Antique World and Flea Market

Antique World sign
Last month Anson and I visited the Antique World and Flea Market in Clarence, New York. This well established picking destination is composed of multiple group shops, storage unit stalls, and a sprawling flea market every Sunday year round. Clarence is a short drive over the US border (crossing at Niagara Falls), so we figured it would be a great destination on a beautiful summer weekend.

The first thing I learned during my visit is to ARRIVE EARLY. We woke up a little late, but we only stopped at the border and for the obligatory road trip Egg McMuffin, and arrived around 11:00am. I felt we made good time but it was obvious we were still late for the flea market. Many of the tables were packing up, and empty spots were evidence that some had already left. I spoke to a dealer who told me that in the summer the action starts at 7am if not before, and that the first few hours are swarmed with buyers. He suggested I arrive no later than 7:30 for a good selection. Fair enough. Any show is the same – early bird gets the worm.

Antique World flea market

It didn’t help matters that this was also shaping up to be one of the hottest days of the year! As it got close to noon it became almost unbearable in the full sun. We found what was left of the flea market pretty uninteresting but there were enough almost promising things that I think you could find some treasures if you came early. I did see a fair selection of toys, housewares, old postcards, jewellery, and collectibles like baseball cards. Nothing really for us, though, so we moved to the adjacent Co-op buildings.

The Co-op buildings have storage units along the exterior walls. These rectangular, windowless units are rented as selling spaces or storage. It’s a pretty good idea because sellers don’t have the hassle of packing up when it’s time to leave. The downside is that if it’s a ridiculously hot day you are confined inside a small, airless tomb. Thankfully, within five minutes of looking I saw something – Vernonware in Tam O’Shanter pattern! A whole pile of it! AND it was on sale. I was able to pick up all the following pieces (with egg cup!) for around $40. I usually buy my vintage Vernonware online and shipping is a huge extra cost. You can pay, like, $10 for the piece and $25 for shipping to Canada. I felt like the trip was already worth it as I put my first purchase in the car.

Vernonware Tam O'Shanter dishes

I literally squealed with delight when I saw this on the bottom of a dusty shelf

The few storage booths that were open had a decent assortment of stuff, as long as you weren’t looking for very old antiques. There were a lot of vintage housewares and decorative items. Used books and clothing. A few guys had a “man cave” (the term really fits when it’s a dark tunnel full of neon beer signs). Other booths had new home items like scented candles and tole painted “Bless this Mess” signs. In one booth that had largely automotive items I found a set of 1970s glasses featuring Archie comics characters. I love Archie comics as much as Jughead loves hamburgers so the glasses were the next things to come home with me.

One of the storage units

China, glass & housewares in one of the storage booths

It was time to hit the buildings. The buildings at Antique World are probably where you will find the higher end stock, and the quality (and price) varies for each building. The Expo Center is good for vintage and less expensive items. One large area is set up in traditional booths, and the other large area has rows of display cases. This building had lots of items in the $20 – $100 range. I saw great vintage Sci-fi paperback novels, sports cards, kitchenware, small furniture, and comic books.  I also finally found a classic McCoy “Arcature” planter with bird, and Vernonware tumblers!

Comic books for sale

Vintage Business pens

Anson is a big fan of vintage business pens. At $1 each, they were an easy buy!

Booth
Cabin Ashtray

We walked across the giant parking lot to the Indoor Flea Market building next. This building has, as the name implies, a hodge podge of different items. There was furniture in every style from Victorian, to turn of the century farmhouse, to 1980s bamboo. Smalls like textiles, kitchenware, holiday decorations, and toys were common. One dealer had a large selection of records and musical paraphernalia. I found a few items, including a vintage tea towel featuring a Caribbean theme with original tags. If there is one thing I love, it’s a tea towel that brings the fiesta to the kitchen.

Booths

Vintage Kitchenware

Christmas decorations

How adorable are these little houses? I was tempted to buy them all.

The third building we visited was Uncle Sam’s Antique Co-op. This is a great mid range building with some surprises for the collector. One booth featured the best selection of vintage linens I’ve seen for a long time. Another had a terrific assortment of 1950s/60s Jadeite kitchenware. I saw vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations (picked up some Shiny Brites for $2 – $3 each), old Barbie dolls, lamps and even large pieces of furniture. Uncle Sam’s hit the sweet spot for my taste and budget. It felt like the dealers set up here had well-developed stock in their areas.

Vintage Halloween decorations

Jadeite

Shiny Brites

The last buildings we visited were 3 Old Dogs Antiques, and The Premier Antique Center. 3 Dogs had good quality primitive furniture, antique train sets, folk art and some nicely framed artwork and advertising. It is a very nice shop with good antiques. The Premier Antique Center is a group shop that had a likewise high class of antique. This large shop had chandeliers, fine furniture, and display cases with delicate porcelain – everything you think of when you think classic antique shop. It was nice to browse but we didn’t buy anything.

booth

Finally, after five hours, it was time to call it a day and go home. There were buildings we didn’t even have time to visit! I will say this for Antique World, it’s big. It seems hard to believe anyone couldn’t find at least something to buy. Between the deals at the flea market, to the mid range booths and high-end shops, there’s something for everyone.

If you plan to go, remember to get there early if you want to see the flea market. The flea market operates every Sunday year round, with extra large (and popular) flea markets the 1st Sunday of the month from May to October. The buildings are open every day of the week except Wednesday. 

It’s bragging time! Check out the haul from our first trip to Antique World:

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Vernonware tumblers - Homespun Pattern

Vintage Caribbean tea towel

Hola!

Vintage Aluminum Tumblers

“Royal Sealy” aluminum tumblers in nearly new condition? Yes please!

Vintage tea towel

Finally a tea towel for all the Irish Jockey enthusiasts

McCoy 3 Lily planter

Classic vintage McCoy planter in the Three Lily design

Vintage McCoy – Yellow Planters

Happy Easter and Happy Spring! I love this time of year so I thought I’d share some of my cheerful Spring coloured vintage McCoy pottery. You may recall I already enthralled you with tales of my green planters and jardiniere. Well, now it’s time to introduce the yellow planters. Let’s get crazy with some vintage cuteness shall we? Check out this little guy:

McCoy Duck PlanterI originally intended to write this post with an Easter theme, and I think this adorable duck would have fit the bill perfectly (Oh that’s right. Pun intended). He’s not a bunny, but this duck’s baby animal quality, mixed with the egg and jaunty “Sunday best” ribbon just seem Easter themed to me. This planter was produced by McCoy in many colours over the 1940s. Many of the varieties had painted details on the face and ribbon, but I think my version was always just in one solid paint. It’s a charming little piece (around 7″ long) and still easily found in the $10 – $25 dollar range depending on condition.

On my birthday last week I was also the happy recipient of two more lovely yellow pieces. Here they are artistically photographed with a tulip:

Yellow McCoy PlantersThese beauties are classic planters in what is often referred to as the “tufted” or “quilt” pattern. They are from the 1940s / 1950s. I love these planters not only because they are attractive, but because they have attached bottoms for easy use (I promise I’ll put plants in them one day). One is two thirds the size of the other and I really like how the different sizes display as well.

I must mention that I had every intention of photographing my McCoy pottery out in the garden for a seasonal motif, but apparently Toronto weather did not get the memo about Spring. It’s literally below freezing and snowing today. Another photo shoot on the kitchen table it is then! At least I have a beautiful assortment of tulips to brighten a dreary day:

Tulips

Pretty. If you live in a place where Spring exists I envy you. For now I will just have to enjoy my sunny yellow planters and pretend. If you’re looking for more general information regarding McCoy Pottery, check out my earlier posts and another resource I found at VintageMcCoyPottery.com. There are so many types of McCoy pottery planters, and at so many prices, that they really are a fantastic way to bring vintage cheer into any home.

Yellow McCoy Planters

Vintage “Easy Steps To Successful Decorating” Book

Yesterday I visited a favorite nearby thrift store. Past trips have yielded a lovely French vintage tea towel and a nice green McCoy pottery planter. This time my eye spied a decorating book with a tattered but intriguing cover. For a laugh I picked it up. After one minute of flipping pages I went from “this is a crazy thing” to “I MUST OWN THIS”.

The book is “Easy Steps to Successful Decorating” by Barbara Taylor Bradford. Yes, the best selling novelist Barbara Taylor Bradford, of A Woman of Substance fame. Before she wrote The Emma Harte Saga she was apparently an expert on interior design. She is quite lovely and well composed on the cover as you can see:

"Easy Steps to Successful Decorating" book cover (1971)

Nothing says “trust me to drape your room in fabric” like the old hand on chin pose. The book was published in 1971 and while that misses the clean looks of mid century modern, it does fit exactly into the swinging, psychedelic remnants of the late 1960s. There was just so much going on in design during this time. Nothing was too much and everything could be paisley.

If you dream of living like Austin Powers I cannot express how much you need to own this book. It is full of  practical advice on everything from choosing floor coverings, to wallpapers, to room plans that help you place your glass coffee tables and giant wicker chairs. There are numerous black and white, as well as full (and I mean FULL) colour photographs. Ms Bradford writes well (as you would expect from her success) and true to the book’s byline she explains all the details to achieve similar looks.

Let’s take a gander at some of the photographs shall we? If you feel like tripping out at any point just look away from your monitor until you calm down.

Yellow and White wallpapered Bedroom 1971

This is a bedroom. For sleeping. If you manage to even find your bed you will be in a position to stare up at the odd concentric rectangles. Sweet dreams!

White carpeted 1971 Kitchen

This is how I know people did drugs in the 60s – they put carpeting in the kitchen. Carpeting that looked like ferns. Grab a bowl of fruit from your tiny round island that features and even tinier round sink. Water your many plants. Can you possibly fit more lattice work into your ceiling?

Groovy Living Room with stripes (1971)

The sofa in this photograph is easy prey for stronger furniture. It must blend into its surroundings to survive. It distracts you from itself with zebra print pillows and short tables that are hard to reach from a seated position.

Green and Orange Retro Living Room (1971)

I think this is a living room but it also has a dining room feel. Lots of seating options (none of them comfortable). I am actually quite enamored with that cheetah statue, and the combination of green, gold and brown reminds me of my Vernonware dishes.

Far out Vintage Living room with tented ceiling (1971)

I get a Roman Emporer by way of Liberace vibe from this room and it is MAGNIFICENT. Everything in this room is crazy. There is no sane. Sanity cannot exist in the space that uses tenting as wall cover.

By this point I hope some of you are saying  “but what about the children?” Oh don’t worry. The kids were not left out of the design ideas. They have their own section of the book which features amazing examples like this:

1971 Child's bedroom

Imagine if your child was hyperactive before they went into their room to play.

"Teenage Haven" Bedroom from 1971

This is described as a “teenage haven”. It is not an adult film set. Do not be fooled by the sunken living room area or the fake chinchilla bed spreads. Is that an ash tray on the table? Yeah. Nothing inappropriate will happen here.

So there is a lot more to this book but you get the idea. It’s choke full of the crazy, or the retro vintage goodness (depending on your tastes). While I may not typically go for the geometric, eye confusing prints of 40 years ago, I will say that some of them beat the heck out of beige. And I will be keeping an eye out for one of those large plaster cheetahs. That cat would look so groovy in my living room.

Vintage Vernonware on “Rules of Engagement”

Holiday preparations are in full swing, and I’m off to sunny Orlando this week, so I’m going to make it quick and share a little something I found on TV. I was watching a rerun of the TV show “Rules of Engagement” (don’t judge me) and what should I see?

Vernonware on Rules of Engagement

Vintage Vernonware! A kitchen cupboard’s worth! It’s one of the plaids, and it looks like the pattern is probably “Organdie”. Organdie was designed by artist Gale Turnbull. It was the first plaid Vernonware and the other plaids (including my patterns Tam O’Shanter and Gingham) were inspired by this original design. The Organdie pattern was produced between 1937 and 1958.

The funny thing, at least for a nerd like me, was that the plot of this episode revolved around a burglary. The apartment pictured above was broken into, but the thieves didn’t take anything because there was nothing “worth taking”. Ha ha. Joke’s on those imaginary burglars who didn’t realize that if they carefully boxed up that dinnerware and sold it on eBay, they could have made a cool 200 bucks. 300 on a good day. Sitcom burglars never want to put in the effort.

Here’s another look at the Vernonware. They don’t have a lot, but the pieces they have are quite nice. I especially admire the salad bowls (upper right) and tall tumblers (mid left). I’ve been trying to find those in my pattern and they’re rare.

Vernonware on Rules of Engagement

I’d like to think that at some point the set decorator who compiled these dishes will find my blog. If they do I just want to say hey, good job. Those are some nice dishes. (I’m pretty sure that this article will forever be the only google hit for “Vernonware Rules of Engagement”. I’m going to write niche niche blogs and make my millions!).

In the real world I also made a Vernonware discovery. I bought four bread plates and one small gravy boat in the Gingham pattern from a dealer on eBay. I got the pieces for really low prices – less than $5 for everything – but I had to pay $25 for shipping from California. I still think it was worth it. All the pieces were in excellent condition and my little gravy boat is really cute:

Gingham Vernonware Gravy Goat

Vernonware Plaid Gravy Boat

Another small but lovely piece has joined my collection! Now if only I had some gravy.

Antique Gifts for the Holidays

It is officially the holiday season! It’s a happy time of year but along with the parties, decorating, and general merriment you also have to sit down and think about gift choices. We all want to give those closest to us something that they will remember and appreciate long after the big day. What to get that is special, personal, and meaningful? Think outside the mall and think antiques! 

Antiques are unique and they make a big impression. They offer you a wide range of gifts that can really connect to a person’s interests, history and lifestyle. I’ve been clicking around Collectivator, and I’ve come up with some ideas based on items for sale right now. I’ve tried to match the antiques with interests, but I am not implying rigid rules. My aim is not to say “only a crafter would like a hooked rug” but to show how different interests can be cultivated and complimented by antiques. If you wish to learn more, each photograph is linked to that item’s listing on Collectivator.

Ideas for Buying Antique Gifts:

The Outdoorsman or Woman – Try incorporating function and history with an item like an antique decoy. Decoys may have been used by hunters but they also have artistic merit. Other good gifts would be antique snowshoes (nice displayed on a wall), landscape artwork, or any twig furniture. Anglers will find a wealth of items as well including beautiful antique wicker creels, reels, and even lures. Don’t forget that there is a lot of folk art, fine art and advertising that is also dedicated to nature and sportsmanship. All these items bring a bit of the outdoors inside in a unique and unexpected way.

Crafters might likewise enjoy an antique that reflects the history of their interests. In the past, activities like sewing and quilting gave people an outlet for their creative expression. Their work was necessary but it was also a source of pride and joy. Antique textiles come in a variety of prices and pedigrees, but all share a history that modern day crafters would appreciate. Good gifts include hooked rugs (lovely either used on the floor or hung on a wall as a piece of art), quilts, linens and needlework samplers. I also found a great folk art sewing plaque that served to hold thread and other sewing supplies. It would look fantastic on the wall of a craft room.

Entertainers – No, I don’t mean they put on shows (although that would be fun), I mean people who host gatherings with friends and family at their homes. For a person in this category, anything that is decorative but also useful would be appropriate. Decanter and glass sets are gorgeous sitting on display or filled with fine drinks. Dining accessories like antique table cloths, dishes, candle sticks and silver serving ware compliment any great meal. Even not so useful items like hand made wooden butter molds would look good in a chef’s kitchen and serve as a conversation piece about culinary history. Who knows? You might introduce your favourite party host to a new collection!

Amberina Liqueur Set

Anyone – There are some antiques you can give to pretty much anyone. Clocks and mirrors are good, because they are always needed and can compliment so many styles of decor. Small furniture like wall boxes, side tables, plant stands and decorative shelves can easily find a welcoming home. Artwork can be tricky (especially large pieces) but work that ties into some aspect of the person’s interests or background can be exceptional. Personally, I would love to receive a good piece of Canadian folk art on any occasion!

So those are just a few ideas to help in your gift search this year. Remember that when you get tired of the mall, you can find fantastic antiques online. Shop in the comfort of your own home and support small business! If you want to read even more of my ramblings about why antiques are great, you can check out “Antiques are Good Value for Money” and “Antiques are Green“. Around this time last year I also wrote about using Antiques as Holiday Decorations. If you have given or received any antiques that really made an impression please share in the comments. Good gift ideas are always appreciated 🙂

Happy shopping and enjoy the holiday season!

Vintage McCoy – “Spring Wood” Jardiniere and Pedestal

I wrote about vintage McCoy pottery before, specifically my lovely green planters. Today I would like to introduce the largest piece in my collection. Take a gander at my pink Jardiniere and metal pedestal from the “Spring Wood” line:

McCoy Jardiniere and stand

Isn’t she a beaut? Skinny legs and all. Jardinieres are large decorative planters (the word comes from the French jardiniére which is the feminine form of “gardener”). McCoy made different jardinieres over the years and many came on pottery or metal stands. Finding a jardiniere with matching pedestal is quite the feat for collectors, so I’m lucky to have found one with both “jard and ped”.

The “Spring Wood” design was first produced in 1961. It was made in pink, white and mint green with hand painted dogwood flower motif and a satin glaze. The design proved popular and was also used on smaller planters and vases. I love this set’s vintage look. The legs in particular, with their slightly “space age” satellite configuration, are classic mid-century modern.

My Jardiniere is in great condition with only one small mark. There is a slight indentation from when the pottery was made on the upper right corner of the design. It’s a minor flaw and otherwise the pot is without cracks, chips or crazing. The pot measures around 9″ wide and 7″ tall. She’s a good solid planter used every day to house my money tree.

McCoy jardiniere and stand

Amazingly, the money tree is still alive!

Spring Wood Jardiniere and Pedestal

McCoy Jardiniere and stand

I bought this set in an antique store in Quebec City about 10 years ago. When I bought it my boyfriend and I didn’t have a lot of extra money, so I know I would not have paid a huge amount (maybe $80?) I can’t remember, but I know the price was on the line between “that’s a lot of money for something I don’t need” and “if I don’t get this now I will always regret it”. I think every collector faces this dilemma from time to time! To sweeten my deal, the price also included a smaller rectangular planter from the same line. How could I resist?

McCoy "Spring Wood" planter

The matching planter

My jardiniere and stand has given me 10 years of stylish keeping-plants-off-the-floor service, and it will always be a favourite piece in my vintage McCoy pottery collection 🙂

Thinking of collecting McCoy? Check out the McCoy Pottery Collectors Society for great info including production dates and photographs of popular lines.

Why I buy Antiques – Antiques are Green

Last time I wrote about the financial benefits of buying antiques, and today I would like to expand my argument with the positive environmental impact of buying old (or reclaimed) items. There has actually been quite a bit of discussion on this topic already, and for good reason. Being “green” or eco-friendly, is really cool right now. There are lovely shops opening in many major cities that specialize in organic, fair traded and sustainable products. People are looking at the true cost of their purchases, and using their money to try to make a difference for the future. Is it any wonder that the antiques industry wants to remind people that the first “environmentally friendly” business on their main street probably sold antiques?

Antiques are, by basic definition, a prime example of recycling. Pieces of furniture, housewares, even clothes, get used by more than one person (or family) over a period of hundreds of years. Each time the item changes ownership, it is used again and often for its original purpose. Use naturally causes wear and tear, but unlike many new purchases, antiques are lovingly restored and repaired. If the 150 year old dining chair develops a loose leg, you don’t throw it out. You take it to an antiques specialist who can repair the chair, or you repair it yourself. Just because something is old, or in need of TLC, is no reason to add it to the growing landfills. In fact, the thrifty nature of antique ownership is something many look at with pride. We reduce the cycle of consuming and disposing by holding on to our items for so long. If it’s special enough, we might even leave the items in our will so future generations can enjoy them!

Of course, not all antiques make the journey through time intact. Some are no longer useful in their original form, and this is where repurposing (or reusing) antiques is a great idea. Remember when you were learning about the three “R”s in school, they showed you how to reuse a milk carton to make a bird feeder? Well, many industrious antique dealers and enthusiasts do this all the time. They take reclaimed hardwood from a destroyed building, for instance, and construct a kitchen island. Or find an old door and attach legs to make a table. Reusing antiques can be a simple as repurposing Mason jars into vases! There is really an amazing assortment of ideas out there to give you inspiration. Many people find new and inventive ways to use old things. Because damaged or incomplete antiques are often a deal, you are sometimes only limited by your imagination.

Now, no argument is without its thoughtful critics. Some have questioned if antiques are really green as the travel to find and sell antiques causes its own carbon footprint. I think shows like “American Pickers” kind of illustrates the idea of travelling many miles to find an item and then schlepping it back – often burning lots of gas in the process. In my experience, however, the carbon footprint of the average “picker” is pretty small. In my family my parents drove about 10 hours to Quebec to find stock. My parents had a giant Bell truck and we would pack full to the roof before we turned around for home. My parents were very conscious of the added cost of travel to their business and each trip had to be efficient. Quebec was pretty much the farthest they travelled, and as the years passed they moved to more Ontario and locally sourced stock. They generally sell locally as well in their shop, or online through Collectivator where shipping through the mail is still an efficient use of resources. Antiques are a business that requires watching every penny and maximizing all returns. You don’t go for joyrides and burn gas for no reason. I think if you compare the journey of an antique to the huge, world spanning travel of millions of “flat pack” new items you will find that antiques are still the environmental choice. Especially if you consider that once that antique does find its new owner, its life expectancy is often much longer than poorly made new alternatives.

In the end, I think antiques are really an embodiment of all three “R”s. They reduce the need to purchase new items by being built to last for many years. They can be reused in new and creative ways when their original purpose is over, taking advantage of their high quality materials. And they are recycled over and over again, providing utility, beauty and historical interest to each successive owner. Next time you need something new, be green and buy something old!

For more information on Antiques & the environment check out Antiques are Green by John Fiske, as well as the Antiques are Green campaign.

Vintage Vernonware – “Gingham” and “Tam O’Shanter” Dishes

I last wrote about why antiques and vintage are good value for your money, and today I would like to introduce my extremely durable and lovely plaid Vernonware dishes. These beauties are hand painted heavy pottery, American made, and dishwasher friendly. Although they are around 60 years old, they are still used every day in our house and they are our only set of dishes. I have never cracked or broken one, and they have a fantastic cheerful vintage style. How’s that for great bang for your buck?

Vernonware was a popular pottery line produced by the Vernon Kilns company from Vernon, California in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s. Over the years the Vernonware line included a variety of designs including solids, plaids, and florals. Vernon Kilns went out of business in 1958 and its molds and patterns were acquired by Metlox Pottery. Metlox produced some of the Vernon Kilns patterns as well as new patterns under a “Vernonware by Metlox” mark until Metlox went out of business in the 1970s.

Between 1937 – 1958, Vernon Kilns produced six lines of plaid dinnerware. The original pattern, “Organdie” was designed by artist Gale Turnbull and the other patterns were inspired by his original design. I collect two of these subsequent designs – “Gingham” and the very similar “Tam O’Shanter”. You can see the difference in these patterns, as well as their individual marks, below:

“Gingham” design on left, “Tam O’Shanter” on right

Vernonware “Gingham” mark

Vernonware “Tam O’Shanter” mark

I found a quote from a vintage advertisement that enthusiastically called the Tam O’Shanter design “fresh as Highland Heather …and warm as a Scottish brogue!” Who wouldn’t want dishes that charming serving up their cornflakes in the morning?

The “Tam O’Shanter” design in all its Scottish majesty.

Vernonware was advertised as durable and versatile. They boasted a 25 year warranty against fading or cracking. They even suggested you could bake your meal directly in their dishes – taking dinner from oven to table in one step. I’ve never baked using my Vernonware dishes (nor do I use them in the microwave). ** UPDATE** : One reader did warn that her Vernonware plate did not survive her toaster oven. Use caution with oven heat! Also, for about two years I put my Vernonware in the dishwasher and thought they were fully dishwasher safe. HOWEVER, I recently noticed that the glaze on some of my pieces is getting a bit dull. Thankfully the damage is minimal but I now hand wash my Vernonware. The little extra time and effort to hand wash will keep any vintage dishes looking shiny and new.

This vintage ad suggests you can fill a giant serving cup with chunky stew. Yum? Image from The Vernon Kilns’ Plaid Dinnerware Website

My generous and stylish mom got me started on these dishes years ago when I was in University. She began by buying a few pieces here and there off eBay. A few pieces turned into a few more, and soon we were delighted to see we had a full set of the plates and bowls. Eventually we were able to add cups, saucers, bread and butter plates and a few platters to the mix. I’m still adding to the collection, and finding new and unusual pieces is a big part of the fun. My dishes are a growing collection and a continuous source of  joy for me. I know that sounds crazy but it’s true! Often the best place to inject a little beauty is in those “mundane” items you use everyday.

Cupboard full of vintage Vernonware

Much like my vintage McCoy planters, vintage plaid Vernonware is a great thing to collect on a budget. The individual pieces can range from around $5 for a small plate to $50 or more for an unusual serving dish or coffee carafe.  I would suggest that if you decide to collect Vernonware, you should snap up the really funky dishes when you see them. Regular shapes like the plates and bowls are somewhat common, but you can wait a long time before you see that two tiered cake stand again. As with many lovely vintage items, Vernonware rewards the vigilant and patient collector.

The plaid stripes and the rims were hand painted.

Pretty, cheerful, full of mid-century modern charm, durable, versatile and high quality. Is there anything my vintage Vernonware can’t do? If you’re interested in adding some of these lovely pieces to your home, start by seeing what’s available on eBay and keeping an eye out at your local antique, vintage and second-hand shops. You can also find some good information online, including the following websites:

The Vernon Kilns’ Plaid Dinnerware Website

Vernonware FAQ

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Antiques in the Garden – Part 2

Wow. Over three weeks have gone by since my last post! One of the reasons I haven’t posted about antiques in the garden is because I’ve been too busy spending time planting in my garden. That’s ironic or something. Check out my first peony of the season. This was taken a week ago and the whole plant is flowering now:

Peony in bloom

Between the garden, working, spring cleaning and a super fun cracked molar incident, I haven’t been blogging nearly as much as I should. I’ll try to turn that around with this installment of Antiques in the Garden. If you haven’t already, you might want to check out Part 1 for more ideas on how to use antiques & vintage items in your outdoor space.

First upon our return to my parents’ garden is this lovely large stone bowl. This is actually a crucible used for melting glass. It was the years of use that gave the inside of this object its complex blend of colour. It’s hard to see here but the bottom of the crucible has layers of dark green and brown glass. My mom usually keeps some water in the crucible and uses it to house a few floating plants and flowers:

Crucible for Glass

Near the crucible are these two giant iron wrenches (you can see how tall they are compared to the normal shovel leaning next to them). These are a bit of a mystery, but the most popular idea is that they were used on steam locomotives. I guess the wheels on those giant trains required some pretty serious torque!

Big Wrenches

The next object is near and dear to my heart because it reminds me of trips to Biarritz France, near where my mother grew up. It is a segment of antique concrete fence in the form of branches. This object was actually made by the same artisan who crafted some of the similar fence work still found on the beachfront in Biarritz. It was made by a process called sand casting. The process began by first creating the shapes by pressing real branches into sand. Then the wood was removed, wires were added for stability, and concrete was poured into the sand molds. Texture details were added before the concrete hardened. Sand casting is often used in foundries for metal but it also has a long history with concrete. Here is the fence in my parents’ garden:

Concrete Fence

And just to compare here’s a photo I took of the fence in Biarritz. This particular section of fence is probably quite recent, as they replace segments as needed, but many parts are still vintage to at least the 1950s:

Fence in Biarritz, France

What an elegant and whimsical way to add texture to your garden, don’t you think? Here are a few more nice antique and vintage pieces I found around the grounds:

Tin Star

Iron Finial

Iron Post

Now, for the big exciting finale, I’m going to show you the famous President Taft doors:

Shuttered Doors

I love the little duck silhouettes!

Please don’t crowd – there’s room for everyone. Okay, so the story is these green shuttered beauties were once part of a cabin nestled into the scenic countryside of rural Quebec. The cabin was a summer-house for none other than 27th President of the United States William Howard Taft. In the 1990s the cabin was renovated or torn down, and my parents were able to buy these doors on one of their many picking trips to Quebec. They now mark the entry to the compost pile which is admittedly not the most noble of places but makes them very useful nonetheless.

Almost too much excitement for one garden tour right? Oh but there’s more. Not only did my parents get the doors, they also bought an entire small shed from the Taft property. EDIT: Turns out I was wrong! My dad left a comment to explain the origins of the shed. Here is his quote: “I have to clarify that the small Taft “shed” you  illustrate is actually something I made from four Taft shutters (presumable from the same guest house as same color and construction) and a tin shingled top of some birdhouse or something,  Bought on a different trip to Quebec.  I noticed one day that the shutters where the same width as the top sides, and I had a screw gun in my hands so I put it together.  People have had many interesting theories about its use. Ventilated out house, smoke house, threshold to another dimension. It’s good to have theories.” Thanks dad! That’s actually a much more interesting origin story for this unusual piece:

Shed

How about them apples? How bout them somewhat historically interesting apples? And yes, while there is no official certification to prove the President Taft story, my dad says it’s true so that’s good enough for me. Even if it wasn’t true and those Quebec dealers used the pure unadulterated excitement of President Taft to sell these things, they would still be worth the purchase. They are lovely antique objects that are durable, decorative, and still very useful in the garden.

You may now return from the edge of your seats. The garden tour is over! Thanks for coming along and I hope you enjoyed it!

Antiques in the Garden – Part 1

The weather is warming up and that means I’m starting to think about the garden. Even though we have a small space I find it very satisfying to dig in the dirt. I’m a pretty easy-going gardener. If something works, great. If not, oh well. Dig it out and try something else. I educate myself through the internet and books here and there, but my most important go-to expert is my mother. She’s an amazing gardener and with the help of my dad she cultivates a number of vegetable and flower gardens. My mom’s advice for the novice gardener is pretty straight forward: It takes five years to establish a perennial garden, so patience is key. Plant a mix of foliage, colours and heights to create interest. Most of all, enjoy the process and understand that gardens change so trying to create a static “perfect” garden is silly and frustrating. It’s one of those journey and not the destination things.

Gardening is quite the popular hobby these days, and along with it the desire to create outdoor “rooms”. Gliding chairs, sectional sofas, fire pits, elegant lighting and even rugs are now common elements in the outdoor living space. As we attempt to include more decoration in our outdoors, antiques find a new home. Many antiques are durable enough to grace the outdoors year round, especially industrial or architectural pieces. I looked around my parent’s garden and found many antiques that work perfectly amidst the flowers. I took a lot of pictures so I’m going to break it up into two blog posts.

The first item I noticed in the garden was this vintage plant stand made out of chain. The paint is wearing off, which I quite like, but you could easily spray paint a metal object like this if you wanted. I love the idea of using a plant stand for a birdhouse too. This stand creates a nice tall focal point in the middle of the yard:

Near the plant stand are two large concrete urns or planters. These are from the Victorian period, and I love the classic shape and weathering on them.  They look softer because of their age. A nice thing about planters is that you can change the plants inside them whenever you wish to suit the season.

Another item in the antique concrete category are the two balls that sit near the entrance of the garden. I think the moss and speckled surface of the concrete is quite lovely. These may have perched on the top of a stone fence at one time, perhaps flanking the gate to a grand estate.

These items are wonderful but they take up ground space. What if you are like me and have to make every inch count? Well, you can still use antique items on the walls of your outdoor space. Check out what I found on the back fence:

It’s a piece of gingerbread trim from a house. When old houses are renovated or torn down, architectural elements like this are sometimes thrown out. Thankfully there are many people who salvage these items and repurpose them. In this case, trim that decorated a house for a hundred years finds an excellent second life as a backdrop in the garden.

Along another section of the fence, I found these two antique grates. These durable cast iron beauties were probably used over heating vents.

Finally, this selection of interesting shapes were mounted on the storage shed. The wooden rectangular piece is another architectural remnant, perhaps from a house but I’m not sure. The wooden “X’s are even more mysterious! I had to ask my dad what they were. Any guesses? They’re used in fishing to wind up the nets. I think originally there were rods in each arm (you can see the little holes), connecting two “X” pieces together, and the net would wind up between them. I searched for more information or images of these things but without luck. If you know anything please share because I’m curious!

So that does it for part one! I love my parent’s garden and there’s so much to see. The next part of the tour will feature giant locomotive wrenches and a set of doors that may have once belonged to former US President Taft. I’ll post that soon. Until then, I have some weeding to do 🙂 Enjoy the weather!