Archives for April 2010

Estate Sale Score!

Saturday, April 24, 2010 |

We’ve decided to start putting up pics of some of the cool things we’ve discovered at estate / garage sales and thrift stores. In general, most of these things will eventually be available on the main A La Modern shop, or on our Etsy outlet. However, we realized that sometimes takes awhile to get the things we come across into our shops. So, think of these blog pics as a sort of quick preview of what’s to come.

We had one of the best scores in a long time at a recent estate sale. This estate sale was only advertised on Craigslist, as far as we know. It was a very low key sale, without a ton of signs all over the place. The folks running it were super nice and helpful. We went an hour after it opened, and there was surprisingly little foot traffic.

We couldn’t believe how much Scandinavian and mid-century goodies this place had, at such reasonable prices! We ended up picking up quite a few things as you can see in the photo above.

The yellow Dansk Kobenstyle pot was the first thing we saw upon walking through the door. We grabbed it immediately, scarcely believing our good fortune. The kitchen was filled with stuff – the Arabia eggcups and Figgjo salt and pepper shakers went into our box immediately.

We nearly passed over the Danish pepper mill, however. We haven’t seen too many of these around, so we didn’t think it was from Denmark. It was marked on the bottom though, so we had to have it.

The yellow and white stacking containers were also a lucky find – nearly passed them as well. We’ve actually been trying to figure out the story on these – certainly they’ve gotta be vintage, probably 1960s. However, we haven’t been able to find any information about them. The closest thing we’ve seen were these Arabia covered nesting storage bowls on MOMA of all places! If anyone has any info on them, we’d like to hear about it.

The clear plastic container in the back is made by Dansk and is in the Gourmet Designs line. We thought at first it was another Gunnar Cyren design, but it appears it’s not. I know we have too many Gainey Ceramics pots already, but it was hard to resist the little vintage AC-6 in pink.

The toast rack, I think we might keep. Not too sure the age of the piece, but likely made in Japan, in the 60s-70s. The Tammis Keefe kitty hanky was an accidental score. We only picked it up because of the nice cats all over it, not realizing it was actually signed by Keefe, who’s a pretty famous designer for textiles like this. You can bet we’ll be looking out for more of her printed fabrics in the future!

We later hit a few thrifts on the way home and also came up with a few more goodies. Above is an awesome mid-century combo tray and cheese cutting board by a company called Gladmark. We’ve seen a number of different trays by this company which was based in Sun Valley at one time. Many of the trays we’ve seen include a ceramic tile like this one.

We also picked up a vintage set of Libbey glasses with a matching carafe. Nice green and white floral design on these, and the carafe still had its plastic cover top. Look for these items to hit our Etsy store in a bit.

Happy estate sale hunting!

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Archives for April 2010

Etsy, Round 2

Tuesday, April 20, 2010 |

Hey everyone. We had mentioned earlier that we were going to be up-front with both the technology part and business part of our A La Modern shop.

With any web business, there’s always a lot of variables that you can’t really predict – you mainly just have to go for it and see how it works out. You can try and forecast sales and whatnot, but a huge part of the flexibility and ease of launching a web shop versus a mortar and bricks store comes at the cost of not knowing exactly how things will turn out.

We had launched an Etsy component for our A La Modern shop to make use of the social network aspects of that site. We had intended it to be a repository of some of the A La Modern items that didn’t really “fit” with the rest of the shop. We planned to only list some of the “cuter” items, per se.

Now, we know that the economy has been in the dumps. As such, we expected that sales across the board would be slow to non-existent for at least the first 6-9 months, as we got up to speed promoting the shop and search engines began to index the listings. We were completely fine with that.

What we didn’t expect was the amount of sales that came through our A La Modern Etsy Shop. Without getting into the hard numbers, we can safely say that a majority of our sales have come in through Etsy.

That is pretty impressive, to say the least.

I think the kicker was the FIVE people who contacted us about the above Arabia of Finland Strawberry jar that we listed. Granted, this was a desirable piece – but any time you have five people interested in one item with the economy the way it is, you’re definitely going to take notice.

We understood that there was a larger than average amount of customers interested in vintage items on Etsy, and just having your store connected to the network was a huge plus. I think what we didn’t expect was just how important the social network aspect was in getting potential customers to your door.

Originally, we were skeptical that the 20 cent listing fee and 3.5% commission for each item on Etsy would be worth it. I mean, it’s completely free to list things on our own site and we had spent a long time perfecting the site so everything looked exactly right. But if these Etsy sales numbers continue, we’re going to take a hard look at the number of things we’d like to list on our own site versus Etsy. As it is right now, the listing/commission fees are easily made up for with the sales we’ve been having.

Oh, we’ll definitely continue to list items on our own site – our listings can stay up forever, whereas Etsy has a lifetime of 4 months. But it’s just a matter of following the money. Being a flexible business is good business – it just doesn’t make any sense not to shift priorities to the areas that actually bring in sales.

What we will definitely be experimenting with is moving items into Etsy temporarily from our own shop. You may notice items in the A La Modern store that occasionally say “Sorry, this item is currently only available through one of our partner sites.” If that’s the case, then we’re currently selling it through Etsy – you can find that item if you go in through our Etsy shop and do a search. We’re also considering doing the same thing with Ebay – though we don’t have as much confidence that we’ll be able to sell things for a decent value through auctions like that.

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Archives for April 2010

Excellent Enamels

Friday, April 9, 2010 |

Spring is in full swing, and we’re celebrating the riot of spring with these wonderful, colorful enamels. We also have a featured sale going on that includes most enamel items in the shop – have a look if you haven’t already.

One of our favorite decorative enamelists has always been Annemarie Davidson. Davidson made enamel giftware, bowls, plates and accessories from the 1950s up until near present. We’re still unclear on whether or not new items are being produced, but we don’t think so.

The older work by Davidson has been a favorite with mid-century modern homeowners, especially her bowls and plates that feature “jewels” in the center along with radiating lines toward the rim. The blue bowl shown above is a good example of this. You can still find these in thrift stores and flea markets if you look hard enough, especially here in Southern California.

Most of Davidson’s work that you’ll come across are bowls and plates – however, she did produce a number of other accessories and items, like the enameled covered box shown above. The box is made of wood and the enamel fits on top of the lid.

One of the most interesting things about decorative enamels is that a lot of times the designer or maker is a mystery. Like ceramics, many of these enamels were unmarked or had paper labels that were removed. Others are marked underglaze but it’s either cryptic or unreadable. We come across a lot of these unknown enamels, but we still pick up a few depending on how they look.

The orange enamel bowl with red and yellow jewels shown above is actually marked with a name: “Boone Paul”. As of yet, we haven’t been able to find out anything about the maker, or whether or not he was known. We think he might have at least been more than a hobbyist, because of the sticker that seems to indicate he made more than one piece like this.

Another wonderful find was this small enamel dish marked “Le 68″. We found this one along with an honest to goodness Win Ng enamel (coming to the shop soon!) – so we were wondering if there might be any connection there. Perhaps a student or contemporary of Ng’s? The pattern of colors certainly looks reminiscient of some of the Ng enamels we’ve seen.

This textured enamel Reed and Barton bowl was an unusual find – the Reed & Barton name is well known and they still make metal bowls and accessories to this day. However, we haven’t seen the textured finish on this bowl too many times.

I know the focus here has been decorative enamels – we decided to talk about them a bit because less is generally known about them than with collectible enameled kitchenware. But if it’s enamel cookware you’re interested in, here’s a few examples. All of these are also on sale in the shop currently.

Actually, many of these kitchenware items are suitable for decorative use themselves, hint, hint.

OK, enough blather for today – if you’re looking for any enamel items and you don’t see them on the site, let us know. We’ve got a ton of items still waiting to get into the shop, so we might already have what you’re looking for.

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Archives for April 2010

Heath Ceramics Items

Thursday, April 1, 2010 |

Happy April Fool’s Day! Well, no fooling – we just got through putting up a number of nice Heath Ceramics items up into the shop. We’ll refrain from going too far into the details about the company – if you’re interested there’s more information up on the Potteries of California website. But I don’t think there’s any disagreement that this company was, and still is, one of the greats as far as California ceramic companies go.

One of the most interesting things about Heath is that many of Edith Heath’s classic shapes, as well as her coloration and glazes, have not changed at all in over 60 years. This makes it somewhat difficult to identify vintage items versus newer items, since Heath still produces many of the same lines today. This is not really a problem though, since the vintage items go so well with the newer items. Heath’s attention to detail and production aesthetics have not changed one bit today.

This beautiful one quart pitcher is one of our favorites and is meant to complement any of Heath’s lines. Stylish and functional, it would be a great addition to your Heath collection.

Iconic “Studio Mug” from Heath features an extra long handle that’s attached to the body very low on the base of the cup. This mug is instantly recognizable as a Heath design and to this day, they still apply the long handles individually to each mug.

We haven’t been able to figure out if this small Heath dessert bowl is a vintage item or not – but we believe it might be the “Pumpkin” glaze that isn’t sold today. The orange interior of the bowl is speckled with white.

One of the few Plaza line items we’ve ever come across is this sake cup and condiment saucer combo. These are definitely newer items – the condiment tray has a current paper label on the bottom. We have a feeling that these may be have given out as wedding favors because we found them together as a set.

This large Heath Casserole is also currently still being manufactured, though the speckled beige glaze with darker brown shading toward the top appears to be a vintage one. Hard to find these larger Heath items in good condition if you’re not buying them new.

Finally, we still have a large selection of these Heath ashtrays in the store – while you may not smoke, these are classic designs that would be great decorative items in any mid-century modern setting.

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