Vintage Advertising Art For Coca-Cola

These two pieces of art by Pete Hawley were used in ads for Coke; they go up for auction at Heritage Auction on September 30, 2011.

PETE HAWLEY (American, 20th Century)
Two Coca-Cola Advertisements
Gouache on board
22.5 x 18 in. (larger)
Not signed

From the Estate of Charles Martignette.

Tintypes, The History Of Photography & Antique Painted Photographic Backgrounds

Have you ever thought about the painted backgrounds in antique and vintage photographs?

No?  Me neither.

Not until I read The Painted Backdrop: Behind the Sitter in American Tintype Photography, by Jim Linderman (with an essay by Kate Bloomquist), that is.

In fact, the story of and between 19th century painters and American photography really has never been told — or, I should say, “hasn’t been explored” until Linderman came along and looked into it via his collection of antique tintype photographs.

If you’re curious now, if you collect antique tintypes, are a collector of photographs and/or cameras, are an artist or have other interest in photographic history, I can’t recommend this book enough.

Technology, commerce, art, and culture collide at a crossroads, supposed “forward progress” exposing values, leaving the role of art and artists themselves as question marks…

My full review of the book is here — and my exclusive interview with the author is here.

Image credits: Jim Linderman

Using Antique Images & Vintage Graphics To Make Things Without Ruining Your Collectibles

If you’re like me and enjoy collecting and have a creative streak, you’ve probably faced the issue of balancing your delight in making things with your collector’s desire to keep the integrity of your antiques and vintage items. While this clash of interests often presents a quandary for all artsy folk who collect, my primary problem persists in the area of vintage graphics.

Kindness Of Strangers Altered Art Piece By Deanna Dahlsad

I love to make collages, make special scrapbook pages, and in general practice the paper altered arts —  but I’m extremely uncomfortable destroying antique books, vintage magazines and other old piece of ephemera. If a book or magazine is so damaged that it’s of no real value; fine, I can render the rest of it useful and beautiful once again with a paper project. But if the work is sound, no matter how filled with lovely images it is, I just can’t do harm. …Yet another part of my soul aches to use what’s right there, in reach. However, this digital age now puts an end to the majority of our concerns via the gift of the scanner.

In most cases, even the most delicate antique books and papers can be safely scanned. Not only does this offer collectors a virtual copy of the works, but, when scanned at a proper size (300 dpi or larger), this gives you a printable file. In just a few minutes you’ve preserved a copy of the image and created one you can now print (as many copies as you’d like) for use in collages, altered art paper projects, scrapbooking, and other projects.

What other projects, you ask? Well, now, thanks to all sorts of printers, gadgets, programs, and papers, you can transform your digital image files into patterns for cross stitch, needlepoint, and other needlework patterns; iron-on transfer papers to images to use on t-shirts, quilt squares, pillows and other fabric projects; LCD projector or DLP projector, opaque projector, and even slide projectors (though the lights often burn out before your project is done, resulting in problems lining up the image again) allow the image to be projected onto walls, canvas, etc. for painting murals and other larger decorating or art pieces — really, the possibilities are only limited by your imagination!

Once you get started, it’s hard to stop! And that’s why you can even buy files with vintage and antique images to download online; Etsy is a great place to look (I’ve just started selling some of my own there). And right now, you can enter Marty’s contest to win 150 pages of antique images from a 1914 New York Department Store catalog too. (Contest ends July 15, 2011.)

If you’re unsure where to start, there’s an online course you can take. While it focuses on paper art collage principals, it will help you get used to a lot of the basics. And there are places like Zazzle which do all the work, placing your images onto everything from posters, apparel and mugs, to greeting cards, iPod cases, and skateboards. You can make stuff just for you and your friends and family (at discounted prices) as well as sell stuff with your images to others. (I do it! This is my Zazzle shops with friends.)

The only note of caution I have is that if you decide to sell anything, you should know your intellectual property or copyright laws; items created for personal use fine.

So start flipping through your antique books, your vintage magazines, your postcards and other paper collectibles, with a creative eye… Who knows what images you can now safely use? It’s like having your cake and eating it too!

Image Credits: My own altered art piece made from antique and vintage images, used in my art collaborative project, Kindness Of Strangers, at Etsy & Zazzle.

Vintage Film Stars Fit Swimmingly Poolside (Silent Film News)

Because I’m rather well connected to Kellerman on the Internet, I was contacted by Nick Bannikoff, a graphic designer in Sydney, Australia, who had recently worked on the refurbished Annette Kellerman Aquatic Centre in Marrickville. The centre is now finished, and Bannikoff was was hoping I could help him find quality images to be used in the creation of a graphic interpreting / explaining Annette Kellerman’s life to be installed at the pool. Naturally, I connected to silent film collector Mary Ann Cade. But I also asked Bannikoff to tell me more about the project. The complete details of the beautiful ceramic tile mosaics featuring Annette Kellerman and Cecil Healy is here.

Antique Dutch Dollhouses Fit For A Czar?

Below is a scan from the December 1923 issue of The Mentor; the page is an article by Vincent Starrett entitled A Doll’s House Built For The Czar Of Russia:

As usual, the discovery of this article about an exquisite eight-foot tall, six feet wide dollhouse leads to something even more fascinating than supposed!

The article tells the story of Peter The Great who “was living in Holland as a young man of twenty-four, working at various jobs to acquaint himself with the arts, commerce, and industry of the Dutch” and “chanced to see one day a tiny model of a seventeenth-century dwelling, and promptly fell in love with it.”

“No matter what the cost,” he declared, “I must have one like it.” But the miniature house and its lovely furnishings were not for sale, and the creator would make none for pay. The artisan’s name was Brandt. He was a successful merchant of Utrecht, who, having amassed a fortune, had retired from business and in his leisure made diminutive houses, furniture, toys, and ornaments for his amusement.

The article continues to say that Brandt’s creations “became the rage.” His hobby of making “exquisite toys” and “houses of Lilliputian dimensions” quickly provided him with a market, and possessing one of his creations “became a passion, and fashion, with collectors.”

The Antiquarium Museum at Utrecht, the old Dutch university town, still treasures one of Brandt’s sumptuously furnished little dwellings, with thumb-nail paintings on the wall by Dutch celebrities. It was probably this very model that so enchanted Czar Peter and stirred his desire to own one like it.

So, the article goes, Brandt graciously offers to make one of the dollhouses for Peter, “a little palace excelling all others in delicacy an ingenuity of workmanship, furnish it appropriately, and equip it with all the necessaries of life in a patrician Dutch household of the times.”

With his own hands he constructed a three-story house of about six feet wide. All of the furniture it contained was made by him. He made the molds, which afterward he destroyed, for the articles of plate and for silver and copper utensils. Regardless of expense, he had suitable carpets manufactured, and ordered chests of table and house linen woven in Flanders. The books that filled the miniature library shelves came from Mayence; each volume had golden clasps and was of a size to be enclosed in a walnut. The hanging chandeliers and services of glass were of Dutch manufacture; in the picture gallery paintings two inches square adorned the walls.

For twenty-five years Brandt labored to create this royal gift. At last he sent word to the Czar that the task was completed. His townsmen protested against such a masterpiece being lost to the country, but the model had been promised to the monarch, and Brandt had expended effort, time, and a small fortune to redeem that promise.

When Peter received Brandt’s message he had just concluded an advantageous peace with Sweden and was turning his attention to conquests in the East. But he had not forgotten the desire he had expressed a quarter of a century before, and he directed that a reply be sent asking what he would have to pay for the possession of the masterpiece. Deeply offended at Peter’s gross tactlessness and disposition to bargain, Brandt replied that even a czar had not money enough to pay for twenty-five years of a man’s life. Forthwith he presented the house to the nation. It is now in Amsterdam in the Royal Museum, none of whose treasures better exemplifies Dutch patience, industry, and love of decoration than the little house that Brandt build for Peter the Great.

That’s where the article ends — but my work begins.

If I thought I could just post this scan from a vintage magazine and, should I be so lucky as to find it, include a link to the czar’s dollhouse at the Royal Museum, I was to discover differently.

Yes, there’s an antique dollhouse at the Rijksmuseum — and it looks to be the same one shown in this articles photo (minus the glass doors on the cabinet — but the furnishings are too specific to be another dollhouse, and the dimensions are about the same), but from there it gets weird…

The museum doesn’t credit the maker of the dollhouse, but it does specify the owner as Petronella Oortman. Oorman was married to a silk merchant named Johannes Brandt — is that were the name Brandt comes from? If so, that might be explained away easily enough, I suppose… But given the strong relationship between Holland and Peter the Great, certainly if this dollhouse — or any dollhouse — had any connections to the czar, the museum would mention it.  …At least I think so.

There’s another fabulous antique dollhouse, this one was owned Petronella de la Court, that sits on display at Utrecht’s Centraal Museum.

I don’t know if this is the other “Brandt” Dutch dollhouse from the “Antiquarium Museum” at Utrecht that Starrett, in The Mentor article, suggests “enchanted Czar Peter” or not, but it certainly is enchanting.

In The Speaker (Volume 11, 1905, Mather & Crowther), Edward Verrall Lucas writes of an antique dollhouse from the same Dutch craft period.  I feel compelled to share a snippet not only because it might just be the de la Court dollhouse and the “Antiquarium,” but for the author’s descriptions.

At the north end of the Maliebaan is the Hoogeland Park, with a fringe of spacious villas that might be in Kensington ; and here is the Antiquarian Museum, notable among its very miscellaneous riches, which resemble the bankrupt stock of a curiosity dealer, for a very elaborate dolls’ house. Its date is 1680, and it represents accurately the home of a wealthy aristocratic doll of that day. Nothing was forgotten by the designer of this miniature palace ; special paintings, very nude, were made for its salon, and the humblest kitchen utensils are not missing. I thought the most interesting rooms the office where the Major Domo sits at his intricate labours, and the store closet The museum has many very valuable treasures, but so many poor pictures and articles—all presents or legacies—that one feels that it must be the rule to accept whatever is offered, without any scrutiny of the horse’s teeth.

(This piece by Lucas, with a stated copyright of 1904, appears to be what he published as a book in 1906, A Wanderer in Holland (Macmillan) — just in case you’d like to read more.)

Starrett never mentioned nudes paintings in the old Dutch dollhouse — but maybe he was less flappable in the Roaring Twenties than Lucas was at the turn of the century. And the commentary on the museum itself is rich — Lucas could be describing a lot of my collection and collection practices! *wink*

But still, the whole point of Starrett’s little story was right there in the article’s title, that the dollhouse shown had been made in Holland for Peter The Great; yet I could find no connection between Peter and Dutch dollhouses whatsoever.

So, I continued to research, like any obsessive would do.

I then found this bit in Dutch And Flemish Furniture, by Esther Singleton (The McClure Company, 1907):

In the Rijks Museum are several models in miniature of old Amsterdam houses. The finest one is of tortoise-shell ornamented with white metal inlay. According to tradition, Christoffel Brandt, Peter the Great’s agent in Amsterdam, had this house made by order of the Czar, and it is said to have cost 20,000 guilders (£2,500), and to have required five years to produce.

There’s that name, “Brandt,” again.

Or maybe not.

Seems the name of the czar’s Netherlands associate was actually Christoffel Brants, aka Christoffel van Brants after Brants was knighted by the czar. And while it seems Peter received actual houses from Brants, there’s still, no mention of houses specifically for dolls.

So, without further documentation, I’m left to conclude that Starrett’s story is just that, a story. (The man did love his stories! Among other things, Starrett collected books and was a Sherlock Holmes scholar.)

Or maybe you’d prefer the terms Singleton uses, “tradition.”

Either way, that would explain a number of things, such as the name Brandt being recalled, even if inaccurately, and the number of years it took to create the dollhouse changing by five-fold.

However, by the 1950s this traditional story of Peter The Great’s Dutch dollhouse has changed a bit with the telling… As most legends do.

In 1958, many American newspapers ran what appears to be a wire story; the uncredited story is exactly the same in each vintage publication. Here’s a copy from Kansas’ Great Bend Daily Tribune (June 22, 1958) — which reads pretty much like copyright infringement case for dear old Starrett (unless he was the one paid by the wire service), except for the first two lines:

Once there was a dollhouse so lovely that the czar of Russia, Peter the Great, wanted it very much. He hadn’t money enough to buy it however, believe it or not!

Cold war press copy conveying the anti-Russian sentiments, perhaps?

Then, in South Dakota’s The Daily Republic, February 19, 1977, the legend of Peter the Great’s Dollhouse gets tweaked again:

Those dollhouses were so expensive that only a few people could afford them. Peter the Great of Russia once ordered a dollhouse but when it was delivered, he refused it. The price was just too much.

The czar may have ordered and owned at least one fine Dutch dollhouse; but I can’t find any proof.

(See, I’m not just obsessive with my research as some sort of personality quirk; it’s necessitated!)

The Stuff Collectors Nightmares Are Made Of

Picture it… A vending machine filled with glassware, china, and porcelain figurines… You insert a coin, a piece of fragile china slowly moves forward — only to fall into the bottom of the machine, breaking.

Calm down — it’s only art!

A set of three interactive sculptural pieces by Yarisal and Kublitz. Called Passive/Aggressive Anger Release Machine, the artists claim that once you deposit the coin and shatter the breakable the experience leaves you “happy and relieved of anger.”

I doubt that it works for collectors of glassware, ceramics, pottery, etc.

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Putting a Price on Priceless

Anyone who has watched even a little television in the last decade will know the popularity of shows where experts help ‘average people’ look through their possessions in the hope of finding something surprisingly valuable. Except, it shouldn’t really be a surprise because nearly everyone, or so you would be forgiven for thinking, has something worth thousands of pounds sitting around in their house.

Whilst this is perhaps not strictly speaking true, most of us do own items of some considerable value, though whether they’d make their way onto an antiques programme is another matter. Even things we may not consider to be all that valuable can be worth a lot of money, so it’s important to keep their protection in mind.

Home insurance is the first line of defence. Home insurance is a blanket term covering two separate types of insurance: buildings insurance (which covers the fabric of your house) and contents insurance (which covers anything which you would take with you if you were to move). Whilst both forms of insurance are extremely important (and they’re often sold together) it is contents insurance that is really vital when it comes to things like antiques.

The trick with contents insurance is to remember that you are looking for value rather than price. The cheapest deal is not going to be the best one if it doesn’t provide the level of coverage that you are looking for.

But what is the right level? All the advice says the right amount of coverage is the sum you would have to pay if you had to buy everything you own again. Except, sometimes you can’t buy things again, because they are unique and antique, or because they have sentimental value.

Unfortunately, sentimental value doesn’t mean too much to insurers, but the unique and the antique does. Make sure you get an independent valuation and, if something is worth a particularly large amount, get it insured separately, you’ll have to pay a touch more for the privilege but you will guarantee that you’re fully covered for everything.

Another tip is to always keep a comprehensive list of everything particularly valuable that you own, along with (if possible) up to date images of each object to vouch for the condition of the objects. This will make it much easier if you ever have to make an insurance claim.

Finally, don’t be put off by all the competition in the market. Finding an insurance policy can be daunting, so use the competition to your advantage and strike a hard bargain, that’s the best way of getting a good deal. Check out comparison websites, specialist insurers, and even for antiques it’s worth taking a look at the odd mainstream insurer like Legal & General (who offer a wide range of home insurance policies), you may be pleasantly surprised.

Image Credits: Maid Cleaning the Silver Ware Photographic Print by Nina Leen; via AllPosters.com.

Celebrating The Wishbone (In Old Illustration)

‘Tis the season for fabulous holiday meals featuring turkey, and this antique illustration shows the longevity of breaking the wishbone.

This illustration, captioned “If Their Wishes Came True,” was scanned from my copy of Caricature: The Wit & Humor of a Nation in Picture, Song & Story (Illustrated by America’s Greatest Artists).

I’ve only a partial cover of my copy of Caricature; but at a mere $6, I’m not disheartened, for it’s full of fabulous art, quips, and stories. It’s like a time capsule, really. And it’s not just me being sentimental.

Near as I can tell (for there’s no copyright or publication date), this antique book contains “the best of” Leslie-Judge Company publications, such as Leslie’s Weekly and Judge Magazine.

This specific illustration showing a couple breaking the wishbone is credited; copyright, Judge, New York, 1915. However as the corner is torn, I cannot make out the artist’s name.  I’m hoping a more experienced illustration collector can tell us more about who the artist was or may have been… Please post a comment if you’ve any information!

DIY Display For Vintage Buttons, Ribbons & Other Sewing Notions Collections

At Design Sponge, Haylie Waring shows us how to make sewing notions displays. Waring’s examples use ribbons and buttons, but this project could also be done with beads, lace, fabric swatches, etc. — as well as jewelry, shoe clips, pinbacks, and other bits and bobs.

Beautiful to look at and, as Waring says, this offers practical organization too:

Due to the lack of space in my studio, I am constantly forgetting what notions I have packed away in my organizer containers that I keep hidden in a storage closet, or up on my highest shelf. When you don’t know what is in those containers, it is hard to know where to begin, and I am often tempted to just go out and buy more supplies. This DIY project is the solution to that problem, and it seconds as art work on my work-space walls.

…Also, I like to tag each board with a number that will match up with the storage container where you keep your coordinating back-stock, so things are easily located.

Included in the step-by-step project instructions are two of her original 8×10 design templates.

EBay’s Comic Book Superhero Auction Event

EBay’s Comic Book Superhero Auction Event event, timed to run alongside the box office premiere of Iron Man 2 starring Robert Downey Jr., runs through Sunday May 9th, 2010.

During this event several rare and collectible comic related items — many never before offered for sale on eBay — will be featured. Along with vintage comic books (single issues and complete runs), the auctions include original art, signed prints, memorabilia, and specially designed artwork such as an Iron Man drawing rendered specifically for this promotional eBay event by comics artist Joe Linsner.

Bidding starts at $0.99 for most items; for items valued over $1,000, the bidding starts at $99.99. All items are available as auctions with free shipping and no reserve.

Display, Protect, & Store Ephemera

What I like about these Lil Davinci Art Cabinets is the fact that each cabinet is a storage container as well as a display piece, holding up to 50 sheets at a time with a spring-loaded pocket.

That means you can store multiple pieces of artwork — and ephemera — in one place, with the one in front on display. The hinged door opens from the front, giving you easy access for rotating what’s seen as well as keeping other pieces within reach.

I’m thinking they’d work wonderfully for protectively displaying vintage magazines!

The art cabinets come in two sizes: The Li’L DaVinci (8.5″W x 11″H) and the Big DaVinci (12″W x 18″H).

New Life For Old Forks

It’s not always easy for me to accept altering antique and vintage items, but sometimes it’s a matter of salvaging things the best you can, breathing new life into them so that they are appreciated once again. When I spotted these vintage fork easels, I had to say I thought it was a beautiful way to display a collection of photographs, ephemera, small art works, etc.

display-old-photos-with-vintage-fork-easels

And given the number of unappreciated and neglected old silverware pieces (individual pieces and entire sets), it’s a great way to recycle not only the materials, but the appreciation and usefulness of old flatware.

vintage-fork-easels-displying-vintage-photographs

As a collector, I would suggest protecting photographs, especially antique and vintage photographs, by sliding them inside those little plastic sleeves first. And displaying little photographs this way not only saves the hassle of finding the right frame size, but allows you to rotate your favorite photographs so that they all get attention. What a lovely display! Even if the stems aren’t ornately decorated, the gleaming silver is elegant.

The seller/creator, WHIMSYlove at Etsy, also suggests using the vintage fork easels to hold individual recipe cards while baking. Clever!

vintage-fork-easel-holding-recipe-card

I’m not sure how easy this is to do — even if you’re the Amazing Kreskin, and you’re used to bending spoons, I imagine the tines are quite a bit more resistant. But thankfully, WHIMSYlove makes them for us *wink*

vintage-fork-easels