Saturday, June 1, 2013

Collection: String Holders

Isn't this flirty couple the cutest thing ever?
Before there was cellophane tape. Before styrofoam containers. There was string. Your produce or meat was tied in a bundle of paper held together by string. Boxes that went through the mail were tied with string. At the bakery or the Chinese take-out the goodies were placed in a box (most often pink!) that was tied up with string. In the kitchen the chef holds together a rolled roast or turkey using string.
Cast iron industrial string holders.
String has been a household and office necessity for a long time. It needed to be readily available and easily dispensed. Tinkerers through the years have devised cast-iron string holders and string bobbins in an attempt to keep and dispense string. The classic 19th-century string holder shape was a beehive. Other cast-iron string holders were more like egg-shaped cages, hanging globes or spools with a handy gallows. Often these string holders were mounted to the tops of racks designed to hold paper sacks or rolls. That way, goods could be packaged and wrapped tight for customers.
Ceramic string holders with unusual shapes.
In the 20th century, string holders became more decorative. Enterprising folks made novelty items which were sold at fairs and as souvenirs of small towns across America. Designs ranged from fruit and flowers, to pets, birds and animals, to interesting faces like chefs, Dutch girls, cute kids and cartoon characters. Some would have a place for scissors, often with the scissors handle doubling as the eyeglasses for the critter. Today collectors love the cartoon characters, chefs and other images of people.
Disney's Cinderella characters.
Olive Oyl and Popeye.
Cats and an owl, all with scissors holders.
Chalkware string holder fruit.
The material of choice for the novelty string holders was primarily chalk, a plaster-like material that was cheap, but fragile. It chipped easily and the paint would often scratch off. Other string holders were made of paper-mache, ceramics and wood. A whole folk art tradition developed making string holders from recycled household materials, like oatmeal boxtops, fabric covered wood, coconut shells and used biscuit tins.
String holders made of coconut shells and fabric and wood.
It seems that novelty and souvenir string holders are mostly an American phenomenon, and most of them were made in the USA in the first half of the 20th century. String holders are a great collectible. They are useful as some can hang on the wall in the kitchen or craft room, others make delightful desk accessories and cast iron designs are great for the workshop. Susan has a wonderful collection of string holders and displays them as a border surrounding her studio.
Here's a string holder nestled among beads and other crafty stuff.
This beauty is a handcrafted wooden desktop string holder from Germany
Chefs are always popular. The bottom right one is a souvenir chef made of paper mache.
Another view of the border.
These string holders are all part of Susan's personal collection. At this time we do not have any for sale, but we do look for ones that might end up in the shop someday!

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