Saturday, June 27, 2015

Building a Bossuns Collection


     When he was young, William Henry Bossuns made lead soldiers for his friends.  As an adult, that artistic talent translated into a lifelong career sculpting character wall masks and plaques that became popular with collectors all over the world.  As Bossuns' success grew, he started manufacturing his pieces in a historic old mill in Congleton, England known as Brook Mills.  Silk was originally manufactured in the mill, but the Bossuns' family business inhabited it from 1946-1996.

     Collectors call the character masks "heads".  Prices vary widely depending on pieces' rarity, ranging from $10 to over $300.  New collectors should be cautious when buying as numerous reproductions or "fake" heads abound.  Look on the back or bottom of any Bossuns piece to identify its authenticity.  There should be a copyright stamp and the word "England"--NOT "Made in England".  The only exceptions to this are the earliest editions of some Bossuns pottery.


     There are numerous Bossuns collectors groups and price guides online for collectors looking to add a little "character" to their homes.

Friday, June 26, 2015

The American Barn Quilt Trail

    "There's another one!" my daughter exclaimed, and my husband obligingly pulled over on the soggy Oregon roadside so we could "bag" another barn quilt with our camera.  We were near Tillamook and had driven most of the day photographing and admiring barns and the colorful barn quilts that hung on them.  The quilts were decorative and artistic, and looking for them felt like a scavenger hunt through the countryside and small towns.

     While quilting itself is an ancient craft, barn quilts are an American tradition that began in Ohio in 2001.  A woman named Donna Sue Groves wished to honor her mother by creating an art project fitting of their Appalachian heritage.  She worked with the Ohio Arts Council after deciding to create an artistic quilt square to display on her barn.  The project quickly grew into a larger "sampler" of twenty quilt squares that could be dispersed on barns throughout the county and mapped into a driving trail.  Before their trail was completed, neighboring counties asked for help in establishing their own traditions, and quilt trails soon spread into Tennessee and Kentucky.  Today, there are quilt trails all over the United States, and thousands of barn quilts exist.  Montana's only established trail is in the Missoula area with fifteen squares and more in the works.  Fergus County has some documented squares but no organized trail.

     Barn quilts are painted on wood and mounted on the side of barns or buildings.  Unlike cloth quilts, barn quilts are usually a single painted square.  Barn owners choose patterns for a variety of reasons--sometimes they just like the geometric pattern or colors, but most often they choose patterns from beloved quilts that have been in their families.  Many communities have organized quilt trails with the help of service organizations such as 4-H groups, quilt guilds, or arts councils.  The Oregon trail we followed was a fun day event that included stops at a winery, some art galleries, and a few farm stands that featured barn quilts.

     We've come home inspired to create our own painted quilt.  I have an armoire that contains cloth quilts made by my great grandmother and others found on antiquing trips.  Now I just have to decide which pattern and colors will look best on our cedar-sided barn.  Who knows?  Perhaps our project will inspire others, and one day Yellowstone and Carbon Counties will have quilt trails of their own.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Collecting Cookbooks


     I own 94 cookbooks.  I don't use all of them; in fact, I tend to use only a handful of them regularly.  I just like to have them on the bookshelf in my kitchen.  They tempt me into making new dishes, they are colorful, and some of my favorites are notated with handwriting of people I've never met.  Cookbooks hint of family gatherings and comforting scents wafting from the kitchen.  They tantalize with foreign cuisines and faraway places.  They comfort with tradition passed on through the decades.  It's no wonder that people have been collecting cookbooks for hundreds of years.

     The earliest known cookbook is attributed to a wealthy Roman named Marcus Gavius Apicius.  A Noble Book of Royal Feasts is the first cookbook written in the English language.  A publishing company called Hudson & Goodwin of Hartford published one of the first American cookbooks by Amelia Simmons in 1796.  It was titled American Cookery and contained what is thought to be the first written recipe for pumpkin pie.  Later cookbooks, like The Joy of Cooking, shaped the way our society prepares meals.

     While some people collect cookbooks because of their rarity, many collect for other reasons.  Some follow particular cooks such as Julia Child or Fannie Farmer.  Some enjoy brand name cookbooks such as Jell-O or Duncan Hines  Sometimes a particular subject is sought after, such as chocolate.  Regardless of the reason for collecting the book, rarity and condition determine value

Book dealers will grade cookbooks determined by the bends in the pages, the sturdiness of the spine, bumps on the corners, if the pages are yellowing, and damage to the cover.  Sometimes handwriting in the book will detract from the value.  An excellent resource is Collector's Guide to Cookbooks by Frank Daniels if you are interested in pricing your older cookbooks.

     The artwork, the history, the personal touches, and of course, delicious results, all make cookbook collecting a rewarding hobby for anyone who loves to spend time in the kitchen.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Bring on the Bling

     The coral necklace you bought in Hawaii is tangled with the locket your high school sweetheart gave you, and the Mardi Gras beads you kept after the party last year have broken and scattered in your dresser drawer.  You want to wear your favorite pearls, but they've disappeared underneath several stray chains in your jewelry box, and the matching earrings are nowhere to be found.  There's got to be a better way!  The question is, why do you hide the baubles you love so much away?  If displayed well, your jewelry can be just as pretty (and organized) as when you actually wear it.  Here are some ideas for bringing out your bling.
     First, it's time to tackle the tangle.  Place all of your jewelry on a table and take your time unraveling and sorting the pieces.  Discard anything that you don't wear or that doesn't hold sentimental value.  Make sure your earrings match and all have their backs, and repair any damaged pieces.  Now you're ready to get creative.
     Take a look around for potential jewelry holders.  Here are a number of of non-traditional items for display.  Choose a look that will enhance the style of your bedroom and will be easily accessible when you dress.

  • Lean a vintage ladder with small, round rungs against a wall and hang your necklaces and/or scarves over the rungs.  Make sure the wood has been sanded and varnished for a smooth finish that won't catch chain or fabric.
  • Staple chicken wire or screen onto the back of an ornate frame.  You can hang necklaces and bracelets from the wire or attach earrings and pins to the screen, then hang the piece on the wall.  An empty window frame or antique dresser mirror without the glass could work as frames as well.
  • Drape necklaces around the necks of porcelain dolls. Set the dolls on your dressers and nightstands.
  • Lean vintage mattress springs against a wall, or attach them to the wall making sure you screw into studs to hold the weight.  Hang the jewelry directly onto the springs or use S hooks for easy removal.
  • Use pretty glass bowls or cups to sort bracelets, rings, and earrings, and drape necklaces over the sides for a cascading effect.
  • Mount small curtain rods to both sides of your window and hang necklaces from the rods.  Sunshine will catch glass beads and gems and make a lovely, sparkly display.  If you have double hung windows, you could also attach small, glass knobs to the top of the window frame and hang necklaces from them.
  • Stand a vintage mannequin in a corner and hang your necklaces or scarves on her.
  • Use a coat rack for necklaces.  Racks can be hung in the closet, on a wall, or on the back of a door.  You could take this idea to the next level and attach decorative knobs to the bottom of an antique mirror.  Not only will this piece display your jewelry nicely on a wall, but you can use the mirror to check the jewelry once you put it on.
  • Rings can be displayed on vintage glove makers' molds, porcelain hands used by department stores for display in the fifties, or on vintage office memo holders.  These usually have a decorative metal base and sharp metal prong that was intended to hold bits of paper.
     The jewelry you choose subtly reveals your taste and personality and can enhance a room just as much as it does your clothing.  Once you have your displays in place, you may find you enjoy looking at your jewelry as much as you do wearing it!

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Polishing Your Planters


     You found some great vintage planters at the thrift store for a super price, but they are covered with white build up and soil stains.  Are they worth the risk? Don't pass them up--a few household ingredients and a little elbow grease will have them looking as good as new and ready for planting.  The white build up is most likely a combination of calcium, minerals, and salt from fertilizers and hard water.  Here's what you do to get rid of the build up:

  • First, use a brush to remove as much of the soil, build up, cobwebs, and other gunk as you can from the planter.  An old toilet brush or dish brush would work fine.
  • Next, soak the pot in a vinegar/water mix for about half an hour.  Use 1 cup of vinegar (no more than 5% acidity) to 4 cups water.  Keep in mind that the less vinegar you use, the longer you'll have to soak the pot.  You will probably hear or see bubbling during this stage--it's just the vinegar doing its job.
  • If the residue wipes off easily, this part is done.  However, if stubborn build up persists, use undiluted vinegar and your brush to power off the remaining stains.  You may have to resort to soaking the piece in undiluted vinegar followed by an equal soak in clear water to get off the worst build up.
  • Now scrub the pots in soapy water and rinse before filling with fresh potting soil and pretty plants.

     These are also great steps to follow for terra cotta pots.  When finished cleaning the pots, you can add mosaic stones, use black board paint or pre-made black board stickers for labels, or paint designs to create a custom look for your patio displays.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Repurposing Wooden Ladders

     As the weather begins to warm and spring makes its appearance, many of us head outside to clean out garden sheds and garages.  One item you should never throw out is an old wooden ladder.  Ladders can be repurposed into a number of useful and eye catching projects.  Some require refinishing the ladder or cutting it down, but many utilize the ladder just as it is after a good cleaning.  Here are some ideas you might try, keeping in mind that ladder size and shape will dictate its uses:
  • Lean a ladder against a bedroom or closet wall and hang jewelry or scarves on the rungs.  You should sand and varnish the ladder so scarf fabric doesn't snag on the wood.  You could also use this ladder against a living room or bedroom wall as a quilt holder.
  • Hang a ladder horizontally over a kitchen island and use S hooks to make it into a pot rack.
  • Stand it against a garage or in the garden, and the ladder can be used as a trellis.  Attach three of them, two on each side and one across the top, to make a garden arbor.  You could incorporate the arbor into a vintage wedding or use it inside over the head of a bed to hold flowing fabric or bunting for a focal point in the bedroom.

  • Using eye hooks to secure the frames, attach family photos to the rungs.  The display could be placed in almost any room against a wall.  You could also hang the ladder flat against a wall at eye level and attach the frames to the sides of the ladder for a horizontal display.
  • Use a ladder in a closet to store your high heeled shoes on the rungs.
  • Place a ladder in a bathroom to hold guest towels.  You could also attach baskets to the rungs to hold rolled towels, toilet paper, or blow dryers.  A small step ladder next to the tub can hold a pretty tray with candles or bath salts.

  • Modify the ladder so the rungs can be detached and use it as a ribbon rack in your craft room.
  • Screw small boxes to the rungs and make the ladder into a planter that can be leaned against a porch wall.  If you use a two-sided ladder, the planter becomes mobile.  You can place it anywhere in the yard or garden.  Paint the ladder for a cheerful zing of color.

  • If you have a business, ladders can be useful as displays.  Hang magazines on the rungs in a waiting room.  A pair of two-sided ladders the same size can hold long boards attached to the rungs, forming shelves.  Ladders can also be hung from ceilings or attached to the top of corner wall partitions to hold displays.  Baskets, bunting, seasonal florals, and crates all look great on ladders.

  • Lay a one sided ladder flat on the ground in the garden to form natural partitions for herb plants.
  • Hang a ladder flat against a wall and use as a book or display shelf.  If hung on a fence, a ladder makes a fun receptacle for potted plants.
  • Attach S hooks to a ladder in the potting shed, and it makes a great way to store hand tools.  Hang it from the ceiling, and you can dry herbs and flowers tied to its rungs.
Old ladders are endlessly useful and inexpensive to acquire if you don’t happen to have any available to repurpose.  With a little imagination, you may find multiple ways to give new life to a worn out piece that might have otherwise been thrown away.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Caring for Old Books

     Antique and vintage books are fun to collect.  In order to retain the value of your volumes once you get them home, it is important to store your books correctly.  Stress and weight on books affects the bindings, particularly at the spine.  Here are some tips for storing your books effectively:
  • Books should be kept in cool, dry rooms away from direct sunlight.  Avoid basements or attics where water and humidity can mold pages and dry areas that can cause brittleness and disintegration of glue.  65-70 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for book storage.                                                                                
  • Place books on smooth, sturdy shelving to keep covers and jackets from tearing or chipping, and avoid painted shelves as covers can adhere to the paint.
  • Store books by size.  Large books can become stressed or indented when stored next to a smaller book.
  • Always place books upright, even in boxes.  Storing volumes flat loosens bindings and stresses spines.
  • Do not allow books to lean on the shelf.  Books must be kept upright to avoid weakened bindings or distorted shapes.  Use bookends to support partially full shelves of books.
  • Do not store books too tightly on the shelf.  Books pushed together suffer damaged spines and rubbing.  You should be able to easily slip a piece of paper between stored books.
  • Clean books with a feather duster.  Do not use chemicals or household cleaners around books.
Proper care of your treasured collection will ensure lasting value and enjoyment for years to come.