I must have ordered these 1960's Russian/Soviet botanical match box labels years ago and tucked them away in a little glassine envelope. Rummaging through my boxes of postcards yesterday, I came across them and popped them into the scanner. I can almost read some of the Cyrillic alphabet, but mostly if I am familiar with the word. And I do recognize many flowers, but I'm willing to bet I've made some mistakes in identifying these images.
Please let me know, and enjoy.
SeeSaw is now on facebook, with links from our archives PLUS interesting things I've found around the web. Here's what's been on this week.
SeeSaw on Facebook here
"In 1936 a Harlem postal worker and activist named Victor H. Green decided to develop a guide that would help African Americans travel throughout the country in a safe and comfortable manner. The Negro Motorist Green Book (also called The Negro Travelers' Green Book), often simply known as The Green Book, identified places that welcomed black people during an era when Jim Crow laws and de facto segregation made it difficult for them to travel domestically without fear of racial backlash.
The Green Book listed businesses and places of interest such as nightclubs, beauty salons, barbershops, gas stations and garages that catered to black road-trippers. For almost three decades, travelers could request (for just 10 cents' postage) and receive a guide from Green. Eventually the guide expanded to encompass information about Canada and Mexico."
Perfection Salad, and Something From The Oven, two fascinating books by Laura Shapiro. I heard Laura speak at the University Of Vermont last Spring. I first read Perfection Salad when I was doing research on Jell-O. Turns out Laura is also obsessed with Jell-O images, so she is now the proud owner of a set of Jell-O placemats that I made.
Here's an interesting early article about Perfection Salad.
More on Mid-Century Cooking.
"Today, foodies typically look back on this era with an upturned nose, preferring to mock its foods rather than eat them. So when Ruth Clark took the obvious, and daring, step of actually making these retro recipes for her fascinating website The Mid-Century Menu, it’s not surprising she received a bit of hate mail. Clark typically cooks one vintage meal per week, which she documents through scans of the original recipe, photos of her re-creation, and detailed tasting notes (often featuring amusing photos of her husband, Tom, attempting his first few bites). Her blog is an everyday cook’s version of the Julie & Julia project, featuring the food that real people made in mid-century America.
"Clark recently gave us her experienced take on the marvels of mid-century eating, and the lessons contemporary cooks can learn from it."
Join SeeSaw on Facebook. HERE
I'll be posting new material and golden oldies from the SeeSaw vaults. But wait, I'll also be scouting the web for great things about art, collecting, ephemera, exhibitions, and all kinds of related happenings that are not part of this blog.
See you there, I hope.
I've been busy making digital collages, mostly using a combination of my own photographs and images from vintage Kodak ads, vintage sewing pattern packets, and old ads or images of 19th century ladies in swimming costumes and bicycles. Finding the images is just the first step.
I separate the people from the background using Photoshop, which can be tedious, but once I have them done, I save them as PNG files and they are ready to go for the next collage. For the Greenhouse picture I ran my original photo through the Waterlogue app on my iPhone. I do most of my actual design and composing using PicMonkey because it's much easier than Photoshop for this kind of work. For me, anyway.
Some more examples.
I love curtains. I'm lazy and frugal, and I don't have a sewing machine. And I like to change my curtains seasonally. I've never let any of these things stop me.
In the winter, I like to feel cozy and warm. In the summer, I like my curtains to be light and breezy.
Making curtains is easy, though, at least for me. My method:
Find fabric you love. I shop around in local stores and online. There's always something gorgeous on sale.
Measure the inside height of your window. My method takes twice the length of the window. Fabric usually should be wider than the window for gathering, or the same width for a tailored modern look.
Place a tension rod inside the window frame.
Drape fabric over rod until the bottoms meet.
Use two tiny binder clips or small safety pins at the very top sides, just under the rod. Sometimes you will find you need to use tiny safety pins along the side.
That's it. And you haven't cut much fabric, so you can use it for other projects when you change your curtains.
If you hate a ragged bottom edge (I don't) you can make a hem using liquid fabric. Super easy to do.
I love to use clothing fabric for curtains. For summer, I'm using seersucker in my living room.
I found this very cheerful plaid fabric for my daughter's room. It's from Waverly. Found on sale, of course.
You can do it, too! Now you know how.
The screened porch was a deal maker for me when I bought my house. At first, my plan was to build a half-wall around the room, but then I had the brainstorm of modular wall building with wooden boxes. The old owner had left a small cache in the barn, and I had my own collections, so I decided to stack them at one end, and to use some as a small "wall" on the outer deck. That's all I need. And in the Winter, they will go back to the barn because the porch fills with snow.
My other grand idea was to put in white curtains for beauty, shade, and privacy. I had basic white curtains and tension rods on hand from an earlier project, so that was easy. A cheap and quick project, also removable for the winter months.
Tin Marx dollhouse from my collections.
Joanne's Fabrics had seersucker on sale at 50% yesterday so I scooped up 8 yards of pink and white stripe. I love using dressmaking fabric for curtains. My curtain making technique: cut the material to twice the height of the window. Drape over tension rod on inside of window frame. Secure at the top with binder clips or safety pin. If you want to get really fancy, you can hem them. I usually don't, but if I decide to, liquid seam glue works just fine.
Lamp by Kileh Friedman, Burlington, VT. Shade from The Lamp Shop, Burlington, VT.
Do any of you remember back when I owned the art gallery, Pine Street Art Works, and had a bunch of mannequins there? Oh how I loved them. When I closed, back in 2009, I sold three of them, two Maira Kalman children and one Adel Rootstein. I kept three Maira Kalman/Ralph Pucci busts.
I sold the Rootstein - Diane Dewitt - to someone who was crazy about her, and that made me feel better about losing her, but I found I really missed her. Years later, I heard that the new owner gave her away to a mutual friend. I emailed the friend and said if she ever decided that she didn't want the mannequin anymore, that I'd like her back.
Lo and behold, the day arrived. Two days ago we were reunited. I rearranged my living room to welcome her and she is home at last! So please expect to see many more images of one of my favorite models.
Here she is working hard at the shop, selling tableware. Glass by AO! Glass, placemats by Small Equals.
Advertising is a powerful force for propaganda. Just after World War One, fledgling press agent Edward Bernays returned from The Paris Peace Talks, where he had helped President Woodrow Wilson coin and promote the phrase "Making the world safe for Democracy. Upon his return, he decided to bring his ideas on Mass Persuasion to commerce and then to the US Government. He realized that the term "propaganda" had a negative connotation after the war, so he coined the phrase "Public Relations" and he and his ideas changed the world forever. source
Advertising is propaganda.
Source material: 1933 Frigidaire advertising booklet, Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections. Liza Cowan FAKE!™ Design.
I like to use trays to help my organize my home. It's a little trick I learned when I was designing and maintaining retail spaces. I found them so useful for display, and they made cleaning so much easier.
If you don't have some trays or platters already in your home there are so many wonderful options available. Of course, you can go look in resale or junk shops or at yard sales. You never know what treasures you'll find. Stores like Home Goods and Pier One are really useful too, as well as craft supply stores. I'm lucky that we have all of these stores in my small city. But you can buy online too. For better or for worse, it has never been easier to be a consumer. I try to be reasonable, really. I gave away 3/4 of my stuff when I moved last year and I'm trying not to collect more stuff. But I'm in the midst of huge organizing projects, so I do indulge in objects that make the process both easy and beautiful. Trays are part of that process.
There is now a huge trend for what are called "chargers" which are basically big plates. They are popular now for what is being called "tablescaping." When I bought the charger above at Pier One, the saleslady told me I should use it for candles on my dining room table. I'm not big on candles; fire makes me nervous, and I have so many more useful and interesting things to display. Nevertheless, I was amused to find that "tablescaping" is now a thing. I think its an overblown name, but the concept is not so bad.
I use my trays and chargers to keep all the little things that I need in any given spot. Above is the wooden charger I found at Pier One, also very inexpensive. I keep an eye out for sales, of course. This is my living room, and I had a pile of remotes to wrangle. I found the round paper container at Home Goods, for a song. One other box, also Home Goods, houses emery boards, nail clippers and nail polish. TV watching time is great for an impromptu manicure or nail repair. The final box is hand letterpress from Brookfield, holding their note paper, because I often find I need to make a note
Also vital for me, a box of tissues, these designed for Kleenex by Issac Mizrahi (I bought a dozen, just in case they stop making them) and a bottle of hand lotion. And my eyeglasses, which I tend to lose. But of course it could hold whatever it is that you find you need in your living room.
The beauty - other than the visual appeal - is that I can whisk the tray right off the table for a game of Sorry or Monopoly with my neighbor's kids, or to make room to serve food for a party.
My dining room table also serves as my downstairs desk. I like to sit here next to the window for all kinds of projects, including paying bills, and some craft projects. But I also eat here, and the tray is so easy to remove if I need the whole table to serve guests. This melamine tray is from Pier One. Melamine trays are so hot right now, and the new technologies that allow for printing surface design make almost any look possible. This one mimics a worn ceramic. You know I'm all about FAKE!™ so I love this.
For my table/office I like to keep pens and pencils in a chipped, old cup I painted, back when we still had a paint your own pottery place. I miss that! I have a ceramic dog dish with my ever handy Sugru, and my checkbook in the folder I designed from my FAKE!™ line of paintings, this one a Liza Leger. The checkbook holder was made for me by Flashbags. And another box of note paper from Brookflied. I used to sell Brookfield hand letterpressed note cards in my stores, and I'm happy to have several boxes left over. So pretty. Paper clips are in a little plastic box from Amac, which I also used to sell, and have managed to keep a few for my own use.
The gorgeous lamp was made by one of my favorite local potters, Kileh Friedman. The round platter in the background was made by another favorite potter, Pam Black, Paradise Pottery. On it are some examples of bowls I've been making with Crayola play clay. I used to do this all the time with my kids when they were little. Now my young neighbors enjoy coming over for craft time.
This is in my studio office. The tray is from Shinzi Katoh, whose adorable products I used to sell at Pine Street Art Works and at Small Equals. I was smart enough to save one for myself. This hold several lucite boxes with pencils, pens, scrap paper and of course, more hand lotion. It too, can be swooped up to clear my table for large projects.
Happy tray- scaping.!!
Water is life. Water is a human right. Don't let Nestle or any other corporation or government body take it away from us. Anywhere on the planet. For any reason. Ever.
There is some redundancy between this blog, my instagram feed, my pinterest boards, and my flickr sets. They are all such fun, and I'm hoping they will be good for preserving the archive, at least until the technology changes again, as it does.
I wrote about these vintage perfume bottles here but I just came across another version I made. Looking at this image with a fresh eye, I quite like the vibrancy. Hope you enjoy it too.
I like to brighten up the short, dark, days of Winter by placing shiny reflective objects around the house. The twinkle of reflected light does wonders to lift the spirit of the room.
There are lots of great, inexpensive knock offs of silver, mercury glass and mirrored things in circulation right now, so keep an eye out. I found this container at Home Goods, for a song. I'm not sure what's its intended use would be, but I was looking for a shiny silver container for my paperwhites, and this is perfect. And it was cheap!
Maybe you already knew this, but I just figured it out. You can use a glass frog as a pen and pencil holder. Glass frogs, in case you are wondering, are made to go in the bottom of vases to hold the stems in position. Some of the older ones a beautiful as objects, which was what drew me to this particular one when I saw it in an antique store. But then I realized it would hold pens, stylishly.
This is a guest post by my historian sister, Holly Shulman, who recently presented a paper at a conference in Amsterdam. While she was there she visited the Ann Frank Museum, hosted by one of the curators, Dienke Hondius, who later asked Holly what her thoughts were about the museum. This is Holly's response.
Here is an attempt to answer your question as to why I found the Anne Frank House Museum personally disorienting.
The nub of the question is what are we doing when we remember (and commemorate) Anne Frank: something about the Jewish experience, or something about the human experience?
When I was a child the holocaust was talked about in our house, but it was not the subject of general conversation – in society, in politics, in literature – that it later became. That, of course, is the subject of Hasia Diner’s book, We Remember with Reverence and Love. Perhaps 1945-1968 (with the publication of Arthur Morse’s When Six Million Died) was a kind of limnal or marginal period of remembrance. In my house we talked about my parents’ German backgrounds, especially my mother’s. She remembered my grandmother trying to find who might still be living among her German relations, but could locate no one. Her family on both sides had arrived around 1850 as part of that general wave of German emigration to the US, and like so many Jews had steadily moved West until they reached Chicago. One of their relations sent home letters during the American Civil War that remained extant and are published as A Jewish Colonel in the Civil War. And like so many immigrants, my mother’s family kept many German ways, especially their food, but also the practice of Christmas, which was, after all, a German holiday by way of England. Many German Jewish families had Christmas meals and presents, and as the German practice was to buy a tree on Christmas Eve, so it was the custom of my grandparents and my parents.
By the late 1930s, after my mother’s family could discover no living relatives in Germany, my mother and my grandmother joined an organization to sponsor Jews trying to flee Hitler. My mother even received a letter (in German) from Albert Einstein after they tried to save two mathematicians and their son (unsuccessfully).
So I knew about the holocaust. It related to the history of my family, and I felt both gratitude and guilt that I had been born in the United States – a sentiment I think shared by virtually every American Jewish child of my age.
But reading about it as a child was not simple. There were no books, as there were by the time my daughter Rebecca was a child. By then there were a ton of memoirs and stories from survivors and children of survivors. But in the 1950s we simply and only had Anne Frank. There were no movies that I remember, or radio shows, to which we still listened. We were, as many have written, very concerned with being American, even as American a family as mine, and swept up in the universalism of the era.
The story of Anne Frank had a huge impact on me as a member of a German-Jewish upper middle class family who wanted for nothing and who were on the one hand politically and socially Jewish but on the other totally alienated from Judaism as a religion. (My father’s side was a bit more complex in its background – but that is another story for another time.) This mixture of no religion and complete Jewish identity – at least with their German Jewish past – is central I believe to any understanding of the meaning of Judaism in the post enlightenment world. Being Jewish is more than a religious belief. It is being part of a people and a history. What in Hebrew is called Am Israel, the Jewish people. As a child the holocaust was there, always there, but always distant. It was The Diary of Anne Frank that made it all real. Not the camps, of course, but the fears and the hiding and the drumbeat of threat. I remember reading the book so clearly. I must have been 10 or 11. I took it to bed with me to read at night, and after I shut off the light the fears and shadows of the book were like a fog wrapped around me, they crept inside of me and stayed somewhere in of my body. With Anne Frank I knew, I KNEW, I was Jewish and that I would remain Jewish, and that Hitler would not win. Anne Frank cemented my identity as a Jew. Reading her Diary was an act of affirmation.
As an adult I thought about her and her book less and less. I read more Jewish history. I sent my children to a Jewish nursery school and we joined a synagogue. Being Jewish became part of the daily pattern of my life, even while struggling with the notion of a God and becoming an atheist. The most recent books about Europe and fascism and the destruction of the Jews that have meant a lot to me are more like Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands and Jeffrey Veidlinger’s In the Shadow of the Shtetl.
It is against that background that I saw that Anne Frank House – at your gracious invitation and marvelous hospitality. What I saw was an Anne Frank who is no longer a symbol of the destruction of the Jews, and of the always recycling hatred of the Jews, but a generalized emblem of victimization, of the problems of power and authoritarianism, of the results that can occur when ordinary people are too afraid to speak up.
In that light, I suppose I felt that Anne Frank now belongs to the world, but in a sense not to me. You may think this a very odd comparison, but let me contrast Anne Frank for a moment to Queen Esther. Every year Jews remember Queen Esther for saving the Jewish People, and Purim became a very important holiday in Europe because all the cycles of destruction and attempted destruction became folded into that one story. But Purim was and remains Jewish. There is no holiday celebrating Anne Frank, but all those visitors are commemorating Anne. Esther is particular, ethnic, and globally irrelevant. Anne is for everyone.
After visiting with you I felt a bit dizzy. Part of me celebrates that Anne Frank can become such a potent figure of dignity and the fight against oppression. But part of me experienced a loss – of a childhood figure who had once crept into my body as I lay in warm sheets falling asleep and told me stories that changed my life.
You don't have to spend a fortune to hang curtains. Be the first on your block to bring Office Supply Chic to your home. All you need is push pins or nails to secure small binder clips to the top of your window. It's best if your fabric is wider than the window. Gather it to make small drapes along the top. Experiment. So easy to change.
Use a second set of binder clips to tie back the curtains. You can drape them, as above, or bunch them, or whatever you like. I've used very sheer white fabric here for summer. But come Winter...I've got some very nice flannel buffalo plaid fabric to use. Wait and see.
Meanwhile, get binding!
I couldn't stand all the cords and cables sitting on my table...chargers for my iPhone, tablet, computer and speaker. So I found a nice old cardboard box I had put away, and made it into a cord wrangler. It's an easy DIY to help de-clutter.
I cut a rectangular hole on the bottom of the end-side, just big enough to insert the surge protector/extension cord. Make sure your box is long enough.
Then I cut enough holes for three of the cords that I need on the side, the iPhone, the tablet and the computer. Then I cut a hole on the top for the speaker-charger, because I keep the little speaker on top.
The holes only have to be big enough for the ends to go through, not the plugs.
Yes, it would have been neater if I'd had a little drill or a good little saw. But I didn't, so I used a scissors and a kitchen knife. Good enough.
Time to make it: 15 minutes, once I'd found the box.
This beautiful, large -scale drawing by Ethan Murrow is now for sale.
I bought this piece in 2006, when Murrow had a show at Burlington City Arts. Ethan was raised in Vermont, and has many friends and admirers here. I hadn't know Ethan when he lived here, but I had been somewhat friendly with his father when we were kids because his father (Ethan's grandfather, Edward R. Murrow) was very good friends with my father, Lou Cowan. The small-world effect of the Cowan family has ceased to surprise me.
But that's not why I bought this piece. I bought it because it's that good. THAT good. I bought it to sell, because at the time, I was running Pine Street Art Works. I had it framed by my favorite framer, Jennifer Koch of Frames For You And Mona Lisa Too, and it hung at PSAW for several years. Finally, when we closed, I had no place to hang the work, so I loaned it to the University Of Vermont, where it has been on view at the Davis Center, much to the delight of the thousands of students, faculty and visitors for the past 5 years.
Now it is for sale. If you are interested, or know someone who might be...just click this link to my online store, Small Equals.
The piece is avaiable framed, but I'm also willing to have Jennifer Koch take it out of the frame, for much much easier shipping and delivery.
Ethan Murrow website.
From the photo vaults: The blue haired boy. Mannequin by Ralph Pucci, based on drawings by Maira Kalman. Photographed at Pine Street Art Works ©Liza Cowan 2007. Used for advertising and display at store for many years.
I bought this wooden dollhouse from a friend in Woodstock, NY in the early 1980's. She was about to move, and it was just too big to lug around. Now I have lugged it to two different houses in Woodstock, two apartments in Brooklyn, and one house in Vermont. I'm about to move again and was considering selling it, since I'm downsizing by a lot. I took it down from atop the fridge, where it has sat for 13 years, to take some photos of it. And I fell in love with it all over again. I guess I'm keeping it.