Just Dropping In

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A cutie pie of a “tiny topiary” set in a piece of vintage Shawnee Pottery

I cannot believe that it has been a whole month since I last posted here! Where on earth is time going anyway????

I made it up to Sharon Springs and had a wonderful time. When I catch my breath, I’ll try to write a post to bring you up to date on all the happenings in the funnest little village you’ll ever visit.

So you know that I’m still kicking, I wanted to drop by with a couple of quick pictures of some of the stuff I’ve been working on. I’m chipping away at the list of orders but it’s going pretty slowly.  And I’ve got to get geared up for the Country Living Fair Atlanta in just a few short weeks (yikes!).

I’ll try to come back soon with more.  In the meantime, happy Fall!! It’s finally cooling off a little – yay!

 

Summer Interlude

It’s been awhile, I know, so I wanted to pop in and let you know that I’m still here.
IMG_4204 - Version 2Summer has come; the heat and humidity are a force to be reckoned with as is usual here in Richmond.  It cheers me to look out this tiny old window in the kitchen as the crape myrtle blossoms sway to the mysterious rhythms of Mother Nature.

Life is still topsy-turvy.

IMG_4022We now know that P needs both a liver and a kidney transplant.  The days and weeks are spent in an endless cycle of medical appointments, dialysis, unexpected hospital stays, and so on.  He has one more test to do before we meet with the transplant team at UVA, hopefully later this month, to see if they will accept him into their transplant program.  It all seems surreal.

The kitchen reno is almost done (4 months and counting – I promise to post pictures of the whole process down the road) and now we have embarked on a bathroom reno which was necessitated by the need for a walk-in shower.  I think I may not know what to do with myself when the house returns to normal.

All travel plans for me are on hold right now so the schedule is very much up in the air.  I am sorry particularly not to be able to make it to The Golden Glow of Christmas Past convention later on this month.  Maybe next year.

I have not been able to get back to work yet; other than P’s health, there is a laundry list of  “unfortunate events” that have plagued us recently: sewer line backups, car flooding, computer crashing, enormous tree having to be taken down ($$$$). Pile it on why don’t you.

I’m not actually complaining; just floating with the tide (even when it seems to be a flood).

I confess that I have indulged in a little bit of shopping in anticipation of actually getting back to work.  The day cannot come soon enough.  Keep your fingers crossed that it is soon!

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Emma P is apparently taking the summer easy.  Dog days.  As it should be.  IMG_0034I hope that all of you are enjoying the lazy, hazy days, too.

Happy summer!

Cara’s Memories

On the last day of the Country Living Fair in Rhinebeck, NY this past June, a nice couple from Connecticut came into my booth.  They fell in love with the wreath that was hanging up in the center of my display.  It was “Hot Flash.”  Unfortunately for them, it had already been sold.  Cara, the wife, was particularly attracted to the enormous celluloid deer.  I told her that I actually still had one of those deer (they are quite rare) left at home and that, if she wanted, I could make her a wreath incorporating it.  After some more conversation, they said they wanted to think about it and left to wander the show.

Just before closing, they came back. They had decided.  They wanted me to make them a wreath for their kitchen using my deer and some of their own ornaments.

Some weeks later, 2 big boxes showed up at my house; they were Cara’s ornaments.  She sent me quite a lot and when I had them unpacked, I could see that there were 2  distinct directions I could go in. One was an elegant theme, with burgundies and whites; the other was more retro, with traditional Christmas colors.  Here are just a few of what she sent.

A sampling of Cara's ornaments.

A sampling of Cara’s ornaments.

This is another picture showing a large grouping of Cara’s ornaments along with the giant deer.  As you can see, I had a lot to choose from!

Cara's ornaments

Cara’s ornaments

They decided on the more traditional colors with a retro, fun vibe to it.  It would have elves, Santa’s and other goodies.  I finished Cara’s wreath Friday evening.  I used as much of her ornaments as I could but there were still ones I would have loved to have included that just would not fit.

If you follow me on Facebook or on Instagram, you may have already seen this picture of the finished wreath that I quickly snapped with my phone.

IMG_2181This is the “real” picture (which still isn’t very good if you ask me – it looks so much better in person):

Cara's Memories Wreath

Cara’s Memories Wreath

It always makes me really nervous when someone trusts me to make something using their own, prized ornaments.  After all, I know how dear my own collection is to me – all those Christmas memories are so special.  Once I start putting their ornaments on the wreath, we are pretty stuck with the outcome (both literally and figuratively!).  Luckily for me, these were dream clients, who were willing to put their faith in me and let me decide what the final outcome would be.

Even so, it was to my very great relief that I received an email from Cara the morning after I sent her pictures that said, “We LOVE it!!!! It is exactly as I had dreamed! Thank you for creating a beautiful , whimsical wreath filled with family memories and Christmas spirit. It will be treasured.”

Here are some more photos showing some other views of “Cara’s Memories.”DSC_0203 - Version 2 DSC_0220 - Version 2 DSC_0218 - Version 2 DSC_0206 - Version 2

I love a happy ending!

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In other news, I slipped out Saturday morning to hit one of my secret sources.  Three hours (!) later, I emerged dirty but triumphant.  Check this out:

A box full of treasure!

A box full of treasure!

There is a ton of great stuff in this box and I got more besides.  I am particularly charmed by these sweet little angels.  They look just like the wonderful wooden German ones but were actually made in British Hong Kong.

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Six little angels all in a row

Aren’t they dear?  I think I see them in a little vignette all their own, with a little bottlebrush tree, and…who knows what else?

Gotta dash now – I’m at work on another custom order.  This time for a lady in California.

See you next time!

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

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At some point while going down the path as an “artist” (a term I am still not comfortable with regarding myself), one must address the “why” of what one does.  In my case, it became clear after a while that the reason I do what I do is simply because my work seems to make the people who like it happy.  Not because it is the next “big thing” or what an art critic might call “great art.”  It just makes people happy.  And, honestly, to know that something I make makes someone else happy is about as good as it gets.

So that’s why I keep on doing what I do.  Because of you.

It, therefore, really pains me – people-pleaser that I am – when I don’t make you, or at least some of you, happy.  And that is the case in point at the moment.

As I embarked on the path I am on, it was pretty lonely for a while.  But, gradually, through persistence, my horizons widened. As a result of a series of fortunate circumstances and just plain hard work, it is considerably less lonely out there nowadays. I am cheered by you all who follow me and urge me along.  Even though many of you and I have never met, I am encouraged by your enthusiastic, friendly support of what I do.

Over the past couple of years, the audience for the Vintage Christmas in particular has really blossomed.  I am grateful beyond measure for that.  It is exciting for me that I hear from people all over the country (and some from overseas, too).

The spate of new wreaths that I have been working feverishly to make for the Country Living Fair has particularly grabbed a lot of your attentions.  I have had numerous inquiries about pricing and how to purchase them.

And this is where I am not making you happy.

When I sign up to do a show, I make a commitment to bring enough product to show.  The show management also has expectations that need to be met by the artisans/vendors they choose to exhibit at their venue.  This is especially important with the Country Living shows.

So, I am now in the unfortunate position of having to tell you – my faithful followers – that the wreath you would like to buy is not actually available right now.  Because if I sold all of them now, I would show up in New York with an empty van.  And that’s not good either.

And, thus, I have to write you back and disappoint you.  And I hate that.  I don’t hear back from most folks after that email so I am left wondering if you understand the situation, are crushed, or maybe even mad.  Or, worse yet, you have concluded that you will never get a chance to buy one of my wreaths and just move on.  I surely do hope not.

It also means that the old saw which was inscribed in my consciousness since childhood, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” is flagrantly ignored.  Is this a wise business decision?  How can I be sure?

All I can do is what I think is the best thing to do at the moment, hope for the best, and hope that you will understand and forgive me.  And still be my friend.

As you have heard me say before, it takes me a long time to make 1 wreath – usually about 9 hours, which is broken up into 2 or sometimes even 3 sittings.  I do not make them by rote – that would be incredibly boring and unfulfilling to me.  Every piece in every given design was carefully placed there after a considerable amount of thought.  Sometimes I spend 30 minutes or more trying ornament after ornament until just the “right” one slips into place.  Some people may perceive that as indecisiveness but I disagree.  It means that I put every ounce of myself into making the best design I can possibly make at any given moment.  And because of that and because I absolutely love the materials I work with, I am pretty attached to everything I make.  It is important to me, therefore, that a wreath, for example, goes to someone who really loves it.

When Mariah Carey ended up with “Pink Parfait,” in her kitchen that was incredibly thrilling.  Once the initial amazement wore off, though, it dawned on me that as exciting as it was, that wreath is probably nothing more than just another pretty bauble among hundreds of pretty baubles in Mariah Carey’s life.

At the risk of sounding really corny, it means so much more to me when someone buys a wreath because they have an emotional connection with it.  Maybe it reminds them of their grandmother, or their childhood Christmases, or maybe there is an ornament in it that has special meaning for them.  Whatever the reason, they buy it because they recognize something in it that makes them happy.  And that is what makes me happy, too.

So, that brings me around again to the point of this little essay (which has probably gone on for far too long!): I’m sort of stuck between a rock and a hard place.  I hope that those of you who were anxious to buy one of the new wreaths will hang in there with me. There will be more to come.  They won’t be exactly the same as these but I promise they will be positively the best I can make.

In the meantime, I would truly welcome your comments and suggestions.  Please do let me hear from you, whether it be in comments here, on Facebook, or by email.  I promise to respond to all of them.

And if you want me to do something custom for you, don’t forget that is an option, too.

Weekly Photo Challenge: (Christmas) Treasure

I love this week’s topic, Treasure, not the least because there are about a gazillion ways to interpret the word.  And, honestly, I have about a gazillion treasures, both literal and figurative, and so much to be grateful for.  I had to think about what I wanted to share this week.  I shared some treasure of an entirely different sort in a post on my Garden Reverie blog.

This being a (mostly) “Vintage Christmas” blog, I decided to share my very most precious ornament: The Little Ballerina.

The Little Ballerina

The Little Ballerina

I have lots and lots of wonderful ornaments that have been collected over a long period of time.  Many are precious because of who the giver was and the memories attached.  Some are loved simply by dint of their unusual nature or their beauty.  Or the time and place where I found it.

But this one trumps all of the others in the treasure department.

The little ballerina was made in the year I was born by my mother’s cousin, Fran Vilas, who lived in Madison, Wisconsin.  Cousin Fran, whom I never had the good fortune to meet, sent her to my mother for my first Christmas. I’m not going to spill what year that was but, trust me, my little ballerina is vintage.

Her limbs are made from pipe cleaners and her head is a little wooden ball with curly gold metallic locks on top.  Her tutu is made of crisp tulle in a beautiful shade of blue and she holds a tiny silver orb in her little pipe cleaner hands.  Her toes are encased in gold.  She is petite and slim just as a ballerina should be.  And she is precious beyond compare.

Every year she got hung on our family Christmas tree.  Front and center.  I adored her.

She was a constant.  When I came home for Christmas, there she was, greeting me from her spot on the tree.

A few years ago, my mother wrapped her up and gave her to me on Christmas morning.

Now I hang her on my own tree every Christmas.  Front and center.  Just like all those years at home.

I can’t bear to wrap her up and put her away once I take the tree down so she patiently hangs in a special place the rest of the year where her forever cheerful countenance greets me.  She’s my little talisman; a life full of happy memories wrapped up in the tiniest of packages, smiling at me even though she hasn’t lips.  A constant reminder of just how lucky I am.  And that is treasure indeed.

To see what other’s treasures are click here.

A Trip to The Big Flea…and a little rambling, too

DSC_0311 - Version 2This past Saturday, my 2 antiquing girlfriends and I hopped in the car for the jaunt up I-95 to the Fredericksburg Big Flea.  The Expo Building itself is waaaaaay back inside the most twisty and turny mass of shopping development you have ever seen but at least it is right off the highway so you really can’t get lost getting there.  And if you are feeling hungry there must be 50 chain restaurants to stop at in about a quarter-mile area.  Not my cup of tea at all.  But that’s beside the point.

We did this show last year and had a lovely time so we had been looking forward to what this year would bring.  It was a beautifully warm day and after the past weeks of extreme cold I must have been feeling pretty giddy to get out because I never ever thought to take any pictures of the show for you.  What an eejit.

I will say that I think the name of the show is a bit misleading.  I tend of think of flea markets as bargain-land but not so, at least not here.  Still we had a good time.

Immediately upon entering the show, we went right and there was a booth with gorgeous antiques.  With crazy high prices.  He did, however, have the most beautiful Venetian mirror I think I have ever seen.  It was drop-dead gorgeous; a little distressed (but only slightly) and that, of course, makes it so much more appealing to me.  No price tag visible.  Never a good sign.

The dealer apparently saw me gawping and came up to me.  He explained that it was a Venetian mirror (yes, I figured that) and that if one were to insure it, the replacement value would be around $15,000.  Ok, no surprise there.  So what are you asking for it, I say.  He’s willing to let it go for $3500 which is what he says he paid for it at an auction plus the buyer’s premium.  A fire sale.

Honestly, that was probably a fair price. If I thought I was in any danger of winning the lottery that baby would have been in the back of my car in about 15 seconds.  I’m still pining for it.

So, we start working our way around the show – it is quite large – and quickly get separated.  It’s crowded and we tend to go at different paces anyway, each of us has different things that appeal to us.  I got sidetracked by a cool small Victorian metal sculpture of an animal (a dog? wolf?) but the dealer’s best price is not quite good enough to make me get my wallet out.

I’m not seeing much in the way of Christmas yet either so I keep going.  Finally, I spy a couple of tiny trees in the bottom of a box.  The dealer gave me a nice price on them.  Now we’re cooking.

Two tiny little trees

Two tiny little trees

But as it turns out it was quite a long time later before I made any more purchases.  What I saw in the way of Christmas was way more expensive than I can afford to pay.  And I mean, WAY more.

There was a booth with a gazillion of old ornament boxes all filled with goodies plus other treasures as well.  I got all excited.  But even after offering to make a bulk purchase (like a couple of hundred bucks worth), she was not able to offer a discount that I felt would work for me.  Sadly, I had to pass it all by.

And that continued to be the story until I found this charming fellow.

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A snowman in need of some love

Yes, he is pretty distressed and he has a hole in his shoulder but I know I can still do something wonderful with him.  He was just too adorable to pass by.  Who could resist that expression?

Eventually, I came to another booth with quite a bit of ornaments but again they were out of my reach.  She did, however, have a nice selection of the jumbo Poland ornaments and they always make me stop in my tracks.  Fortunately for me, we were able to come to an agreement and I purchased a nice selection of large balls – both Polish and German.  These were by no means the bargain of a lifetime but I think they ended up being a pretty fair price for what they are.

DSC_0315 - Version 2Here’s a picture so you can see the scale of these large ornaments.  They are bigger than my hand.  I adore the large teardops like this one.

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A few more.IMG_1271 - Version 2Four beauties.

IMG_1273 - Version 2Make that five.  All will be sensational in something yet to come.

IMG_1276 - Version 2I also got these three West German ornaments from the same lady.  These are highly collectible and I am looking forward showing them off in something I make.  The gold foil angels float around in their little world inside the glass.

IMG_1282 - Version 2The sticker on the back should place it in the time frame between 1949 and 1990.  I’m guessing these are probably in the latter portion of that period.

IMG_1278 - Version 2I love German candy containers like this.  I have wonderful childhood memories of getting the spring-themed ones in my Easter basket.

This lady, who was as nice as can be, also had some cool pieces that she had made using pieces from old glass garlands.  I bought several of them from her thinking that they would look awesome on a wreath.

IMG_1283 - Version 2Don’t you agree?  I love them.

At the end of the day, we were pretty pooped from walking for hours on a concrete floor but we each had scored some things that we were quite happy with.  We had bumped into folks we knew and had a perfectly pleasant time.

I’m taking a bit of a left turn now but did you all get caught up on Downton Abbey last night?  I’m going to assume that if you are following this blog we probably have some things in common and Downton is likely one of them.

++++ Spoiler alert!  If you are not up to date, don’t read further! ++++ 

The preview for next’s week’s episode freaked me out.  Honestly, I woke up this morning worrying about the Dowager Countess!  Did you see that?!?!?!  If they kill Maggie Smith off, Julian Fellowes better start watching his back cuz someone is likely to put a fatwa on him. And what about poor Edith?  Can’t she ever catch a break?  Poor thing.  I hate to think that her man fooled her (and me) and is going to turn out to be a charlatan of the first order.  Geez.

What do you think?

IMG_1286 - Version 2I think this sweet fellow cheers me up on a gloomy Monday.  And I like that.