Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Alley Cats Vintage: The Auction - Only the Strong Survive

Over my lifetime I have spent many hours/days in strange people’s backyard waiting on that one item I can’t live without. Usually I never get that item but end loading my car with boxes of strange musty unidentifiable objects that I have no use for. My greatest fear is what will crawl out of those boxes as I race down the highway to get home before my husband finds out I’ve done it again.

I’ve made a great deal of new friends attending these auctions since my particular addiction seems to be very common among the masses.

When I was younger I could withstand freezing temperatures and downpours of rain. I’ve always managed to find a friend to endure with me. It’s funny how the word auction makes everyone loose their common sense.

One particular day in April of 1988 I lured a friend to some deceased person’s backyard for the ‘auction’. After hours of severe cold it started to snow. I was lucky enough to purchase a lovely 100 year old quilt. My friend had only purchased 10 boxes of molded books so they were of no use to us unless we could build a fire. When the snow started, of course leaving was out of the question since there was still plenty of broken dishes to buy, I was forced to cover us with my fine quilt. Then I spilled my coffee on the quilt. Ok that could be cleaned. What? There’s an oil lamp for sale...I’ve got to have there’s two...I get them both. ....filled with colored lamp oil. My hands were so frozen I couldn’t hold onto the lamps...over they go onto the couple in front of us and yes all over the quilt which by that time was our only lifeline.

After spending several more hours in the blowing snow and freezing temperatures the auction ends. So we load up and head to the landfill to drop off 10 boxes of books, 2 broken oil lamps and a ruined quilt. And while at the landfill I picked up the finest cat I’ve ever had the privilege of living with. So all in all it was another wonderful successful day.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Love those beads!

Although I collect vintage jewelry as well as sell it, I admit to not wearing jewelry on a regular basis (shame on me!). But when I do, you’ll almost always find me wearing a vintage neckpiece. And that vintage neckpiece is almost always a 1950’s or 1960’s multi-strand beaded necklace. I love them! And based on conversations with others who wear vintage jewelry, I’m not alone. Whether the occasion is a formal dinner or dance, a lunch with friends, a vacation outing, or just a work day when you feel like putting on something a little special--a vintage multi-strand choker or necklace can’t be beat. I can’t tell you how many compliments I always get when I wear one—be it a dressy piece or just a fun one. I’m sure this is because they stand out as unique, yet not “old-fashioned.” They are timeless. And, with “Mad Men” everywhere these days, what could be more so than your vintage multi-strand necklace?

Their quality is evident. When I’m in a department store--which isn’t very often, thank goodness--I’ll check out the costume jewelry. I never fail to be amazed at how much money is being asked for how little quality. And how little difference in style. For $15 or $20, or a good deal more, you can get yourself a plain plastic-bead necklace on cheap wire that looks like every other $15 or $20 necklace in the store. When you’re talking vintage pieces, I, in more than 25 years of collecting, don’t think I’ve ever seen two the same! (I’m sure they’re out there, but I haven’t seen any.) And, for $15 or $20, or a good deal more, you can get a hand strung (and often hand-knotted) necklace with beautiful and varied beads, and very often a clasp that would be at home on pieces costing several times more. The variety of beads in these pieces is awesome: glass “pearl” beads in hundreds of colors, molded Lucite beads, stippled or sugar beads—some of them handpainted, metal beads, art-glass beads, faceted crystal or plastic beads…. Add fancy filigree end caps and a multitude of spacer-bead styles, and you have a plethora of choices!

We see most of these generically marked Japan, West Germany, and Hong Kong. Among named makers, I often see Coro pieces; my own favorite is a Coro double-strand, metal-bead one. Other makers did these pieces (I’ve seen photos of some great ones from Vendome, Coro's upscale sister line), but I find that in this type of necklace, makers generally don’t matter. Some of the loveliest pieces I’ve had have been the generic Japan and Hong Kong ones.

Our selections this week highlight the variety and beauty of these classics!

At Catseye Vintage, we have formal: Three-Strand Faux Pearl and Smoke Grey Aurora Borealis Necklace


And dramatic: Double-Strand Aventurine Glass Beads Choker Necklace and Matching Earrings


At A & J Esoterica, we have chunky: Coro Matte & Moonglow Lucite Chunky Double-Strand Choker Necklace


And recently sold from My Vintage Cocktail, this lighthearted Summer White Plastic Beaded Multi-Strand Bib Necklace Choker:


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Crafting a Rehabilitation at Gaylord Sanitarium

Late last year, I stumbled across a small lot of vintage silver jewelry being offered at on online auction (not eBay!). I’ve collected and sold vintage jewelry for years, but had no overriding interest in sterling until discovering one of those obscure treasures we all hunt for (a brooch by Graziella Laffi, Peruvian equivalent to Mexico’s William Spratling). So, with a new appetite for sterling, I took a risk and bid on the lot, which was not well pictured or described in the auction. While my winning bid was not "cheap, cheap," I was satisfied, pending inspection in person. When my package arrived, I was taken aback by the beauty and workmanship of this set:


Imagine my delight when I realized these carried a maker’s mark (likely rendering them more valuable), albeit one unknown to my relatively inexperienced eyes.


I embarked on a mission to find out who had manufactured these pieces. After hours and hours of looking online, typing into search engines myriad guesses as to exactly what this mark represented, eureka--I found it! The mark (a hammer and wings; I don’t know why I didn’t “see” it immediately) was that of the Gaylord Silvercraft shop, Wallingford, Ct. But, their story isn’t one of “just” a silver-crafting operation, it’s an uplifting tale of art as rehabilitation. The workshop was part of the Gaylord Farm Sanitarium for tuberculosis patients, run by the New Haven County Anti-Tuberculosis Association. Founded circa 1902, an interesting tidbit of its history is that playwright Eugene O'Neill was a patient there in 1912. Many veterans of WWI were also treated at Gaylord.

Gaylord Silvercraft was established in the early 1920s as part of the sanitarium’s vocational training and occupational therapy, a means by which recovering patients could learn a skill. It was initially funded by the Federal Board for Vocational Education, and when funding ceased, Gaylord’s board continued the venture, believing that the silverwork would pay for itself. Mr. and Mrs. William Waldo Dodge, Jr. of Meriden, Ct., were engaged to help develop the workshop at this juncture. Mr. Dodge was a WWI serviceman and former Gaylord patient who became a noted designer of silver pieces and, later, a well-known architect. Many of his designs were crafted into reality in the workshop. (Work from his own studio is very rare, as he eventually concentrated on architecture.) The Gaylord Silvercraft Workshop operated from about 1923 until 1944. Gaylord Sanitarium exists today as the Gaylord Hospital, providing therapy and rehabilitation services to patients with a wide range of conditions.

Historical records indicate the workshop produced about 140 types of pieces, and about 29,000 pieces in total during its lifetime. They can be sturdy-looking hammered pieces, finely engraved designs, and/or pieces with intricate openwork. All are hand wrought. Apparently the majority of the pieces overall were table silverware and serving items, while the majority of its jewelry pieces were bracelets. Based on what I’ve read and seen, I believe the set I had is extremely rare. I have never seen earrings, and know of nobody who has, although they were indeed made. If you ever find a piece of Gaylord Silvercraft, no matter what it is, buy it! (And I had better go take another look at the balance of that lot I won to see if there are any more gems in there--no more Gaylord, though, I'm afraid....)

Perhaps the best part of my new acquaintance with Gaylord Silvercraft is that, in one of those serendipitous circumstances that sometimes happen in this business, the set, which was listed on A & J Esoterica at Ruby Lane, was sold to a woman whose grandmother had been a patient at Gaylord! In discussing with her the work done there, I discovered that pins depicting popular cartoon characters of the day had been produced. I’m fortunate enough to have been, during the course of my research, in contact with Cathy Gordon, jewelry expert, collector, and author. I was thrilled when she sent me a photo of a cartoon piece she has!

Many thanks to Cathy for allowing me to use the following three photos here:

Old King Cole pin


Hammered-link bracelet and salt spoon


Bon-bon spoon with hammered handle


Note: I’ve compiled this information from numerous publicly available sources, and have cross-checked information as possible for accuracy. I have not lifted verbatim from any source; the organization of the material and writing is mine.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The Color Peach For Spring and Summer 2010

The color peach has been popular for use in clothing since the 1920s and 1930s when it was used for the gorgeous silk and rayon lingerie of the period, and has resurfaced again and again throughout the years.

Peach combines pink and orange colors and ranges from the palest pastel shades to bold vibrant shades. This color is named for the pale color of the peach fruit. Like the color apricot, the color called peach is paler than most actual peach fruits and seems to have been formulated primarily to create a pastel palette of colors for clothing and interior design. Peach can also be described as pale orange.

The word "peach" comes from the Middle English peche, derived from Middle French, in turn derived from Latin persica, i.e., the fruit from Persia. In actuality, the ultimate origin of the peach fruit was from China.

Peach was often used in interior design for wall colors and mirrors during the Art Deco period, then again in the 1950s and 1960s mid century modern era - most often with turquoise.

In Chinese culture the color peach represents immortality.

Peach is a great color for year round wear, but especially in the late Spring and Summer evoking memories and images of fresh ripened peaches and peach ice creme and sherbet.

Vintage 40s 50s Designer Plutzer Prize Iridescent Peach Jacquard Taffeta Full Skirted Cocktail Party Dress from CATSEYE VINTAGE


Vintage 40s Pink-Peach Rayon Half Slip w/Ivory Lace from VINTAGE BAUBLES TOO


Vintage 1970s Peach Cotton Gauze and Lace Maxi Dress with Matching Bolero Jacket from CATSEYE VINTAGE



Vintage Vanity Fair Peach-Pink Long Nightgown with 100" Sweep from VINTAGE BAUBLES.COM

Vintage 1960s Yellow Peach and Cream Swirled Turban Cloche Style Hat Recently Sold by ALLEY CATS VINTAGE

PhotobucketAlign Left

Some information courtesy of Wikipedia.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Paden City Glass Manufacturing Company 1916-1951

One of my great loves is glassware of all ages. Paden City products was my first. It came into being on April 18, 1916 with David I. Fisher as President and General Manager. The company was built on the Paden Farm in Tyler County West Virginia. This site was chosen because it was along the Ohio River which provided inexpensive transportation. The plant was completed and began operation on November 15, 1916 with 300 employees.

By May of 1949 the company was experiencing financial woes. One of their largest products was forest green. War measure controls placed on cobalt, which was used to produce forest green forced them to cease manufacturing this particular product. At the same the company purchased the American Glass Company which further added to their financial burdens. Sadly the company was forced to close on September 21, 1951.

The location of the original Paden City molds has been somewhat of a mystery. Some went to Canton Glass Co. of Marion Indiana, New Martinsville Glass Co. and L. G. Wright.

Paden City made many very elegant lines and pieces. They are hard to identify because they are not plentiful. Information on their lines is scarce and hard to find. Their specialty was very beautiful etched or wheel cut glass.

Paden City colors are: amber, blue, cobalt, medium blue, light blue, cheriglo (pink), crystal, ebony, green, forest green, emerald-glo, medium green, springtime green, mulberry, opal, primrose, rose, ruby and topaz.

As to their lines, they are too numerous to list. Some were just numbered and many items were not associated with a line. Information on the Paden City Glassware Company is difficult to find and many times not accurate. Their original molds have been sold off and many have just disappeared. Perhaps that adds to the popularity of this once great glassware company.

My interest in Paden City began many years ago at a local auction house. Having always been a lover of glassware, I was drawn to an estate auction which was loaded with a great deal of depression glass. Back in a corner, covered with dust and dirt, obviously having been stored in a basement for 70+ years, I found a small wooden box. Opening the lid I saw a set of decanters and shot glasses, obviously a Paden City set. Waiting for hours for the auctioneer to bring this set to the front, I was just sure everyone in the room had noticed this rare, exquisite set covered in years of grime. No one had noticed it and it was mine.

Below are the pictures of my favorite acquisition, the Betty Mae Art Deco Decanter Box Set. Decanters are done in amber, cheriglo and green with the matching shot glasses. Being one of Paden City’s earlier productions, it is not associated with any of their lines. The decanters can be found on the internet but I’ve only known of two other complete sets in the box.

Below are some examples of Paden City designs. Perhaps you can see why I and many others love these elusive treasures.

Above are two of their Samovars in a green and blue with vintage etching. Metal parts are marked Century Silver.

The Red decanter set is from the Penny Line in a ruby. Regina 6 inch vase in ebony gold encrusted with Black Forest etching. Decanter set on the right is from the Spire line in a ruby with silver overlay. Bottom row, left is a vanity set, tray and powder box in a light green with gold. Beside that are two tall cologne bottles. Last on the right is a two-part square candy box in Ebony with reverse etching in gold.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Mother's Day History and Vintage Gift Ideas

Everyone knows that Mother's Day is this Sunday, May 9th, but do you know the history of Mother's Day?

Celebrating motherhood is a historical tradition that goes back to the ancient Greeks, who honored Rhea, the mother of all gods, and the ancient Romans who honored their mother goddess, Cybele.

In the United States, a campaign for a national day to honor mothers was launched in 1907 by Anna Jarvis who handed out white carnations to members of her mother's church in Grafton, West Virginia. In 1908, the church began holding a special Sunday service in honor of mothers -- by the following year, the tradition had spread to churches in 46 states.

In 1909, Anna left her job and dedicated herself to a full-time letter-writing campaign, imploring politicians, clergymen and civic leaders to institute a national day for mothers.

In 1912, Jarvis' efforts met with success: Her home state of West Virginia adopted an official Mother's Day; two years later, the U.S. Congress passed a Joint Resolution, signed by President Wilson, establishing a national Mother's Day emphasizing the role of women in their families. Ever since, Mother's Day has been celebrated by Americans on the second Sunday in May.

Today, we celebrate and honor our mothers with cards, dinner or lunch at a nice restaurant and gifts such as vintage robes, jewelry or vanity items such as shown below.

Vintage Mink Checkbook Cover - For The Woman Who Has Everything from ALLEY CATS VINTAGE


Vintage AB Rhinestone & Plastic Large Butterfly Brooch w/Faux Pearl from A & J ESOTERICA


Vintage 50s 60s Signed Designer ROBERT MANDLE Figural 3-D Pewter Elf and Mushroom Brooch from CATSEYE VINTAGE


Vintage 1950s Gold Metal Basketweave Purse with Lucite Top and Handles by Dorset Rex 5th Avenue from ALLEY CATS VINTAGE


Vintage 1940's Art Deco Loran-Sim Gold Filled Earrings from A & J ESOTERICA


Vintage 50s 60s Hand Painted and Gilded Fragonard Courting Couple Porcelain Footed and Hinged Trinket Jewelry Dresser Box from CATSEYE AT HOME


Some information courtesy of The Holiday