No Plain Jane: How One L.A. Based Artist Draws Inspiration From Her Grandmother’s Jewels

If you had to look one kitchen appliance in the eye and consider it most human which would you pick?  Your coffee contraption that wakes you up each morning? Your mixer because it sings as the beaters whirl and whip? Or maybe it is your dependable dishwasher who is always so eager to clean a mountain of dirty pots and pans.

If I had to choose one such appliance, I would pick the fridge. It’s human height, it’s doors open like arms and even though you stock it yourself, there always seems to be something unexpected going on in there. Whether it’s restaurant leftovers you forgot about, a surprise treat added by a family member or a curious case of bacteria sprouting on last week’s loaf of bread, the fridge is the one appliance that consistently brings a little personality to each new day.

It’s also the one that gets the most use. Every day, you open the doors and close the doors so much so that you don’t even think about the physical action of that process anymore – the pulling and the pushing – but at the same time you are also careful with it. You reorganize it. Sometimes more than once a day. You jockey things around from shelf to shelf to make sure everything fits. You clean it and you care for it. You worry about it. If the power goes out, then what? You think about it in the middle of the night. Will the Thanksgiving turkey fit? Will the watermelon suck up too much cold air? Will the icebox pie set firmly?

If you are like my mom, you also outfit it. You buy lots of clear glass storage dishes and a label maker and you get to work making the inside of that fridge look like a beacon of efficiency and organization with this there and that here. Or you take the opposite approach and just stuff things in as they come with less rigidity and more relaxed effort.

And that’s just the inside.

The outside of a fridge is an equal blank canvas. It seems this school of thought has two camps – the people who decorate and the people who don’t. Do you prefer a plain, sleek front to your fridge or a personalized collection of life’s pieces in papers? Here in the Vintage Kitchen, we like the outside of our fridge decorated. Right now, ours contains a family photo, a calendar, three business cards, one Chinese takeout fortune cookie message (which proclaims that this is the year that ingenuity stands high on the list!), two stickers from a recent comedy show, two love notes, one watercolor painting, one recipe and one autograph. All these are held together by a collection of magnets that my niece, Olivia,  made for me when she was 11…

That was eight years ago. Now she is off at college, and these magnets were and will always be prized possessions.  A lovely gift and a pretty memory all wrapped up in one, they also were the start of my love affair with magnets. Thanks to Olivia’s gift, I re-discovered that magnets were an invaluable tool providing the ability to help hang on to the little bits of life that I didn’t want to forget about (like that fortune cookie message!). This leads to the topic of today’s post. Yesterday I promised to reveal the contents of this mystery box that one lucky winner in our giveaway will receive…

Are you ready to see what’s inside?

Ta-dah! It is a trio of floral fridge magnets handmade from vintage costume jewelry.  These beauties are the work of Heather Dean, the Los Angeles based artist behind Jane Dean Gems, an online jewelry and home decor shop that specializes in pieces made from vintage items and found objects.

As one of the original pioneering artists of Etsy, Heather has been around the handmade marketplace since 2005 but her designs and ultimate inspiration go way back to her grandmother Jane Dean, whose name Heather not only borrowed for her shop but whose collector’s spirit Heather tries to instill in all her pieces. What I love about Heather’s work is that she is a storyteller in sparkles and shimmer, offering a new way of looking at familiar objects from a finder’s point of view. A brooch becomes a magnet, a bauble becomes a bracelet, an arrow becomes a compass in the same way that your commonplace, everyday, utilitarian refrigerator suddenly becomes the canvas for a glamorous work of art.

In today’s post, we catch up with Heather, interview style to learn more about the muse behind the magnets, how her grandmother helped lead her down the handmade road and where to find the best places for artistic inspiration in all of L.A.

In the Vintage Kitchen: First of all, let’s talk about the name of your shop. I understand it is named after your grandmother, Jane. Please share a little bit about her with us.

Heather:  My grandmother’s name was Jane but I called her “Mimi.” When I was a little girl I was enchanted by her large collection of costume jewelry. She had drawers full of colorful brooches, sparkly rhinestone earrings and long beaded necklaces. I loved opening her jewelry boxes, examining the pieces and trying them on. My grandmother was a working woman who didn’t have a lot of money, but she knew how to put herself together on a budget. She shopped at the Garment District in downtown LA  (now known as the Fashion District) to find good deals on clothes, and she accessorized her outfits with jewelry and beautiful silk scarves. It just seemed fitting to name my business after her since I use vintage pieces in my own designs. I also love the simplicity and traditional character of the name, Jane. It goes well with vintage style.

Jane as a young girl with one of the necklaces she acquired later on.

Did Jane teach you a lot about jewelry or did you learn through your own natural fascination? What attracts you to it?

I was certainly inspired by my grandmother’s love of jewelry and flair for accessorizing, but I definitely had my own fascination with vintage items. I started collecting vintage jewelry as a teenager in the 1980s, when more was more. I would go to garage sales and second-hand shops looking for interesting pieces at great deals. I loved old rhinestone choker necklaces, sterling silver bracelets and rings (I wore one on every finger, including mid-knuckles). Back then, pre-internet, I would go to the library to learn about the vintage treasures I had found. Researching vintage is sooo much easier these days, thanks to the internet!

These fridge magnets are desert themed! Everybody needs a little cactus, don’t you think? Find this trio in her shop here.

How did you happen upon the idea of refurbishing vintage jewelry into fridge magnets? Such a cool idea!

I had been buying box lots of old jewelry so I could use the components in my own designs. I was mostly looking for pieces that could be used in necklaces and charm bracelets, but I ended up with a surplus of broken bits and bobs, orphan earrings, etc. that didn’t really work for my jewelry making. One day, I decided to glue magnets on the back of a few old pieces and they turned out really cool! They sold well and soon became my favorite things to make. My first magnet sets were fairly simple but over the years they have become much more complex, with several pieces stacked on top of each other and often embellished with paint, rhinestones and charms. I also love using rustic found objects like old bottle caps, rusty washers and miscellaneous thingamabobs. I’m always finding things on the ground and putting them in my pocket to be used later in a creative project. When I do my laundry I usually find some kind of nut, bolt or pebble in the lint trap, because I always forget about the little treasures in my pockets!

Small treasures lying in wait for Heather’s unique designs.

Please explain a little bit about the process of making magnets – does one piece set the wheels in motion for a particular collection or does a set evolve as each magnet is made, or do you figure out a color palette and then go from there?

I create magnet sets based on one fabulous piece, or a color combination that I love, or using one of several themes that I work with over and over again. Some of my most popular themes are beachy seashell mixes, Southwestern, Day of the Dead, Victorian and robot (made out of junk and google eyes). I have also made many custom magnet sets to coordinate with people’s kitchen colors and for wedding message boards. I’ve even had customers send me their own vintage jewelry to turn into magnetic keepsakes.

It’s easy for me to pull sets together because I keep my huge collection of jewelry bits very organized. I have a large vintage letterpress cabinet, several craft drawers, boxes and glass jars full of stuff. Everything is sorted by type; hearts, flowers, animals, celestial, bead clusters, rhinestones… that way I can find what I need quickly!

Heather’s wonderfully organized cabinet!

Are there jewelry magnets on your own fridge?! And if so, what are they like?

I do have magnets on my own refrigerator. My favorite one is made out of a big rhinestone flower brooch that belonged to my grandmother… I was never going to wear it so I turned it into a functional object that I get to see every day in my kitchen!

Find this set of 8 Southwestern mini fridge magnets available in her shop here.

Is there a holy grail of costume jewelry that you are forever on the hunt for? Do you have a favorite vintage designer or type that you like to collect?

Because I sell vintage in my other shop, CuriosityCabinet, I’m always on the hunt for sterling silver. I love unique handmade jewelry….Southwestern, Native American, Mexican, and mid-century artisan pieces. But for my handmade work, I honestly look for junk! I love the challenge of turning something broken or damaged into something new and fabulous. A lot of my supplies are things many people would throw away. I don’t use anything collectible or valuable.

Who are your top three most favorite artists and why?

It’s difficult for me to pick favorites because I appreciate so many artists and creative mediums, but having recently returned from Mexico, I’m still thinking about the magnificent murals I saw painted by “Los Tres Grandes” the leaders of the Mexican muralism movement; Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros and José Clemente Orozco. The enormous size of the works, with their bold colors and emotional subject matter really made an impression on me. It’s nothing like studying them in books and on slides! One piece by Sequeiros actually brought me to tears when I saw it.

From top left: Jose, David, Diego and the trio as pictured in the 1940s.

Because I’m an avid recycler of junk, one my favorite contemporary artists is El Anatsui, a Ghanaian sculptor who creates enormous, flexible tapestries made out of salvaged bottle caps and metal pieces from liquor bottles. They have the fluidity of fabric and can be bent and formed into different positions. They are truly magnificent and are created entirely out of recycled materials!

The art of El Anatsui

Back when you were studying art in college, did you always plan on opening your shops, Janedean Gems and Curiosity Cabinet, or did they just evolve naturally over time?

I never ever thought I would be able to do what I’m doing now! I definitely didn’t plan it. After working various retail jobs for many years, I went back to school in 2000 to study art history at UCLA, thinking I wanted to work in a museum or gallery. I bought my very first computer to use for school and discovered Ebay at the same time. For fun, I puta few pieces of my handmade jewelry up for auction to see if I could sell them. I was so excited when they sold, that I made more pieces and sold those too! Soon I’d created a nice little side business. That’s when I first starting selling my jewelry magnets.

In 2005, I read an article in the Los Angeles Times about a new selling site specifically for handmade products called Etsy.com. I signed up that same day and have been selling in my janedean shop ever since! In 2007, I opened a second Etsy store, CuriosityCabinet to sell some extra supplies but it soon turned into a vintage shop when I realized how much I love finding, researching and selling unique vintage and antique pieces. Now I balance 2 shops on etsy and 2 accounts on ebay.

Find Heather’s second shop Curiosity Cabinet here

So it is technology that allows me to do what I do. Computers and digital photography have changed my life, allowing me to offer my handmade items and curated vintage collections to people all over the world, from the comfort of my own home. Nothing could have suited my personality better! I’m an independent loner who likes to make my own schedule (and work in my pjs) and I’m now able to use my years of retail and life experience to benefit my own business.  I’m maker, buyer, merchandiser, photographer, advertiser, packer, shipper and I love it!

A fun sampling of items that you’ll find in the Curiosity Cabinet… from top left: Vintage Southwestern Brass Cuff, Portrait of Robert Browning, Vintage Carved Horn Bird Brooch, Antique Brass Hand Paperweight, Vintage Brass Elephant Figurine.

 

Name 5 things that inspire you.

1. Creativity- other people’s creative works inspire me constantly… from designers, crafters, artists, film makers… when I see what fellow human’s brains and hands are making, it inspires me to come up with new ideas of my own.

2. Walking- from beach walks to nature hikes to urban exploring, I always get inspired by things I see when I’m on a walk! When I’m out and about I like to take lots of pictures with my phone and gather small objects that intrigue me, which can end up being sources of inspiration later on.

Collecting in Heather’s hands looks like this!
3. Nature- I just love the natural world, in all its perfection and/or rustic beauty. From gardens to beaches to mountains, I love being surrounded by plants, flowers, trees, rocks, water and wildlife. I love the sights, smells and sounds of being out in nature.
4. Animals-  I love animals of all kinds, domestic and wild. They fill me with happiness and joy. I’m a cat lady for sure, but I love dogs, little critters, watching wild birds and I am continually inspired by the biodiversity on this earth.
5. Music- Finding just the right mix of music to suit my mood really helps inspire me when I work. I have eclectic taste so it may be anything from jazz to old country to punk music, depending upon how I feel that day.

What top five places would recommend to visitors in L.A. (based solely on what you think is great – not necessarily what is typical to tourists).

I’m not into hot spots or the latest trendy restaurants and if I’m going to brave the nightmare of LA traffic I want to see art, culture or nature!

From top left: The Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA); the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA); The Getty Villa; The Broad; The Fowler Museum at UCLA; the Bergamot Art Center; The Natural History Museum; La Brea Tar Pits

I love museums so that’s what I’d recommend the most! The major art museums, LACMA, MOCA, The Getty and The Broad are must-sees, of course. The Getty Villa on Pacific Coast Highway has a fascinating collection of ancient art, housed in a Roman villa overlooking the gorgeous Pacific Ocean. The Fowler Museum at UCLA has some fantastic exhibits of African, Asian, and arts of the Americas. One of my very favorite places to visit is Bergamot Arts Center (previously Bergamot Station) in Santa Monica. It is a collection of art galleries located in an old railroad station that showcases local and contemporary artists. I also love the Natural History Museum and La Brea Tar Pits because I love science and I’m fascinated with prehistoric animals.

The beach bike path weaving its way along the California coast. Photo via pinterest.

My favorite outdoor place is the beach. I love walking along the water, watching the shore birds and gathering seaside specimens. There is a beach bike path where I live that winds for about 25 miles from Pacific Palisades to Santa Monica to Venice, then Marina del Rey to Manhattan, Hermosa and Redondo beaches. My favorite time to go is early in the morning, or in late afternoon/early evening during the long days of summer.

If you could have dinner and drinks with five famous people (living or dead) who would you choose and why?

I’d love to have dinner with David Attenborough, the naturalist and documentary film writer, producer and presenter. I would enjoy talking to him about animals great and small, evolution, and what we can do to protect our environment and the future of this planet.

Heather’s dinner guests(from top left)… David Attenborough, Mike Leigh, Paul Thomas Anderson, Akira Kurosawa and Ingmar Bergman.

I would also love to talk with a few of my favorite film directors about their processes; Ingmar Bergman and Akira Kurosawa, who have passed, Mike Leigh and Paul Thomas Anderson who are still working. These directors have made some of my favorite films of all time and I have lots of questions.

Having been a part of the Etsy community since 2005, you are a true pioneer. Share with us how your journey has changed over 13 years. Is it a continuous process of refinement in what you offer and what you design and what buyers want?  If Etsy did not exist, would you still have wound up in the same place you are today?

I can’t even believe I’ve been on Etsy for 13 years! Where did the time go? If Etsy never existed I might have just stayed on at Ebay full-time or started selling through my own website. Etsy is a very different site than it was in the early years but I try to roll with the changes the best I can, and make them work for my business. If it ever stops feeling like a good fit for me I’ll probably sell through my own website and maybe do more craft fairs (which I don’t do now… too much work!)

I actually still make many of the same things that I have since the early 2000’s, but for a while I got worried that magnets were becoming obsolete when stainless steel refrigerators starting taking over the market, but recently they have started making them magnetic again (yay). I guess some people were sad when they discovered they couldn’t stick their favorite magnets or kid’s pictures on the fridge.

Jandean has become more of a side business the past couple of years, since selling vintage has taken over my life! I don’t have the energy to run them both at full throttle so I tend to make jewelry and magnets when the creative bug strikes. It’s nice because I can just make what I want when I want to, and don’t feel that I have to turn out as many pieces as I did in the past, which can cause burn out.

I do plan to devote more energy to the handmade side of my business this year. I’ve been feeling very inspired lately and have started lots of new projects. I’m hoping to fill up my janedean shop with lots of new one of a kind, recycled goodies very soon!

We can’t wait to see what Heather has in store, for her stores, in the coming months.  Will there be more sparkly magnets in our future? I sure hope so! Keep up with Jane Dean Gems here and with Curiosity Cabinet here.

In the meantime thank you to everyone who popped in with guesses for the giveaway.  Possibilities ran the gamut from handmade candles to antique salt cellars to wooden kitchen utensils, showcasing what a creative bunch all you readers are. The winner of the giveaway will be announced on the blog tomorrow night from the random pool of guesses submitted yesterday here on the blog and via Instagram. 

Cheers to Heather for finding beauty in found objects,  for turning fridges into glamour girls and for providing all the gorgeous pictures throughout this post of her shop and workspace.

The Colorful World of Collecting: A Vintage Tea Towel Interview

Martex Textile Champagne Tea Towel, 1950’s

Chances are you probably haven’t given much thought to your kitchen linens. You’ve got them tucked away in a drawer somewhere that you access only when you have a party, a holiday or a big giant spill to clean up. They sit in those drawers in an assortment of sizes from small to large. Place mats, tablecloths, towels, drink coasters, napkins, tray coverings either plain and functional or decorative and delicate. They are hand-me-downs your grandmother made back in 1920 or they are ones you bought last week on sale at Target. They are in pristine condition because you barely use them or they are spotted and shabby because that one celebration that one time was the wildest party of the year.

Kitchen Towel featuring Household Staples, 1940s

You haven’t thought about them much because they are always there – new and old and reliable. You use them to impress and inspire and make an impact on a bread basket or a tea tray or the handle of your oven. They sit under drinks and dessert plates,  line the cocktail cart and add some color to the picnic basket. You gift them and grab them in a last minute flurry of preparations and like any good coat of paint, they instantly brighten up the atmosphere, and you think to yourself… why don’t I use these more?

Main Street Table Cloth 1950s

Designed to sit pretty and decorate and then clean up afterwards,  kitchen cloths are the unsung heroes of cook spaces around the globe.  In today’s post we discuss the colorful world of mid-century kitchen linens with Cindy from Neatokeen, the internet’s best-kept vintage linen shop and discover her passion for mid-century tea towels. This is a bright and whimsical slice of the vintage kitchen that showcases the creative, quirky styles of the 1950’s and 1960’s that have evolved with charm and individuality to fit modern day appeal.

Iconic American chair designer Charles Eames  once said…”The details are not the details. They make the design.” This is particularly true of the bold graphics and jaunty sentiments of mid-century fabrics. Today, Cindy explains her favorites, what she looks for when stocking her shop and why these vintage kitchen helpers are still so compelling to our modern sense of style.

What are some common misconceptions about vintage linens? 

Linens were mass-produced in the mid-century and there is an assumption that they are plentiful and easy to find. If you look on Etsy and Ebay, that appears to be the case; however, it is extremely difficult to find them in excellent or mint condition. Most of them that saw heavy kitchen duty were relegated to the rag pile. Many linens that you see today are flawed with spots and holes. The real trick is to find those that were unused and stored away in a drawer or cupboard for 50 years. I am super picky about the linens I buy and probably pass by 99.9% of those I see. 

Do you have a favorite designer? 

It’s difficult to choose one! I will name my top three:

 

George Wright

 

Milvia

 

Tammis Keefe

I also have to give a shout-out to all of the uncredited artists and in-house designers who created amazing designs but were not able to sign their work.

Is there a type of linen or a specific company that you prize most and, if so, which and why? 

I began collecting all types of vintage linens: tablecloths, tea towels, napkins, handkerchiefs and table runners. Storage space for my collection was at a premium, so I had to make a difficult decision. I decided to hang onto my tea towels. I love the compact printed designs. I am particularly fond of the cheeky designs from the Dunmoy Linen Company and the detailed designs of the Ulster Company.

 

Dunmoy Linen Company, Flower Truck Delivery, 1960’s

 

Ulster Linen Company – Medieval Renaissance, 1960s

 

Tell us a little bit about caring for vintage linens. Do you have to store them differently or use special washing procedures? 

 

I learned early on that I was rubbish at removing spots in spite of the copious amount of stain removal advice and tips on the internet. This is what lead me to collect linens in near mint or perfect condition. I typically do not wash my linens and simply press them gently, if needed. I store them in a closet with open shelving covered by white cotton cloths. I know a lot of people store them in plastic bins, but I’m a bit skeptical of contact with plastic over time.

  

Which are the top three favorite items in your shop right now?

I love the London People towel – the characterization of 55 people and animals is charming. Another favorite is the “Wine & Spirits” towel by George Wright for the interesting composition and bold color choice. I really enjoy Hilary Knight’s angel towel. He was the illustrator of Eloise and I believe it’s the only towel he ever designed.

 

Wine & Spirits Series by George Wright, 1950s

 

Hilary Knight Christmas Angels, 1950

Why are vintage linens so appealing to people?

 They evoke a feeling of nostalgia and the printed designs can be gorgeous, whimsical, striking or even comical.

 

 

In your shop bio you mention that you sell to a wide variety of customers from gift-givers to celebrities to collectors. What is a fun buyer story that you can share?

 

I’m fiercely protective of my customer’s privacy, but I’ve sold linens to several movie and theater companies. They always need the items “yesterday” and have requested express shipping every time. In fact, the shipping has been a lot more expensive than the items themselves!

 

Dinner Party Scene Tea Towel, 1950s
Rare 1950’s Mid-Century Modern Tablecloth

If you could invite any person to luncheon (living or dead) and serve them on one of the tea towels currently offered in your shop which would you choose and why?

I would invite my late father and serve him dinner on the amazing Calder-esque mobile tablecloth that is in my shop. We would talk about the abstract design and then we’d discuss the act of collecting. My dad was an inveterate collector of many things and I never collected anything while he was alive. I’m fairly certain the collecting gene was transferred to me when he passed away. I now completely understand his compulsion to find the next best thing, the perpetual upgrading of a collection and the quest for a holy grail. He would get a big kick out of my passion for linens.

Cindy with her dad in 1964

Were linens a prized possession in your family growing up?

 My mother sets a beautiful table and has some lovely lace tablecloths, but printed linens were something I discovered much later in life.

 

Matching Linen Placemat/Napkin Set – Red Cherry Design, 1950s
Would you prefer to see one of your vintage tea towels in active daily use or framed behind glass?

 

When I started selling my linens on Etsy, I was taken aback at what people did with perfectly good linens; however, I have really mellowed and now enjoy learning about the creative ways my linens are used. I’ve seen pillows, children’s clothing, tote bags, quilts and even copies printed on canvas. Most people buy them to collect or use and I’m happy they are being enjoyed and not languishing in a forgotten drawer. Framed behind glass is good too!

 

Which types of linens are your bestsellers? And what makes them a bestseller – is it fabric, color, graphic appeal, size, age etc.?

 

I’ve sold 99% of my tablecloths and hankies and steer away from buying more because there are so many sellers that carry them. I specialize in vintage tea towels which is a more unusual category. Tea towels are my bestsellers. I think the colors and graphic appeal of the designs are what attract people initially.

 

Floral Linen Tea Towel, 1950’s
Other than traditional serving/entertaining purposes, framing and gift wrapping have you come across any non-traditional ways in which we could use vintage linens in our modern-day lives?

 

I mentioned a few above, but the most inventive use of linens I’ve seen is a winged armchair upholstered with vintage souvenir tea towels from London. The effect is a feast for the eyes.

 

Alternate ways to use vintage tea towels (clockwise from top left): as an apron, windows curtains, framed wall art, market bag/tote, footstool cushions.
When you are sourcing your materials for your shop do you generally find them one at a time or do you uncover treasure troves of personal collections?

 

I usually find them one at a time or occasionally in pairs. I’ve actually never found a big collection of linens which is the stuff of my dreams; hence, the hunt continues. I look high and low from estate sales to flea markets, near and far from coast to coast and I will continue to seek linens as long as it remains fun!

 

Tammis Keefe Angel Tea Towel, 1950’s

One of the things I like about vintage linens is that each and every one seems so unique. I don’t think I’ve ever come across the same design twice (matching sets not included of course!).  Have you seen a lot of repeat patterns come through your shop?

 I primarily sell duplicates of towels that I have in my own collection. Some designs are relatively easy to source e.g. the Tammis Keefe angel towel is common, but there are several designs that I’ve run across exactly one time in my 12 years of collecting. Since I’ve been collecting a relatively long time, it’s become easy for me to tell if the design is rare or fairly commonplace.

 

Are there any types of vintage linens that don’t appeal to you and if so, why?

 

I like all types of linen, but I’m partial to printed linens. I steer clear of damask, lace and embroidered linens. There are plenty of experts in those categories. Also, I think floral linens are lovely, but my eye tends toward unusual or quirky designs. Thankfully, they are often the ones left behind.

 

Mother’s Apple Pie Ingredients, 1950’s
According to the school of thought that one thing always leads to another – have you discovered any new interests or passions (or collections!) that have stemmed as a direct result from your pursuit of seeking out vintage linens? 

 

Yes! I really like the kitschy mid-century graphics found on vintage wrapping paper and novelty fabrics. I felt myself slipping down the collecting rabbit hole again but was literally saved by Pinterest. I started “pinning” items to designated boards. Pinterest feels like having an organized collection but without spending a dime…brilliant!

 

Modernist Textile Fabric, 1960s
I don’t know about you dear readers, but I’d be fine following Cindy along on her trail of discovering vintage wrapping paper and more vintage fabrics. She has a wonderful eye for the lighthearted unusual – the fun side – of finding old artistic illustrations that still seem so relevant today. Perhaps in the future we’ll be lucky to see more along those avenues. In the meantime I hope this post encourages you to take a look at your own kitchen linen drawer and march all those retro patterns out into everyday use regardless of their age. Don’t save them for a special occasion or a holiday, give your kitchen space a happy exclamation point by incorporating your tea towels and tablecloths, napkins and tray liners into everyday life.  If you have yet to own any vintage kitchen linens, I hope this post inspires a new collection.

 

Vintage Bridge Score Pads from the 1920’s
In addition to decorating your own space, vintage kitchen linens also make great gifts. As we roll through the month of May with Mother’s Day and Memorial Day just around the corner, Cindy is offering readers of the blog an additional 20% off all orders using the coupon code VINTAGEKITCHEN.  In her shop you’ll also find delightfully interesting mid-century (and earlier!) collectibles and paper ephemera with fantastic retro graphic appeal like the art deco bridge score pad above.  Keep up with Cindy on Pinterest, Instagram and in her shop. You won’t regret any moment spent learning more about vintage linens.
 If you have any additional questions or comments for Cindy or thoughts on vintage linens themselves please post a message below.

 

This was the set design for Julia Child’s kitchen for the movie Julie and Julia. Notice the proud display of kitchen linens!

All Aboard: Your Adventure Awaits {Part One}

1960s time travel

The year is 1964. The day is April 22. Your alarm clock goes off…

vintage1960's alarm clock

It’s 6:10am and you jump out of bed with excitement. Today you are going on a trip! You have less than an hour to get ready, so you hurry because you cannot (CANNOT!) be late.

Makeup, dress, hat

1960s dressing

 

Shave, suit, scent…

mens style

Your bags have been packed for days but you make one final check to make sure you’ve got everything…

1960s time travel

It’s all there! A perfect assembly of his and her items all packed with care. It contains her beaded cashmere sweater for those chilly Spring nights, his fedora hat, the Brownie Hawkeye, two dozens rolls of film, her favorite lace slip, his go-with-anything bow-tie, her sunglasses, his pullover, her special occasion pearls, the leather travel clock he’s carried for the past twenty years, the bestselling book that everyone’s been talking about, the shoes, the sundries, the little incidentals…all set!

You head to the kitchen and drink a glass of Ovaltine. You are too excited to even consider eating a full breakfast.

ovaltine1

Just before you leave you make the final check… walletpurse keys…

Wallet_collage

You head out the door but then turn right back around. You left the tickets with yesterday’s mail on the coffee table. Phew! Good thing you remembered before you headed downtown.

traintic1

You pull into the New Orleans train depot with 15 minutes to spare. You’ve booked your rail travel with Southern Railway which has been running passengers all over the East Coast for 70 years.  Today, you are headed northeast to the small mountain town of Johnson City, Tennessee. From there you’ll connect with Southern Railway’s luxury pullman train, named the “Pelican” and chug further north to your final destination.

Once settled into your seat, you show the conductor your ticket for stamping…

traintic3_crop

It’s a three and a half hour trip to Johnson City most of which you spend lost in literature. The book you are reading, The Burnt Ones by Patrick White is a series of short stories about

burnt1

people burnt by society, via various avenues like love, neurosis, natural elements, independence etc.. The poetic and passionate writing makes you understand why the New York Times just recently referred to White’s writing as spell binding and radiant. By the time you pull into Johnson City just before noon, you are half-way through the 308 page book.

Before getting off the train in Tennessee to stretch your legs, the conductor comes by asking for your reservation documentation on the Pelican. You hand him your identification check…

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and he, in return hands you the dinner menu for that night’s journey…

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It has been a long time since you’ve eaten beef steak but the Ovaltine has long worn off and a big dinner sounds perfect. You spend the afternoon hours walking around Johnson City’s historic downtown taking photos and people watching.

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Back at the depot at 5:40pm the Pelican is just pulling in to the station…

Johnson City, Tenn.

and you board for the second leg of your journey. There are 24 hours left to go. By this time tomorrow night you’ll be in the most exciting city in the world, attending one of the most talked about events of the year.

As a Southerner you are pretty lucky to be going at all. Most people attending this event live within a 60 mile radius and indeed you are the only ones among your friend set that are making the journey. When you read some pre-press months ago, it described the whole spectacle as “a circus, a classroom, a voyage, a time capsule and a futuristic peepshow all wrapped up in one.” That’s when you knew you had to go see it all for yourself.

You pass the time as paitiently as possible on a speeding train. The dinner hour comes and goes, you eat your chopped beef steak and your two vegetables (peas and carrots), your bread with butter and your apple pie. You watch each town pass by until the sun sets and darkness fills your window. Even though you had coffee after dinner, you feel sleepy. You close your eyes and dream about city lights.

The next morning, you wake to coffee and a breakfast tray of fruit and toast. The hours pass quickly. You daydream, you play cards, you read, you watch town after town after town roll by.

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Lunch comes and goes, afternoon tea comes and goes, an evening glass of wine amplifies your giddiness as the hand on your watch finally marks the the last hour. You are so close! You begin preparing for your arrival. You pick up and pack up and then finally…

…after a 36 hour journey from New Orleans to New York, the Pelican pulls into Penn Station passing dozens of trains coming and going in the process…

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You step out into the hustle and bustle of commuter territory. You breathe in the electric air. Everything feels fast around you.. the walking, the talking. The atmosphere is lively, festive, fun. You are swept up in the sea of  passengers disembarking. You hurry along with them, suitcases in hand. As you climb the stairs from the tracks to the terminal, your eyes catch on a poster pasted to a metal beam. It says…

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…and you smile from cheek to cheek. You have traveled from the Big Easy to the Big Apple to experience a big event. It is the start of the New York World’s Fair and you are on your way there!

Stay tuned for sensational sights and scenes from the Fair in Part Two, coming soon!  In the meantime, peruse the lovely vintage items in this post by clicking on the highlighted links.

Pinkie and Blue, The Two Thomas’ and The Couple That Never Was…

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She stands poised and serene on the sea rocks underneath a blustery sky. He stands confident and bold like a fashionable Fauntleroy against a golden grey garden. At first glance…they  are similar in subject, stance and appearance. They are similar in color palette, context and composition… in attitude and affluence. But their sameness doesn’t stop there. Embedded beneath the patina of paint and brushstroke runs a strange series of coincidences and ironies that bind both painters and subjects together in an unusual web of wonder.

If you walk into just about any antique shop today, you’ll most undoubtedly see the 18th century images of Pinkie and The Blue Boy reproduced in an assortment of different ways. Most commonly they peek out from behind matching frames of varying ages and styles like this…

Two Large Framed Prints of Pinkie and The Blue Boy from Happy Go Vintage
Two Large Framed Prints of Pinkie and The Blue Boy from Happy Go Vintage

but they also appear on a variety of creative endeavors from ceramic vases to needlepoint pillows from coffee mugs to calendars and most collectibles in-between.

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From top left: 1. Blue Boy Plate 2. Handmade Blue Boy Doll 3. Pinkie and Blue Boy Paint By Numbers  4. Pinkie and Blue Playing Cards 5. Blue Boy Cabochons

As two of the art world’s most commonly printed masterpieces, they are almost always presented as a pair… a portrait of teenagers on the cusp of an adult world. A nod to young love, first love, new love and a symbol of tenderness, confidence, potential and optimism.

But you can’t always judge a painting by its presentation. Pinkie and The Blue Boy as a couple are the result of time-worn perception and assumption. Painted by two different artists in two different decades Pinkie and Blue were never meant to be together.

It wasn’t until the 1920’s, roughly 150 years after they were painted, that this romantic perception took hold thanks to American railroad tycoon and enthusiastic art collector Henry Edwards Huntington. Purchased in England during the American heyday of British portraiture, Huntington brought these two paintings across the ocean to California where he placed them in his library opposite one another. 

Henry Edwards Huntington
Henry Edwards Huntington

The general public was then invited to come and take a look. From that moment forward Pinkie and The Blue Boy became associated as a couple forever linked by free association. 

But oddly enough had Pinkie and Blue met in real-life and lived during the same time frame, they most likely could have been an actual real couple. They had so many similarities in common that relating to each other would have been as breezy as their painted backgrounds.

The linking of back stories between not only Pinkie and Blue but also their painters and collector is equally strong. Here are five people entwined in a strange sort of web that is made of parallels in all directions.

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Let’s look at the links….

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PINKIE & BLUE: Personal Lives

Painted somewhere around 1770 by famed British artist Thomas Gainsborough (1727-1788) The Blue Boy, is thought to be the commissioned portrait of Jonathan Buttall…who came from a wealthy English iron-trading family.

Jonathan Buttall
Jonathan Buttall

At the time the portrait was completed Jonathan was about 18 years old.  His father had died two years earlier leaving Jonathan to run the retail iron business and attend to the massive fortune it procured.

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Pinkie, the nickname of Sarah Goodin Barrett Moulton sat for her portrait with equally esteemed English artist Thomas Lawrence in 1794. At the time of the painting she was eleven years old, and also without a father, who had abandoned her family several years earlier.

Like Jonathan, Sarah also came from wealthy stock.  The Moultons made their fortune in the lucrative business of exporting rum and sugar from Jamaica. At the time of this portrait Pinkie was two years into a stay in England – a dramatic move for educational purposes from her home country of Jamaica. Just like Jonathan adjusting to a new business environment Pinkie was adjusting to a new living environment. They were both wealthy, young, fatherless and undergoing challenging transitions.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN JONATHAN & THOMAS LAWRENCE: Debt

Although affable and kind-hearted, Jonathan did not turn out to have quite the same knack for financial business savvy that his father possessed. After two decades Jonathan was so loaded down in debt he was forced to file bankruptcy and auction off his belongings including his own portrait.

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Thomas Lawrence (the painter of Pinkie) was one of the most popular portrait artists of his day and a favorite of the royal courts. He worked constantly and consistently but to the puzzlement of those around him was always in debt. Throughout his career he continually relied on financial support from benefactors and loans from his friends and left little fortune when he died.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN JONATHAN AND THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH: Music

Gainsborough at the time of the commissioning was looking to break into the theatrical art set of creative London. He appreciated their cultured manner, their love of music and drama and their acceptance of artistic endeavors. But in order to fall in seamlessly with this crowd he felt he had to step up his game as far as skill-level and painting technique. So he studied the style that he most admired, Flemish painter Anthony van Dyck.

Gainsborough's evolution of style: (left to right) Before studying Van Dyck, sketching like Van Dyck, Painting like van Dyck
Gainsborough’s evolution of style: (left to right) Before studying Van Dyck, Sketching like Van Dyck, Painting like Van Dyck

When Gainsborough met and became friends with the Buttall family he took a particular interest in young Jonathan who enjoyed a similar love of music. Gainsborough introduced his refined painting style modeled after Van Dyck’s work in his portrait of Jonathan, which became one of England’s most treasured paintings and Gainsborough’s most notable work.   Gainsborough treasured his friendship with Jonathan for the rest of his life.

 

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THOMAS GAINSBOROUGH & THOMAS LAWRENCE: The Royal Academy of Arts

Aside from the obvious facts that they were both portrait artists, both named Thomas and both incredibly talented, the two Thomas’ were also big-time supporters of their trade. Separated by a generation in age,  Thomas Gainsborough, the elder of the two was a founding member in The Royal Academy of Arts which opened in London in 1768 as an exhibition venue and educational support center for artists. Thomas Lawrence became its 4th president in 1820. Lawrence was an admirer of Gainsborough’s work but is uncertain if the two ever met.

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The Royal Academy of Arts in London. Photo by Davis Landscape Architecture.

THE CONNECTION BETWEEN PINKIE AND THOMAS LAWRENCE: Early Death

Tragically, Pinkie never made it to adulthood. She died a year after her portrait was painted possibly from complications of an upper respiratory infection.  Her painter,  Thomas Lawrence also died unexpectedly from a heart attack at the age of 60.

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THE CONNECTION BETWEEN THEM ALL: Love

In all its varied forms from the passions of collecting to the comfort of friendship, to the dedication of career and to the lofty assumptions of amorous awakenings, Pinkie and The Blue Boy connected not only these five people but also millions of people around the world with one word: love.

Art is wonderful in uniting individuals, spawning ideas, energizing imaginations and recording place and time. Antique paintings like Pinkie and The Blue Boy serve not only as an intimate proof of two young lives lived centuries ago but they also serve as a playground for creative thought, intuitive whimsy and a universal need to understand and draw connections. And even though their association is not entirely based in accuracy, the fact that they were blended together in the 1920’s and remain blended together today is a wonderful example of our human race’s need to connect and associate. Sometimes making up a story is more unifying than defining an actual reality. That’s the beauty of art. That’s the beauty of Pinkie and the Blue Boy.

Interested in learning about more vintage art? Check out these two art history books here.

A Sale for the Last Minute Shoppers! 50% off

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Here we are just a week away from the big holiday dear readers! If your month has been a flurry of activity like Ms. Jeannie’s and you find yourself flustered about what to give whom, then you’ll her find her last minute sale for last minute shoppers a true treasure.

For two days only – December 18th and 19th, take 50% off your order using the coupon code fifty2015 upon checkout.

If you have hard people to shop for a vintage book always makes a lasting impression, a thoughtful gift or a nice reminder of a shared experience. Find such favorites here. Or help your pal set up a perfectly appointed library with some 100% unique and one of a kind decorating pieces that add instant, effortless personality to any space. Find those marvels here.

Why just two days, you ask? Because that will give Ms. Jeannie enough time to gift wrap your item in pretty paper, tie it with a bow and pack it off in the mail in time for Christmas. Live outside of the Southern region of the continental U.S.? No problem just send Ms. Jeannie a message and she’ll add expedited shipping charges to hurry that package right along to you.

Happy shopping dear readers!

Get the Look: Inside Adele’s Library

Adele's flat above the This, That and the Other Store in West Norwood where she filmed the at home video of Someone Like You
Adele’s flat above the This, That and the Other Store in West Norwood where she filmed the at home video of Someone Like You

Celebrity decorating. It is something of endless fascination to Ms. Jeannie, mostly because the sky is big as far as budget, space and service, which yields a million varied possibilities.  But while some really incredible rooms can be put together when you combine a team of decorators, exotic materials and bold statement pieces, sometimes the overall effect, while pretty as a magazine cover lacks the personality and individualism of the dweller who lives there.

Famed 20th century decorator, Sister Parish often said “all good decorating is about memories.” That’s so true and so relevant to people who like to decorate with antiques. Today we are going to look at one sensational singer’s library and examine how she has mastered the perfect balance between style and sentiment.

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Adele’s new album, 25 officially releases this week, but we are going to look at one of the videos from her past album, 21, which was filmed in her humble flat where she was living just as fame started flirting. The video gives a wonderfully intimate glimpse into her personal space and the style she calls her own. By utilizing a fireplace mantle, one bookshelf and the wall in-between, Adele manages to pack a lot of detail into a moderately sized space. Let’s look…

There are lots of odds and ends tucked into her shelves: pictures of her dog, a giant rubber band ball, a mini figurine of a man running, a horse marionette, sand art. Story and memory and intrigue wind their way up and down and across. The overall look is eclectic which makes it interesting, unique which makes it personal, and unfussy which makes it fresh. Sister Parish would have definitely approved!

Using Etsy as her shopping source, Ms. Jeannie recreated Adele’s library look with these following items  (click on each picture for more information)

Vintage Fowler's Preserving Jar from epochco, $25.58
Vintage Fowler’s Preserving Jar from epochco, $25.58
Cream Beethoven Bust made by mahzerandvee, $70
Cream Beethoven Bust made by mahzerandvee, $70
Hand Carved Horse Marionette from Buddahagal, $28
Hand Carved Horse Marionette from Buddahagal, $28
Bathroom Vanity Mirror from SecretWindowMirrors, $76
Mirror from SecretWindowMirrors, $76
Antique Spelter Figurine from SquirrelMidden, $130.31
Antique Spelter Figurine from SquirrelMidden, $130.31
Colorful Ceramic Horse from KukuliMarket, $38
Colorful Ceramic Horse from KukuliMarket, $38
Puppy Love Photograph by Kalstek Photography, $33.00
Puppy Love Photograph by Kalstek Photography, $33.00
Colorful Rubber Band Balls by BeFashinoablyOnTime, $3.50
Colorful Rubber Band Balls by BeFashinoablyOnTime, $3.50
Vintage Dachshund Figurine by VIntageGoofball, $9.95
Vintage Dachshund Figurine by VIntageGoofball, $9.95
Antique Seth Thomas Wood Mantle Clock from OneReDunn, $129.99
Antique Seth Thomas Wood Mantle Clock from OneReDunn, $149.99
Ostrich Egg by BrocAndPop, $88.15
Ostrich Egg by BrocAndPop, $88.15

If decorating is a challenge for you, or you feel confused or uncertain as to where and how to begin to define your own interior style – take Adele’s lead and start with your book shelf. Like a mini room unto itself, bookshelves offer a vast amount of possibility when it comes to display and self expressionism. They can be changed and redecorated over and over again most easily.  They offer a great blank canvas to play around with and they have the most effortless ability to really anchor a room as far as a focal point.

Ms. Jeannie encourages you to get beyond the typical effort of just lining up some books in a row and calling it done. Go and explore the little loves of your heart and watch your bookshelf come to life! And of course if you are looking for any books to fill out your shelves, there’s always Ms. Jeannie’s shop to help in that department.

On a side note, in 2013 Adele moved out of her cozy flat into this big beauty in Surrey. Ms. Jeannie imagines there’s a few more bookshelves there in need of her good style sense!

Adele's House in Surry, England

Happy decorating dear readers!

Socializing Ms. Jeannie: The Wheres and the Whys

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Gearing up for Fall and the busy holiday shopping season ahead, Ms. Jeannie is taking the briefest of moments to highlight where and why you can find her in the world of social media. Besides here on the blog and on Etsy, you can find Ms. Jeannie…

On Twitter:

A retweet from flavorwire
A vintage inspired re-tweet from flavorwire. Bookish business cards!

Here you’ll find Ms. Jeannine tweeting about literary quotes, interesting vintage inspired trends (like the above bookish business cards!), historical fun facts, new shop items, cool places to travel, favorite books and secret sale announcements. Follow Ms. Jeannie on twitter here.

On Instagram:

A sampling of Ms. Jeannie photos on Instagram
A sampling of Ms. Jeannie photos on Instagram

Just recently joined, here you’ll find behind-the-scenes shots of Ms. Jeannie’s blog photo shoots, moments of nature that catch her attention, ideas being crafted in the shop and of course magical moments with Indie – the biggest ham on Instagram! Follow Ms. Jeannie on Instagram here.

On Pinterest:

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Some of Ms. Jeannie’s most popular boards include (from left to right): The Vintage House, The Vintage Man and the Vintage Garden

On Pinterest you’ll find a collection of design boards curated by Ms. Jeannie that seamlessly blend vintage items into our contemporary world through decorating, gardening, fashion, cooking, party planning and more. There’s a bit of whimsy floating around that space too! Fun boards include:  Scenes from a Dinner Party Long Ago, True Adventurers and The Vintage Bird. Sign up to follow Ms. Jeannie on Pinterest here.

On Facebook: 

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Vintage concrete rabbit bookends available in Ms. Jeannie’s shop.

This is the least utilized of all the social media outlets by Ms. Jeannie at the moment but come September this is where you’ll find new shop items, press mentions, shop sales, vintage item collections and favorite books. Like Ms. Jeannie on Facebook here.

And a big BIG thank you dear readers for encouraging the world of Ms. Jeannie in all the ways that you do. From comments on the blog to social media likes and favorites to individual messages – every single one of your thoughts and clicks counts big time in helping Ms. Jeannie persue her passion. It’s cliche to say she couldn’t do it with out you. But really she couldn’t do it without you.  Thanks for being marvelous.

Please include your social media links in the comments section so we all can find you too!