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Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

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Photo: Bryan Anselm for the New York Times
Co-managers Maureen Disimile and John D. Ynsua at the employee-owned Montclair Book Center in New Jersey innovate to keep the magic going.

Who doesn’t find a bookstore magical — especially an independent bookstore? It takes a certain amount of flexibility and creativity to keep one going and not get plowed under by a certain online billionaire. If we all look for books first at our local indy, we can help keep the magic alive.

In New Jersey, Montclair Book Center has found that employee ownership, ability to improvise, and independent-minded customers are critical.

Dana Jennings writes at the New York Times, “Montclair Book Center is 35 years old, going on eternity. A ramshackle throwback to a funkier, more literary time, the store has shelves handmade from raw lumber. And its customers and clerks are often just as eccentric as the shelves.

“I’ve been shopping and snooping there since 1995 and still haven’t exhausted all of this biblioscape’s labyrinths and warrens — some of which, I suspect, lead to C.S. Lewis’s Narnia or Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast. …

“I’ve stumbled across Italo Calvino limited editions, a hardcover of William Burroughs’s ‘Naked Lunch,’ and a stash of musty, black-and-white comics magazines from the 1960s and ’70s that included ‘Eerie, Creepy and Savage Tales.’ …

“The place is suffused with the sweet reek of ink, decaying pulp and vintage book dust — seductive scents that are like pheromones to book lovers.

“ ‘Unless you work at a bakery, you don’t get many customers talking about how good your store smells,’ said Pete Ryby, who has worked there since it opened in 1984 and is now the store’s primary owner. (Other employees own smaller stakes.)

“The pre-World War I building itself is so cockeyed that it looks set to pratfall down the street, as in some silent Buster Keaton two-reeler. … Still, the store is orderly if not antiseptic. Signs are hand-lettered; there are plenty of chairs for contemplation and ladders for climbing; and, whether by accident or puckish design, the crime section stops short at a fittingly dead end. …

“When I tell people about Montclair Book Center, I almost always mention Ynsua, a friendly 56-year-old filigreed with tattoos and earrings who started there in 1999 and who embodies its eclectic vibe. He owns five kilts and hundreds of vintage T-shirts — Count Chocula, the Emma Peel and John Steed ‘Avengers’ — and his passions as a bibliophile include comics, science fiction and pre-Renaissance European history. He’s also the store’s resident carpenter and a talented cartoonist who once studied at Joe Kubert’s cartooning school in Dover, N.J.

‘I’ve tried not to work for corporations,’ Ynsua said. ‘I like bosses who own their businesses. I like jobs where I can improvise.’

“There’s plenty of that at the Book Center. Indeed, improvisation has helped the store stay in business. Since it started selling used vinyl in 2014, for example, the records ‘have brought in a lot of new customers and increased foot traffic,’ said the co-owner Maureen Disimile, who manages the music side of the business. …

“A quick look at the records revealed a healthy infestation of Beatles; ‘Together,’ by Marvin Gaye and Mary Wells; the musical ‘Hair,’ in the ‘version originale française”’; and even the 1960s British blues rockers Blodwyn Pig. There was also a strong dose of 45s.

“Still, the store comes down to what employees call ‘book people.’ ‘I like being around literature, art and music, and the people who like that stuff,’ said Ynsua, who doesn’t own a computer or subscribe to cable TV. ‘My brain isn’t calcifying here.’

“Lucas McGuffie, a clerk since 2014, added:

‘The attraction is the books, and the book people. They aren’t stupid. They’re more open-minded. They’re smart enough to know that they don’t know all there is to know.’ “

More at the New York Times, here. By the way, if you love vintage vinyl records like the ones at the Montclair Book Center, check out a great R&B collection on my nephew’s site, here. For listening only.

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Hunting for the best vintage lockets for Luna & Stella at the Brimfield antique fair, we really had to bundle up. It was awfully cold (and muddy) for May.

Ever since Suzanne first admired the nearly invisible hinges that characterized the old, handmade lockets, she wanted to offer lockets at Luna & Stella. At first, she investigated whether hinges like that were being made today. They weren’t. So she started an antique and vintage line to complement the way her contemporary birthstone jewelry preserves customers’ special memories.

The best place to start the hunt for vintage is at the Brimfield, Mass., antique fair, a mega event that occurs three times a year and involves thousands of dealers. According to one website, the show extends about a mile along both sides of Route 20 and several hundred yards back from each side of the road.

The dealers are not all selling lockets or even antiques. The event is also a flea market. You can find pretty much anything there. All that stuff you give to the Goodwill, or even throw out because it’s broken, could easily be displayed here with a price tag. It doesn’t even have to be old. People will buy anything.

I had never been on any of Suzanne’s Brimfield expeditions, and as my sister was interested, I decided it was time. Alas, at the last minute, my sister was not able to make the trip. Getting to see pictures is not the same as being in those crazy crowds, eating at food trucks, and using Port-a-Potties, but it will have to do for now. It was definitely fun to see Suzanne in action. She was like a bloodhound on the scent, and I hope my sister will get a chance to watch her in action another time.

Here are a few photos. If a dealer has a dinosaur, you can bet it will get displayed prominently on the roadside. I noticed that the one below eventually talked Lady Liberty into hanging out.

One thing you can do at Brimfield is get ideas here for the stuff you have at home. For example, if you have a fake rhino head collecting dust in your attic, you might want to spray it gold.

I sent Stuga40 the picture of the Swedish tent. Here’s what she said about the clocks, moraklocka: “Mora is a small city in Darlicalia (Dalarna). These clocks were painted and decorated by peasant artists. There are certain areas in Sweden like Dalarna and Hälsingland  where the ‘kurbits’ type of painted furniture is found. The red ‘dalahäst‘ [or wooden horse is] painted in this style and now used as a souvenir from Dalarna and Sweden.”

I loved the morning-glory look of the old Victrola. The quilt picture is for a few of my favorite readers.

The last photo is from the rural B&B where we spent a night. We needed the quiet haven after all the crowds.

You can read about the event here and get “tips on surviving Brimfield” here.

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Just sharing the news that an antique locket from Luna & Stella, my daughter’s company, is in the February issue of Vogue magazine. Even though it’s partially hidden inside the model’s shirt, we’re pretty excited to see it — and the credit for the company.

More vintage lockets at Luna & Stella.

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Photo: Des Moines Register
Michael Zahs, a retired history teacher, saved rare films that date to 1895 and became the subject of the 2017 documentary “Saving Brinton.” 

Did you ever read Hitty, Her First Hundred Years as a child? It’s about a doll who, through various adventures, ends up in the hands of a series of families in the course of a century. It suggests that old treasures bring joy again and again in new circumstances.

It would be lovely to find some rare, lost thing and give it new life. I know that readers like KerryCan and Deb do that all the time. In fact, Deb recently blogged about rescuing smelly old fabrics from oblivion to make a quilt. She likes to think about the former life of each piece as she works.

Suzanne, meanwhile, has been having enormous fun finding and cleaning up vintage lockets, offering resizing and placement of the customer’s family photos to give the lockets meaning for another generation.

Here’s a story about finding old silent film footage in an Iowa barn by Pamela Hutchinson at the Guardian. “Michael Zahs thinks of himself as a saver. ‘I like to save things,’ he says, ‘especially if it looks like they’re too far gone.’ This retired history teacher from Iowa, now in his 70s, has amassed quite a collection over the years: stray animals, farm implements, even a church steeple. …

“Nothing he has saved, however, has been quite as remarkable as the Brinton Collection – a mammoth set of films, lantern slides, posters and projection equipment from the first years of cinema, and even earlier. There are two exciting things about these artifacts. One is that during the more than three decades after Zahs took delivery of the collection and stored it on his property, he has been showing its treasures to local people and keeping the tradition of the travelling showman alive. The second is the discovery that the collection contains very rare material – films by the French cinema pioneer, George Méliès [remember the 2011 movie about his work, Hugo?] that were once thought to be lost.

Saving Brinton, an absorbing new documentary by Andrew Sherburne and Tommy Haines, tells the story of Zahs and the collection he saved. Between 1895 and 1909,one Frank Brinton crossed the Midwest with his wife Indiana and his travelling show, welcoming locals for a ticket price of just a few cents.

“At first he showed magic lantern slides, some of which ‘dissolved’ between two static images to create an illusion of movement. When moving pictures arrived, Brinton jumped aboard, ordering many films from distributors in France, one of the most prolific and creative producers in the early period. …

“Brinton’s programme included trick films such as those by Méliès, which used in-camera special effects to create fantastical spectacles, and many hand-coloured movies where the dye is applied directly to each frame. Projected in the dark, these vivid, bizarre images have lost none of their original impact.

“Everything the Brintons used was passed down through the family until 1981, when it arrived at Zahs’ front door. He packed all the ephemera away into what he calls his ‘Brinton room,’ while the films themselves were sent to the Library of Congress, which duplicated about two-thirds of them, quickly and simply, and sent the 16mm copies back to Zahs. The remaining third they apparently sent back to Zahs through the US mail, in a box labelled ‘explosive.’ Those original nitrate films, which are highly flammable, were stored alongside the 16mm films in a shed. It’s amazing that they survived.

“The 16mm copies were safe to project, and so Zahs did. He started the Brinton film festival in Ainsworth, Iowa (population: about 600), where he would show the slides and the films to audiences that might never otherwise have dreamed of watching a silent film projection.

“It is typical of Zahs’ commitment to not just preserving but sharing history, says Sherburne. ‘That’s how he engages people, by giving them the genuine article, putting it in their hands, or putting it in front of their eyes. It’s his way of transporting them to a different time.’ ”

Read more at the Guardian, here. And do tell me a vintage story of your own.

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Suzanne’s lockets were featured in the Boston Globe last week, and I wanted to tell you about that — and the lockets — in time for Valentine’s Day.

Longtime readers know this blog has a connection to Luna & Stella, Suzanne’s jewelry company. It’s easy to forget that, as she was willing from Day One to let me write about whatever interested me, and I’m interested in an awful lot of things in addition to jewelry.

The antique and vintage lockets are a fairly new addition to Suzanne’s offerings, and they have been a pretty big hit. Although Suzanne acquires them from all over, many, if not most, originated in the greater Providence area, once known as the jewelry capital of the world. Some of the lockets have the original photos in them, but Suzanne will size your photos to fit if you like.

Among the more fascinating aspects of the lockets, in my opinion, are the handmade hinges, which are practically invisible. Hinges made today tend to be clunky and stick out. Suzanne went through a long search to see if anyone could make hinges the old way and even looked into buying some antique machinery, but in the end, attending flea markets and working with vintage dealers meant she could sell the lockets for a more reasonable price.

You can see lockets here, some in Valentine shapes. And the website also has chains and birthstone charms to pair with a locket — Luna & Stella‘s trademark stars, moons, suns, hearts, and more.

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Did you ever see a finer dishtowel? The blogger KerryCan wove it for me after I won a drawing at “Love Those Hands at Home,” her site. I cherish it.

This is how it came about. Back in October, KerryCan asked readers, many of whom are experienced artisans, whether they were more process-oriented or product-oriented. She had recently decided that what she herself loved most about her creative endeavors — which include quilting, weaving, chocolate making, and collecting vintage linens for her Etsy shop — was the process. I said the same about my past jobs working on magazines.

She put all commenters into a drawing for a handwoven dishtowel that she would make to the winner’s color specifications.

Now, KerryCan is a person who regularly makes thoughtful comments on other people’s blogs, so she attracts an impressive number of thoughtful commenters herself. I encourage you to read their responses to the process/product challenge, here.

Another fun KerryCan post asks readers if they are get-it-done Focusers or Flitterers, as she claims to be. She seems wistful that Flitterers like herself, who like to have numerous projects going at once, don’t get to check much off their lists. But I think people should embrace their own style.

I myself am probably more of a Time Waster than a Focuser or Flitterer — except on days when I schedule myself up. But then, some of the people whose creative output I admire most have been notorious Time Wasters, so maybe something of value is going on beneath the surface.

I hope you will check out “Love Those Hands at Home” — maybe even answer the latest challenge. You will be in the company of people who really think about things.

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Imagine how chuffed I was to see this article about Suzanne by Charmaine Gahan!

A close friend since kindergarten, Charmaine has been a huge support to Suzanne and the birthstone-jewelry company that hosts this blog, Luna & Stella.

In a delightful report, Charmaine describes how her whole family joined Suzanne’s family in New York City over school vacation to lend a hand at the Playtime trade show, a big deal for promoting new products to retail shops around the world.

Among the highlights of Suzanne’s growing collections are sweet Mama + Me bracelets, just in time for Mothers Day (May 8), and some stunning vintage lockets.

Notes the website, “All of the lockets in the Luna & Stella Vintage Collection were made in Providence, East Providence or Attleboro between 1880 and 1940.”

Why vintage mixed with contemporary? That’s kind of an interesting story, too, being the result of a hunt for beautiful hinges to use in new lockets. After the long search, Suzanne concluded that they just don’t make smooth and subtle hinges like they used to.

But sometimes an apparent dead end can lead to even better ideas, and Luna & Stella’s cool mixing of old and new seems to be an idea that is catching on.

At the Concord Journal (here), you can read more about the two friends and their families working the trade show in New York during the coldest week of the year.

Photo: Charmaine’s girls join Suzanne to look over the Mama + Me collection from Luna & Stella.

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