Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Beatrix Potter • Peter Rabbit & Friends


ONCE upon a time there were four little Rabbits, and their names were Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-tail, and Peter. They lived with their Mother in a sand-bank, underneath the root of a very big fir-tree … and so goes the story of Peter Rabbit. I think we all remember it and other Beatrix Potter stories from our childhood.


Helen Beatrix Potter (28 July 1866 – 22 December 1943) was an English author, illustrator, mycologist and conservationist. She is best known for her many best-selling beautifully illustrated children's books that featured animal characters.

Potter wrote the story of Peter Rabbit when she was 27, contained in a letter to the 5 year old son of a former governess. She later expanded it, added more pictures and self-published it in 1901. The Tale of Peter Rabbit was commercially published the next year. Potter was a shrewd business woman and patented the character Peter Rabbit, making him the first patented literary character.

She followed it with The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin in 1903, starting a string of 23 books over the following 27 years, all in the same small format. Her books were popular because of the colorful illustrations and the natural likeableness of her characters. Plus, as I recall, it was easy to identify with the situations and feelings of her little critters.

In her later years, Potter had already accumulated quite a fortune, investing in numerous farmhouses and over 4000 acres of land. She devoted those years to breeding sheep and fighting for land conservation, as well as studying and cataloging local mushrooms. Her will left virtually everything to the British Land Trust.

The popular books and characters continue to delight people of all ages. In 1980, the Beatrix Potter Society was founded by a group of people professionally involved in the curatorship of Beatrix Potter material. The Society’s website is loaded with Potter references, resources and biographical information.

The Beswick Pottery started producing a line of Beatrix Potter figurines in 1948. Tableware and music boxes followed. These have become highly collectible. We recently purchased a nice collection of these little figurines and have put them up for sale on our online antique sales website. These are, of course, also available in our Los Gatos shop – Vintages.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Antiques Research Resources

I just added a new set of links to the sites that I use most for researching antiques. I hope you will find these as useful as I have.

Chicago Silver has created a massive list of just about every online site that provides silver and jewelry marks. This site is also an excellent source of information on American Arts & Crafts Metalwork.

Illusion Jewels has an extensive list of jewelry history, marks and signatures. There are also excellent articles on a wide variety of 20th century jewelry designers.

My Granny's Antiques has an excellent list of pottery, porcelain and china backstamps, along with a bit of history of manufacturers.

For English Potters, I recommend Pottery-English.com, which has extensive information on famous English potters. A very good general reference is the International Ceramics Directory.

Jan-Erik Nilsson of Gotheborg.com, has put together a collector's help and information site for collectors of antique Chinese and Japanese Porcelain. It offers an extensive archive of translated and dated Japanese and Chinese porcelain marks and a glossary of porcelain terms.

Patent Storm is an easy site to research US Patents. You can also go directly to the U. S. Patent and Trademark Office site.

I have also added a link to Birthstones and Anniversary Gift lists.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique

Artistic Luxury: Fabergé, Tiffany, Lalique is the first comparative study of the work of the three greatest jewelry and decorative arts designers at the turn of the 20th century: Peter Carl Fabergé, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and René Lalique. Fabergé, Tiffany, and Lalique found their rivalry at the 1900 World’s Fair in Paris—the only exposition where all three showed simultaneously and where the work of each was prominently displayed. Some of their most elaborate designs for the Paris World’s Fair are reunited for the first time in a gallery recreating the ambiance of this opulent international exposition. Looking critically at the development, design, and marketing of each firm, this exhibition explores how these designers responded to the demand for luxury goods in the years leading up to World War I.
• Preamble to the exhibit at the Legion of Honor, 2009
We finally got our chance to go to this fabulous exhibition … and we were definitely not disappointed. One word will suffice … WOW! These artistic pioneers represent three diverse cultural backgrounds and a variety of artistic media, yet all of them pushed their chosen modes of expression beyond the boundaries that had been established for so long. The decorative arts of their day were built on reproducing and parsing of past principals of design, borrowing and enriching those designs, but rarely breaking free from the restrictions of the past.

L' Exposition Universelle de 1900 à Paris was the World’s Fair held in Paris, along with the 1900 Olympic Games. The Exposition, where the world showed off its finest, hosted close to 76,000 exhibitors and 50 million visitors. Many of the fabulous buildings built for the exposition still support the arts and infrastructure of Paris. The show spread onto both sides of the Seine and from the Gare de Lyon (which still serves the regions south of Paris) to the Gare d'Orsay (which is now the Musée d'Orsay).
This exhibit at the San Francisco Museum at the Palace of the Legion of Honor ends May 31st. Catch it if you can. Not only is the exhibit worth the trip, the Legion of Honor commands one of the most spectacular settings of any art museum in the world. Views of San Francisco Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge from Land’s End are as inspiring as the art.
Peter Carl Faberge re-introduced to the world the vast treasures of Russian artistic craftsmanship and materials: brilliant enamel guilloche on silver and gold; sensitively carved lapis and nephrite; semiprecious stones from the hinterlands of the Russian empire. We all know of the sensational Faberge Easter eggs, but this exhibit reveals the many other forms of decorative artistry that the House of Faberge created.

Louis Comfort Tiffany, and his father Charles Lewis Tiffany, created not just the famous Tiffany stained glass and bronze lamps, but so much more in the world of jewelry, stained glass windows, silver service sets and art glass. While most of their output was for the wealthy clientele in the American market, Tiffany set up shops in London and Paris as well. Tiffany & Co., in fact, retailed items made by its contemporaries Faberge and Lalique at times.

Rene Lalique combined classic French decorative ideals with new materials and innovative, free-flowing designs in his early jewelry. He used such common materials as horn and glass in many of his most seductive pieces. In fact, seduction, nature and natural elements were at the core to so much of his work. After the Paris 1900 Exhibition, Lalique concentrated his efforts to creating art glass objects and shortly thereafter abandoned the field of jewelry. His jewelry designs were at the core of the Art Nouveau era, and his glass designs set the stage for what became known as Art Deco.


While the show was focused on these three artist-innovators, brief excursions into their contemporaries adds context and contrast to the exhibit. Gorham, Mucha and Cartier are among those included in these side exhibits.

Here are a couple of links to slide shows of some of the articles in the exhibit, just in case you cannot make the show in person: Cleveland Museum, the first stop for this exhibition; Luxist, an art blog. This is an excellent review of the Legion on Honor exhibit. Here are more photos from L' Exposition Universelle de 1900 à Paris.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Gilding the Lily

On a recent trip to Southern California, we made a detour to a shop we had heard about that was in Fullerton – Gilding the Lily. We drove through the netherlands of the mid-LA metro area to find this little oasis that is the downtown area of Fullerton. A real delight! Both the town and the shop.

Nancy Jamar has this little shop which opens onto an old-time courtyard, packed with vintage stuff – from books and paper to jewelry making supplies galore! What’s more, Nancy holds classes at a big table in one end of the shop. Instructors from all over show enthusiastic crafters how to make beautiful things, like jewelry and shadow boxes, how to work with textiles and beads, and just have fun.

We found some interesting items for our own cache of crafting stuff. A few old books – a botany treatise from the late 1900s, a delightful little French book and an old Farmer’s Record filled with handwritten notes on butter & cream, feedstock, tools and all sorts of things.
Then there were these little French millinery decorations made of curly feathers and neatly split dried leaves, complete with the Made in France tags.
You can check out Nancy’s class schedule and loads of information on the kits and findings she has in her shop from her blog and website. Definitely worth the visit.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Marti Somers • Vintage Alice

Marti Somers stopped in Vintages a while back and bought an old autograph album. It was a lovely red velvet covered book, half filled with autographs from friends of Alice in the late 1880s. Alice was from Kemptville, Ontario, Canada. While most folks would love this book for the autographs, beautiful writing and clever notations, Marti saw something more. She loved the old paper from the unsigned pages!

Marti is an artist. Her art “takes you into the artist's world of whimsical canvases and playful narrations. She explores such subjects as the fragility of nature in contrast to modern life, the human form in balance with other living creatures, and simply the magic found in an ordinary day.”

So Marti Somers transformed Alice’s book … it’s pages resurfaced in a painting she has titled Vintage Alice. Alice is now a 30”x36” mixed media work that uses 24 pages from the autograph album, each with its own special image, that are imbedded in the larger painting in which she manages to pull all of them together.
Somers spent many years as a graphic designer and illustrator, but in “2001 she embarked on a full-time painting career, and shortly after opened Studio Believe in San Carlos (California). Her work is shown nationally, and collected globally.” Her website is www.martisomers.com.
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