Opal

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I don’t think I have ever opined on my affection for opals. I’m not exactly sure of the evolution of my fascination, but at some point I fell hard for opals. I was discussing this passion with Kim this morning. It may be the organic and individual nature of opals that fascinates me – each one with a different fire, a unique sensibility, hard to capture.

Opals are sensitive to shifts in humidity and moisture and one jeweler of antique gems told me that she is even careful about wearing them on airplanes as the shifts in altitude could cause cracking. I believe they are somewhat soft as gem stones go.

I cut my teeth on opal collecting teeth with the purchase of two necklaces, one from Australia and the other from New Zealand (both acquired via @murielchastanet_finejewelry) which appears to be one of the world’s natural El Dorados of opals, over a long period of time as they were significant indulgences.

Opals can be (generally are) very expensive, but my strings of opals can pass for nicely strung cheerful beads – circus beads I always call them, not calling attention to themselves unless you know what you are looking at. It is the endless variation and change in each light and against different colors that fascinates me, a never ending display, different each time.

Australian opals; Pams-Pictorama.com collection

The ring I am writing about today was purchased online right before I got sick with Covid. An IG dealer (@marsh.and.meadow) had previewed the ring and I asked for a heads up when it went on sale. The notification came while I was at work one night – in the middle of a set at Dizzy’s – and I bought it with having seen only one small photo and with no idea of the price! Absolutely no regrets – I was thrilled to have gotten it and I have nothing like it, nor am I entirely sure what it is.

Slices of New Zealand opals; Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Heather (aka Marsh and Meadow, whose daughter is named Opal incidentally) identified it as a boulder opal which I would say is very likely. When I research a bit I would also say a fire opal is possible as well, hard to tell and I welcome better informed opinions if any. Heather noted the setting as pre-1900, 10k gold – the doom of the stone .5″ from the setting. For me it appears to be an opal in formation, as if someone managed to catch it in the very act of becoming an opal, an entire world captured within, trapped in my ring.

This is the listing photo by Heather Hagans – a much better job than I can do!

Because I got sick immediately following buying it, the box sat unopened for a bit before I rallied enough to open it. What a treat! (Strangely I also acquired a very old, gold bracelet from Australia at the same time which also waited through my Covid period before being revealed. What was going on in my pre-Covid brain I wonder? More to come on this but I was on a bit of a jewelry tear – all extraordinary things though and some very old, future posts all.) I felt better immediately – the healing value of jewelry.

As some things do, it became an instant favorite and I have worn it several times a week ever since. I never tire of it.

I researched today and opals are formed by the evaporation of silica rich water over millions of years according to Mr. Google. The internet also informs that boulder opals (which evidently all originate in Queensland, Australia) represent serenity of the soul and actualization, but also success and rebirth. If it is a fire opal (mined largely in Mexico) it symbolizes a joy of the heart and a passion for the elements of life, as well as good fortune and success.

If I had to chose I would lean toward feeling the former. I slip it on frequently where it perches high on my hand and encourages day dreaming about that tiny internal opal world on my finger.

Manly Pleasures?

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This is a small, but curious item that wandered into the house with some incredibly interesting antique rings I purchased from a woman in the Midwest who goes under the moniker of @Witchyvintage, aka Paula Bates.

My Felix avatar on social media.

Paula (who is always @witchyvintage in my mind’s eye and ear, as I assume I am @deitchstudio to her, my little Italian Felix toy avatar her only image of me), has an Instagram account most notable in my estimation for really extraordinary vintage early American clothing.

There is something endlessly fascinating about seeing the shoes and dresses she presents for sale – some wearable and others fragile now and better suite for study. Sunbonnets that made the trip west, jackets with leg-o-mutton sleeves, capes and undergarments; cottons, silks and muslins.

The parade of boots she sells surprise me each time she posts them. Wear is evident on them, but they look remarkably well for having made the trip from the 1890’s. (My Nike spoiled feet scream in horror at the idea of wearing them, but they could easily be fashionable today.) I don’t need to own these (luckily for her there are others who feel different and she seems to do a brisk business), but I am addicted to looking at them and considering the lives these items have lived.

For sale on the Witchyvintage online store.

I have, on occasion, purchased jewelry from her, although less frequently than the folks in Britain I have written about (some of those posts here and here) or another favorite young woman in the Midwest who I have a soft spot for, @Marsh.and.Meadow, aka Heather Hagans.

During the shutdown period of the pandemic I found myself revisiting my interest in antique jewelry. Both because of its history (somehow objects with a past remind us that we have a future), and because buying it was putting a stake in the ground for the time I would start wearing jewelry again.

Ring purchased from Paula. I happened to have this screen grab from showing her which one I wanted. Lucky me, it came with this lovely box!

That time is slowly emerging now an my lapels are festooned with a collection of early 20th century insects, and rings sometimes adorn my hands again when I go out. A gold bracelet hallmarked 1895 sits from a vendor in Australia (@madamebrocante) on my right wrist. With a recent purchase of two rings (such indulgence! – I will write more about those another time after they have been fully considered for a bit), this interesting card was tucked in with a somewhat less compelling cabinet card shown below.

Cabinet card also included.

It is a bit larger than an average business card. Nothing is printed or written on the back. I can’t really imagine what purpose such a card might have served. And there is the obvious question of how is a woman’s hand reaching for a bird’s nest among flowers a manly pleasure? Am I missing some obvious or subtle Victorian symbolism? I love it, but it is a little hard to figure the guy who wanted to use this card.

As far as I can gather it is indeed a man’s calling card, although obviously lacking in a printed name – did they perhaps write their name on the back? Evidently, men’s cards were longer and thinner than women’s of the day, designed to fit better in a vest pocket. I especially liked the detail that if a caller left a card personally the right corner was generally folded down in as a way of denoting that the effort was made. A corner might be folded to indicate that he was there to see the entire family, and the litany of rules for unmarried women was intricate.

Kim and I both fell hard for this little item and we would like to find a way to get it and a few other of these tiny items up on our (very crowded) wall where we can admire them daily. Thank you Paula! A very nice bonus!

Little Photos

Pam’s Pictorama Photo Post: Today I have two lovely little photos which were sent to me with packages from Rachel @wassail_antiques. I discovered Rachel’s business on Instagram during the quarantine period and I have written about the wonderful bits of jewelry I have purchased from her – mostly British items from the earliest part of the 20th Century – a parallel universe to what folks were wearing in this country. Similar yet somehow very different. (I have written about these purchases here, here and here for starters!)

Rachel is a gifted photographer and the images of her items always tempt. In addition, the packing upon arrival is always lovely and heightens the feeling that a gift has come in the mail. Several folks I buy from include some early photos or cards in their package (some shown above), but I always feel that Rachel has handpicked the ones she sends me, knowing my aesthetic predilections and interests. Two are shown here today. Neither has any identifying information on the back.

My favorite of these is the young woman with cat and dog. I imagine that this is a boat she is on, but it is possible it is some sort of pier seating near the water. I like her plaid trousers and of course that she has scooped up this nice stripped kitty of hers as well as her faithful dog companion. The water of course and some sort of cliffs behind her. Kitty and dog seem to be looking at something off camera in another direction, however she smiles for the camera.

Photo that came recently in a package purchase from @Wassail_Antiques. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The other is also wonderful although a bit harder to see. A little girl perches on this soldier (my guess is her father’s) knee along with the canine companion who poses on his hind legs. They are in a brick strewn yard with a tatty wall behind them, conceivably from Blitz bombing.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection via @Wassail_Antiques

I have written about my quarantine and later pandemic pin purchases – a strange affinity for insect related items and also celestial, moons and stars, shooting comets, a pattern in my buying emerging slowly over several months. My fantasy life seemed to envision that I would return to the work world wearing jackets and that I would decorate the lapels with multiple pins of each – fly and butterfly pins, moons and stars. A yearning for the natural world? I have no idea. I had shown an affection for bees prior to the pandemic – bless their little organized hard working hearts! (My Queen Bee ring made for my by @murialchastanet_finejewelry shown below.) These pins were new affinities however.

Slowly this spring, the vision began to emerge as a reality. In fact I wear fewer jackets than I used to and the pairing is a bit more complicated than anticipated. However, the beaded butterfly pins (I wrote about these pins, made by British soldiers in internment camps during WWI, in a post here) have been a huge hit, although the celluloid firefly is a sure favorite. (That one came via Heather @marsh.and.meadow.) I recently acquired this nice fly below from yet another dealer (@therubyfoxes) at the same time I purchased a jewelry box from her (I wrote about the box in a post here), and it is perfect for somewhat subtle pairing.

Jewelry, personal collection.
An immediate favorite! Celluloid fire fly.
Beloved butterfly pins that have been very popular this spring.
Another package and photo!

What I had not anticipated is that in general I wear less jewelry than I used to in general. A strange shift in my vision of myself. One ring suffices where several used to routinely live. I have barely worn a bracelet since returning to the world – such as I have returned. However, I purchased two recently so we’ll see what happens.

Prior package from @Wassail_Antiques, cards instead of photos!

Contained

Pam’s Pictorama Post: I have a long-standing passion for acquiring those things which might contain others. By this I mean I find it hard to pass up cabinets and boxes. This means I find great comfort in wandering the aisles of a certain kind of home goods store fantasizing about organizing my life (and never taking the time to do it), however it is antique versions that are like catnip to me.

In the past I have written about a large, Krak-R-Jak tin on my home office desk which contains cards awaiting their eventual destination (that oddly popular post can be found here), one that contained Nestle nibbles which moved to my mom’s house (post found here) and finally, on another occasion, I wrote about an antique display case which I purchased locally as part of a vintage haul which I wrote about here in 2019.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection, taken shortly after acquisition in December of ’19.

I recently had to control myself over a Instagram post for a nifty little wood and glass display cabinet, forcing myself to look around the apartment and focus on where exactly I thought such a thing might fit. The joy of the thing that holds other things is that it holds the enticement of greater organization as a bonus. Not only this nifty object, but it will improve your life. (Now you get a real glimpse of how my mind works.)

Of course, not all boxes and containers are created equal and some really do serve said function and others sort of sputter and fail in the attempt. The failures really could produce several posts of their own. I went through a period of thinking that tins (not tin boxes which have worked well actually) were a good storage idea. Turns out they are not – always a bit hard to open they lack the easy access that turns out to be one of the hallmarks of happy and frequently used storage. They tend to look nice scattered around however.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Does it go without saying that one of the reasons storage appeals is because I own so much stuff? And live in a small space?

Recently without really focusing on it I have begun to acquire antique boxes for my jewelry. I own several jewelry boxes (including one wooden one that was my grandmother’s which my mom found and had refinished for me many years ago) and many of my rings and smaller pins live in a nice, but rather common faux leather travel box I would date from the forties I picked up somewhere in a bulk box buy I don’t quite fully remember. I have my sister’s jewelry boxes although I don’t use them regularly and instead store things in them. They do not quite work for me.

Corbin Cat Trays which hold my jewelry! Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Rings, necklaces and earrings that came in boxes tend to stay in their boxes, although there are a few exceptions for pieces worn very frequently. (I refer here mostly to the “before time” when I wore and regularly rotated through my rings during the work week. My ring and jewelry wearing has not yet nearly reached pre-pandemic levels. I don’t think I have worn a bracelet in more than two years. My gold bangles languish. The healed broken ring finger still rebels against my wedding band.)

For all of this I have to admit that my most frequently worn jewelry lives in a series of dishes and piles in an unholy mess on my dresser which needs to periodically be set right.

Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

A few months back an amethyst ring (birthstone birthday gift to myself) I bought on Instagram came in a lovely antique box – not its original one but an ancient purple one that it nestles in nicely. I like the way it snaps open with the click of a tiny mother-of-pearl button.

Family engagement ring trying out this vintage box this morning. Pams-Pictorama.com Collection.

Recently, @therubyfoxes (aka Mia) was running an IG sale and I purchased this nice ring box above (I had just missed a group sale of several while I tried to figure out where exactly to find said sale – sometimes I think I am of less than average intelligence about such things!) and a lovely little travel case. I will need to decide which ring in the box and which items will find a home in the case. (Not only did Mia have to send a video instruction on opening said box, but further instruction once it arrived. The good news is that once I get the hang of things I do tend to remember them. I clearly did not inherit the mind of my maternal grandfather the engineer.)

Gabriella Kiss ring on top and two favorites from Muriel Chastanet, a favorite jeweler in Los Angeles, below. Insects flew in yesterday with the boxes!

And because it is nice to buy things to put in the boxes, I also purchased a coterie of insect pins from her which I really love and I can’t wait to decorate myself in the crawling and flying fellows for spring and summer. Some earlier purchases of butterflies and a celluloid dragonfly have been very popular on my lapels this spring already. (The butterflies, purchased from @wassail_antiques were evidently made by British POW’s during WWI and posts about those pins and the dragonfly can be found here and here.) Maybe the new case will be all insects.

Will more boxes lead to greater organization? Hard to say. I’m afraid that my track record implies otherwise, but it can’t hurt to try.

Worn

Pam’s Pictorama Post: As we emerge from our Covid cocoons this spring and tip toe into the next stage of what I think of as the new normal, sartorial issues start to take front and center. I have alluded to it in past posts, but it is starting to take on a greater sense of urgency.

I always dressed for work in an office, at the Metropolitan Museum that ran more to jackets, skirts and suits and at my current position over time it evolved more into dresses and a series of nice trousers and jackets. However, like everyone over the past two years my wardrobe has consisted largely of track pants or leggings with a rotation of a few tops, a sweater or two and a large selection of tanks and t-shirts to wear under them. (A heavy sweatshirt, as below, has been added to the roster for running, but I try my best not to sport it on camera. I wrote about it in a running post here.)

It’s me! Several years ago now, shortly after leaving the Met.

As I whittled away at my pandemic weight (first I gained, then I lost and then lost some more), I added one or two items to wear to in-person meetings as those occasionally started to dot my calendar, event, an in-person lunch or meeting. A dress, a pair of nice trousers and a pair of jeans that fit were acquired over time. A leather jacket and favorite one with a snakeskin print (shown above) found their way back into the rotation from the world before, but not most articles have not found their way back, leaving me to ponder if I need to clear my closet of all but this handful of items I currently wear. Or instead will more items start to emerge back into consciousness as such?

Don’t know why I took this recently. It was after losing my sunglasses so I had run in my regular ones.

Moths took care of a swath of clothing – the past two years turned out to be a moth breeding extravaganza in our apartment. However even after having eliminated what the moths munched and what was impossibly large there is a fair amount of clothing which is slowing aging, no longer worn in the closet and drawers. This week is our annual gala at Jazz at Lincoln Center and Kim will sport a new tux for the first time (sadly the moths consumed a vintage one he used to wear, however he too has lost weight and I think it would have been big on him anyway) and I will wear a dress I purchased several years ago and have only managed to wear twice before the long hiatus.

My office in a random photo from May of ’19.

The week after, my office will begin a three day in and two optionally from home hybrid model. I will need to get into a new routine for time in New Jersey with my mother which has occupied my mind more than the question of what I wear to the office now. However, that question is starting to creep up on me even this week as I plan for in-person seating sessions (hundreds need to be seated for the concert and then dinner, seating is a week long affair) at the office and some visits with out of town folks.

A major off-camera addition to my running wardrobe.

I’m not saying I cannot rise to the occasion. I seem to have regained the skill of applying make-up (that actually took some practice) and I have more or less tamed my Rapunzel length locks (shown above, I’ve had gray hair since I was thirty years old and wrote about it here) back into an acceptable version of me. However, the question of what I wear nags at me. After all, it is a primary statement about our identity we confront the world with and what I wear will, to come degree, set the tone for how folks will be attired in the office.

Starting at the bottom, I can safely say my feet don’t want to be in anything but sneakers now (Nike running shoes optimally, but am willing to make occasional concessions for nicer looking ones or for the waterproof pair shown at top) for more than truly nominal periods of time. I have arthritis in my feet (two surgeries so far) and I have always had to be careful, no heels, but a series of expensive (mostly Italian) oxfords and pushing the envelop occasionally to something a bit more daring for evening. My feet are just over it all though. I think the nice shoes will largely disappear with one or two exceptions. Several pairs have spent the past two years in a drawer at my office.

At the moment this is it – the shoe of choice.

Then there is jewelry. I actually bought a lot of it during the pandemic, developing a bit of a passion for British items from the teens purchased from a vendor or two residing in the British countryside. (Posts about those acquisitions can be found here and here.) So pins aplenty now, but rings pose a problem. Necklaces make occasional appearances on Zoom and have never disappeared entirely.

A very favorite horse cameo ring.

After breaking two fingers running last Memorial Day (yep, can read about that misadventure here) my left hand will no longer allow for my wedding band, nor any of a number of rings I wore on it. I may have to break down and have the band made larger (I was told that the swelling could take up to a year to settle so I have not yet), but thus far that finger still resists having a ring on it at all. I, who on any given day would have worn four or five rings (yes, several on each hand – I love rings and only regretted that there isn’t more hand real estate for them), have barely sported one for more than a few hours. I have not worn a bracelet in more than two years, the bangles which adorned my right hand have been languishing on my dresser.

So the question of who exactly emerges forth from the chrysalis and into the world on my behalf hangs in the air. Am I the make-up free, hair up, jeans sporting pandemic Pam, or will I slowly find a path back to a pre-pandemic world of routine hair trimming and manicures? Or is there a new middle ground? The question hangs in the air, along with a closet full of clothes, waiting for a decision about their future.

Curiosity

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Today’s post is about a little object I have had in my mitts for several months now. It came to me via someone I follow and have purchased from on Instagram, Mia (aka http://@therubyfoxes) and I have written about other purchases from her here and here) lives in Britain and at least at this time the object hails from that part of the world. I share it today as pretty much as an object from my personal cabinet of curiosities and welcome all comers with any information or worthy speculation.

There were two slightly different ones and Mia kept the mate. I chose mine because it had a vaguely feline sensibility which I thought suited the Pictorama collection best, hers is a bit more squat and canine, shown below. (She was nice enough to send a photo this morning – I had snatched him via a story on her account so no way to save the photo.) It is more similar than I remember.

Mia’s sibling version of the object. Many thanks to her for popping this photo over to me this morning!

These appear to be made of bone and the base and ring looks to be silver. A careful look and the grooves where the collar goes around the neck convinces me that these were designed to be in these silver holders with a loop for a chain, ribbon or twine. He sports a tongue which sticks out between his carved teeth. There are deep holes on either side of his mouth and I am not sure where the maker was heading with that. The eyes are perched atop of the head with tiny pointy ears. I thought there was a vague suggestion of a tail, but when I rubbed it I realized it is just the natural coloration of the bone, no carved indentation.

Flip side, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Toothy! Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

The allover etched designs seem to be the same on both. Whatever their hoodoo it is consistent. I do hope they do not mind being separated, but I believe the US is glad to have one on its shores. I like to think of it having a partner over at Mia’s house in her own cabinet of wonders.

At first I was thinking maybe it was a chess or other game piece, until I realized that the apparatus for hanging and wearing it was integral to the design. Kim had a good suggestion this morning and reminded me of Billiken’s. (He purchased one for me made of mother of pearl which I wrote about here. The creation story is a good one indeed.) The god of things as they ought to be according to Wikipedia (a concept I paused a moment to contemplate), Billikens are good luck and I have christened these likewise. There is something sort of Billiken-esque about them.

Billiken, possibly amber, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.
Bone Billiken, not in Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

In fact a search of bone Billiken on Google turned up some credible relatives and I am reminded that Sandy over at http://@Curiositiesantique (or http://www.getcuriosities.com) came across a Billiken for sale I remembered as bone, but is amber she thought (see above), although there was a bracelet of small bone ones as well. However, these I found on Goggle are a bit closer to the mark of our mystery charms. (Also above.) Oddly, there are a number of Alaskan and Inuit carved figures that turn up under the search of Billiken bone images – not sure how all things Billiken can be true if there are early Inuit ones. Hmmm. More mysteries.

Lucky Billiken button. Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

Women’s World Cheer-up Club

Pam’s Pictorama Post: Here at Pictorama in recent years we’ve developed a particular soft spot for medals. My discovery of school medals lead to recent post (which can be found here) about these emblems of encouragement that seemed to proliferate as awards in schools in the early part of the 20th century. Improvement! Excellence! Who doesn’t want a daily reminder of these qualities cheering them on? Somehow I imagine accumulating numerous ones to wear on a lapel together although this has not yet manifested.

These school award are not the beribboned ones for athletic prowess or competition, but smaller and sweeter in my opinion. I have both a US example and one from Canada. I have to believe that equivalents existed in Europe. Somehow I like to imagine an earlier society where pins like these proliferated. This one is brass and appears a bit more mass produced than my school awards which would have been, I think, produced blank and then etched with cheering motivations subsequently.

Improvement, Pams-Pictorama.com collection.

I am reminded of those pins by this odd kissing cousin of an item I purchased a few months back from a British jewelry dealer (I have written about purchases from @Wassail_antiques frequently before, a recent post can be found here – hey Rachel!) and while making another purchase I decided that I would acquire this pin from her shop too. I had been eyeing it and in the end I would be disappointed to see it go to someone else. It seems to belong here with me.

Australian. 2 tons of jam made for the troops!

I did think it would be easier to find information about the Women’s Cheer-up Club than it has turned out to be. My limited research skills finally confirmed what I more or less thought I would discover, which is that the Cheer-ups were British societies in WWI. It seems to be an umbrella term for a loosely defined group of organizations which provided comfort and entertainment for troops during the war, raising money for these activities and also to create other resources for soldiers such as physiotherapy and the development of remedial skills. Drives were held for food, clothing and books for the troops as well and I believe some of these ultimately became veterans associations.

Australia. More than 125,000 pairs of socks made and sent to the troops.

I found one other of these pins while doing my research – for sale on Etsy – and it was the exact same one, although it seems there must have been variations on the theme I could find none. The references I ultimately found were largely archival period newspaper articles writing up the activities of a local branch of a Cheer-up Club. The references I found were not specifically to it as a women’s association.

Australian. Instruction book for knitting socks for the troops circa 1915.

Southern Australia had an active equivalent and I was able to find more about those than the British clubs, the establishment of them and the doings of the groups. The Australian Society Cheer-up also seeked to care for their troops abroad as well as at home and there are articles about Cheer-up Huts for Australian soldiers in Britain during the war.

In addition to, of course, urging people to cheer up these pins were a brand of patriotism during that time. I imagine that sporting such a pin might also show a soldier, perhaps on leave in an unfamiliar place, where he might find a hot meal and gathering spot in the area. Of course, it also encouraged people to cheer up during a dark time and now it sits on a shelf near my desk where it does that for me as needed too.

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.

A Little Bit of the World of Tomorrow

Pam’s Pictorama Post: This bracelet came up on Instagram recently – a photo on the site of @Marsh.and.Meadow, aka Heather and her young daughter Opal (clearly a budding collector of discerning taste), acquired on an antiques road trip recently. Let me say that as someone who does not drive (or have access to a car) the idea of a trip driving through the mid-West looking for antiques is sort of heavenly. There is an alternate universe where I too get to do this on a regular basis. (In that world we also live in a house which we fill with interesting stuff of course.)

I spotted this bracelet and I really wanted it. The sales at Heather’s site are amazingly fast and furious and if my internet is having even the tiniest slowdown I am not in the running. In the long run this probably saves me a lot of money and generally I am philosophical about it. However, on this occasion I broke my rule and got her to break hers and sell me the bracelet in advance.

The bracelet is slightly larger than a child’s size and just fits my wrist. As an aside I will mention that everyone on IG seems to be tiny – a world of people smaller than me. Endless rings that tempt, siting atop ring fingers in photos that it turns out I can barely wear on my pinky, vintage clothing from tiny people in earlier times that I won’t even attempt. Again, this saves me a lot of money in the end – how many pinky rings can you own – but occasionally frustrates me at a towering 5’9″ with appendages that match.

Pams-Pictorama.com collection

The Trylon and Perisphere are featured on the bracelet and you take it on and off with a hook from one side of the emblem. The sun is rising behind them and a tree grows to one side, a building of classical design behind it, a lot going on in that tiny scene. The gold tone is worn on the inside of the bracelet, but the outer rim is ornate and in good shape. My reaction is that I would have been simply gob-smacked to have acquired this in 1939 as part of my visit to the Fair. I have to assume that in its day it was a bit rarified and somehow I imagine that I never would have been able to own it back then, making it ever more appealing.

I have never run across this bracelet before, although I am sure they proliferated and that they are available. (A quick search on Google shows an abundance of other styles of bracelets – charm bracelets appearing to be the predominant, and one image of this style.) Somehow this one made its way out to the Midwest and now it has come back to New York City, its ancestral home.

World’s Fair display at City Reliquary Museum in Brooklyn as seen on a recent visit.

Folks devote whole sites to the ’39 World’s Fair so I am largely thinking only of my own intersection with it. I was introduced to the Fair and its history by a former boyfriend who was fascinated by it. Under his tutelage I learned about it, watched films on it, learned to spot the occasional item related to it in our junk hunting, and of course visited the remains of it in Queens more than once. The latter is endlessly interesting, the hulking disintegrating remains of those temporary pavilions no one could bring themselves to demolish, the mosaic floors of some. I always look for them when driving to the airport – a last very New York view before departing.

Ring not in Pictorama collection – but could be, available on Etsy.

My Dad, a native New Yorker, attended both the ’39 and ’64 World’s Fairs and frankly neither made much of an impression on him it seemed. (As I remember he seemed mystified as to why I would care.) Yet without question the ’39 Fair continues to capture the imagination of many. Our world of today and its technology has long outstripped the vision of 1939 so why does that now antiquated vision appeal? While there are other fairs of the past (the Chicago World’s Fair of ’33 and the Louisiana Exposition among them) the ’39 World’s Fair stands out. It was an event that sent ripples out into the decades to come in a way that could neither be anticipated, nor replicated.

When I think about the events during my life that will punctuate history I think of the creation of the internet and computers, but also of 9/11 and Covid. Designed by business leaders to help pull New York City out of the Depression, the ’39 World’s Fair was born on the cusp of the advent of WWII and they had no idea it that their creation would live in the imagination of history the way it did. I just read that there was very little actual science at the World of Tomorrow, mostly the smoke and mirrors of commerce and serving up hope for what would come next for a world beat up from years of the Depression. It is so interesting to me that folks held onto those trinkets which were a reminder that a new world was just around the corner.

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.