Wednesday, November 30, 2011

store notes, and I need your help

Those racy potholders were a huge hit. I sold 38 last weekend! (One person bought 10). The Farm Anatomy books have done very well too--one woman told me that she loves it so much she only allows herself to read one page a day! Last weekend was my best ever--and it was a record weekend for most of the stores in town. People really turned out to support local businesses. And let me tell you it was a badly needed boost. We also had a lot going on to get people to town, especially since the supermarket is still closed--caroling, Santa, tree lighting, crafts for children, etc. We Main Street merchants have formed an ad hoc group to make the town more appealing since much of it is still closed down from flood damage.

But i need to get more people in the building where my store is, and upstairs. I'm getting more signs made and need your opinion. 3/4 of what I sell is antique or vintage, but I also carry new nature-related items. Anyway, I'm getting a big sign made to put outside on the front of the building.

The sign will be on the upper level. Some combination of cream, brown and green.

Should it say Country Weekend Antiques or Country Weekend Antiques, etc. or Country Weekend, Antiques & more ? I am going to have something painted on it that will signal nature. Maybe my logo if the sign maker can do it.
Or a pine tree or pinecone or vine.

*(editing to add, in response to the first 3 comments)
I will have to ask the sign maker how many words can go on and still be legible from the street. The building is at a T intersection, at the top of the stem of the T, so there are 3 directions that walkers and drivers will see it from. I agree that the word antiques conjures up a stuffier kind of store than mine. I am trying to come up with a few descriptive words. On my business cards and in ads I have tried these combinations:
rustic ~ whimsical ~ lovely
rustic ~ whimsical ~ useful
nature & history
antique, vintage, and nature-related goods
Inspired by our setting in the Catskills.

In the same building is a store called Home Goods and one called MGerard Country Home, so I am reluctant to use the word home. I've thought about using the words and phrases cottage, cabin, farmhouse. Somewhere I put for you and your cabin, cottage, or farmhouse (real or imaginary).

I guess I'm looking for 2 things. What to put on the outside sign and a short slogan to use on advertisements. The sign is the harder one, since it's permanent. What would make you go in the building and upstairs?

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

an accidental vignette, a digression & a coincidence

Now that we've recovered from Thanksgiving we can continue our conversation about vignettes. I seem to be slightly obsessing (if such a thing is possible) on them. Maybe because I have a related half-baked business idea or maybe I just have too much time on my hands. Perhaps it's Freudian, because my father, a collector and antique dealer (among other things) was the king of vignettes--though of course he didn't call them that. He didn't call them anything.

The Accidental Vignette

This is the entryway of my Massachusetts house. I usually keep fresh flowers on the table, and things that are meant to go upstairs collect there, as do things that have been brought downstairs. Such as the picture on the floor and the dollhouse*, which I haven't decided what to do with. 

As I was tidying up for the holiday I paused and thought doesn't that look nice. A little unplanned vignette. Or is it a tableau, or arrangement, or does it need a name at all?

The dollhouse has a green roof, and floors painted pink, green and blue, which are the colors of the walls, chair and vase in the entry.The doll in the photograph and the angel on the table have a similar tilt to their head.

The barn in the painting echoes the dollhouse.

* About that dollhouse...I got it at my local transfer station a/ka/ recycling center, which has a place to leave and take unwanted household items. I try to leave and not take, but sometimes I can't resist.

The Digression

Home base for the volunteers who run the household items exchange.

Inside goods

and outside.

There's a special area for books. It's pretty great. If you need old books for vignettes, this is your place.

The Coincidence

This painting is by the same artist who did the one with the barn. His name is David Moreschi, and Comme Ci Comme Ca, a little store in HoHokus, New Jersey carries his work. Coincidentally and oddly, the owner of that store used to have a store in Margaretville NY (where my store is). You can see this painting over the slipper chair in the first picture. I love that slipper chair. My sons, who are all huge, think it's ridiculous because it's so small, but I love how pretty it is. 

Saturday, November 26, 2011

and how was your Thanksgiving?

My husband cooked the entire Thanksgiving dinner. He has done most of it for years, and now he has completely edged me out of the kitchen for special meals (except for washing the dishes and setting the table) which is fine because he's a very good cook and loves doing it as long as he can try new things. Anyway, among the clutter on the counters was a small metal bucket, filled with dead leaves from our lawn. (I guess I should have been raking leaves instead of watching football. And yes, I am the football fanatic, and my husband is the chef.) He refused to tell us what they were for, so I envisioned them decorating a platter.

As we gathered to sit at the table he took out his little creme brulee blow torch and set the leaves on fire.

I immediately say, (repeatedly) you're going to set off the smoke alarm; the kids are laughing hysterically; everyone is asking what the h*** are you doing? He says I wanted to bring back memories of the smell of burning leaves; Me: you're going to set off the alarm; Kids: burning leaves is illegal, we don't have that memory. Then the alarm went off. And the smell really was wonderful.

the evidence

My Thanksgiving duties were so onerous that I didn't order flowers, so I got a supermarket bunch, pulled out the best, and added some holly from my garden.
No that is not my dining room table, but it is a dark room and the flash made it look rather lurid, so I took this picture outside. 


In other news, I've been trying not to complain here about the flood fallout that continues to devastate the Catskills. The last two weekends sales were 10% of what they were a year ago. We really relied on the supermarket (the next closest one is 30 miles away) to bring people to town. Also 2/3 of the businesses are still closed, though a few reopened last week and they finally removed the concrete barriers that closed off most of the town and made it look like a war zone. We've formed a little ad hoc Main Street merchants group and are busy putting up lights and trees and trying to make the town look inviting. Anyway, Harriet, who watches the store when I am not there called me yesterday (Friday), and told me we finally had a good day. Among other things at least a dozen of those racy, kitschy potholders sold. They are making people laugh, which is good. Another way to make people laugh is to put a blowtorch to a bucket of dry leaves in your kitchen near the smoke detector.


Thursday, November 24, 2011


It is Thanksgiving here, and I want to thank all of you for accompanying me on my exploration of home, history, nature, and my little store in the Catskills; and for providing me with good company along the way, from across this country and around the world.

For me Thanksgiving is about home. And home is about family and friends. Loved ones. Not being alone. This extraordinary song, To Build A Home by the Cinematic Orchestra says it beautifully.

There is a house built out of stone
Wooden floors, walls, and window sills,
Tables and chairs worn by all of the dust,
This is a place where I don't feel alone,
This is a place where I feel at home.

I hope today finds you somewhere that you feel at home.


Monday, November 21, 2011

anyway, just what is a vignette?

Before I took a crash course in design at Blogworld University, I thought of vignettes in terms of writing--impressionistic written sketches. So what makes a vignette in home (or store) decor? 

Vignettes? I think not. Their uniformity makes them displays. They are what they are. No unexpected connections.

Can a vignette be composed of only two objects? If so, I give this a yes. A (minimal) visual poem.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

vignette in process

Inspired by Steve's analysis of a vignette he composed, I decided to look a little deeper at the way I put things together. I was in the store all weekend, so played around there. In October I did this:

I was thinking rustic and autumn colors inspired by this walnut commode.

Last week I took away the pumpkin, and added the jug and berries with the little picture leaning against it. Yesterday, thinking about Steve, I added the pinecones and wood blocks, moved the small vases and added some green ones. I decided the theme would loosely be woods/trees. I had the log cabin birdhouse. The tall jugs are kind of like trees. The small vases--shrubs? Well, I'm not a strict constructionist--just liked the way they look.

I really like this little picture of the girls gathering wood. (I don't have much natural light in the store, so the flash makes these pictures less than optimal.)

Here's the full effect, except the berries are cut off in the picture, and they add nice height and color.

On the other end of the chest I added a woodcut of wood and a saw and what looks like part of a cabin. Too literal? I also added a book that has a picture of a tree on the cover. It looks more crowded in the picture than in real life. 

Today I switched the book. This color is much better. Then I added a red wood bowl with painted acorns. Now it looks too crowded and symmetrical.

Better. Still a little too symmetrical though. I think the woodblock should go.
It was a good exercise to think about theme and composition in the way that Steve laid it out. This week I'm going to try one at home. Maybe I'll even do a little sketch like he did.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I usually share interesting antique and vintage finds with you, but I do carry a small selection of new items in the store, such as those saucy potholders in my last post, cards and magnets from the Mincing Mockingbird, Field Notes notebooks and Happy Family field bags. A few more things:

Birds from the Audubon Society. Press them in the right spot and hear their call (and it actually isn't obnoxious).

Cards, wooden birds and birdhouses. A disturbing amount of birds... They are out of fashion this year I believe. Overdone. But in the Catskills we don't care about fashion, which is a good thing because most of my clothes come from LL Bean, supplemented by sweaters I steal from my sons.

I love these cards from the Rifle Paper Co. I have a weakness for stationary. And office supplies.

Farm Anatomy, by Julia Rothman, is perfect for our part of the Catskills where there are many small farms. I should be gearing up for enticing people to buy things for the holidays, but my heart is not in it. I am a terrible salesperson. I put an ad in the local paper: Ease your way into holiday shopping at Country Weekend, where you won't lose your wallet or your mind." Pretty dumb, huh? Lucky for me it's an online paper (I know, I know) so I can change it as soon as I think of something less dorky. Would you like to be my advertising manager? Marketing director? 

Sunday, November 13, 2011

pinup girls, lumberjacks, and fresh eggs

The most amusing part of my weekend was unpacking the box of 40 sizzling (yet oh so kitschy) potholders made by Megan of Fussy Gussy.

Eating scrambled eggs (fresh from Jorge's chickens) while watching the waterfall was pretty good too. Met some interesting people in the store, had friends over for a dinner that included homemade cinnamon ice cream... good times in the Catskills.

Friday, November 11, 2011

gypsy-punk and flowers

I am getting ready to go to the Catskills, and started to write a depressing flood-recovery post, but who needs that? So instead, I introduce you to the gypsy punk band Gogol Bordello. My oldest son drove to Burlington, Vermont last night to visit my youngest, who took him to see this band:

Gogol Bordello's founder moved to Burlington from the Ukraine in the early 1990's when he was a teenager. Now he tours internationally. My tastes in music are more gypsy than punk, but I love the energy and creativity. These days I look for creative inspiration everywhere. The other day I got some from a post by Jane at Small But Charming. I was looking at the contrasting flowers in a bouquet she made, and thinking about how I might apply that to my store. If I could create a bouquet that represented my store, or what I would like my store to be, what would be in it? I don't have an answer yet, but am enjoying the concept. Thanks, Jane for the inspiration.

Enjoy your weekend--


Monday, November 7, 2011

I am of an age when cigarettes were called "butts" and clinching a butt was the act of pinching the business end to put it out. So when I saw this sign--which is old, and not a new one that was "distressed"-- I thought it was a vintage prevent forest fires sign. However someone else who saw it did not have the same frame of reference and their mind wandered in other directions resulting in a state of puzzlement...

It has a row of nail holes in back. Perhaps it was nailed to a tree? In a forest? What's your interpretation of this unique sign?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

I am not into fashion, but I have always enjoyed Bill Cunningham's On the Street montages in the Sunday NY Times. If you haven't seen them, here's one, and here's another. Today I watched the recent full-length documentary about him (see a snippet in the trailer above), and he is so inspiring--his creativity and energy and the way he lives his life--such a sweet and interesting man. I highly recommend that you see it if you get the opportunity.

Friday, November 4, 2011

rough hewn

I have a strong belief in personal geography--the places that have shaped us, that we return to, in some form, again and again. My early childhood was spent in a Virginia farmhouse surrounded by second-growth woods--farmland that had reverted back to nature.

Yuri and Vera, our friends in Italy, have several buildings on their property including the main house, elaborately renovated by its previous owner "the Count". But that is not the one I took pictures of.
This is. Known as "the barn", which I suppose it was at one time, and later converted to a house and then gone to ruin.

We had an old log barn near our house in Virginia, but I did not spend much time there--it was dark, and there were spiders and snakes. And yet this ruin resonated with me. I was enchanted by its revelations. Alterations made in later years have worn away to show the early bones.

The ceiling is woven with sticks and logs.

Plaster walls worn away in places

revealing the sticks (reeds?) that form the framing of the walls.

Plaster covers brick which covers

stones cobbled together.

a faded pink wall

layers of paint

a rough hewn door. 

And there, as I write, my subconscious reveals itself. My father named our property in Virginia "Rough Hewn" something I have not thought of in many years. It's all connected, isn't it?

liebster, baby

Roadster, hipster, liebster ... the last of which I am told is German for sweetest, cutest, nicest, kindest, loveliest. Told by the poetically charming and creative (look at this quilt she made) Annette of Chasing Lightning Bugs, who has honored me with a Liebster blogger award for "up and coming bloggers who have fewer than 200 followers".  The rules (and just when did awards start coming attached with rules?) are 1) thank and link to the blogger who bestows the award; 2) reveal 5 personal nominations and inform them in the comments section of their blog (oh no, I have to choose); 3) copy and past the award on my blog (which I would do if I knew where it was); 4) have faith that your followers will spread the love (of course they will).

And so I spread the love, widen the ripples, and urge you to read (restricting myself to 4 descriptive words to whet your appetite):

Haricot's Tanka : lyrical, Japan, poetry, sweet
Small But Charming: witty, earthy, flowers, friendly
Bird/Like:  birds, kind, vintage, diy
Kat's Nature: warm, artist, family, energetic
ElfRenee: photos, nature, artistic, cute

belated thanks

Two wonderful things happened the day I left for Italy, and I did not have a chance to tell you about them. First I received this owl made by talented folk artist Kat. He is so cute and full of personality, I want to put him in my pocket and take him everywhere with me. Kat had a giveaway where we chose our favorite of her birds and she decided to send one to each entrant. That seems to me typical of Kat, whose warmth and generosity radiate from her blog Kat's Nature, which you can visit to see more of her folk art birds and her paintings.

Then I found out that Rebecca, at Walnut and Vine, included me in her versatile blogger awards. Rebecca used to have a store in the Nashville area and I wish I could have visited it. Her warm whimsical style is evident on her blog where she shares great ideas about styling with her amazing vintage collection (some of which you can see the above picture). She has a real talent for seasonal decorating, a weakness of mine, so I am studying her pictures closely. I wish she could come to New York and give me some ideas for my store!

Thank you, Kat and Rebecca.


Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Back from narrow cobbled streets lined with houses in the softest oranges, yellows, pinks and umbers; from consistently warm people and good food, from long drives on narrow mountain roads, from no tv and almost no computer. From the slow life.

My refrigerator is empty and desk is full. I hope to integrate some of the loveliness of Italy into my busy American life.