Bugged

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today is a first foray into Halloween post for this year – although clearly not all of my insect related bits and bobs are creepy crawlies, and of course there will be black cats to come. As it happens, today’s parade of insects started with butterflies. As Pictorama readers know, over the long pandemic siege I have entertained myself by following a series of jewelry dealers on Instagram. I mentioned these butterfly pins before as I considered a new passion for pins in general. (That post and a few others can be found here, here and here.)

While several dealers I buy from hail from the Midwest, a few are further afield and one of the first, and the one I probably still buy from most frequently, is a woman named Rachel whose handle and Etsy shop can be found @Wassail_Antiques and wassailantiques.com respectively. She lives in a thatched cottage (yes, really) in the English countryside, with husband and lovely pooch, and is a gifted professional photographer so her photos are extra alluring.

Rachel was nice enough to supply the photo above of the spider bracelet (above and below). For the rest you will have to put up with my ham handed efforts or snatches off IG posts. I do believe looking at her photos of the countryside help to assuage any unsatisfied travel lust I might feel.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I saw the butterflies on her IG page first. Rachel wrote that they were likely made by prisoners of war or as trench art (during WWI, I believe) as trinkets for loved ones and a way to pass the time. I have found some passing references to this practice online, but am a bit surprised more hasn’t been written about it. These pins nagged at my brain for awhile and then I grabbed up these two last April when, perhaps like the soldiers in question, I was feeling my own desperate need for the outdoors, the natural world and perhaps a more orderly world than I was encountering. I bought two with the idea of wearing them together. I have not managed to execute that vision yet as my days of jacket lapels still seem to remain in the future days. (Although I have cleaned out the closets and jackets now wait at the ready!)

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. Photo by Heather Haggins @Marsh.and.Meadow.

The dragonfly on the other hand, is celluloid and of a more recent vintage. Another favorite dealer (@marsh.and.meadow and @marsh.and.meadow.overflow) was having a sale – I have written that these sales are always fast and furious and this was no exception, but I bought this little gem. This was before I purchased the World’s Fair bracelet from her – a recent post which can be found here – and I felt lucky to score this little fellow. Although he is plastic I really love him and I did manage to sport him on some sundresses this summer. I can imagine wearing all three together. These pins say spring and summer to me.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection. Photo courtesy Rachel Kremer, @ @kremersnowdon_studio and @Wassailantiques.com.

Heading into the season of the moment, Rachel revealed this lovely bracelet and I jumped on it. I have never seen anything like this bracelet and it has become an immediate favorite. (I am not alone – it had a moment in the sun in a piece in Tattler magazine before winging its way to me!) I have worn it to almost every one of my in-person appointments since it arrived. Although it is very seasonal for the moment I expect to continue wearing it beyond October 31.

After the purchase of the bracelet another spider found its way to me in the form of a necklace. (This one courtesy @witchyvintage.) I am having a bit of trouble with this one though, and although I like it and the chain, I must paw through my jewelry box for a chain that works better for it. (She also has vintage clothing and just put up a black velvet cape that seriously stopped me in my tracks – but I really am not leading a black velvet vintage cape life right now. Alas! For those with more interesting lives who wish to investigate her shop can also be found at witchyvintage.com.

Spider necklace I am still figuring out. Photo from @Witchyvintage.

I admit I continue a yen for them – Rachel has two lovely bug stickpins on her Etsy site I can barely control myself from purchasing. I am decidedly not fond of the insects I find in my home (the moths continue their prodigious march despite my best ongoing efforts, I am constantly undertaking their elimination, systematically and randomly), and am actually fairly squeamish in general about that aspect of the natural world so this trend intrigues me. Bees have long interested me with their diligence and organization and perhaps in a different world I might have kept hives, but in general I like my insects at arm’s length, or (I guess) made from beads, silver or even plastic.

Update: This went up on Instagram while I was writing about it and decided to give into impulse and buy it – and a pretty box for mom for Christmas! This lovely photo also courtesy of Rachel Kremer!

Maybe I relate to their chrysalis state, waiting to emerge from my own cocoon. Or maybe it is just a new yen for the natural world after a long time mostly at home. I am not sure, but I will also mention that I find myself purchasing items with stars, moons and other celestial motifs! (I am wearing favorite pj’s with stars on them gratis The Gap right now as I write this.) More on those to come.

Swanning

Pam’s Pictorama Post: My mother is not a collector, I inherited the gene from my dad and from his side of the family. His mother loved to attend auctions here in the city and stuffed their house with carpets, furniture and trinkets. She loved costume jewelry – in many ways I am her successor. My father was an accumulator as well, garage sales, auctions. He was a man who liked stuff. While there were no toy or photograph collectors, I’m sure Pictorama readers realize that this is the category I fit into – and at least in this way I take most decidedly after the paternal side of my family. (I most recently wrote about Dad’s passion for silver in a post here.)

My mom on the other hand is not especially interested in things. She can be discerning about what she likes and prefers, but generally speaking my mother just lived among the stuff my father accumulated without being especially engaged with it or the acquisition of it. This is not to say she didn’t enjoy a trip to an antique shop or flea market – she would pick up this or that. However, she does not possess a deep affection for the items of the world, nor the acquisition of them.

Undated snapshot of my mom.

A scientist at heart my mother’s passion lies deeply embedded in the natural world. As a result I grew up with a cheerful allotment of pet cats, dogs and fish. (Two past posts addressing this roster of pets and my early life can be found here and here.) We had a vegetable garden which she planted and tended and we lived on a river where we enjoyed a passing parade of waterfowl and aquatic life. Her father was a devoted fisherman and repaired outboard motors and made fishing lures for extra money, so she knew the waters of the area well. Much of the idyll of my childhood I have shared with Pictorama readers was shaped by my mother’s views, knowledge and interests in the nature world of the seashore where we lived.

One Thanksgiving, several decades ago now, my mother noticed a flock of swans in the backyard and became intently interested in them. Before long she was feeding them as well as watching them, along with the geese and ducks which also made our river inlet home at the time. Eventually an injured one turned up and she found someone to help heal it. Slowly she became involved with a loose network of people who were knowledgeable and would help when an injured swan or goose would cross her path. I remember visiting my folks and finding that I was sharing the guest bathroom with an injured swan overnight. (He was a noisy neighbor that night!) Strangely (to my mind anyway) mute swans are an intensely political and controversial issue for people who live on or near the shore. Other than to acknowledge that it is, and that clearly my mom falls on the side of protecting this wildlife, it is not my intention to tackle that topic.

For today all this is to say that on that November afternoon my mother recognized and embraced her spirit animal and although she loves all birds (and in fact all animals) she is deeply and especially attached to swans. She has devoted much of her time and energy in subsequent years to caring for them and defending them with all the resources she could marshal. In recent years, no longer living on the water and now mostly confined to the house, I say she still wields a mighty phone and computer. Her now tiny yard remains a haven for song birds who attracted by and enjoy bird baths and feeders, as well as a garden designed to feed them and the insects. (I wrote a little about her gardening in a post here.)

While living on the waterfront those many years mom photographed the swans, along with geese, ducks, other birds and of course our cats. Those photos proliferated on the walls of the house and my father, the accumulator, brought her swan related items and in that way she became an inadvertent collector of swan stuff. However, when the time came to downsize into the house she lives in now she shed most of it without regret. I think she rather enjoys living a more pared down life.

Therefore, as her birthday approached this year, it was never my intention to purchase items of this sort for her. However, much like those first swans years ago, these presented themselves to me in recent weeks and I found myself purchasing first the pin and then the photo. The pin hails from the British jewelry dealer Mia (IG @therubyfoxes or therubyfoxes.com, my most recent past post of an acquisition from her can be found here) who told me that five flying swans is the symbol of the Nordic countries, swans of different types being the national birds of both Finland and Denmark. Although unmarked, esthetically it appears to be made in one of those countries. Mom was never much of a jewelry wearer and wears none now really, but I think she will like having this, perhaps on a piece of ribbon, pinned up near where she likes to sit most days.

Meanwhile, a week or so later when following a sale by my Halloween supplier, the Midwestern Miss Molly (IG @MissMollysAntiques who I gave a nod to just last week in a post here), I stumbled across this early photo of two swans and again I answered the call and purchased it for mom. There is something about the reflections in the water I think mom will especially like. Later today I will pick up a frame and tomorrow I head to Jersey to see mom, slightly in advance of her birthday later this month.

Sometimes when I run in the mornings I see geese or ducks here on the East River, flying by, and I email mom and tell her they were waving to her in tribute. It felt like these items also arrived on Instagram pointedly just in time for her birthday this year. Maybe although dad is gone, he is still finding a way to send a few swan items her way.

Pumpkin Head

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Picking our very Halloween run of posts back up today, I share with you all a candy container which just turned up here at Pictorama. (May I just add that the very phrase vintage candy container thrills me?) He is an odd duck and a bit more fragile than I thought he would be. I have not yet found the best final spot for him in the new bookcase, among the black cat toys. I had planned for him to live with some of his Halloween brethren, but in addition to being fragile he rolls dangerously. Right now he is resting against one of my extremely off-model Felix toys, nestled safely into his side safely on a lower shelf.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

Mr. Pumpkin has a few dents which can be forgiven considering his advanced age. He is marked simply on the bottom, German, and nothing else. (I don’t know how much they actually celebrate Halloween in Germany but there was a time when they were making some of the greatest Halloween items being sold in this country. Strange, right?)

Pumpkin Head appears to be paper mache, or a close relative, lined with cardboard. I can only imagine what a glorious thing it would be to show up for a Halloween party and find an army of these fellows, stuffed with candy on a decorated table! Or perhaps he was dropped into the candy packed pillowcase of some lucky child – who loved him so much he has survived the long march of time this far.

Side view, Pams-Pictorama.com collection

He is pretty friendly looking with just a touch of madness. I confess to a bit of intimidation by some pumpkin-headed figures. Even as an adult, I admit that they fill me with some unease – my idea of a horror film, being chased by mad pumpkin-headed figures, legs and arms seem to make all the difference to my psyche.

In addition to the well-documented ongoing black cat addiction, I went through a period of purchasing Halloween decorating books of the aughts and teens, originals and reproductions. As a result a brief examination of the Dennison’s decoration empire can be found in a 2015 post here. Founded as a maker of jewelry boxes in the 1840’s, Dennison’s was the first maker of crepe paper. They were the reigning king of holiday decorating for over 100 years, starting in 1897. Their Bogie Books fulfilled every curiosity I harbored about the details of early 20th century Halloween celebrations.

Original Bogie Book, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Even as a kid I was somewhat fascinated by Halloween of yore. I remember insisting on bobbing for apples at some Halloween party and I can only say it is perhaps a skill that one develops over time. (And clearly not one to revive in this Covid year of contagion.) Perhaps this was a regional thing and some of you readers were routinely bobbing away. My Halloweens were ones of unromantic plastic pumpkins and pillowcases for candy, uncomfortable masks of hard plastic that were purchases out of boxes and were hard to breathe in and even harder to see out of, especially in the dark – they always seemed to poke you in the eye a bit.

I am not sure if a renewed interest in Halloween items is speaking to me this year because of unexpected availability or perhaps fulfilling a different yen during this oddest of years. Maybe it is a desire to mark the changing season in a year of remarkably similar days. (My new mid-West supplier Miss Molly seems to be the reigning Queen of Halloween and has turned up a surfeit of items – she occasionally even sends me things to look at while she is in the parking lot of a flea market, somewhere in the environs of St. Louis. Seems like a glorious way to spend your weekends actually. I enjoy vicarious pleasure in her ventures.)

When I was a young adult I continued to carve pumpkins into jack-o-lanterns much as I had since I was a child, wielding the knife now however – and cleaning up the huge mess. The last time I did it was the first Halloween after Kim and I got together. What I remember best is that my cat Otto loved the smell of the pumpkin guts, rolled around in them and insisted on eating it. (Incidentally, canned pumpkin can help at cat clear hairballs out of their system. Just a kitty tip in passing.) Sadly, I did not have the foresight to document the Deitchien influenced creation.

Trick or treating in Manhattan is an odd ritual with the kids of our high rise building going door-to-door to apartments who have indicated that they are welcome. Local businesses also get into the spirit and hand out candy to the kiddies. This year, a sort of ham handed CDC recommended fashion, the building will forego and instead offer pre-filled bags to the offspring of the building. Regardless, we are on the countdown to Halloween ’20 however, and I have at least one more small Halloween treat up my sleeve to share next week.