Americans led by Lieutenant Colonel Friedrich Baum that British General John Burgoyne was attempting to push through the northern Hudson River Valley.

Thank you General Stark for preventing the (then) evil British from having their way and for stopping them and their cronies from strangling our infant country in its cradle. Thanks also for getting me this day off.

I, appropriately, spent my Battle Holiday buying stuff in Vermont. Mostly it was school stuff for Kid 1 and Kid 2 but I also, finally, stopped by this little antique store that I have been driving past for 15 years. I don’t think it even has a name, but it looks so enticing. The owner was a tiny little guy selling cheap stuff, some of it good, mostly not, but what a great little place. I bought a pair of Made in Japan ceramic bookends from the forties or fifties (I am guessing). Two bucks. I’ll try to get a picture into a future post.

That isn’t me going into the store, but another sister.

The owner told me the building was one of the three one-room school houses that once served the little town of Eden, Vermont. So glad I stopped in, at last.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Fair! The Fair!

Kid 1 and Kid 2 and I went off to the Orleans County Fair today, the opening day of the Big Event. The fair takes place every August in nearby Barton, Vermont. It's a real agricultural fair, though it also includes all the rest of the income-generating fair claptrap as well, naturally. Because it's still small, and out of the way, and run by local people, it has some genuine charm. I didn't even so much mind the bail jumpers, ex-cons, and assorted traveling folk who man the rip-off skill games and barely-bolted together thrill rides. The animals and the farmy stuff (tractor pulls - ox pulls, we saw both) were the high points. Today's banner is a table-full of wee bobble heads that were on offer just south of the usual fried dough/cotton candy/funnel cake/ Italian sausage gauntlet. We looked at the bobble heards, I photographed them, Kid 1 demonstrated the bobble head action (see the video below) and then we moved on. Here's some more of what we saw today. Kid 2, and Snowball. Look at the faces of these cows. Surprised by beauty... And how bout this guy? More dignity than a cage can contain. We had lunch at this little stand that was down by the barns. I have seen it here in previous years. The burgers were good and served by a high school kid from the local Christian school. (The stand is a fundraiser for the school). He was very sweet - obviously just learning the hamburger selling routine. This stand is called "Mem and Pep" which gives me a chance to do a little Vermont cultural interpretation for you people from away. French Canadians call their grandparents "Memere" and "Pepere" - sometimes shortened to Meme (two syllables, i.e., muh-may) and Pepe and sometimes Mem and Pep. Needless to say there are beaucoup Vermonters in this part of the state who are descended from French Canadians. There are still a lot of middle aged people around here who spoke French at home growing up. The people from whom we bought the Last House, the Bouchards, were an example of this. Even a few generations down the line, when the Vermont kids don't know any French "Mem" and "Pep" survives. This nice kid explained to the guy behind me in line that they hadn't figured out how to turn out the fryolator. It was the first day of the fair, afterall. We spent a few minutes in the grandstand, a wooden structure that looks like it was built a hundred years ago of kindling wood. Smoking is strictly prohibited in the grandstand and this is an excellent thing. One cigarette butt and, one could imagine, poof - spectator barbecue. I was so impressed to see the way the guys handled their tractors. The ox pull was even more amazing. Could you get oxen into a yoke, march them into the ring, back them up to a sled and get them to pull it? I know I couldn't. These rural competencies don't get the respect they deserve. The tractor pull was loud though, too loud for Kid 1 Colorful locals, and their tractors and RVs, much on display. We ate one bag of cotton candy (kids did - I can't face it); I did have piece of fried dough and Kid 2 and I had a maple creemie (Vermont soft ice cream) at the Maple Sugar house. Once a year for fair food... Today's admission allowed unlimited access to the rides but, having told the Kids yesterday that I didn't trust the safety of these travelling midways, and because they were generally freaked out by the hawkers of the games and the scary tatooed people, loud music etc. they wouldn't get on anything but the merry-go-round. This is uncharacteristic, especially of Kid 1, but I wasn't going to complain. I wasn't riding on anything, Lord knows. Just before we left for the day we had a little encounter with the Hurdy Gurdy Man. I always wondered what a "hurdy gurdy man" was. I think the only place I have ever heard of one is in that trippy '60s song by Donovan. The orangutans on the back of this gentleman's little car waved an American flag (mechanical orangutans, I hasten to add). Doesn't he look like a nice man? What a face. He offered Kid 1 and Kid 2 each a five dollar bill... But, oooops, can you believe it? They weren't real money! Is a county fair a place for this kind of chicanery? It turns out the back was printed with some semi-cryptic religious message, compliments of the Hurdy Gurdy Man. Kid 1 said this fake fiver was the best thing about the whole fair. And, a last look at the fair gimcracks of 2008: