Friday Picks and Pics: To All The Teapots I Ever Loved Before

I collected teapots for a brief period in my life. Then I sold them all off (long, long before I sold on Etsy) at very reasonable prices for others to enjoy but I still have a passion for them. There seems to be no end of amazing, artistic and imaginative ways to design them. My first featured teapot is an Art Deco Hall’s piece in unusual colors:

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Hall China Art Deco Red White Platinum Coffee Pot OldeHome at Etsy

This is technically a coffeepot but I came across it this week and fell in love with the art deco design and the rich red and silver. According to the listing, this once was a percolator of some sort. I would build a shrine for it rather then try to use it.

Which brings me around to my refound appreciation for teapots – I have started drinking a variety of teas for health and pleasure. I have a cup in the mid-afternoon – usually green tea blended with roobois and before bedtime, I drink a camomile blend. This could and probably will be a blog post all its own.

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Vintage English China Art Deco Shape Teapot by Maling Wicksteads at Etsy

Returning to teapots – this time a real teapot, not a coffeepot, which illustrates an unusual shape yet still has function. I can imagine using this teapot (and the coffeepot above as well) even though I might choose not to. I see plenty of teapots that are clever, even humorous, but they don’t strike me as functional. They are more like pottery or glass with a spout and handle, nothing like a real tea or coffee pot.

I do happen to own (inherited) a beautiful blue and white full lace Royal Copenhagen teapot that I fear using. It must be over sixty years old now and it is replaceable in the sense that you can still buy that style either used or new. But I don’t think I could afford it so it sits behind glass. Here is a picture of one that happens to be listed on Etsy:

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Royal Copenhagen Denmark Tea Pot Serving Blue Fluted Full Lace 1118 RomanysVintage

 

One of these days, I tell myself, I am going to start having tea parties – as soon as I get rid of at least half of our household clutter and junk. In other words, not any time real soon. Meanwhile, I’ll continue to have my private tea time with a bag or diffuser in a mug. (I use both bagged varieties and loose leaf.)

As always, please be sure to click on the pictures so you can see the actual listings of these wonderful tea (and coffee) pots. You will notice these shops have additional teapots and sundry items worth perusing.

Unfortunately, I only have one tea pot for sale at present, although more are coming! I seem to be finding a lot of creamer and sugar sets though so here is a new listing from this week. This is not particularly uncommon – although the color is somewhat so – but maybe I’ll get lucky and run across a matching teapot someday soon.

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Lusterware China Creamer and Sugar Bowl Made in Japan

Knit or Crochet: Must We Choose?

I am lucky that I know how to knit and crochet. My mother started me knitting when I was probably eight or so – but not for long. I hated it and couldn’t be persuaded to knit more than a row or so which yielded little inspiration. She tried again with better success when I was sixteen. I learned some basics: knit, purl, yarnover and knit 2 together. I managed an entire scarf in a simple but showy pattern and made several before becoming bored again.

A few years later, I picked up again, then dropped it out of frustration. This cycle continued with five to ten years between attempts to get past knitting a single scarf. Throughout this, my goal was always an end result, the knitting was a means to an end. I saw pictures of beautiful hats, sweaters, whatever, and wanted that. Trying to make it was an exercise in torture and tedium.

Shortly before she died, I asked my mother to teach me how to crochet. She did this in a single evening by teaching me the basics: single, double, and triple crochet stitches and then had me make a basic granny square. I was elated because it went so much faster than knitting but before long, set it aside as child-rearing got it the way. And crochet had quickly become just as frustrating as knitting. My mother died and I had no one to ask questions when I couldn’t figure out a pattern.

If it isn’t obvious, this all happened over the seventies and eighties. I inherited my mom’s needles and needle case – which I didn’t mean to tie into this post but what the heck – here’s a picture and listing for the needle case

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1970s Zipper Needle Organizer

My mother’s needles were all aluminum or plastic and this case was packed. Several times I nearly donated the case and the needles, thinking I would never knit again so why keep? But there was so much sentimental value that something held me back. And then something happened: young women got interested in knitting and all of a sudden it seemed to be everywhere.

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Knit Picks Interchangeable Knitting Needles

I dug out the needles and old balls of yarn and proceeded to knit another scarf. It was as annoying as I remembered it but when I ran into a problem, I took advantage of something that hadn’t been there before. Google and the internet-where I discovered ravelry, you tube video and a host of resources. I made a decision to invest more in my tools and set aside the smooth and slippery needles my mother loved. I bought an interchangeable circular set from Knit Picks that made me realize how nice knitting is when you love your needles. Then I fell in love with yarn and stopped caring so much about getting through a project as fast as I could. The price on the needles picture is actually a lot less than I paid so if you can, take advantage of the sale price. I swear I did not write this as an ad for Knit Picks, but I do like them a lot as a yarn and needle vendor.

Overwhelmingly, most of the patterns and advice on Ravely.Com were about knitting. I bypassed the crochet patterns except for one huge exception. I did crochet a very pretty shawl that I sweat and swore through even with the help of online videos. Here’s the thing with crochet – the stitches are easy and theoretically, the work moves along quickly (not talking about lace-type crochet) but – a very big but – the directions are difficult to understand for beginners or even intermediate beginners. For whatever reason, I elected to go with a complicated pattern and fudged my way through some of the motifs. That resulted in lots of tearing, including my hair.

Now I see that there has been a shift on Ravelry and there are nearly as many crochet patterns available as there are knit. I also notice that on Etsy, there are nearly as many crocheted clothing items as knit whereas crochet seemed mostly relegated to jewelry and lace. I find myself reaching for a crochet hook over knitting needles for more than one reason.

Weather has something to do with it. Somehow crochet doesn’t feel as warm as knitting projects do. If I were making something intended for warmth, I’d prefer knitting and probably will be back to it in early fall. Crochet is also a bit easier on my shoulders and definitely better for my hands.

decouprose I have listed a few items that I’ve made in my Etsy shops. I even sold one that I am especially proud of not because of the crochet job but because it was bought by a customer in Paris, France! I admit that my confidence level isn’t quite there yet, especially when I see the gorgeous items that my fellow Etsy vendors create.

My next effort at listing handmade items will be barefoot sandals that are fun and fairly easy to crochet. Meanwhile, I need to get back to listing all the vintage items that are taking up space!

Found on Friday – Something for Mom

I haven’t given a Mother’s Day gift since my Mother-in-Law passed away in early 2001. My own mother passed in 1983 and I recall how painful the first Mother’s Day after she died was for me, even though she never liked making a big deal about it.

On the receiving side, I’ve been a Mom for over 30 years – eek! Like my Mother, I really don’t like to make a big deal. (This is largely because my birthday is in early June and so ultimately this desire is born out of selfishness. ) But right now is the time that desperate adult children are seeking unique gifts for their mothers. Okay, now is the time that non-procrastinating adults are shopping. Some of us have adult children who shop at Walgreens on the way over to Mom’s house – not that I’m complaining.

Naturally, Etsy is bursting with beautiful photos of charming and unusual gifts. The first find of the week for Mother’s Day is the good old basic card, but not a card ripped off the shelf from Target (or Walgreens – not that I’m complaining.) If all you can do is send a card, let it be like this one:

Mothers Day Card- White Rose – 5 1/2″ x 51/2″- Customize by CardamomsArt

Trust me, Moms love pretty cards. They don’t like their kids spending lots of money on them but they do appreciate extra time and effort. Short of making a card yourself, go the artisan crafted route. Click on the photo and it will take you directly to the listing where you can also browse other custom card choices.

Not that you have to stop at the card. If this is the year you want to go all out and impress your mother, continue browsing Etsy for offerings that suit every taste (and budget). I offer as my second Friday find, a gorgeous gift set that would please me (not that I’m complaining about the gifts that I do get!)

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Pink Tea Cup and Saucer Vintage Royal Sealy Corsage, Floral Hankie Gift Set Gold Gilding Mothers Day Gift by meaicp

This is the gift that gives it all: a corsage, a hankie, and a beautiful collectible tea cup. Click on the picture for a direct link to meaicp’s shop and you can browse her beautiful corsages, each unique and permanent. I am a sucker for hankies because my Mother collected them and had a beautiful satin lined box full of them. I used to love to dig through them as a child – which resulted in scoldings because I’d leave her drawer a mess.

She also collected china tea cups among other things, which I try not to collect because I am at the stage of life where I am divesting, not collecting. But I can certainly enjoy photographs of beautiful cups like this one. And the corsage is the cherry on top of the icing on the cake!

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Antique Silver Plate Serving Ladle Simeon George Rogers Company

So now I must make a suggestion from my own humble shop that someone’s mother is sure to love. I know this because my mother loved this particular ladle, which belonged to her mother. They were both of the opinion that one could never have enough ladles. I don’t disagree, they do seem to come in handy when serving holiday or large dinner parties. This ladle has a nicely shaped bowl and is fairly deep – no stingy gravy serving spoons here!

Next Friday will be too late to buy a gift online in time for Mother’s Day, so get to clicking on these links! If these finds don’t suit you or your Mom, I know you will find something else that will. Otherwise, check your local area for the closest Walgreens. Not that your mother will complain…

Friday Find – Me!

Where have I been? Well, all too briefly in California and I have pictures to prove it. But I can’t post them all until I sort out some camera cable and computer issues.  What was I doing in California? I was visiting my Dad and his wife, Elissa, where we were given the royalty treatment for three wonderful days.

Dad Pink Jacket 1

Renato J Della Rocca 2014 Paloma Ave Venice, California

Here’s a picture of my 94 yr old Dad wearing his (in)famous pink jacket, standing outside their house in Venice Beach, California. There are blooms cascading over the fence matching my Dad. You can see the top of the umbrella table in their front yard. This was taken after he and I walked down to the speedway on Easter morning and spent some time on a bench, listening to a talented musician sing and play the guitar.

If you went through all the Etsy vintage sites and made a list of the very best, you’d have a description of the interior of their home. Elissa has collected curios, antiques, and souvenirs for decades and the house is like a museum to all things beautiful and amazing. So more pictures will be forthcoming, I promise! Although I can’t say my photography does their place justice.

BBHenhouse Meanwhile, I do have a picture taken on the morning of our departure. This is a tray of cafe aulait, juice, and blue berry bread, served on a table in the guesthouse. Hard to leave to say the least.

An interesting note – I made four sales over the days we were gone plus another the day after I came home. Maybe I should leave more often!

Now all I have to do is readjust to Minnesota (two days of drizzle and cold) and get back to work! At least today the sun is showing itself. More pictures next week.

What I Hate About Going to the Store

I’ve been sipping at tea quite a bit lately although I still haven’t separated from morning cup of nice dark steaming coffee, no sugar, no cream. My younger son, Jake, re-aquainted me to tea about two years ago when we went to the mall and visited Teavana.

Ironically, I instantly and absolutely hated Teavana the moment we got close enough to be hauled in by their tractor rays, otherwise known as their sales staff. Although I’m sure they are called Tea Associates or Consultants or something equally imaginative. Little did I know when I accepted the paper cup of hot fruity sweetness that I had just accepted an attachment for the rest of my Teavana experience. The TA did not leave my side, commenting on everything I touched and “upselling” other items that didn’t interest me.

Unfortunately, as irritated as I was by the process, she had a lot of success. We bought tea and several accoutrements and nearly expired (well, I did since I was the one with the plastic card) at the cash register. The final insult was hearing the TA chirp: “You have just invested $93.85 in your health and happiness!”

I wish I could say I never went back. Only a mother’s love for her duckling did bring me back again and again to purchase a tea blend that my son formed an addiction to. Oh, I drag him along most of the time since he hates the place as much as I do. As the escalator rises slowly, slowly to the second level, we step off and he will say: “Are you ready for this?”

I am picking on Teavana but many, many other retailers have adopted predatory tactics that destroy my soul. It isn’t just the hovering sales person or the constant upsale attempts. I know salespeople are trained to act and speak a certain way – I worked in retail until about 2010 so I was there myself. Retail executives get shifted around company to company, bringing ideas and practices that are often worthless to their new environments.

Here are some of the practices that are like nails running down a chalkboard for me:

Rewards Programs: this could be a blog post in itself but who really wants to read about them? That person at the cash register asking for your email or reward card has a quota that is strictly enforced by the manager. I sign up out of sympathy for the employee.

Pretense of Charitable Donations: This can take many forms and certainly is not a bad thing for charities. At Borders, we had book drives for various charities and for awhile, Borders would kick in a percentage. Then some bright bulb in Ann Arbor, Michigan realized that we’d make more money just talking people into buying books for children – since we picked up the cost of actually taking them to the kids.

Scripts: Here’s why people use email instead of calling anymore. They are afraid if they call they will get an electronic menu or if they get a human, that human is going to roll of a long string of syllables – sort of like listening to the guy read your order back at the drive in. What idiot executive thinks this technique actually works? Naturally, one of twenty five callers probably takes the bait with “What did you just say?” and ca-ching, a sale is born. The people who write the scripts for employees are so convinced that their sales staff is incapable of stringing sentences together that they insist the words be spoken exactly as written. The result always sounds phony and insincere.

As a matter of fact, this is one of the epic fails of large retail sellers. They have no faith in their employees; they cannot separate the wheat from the chaff. The entire hiring process is dehumanized to begin with by using absurd online tests and relying totally on the scoring before even allowing a prospect in the door.

There was a time when I was a recreational shopper and no, I didn’t have money at the time. Shopping was fun, something I’d go out to do with my sisters or friends usually combined with lunch. Now if I go out shopping, it is with dread and loathing, an experience that fatigues me.

Not all is lost though. There are farmer’s markets and neighborhood shops and boutiques which are still fun to visit. It must be hard as hell for small brick and mortar stores to scrape by and I also know that I am part of the competition. Still, I honor them and continue to patronize them and hope that you do too.

I promise never to rant about big stores again. Instead, I will be proactive and give some feature time to local small businesses. I’d also love to hear about your local artisans and crafters and businesses so feel free to comment about them!

Friday Finds Feathered Friends

As I gaze out the window at the snow gently falling…I turn back to my monitor to look for signs of Spring. There are pastels and flowers aplenty but my favorite sign of spring are birds. I devote an entire favorite list to birds because I love the creative ways that artists use them.

Raven

Pencil Raven illustration NigurnaFurnishings

First up is this gorgeous Raven drawn by one of the artists at Nigurna Furnishings, an Etsy shop. I know ravens are not harbingers of spring but this one looks pretty cheerful to me.

Click on the picture and it will take you to the actual listing. Be sure to browse the shop for more stunning and colorful items.

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Grey Robin ORIGINAL Watercolor Art Corner Shop

Here is a more traditional symbol of Spring, a robin. This is labeled a gray robin which I have never seen or noticed. I think of robins as brown with red chests but this one has lovely subtle colors. This is an original watercolor and again, click on the picture to see the entire listing and browse the Art Corner Shop. They have an amazing collection of watercolor birds done in lovely palletes.

One of my favorite birds is the chickadee. I could have made this post all about chickadees because they are so adorable and round with their cute little black heads.

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Chickadee and Mock Orange Print artwellspring

Here is just one of many to be found on Etsy. I like the background, the subtle antique music that looks like wood. I also love mock oranges, which this little guy is perched upon. That is my favorite scent in early summer, usually a couple weeks after the lilacs are gone.

This is a print of an original watercolor at artwellspring on Etsy, who also offers an amazing array of bird prints.

With all my talk about birds, you’d think I’d have some examples from my own shop. Not true, I have not really collected birds although I know people who do. Fortunately (because I have to promote my own shop after all!)

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Vintage Enameled Gold Tone Parrot

I did find one darling bird in the form of a brooch. Parrots fascinate me because of their intelligence and language skills, as well as their flamboyant colors and patterns. This one is unsigned but was made from identical molds to those used by Trifari.

And since I’m on the subject of parrots, there is a wonderful documentary about wild parrots living in San Franciso. Made in 2003, it is called THE WILD PARROTS OF TELEGRAPH HILL, only 83 minutes long. So if you’re wondering what to watch this weekend, see if you can stream it or find the dvd. And have a great weekend in spite of the weather!

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Late March Sales Flurry

Although we are also seeing late March snow flurries as well. Yesterday, I took five packages – count ’em! – to the post office. Two were Etsy sales and three were Ebay.  This is the biggest bump in sales since the beginning of February.

Now sales on ebay are nearly always due to demand. If I don’t sell an item within a couple of weeks, I assume I will never sell it. Never is too strong a word, some things do sell after months of being listed. Evidently perfume and cologne are in high demand though and I sold all 4 bottles that I listed almost two weeks ago. Not that I made a lot of money, these were definitely worth selling just to get out of the house.

My other ebay sale was a set of piano books, an adult learning series. I have a ton of piano books ranging from antique pages to “like new” instruction books. I had to cut the price in order to sell this set and I believe that I will have to do the same for all of them.

As for Etsy, I sold some silver serving pieces after a bit of negotiating with the buyer. I was happy to sell half of a set that I’ve had listed since I opened shop along with a relish fork that was a brand new listing. My other sale was a yellow enamelware set which has been taking up some space, so much happiness there.

After all those details about what I sold, I am pondering the eternal question for sellers: what do people want? Or, why don’t people want my stuff? Are my prices too high? My pictures not good? Listing title and tags not drawing customers?

Notice how my questions got more specific? I’ll answer some of them for myself.

  1. What do people want? Cross out people and insert customers. This question has no answer, or the answer is infinite like pi. When I try to pursue sales by following trends that I notice, I nearly always fail. The only way to get sales by trying to provide what you think people want is to sell brand names or known classic items. So yes, it is always worth selling designer handbags and signed jewelry – but if you are buying these items to resell, be careful what you pay.
  2. Why don’t people want my stuff? Painful to reckon but in the vintage sales world, it bounces back to carrying what people want. And if I want it or wanted it, probably someone else will too. Unless it is chipped or cracked or flawed, although sometimes buyers accept that. This is where to equation goes to More Viewers=More Sales. Likely my sales this week are a result of heavy promotion last week, courtesy of A4 Team.
  3. Are my prices too high? Probably some are and some are not. I generally check out prices on Etsy and Ebay and price my items in the middle. Unfortunately, there are no tools on Etsy to help sellers figure out what price items have sold for. One thing I do know is that cutting prices or offering discounts has little effect.
  4. Pictures not good? This is a powerful drawing card and I need to retake dozens of pictures in my Etsy shop. I’d rather take Ebay pictures any day of the week because they don’t have to be pretty but they do have to be clear and thorough. Jewelry pictures are the most difficult for me, especially if rhinestones are involved. So I know this is an area that I could improve upon – meanwhile I have dozens of items that still need to be photographed and listed.
  5. Listing titles and tags. Back to brand names and designer names – if an item has a specific brand like Roseville Pottery or Mephisto shoes, it will be found in a search. Where my item will fall in that search is another question (SEO) that I don’t want to go into in depth. But how to lure in buyers that might be interested in a shiny fabric disco-era shirt? Or a fascinating piece of Art Deco pottery that has no name on it?  I use lots of keywords like Art Deco or Disco era, I’ve even used Mad Men era a couple of times. Those are so broad that there is little chance anyone will find my item using that sort of term. Frankly, I am still debating what is the best way to spend my time – making new photos and revising listings for seo relevancy or “playing” promotional games which increase my odds of being seen in buyer’s feeds. And of course, listing new items.

I guess that means less time blogging, whatever choices I make! Sorry this is a no frills, no pictures post today. If you’re an online vendor, how do you prioritize your time? What would you say is the most important consideration regarding sales? As for buyers, how do you shop online? Do you regularly go to Etsy or Ebay, or do you just start by using a search engine for something specific?

Would love to hear some comments!