Monday, December 14, 2009

Heart in Hand: Odd Fellows Staffs

The Heart in Hand emblem has a rich symbolic heritage in the Northeast. Traditionally, it is said to emblemize charity, or selfless action that originates in the heart: "Whatever the hand may find to do, may the heart go forth in union."

Blogger With Heart and Hands has a nice summary of the image's use in the Shaker tradition, as well as by the fraternal organization of Odd Fellows . . .

. . . which brings me to these amazing carvings, first used as ceremonial staffs for Odd Fellows gatherings. This matched pair was sold by aptly-named Odd Fellows Art and Antiques:

Check out their site for a veritable gallery of Heart-in-Hand carving, as well as other to-die-for folk art.

I like the silvery finish to this hand, offered by VanDeest Antiques:

Maybe the silver paint reminds me of the Tin Man, who only wanted a Heart.

It's rare to find these emblems for sale, but Ruby Lane seller Finish Line Collectibles offers this outstanding cast iron heart-in-hand marker:

Here's hoping we all act with with hearts in hand this holiday season.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Round and Round She Goes . . .

. . . and where she stops, nobody knows. Carnival art has become a popular form of collectible folk art of late, not the least for its bright graphics and sense of playfulness. I suspect that for many of us, gaming wheels like these recall the fun days we spent at the State Fair as kids.

This 1920's beauty was recently sold by Paul Madden Antiques. I love the crisp print and the fact that it comes with its own stand.

Here's another gorgeous specimen from Fryling's Antiques, dating to mid-20th Century:

This would look great hanging on the wall of a family game room.

Bitten? Need to buy a gaming wheel RIGHT NOW? Then hurry yourself over to Finish Line Collectibles on Ruby Lane. This seller boasts a number of outstanding wheels in a range of sizes and prices. I have my eye on this number:

Hope you win!

Friday, November 20, 2009

19th-Century Calligraphy With a Modern Twist

I love these framed calligraphy pieces from Carlson and Stevenson with such fervor. It's a treat to see the multi-colored inks, and the whimsmical quality of the fonts calls to mind the present-day craze for hand-lettering in graphic design (don't believe me? Check out Etsy).

For the calligraphy-obsessed, Piper Publishing offers a re-issue of the 1881 Real Pen Work Self-Instructor in Penmanship. Seeing the samples, I'm astonished at how our forebears incorporated so much artisanship into their daily lives through the simple act of writing.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Dali? Mais oui!

I just finished restoring the mechanical bank that my grandfather made for me (MANY) years ago, when I was ten.

My aim was to make it look like a turn-of-the-century gent, but methinks he looks more than a little like Salvador Dali, no?

Swallow the coin and . . . voila!

Grandpa’s long gone, but I still cherish all the handcrafts he made for us.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Gemma Taccogna Heads

I've always admired those antique French papier mache heads, the ones once used as hat stands. Case in point: This adorable girl from Dove Place Antiques. Love the bright colors, almost mod features, and baldish hairline.

Sadly, the pricing on these heads always put them out of my reach.

But nothing comes between a collector and her mania. Especially not when there's ebay.

After a few searches for "papier mache heads", I am now the proud owner of not one, but two head-shaped hat stands. Meet the twins:

They are both Gemma Taccogna, circa 1960s. And I love them.

Now someone tell me how, HOW, did I manage to get this old and not encounter Gemma Taccogna? She made THE most wonderful, whimsmical papier mache creations, with beautiful mod lines that manage to be folksy at the same time.

Of course, now that I own the two Gemma heads, I'm lusting for a third. I've got my eye on this grand-mammy of a head, 16" high, at Mod Hare.

And the vintage crackling makes it that much better!

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Heads Up

Why am I so taken with folk art heads? Is it because they look so surreal, sitting there disembodied like that?

Or is it just that homespun, primitive charm, as exemplified by this antique milliner's head from Hanes and Ruskin antiques (sorry, folks, she's already sold). Somehow, the bashed-up nose makes her all that more adorable.

I have the perfect boyfriend for our milliner's head: This 19th-Century stoneware crock lid from Olde Hope Antiques.

Gotta love that wide-eyed look of surprise . . . and the very 19th-C moustache.

Finally, Lord do I wish my budget could accomodate this Southern Face Jug by Burlon Craig, currently for sale at Mud, Sweat and Tears.

Looks to me like this one has mischief on his mind.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Made in the USA

We Americans have never been shy about showing our national pride. And when we express our patriotism through folk art, the results are spectacular!

How great would this antique, 45-star flag look, hanging in your kitchen or mudroom? Contact Nantucket Country Antiques to snap it up.

Some 19th-Century needlework whiz expressed her love of country with her crochet hook. I love that eagle motif. Jeff Bridgman has more Americana for your perusal.

And how jaw-dropping is this 19th-Century bent-twig table from Wilson Folk Art? The flag framed by the heart just takes the cake.

God bless America!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Folk Art Paintings Redux

I had to share this lovely folk art landscape I came across on Ruby Lane. Seller Yesterday's Treasures offers this gem (circa 1919) for quite a reasonable price, too:

I adore the naive style and the attention to detail -- note the stars on the barn!

At the other end of the price scale, Jeff Bridgman Antiques offers this outrageous folk art portrait of a prize bull:

I love the simple composition and that cerulean blue sky. And nothing pleases me more than seeing a primitive-style painting framed in gold leaf!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Scherenschnitte, Old and New

Scherenschnitte. Kind of sounds like a Germanic cuss-word. As in: "Scherenschnitte! We're out of milk again!"

But scherenschnitte is the intricate Pennsylvania-Dutch (or Swiss, or German) art of paper-cutting. And trust me, when I say paper-cutting, I mean something far more sophisticated than those construction-paper snowflakes you used to snip as a kid.

For instance:

This German example from New Hope Antiques has everything I want in a paper-cutting: an intricate symmetrical motif, set off by a killer antique frame.

Not impressed? Then check out this jaw-droppingly detailed scherenschnitte from Peggy McClard Antiques:

When I first saw this, I swore it was fine embroidery work. But it's paper -- cut in a basket weave on the edges. According to Ms. McClard, the swans you see in the picture are a mere 1/8" tall! Do yourself a favor and go to her site to view the close-ups, as they are ASTOUNDING.

Lucky for us, a new generation of scherenschnitte artists are keeping the technique alive and breathing new life into the form, like Pam Hults from Praying Mantis Folk Art.

I love the calligraphy details she adds to her pieces!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

A Tisket, A Tasket, A Sally Patchin Basket

Lately, I've encountered some fabulous tole-painted wicker baskets by the late folk artist Sally Patchin. Apparently, Patchin lived in upstate New York and painted these treasures throughout the first half of the 20th Century.

This Patchin "suitcase" basket from Ruby Lane seller The Purple Doorknob caught my eye:

I like the unusual shape, not to mention the folksy painted details.

Seller New Hope Antiques offers this Patchin log basket:

Again, the thoughtful hand-painted details lend a lot of charm to an everyday, utilitarian object.

This next is not a Patchin, but I like the tole details on the wood panels that frame this basket from A Bridge To The Past:

Can't you just imagine some Arnold Print Works critters sitting cozy in there?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

When Crafts Take Over

It's time to pull the plug on my crafting. Or seriouly cut back, at the very least.

Why? The little clay critters keep multiplying and crowding up my closets. First there was Hattie . . .

. . . and then there was Fred . . .

. . . followed shortly thereafter by Phyllis.

The latest is this birdie on a vintage spool:

All things said and done, I enjoy the process and I'm even half-way pleased with the results. I'm slowly learning how to work with paperclay and build a decent composition. But learning requires creating, and creating requires more shelf space.

We just might have to move to a bigger house.

You can keep track of my crafty progress on etsy.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Antique/Vintage Trade Signs: High and Lo

Who doesn't adore old trade signs? The carved wood ones are especially creative and give a real graphic punch to your wallspace.

Those of us on a fixed budget often find these signs well out of our price range. But fortunately, there's a handful of Etsy sellers who either offer vintage signs on the cheap, or who are creating their own fresh versions of classic motifs.

Take a gander:

The Real Deal: Antique Pointing Finger "Footwear" Sign

. . . currently on sale at Robert Snyder and Judy Wilson Antiques and Folk Art for 975.

Charming Repro: Pointing Finger Signs By Morning Star Designs

. . . Etsy folk artist Morning Star Designs sells these in his shop for 36 dollars (I'm sure they are customizable). He also sells some delightful carved whales, fish, and diner-themed signs to grace your walls.

The Real Deal: Vintage Office Sign

. . . offered by Dennis Raleigh Antiques for 295.

The Real Steal: Vintage Help Wanted Sign

Etsy seller Blue Bell Bazaar sells a number of these charmers in the 40 dollar range. Her shop is a treasure trove of funky vintage finds: highly recommended, especially the chalkboards in antique frames!

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Bilston and Battersea Boxes

I'm saving my pennies to purchase -- hopefully! -- one of these charming Bilston or Battersea enamel patch boxes for my birthday. Technically, I know, they're not folk art, but they have a simple, homey charm that I just love.

Battersea/Bilston boxes were produced in England around the late 18th/early 19th centuries. There is an equally charming modern line that goes by the name Halcyon Days, and is also quite collectible. Since enamel chips and cracks, the antique boxes in decent shape can be breathtakingly pricey.

I adore the birds that adorn this gem from Converse Clocks:

The Georgian Bilston/Battersea boxes often sported a sentimental motto. I find this little nautical box from Antiques and Uncommon Treasure really touching!

Finally, the basket motif and "forget-me-not" saying on this snuff box from Acanthus Antiques just floors me.

They're all so adorable, it's almost enough to make me take up a snuff habit!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Sweetest Little Theorem. Ever.

A well-executed theorem can be quite pricey, but I stumbled upon this little gem for a mere 35 dollars at Antiques at Narrowfellow:

Measures about 8 by 8 on cream-colored velvet. Dated '85, which I guess could easily mean 1985. But regardless of its age, there's no arguing with its charm. It would be doubly sweet in a vintage frame.

Snap it up now!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Carved Bird Trees

If you're a bird lover like me, why stop at just one? A whole tree full of brightly-colored friends is sure to coax a smile.

This chip-carved tree by Don Noyes is a whimsmical perch. I love how his paint colors and details resurrect the Pennsylvania craft tradition.

This early 20th-Century bird tree from My Country Treasures is home to no less than 12 birds. Notice how the artist incorporated actual branches!

Finally, carver John Bastian sells a variety of bird trees from his site Holly Spring Trading Company. My personal favorite are the pie birds:

These two set up shop in our plum tree last spring. I'm sure they approve bird trees in any form!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Birds of a Feather: Edward Lear, Fraktur Artist?

Has it really been 2 months since I've posted? Ah, well. Holidays + a kitchen remodel = a neglected blog.

As you know, I'm obsessed with 1) frakturs, and 2) birds. So I was thrilled to receive this in the mail today, my latest ebay purchase:

This sweetie has everything I love about frakturs: whimsmical lines, bright colors, an aged look, and a great period frame. I am not sure of its age.

Ever notice how you seem to stumble across finds in groups? Well, also today, I was browsing online for art, and found these delightful watercolors by the beloved children's lit author and illustrator, Edward Lear. Tell me this doesn't have a touch of fraktur in it:

I'm a bit partial to the yellow bird, myself:

Aren't the calligraphy touches to die for?

You can find the whole collection online at!