Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Never a Dull Moment ...

The whirlwind that is my life continues. Last weekend was a Sidewalk Sale at The Grapevine. We have these periodically, and have a lot of fun! We set up our Charmed Life in front, with lots of jewels and treasures galore.

The store was busy ... the day was lovely ... a good time was had by all !!!

The Charming Husband helped some friends move into their new home while I was at the shop, and unfortunately zigged when he should have zagged. His back said OUCH, and he's been having a tough week. He's on the mend, but it's taking its sweet time.

We've jazzed up the booth at the shop. The Charming Granddaughter is a tremendous help, and is learning the ropes of running a booth in an antique shop. She's doing a grand job, and learning quickly.

Our latest find is an awesome 1940s white metal kitchen cabinet ... glass sliding doors, textured metal shelf, cup hooks, lighted interior. Ready to go at The Grapevine !!

It's nearly the end of the month! I know! How did it get here so quickly? Are there Gremlins changing the clocks while we sleep? The end of the month means shopkeeping on Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza. Tidying things up, spiffing up the inventory, putting up some new sales. Worked on a few new listings, including a wonderful Wedgwood Queen's Ware (or is it Queensware?) covered dish and Anna Van Briggle drip-glazed candle holders.

Tomorrow we pick up 20 pounds of blueberries, fresh from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania.
The Charming Granddaughter is working with the owner at The Grapevine tomorrow ... so it's just the Charming Grandson and me, and I wonder what mischief we can concoct?

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Wedgwood Majolica ... Who Knew ?

One of our Charming Daughters collects Wedgwood. She loves the Jasperware, in all colors. She has some lovely older pieces, and some newer pieces. Her library includes several volumes devoted to Wedgwood collecting. We’re always finding pieces to add to her ever-growing collection. Some we find are rare, some are newer. No matter, she’s always thrilled to receive a gift of Wedgwood.

She now has a set of Queensware dinner dishes in lilac with white trim. She also has a Queensware tea set.

At a recent estate auction, we ran across a piece of Wedgwood majolica. Literally stumbled upon it. The auctioneer called out “Majolica !!” and the ringperson held it aloft and peered at the back. He barked “Wedgwood, Wedgwood !!!” Since we frequent this particular auction house, the auctioneer pointed at me and said “Can I get a $10 start?”  Of course! And the bidding began.
I had never seen, nor heard of, Wedgwood majolica. I was bidding on the name Wedgwood, and our daughter’s love of Wedgwood. We won the auction, and brought it carefully home. Snapped a couple pictures on my handy-dandy camera phone and shared them with my daughter.

“Hmmm.” She said. “Interesting. Not really my cup of tea, but thanks for thinking of me.” So, now I have a piece of Wedgwood majolica and it was in need of a home.

It was time to fire up the computer and put my research skills to good use. I learned that Minton began producing majolica around 1850, and Wedgwood did not begin until 1860, 10 years after Minton. From Wikipedia, I learned that “Wedgwood's majolica included cachepots, pitchers, candlesticks, cheese bells, umbrella stands, sardine boxes, plates in naturalistic patterns, bread trays, etc. In Wedgwood's familiar "greenware" the green glaze emphasizes the low relief patterning, typically of basketwork and foliage.” At Antique Central, I learned that “but by the early 1870's the Wedgwood Majolica outstripped production of all other ornamental wares.”
The marking on the reverse of my piece is simply WEDGWOOD, with a three letter code of STK, which my research shows dates this piece to September of 1882. The letter F and the letter W are also incised. What appears to be the number 5 is handwritten in red. This makes my piece about 128 years old, as of this writing.
The use of cherry blossoms

and the whimsical use of a butterfly

and dragonfly
hints subtly at the Japanese influence in the Victorian era. The basketweave border is a common design element in Wedgwood’s majolica.

Now I know just a little bit about Wedgwood’s foray into Majolica production.
If any of our Charming followers has more to share, I’d love to hear from you!

If you're interested in adding this rare find to your Wedgwood and/or Majolica collection, you can find it in our shop :  Wedgwood Majolica on Ruby Lane

If you'd like to read online about Wedgwood majolica, here are some links to give you a place to start:

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

So, you think you wanna sell online?

We travel frequently, and are always meeting new friends. Many of them have approached me about selling online– it seems so effortless and so easy ... just have a widget, take a picture of it, put it on an online selling site ... then sit back and wait for someone to buy it.
"It’s simple, right? Tell me what you think! Should I sell online?"
Here are some things I recommend they ask themselves when trying to decide if selling online is right for them:
  • What will you sell?
  • Do you have an area of expertise? Something you are passionate about, that you collect?
  • Is there something that you have ready access to in large enough quantity to keep a viable online presence in your “shop”?
  • Do you have an inventory of items built up so you can keep your online presence strong?
  • How much time are you willing and/or able to devote to building your online business? Are you available every day to answer questions from potential buyers?
  • How much time will it take to acquire items to sell? Do you have a local source for items to sell?
  • How much time will it take to: research your items, clean them, repair them if necessary, photograph them, upload and edit your photographs, write your item listing, and post it on the selling site.
  • Where will you sell your item? Research online selling venues.  What kinds of items are sold on those sites? What are their rules for selling?   What are their selling fees?   Can you sell your item for a profit based on their fee structure?   Does your selling philosophy align with theirs?
  • Where will you store your items?  Do you have space in your home to store the items you are offering for sale? Do you have space to keep that inventory for an extended period of time while you wait for it to sell? Do you have space to store “seasonal” and “holiday” items (such as Christmas, Easter, Valentine’s Day) to reserve them for the appropriate time to sell?
  • Do you have an area to photograph your items? If your items are large, do you have a well-lighted area to photograph your item? Look at the photographs of other sellers on the site you have chosen. What do their photographs look like? Can you produce high-quality photographs of your item? Photographs need to be clear, in focus, and show your item at its best. 
  • Online sellers have to be prepared to ship their items. Do you have an area to store shipping supplies? (Boxes, bubble wrap, envelopes, packing peanuts, wrapping paper) Do you have a good printer?  A reliable scale to weigh your items? Do you have a space to safely package items for shipping? Do you have easy and regular access to your local post office?
  • How are your computer skills? In today's marketplace, an serious online presence is required. Online sellers need to understand search engine optimization, tagging, analytics, etc. Social networking is the next big thing. Are you comfortable with sites like Facebook, Twitter, Kaboodle ... sites where you can effectively market your shop and your items?
As an online seller, I work every day. Every single day. Days off reduce my income. Every day I check my email, and respond to any requests for information. If a purchase is made from my online selling sites, then I prepare items for shipping. I visit all my social networking sites. I work on this blog. I try to list at least a few items every day, or at least tweak existing listings to keep them fresh and current.
While it may look easy from the outside, it feels rather like the scene from the Wizard of Oz ... "pay no attention to the (wo)man behind the curtain" ... because behind every online shop you frequent, there is a hard-working person pulling all the levers and turning all the dials.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Safe at Home ...

Our trips are always whirlwinds. The Charming Husband always likes to pack as much into every day as he possibly can ... and we're always adjusting the schedule to adapt to changes.

Atlanta was h.o.t., as Atlanta always is in June. Our Charming Son and his Charming Bride-to-Be were the perfect hosts. We stayed downtown at Centennial Park, with an awesome view. The Moms and the Charming Bride spent Friday looking at gowns. Our first stop was Etain Bridal Boutique. If you're in the greater Atlanta area, you won't find a more delightful boutique and staff.

Our second stop wasn't quite so Charming. We visited the "largest bridal boutique in the south." They'll be filming "Say Yes to The Dress" there ... Bridals by Lori .  We all felt "herded" around by condescending sales staff who had not one moment to spend with us. We all commented that we felt like sheep being herded. Nobody really seemed to care if the Charming Bride found a dress to her liking or not. We wouldn't recommend this shop to anyone.

We toured the reception site at The Wimbish House. We sampled the food from the caterer at Aqua Blue. The catering manager is a delight to work with, we'd recommend her to anyone! Did a quick drive to the church, but weren't able to get inside. Lots of stained glass.

Had a great meal at No Mas! Hacienda and Cantina. What scrumptious food and great service. We don't have any good Mexican dining establishments, and the Charming Husband and I love good Mexican food.

A visit to the AmericasMart Atlanta rounded out the visit. Found a new jewelry designer we loved. We'll be carrying some of her pieces in our shop at The Grapevine.

Phew. A busy 3 days.

We were thrilled to have convertible weather for our drive to St. Louis. The sunshine felt good, and the fresh air kept us going.

Unfortunately, our visit to St. Louis was just as busy at Atlanta, but not nearly as much fun. Our Charming Son-in-Law was in the hospital while we were there, so we spent a good deal of time in hospital waiting rooms with our Charming Daughter. We dashed between houses and visits, barely stopping to catch our breath. We were only able to squeeze in a few minutes with two of our Charming Grandchildren, much to our dismay. The Charming Husband used his skills to repair a broken sink ... the usual things Charming Dads do for their Charming Children. A short 72 hours to spend with our Charming Kids and Grandkids just isn't long enough ... and we only get these visits once a year. If we're lucky, twice. We brought two of the Charming Grandkids home with us for a visit ... let the fun begin!

Time to get back to reality ... and back to work.
Who is ready to join me?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Summertime ... summertime ... sum sum summertime

We are so excited !! We're heading out to Atlanta this weekend. Our Charming Son is getting married, and we're going for a Wedding Planning Weekend. We'll get to meet the Charming Bride's parents, sample the catering menu, tour the church and the reception sites.

Then it's off to St. Louis to pick up some Charming Grandkids for their annual summer visit with us. No big plans this summer, but I know we'll come up with fun things to do and see while they're here.

So our summer begins, as it does every year. With kids and games and movies and junk food and mess and chaos. Bedtimes. Schedules. Noise. Giggles. Waterguns. Bicycles. Skateboards. Camping trips. S'mores.

These two love the flea markets, thrift stores, antique malls ... they're even good scouts at the local auction house. "Hey Gramma, did you see this???" The Charming Girl is great at organizing and sorting and cleaning up my office. She loves to get into all my jewelry and see what we've found. Some sparkly things always find their way home with her.

And the Charming Boy can't pass up a Star Wars collectible, or Legos. And who could say no to that face?

Monday, June 6, 2011

Two Auctions ... Two Days

We had a busy weekend !!! The upcoming summer and vacation plans made us realize we needed to have more furniture inventory for our booth at The Grapevine. We won't always be in town for auctions ... so we did two local auctions -- one on Friday night and one early Saturday morning. I'm still sorting our treasures !!!

Friday night found us at our favorite local auction house. We found a great Bassett china cabinet -- just the right size for a condo or an apartment. Sliding glass doors. Well-loved and cared-for in its previous life. An easy clean up. A little student desk.

Here's the new Bassett cabinet in the shop.  The larger one is also Bassett. The new one is the second one in the photograph.

At The Grapevine

Sunday morning took us to the local fairgrounds and a brand-new auctioneer's very first auction under his own banner. How exciting. Wisely, he brought in seasoned ring-people, a back-up auctioneer and lots of support. We've seen him at other auctions, and the local auctioneers have taken him under the wing and given him experience auctioneering for them. He did a great job!!! We were so happy to see him be so successful. He had great stuff, a large variety and ran a good auction.

We found a fantastic cabinet that is Amish made -- all oak, about 50 years old. Another of those great white metal kitchen post-Hoosier cabinets from the 1940s. It needs a good cleaning, the electrical wiring needs to be checked, and the Charming Husband's magic touch. He'll work his magic on it and it will gleam! We also snagged another china cabinet and buffet, from the 1950s era. Those need a little more of the Charming Husband's magic touch.

There's a little white enamel table with red trim that needs some cleaning and paint on the wood base. I might have to keep that one for me, though. Mirrors, paintings, a big swag of jewelry. I think we're stocked for the summer ... and we'll have new treasures in our shop and on Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

“So, what do you do?”

How many times have we been asked this question at a social event?
How do I describe my life? I don’t design anything.  I don’t create anything. I’m not an artist, or a musician, or a designer, or a writer. I don’t get up every day and go to an office and work in the traditional sense of what society views as “working.”
“I sell vintage items online. Mainly vintage costume jewelry.”
Oh. I see. You really don’t work, then. You don’t have a J.O.B.
You just stay home and play.
It might appear like that from the outside, but what goes on in reality is far from “play”. Don’t get me wrong … I love what I do. It is wonderful to get up in the morning looking forward to the day and all that it holds. I get to work with beautiful things. I get to go shopping! I read, I research.  I have a kit to test metals. Cleaners of all types. I have an arsenal of tools, and a few tricks up my sleeve. I’ve had to learn about photography, styling, and presentation. I’ve had to polish my writing skills. My work basket includes 3 different magnifying devices, a tape measure, a blacklight pen, a jewelry polishing cloth, post it notes, tiny little screwdrivers and tweezers. Then there’s all the computer skills – some basic html, photo editing, layout and design work. My bookshelves are loaded with reference books. I’ve learned all the ins and outs of shipping, and have become friends with the folks at our local post office.
There’s no fixed schedule, no boss to answer to, no water cooler to gather around with my co-workers.
There are pitfalls, as there are with any job. I’m too close to the laundry room and can always notice that there’s a load of towels that need washing. Friends who know I work from home call to ask if I can help with a sick child, it’s an emergency! The dogs need to visit the outdoors. And “The Nate Berkus Show” just came on! It’s 2 p.m. and I still have on my jammies.  A phone call and my schedule changes for the day … “I’ve got my Grandma’s costume jewelry and I need to get rid of it – are you interested?”
So I continue living my Charmed Life, waking up every day counting my blessings and grateful for the opportunity I’ve been given. I’ve built a solid network for online friends – folks who have their own online business. We support each other, help out with research, and are there just to cheer each other on some days. Of course, I’m doing it on my comfy couch wearing my favorite jammies!!

The winter of my discontent ...

Well, more like the winter of my constant illness. A reaction to a new medication had me down and out. The flu set in. And didn't leave. Food poisoning. Another cold/sinus infection/ear infection. If it wasn't one thing, then it was another. Not quite so Charming.

I spent my time reading rather than writing. The fog wasn't conducive to witty banter and cohesive sentence construction. I did learn some new things while reading. I learned about Search Engine Optimization (affectionately called SEO). I learned about Kaboodle-ing, and found I didn't like Kaboodle so much.

I found The Vintage Village - an amazing online community of online sellers. I joined as a Premium Member. Their membership is the best bargain in town! It was there that I learned about SEO. I learned all kindsa new stuff there, and have been implementing the changes to our online selling on Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza. It's been exciting to learn new things and expand my horizons.

I've found some amazing new things that are in our shop at The Grapevine, and we've stocked Ruby Lane and Ruby Plaza with things you just can't live without!