In ancient Greece, wreaths made from plants like laurel, ivy, and myrtle were awarded to athletes, soldiers, and royalty. Similar wreaths were designed in gold and silver for the same purposes or for religious functions. This example conveys the language of love.
A plant sacred to the goddess Aphrodite, myrtle was a symbol of love. Greeks wore wreaths made of real myrtle leaves at weddings and banquets.
By the Hellenistic period (300-30 BC), the wreaths were made of gold foil; too fragile to be worn, they were created primarily to be buried with the dead as symbols of life’s victories. The naturalistic myrtle leaves and blossoms on this wreath were cut from thin sheets of gold, exquisitely finished with stamped and incised details, and then wired onto the stems.
Today I came to a realization: I need a golden laurel wreath for my wedding. But where? How? Not real gold such as this, obviously, but something classic: no sequins; something timeless, not gaudy or glitzy. I had such great luck in finding a ceramicist to create a custom wedding topper (more on that later: thanks, Robin!) that I’m putting it out to the universe once again. Recommendations? Lay ‘em on me.
How amazing is this peacock? Composed by a tinsmith around 1900, this elaborate piece of artwork was actually meant as a tenth anniversary gift — the “tin” anniversary, as it were. (Now it’s the diamond anniversary, naturally.)
There’s nothing like a well-designed business card to give you a little flair. However, these cards go far beyond some cute fonts. In the late ’70s and ’80s, Chicago gang members carried and distributed these business cards to function as a calling card for each neighborhood. The iconography and gang symbols are both entertaining (“Compliments of Insane Lady Vigilantes,” nicknames like Stubby, Snake, Outlaw) and a little uncomfortable. Ultimately, there was violence behind much of the cocky imagery, and that has to be remembered.
The word “whiskey” comes from a Gaelic word meaning “water of life,” and in its early stages, whiskey literally breathes — or exhales, anyway. If you visit a distillery and look carefully, you’ll see that some of the outside walls and even the nearby trees are covered with thick black mold, the result of whiskey vapor escaping from the casks — what distillers call the “angels’ share.” If the stuff does that to trees, what does it do to your insides?
I’m a big fan of the history of exploration, especially that of the North and South Poles — the only untouched tundra left to be discovered in the last century. In fact, explorer Ernest Shackleton and his crew of hard-drinking dudes ventured to be the first to the South Pole in the Nimrod expedition of 1907. Aided by a few ponies (which were sadly eaten, as ponies aren’t really fit to drag sleds) and many crates of brandy and whiskey, the team made it within 100 miles of their goal before turning back due to starvation. (That’s them above, in fact. Can you believe those grizzled men are only in their twenties and thirties?!) In their hurry to return home and regain their health, they abandoned the crates of alcohol they’d buried beneath a hut along the way, which were (theoretically) being saved for their victory party.
In February 2007, workers attempting to restore Shackleton’s hut (which had been left in a state of abandonment for nearly seventy years before becoming a landmark) accidentally came across three cases of Scotch — “Rare old Highland malt whisky, blended and bottled by Chas. Mackinlay & Co.” — frozen in the permafrost. And miraculously, it was still good! It was assumed that 19th-century whisky taken to the Antarctic would be smoky, medicinal-seeming stuff, but it’s described as an elegant and delicious treat, tasting of “crushed apples, peaches, hints of cinnamon, toffee, caramel, notes of sherry wood.” And no peat taste. Since that’s my one complaint about Scotch, I’m very intrigued!
Now they’re planning on selling replicas of the storied Scotch for $160 a bottle. I want a taste!
What’s that foolish old adage: “Boys don’t make passes at girls that wear glasses”? I don’t think that’s the case, if these stylish ladies are any indication. The hunt for new glasses is most decidedly on!
I went to a sleepaway camp or two when I was a kid, mostly through Girl Scouts. However, we never stayed away from home for long — three days at the most. We’d make lanyards, canoe and flip ourselves on a rope swing over a pond. It was always fun, but I can’t help envying those who got the “real camp” experience, going away for weeks or months at a time. (Have I mentioned that I’ve watched Wet Hot American Summer about 100 times? Because I have.)
I’m pretty fascinated by Virginia Slims’ advertising campaign of the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s: “You’ve come a long way, baby.” I’ve seen enough episodes of Mad Men to realize that any feminist leanings of the ad agencies (or cigarette companies) was probably a farce, but I can get down with their message. Utilizing flappers, suffragettes and independent, Afro-wearing ladies as inspiration is just fine in my book, and if the cigarette in question is “tailored for the feminine hand” — well, yeah, that’s a little weird, but I’ll go with it.
Now the television commercials: that’s another level of amazing. The first is from Japan, the second a relic from 1967. It’s so strange to conceive of a time when cigarette ads were on tv!
I think I could live with any paint color on my walls if it was peeling (even cream or mustard yellow, and that’s saying a lot for me). Decay means that a building has been aged like a wizened, stinky cheese — my favorite. Here’s to rooms that show their years.
As a cornfed Midwestern girl, I wasn’t aware of stoner culture until I went to college. I saw the drum circles, white boy dreads and the lazy games of hacky sack and quickly turned my back, never realizing that I was passing up some excellent incense and the wonder of Dr. Bronner’s. However, I did manage to pick up on the slow drawl of the Californians I met. I was intrigued. I chalked it up to a laid-back “California vibe” that I’ve since applied to all those I meet from the sunny state. Granted, I’ve spent a very limited time in California — one long weekend in Los Angeles, studded with brunch binging and drunken stumbling into fragrant shrubbery — but even before that hazy vacation there was a casual appeal in wearing Birkenstocks to the farmer’s market, eating cilantro and owning a tapestry vest.
So, long story short, I am so into the Humboldt Honey look. Chelsea of Cat Party recently unearthed this Humboldt County, California relic (a stoner mecca, so I hear) from her parents’ house. The captions of this poster are just — well, detailed doesn’t even begin to describe it. Porcupine earrings? Co-op button? Sign me up! I’m not so much into the Grateful Dead stickers, but as a late in life quasi-hippie adopter, I’m glad I can finally appreciate the finer, more adult aspects of the lifestyle (read: Volvos, the town of Woodstock, yoga, natural food co-ops and dyed tent dresses). Now let’s find some of those earrings, shall we?
Somehow, I’ve still yet to visit Dead Horse Bay. The area has been used as a facility to manufacture fertilizer from the remains of dead animals (that’s where the Dead Horse comes from), at one point produced fish oil from menhaden caught in the bay, and served as a landfill for New York City’s garbage. Such history! Getting some grime under my fingernails and digging up 100-year-old sunken bottles is my idea of a fantasy weekend.
“Convict love tokens, typically made of smoothed down coins and engraved or stippled with a message, provide a poignant, personal insight into the transportation system, as well as its transnational character. Also known as ‘leaden hearts’, the tokens stem from traditional sailors’ farewells. Convict tokens were made for the whole of the Transportation period in New South Wales and Tasmania, with the majority produced during the 1820s and 1830s. As objects purposely made by or for convicts to give as mementoes, to be left behind when the prisoner was transported, the tokens are a unique part of the record of a convict’s transportation experience.”
I’ve always coveted an elaborate dollhouse. Filling its rooms with miniature decorations would not only be a hobby, but a pleasure. The intricate interiors of D.C. librarian Faith Bradford’s 23-room dollhouse are enough to make me sweat a little. This artifact has lived at the Smithsonian Museum of National History for the last sixty years, and it (as well as its eccentric creator) is now the subject of a book written by famed curator and all around cool guy William L. Bird. The synopsis:
“On the museum’s third floor sits a five-story dollhouse donated to the museum by Faith Bradford, a Washington D.C. librarian, who spent more than a half-century accumulating and constructing the 1,354 miniatures that fill its 23 intricately detailed rooms. When Bradford donated them to the museum in 1951, she wrote a lengthy manuscript describing the lives of its residents: Mr. and Mrs. Peter Doll and their ten children, two visiting grandparents, twenty pets, and household staff. Bradford cataloged the Dolls’ tastes, habits, and preferences in neatly typed household inventories, which she then bound, along with photographs and fabric samples, in a scrapbook. She even sent museum curators holiday cards written by the Dolls.”
…You’ve were one lucky little girl! This enormous dollhouse was loved, I’m sure — I wish the furniture was still in it for more effective decorating and arranging. Gloriously faded and used, this handmade miniature was tagged years ago in childlike all-caps with “NANCY ALLEN.” What I would do with a dollhouse, god only knows, but that doesn’t stop me from wanting one as an adult! Available at 1st Dibs.
Today we launched a new and exciting collaborative project / series (fingers crossed!) on the Etsy Blog (you know, my other blog). It’s called Saved From the Fire, and the concept is simple: The house is ablaze. Everyone has made it outside, and you have precious minutes to grab your most prized possession and escape to safety.
What would you save?
Once you’ve established your answer to this personal and philosophical query, take a photo of said object, compose a short paragraph on its significance and submit it to the Saved From the Fire Flickr pool. We’ll be choosing stories from this pool to share on the Etsy Blog, but first — we need some stories and photos to share. That’s where you come in. Please help us to spread the word about this project by commandeering a blimp, putting a message in a bottle, or any other communication method of your choosing. We ain’t picky!
It was traditional in some ancient Plains Indian cultures for women to render geometric patterns and men, pictographic design. Historically, a robe was worn with the head to the left when it was wrapped around the body, and the painting would be displayed on the outside with the fur next to the body for warmth.
Scenes from the early days of atomic testing, available due to the tenacity and efforts of early bomb documentarians. These photos are awe inspiring in its power, but just the thought of it all makes the hair on my arms stand on end. Those folks in the last photos are VIPs watching the damage unfold like some majestic big screen movie. It boggles the mind. See all of the photos here.
Folk art appeals to me on so many levels: aesthetic, conceptual, gut. I appreciate the earnest artwork of the untrained, the insane, the imprisoned, so much more than those who learned their skills from a higher institution. I obsess over chipped, wonky pieces of yard art and untrained painters’ landscapes. There’s a lot to be said for creating work for yourself alone.
So, on that note, I hope you weren’t freaked out by the falsetto singing of a doll (you know I love that stuff). This video, narrated by one of folk artist Calvin Black’s “actresses,” shows a panoramic scene of Possum Trot and the “Bird Cage Theater.” Located in the bleak Mojave Desert, Black spent his life creating this installation, including more than 80 life-size female dolls, each with its own personality, function, and costume. Each of the dolls perform and “sing” in voices recorded by the artist. Was this carnival ever intentioned for the public? I’m not sure. I wish it still existed, nonetheless. Can you even imagine coming upon this?
Watch the short documentary on Calvin Black and Possum Trot in its entirety on Folkstreams.
Holy realism! This spectacular life mask, eyelashes and all, was created by folk artist Linwood P. Law (seriously, going in my future cat name file) of Buffalo, New York in 1935. Apparently little is known about the man behind the mask, but he did leave behind a very coveted body of sculpture. Learn more at Anonymous Works.
I had no idea that reliquaries could be this fully-formed! I’m familiar with a fingertip here, a stone heart there, but this is like a fossilized queen. This Belgian bust is circa the 17th Century and housed at the Stedelijk Museum.
My name is Alison and this is where I obsess // muse // and drop all of the curious, obsolete, eccentric and otherwise noteworthy things I come across on the weird, wide expanse that is the Internet. Also, cute cat posts.