Tuesday, August 25, 2015

No Dumpster Diving Required

Several months back Shawn and Trevor came home from running an errand and told me they had a surprise for me to come and see.   I know these two guys pretty darn well and have to admit that it was with some reluctance that I agreed to follow them to the back entry of the house.  I anticipated all sorts of 'surprises' they might have conjured up but, after seeing what they had for me, to my  surprise, I was extra pleasantly surprised!  I was surprised that it really was a surprise for me and not them luring me into a prank.  Yippee!

They brought me this coffee table!

I asked them where they got it.   Shawn said that as they drove by the park down the road from our house they noticed this table sitting next to the trash cans.  He and Trevor looked at each other as they passed it by and they said to one another, "Should we go back and get that for Mom?"  They know me pretty darn well too.  They turned around and headed back to the park to get the table.  After looking it over they decided it was a keeper and proceeded to load it up and then brought it home to me.  It is made of solid oak planks with forged iron accents.  It's scratched up, old, worn, sturdy, and very  English looking…in other words, it's perfect.  

For several months it sat out in the back entryway of the house and  finally I moved it into the family room a few weeks ago…after
 I gave it a thorough cleaning including disinfecting (I'm a germophobe)!   

Ahhh,  dumpster diving without having to dive in the dumpster.  It can't be much easier than that, now can it?

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Friday, August 14, 2015

The History of Johnson Brothers and The Friendly Village Tablescape

Last week, Shawn and I popped into a couple of estate sales and I picked up over 100 pieces of Johnson Brother's The Friendly Village.  I think I may have to hang on to 12 of the dinner plates and use them this year at Thanksgiving but the rest of them, including this 48 piece service for 8, will be you know where.

I don't know about you all, but I have had enough of Summer and I am down right ready for the cooler temperatures of Autumn.  I've been doing a lot of rearranging around the house….I'm in one of those zones where I've got a zillion projects going on, even if half of them are just in my mind that I'm contemplating!   We've also been moving kids out and around.  Three of them are out and the three still at home are moving or rearranging their rooms around.   

Since I am yearning for Fall, haven't posted any tablescapes in a while and just got these Friendly Village pieces I decided to set the table with them.  

Oh great, I just realized that I left the bread plate out of a couple of place settings.  Now I know why I kept staring at this pic (like for an hour!) and it bothered me.  Oh well.  I'm posting it anyway.  Shawn's Dad gave him a book to read and listen to, which I've been doing as well.  It's called Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World.  It's powerful.  Powerful enough that we're making our kids listen to or read it as well!  One of the (many, many) things that struck me was the author talking about Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn, saying, "If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late."   That may not mean anything to everyone, but for me, it means don't wait until it's perfect because if you do, you'll be behind.  It resonated deeply with me because I am a perfectionist to a fault, and have often held my own self back because of it.
Okay, enough psychology.

  I've been dying to use these Ralph Lauren paisley patterned dinner napkins.  I bought them mostly to go with my Rural Scenes dinnerware but when I put them next to the Friendly Village, I realized they were a perfect match!   The cute Bamboo flatware is from Horchow.    Did you know that Horchow was the first luxury mail order catalog that wasn't preceded by a brick and mortar store?  I didn't, well until a few hours ago anyway.  I also learned that he is a Broadway producer.  Wow.  Who knew?  Wikipedia, that's who!

The centerpiece is just a cheap-o glass vase, that I didn't get flowers in but my daughter did, filled with facorns (what I call fake acorns) and more fake stuff…greenery and pheasant feathers.
The cranberry pink on the thumbprint glasses picks up the pinks in the dishes and napkins and the little footed goblets have the prettiest etched grapes and leaves all around them.

Kalyn brought me back the ginormous pinecones from her trip to California last Summer.  She knows I have a thing for pinecones and they seem to have more meaning to me now, since she just moved to Stillwater two days ago. =(

The History of Johnson Brothers 

Although Johnson Brothers was formed in 1882 by two of the four brothers, Alfred and Frederick, after purchasing the defunct Charles Street Works factory at a Hanley bankruptcy sale in 1882, their story began earlier as they were Grandsons to the famous Meakin lineage and shared a heritage in the production of fine dinnerware.  The purchase of the factory marked the brothers first entrepreneurial venture.  

The brothers worked on building a solid reputation for their white ware which they called "White Granite" (many early pieces were marked as "semi-porcelain"), a durable earthenware that had the look of fine china but was tough and chip resistant like ironstone. By 1888 a third brother, Henry, joined the firm and they began production of transfer ware, which the company would become famous for.

The Industrial Revolution combined with the demand for pottery not long after the Civil War, created an opportunity for Johnson Brothers to open up two new factories in Hanley close to the original factory.    

Sometime around 1896 the fourth of the Johnson Brothers, Robert, joined the company and relocated to the United States to further establish a presence in the emerging tableware market.  Americans happily filled their cupboards with Johnson Brothers' tableware because not only were the patterns attractive, but the product  itself was both durable and very affordable.    By 1898 the brothers had a total of five  working factories all producing tableware, the original Charles Street Works and the four additions;  Imperial Works, Hanley Works, Trent Works and the Scotia Road Works in Tunstall. 

In the early part of the 20th century the brothers sons joined the company in an effort to raise sales across Europe and the company's growth continued though became somewhat stagnated during World War I due to increased taxes on the work force, shipping capabilities and raw materials supplies.   During the 1920's, after the War had ended, a new colored clay was introduced.  It came in gray, rose, green and gold and was named "Dawn" and Johnson Brothers resumed their pre-war production rate.  By the end of the decade, several of the Johnson's grandsons had also joined the firm and their tableware was exported throughout the British Empire.

The 1930's  came and saw the original Charles Street factory closed as new, modern technology was implemented where firing was executed by the use of electricity in the new electric tunnel kilns, rather than coal which had been used in the bottle oven kilns.  This led to better quality products, even lower prices and by far better conditions for the workers.  

When World War II came,  production nearly came to a complete halt but sporadic shipments to the United States helped keep the company afloat.  The damage caused by war along with a need for increased productivity and facilities dictated an enormous overhaul of equipment and facilities.  Plants in England, Australia and Canada were purchased for the purpose of decorating, glazing and firing of pieces.

Johnson Brothers gained Royal Warrants from Queen Elizabeth II and the Queen Mother.  During the 1950's award winning designs such as Old Britain Castles and Historic America became popular (and still are) and led to the company being awarded with the Queen's Award to Industry, not once but twice, for their contributions to the British economy.  But, despite the award, the 1960's brought a change in popular tastes and rising competition.  Production costs were spiraling and this led to Johnson Brothers further curtailing their expansion.  In 1968, along with other famous name potters like Meakin (their Grandfather), Coalport, Adams, Midwinter, Crown Staffordshire and Mason's, Johnson Brothers, in an effort to remain competitive, joined the Wedgwood Group.  Some popular patterns and ranges were produced over the following years, including the 1981 introduction of the extremely popular "Eternal Beau", but none were enough to prevent the Hanley Pottery from eventually closing and being demolished in 1995.  At this same time Johnson Brothers reviewed the traditional lines and had to reduce the number of patterns they produced.  In 2000 the tableware division was moved temporarily to the J. & G. Meakin Eagle Pottery Works. 

 In 2003, Johnson Brothers products ceased to be manufactured in Britain and the process was transferred to China, sadly, which as I have said before, saw the end of an era as their is only one pottery left in England today producing transferware.   The Eagle Pottery Works were demolished in 2005.


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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Jock of the Bushveld Transferware Plate

Sometimes when I come upon a piece of transferware I've not seen or don't recognize I do a little research to learn what story it might tell.  This Royal Doulton plate was no exception.  The imagery is absolutely beautiful and the title, Jock of the Bushveld, intrigued me.  

 Do you know of Jock?

In the early days of South Africa’s European history, a young, 22 year old man by the name of James Percy FitzPatrick returned from England to South Africa to support his recently bereaved mother. 
In 1884, FitzPatrick left his home in the Cape for the Eastern Transvaal at the lure of gold.  Gold had been discovered in the area and the rush was on.   FitzPatrick was one of few who had come from all corners of the world that made his way to the region of some of Africa's most scenic untamed wilderness to claim a portion of gold for himself.  However, Percy’s attempts at gold-digging were somewhat unsuccessful and before long he gave up, bought a wagon and some oxen and began life as a transport rider.

Transportation in those days was arduous, slow work. Roads were 
mere dirt tracks and the wagons that travelled them were pulled by 12 to 16 oxen which had to be fed, watered and, very importantly, protected from wild animals. 

The mid day heat was nothing less than scorching and was best avoided by traveling for four hours before sunrise and for four hours after sunset. During the day men hunted for their meals or saw to various chores around the camp. In these hard times, many men sought out brave and obedient canine companions to keep them company during the cold nights, to accompany them on hunting trips and to act as an extra set of eyes on the restless South African bushveld (low lands).  Percy FitzPatrick was no different. However, good dogs were hard to come by and FitzPatrick was short on luck.

Not long into his career as a transport rider,  one of FitzPatrick's companion's (Ted Sievewright) dogs had a litter of puppies.  She was a well respected bull terrier trail dog, though somewhat unattractive, and she had been covered by a pedigree Staffordshire Bull Terrier.  Five of her six pups were the epitome of their breeding.  They were strong, fat and had good coloring.  However, one of them was a runt.  He was weedy, ill-proportioned and was the victim of constant sibling attack.  Since the runt had not been spoken for, Percy came upon the idea of taking him on as his own.  However, right at the last moment Percy was offered the pick of the litter.  After a night of contemplation he decided to stick with the little weakling, thus saving him from being drowned in a bucket for being the runt. 

Percy called him Jock and it seemed as if the puppy knew from the very first day that FitzPatrick was his master.  He even followed him home without any coaching.  Jock was very loyal towards Percy, and proved countless times to be a brave companion, and champion of the litter from which he came.
Years later, after FitzPatrick had made his own fortune as a politician, author, and pioneer of the fruit industry, married and became a father, he would recount the adventurous times he shared with Jock as bedtime stories to his four children.  His close friend, none other than Rudyard Kipling, also took part in the story telling evenings and persuaded FitzPatrick to gather them into the form of a book.

Jock of the Bushveld was published in 1907 becoming an instant success being reprinted four times in that year alone with over 91 editions at last count and never having gone out of print. It is now widely accepted as a South African classic.  The book was highly praised by Theodore Roosevelt who called it "the best and truest story of a dog that I have ever read" and went on to say, "and I think that I have read them all."  This was a compliment that Percy treasured dearly.
Amazon has numerous printings of the book available here: Jock of the Bushveld  

The upscale private lodge within Kruger National Park known for the diversity in wildlife and particularly its Big Five sightings, the Jock Safari Lodge, was named after Jock.  It is built in the area near where the stories of Jock and Percy took place.

If you are fortunate enough to visit the Kruger National Park, you can follow the Old Transport trail which traces the route used in the winter months by the transport riders and was the setting for many of Jock's adventures.  It is marked with the plaques shown below.

Jock has been commemorated in numerous ways including not only the book and lodge, but movies, statues, plaques, maps and even this rare transferware plate which depicts him at the forefront with Percy (standing) and others in the group around a campfire.  The border of the plate is fittingly decorated with some of the various wild life in the Transvaal.

Sources: Jock Safari Lodge, AngelFire, Kruger National Park, Wikipedia

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Monday, July 27, 2015

Preserving Fresh Bread for Decor

I recently thought I'd get a few loaves of faux bread to put in my mini German "fresh bread" cart but was a little disappointed in what I saw available, and even more disappointed in that FAKE bread cost more than the real deal.  I see pretty bread in the market all the time and so I decided I'd just try and dry my own.


I was inspired to create my own centerpiece after coming across the simple beauty of these two images.   5 B's…Bread, Bag, Board and Baskets = Beauty.

To make your own dried bread, simply place your chosen bread on an oven rack with the oven set to between 175 and 200 degrees Farenheit.  Dry the bread for at least two hours.  I purchased pretzel sticks for two reasons…they were pretty (that's very important) and were the correct size ratio for the cart and bunny rabbit I am displaying them in.  

Since the pretzels are dense, I dried them for an additional two or three hours to be sure they were dried through.  They browned up a  bit but look good all the same.  Once out of the oven, I allowed them to cool on cooling racks overnight.  The appearance of dried bread is almost that of fresh, but of course it's going to be hard and probably somewhat brittle.

After making sure your bread is dried through you'll want to apply a protective coating so that no moisture can get back in…as in the moisture that will come from a few pesky nieces, nephews,  kids (and adults) mouth's when they inevitably attempt to take a bite, which I assure you, is going to happen at my house.  That's the real reason I use an ample coating of non yellowing,  clear protective finish because I just can't wait to 'see' how they think this bread tastes.  hehe

So, next you'll want to lay the dried bread onto a non stick surface like wax paper, etc and apply a coat of the sealant and allow it to dry.  Flip the bread over and coat the back side allowing it to dry.  Repeat the process 3 or 4 times so the loaves are fully coated.  Allow the coating to cure for a day or so.

Next, it's the fun part.  Well, almost…but this next step is fast that you get to the fun part in no time.

Grab a paper bag, any old paper bag will do.  I used a simple brown paper lunch bag.   

 I wadded the bag up in my hand like a piece of trash and then smoothed it out and rolled down the edges.  I put a few plastic bags as cushioning in the bottom of the bag and to give my bread loaves a little height.  

If you want a pop of color or a different look,  use a pretty checkered cloth, bandana, piece of lace or a French ticking stripe napkin to wrap your bread loaves or sticks in.  You could even tie a pretty piece of lace or ribbon around them.  

It's time to decorate with my Frische (well, it used to be anyway) Brotchen.   I realize I could probably use a few more loaves in my cart, but someone named Trevor Shawn Roberts ate some of them before I got a chance to dry them out!  I just hope that he takes a big ole bite now.

This is the fun part.  

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

No Meat? No Problem. The Perfect Vanity Tray!

I made the suggestion to Shawn that we might consider doing Meatless Monday every so often.  With a wry smile on his face, he agreed. 

 I knew as well as he did that if I made, say a big green salad absent of meat, that he'd ask where's the meat?  I know he knows that I know his idea of Meatless Monday really means Meat Less the vegetables Monday.   mmhh, hhh.  
That's my carnivorous husband.

But, if you can forego the meat and you like to re-purpose things in unexpected ways like I do, then I've come up with a perfect, and beautiful, match.

This stunning teal transferware Well & Tree Platter  needs nothing altered to convert it into an instant vanity tray or soap dish!  

As I admired this piece today while photographing it to list to my shop I thought that the well (which is where the juices from a roast or meat would pool in) would be a perfect spot to hold coins, rings, small bath items like q-tips or what-nots.  

In a guest bathroom, wouldn't it be gorgeous with a bar of soap in the well and the fancy, thick, disposable hand towels (or regular ones rolled up) laid at an angle on the platter?  Perhaps a small bud vase filled with a single rose would be nice on it as well?   I think it would be lovely.

I like this idea a lot.  The teal sure looks pretty paired with some of my purple transferware, but I'm holding out to find one that is purple. 

As I played around with this today I wondered what the original owner (back in 1830 or so) would have thought about me using it as a vanity tray!  

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