Thursday March 25, 2010
One of the personal preferences we have here on A La Modern are items from the Scandinavian countries - places like Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Finland. We have a particular weakness for housewares from Denmark, and for the most part we'll pick up any Danish vintage goodies (and some non-vintage ones too) we come across.
Let me tell you though - competition for these items is pretty fierce. We definitely don't come across as many things marked Denmark as we used to. Let's not even get how hard it is to find Danish Modern furniture nowadays!
One of the nicer things found recently was the lazy susan teak server by Digsmed shown above. Unfortunately, the smoky glass colored inserts were missing, but we weren't about to complain. We've seen the full set go for over a hundred dollars in some stores.
We actually don't know much about the Digsmed company, except that they produced a lot of wood/glass housewares and accessories. The timeline of operation is also murky, but it was likely from the 1950s up until at least the 1980s. The Digsmed cheese dome / cutting board shown above is likely a later period item, judging from the type of wood used and the logo. Still, it's a really nice piece and it even has its original foil sticker!
One of the things about vintage Scandinavian items (and for that matter, vintage items from just about any country), is that it can be difficult to figure out the company that produced the item if it isn't obviously marked. Sometimes, you'll recognize a company just from experience, but often even searching the interwebs doesn't help.
We originally thought the wooden tray above might be a Kay Bojesen piece. However, the item is only marked "Made in Denmark" on the back. And while it shares characteristics with the Bojesen tray, certain things about it are different. A wonderful wooden server, nevertheless.
We also picked up this interesting 18/8 steel construction shallow Danish serving bowl with plastic wrapped handles. The wrapping on the handles actually remind us of the material used to wrap some of the Dansk Kobenstyle items (the pitcher in particular). The tray is marked as Made in Denmark, along with a makers mark we don't recognize.
Part of the fun of finding these items is in researching the companies involved. But it can sure be a struggle sometimes to find out anything about them! If you have any ideas on the makers of the last two items, we'd be interested in hearing from you.
Sunday March 21, 2010
Hi everyone. We've put up a few interesting items of note up in the A La Modern store. The first two were designed by the famous designer Michael Lax (1929-1999). Actually, you may already be familiar with his work - he designed the tea kettle below which has become an icon of modern design.
This kettle was produced by Copco, which is still making cookware today. However, this particular kettle is not being made any more, although it's been endless copied by other overseas companies. Originally introduced in the 1960s, this kettle design has stood the test of time.
We also picked up this wonderful aluminum bowl which was also designed by Michael Lax. This was a later design that dates from the mid 1980s to early 1990s and features smooth, sensual curves. We actually aren't as familiar with this line, which was called "Metaal" and was produced by Grainware. We'd be interested to hear if anyone has further information about this series of aluminum items.
Keeping with the metal and enamel theme - we've come across these wonderful Descoware and Le Creuset skillets lately. They're not exactly "modern" or famous designs, but they're certainly popular items, and still phenomenally useful in a working kitchen.
We hate to keep banging on this particular drum, but you'll probably save a ton of moola if you invest in vintage enamel cast iron cookware instead of buying the new stuff. Hint, hint. =)
OK, we still have a ton of other items that need to be put up in the store. Hopefully, in the coming months we'll be able to get more of a handle on the ever-growing inventory. As always, if you see something you like or if you have questions about an item, don't hesitate to let us know!
Wednesday March 17, 2010
Hi everyone - now that the actual website is in working order, we've been hard at work attempting to get more items up into the store. It hasn't been very speedy - I'm sure that most people who list vintage and antique items are going to tell you that it takes a TON of time to put up listings. Editing photos, writing descriptions and formatting the posts seems to be the most difficult part about it to us. Well, actually finding all these items is another matter we'll talk about later...
We've been interested in filling out the Office and Fun & Leisure categories since there are less products in them. Here are some of the latest items we've put up:
Nice little travel iron for those jetsetters out there. Unusual to find this complete with all the accessories.
Handy portable, lighted makeup mirror for use at home or on the road. This Mirror Go Lightly is in great shape - we wish we also found the travel case that it comes in, but alas, that's been lost to the sands of time.
The first time we plugged these electric scissors in, they made such a racket that we thought they were being destroyed! However, apparently that's just the way they sound. Cuts pretty much through anything.
Cute little waitress pencil that includes an extendable chain that allows you to keep your writing fingers at the ready.
An unusual red and gray paper hole punch. It's missing its paper tray, unfortunately, but it was too cool not to list it.
We've also been listing items up on our Etsy store. For now, we're sort of splitting the items between our main shop and Etsy depending on who we think they might appeal to. Not sure if this is the way to go, but I guess we'll see.
Monday March 15, 2010
Hooray, we just got our new Moo Minicards! We're getting normal A La Modern business cards as well, but we decided to play around with these minicards as "thank you" cards to be sent with any purchase.
If you haven't heard of Moo, they make customized business cards, greeting cards, and postcards in addition to these mini-cards. What we really liked about them was that you can use custom photos straight from your Flickr stream. We chose three different images for starters. (Apparently, you can even chose a different image for every single card!?) You can also order as few as 100 of the minis, which is great for people who just want to try them out for fun.
They run $20 for 100, or about 20 cents each. I guess you could always try and print them yourself and cut them up. Believe me, we've been down that path before and it's not very joyful! Besides, these are double sided cards printed on heavy paper stock with a matte laminate finish.
We have a number of other fun promotional thingies in the works for A La Modern - hope to post those up here soon!
Tuesday March 9, 2010
We've been so busy with the shop opening that we haven't really gotten a chance to talk about any of the actual items. That's one of the other things we'll hope to do on the site is talk about some of the designers, manufacturers and artists involved with the vintage items up in the shop. We already do a lot of similar posts on the Potteries of California blog. The A La Modern blog posts will be in the same vein, but we won't limit ourselves to a single genre.
By the way, apologies to anyone who tried to purchase something earlier and got a failed order. We had been using the PayPal Sandbox to test out the cart functionality while the site was being developed. Somehow or another, the development email we were using was also being used when the shop was put live. So some orders were never fulfilled. Hopefully, we've got that bug ironed out.
One of the cool companies that we've come across is Hanova of Pasadena. Most of the items they produced are enameled steel housewares such as candle holders, plates, dishes, bowls and planters. The footed bowl above has a treatment that's typical of the pieces we've seen from them. It usually consists of random splotches or bubbles in the enamel. As we've said before, this treatment has been called Brutalist", supposedly referring to Brutalist Architecture. But as others have said, this doesn't seem like an accurate description.
Whatever they're called, they have a really striking look to them. The small orange candle holder below is one of the more common items found by them.
We haven't been able to find out too much about the actual company, but it seems that many of these items were produced in the 60s and 70s. At one point, I seem to recall someone who knew more about the company (perhaps it was a relative) posting on someone else's website. Hopefully, they'll see this blog post and comment more about the company. They made some really wonderful items.
At a swap meet this past weekend, I spotted an enormous Hanova floor planter with a blue splotched glaze. Unfortunately, the light was very bad, so I wasn't able to get a photo. Also, the planter was pretty bashed up, otherwise I might've purchased it.
Besides the typical enamel treatment, there is a solid color enamel dutch-looking bird pattern that I've heard Hanova produced. It's often mistaken for a Cathrineholm pattern. I had come across a large pot with this pattern earlier at the thrift, but hadn't picked it up because of damage. Now I'm sort of wishing we'd gotten it!
The other thing about Hanova items is that usually they were only marked with some sort of foil sticker. Because of this, I think they often go unrecognized. That's a good thing, I guess, for people like us who look for it!
We currently have 4 pieces by (or attributed to) Hanova in the shop. It has been difficult to say for sure if some of these items are indeed Hanova, but they all do have very similar characteristics.
Sunday March 7, 2010
Well, hello Etsy.
You might recall in a post just a few days ago we'd said we were going to maintain an Etsy storefront mainly for the social networking aspect. We'd thought that we'd have the main shop for now, and then work on Etsy later on.
Well, it only took a few days of discussing the merits of Etsy itself to realize that we should probably set it up concurrently with the main shop instead of waiting. So that's what we did tonight. Hey, that's what Saturday nights are for, right? Well, that and laundry. =)
Originally, the idea was to use both Etsy and Ebay for some of the other items that didn't seem to fit in the shop. In particular, we were planning on using Etsy for some of the "cuter" vintage items. This isn't to say that we were only going to reserve serious items for the main shop. It's just that we have a ton of things to sell, and we thought that some of them might be a better fit with Etsy's main demographic.
We decided that we'll follow that general rule of having the cuter things like those shown above on Etsy - for now. I think in the future we might use a mix on both Etsy and the main A La Modern shop for ALL items. But only time will tell.
One thing we're definitely discouraged about is how difficult Ebay has made it for the "small seller" to exist in the online auction world. That's one reason we decided to kick off our Etsy usage immediately; we might want to use it for some of the items we were originally going to try and put through the auction process on Ebay. We've sold on Ebay since 1997(?) and have generally had a good experience - very difficult to beat the exposure it brings from a worldwide audience. However, from the point of view of the small seller, Ebay has just gone REALLY downhill the last 5 years or so.
But let's not get into all of that. We're just going to focus on what seems to be the best places to sell our vintage items. In addition to listing items in our main shop, we'll try to list at least a few things on Etsy every week. Hope you'll come back and have a look around in both our shops!
Thursday March 4, 2010
...And we're a go.
Sort of, anyhow. This is the way we've always tended to launch websites - extremely quietly at first, so we can knock out any bugs and QA the site before we get too much attention.
We'll be adding more items to our store in the coming weeks. For now, poke around and let us know what you think. As we've said in our previous post, the webstore is currently running on a modified version of Wordpress with the Eshop plugin. We're still uncertain if this is how we'll be handling our shop purchases in the future - but it was worth a shot for now since the plugin and Wordpress are completely free.
We've been trying to squash bugs on various different platforms - but just as a warning, this site will NOT perform well if you use Internet Explorer for the Mac. In fact, we've found that the "Add to Cart" buttons are completely missing! Well, not to exclude people on outdated browsers - but now might be a good time to Get Firefox.
The above photo is a postcard courtesy of those companies desperate to contact new businesses. I can't tell you how much spam we've gotten in the mail after registering our business. Though I have to admit, the "Your Name Up In Lights" postcard this one company sent was enough to make me take notice. I guess advertising works!
Tuesday March 2, 2010
So, one of the things we mentioned in our first post is that we're going to try and be fairly transparent with the way that things work for the online vintage and antique business we're starting up.
I guess the first thing to talk about as far as the web aspect goes is the platform we're using. In deciding which route to go for the online shop, we knew that we wanted to have at least part of the store be completely under our control.
Don't get us wrong, Etsy is really great - it's difficult to beat the social network aspect as well. We were definitely torn between the strong social network factor (plus the ease of use with shipping and shopping cart) and the flexibility of having complete control over the look and feel of the store. Oh, and of course, NO FEES. We're still going to have an Etsy storefront component to the business. However, we decided to strike out on our own for the main storefront. For now, anyhow - who knows, maybe we'll switch to using Etsy for a larger part of the shop in the future depending on how everything works out.
Having used the open source Wordpress platform extensively since early 2003, we thought it might be possible to combine the blogging aspect with a shop functionality. Most shops nowadays have some sort of blog - we figured it could kill two birds with one stone to use wordpress for its blogging component AND as a CMS (content management system), with a sessions based shopping cart thrown in.
The missing piece that provided the glue for those two parts was the Eshop Plugin.
First off, I have to say that if you don't have any experience with programming (especially HTML, CSS and PHP), then this probably isn't the route you want to go - unless you want to pay someone to set it up for you. We just happened to have the specific skillset necessary to set this up. Nevertheless, I think it's worth mentioning that it's a pretty darn good plugin. There are many other shopping cart plugins for Wordpress, but we decided on this one, because it was free, and because it was easier to understand than some of the others.
So currently, the shop website is running on a custom Wordpress theme with the Eshop Plugin providing help for the product pages. We disabled or ignored about 3/4 of the "easy" features that Eshop provides, because it didn't suit our needs. One other note - Eshop is primarily meant for a shop with only a few products (think someone selling T-shirts, or downloadable E-Books). It is actually NOT ideal for a shop selling one-of-a-kind items like we are. However, we just really liked the way the plugin handled everything, and we were able to use heavily customied CSS and our own PHP hacking in our theme to make it look OK.
I'm not going to get to far into the details of how it's setup in this particular post. If the above makes completely no sense to you, but you're still interested in having your "own" shop (and you don't want to pay people to program one for you), I would suggest you start out first with an Etsy shop and then try and fool around with the Wordpress platform in your spare time. Wordpress is free, assuming you have your own hosting account that supports MySQL databases.
However, if anyone's interested in what our current setup involves, we'd be happy to answer any questions about it. And we might go further into depth about how the technial side of how the shop is set up in the future, if there's interest.
Monday March 1, 2010
Well, it was inevitable.
Hello. We're your hosts, Bryan and Linda. Welcome to the A La Modern store and blog. Over the years, we've been collectors and fans of various types of vintage and modern items. We did tons of research on our collectibles, met some great online collector buddies and even started up some pretty popular websites (Pyrex Love and Potteries of California, among others).
I've read many times that the distinction between the collector and dealer can be somewhat nebulous, to say the least. Many sellers start out as collectors, and most remain collectors afterwards. For us, we had resisted the switch over to the "other side" for so long. There wasn't really a reason for that, we just never really felt the need to sell.
So why start up our own shop? I think it really came down to clutter.
Any serious collector will tell you that a collection, if left unchecked, will inevitably take over your residence. Having already filled up more than 30 boxes in garage, we decided that enough was enough. Some of it had to go.
Originally, the idea was to "Ebay" all of our extra stuff. However, since we already have pretty solid background(s) in design and web programming, we thought we should leverage those skills and create our own little shop. So that's what we've done for now.
We'll be listing various vintage and antique housewares here on A La Modern. The primary focus will be on mid-century and Scandanavian items, particularly ceramics, glass and home decor, since that's our current interest. We'll have a corresponding Etsy shop and will also sell on Ebay, but the main focus will be on our own site here.
One of the purposes of this companion blog will be to continue to engage and research our areas of interest. We hope to reconnect with old collector friends / dealers and make some new ones. While the focus will be mainly on the vintage items we're selling, we also welcome discussion and questions on other designers and companies from the mid-century era.
We've decided to be completely open and frank with our new business - hopefully some of the future posts here will detail our experiences with the business aspects of selling vintage items and antiques online. Having tried to do research online about this previously, I can tell you there's not a lot of solid stuff to sink your teeth into out there. We're not claiming to be experts about it, but we'll certainly try to present our experiences with setting everything up. We'll also post about some of the technical aspects of how to set up your own website to sell vintage items.
Ok, we've got to get back to setting up various things with the shop. But please come by and visit the blog every so often. We hope to post up our latest finds as well as keep the dialogue going with collectors and other vintage sellers. Maybe we'll even get a few interviews going if we have time later on.