Buying art a simple guide for the perplexed liza cowan how to buy art


Cross posted from my blog at

I love when people say “I don’t know much about art, but I know what I like.” That’s all you need to know. Sure, the more you know about art history, art theory etc. the deeper your appreciation will be, but when you are buying art for your own home, your number one priority is to buy something that you like, something that makes you happy, something that pleases you. 


I ran an art gallery for five years, and the worst customer was the art snob. The best customer was the one who stopped in front of a piece of art, caught their breath, and said, “I love this!”  If your heart leaps when you see something, that’s your cue.


Other than that…here are some things to consider.



You can approach this as finding a piece of work to fit into a particular space. Empty wall above the couch? You can fill it with one large statement piece, or lots of smaller pieces grouped together. Your choice. It’s usually not a good idea to have just one or two small pieces randomly placed in a large space. Each piece should be placed with purpose. This is true of everything you put into your house.



Don’t know where to start? You can buy art to match your curtains or fabric on your chair, as long as you love those colors.  I think this is a great idea, but don’t tell art snobs you did this unless you are prepared for a look of condescension. If you don’t love the colors, don’t buy anything else that uses them. Please.


I remember decades ago I had a bedspread that I adored. It made me so happy to look at it. When i decided to paint the walls of my bedroom, I matched the predominant color in the spread. It was a deep, deep blue. I never would have thought to color my walls such a deep color but I was ready to experiment and it was wonderful. The people who make fabrics are generally very knowledgeable, and it’s fine to follow their lead.


You probably know which colors resonate for you. If not, spend some time looking a the colors in nature, in photos, on fabric, on pinterest, on your clothing, in magazines, and take note of how you are responding. If you feel happy when you look at those colors, those are the ones to go for. If you want to go the extra mile, make a color board. I like to use pinterest, but you could tear out photos in magazines and keep them in a file. See if you keep liking them.


Subject matter

Some people love horses. Others love rusty old boats. Some people love to look at pictures of children, or of grandpas. You might love seascapes, or you might love old portraits. Maybe you love old woodcuts, or brand new shiny abstracts. When you are starting an art collection, you might think about collecting based on themes. You probably won’t stick to one theme, but it’s a place to start. You could have several vintage nursery rhyme prints all framed the same and hung in a group for a wonderful and inspiring wall.

Think of collecting art as a treasure hunt, and always be on the lookout for images of poodles, or boats, or rocket ships. You’ll have fun, and probably end up with a fantastic collection that not only resonates for you, but is also engaging for others to look at.



There may be one or two artists whose work you love. Even very famous and pricey artists usually are reproduced on posters, or open edition prints. Newer artists work is often affordable. If you love an artist, think about collecting their work. Go to local art fairs and craft shows. Go to open studios and art walks. Talk to the artists. You could think about buying one piece a year, for instance. There was one local artist whose work I liked a lot. She made very small paintings of chickens. I thought they were charming. I visited her studio every year during a regional art tour and bought one or two paintings per year. They were only about $25 apiece, but after four years, I had a nice little collection.



I had an obsession for paint-by-number paintings for a while. Yes, it was for an exhibition at my gallery, and I bought about 75 paintings over a five  month period on ebay. That was so much fun. And it was the most popular show I ever ran. It practically sold out. But if you love a particular type of work, go for it with gusto. You don’t have to by 75 paintings. You probably shouldn’t unless you plan to sell them. But if you love black and white photos from the 1940’s, go for it. Or you love engravings of flowers. Or children’s book illustrations. Or you love collage, or manhole cover rubbings. Maybe you think kids art is amazing - I know I do! Or paintings on velvet, if that’s your thing. You like pencil drawings, or, well, you get the picture. Think genre.



You know your own price range. Generally art is not cheap, but it doesn’t have to be super expensive to be good. Original, unique pieces will probably be more expensive. Hand made prints, like silkscreens, lithographs, woodcut prints, monoprints, etc can be more expensive, but not necessarily. Some artists like making their work very accessible, which often means affordable. Others do not. It takes a lot of time, practice, and labor to make art. Artists often spend decades learning their craft, and should be paid well, but it’s up to you, the buyer, to be mindful of your own budget.


That’s it.

LOVE. Buy what you love! If your heart leaps, that’s the cue.

And keep these things in mind:

  1. SIZE
  2. COLOR
  5. GENRE
  6. PRICE


Let me know what you think.


PS: Be sure to check out all the art I have for sale at  my shop. 


PPS: sign up for my mailing list. You may get a fun email someday.


Life is often a hall of mirrors, infinite regression. I accept that. 

My online shop is hosted by etsy. The etsy pattern platform has a blog. Which I use. 

Here's a post from my blog at 

It's a repeat of a post I did here. 

Can you blame me for feeling a bit lost in all this meta blogging? 


Lead your own parade cup in blog post at
the blog from my etsy pattern shop





My Rootstein mannequin comes home!

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. 

Adel rootstein diane dewitt mannequin in home of liza cowan. photo ©liza cowan 2015

Here she is working hard at the shop, selling tableware. Glass by AO! Glass, placemats by Small Equals. 

Diane dewitt adel rootstein mannequin helps sell tableware at pine street art works. glass by AO! Glass, placemats by Small Equals. photo ©liza cowan

4 Ways To Improve Your Business Facebook Page

I was planning to teach a class at  Winooski Circle Arts, a store I managed, about  using Facebook for business. Since WCA is closed, I thought I’d share some ideas here. The examples are from two Facebook business pages I created: Winooski Circle Arts and Small Equals.

I've framed this for business pages but the ideas hold true for any professional pages: art, writing, publishing, theater, cooking classes, or anything. 

The four key ideas are:

Image + Story 

+ Acknowledgement + Engagement


 1) Use images:

Winooski Circle Arts vintage shopping image
You can use vintage images on your facebook page. Add text with imaging software like PicMonkey, which is free online.

Use images as often as you can. It’s best if you can shoot your own.  iPhone or smartphone pictures are great for this. Better still - take an extra few minutes to crop, frame, and add text if you want. Remember to add your logo, and add photo credit if the photos are not your own, or even if they are. I use online photo editing software, PicMonkey and think it's a great program. There is a free standard version or you can upgrade for more versitility.

Take pictures of your product, your office, studio, employees; take pictures at the craft or business fairs you attend. Take photos at events you speak at. Take pictures of the equipment you use to make your product, and the people who are using the equipment. Take pictures of your customers interacting with your product - but only use them with permission.

Old images are great too. Take advantage of google image searches to find a vintage image that is no longer under copyright. These are fun and people enjoy them.  Do not use images that are copyright. Rule of thumb, stick to images made before 1925. That’s not precise, but good enough.

2) Tell a story.

flashbags vermont, vintage parsnip seed pack, illustrating facebook page,
Photo of a small equals product being made in the Flashbags studio. Photo ©flashbags vermont

Story sells. There’s always something to tell about your product or service. Do you make something that uses ingredients or components? Write a paragraph or two about them.  In my business, Small Equals, I like to write about how my bags and placemats are made by Flashbags in Burlington, VT. Or about the boxes that are made for me by Vermont Wooden Box. Go to your supplier, ask some questions, snap some photos. Link to their websites.  Do this often.

Did you start working with a new manufacturer, with a new tool, a different paint? How is it different? What does it look like? Where did you get it?

Unless you go into the woods and chew down trees to make your paper, your supplies are made somewhere. This is interesting when you think about it. Your customers will think so too; even more so if you actually do go into the woods and chew down the trees.

Did you read an article or see a film that inspired you? Even if it is only tangentially related to your business, your readers might like to know about it too. Remember, your customers are well-rounded people, and they want to hear about your ideas as well as your product.

If you’ve written a blog post about anything related to your business, make sure to link it on facebook. And, of course, make sure you have a facebook link on your blog.


Acknowledge your employees. Photo of Saturday shopkeeper, Willa Cowan.
Acknowledge your employees. Saturday shopkeeper, Willa at front desk.

No business, maker or artist works completely on their own, nor do they get their ideas out of thin air. Did someone give you a terrific idea that you put into production? Were there books that inspired you? Tell your customers about it. They want to know, and the person who gave you the idea deserves credit.

Is your product being sold in a local store? Go there and take some pictures, or at least write a little post about them. Make sure you link to their facebook page, too. This lets your customers know where they can get your product, and builds good relations with the store. This is very important. Do this often.

Did you consult on a project with someone? Tell your readers.  You have an amazing accountant, fed ex driver, editor, publicist?  A customer who was particularly encouraging or funny. Share the story.

Write about your employees, mention their birthdays, or if they got an award or had a baby or if they accomplished something interesting or important for your business.  Everyone likes to be recognized, and your readers will like peeking behind the scenes.

This is all about building good will with your customers, friends and employees.

This is also known as building community. It matters. A lot.


Converse with your customers. winooski circle arts.
respond to your readers. If they don't matter to you, you are in the wrong business.

Don’t just post and run. Make sure to respond when someone comments on a post. A “like” will be the barely acceptable minimum. A “thank you, Sally,” is quick and easy.  If someone asks a question, answer it. If someone’s comment inspires you to write back, do so, even if it's brief.  Conversation is engagement. Conversation lets your customers know that there is a real person there and that you care about them. If you don’t care about your customers, you are in the wrong business.

Sometimes your readers will post a comment you disagree with. If it's truly offensive, if it uses slurs or attacks, you certainly have the option of deleting it, and often that is the best thing to do. But if readers are responding with a genuine concern or interesting idea, even if you don't agree, try to think of this as an opportunity for engagement. You lose credibility by ignoring or deleting comments that don't tell you how wonderful you are, or that don't parrot your own ideas. Eventually your readers will figure out that you do this, and will realize that what you have provided is not a community but an echo chamber. All but the diehard fans will leave, and this is not really something that will help you promote your business.

These suggestions mean you have to check in to facebook regularly. I’d say minimum of once a day. Keep posting, keep responding to your readers. Engage! This is an important part of your job. Just do it. And have fun with it.

Your business is not just about you. It is about relationships. Build them.

PS: I wrote a post several years ago about reciprocity in business that covers some of the same topics. Find it HERE

Winooski Circle Arts is not open right now, but here's the Facebook Page.

Find Small Equals Facebook page HERE




Evolution of a Billboard: Barneys New York, Helmut Newton and us.


Photo Liza Cowan, barneys new york billboard 2012








Last week I posted this image of a billboard in progress in Greenwich Village, NYC.  

 Photo ©Liza Cowan 


0 (960×640)Barneys New York Billboard. Photo ©Penny House

Today my friend Penny sent me this picture of the finished billboard. It's for Barneys New York.

And here's the inspiration for the billboard:

Deste Foundation invites artists to transform windows of Barneys New York | Art | Wallpaper* Magazine_ design, interiors, architecture, fashion, art
screen capture from

"Helmut Lang's cast-resin replica of five front-row seats from his final fashion collection are installed in a concrete room in the window of Barneys, replicating the artist's own basement, where the piece has been stored. Flat-panel plaques on the floor display the fashion items the artist selected as highlights of 2009"



Flaneur in NYC

Walking around New York City is never dull. I grew up in the city but now I am just another visitor with a camera.

This is my first post via iPad do bear with me as I learn. Always a journey, right?

barneys NY, photo ©Liza Cowan

Billboard in process. NYC, photo ©Liza Cowan

shop window, NYC. Ralph Lauren. photo ©Liza CowanShop Window. Ralph Lauren, Greenwich Village. photo ©Liza Cowan

Flaneur in NYCFlowers in shop. New York City. Photo ©Liza Cowan

BIG CARTEL: finding a great online sales platform

 ©small equals online store at Big Cartel
Small Equals online shop at BigCartel. Screenshot. 

After I closed Pine Street Art Works, my bricks and mortar store, I had to figure out how to keep selling, but online. I was developing a line of products - wooden Keepsake Boxes - that I was excited about, and wanted to offer on the web. I did my research and decided on BigCartel as my platform. I considered Etsy because I know a lot of crafters and antiques vendors who are happy with it, but I thought about the tradeoff - possibly more visitors via the well known site vs. the ability to jump around once the shopper is inside the site. I decided I'd rather have a captive audience. And on BigCartel I can sell products made by other people or manufacuturers, like Seed Bombs by VisuaLingual, or Canetti Pure Acrylic Magnet Frames, two of my most popular items.

Screenshot small equals online sew to the moon keepsake box big cartel
Small Equals at BigCartel. Screenshot, product page for Sew To The Moon 

When I first started selling on BigCartel the design options were more limited than I would have liked. I don't know how to code but I have high standards. But that changed recently when BigCartel offered new design options for the coding-challanged. 


Screen shot small equals big cartel online store close up dogs rule keepsake wooden box
Small Equals online shop at BigCartel. Screenshot, Large image of Dogs Rule Keepsake Box.

 To have a beautiful storefront you have to start with a good, or at least a good looking, product, good pictures and a strong enough design sense. But that's a given. All of that takes a lot of work, and a skill set that takes time to develop. Once you have that, and have found your online platform, there's still the work of marketing. But it makes all the difference to have a good platform, and I have to say I'm hugely pleased with the folks at BigCartel.

I'm very happy that I can write as much text as I like about a product. Regular readers of this blog know that backstory and provenance mean the world to me, and I get to tell it on each product page. I've even included a video on some pages, of me showing the box. 

There's even an option for pages, including a page for your blog. I love this feature because the more a customer knows about the folks who make a product, the more personal it becomes. Story sells. And as a customer, I like to know who I am buying from. 


Screenshot small equals store at big cartel showing seesaw blog
Screen shot, Small Equals online store at BigCartel. Showing page for this blog.

The support staff at BigCartel is superb and that counts for a lot. Quick, friendly advice and help? I'm hooked. 

BigCartel even has an app that connects to my my small equals Facebook Page, for seamless shopping online.

Small equals facebook page screenshot with big cartel app
BigCartel app on small equals FaceBook page. Screenshot

My ancestors peddled door to door and then opened up one of the worlds' first catalog companies. It makes me proud to continue in the family tradition...but in a 21st century venue.

Find my online store HERE

If you are interested in using bigcartel as your online platform you can find them at

and happy shopping! Or selling.


Bicycle is the most civilized=iskra collective. Photo ©Liza Cowan

Silkscreen Mural by Iskra Collective. Maglianero Cafe, Burlington VT

Once in a while, I come across a place or an event that renews my faith in Burlington Vermont. Today, I ventured into Maglianero Cafe, which has been open for just six weeks, in one of my favorite culs-de-sac in Burlington's post industrial South End. 

Housed inside of the former Burlington Wholesale Grocery building, which fronts on Maple Street, the cafe is owned by the partners at JDK, one of Burlington's most prestigious PR firms. The building also is home to the Iskra Print Collective, who made the gorgeous screenprint murals inside the cafe.

Burlington grocery 1933 McAllister
Burlington Grocery Company, Maple Street, Burlington, VT.1933, photo by L.L. McAllister. 

My regular readers will know what a huge fan I am of Burlington's industrial architectural history. So you can imagine my delight in finding this old warehouse re-imagined as a cafe. The interior is large. Huge, even, with various spaces that flow into each other, yet can be separated for various large or small functions.

Maglieanero cafe
 The bar and a portion of Maglianero Cafe, Burlington Vermont. Photo Liza Cowan.

The iced coffee was delicious and refreshing, served with style and the only kind of warmth I wanted on such a hot day, by Maggie, the barrista.

Maggie, barrista at Maglianero Cafe, burlington Vermont. Photo ©Liza Cowan

Maggie at Maglianero Cafe, Burlington Vermont. Photo by Liza Cowan

The theme of the Malianero cafe is bicycles. They have bike parking and even have showers for cycling commuters - which invokes another old passion of mine, community bath houses. (Another time, dear reader, I might post an essay I did on Bath Houses and community bathing in early 20th Century New York City) 

Jesse, manager at Maglianero cafe, burlington vt
Manager Jesse Bladyka, at Maglianero Cafe. Photo ©Liza Cowan

  The bicycle is a curious vehicle

Silkscreen Mural (detail) by Iskra Print Collective, at Maglianero Cafe, Burlington VT. Photo Liza Cowan

Exterior maglianero:burlington grocery co wholesale. Photo©Liza cowan

Exterior of Maglianero Cafe, Burlington VT. You can still see the faded painted sign for Burlington Grocery Co. Photo ©Liza Cowan

Maglianero Cafe

47 Maple Street

Burlington VT 05401



article about small equals in BurlingtonFree press


Liza Cowan of Burlington has opened a new store called Small Equals at the S.P.A.C.E. Gallery at 266 Pine. A portrait of her grandfather Modie Spiegel hangs on the wall next to her new keepsake card boxes at the grand opening on the first day of the Art Hop on Sept. 10.

Text and photo by Lynn Monty

"Pine Street Art Works closed and owner Liza Cowan has opened a new art space she named Small Equals.

"Small is fabulous," Cowan said. "Small equals big ideas. The footprint is small, the overhead is small."

For the past five years she's filled 2,000 square feet of a former factory building with the work of mid-career artists. The changing economy forced Cowan to narrow her focus. She's moved down the street to The S.P.A.C.E Gallery at 266 Pine St., behind Conant Metal & Light in the Soda Plant Building. This gallery is home to a dozen working artists studios and exhibition areas.

Cowan's new space is 90 square feet and features customized gift building in the form of her signature Keepsake Card Kits. She designs cards from her vintage ephemera collection (ephemera means old paper). Cowan uses advertising booklets for her stock dating back to the 1800s. "They come in a box of my design and the customer gets to mix and match what goes inside."

Almost everything sold at Small Equals was chosen to fit in the keepsake boxes. Items like magnets, wildflower seeds, tiny vintage storybooks, paper dolls, monopoly game pieces and even typewriter keys and watch faces are among the treasures to choose from, all hand-picked by Cowan. "My goal is to provide something really excellent that can be useful and that's semi-custom and that people can't find anywhere else," she said. "My customers came to rely on my taste and ability to pick great things and I'm happy to continue to do that for them."

Read more:

Small Equals begins

Small equals phil priming
Phil The Wonder Assistant Priming at Small Equals, Burlington Vermont

Everything's falling into place. Aaron Stein, artist/builder, has been constructing a beautiful 90 sq ft store for Small Equals. Phil The Wonder Assistant and I have been busy packing up Pine Street Art Works. Downsizing from 2,000 sq. ft to 90 sq. ft is a daunting challenge. It's not so much designing the small space, as much as getting rid of everything in the large one.

Meanwhile, I've been shopping for fun products to put in the Keepsake Card Kits:

300 Keepsake Card Kit: Happy Bird Day with card by Liza Cowan, Seed Bombs by VisuaLingual.


I went to the NY International Gift Show, which was amazing. I had only one day, which wasn't enough, but I found some sweet products for the shop.

Ipop magnets Ipop magnetsIpop magnets

Magnets from iPop, pouch and robot from Wilde and Woolf.

I also ordered more cuteness from Shinzi Katoh, vintage image products from R. Shackman and beautiful classic plastic boxes from AMAC.

I'm kind of in a magnet mode these days, so it's no surprise that I was attracted to iPop Magnets.

Also in the magnet mode, I've been selling these fabulous pieces by Uno Industries. 40 inches of magnetized chain and a cute little magnet to hold it together as a bracelet, ring or whatever. So fun and endlessly playable.

Uno industries magnetic jewelry

Uno Industries Magnetic Jewelry

And the magnetic item that got me started on the magnet kick: Canetti Magnet Frames. I finally met Nancy Halper, Canetti's owner, at NYIGS, which was great. I've been doing land office business selling the 5x7 frames, which I will continue to sell at small equals, along with some smaller versions.

Canetti magnet frames
Canetti Magnet Frames. Photos by Liza Cowan.


Saying goodbye to Pine Street Art Works

Next week Pine Street Art Works will be closing. After five years. I will be opening another small shop, with a much tighter focus, so I'm excited about that. But meanwhile here's a small photo review of most of the shows I've curated since 2005.

Kids in the window '05

My kids used to like to sit in the window and pretend to be mannequins. Liza Cowan Photo 2005


Klein:fake window

same window without kids. David Klein, Beanie For Peace. Liza Cowan photo 2005


Klein fake show

David Klein, Beanie For Peace. Liza Cowan, FAKE! photo by Liza Cowan 2005


Psaw card flash+hunter
postcards for Flashbags and Charlie Hunter Show. 2006


Keith wagner pods in window
Keith Wagner, pods, in show window. Hunter/Wagner show 2006. Photo by Liza Cowan


Hunter:wagner show
paintings by Charlie Hunter, sculpture by Keith Wagner. 2006. Photo by Liza Cowan


Psaw card cara+putnam
Show postcards for Cara Barer and David Putnam. Liza Cowan design. 2006


Cara barer show
Cara Barer show. 2006. Photo by Liza Cowan


Barer butterfly with pucci mannequin
Cara Barer, Butterfly. Mannequin by Ralph Pucci. Photo by Liza Cowan circa 2009.


David putnam show
David Putnam show. Photo Liza Cowan. 2006


Bread and puppet at psaw
Bread and Puppet Theater, benefit performance at PSAW, photo Liza Cowan 2006.


Psaw card artifact+goodman
Show card for Artifact, Liza Cowan design. Show card for SP Goodman, SP Goodman design. 2006

Window sp goodman
Show window for SP Goodman. 2006


Psaw card paper play double
Show cards for Paper Play, Alison Bechdel and Phranc The Cardboard Cobbler. Liza Cowan design 2006

Psaw card myra+steig
20th Century Works on Paper Show, and general use postcard. William Steig poster 1944. Ralph Pucci/Maira Kalman mannequin. Card design by Liza Cowan.

Psaw card denis+anderson
Show cards, John Anderson, Denis Versweyveld. Liza Cowan design 2007.

John anderson prepping show
John Anderson setting up his show. Liza Cowan photo 2007.


Versweyveld in green room
Denis Versweyveld show in Olive Room. Photo by Liza Cowan 2007


Paint by number card
Paint by Number Show. Paint by number painting,  image based on Norman Rockwell painting. Design by Liza Cowan 2007

Pbn show
Paint by Number Show. Mark, the postal carrier, enjoys the work. Liza Cowan photo 2007.

Psaw card nakki+connie
Show cards for Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth and Connie Imboden. Design by Liza Cowan, 2007 and 2008.


Sow postcard orange front
showcard Amadou Sow. Design Liza Cowan 2007

Painting by Mr. Masterpiece. Show 2008


Gombar postcard

Show card Richard Gombar. Design Liza Cowan 2008



Heinrich Harrer photographs, Seven Years In Tibet. Curated by Leslie DiRusso. Card design Liza Cowan. 2008


Studio glow in window
Studio Glow lamps and sculpture in the show window. Photo Liza Cowan 2008


Tim Matson. Pilobolous photographs show. 2009


Bloom postcard front
showcard for Bloom show. Liza Cowan design. 2009

Show Card David Powell. David Powell design 2009


Aline postcard

Showcard Aline Smithson. Liza Cowan design 2009.


Aline Smithson photos at Pine Street Art Works. Photo Liza Cowan 2009


TMNK postcard front
Showcard TMNK- The Me Nobody Knows, design Liza Cowan 2009


TMNK hanging his show. Liza Cowan photo 2009


Holiday 09 window
Winter Holiday show window. Liza Cowan photo 2009

Showcard Carol Golemboski. Design Liza Cowan 2010


Front showroom, Carol Golemboski Show. Photo Liza Cowan 2010


OK, well that's the brief tour.

I'm moving, reinventing, reincarnating, all of those things. Opening Sept 10th at S.P.A.C.E Gallery 266 Pine Street in Burlington.

As soon as I'm settled, Seesaw will continue as usual.









Psaw moving sale postcard


click for Moving Sale CataBlog

This is big news but I'm telling you in a tiny post. Seesaw, the blog, will remain the same but the shop - Pine Street Art Works - will be radically downsizing and moving down the street.

Pine Street Art Works. Photo by Carolyn Bates.

Basically I'm going from a 2,000 sq. ft space to a 90 foot space and will be selling only small goods like my beautiful Keepsake Card Kits and the small treasures that fit inside them.


Huge Sale at Pine Street Art Works. 404 Pine Street Burlington VT.

Come over if you are nearby. Keep tabs on what's for sale on the Moving Sale CataBlog

call or email if you think you want something that I can ship. I will ship small goods, hold larger ones for pickup, but large items, like furniture, I cannot ship.

802 863 8100


Burlington, Vermont native Edward P Hatch bought NYC department store Lord & Taylor in 1879. He also owned the Lake Champlain estate, Red Rocks, that became one of Burlington's most beautiful and popular public parks.

I've been writing and posting about Red Rocks this week, so a couple of days ago my daughter G and I decided to take a hike up the Red Rocks trail. It's not far from our house, and we've hiked it before - she many more times than I - but I never bothered to read the sign before:

  Red Rocks Park sign, south Burlington Vermont

Sign at Red Rocks Park, South Burlington, Vermont.

"Beginning in 1888, this large property was part of an annual summer retreat for the family of Edward Hatch, Jr. who managed the famed Lord & Taylor department store chain in the late 1800's. Mr Hatch took up residence for several summers in the former Hotel Vermont adjacent to City Hall Park in downtown Burlington. The City of South Burlington subsequently purchased the site with federal assistance from the Land And Water Conservation Fund in 1970."

Wait a minute!! Lord & Taylor??? I practically grew up in Lord & Taylor. It's was one of the oldest  department stores in New York City when I was a girl in the 1950's. I'm sure I remember riding the rickety old wooden escalators to the upper floors of it's now landmarked building at 38th and 5th.

“The department store began in an era of a hub-and-spoke transportation system for cities, before the automobile,” Tedlow says. “In Chicago, for instance, the large downtown department store, Marshall Field’s, became in and of itself The Brand. And for a store like that in, say, 1870 or 1880, the competition was basically mom-and-pop shops. Department stores were a new mode of retailing. They became destinations—they became places where you shopped not solely for procurement but for entertainment."  Adam Gopnik, Under One Roof, The New Yorker, Sept. 22, 2003

Lord & Taylor began as a dry goods store on Catherine Street (Manhattan's Lower East Side) in 1826. Subsequent moves brought it further and further north, to Broadway and Grand, then to Broadway and 20th Street, which became part of  the "Ladies Mile" destination.

Lord & Taylor, ladies mile, James H. Giles architect, 19th century department store, shopping NYC "The architect James H. Giles developed a five-story mansard-roofed scheme in cast iron that was widely praised. The building rises like an expanding crystal structure, an intricate pattern of crisply decorated blocks and spiky plant forms that seems to prefigure the William Morris patterns of the 1880's. The entire corner tower is angled, with a tall rectangular mansard pavilion on top, and the roof line still has much of its original, lacy cresting."  Christopher Grey NY Times May 7, 1995


So, Lord & Taylor is in its new digs in the beautiful cast iron building when, in 1879, Eward Hatch, of Burlington Vermont, takes over the reins. 

 Edward P

Edward P SEPT 21, 1909- Burlington VT, Edward P. Hatch, for many years President of the dry goods firm of Lord & Taylor, New York, died at the Van Ness Hotel in this city to-day from heart disease, at the age of 77. He had spent the Summer here for the last forty years. ....Edward P. Htch was born in Norwich, Vt. on July 11, 1832. He was the son of a village physician, Dr. Horace Hatch, whose own father had been one fo the pioneers of the town and had helped to clear the forest for his home with his own hands...When Edward Hatch was 15 years old he entered a store at a salary of $4 a month, one of his chief duties being the packing of wool [? wood?] Two years later he came to New York and entered the store of Robinson & Co. on Broadway as an entry clerk....[goes on to work for Wilcox and Gibbs sewing machines, makes a forturne, retires and...] In 1879 however, the opportunity came of reorganizing and carrying on the affairs of the house of Lord & Taylor, and Mr. Hatch, as the head of the reorganized firm, entered the world of business again. Being impressed with the commercial value of the firm's name he retained it, and only a small part of the general public knew whose brain it was that was working behind the old firm name. Until five years ago he carried the firm on alone. Then he organized it into a corporation capitalized with $2,500,00 preferred and $3,000,000 common stock, he being the President.... Many years ago Mr. Hatch purchased Red Rocks, a splendidly wooded estate on Lake Champlain, south of Burlington. He constructed a permanent stone road for many miles near Mallet's Bay. Along the road he set many drinking fountains. His interest in making improvements of this kind throughout Vermont continued to the time of his death. His body will be buried near Lake Champlain." Meanwhile, back in Burlington, Red Rocks had - and still has- some great swimming places, from a tame beach to massive cliffs for the foolhardy to jump from. If  bathers were to buy their suits in 1879, the year Hatch took over Lord & Taylor, this is what they'd have been wearing

  Lord & Taylor, bathing suits, june 14 1879
Bathing suits at Lord & Taylor's, 1879

If the bathers, or picnickers wanted to get around the estate in those days, or a bit later, they could have ridden in a buggy like this

  View of lake champlain from red rocks burlington vt
View of Lake Champlain from Red Rocks, Burlington VT. Postcard from PSAW ephemera collections. This is the same image as on the Red rocks sign.

Alas, when daughter G. and I hiked up to recreate the view, we found the trees had filled in most of the roadway, and we ended up with this.

  G at red rocks, view at red rocks, south burlington vermont, lake champlain
Red Rocks, view over Lake Champlain. Photo Liza Cowan

But we were happy, and the view is still spectacular. Maybe next time we'll find some old fashioned bathing costumes.


Pine street art works, art gallery, carol golemboski, gallery layout
Pine Street Art Works, Main Gallery, Carol Golemboski Show, April 2010

If you want to give a shot at reading the things at Pine Street Art Works, I'll give you a hint: Spring Cleaning. Yes, after a long winter here in Burlington, with the gallery set up as a wonderfully crowded and fun store, I decided to go simple for Spring. Intern Par Excellence, Daniel Weinberg, and I spent a couple of days moving furniture and products, art and artifact. Grueling, but worth it. So welcome to Spring on Pine Street in Burlington Vermont's Arts District. Why the interest in reading objects? Carol Golemboski's amazing show here at the Gallery: Psychometry (the ability to divine the history of objects through physical contact.)

If Wishes Were Horses
Carol Golemboski, If Wishes Were Horses, toned silver gelatin print


Object Lesson in Heads
Carol Golemboski, Object Lesson. Toned  silver gelatin print.

Next big project: The street garden. Charlotte Albers of Paintbox Garden Design is planning something special, and I'll keep you posted.


Build a better business through reciprocity

Call it the Golden Rule, the threefold law of return, Karma...every culture has it's version of Do Unto Others. Running a retail  business offers endless opportunities for beneficial mutual exchange with all kinds of people...vendors, customers, suppliers, staff, delivery people, neighbors, tech support: the question is - what are you going to do with it?

 Kids on seesaw, constance heffron, happy days, 1951, allyn and bacon
 It takes a relationship to make it work. Illustration by Constance Heffron. Happy Days, 1951 Allyn and Bacon

For me, part of the thrill of retail is being able to cultivate relationships. If I'm excited about a piece of art, a product, a service, a website, I want to get to know what, or who, is behind it. My first impulse is to write an email, make a phone call, write a blog post, send a note on facebook or twitter. If I like something I want to tell the world about it. But after a point, I really do need to be supported in kind.

It's been my experience that only a portion of the people I extend myself to bother to respond in kind. Do I understand why? Not really. I guess some people are just not connectors. Do I accept it? Yes. And move along.

I'm not quite snarky enough to tattle on those businesses who don't see generosity as part of their work ethic. The law of threefold return will bite them in the derriere eventually. If I like their products or services enough I might continue to use them, or sell them, but I won't go the extra mile to help publicize them. There's no juice in it.

But those who do... ah, the sweetness of mutual delight and support. Here's to the connectors.


flashbags Flashbags started in business the same time I did. We are all Burlingtonians. Our kids go to school together. I adore them, personally and professionally. We've always featured each other in promotions and events. Ali and Laura, now just Laura, are the most generous, enthusiastic co-conspirators a business could ask for. Flashbags are the staple of my retail business and I couldn't imagine retail life without them.


I was excited about Cardboardesign from the moment I found out about their products.Liquid cardboard I think I read about them on a design blog when they first started, and was one of their first wholesale accounts. Because I was so in love with their product I started blogging about them. Because their marketing director, David Rosenzweig is such a nice and cool guy, he started emailing me. His daughter even commented on this blog. Did I mention he knows Simon Doonan? (who has never contacted me, ahem...) And recently they quoted me on their new sales brochure. Was I excited? You bet. Does this translate to sales for me..and them? Of course. Why? Because the personal connection, the reciprocity, makes me want to work that much harder for them. [update: sorry to report that Cardboardesign went out of business. sniff...]

Canetti frames Canetti frames are, after Flashbags, my best selling product. It's always easy to sell a product I love so much. But when owner Nancy Halper and I started exchanging chatty emails, when she took the time to research and answer my questions, when she invited me to Linked In,  I knew there was a real person behind the product and that relationship spurred me to be even more excited to sell their beautiful, pure acrylic magnet frames. I'm sure that in the scope of things I'm not that big of an account for them. Au contraire. But Nancy always makes me feel special. At their booth the recent NYC gift show, Canetti featured my store advertising postcard in their frames. Yeah, it's a great card, looks super in their frames, and mentions them on the back. But they didn't have to do it. Again, wow. 

Tech Stuff:

I used to send gallery and shop announcement  email blasts via my website, which was cumbersome. Then I only used facebook, which is good but doesn't have any extra oomph. Then a few months ago I was blog surfing and someone mentioned Mad Mimi email marketing. I regret not remembering which blog, but a couple of days later I googled Mad Mimi, browsed their site, and decided to give them a try.

The MadMimi webpage was inspiring, their testimonials glowing. I decided to give it a try. Heck, I need to promote this store.  At some point while I was designing my first promotion I had a question, even though their design program is super easy to use. I emailed their tech support and ....right away someone was there, live, in real time, answering my questions. Patiently. Nicely. I mean, Hello!!...when does that happen??

But then there was a bigger bonus - besides my amazing and amazingly easy to design promotion. At  the Mad Mimi site they have a gallery of some of their clients and I decided my goal was to get into that gallery. They've got cool stuff there - great clients. I emailed and got a really sweet response from Gary, CEO and Founder.  We chatted about this and that...he lives in my old Brooklyn neighborhood..and yes, they loved my promotion and put it on their site. So...not only did I get super tech support, get to design and send a gorgeous email promotion, which my customers loved, but also they put me on their website. Again, sure, my promo was great... but that's the thing. They didn't have to. But they - Gary, Dean and the others on the team,  understand reciprocity, they are nice, down to earth folks running a savvy business. Part of their savviness is in their genuine customer relations. 


If you've ever tried to get tech support from web or blog providers, you know just how frustrating this can be, and how likely you are to get the response, "we got your question and will be back with you soon" and then you wait and wait - and wait - until you get an answer that confounds you even more. Not mentioning any names typepad.

Some tech support makes me want to gnash my teeth and tear out my hair, which makes my happiness with MadMimi  even more impressive. 

Link some Love:

Love what someone's doing, selling, writing, designing? Send them some link love. Why not? Tweet them, it costs you nothing, and the goodwill you get back is astounding. Or post a link on Facebook. I'm new to the tweet world, an old hand at Facebook, and here's what I think: you can build community through links, tweets and retweets.

A while back, book designer and blogger Ian Shimkoviak tweeted a post of mine. I only knew because I followed the trail on sitemeter when I noticed a bump in readership. Then I wrote about him in my recent post on book covers. Then he tweeted that. And it was picked up by a couple of his followers. Today I tweeted MadMimi. They tweeted me. And tomorrow??? Maybe I'll tweet you. Or you'll tweet me.


What it boils down to for me is more than the golden rule: in my mission statement I say that Pine Street Art Works is in business to build community  through retail. I am a fierce advocate for local neighborhood community building, but,  in addition, in this cyber age, neighborhood can be anywhere and everywhere. We build it one email, one tweet, one link at a time. Share the love.

Set your table

Time to set the table. Holiday festivities are coming up, and then there's just plain every day gorgeousness. Check out what we've got for your table.

Table top at PSAW and AO! Glass
Here's what's on the table: Jello Placemats, made by Flashbags for Pine Street Art Works. Goblets by AO! Glass. Vase by AO! Glass. Mid century condiment bowls. Boxed sets of stationery as guest gift.

In the background: Ginny Joyner food illustration prints, mid century botanical school charts.

Also available for you table: Shinzi Katoh tea pots, Liquid Cardboard tabletop sculpture, more mid century vases and dishes, pottery from Paige Russell.

Did someone say party?


Here are some random shots of new and old things we have at PSAW today:

 Psaw art is my weapon
Just in from TMNK, Art Is My Weapon T-Shirts in a variety of sizes.

 Psaw clipboard
Very cool and fun French Script clipboards from Timeworks, Inc. Clock Company. I also carry the American Baseball one. @ $12.75 this will be a great holiday present.

 Psaw magnet frames
Always popular, The Magnet Frame from Canetti. 5x7, these pure acrylic frames open and close like a dream, held by tiny powerful magnets. @ $28. Photos in the frames are by me, Liza Cowan, except the one of two old fashioned girls who are my grandmother Lena Straus Spiegel and her sister Hettie.

 Psaw button and beads
Random button and beads. The Lampwork beads are by Madelyn Erb, Mad Glass Beads.

 Psaw monopoly pieces
Monopoly pieces.

 Psaw fireplace ginny
The cozy new electric fireplace. On top: Tea cup print by Ginny Joyner, real teacup and teapot by Shinzi Katoh, fine art laminated mid 20th Century ads.

Tick Tock, time to think about holiday shopping

 Blog pop clock tempus fugit
Tempus Fugit, pop out clock by Timeworks, Inc. Available at PSAW for $17.75

As I posted on my sandwich board today, "Tick tock, time to think about holiday shopping" Actually, as a retailer, I've been thinking about holiday shopping since mid summer. Truth be told, as a consumer I enjoy buying presents for my loved ones, but it's even more fun selling fabulous things to my customers. In this economy we're all being careful of what we spend, so I've worked at getting great stuff at reasonable prices. By reasonable, I try to mean under $50. Often under $25.

  Blog pop out clock
Pop Out Clocks from Timeworks, Inc. Seven different clocks available here.

These clocks are super cute and a brand new product from the Timeworks, Inc. Clock Company from Berkeley, CA.  They come in a reusable box and  assemble in a jiffy,  really.  I think they are made of melamine. The clock runs on a battery. Great little gift for under $20, easy to send, too.


  • Blog pop clock alice
  • Blog pop clock bear in a bottle
  • Blog pop clock football
  • Blog pop clock love grows
  • Blog pop clock time flies
Blog pop clock time flies

Check out the clock faces. Click the small image and it will pop up!


 Blog card boxes
notecards, portfolios, labels, sticky notes etc. at PSAW

I've been a stationery lover my whole life. Mostly I've collected postcards and notecards, but anything with pretty images and shapes will catch my eye. Now that our local paperie, Scribbles, has closed (alas) I'm trying to fill the void a tiny bit. Above are some sets with images by Wayne Thiebaud, Andy Warhol, Geninne D. Zlatkis. I also have Lotte Jansdotter and  Paul Frank as well as assorted classic botanical images.


 Blog mini prints
Canetti Museum magnet frames and PSAW mini prints

Not new to PSAW but one of my favorites, the Canetti Museum Magnet Frame. At $28 these are a sensation and very popular with my customers.  Made of pure acrylic and tiny magnets by a small company in New York, (although manufactured in Thailand) these are the original  Magnet Frame. They inspired me to offer PSAW mini prints by PSAW artists, made to fit the frames. At $20 a pop, these are also a fun and charming gift.


 Blog kornbluh pendant
glass pendant by Marc Kornbluh at PSAW. Aprox 2" diameter. $45

No two of these pendants by Marc Kornbluh are alike. Marc used to live in Burlington and his glass studio was one of my favorite places. Now he lives. in Nebraska, but I'm lucky enough to be able to sell his lamp-work jewelry. At $45, this is a gift that will be loved for generations.

 cigarette tin, sixty, liza cowan photo, yellow, tobacco, collectible
Vintage cigarette tin. $16.

I've been collecting typewriter tins and cigarette tins, lovely for both their shapes and graphics. No two alike, only while stock lasts since buying them is a random operation. But I've got a bunch here now.


 AO! Glass, Snow men, glass snow men, handblown glass,
Sno Folk by AO! Glass

AO! Glass, whose retail shop is right here at PSAW (separate store - common roof) are in high production for their very popular little Sno Folk. Great, perfect holiday gifts, they can be a tabletop decoration, or hang from a tree or mantle. Tove Ohlander also will custom etch the bowls and other pieces that she and her partner Rich Ahrentzen make.

There's more, but I'll leave that for another post. Just come on buy and check us out. Tick Tock.



CARDBOARDDESIGN: Liquid cardboard


 Liquid cardboard display
Liquid Cardboard by Cardboardesign at Pine Street Art Works.

I can't remember how I first heard about the NYC company Cardboardesign. Maybe it was on one of the home design blogs I frequent. I do know that when I placed my first order a few years ago I was one of the first, if not the first wholesale customer they had. Hooboy, not anymore.

Cardboardesign products were  featured at the Guggenheim Gala honoring Frank Gehry, at the American Museum of Natural History Climate Change Launch. They were featured on Big Ideas For A Small Planet on The Sundance Channel and on Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. Look for Cardboardesign products at some of the tonier retail venues around the country, including, of course, Pine Street Art Works.

Liquid cardboard 8 on hand
Liquid Cardboard #8. Liza Cowan photo.

The various products made by Cardboardesign - furniture, toys, tableware - are all made of recycled and recyclable materials. Even the glue they use is eco friendly. Equally important, they are all design forward, sophisticated and fun. I'm featuring the Liquid Cardboard line, pieces that can be used to hold flowers, candy, candles, or just sit on the table to amuse your guests. They morph into all kinds of shapes and are endlessly fun to manipulate. I've even had a customer buy one to use as a bracelet.

 Liquidcardboard #6 cd
Liquid Cardboard #6 used as a votive holder.

 Liquidcardboard #6 lc
Mannequin pumping Liquid Cardboard #6. Liza Cowan photo

If you live near Burlington or are planning a visit, come on by and check out the coolest line of table top sculpture you'll see this season. If not, you can buy online direct from Cardboardesign

Liquid Cardboard #3.

Some Liquid Cardboard items are available at our online store. Check it out!


Liquid Cardboard #4


 Blog sign 

We write our sign daily. Then the rain washes it away. True ephemera.

It's been a slow week. I'm busy stocking up for the holidays, but meanwhile...ain't nobody shopping much. Rainy day, listening to Rufus Wainwright and the soundtrack of Wicked.  Here are some random shots from the day.

 Blog kornbluh 

Pendants by Marc Kornbluh. TMNK paintings in the background.

 Blog moleskine 

Moleskine journals. Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth. Liza Leger painting.

 Blog card wall 

Card wall. Cards by me, from my ephemera collections. Ever changing.

 Bog typewriter ribbon tins 

Vintage typewriter ribbon tins.

 Blog shinzi in foreground 

Shinzi Katoh in foreground. Then Flashbags, then cards. TMNK paintings on the wall.


I think I'm entering my third week of absolutely no sales. Zero. Nada. Zilch.

I get that we are in a recession/depression and that most people are scaling back. Buying expensive works of art is more of a luxury than it has been for a long time. But seriously, I think some people need a refresher course in the do's and don'ts of shopping at an independent retail venue.


william steig "we clean em" exhibition postcard for pine street art works
Exhibition post card featuring William Steig, We Clean 'Em Poster.


If I could pay my bills with compliments, I'd be sitting pretty. Every day I hear, "this is the best shop" "this is the best gallery" "you have such an amazing collection" "this is the highlight of my visit to Burlington" Yet do my visitors reach into their pockets to buy a $2 postcard? No, they do not. Do my visitors spend an half an hour of my time looking at all the art, talking about it, asking questions, wanting to see more, yet not spending a dime? Yes, they do. I can't help but find this most unsupportive, if not downright rude.

I have postcards and ephemera that start at $2, less than the price of the latte  from next door which they walk in with (and for which they also probably, I hope, gave a tip.)  I have fabulous things for under $30 and of course, on up to work worth hundreds and sometimes, even thousands. But let me emphasize, I"ve got the cheap stuff too. And by cheap I mean fabulous, unique and inexpensive.  I'd be mortified if I loved a store and took up the owner's time and expertise and didn't spend a spend a dime. So here is

 My basic shopping rule: Buy something!

Since I know that most of my readers do not live in Burlington, or even in the United States, I urge you to apply this to shops in your own community, or when you are traveling. It doesn't have to be expensive. If they sell cards, or candy, or trinkets or maps or whatever, buy something. Buying something is a show of good faith. Buying something shows that you care that the store stays in business, because, trust me, without sales they will have to close, probably sooner rather than later.  Buying something is a win win event. You get something, the store gets something, the person or company that made the item gets something, and if you are buying something vintage (which is a lot of my stock) you get the satisfaction of knowing you are buying Green. Stores can not stay in business without sales.

Unless they are funded  (I'm not, and most in the US aren't)  art galleries cannot stay in business without sales. I know this should seem obvious, but apparently it isn't.

If you have engaged the owner or the salesperson in conversation you've spent some of their valuable time, now repay them with some of your valuable money.

I would be embarrassed to death if I spent the kind of time that some of my customers spend here without buying anything. Even if we've had a conversation about how tough the market is, how I'm not sure if I can meet my expenses, how I've had to pare down to bare bones, how scary it is to be in retail these days. Still, they walk out with a "Thank you, I adore this place."

And I sit here with my jaw dropped down to the floor. Did I hear you right? You adore this place but you walk out without anything? No! I take that back. Every person who enters this store walks out with at least one beautiful free postcard announcing an upcoming show, or a generic store card. These are gorgeous cards, which cost twenty five cents more or less to print. Everyone gets two. So they walk out with fifty cents worth of miniature art for which they've paid nothing. I know it's marketing for the store - they've basically walked out with a little advertisement - but they still get to keep and display them, and believe me, they're good.

pine street art works post card maira kalman ralph pucci mannequin photo ©Liza Cowan
Generic card for Pine Street Art Works. Photo and design by LIza Cowan. Mannequin by Ralph Pucci International based on art by Maira Kalman. used by permission of Ralph Pucci International.


Everyone who visits the store gets one of these postcards, as well as a show postcard, and often, if they've expressed interest in a particular past artist, I give them cards from that show as well.


nakki goranin american photobooth exhibition pine street art works design ©Liza Cowan
Pine Street Art Works Exhibition Card. Nakki Goranin's American Photobooth show. Photographer unknown. Photo copyright Nakki Goranin. Design by Liza Cowan.


Maybe I'm just not a good salesperson. I don't know. I try to be encouraging, and I certainly don't want to hard sell or  berate my customers, because I really do want them to feel comfortable, but sometimes I just want to say, "What the bleep are you thinking? Where are your manners? Where is your support?"

I don't usually share this kind of information with the public, but I thought that you, my readers far and wide, might be interested in some of the back stage stuff, and who knows, maybe someone has something to tell me that would be helpful or encouraging. Because I'm more than a bit depressed.