COLLECTIONS: PERFUME BOTTLES PART 1

I know all our thoughts and prayers are with the citizens of Houston and the other areas devasted by the hurricane and torrential rains.  While watching the heroic efforts by so many to help others we realize how much good there is in the world even in tragic times.  Perhaps not a time for trivia, but perhaps just the thing to take our minds to a subject that has been around for centuries and know that civilization will survive.

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Miniature perfume bottles in a shadow box put together by one of my assistants many years ago. The batting was added by the Columbia College Archivists. My perfume bottle collection is a part of the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago. My photo.

Sorry for the delayed postings…I have had some major tech problems…let’s hope they are resolved, shall we see…Tom H. I’m relying on you!

When I was in retail I had the privilege of attending many seminars on fragrances and launches of designer and unique perfumes.  During that time I collected many miniature perfume bottles, all tiny replicas of the full product.  I tried to keep all the boxes (you all watch Antiques Roadshow and they tell us to keep toys, etc. in the original packaging!) In some cases we received full-size bottles and I kept those as well.

Today’s post is about the bottles and packaging not the juice nor the history of perfume…we will get to those interesting facts in future posts.

Let’s begin with a most unusual launch we did at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago in 2005 with a personal appearance by the creator of many of the perfume bottles, we admire and wear, who created his own fragrance, Marc Rosen, and Shanghai. I had a lot of fun planning the launch and called upon my dear friend, Greg Hyder, The Peninsula Hotel, Chicago’s, Catering Director extraordinaire, to assist me by allowing me to use the charming wait staff from their Shanghai Terrace as well as serving their special hors d’oeuvres and a signature cocktail created for the event.

imageA must have for your fashion book library.

IMG_0287Marc autographed each bottle purchased….here is mine which is housed in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

IMG_0286Marc Rosen signing my bottle.

IMG_0288The exquisite packaging designed by Marc Rosen.

imageThe Shanghai Terrace servers. All the above photos are from the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago.

imageA photo I took in my library of some of the special bottles I still have.  The Norell miniature is from the relaunch of the fragrance that Neiman Marcus did a couple of years ago.  Same packaging a slightly updated fragrance.  Center is the iconic Chanel No. 5 which was given to me when I visited the Chanel apartment on my 50th Anniversary trip to the Haute Couture Collections, that shall stay with me awhile before going to my Archives, and the vintage bottle of Shocking by Elsa Schiaparelli. I did have the box but it was unfortunately destroyed…must find another one, that is the fun of the hunt for things you collect.  I am also looking for an original Lanvin Arpege.

imageSaks Fifth Avenue launched the Bob Mackie, Mackie fragrance in 1991, here is the relaunched signed piece in a limited edition for the Costume Council of the Chicago History Museum’s celebration in honor of Bob’s Designer of Excellence Award in 2015.

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One of the oldest perfume companies still in existence, Guerlain.  My mother’s fragrance, L’heure Bleu launched in 1912,  her bottle has a bit of juice and it still has the scent…it is Mom in a bottle!  My father gave her the entire set of product each Christmas until his death, I continued the tradition.  I think the Guerlain bottles are exquisite as are the fragrances.

imageMy bottle of my fragrance, Marilyn Miglin’s Pheromone.  I have worn it since its inception in 1978.  Marilyn’s story is a fascinating one, she went to Egypt to the research the oils, etc. used in ancient times and found many of the jars still held the scent…amazing.  I always get compliments on it.  As an aside, Marilyn was one of my small group of models back in the day! She was and is a stunner!

IMG_0334Kay Dobson. the Fashion Director at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago when I started and my second mother.  Joy was her fragrance of choice, here my bottle again a classic and one I will discuss when I do the Haute Couture designer perfumes.

imageTwo Jean Paul Gaultier fragrances, I don’t know where their caps are, that are going to my Archives…I just found them tucked away!  You note the bottles are inspired by the Shocking bottle, which was fashioned after Mae West’s silhouette.  Gaultier’s first fragrance bottle was inspired by Madonna!

imageThe packaging of fragrance and cosmetics is what draws us into the product…its all about marketing and appealing to our senses.  What I love about this piece is that it is housed in a square box, approximately 5″ x 5″ and opens to reveal a Chanel runway complete with the iconic Chanel mirrors, chairs set up for a fashion show and Mlle. herself with a mannequin on stage…I think one of my most favorite pieces in my collection…I think I will keep it for awhile!

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As always with my Collections posting I advise you to attend the Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com to see what you can find…this time Perfume Bottles.  Also, check your favorite stores for the classics even if you don’t wear them you can add to your vanity table.

More perfume bottles in the next Collections posting….in that post we will explore vintage collectible bottles, not by brand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: FASHION IN FOOD…SOPHIE’S AT SAKS FIFTH AVENUE, CHICAGO

 

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Today’s post is another of my occasional restaurant reviews. I wanted to share my impressions on one of my favorites, 3 1/2 years old, Sophie’s. This little jewel is tucked away on the Seventh Floor of Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago. The good news is that it has its own elevator that whisks you up to the Men’s Store where it is located.  But I would recommend you take the escalator so you can “browse” the floors (and think about adding to your fall wardrobe while doing so!!!) going up and down before and after your meal.

Let’s first discuss the name Sophie’s.  For those of you who have been following nenasnotes, you have seen several posts that have mentioned the restaurant and my December 2, 2016, post on its namesake, Sophie Gimbel.  Sophie Gimbel was one of the most important designers of the 1930’s through the 1950’s.  Do pull up the post I know you will enjoy it.

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imageThe two large photos are of vintage Sophie garments and are the first things you see when you enter the restaurant.  You can see in this photo, the bar where you can have a refreshing drink to enhance your shopping experience and/or a bite to eat.

I was invited by Chef Ron Aleman and Chris Dunstatter, Manager, to sample Chef Aleman’s new menu.  It changes 4 times a year and special items appear more often, well, needless to say, I didn’t hesitate to take them up on their offer!

imageThe restaurant, I was seated by the windows to the right.  It is a view like no other.  This space was formally the Beauty Salon at Saks, in my opinion, a waste…I can only dream of the events I could have done here!  Oh well, I’ll have to be content with eating delicious food instead!

IMG_0402My view…isn’t it perfection!!

Now for the food….Chef selected two starters and two entrees for me to taste and photograph as well as two desserts, one of which was a trial run.  I usually indulge in a glass or two of wine, I didn’t do that on this occasion.  I must mention, that the burger is one of the best in the City…I feel an upcoming post on my favorite burgers in Chicago!

imageMy first starter Marrakesh Watermelon Salad, red and golden watermelon, mint, crispy feta, on mixed greens with a balsamic reduction with an olive tapenade.  Truly photo op ready and more importantly totally delicious…and I am not a fan of watermelon nor feta, this dish completely changed my mind!

IMG_0408Next was Focaccia Soppresata, fresh mozzarella, green olives, roasted tomatoes and truffle oil.  Chef’s version of pizza!  Amazing presentation and was very good.

IMG_0418And now the entrees…Pan Seared Chilean Salmon, with green beans, grape tomatoes, shishito peppers and truffle corn sauce.  I am a major lover of salmon and this was one of the best preparations I have had!

IMG_0411Not your usual Avacado Toast…isn’t it incredibly beautiful and tasted just as wonderful. I posted this picture on Instagram and it has gotten the most hits by far of any of my photos. The ingredients, toasted harvest wheat, a perfectly cooked soft boiled egg (you can see it tucked into the greens at the top of the photo) mixed greens, radish, marinated tomato salad.  Extraordinary!

IMG_0423Dessert was this lucious panne cotta on a cake base surrounded by a medley of fresh berries, a berry puree with a dollap of lightly whipped cream, not only gorgeous to look at but a delight to eat.

IMG_0428Oh, my goodness, the finale and at the time wasn’t on the menu….grilled fresh peaches with candied pecans and a scoop of ice cream….unbelievably good!

I do have to admit I only ate portions of each dish (why didn’t I ask for a doggie bag, I must have had a brain lapse!) but could have devoured each.

Do stop by and have a wonderful meal at a leisurely pace and a break from your shopping you won’t be disappointed and do let me know your thoughts after you visit. By the way, there is a private space to have a lovely gathering that holds up to 15 people.

Chef Aleman will share another of his recipes in a future post.

The food photos are all mine, the interior shots are from Sophie’s and others are from Pinterest photo credits unknown.

Here are a couple of summer drink recipes (I think they can be year round) from my recipe box.  I made these while visiting last weekend on our way to the eclipse (at home not during the drive!!!)

Nena’s Red Sangria

This recipe comes from the late Larry Dobson by way of Spain so very authentic.

1 bottle dry red wine

1 large orange squeezed plus 1 large orange thinly sliced

1 large lemon squeezed plus 1 large lemon thinly sliced

12 maraschino cherries with juices

4 jiggers brandy

4 jiggers Cointreau

2 Tablespoons sugar

Combine ingredients, stir cover and chill over night.  Spoon fruit into glasses pour in wine and top with a splash soda water just before serving.  Be careful this is potent!!!!

Tom’s White Sangria

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1 bottle dry white wine

1 lime sliced (additional for garnish)

1 lemon sliced (additional for garnish)

2 ripe peaches cut into wedges

3 ripe green apples seeded and cut into wedges

1 pear cut into thin slices

A hand full of seedless green grapes

3 shots of Calvados or pear brandy

3 shots of Triple Sec

Combine all ingredients and chill overnight.  Spoon fruit into glasses and pour wine over fruit, top each glass with a splash of soda water.  Enjoy, again potent stuff but really, really good,.

 

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: A TALENT FOR MURDER

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I really, really, really liked this book.  It is totally engaging, Andrew Wilson has taken a real life event, Agatha Christie’s disappearance, and woven a fictionalized account of what happened during those 10 days, which was never explained by Agatha. You would think Agatha had written it herself…she does most of the narration in the book.  After finding out her husband, Archie, is having an affair she is, of course, devastated, while at a London train station she is approached by a Dr. Kuns who has a plan to have Agatha commit murder.  How, you say, well he blackmails her by threatening her young daughter.  We follow several plots in the book all, of course, tie together.  From the fumbling police, to a would be reporter, to the murder victim to be, the doctor, Archie, etc.  We learn about poisons, of course, we do, don’t we in many of Christie’s own books. I found some of the characters to be engaging and others demonic and Agatha to be brilliant, resourceful and sad but most of all determined to carry out the demands of the demented doctor.  Lots of plot twists, lots of red herrings, all in all, a most satisfying read.  I understand there will be more on Agetha by Mr. Wilson, next up, A Different Kind of Evil to be published in March 2018.  He also wrote Blood Beneath the Skin, a biography about Lee Alexander McQueen, which I haven’t read but plan to do so.

Here is a bit more on the story from the Publisher:

“Discover the real-life mystery centered on the queen of crime herself: Agatha Christie. In this tantalizing new novel, Christie’s mysterious ten-day disappearance serves as the starting point for a gripping novel, in which Christie herself is pulled into a case of blackmail and murder.

“I wouldn’t scream if I were you. Unless you want the whole world to learn about your husband and his mistress.”

Agatha Christie, in London to visit her literary agent, is boarding a train, preoccupied with the devastating knowledge that her husband is having an affair. She feels a light touch on her back, causing her to lose her balance, then a sense of someone pulling her to safety from the rush of the incoming train. So begins a terrifying sequence of events—for her rescuer is no guardian angel, rather he is a blackmailer of the most insidious, manipulative kind.

“You, Mrs. Christie, are going to commit a murder. But, before then, you are going to disappear.”

Writing about murder is a far cry from committing a crime, and Agatha must use every ounce of her cleverness and resourcefulness to thwart an adversary determined to exploit her expertise and knowledge about the act of murder to kill on his behalf.

In A Talent for Murder, Andrew Wilson ingeniously explores Agatha Christie’s odd ten-day disappearance in 1926 and weaves an utterly compelling and convincing story around this still unsolved mystery involving the world’s bestselling novelist.”

PROFILE: THE AMAZING UNIVERSE

imageI’m not doing an official “profile” post today because I am in Southern Illinois to see the total eclipse….I am totally beyond excited for this once in a lifetime experience!

I thought you might enjoy the following article from The Guardian from August 15, 2017, we are taking turns reading it aloud (not the driver) in the car on our five hour drive (oh my!)  Be sure to use your special glasses and enjoy the total eclipse of the sun!

“‘Most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life’: US readies for total eclipse

Tyler Nordgren, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Redlands says eclipse watchers should be prepared for a multi-sensory experience

One of Tyler Nordgren’s illustrations of the eclipse. Photograph: Tyler Nordgren

Millions of Americans will look up toward the sky on Monday 21 August and watch stars shine in the afternoon, feel the day’s heat swapped for an evening chill and hear the sounds of confused birds and animals during the first total eclipse seen in the continental US in 38 years.

The spectacular event in six days’ time will cross a strip of the country occupied by 12.2 million people, with millions more expected to travel to the 70-mile-wide eclipse path, aiming to catch a glimpse of a sight that has captured the imaginations of people for millennia.

“I’ve spent my entire life looking at the sky as an astronomer – at the Milky Way, the stars, meteor showers – and this is the most spectacular thing I’ve ever seen in my life with my own eyes,” Tyler Nordgren, a physics and astronomy professor at the University of Redlands, told the Guardian.

Nordgren, who saw the total eclipse in Europe in 1999, said nothing compares to the multisensory experience a solar eclipse offers.

“The shadow of the moon moves over you, day turns to night for half an hour, the stars become visible in the middle of the day, the sun turns black and the most incredible thing – the sun’s corona: that million degree atmosphere that is invisible at all other times – suddenly you see the enormous crown, its rays of pale white spreading outward from the sun,” he said.

Map

The corona is only visible during an eclipse and will be watched closely by an army of scientists eager to take advantage of the opportunity to study the sun’s energy. Researchers will monitor the eclipse from the ground, air and space, and Nasa has invited casual observers to track temperature and cloud data on their phone to create a citizens’ scientific map of the eclipse.

The rare event is also bringing a torrent of visitors to cities located in the eclipse path. There are 200 million people who live a day’s drive away from prime viewing spots, and the US Federal Highway Administration has warned: “This isn’t your average travel weekend.”

That influx has inspired travel companies to take advantage of the demand on hotels and transport.

The travel company HipMunk found that compared to the same period in 2016, there was a 29% average increase in booking prices at seven cities in the eclipse’s path including Omaha, Nebraska; St Louis, Missouri; and Columbia, South Carolina.

Last week, car rental searches on Kayak.com for Portland, Oregon, which is an hour’s drive from a main eclipse viewing site, showed an “unusually high demand” in the city, with a 1,469% increase in car rental searches and no cars available.

eclipse science

Though solar eclipses are extraordinary and rare, scientists have been able to predict them since ancient times.

Babylonian astrologers recorded eclipses on clay tablets between at least 518 and 465 BCE and were eventually able to predict them.

Then for centuries, solar eclipses were regarded with terror. In May 1716, a London pamphlet warned that a predicted eclipse was “The Black Day, or the prospect of Doomsday”.

That shifted by the 20th century, when a journalist wrote in the Hartford (Connecticut) Courant: “Although the frequency with which solar totality occurs, and the scientific knowledge which has robbed it of the mystery and even the terror which formerly accompanied it, great value in astronomical circles is given to its recurrence.”

Nordgren, who wrote a book on the history of eclipses, plans to watch it with his family and friends.

He was a child when the last US total eclipse occurred in 1979, but missed it because he was hiding in his Portland home with the curtains drawn, afraid his eyes would be burned from watching the event. Nordgren said he realized afterwards that he had been “cheated out of a life experience”.

When he saw the eclipse in 1999, he was surrounded by scientists who were attending a conference in Budapest. He said he was excited this year to finally share the experience with his loved ones.

Nordgren said: “My hope is I have not oversold this to my wife.”

 

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Nordgren’s book on the history of solar eclipses…I for one will be getting it!

FASHION FLASHBACK: FASHION AND FRAGRANCE

imageI'm actually doing a flash post today….I found that I need to do more extensive research on this vast subject which, I anticipate, will be several posts on fashion and fragrance.  The history of it, the business of it, the beauty of the packaging, etc. The image above found on Pinterest, photo credit unknown, is of Paul Poiret in a collage of some of his fragrances, who was the first Haute Couture designer to create signature fragrances.  He formed Rosine, named for his daughter, and so the designer fragrance was born.

imagePoiret in his Perfumerie.  Pinterest photo credit unknown.

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Please look for future posts, beginning, Friday, August 25 for the Fashion and Fragrance series.

COLLECTIONS: ART POTTERY

imagePhoto was taken from the Pottery Boys website.

I have been posting about the Pottery Boys  www.potteryboys.com this week and their open house this Saturday, August 19th.   The piece above is from their vast collection, each piece I feel is extraordinary.  I wanted to share a few more of their pieces, a glimpse into the creativity of David Erpenbach, another skilled artist, and delve into a collection at the Chicago History Museum www.chicagohistory.org

imageOne of the Pottery Boys pieces and an up close photo of the special top. The details look like jewelry.  Both photos were taken by me in their Studio. image

imageAnother from their website.

imageAnother photo I took in the Studio.

imageFrom Tom Mantel and Tom Hawley’s Collection, I featured the grouping of three pieces in another post here is the very large piece close up and then the exquisite detail of the top of the sculpture and the intricate almost lace like work of the body of the piece.

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While I was preparing this post my thoughts wandered back in time to the apartment of a dear friend and colleague at Columbia College Chicago, Dianne Erpenbach and her husband, Jon, and their collection of their son, David’s unique, and wonderful art pottery.  Why don’t ask me, I haven’t thought about it in years.  I contacted Dianne who in turn let David know I was interested in seeing his current work.  I asked him to share his thoughts as well…you know I will do that!

Here are those thoughts and some of his special pieces:

“I use traditional wheel thrown and hand built techniques to begin all of my pieces. My vision is to take traditional pottery forms and make them more unique by cutting, altering and adding several thrown and hand built pieces to create one final form. Some of my pieces may use up to ten or more thrown or hand built pieces to create one piece. I do not use molds so all of my pieces are original and one of a kind. My experience with firing includes High Fire reduction, High and Low Fire oxidation, Soda Fire, Salt Fire, Pit Fire and Raku. I have five years of learning and experimentation during my undergraduate study at Northern Michigan University where I completed my Bachelor of Fine Arts with a studio concentration in ceramics.”

imageDavid Erpenbach at his wheel.

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imageMy favorites of David’s work…as you know I am a green girl, but these really drew me into them.  All above photos courtesy of David Erpenbach.

The Midwest is known for its pottery, think Ohio for an example, McCoy, Hall, Shawnee, USA, actually a mark not a brand, (all of which I collect in white, you have seen some of that collection, and some green pieces).  Roseville, Rookwood, and Weller, of course, and all the Arts and Crafts designers and Mid-Century artists.  The subject is huge and I will probably do future posts on it but I wanted to do a short photo essay on Teco which was/is done locally.  “The American Terra Cotta Tile and Ceramic Company was founded in 1881 in Terra Cotta, Illinois between Crystal Lake and McHenry.  It became the first American manufacturer of architectural terra cotta (I did a post on terra cotta a few weeks ago in my Thursday Collections series). The founder William Day Gates began experimenting with clays and glazes for art pottery which introduced TECO Pottery (TErra COtta) in 1899.  It is known for it’s Teco Green glaze, a smooth, microcrystalline, matte.” (Source Wikipedia).  I like to credit as much as I can to local resources for nenasnotes and I found several pieces housed in our Chicago History Museum Collections www.chicagohistory.org all from around l905.

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imageThe three pieces above are in the Chicago History Museum Decorative Arts Collection.

imageThis piece found on Pinterest photo credit unknown.  I think it is stunning.

imageAn out of print book….if you are interested I would suggest an internet search.

Of course, you will find many, many art pottery pieces to add to or start your collection at the Randolph Street Market www.randolphstreetmarket.com Saturday and Sunday, August 26 and 27 from 10 to 5.

 

WEDNESDAY MUSINGS: POTTERY BOYS PART 2

imageKeith Herbrand and Glenn Woods in their Studio-Showroom Pinterest photo credit unknown.

I presented the Pottery Boys to you in Monday’s Profile now let’s hear about the actual process from clay to finished product.  Do settle yourself, this will be a very detailed and interesting post, but I’m sure you will agree well worth the read, it is fascinating!  Here in Glenn’s words……

imageClay Pinterest photo credit unknown.

“Making pottery is a multi-step process: Making and trimming the piece; altering/piercing/beading the piece; bisque firing; glazing and firing; post glaze finishing
Making and trimming the piece
Each piece starts out as a simple lump of clay – we generally start with 2 to 8 pounds of clay depending on the project. Our pieces tend to be more on the small to medium sized so 2 to 4 pounds usually does the trick. We first center the clay on the potter’s wheel – open the mound of clay to make it hollow and then thin the walls to make the walls taller and uniform in thickness. Once we have established a nice cylinder, we begin pushing the cylinder into shape. We make bottles, vases, mugs, bowls, plates, and other more decorative forms.
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Altering/piercing/beading
After arriving at a pleasing shape, the piece is allowed to dry to the point where it holds its shape and can easily be handled to trim away excess clay – this stage is called “leather hard”. It is also at this stage where I will begin altering the shape – pushing the form out of round, creating grooves, creases, folds, or spiral patterns. I also begin to carve the piece at this point. Some of the pieces are given flower-like imagery on rims of plates, the body of a pot, or the neck of a vase. I also use a squeeze bottle filled with clay the consistency of frosting (called slip) to place beads on the surface – usually in conjunction with altering and/or carving to enhance the design.
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imageFrom the blank to the piece ready for firing.  Photos taken by Nena in the workshop, last photo taken by Glenn.
Bisque Firing
Once the altered/pierced/beaded piece is finished it is allowed to air dry for a couple of days, making sure it does not dry out too quickly – rapid drying may lead to cracking or structural problems. After completely dry, we place the piece in a kiln and bisque fire to drive out all the chemically bound water – this renders the piece to a stable stage, no longer able to reclaim into soft pliable clay. After cool from the bisque firing, we sand the piece and wash it to remove any dust or unwanted texture.
Glazing and Firing
We sketch each bisque piece ready to be glazed, I indicate on the drawings what glazes are going to be used and in what order. I like to layer my glazes so there may be as few as 2 layers but as many as 8 layers of contrasting colored glazes. These crystalline glazes are very fluid during the firing and require a pedestal and glaze catcher – the glazed piece is mounted on a riser and then placed in the glaze catcher, which catches the glaze that flows off the piece and over the pedestal.
We firing the piece to 2350 degrees Fahrenheit to fully melt the glaze. This temperature is called “cone 10” in potters terms. Once peak temperature is reached, we quickly lower the temperature to 2000 degrees and begin a very slow cooling process to grow the crystals – this cooling cycle can take upwards of 8 hours or more. Once the crystalline growth cycle is done, the kiln is allowed to cool naturally to about 150 degrees Fahrenheit and unloading the kiln begins.
Post firing finishing
Once the pieces reach room temperature, we are able to remove the pedestal – removal of this piece leaves the bottom dangerously sharp and much care needs to be taken to remove the razor sharp edge. We use a diamond disc to grind the bottoms smooth and give a slight bevel to the outside edge of the piece. At this point, the piece is finished. However, we have been using a few specialty techniques to enhance the color and visual quality of the crystals. One such technique is referred to as “Acid Etching”. Soaking the finished piece in an acid bath (muriatic acid or sodium bisulphate) for increments of 15 minutes – washing and drying the piece after each 15-minute soak to see what has happened to the piece. We do this in 15-minute increments because you can go too far and once acid etched, the only way to reverse the effect is to refire the piece.
The other technique we use to alter color is called “post fire reduction”. We place the finished piece in a reduction chamber (basically an old kiln we use to heat the pieces up in) We use propane to heat up the reduction chamber to 1500 degrees Fahrenheit with a propane burner. Once we reach 1500 degrees, we choke off the oxygen supply to the burner, the propane needs oxygen to burn so it depletes the oxygen from the kiln chamber, once that has been depleted, it begins taking oxygen from the glaze layer, turning the titanium creams and tans to purples and pinks. It also will turn copper green glazes into copper red glazes. This color shift is permanent and can only be reversed by re-glazing and firing again.
That is the process in a nutshell.” Nena’s note, some nutshell!!!!
imageA finished piece photo taken by Nena with iPhone 7 on site.
imageA close up of a finished piece.  Photo by Nena on site.
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imageA finished piece in the Mid-century home of Tom Hawley and Tom Mantel with a close up of the detail.  Photo taken by Nena.
More on pottery tomorrow in Collectiions.
I hope you can come to the demonstration and Open House to see all these gloroous pieces in person.  In the meantime go to the Pottery Boys website www.potteryboys.com
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Nena’s Weekly Recipe
Creamy Corn Pasta with Basil from the New York Times/Melissa Clark
(If you don’t have the New York Times Cooking App, I suggest you get it immediately, not only are there amazing recipes but you can save yours to the site as well…it is fabulous!)

Ingredients

  • Fine sea salt
  • 12 ounces dry orecchiette or farfalle  (we did orecchiette)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  • 1 bunch scallions (about 8), trimmed and thinly sliced (keep the whites and greens separate)
  • 2 large ears corn, shucked and kernels removed (2 cups kernels)
  • ½ teaspoon ground black pepper, more for serving
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, more to taste (we did more, actually much more!)
  • cup torn basil or mint, more for garnish
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
  • Fresh lemon juice, as needed

Preparation

  1. Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until 1 minute shy of al dente, according to the package directions. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of pasta water.
  2. Meanwhile, heat oil in large sauté pan over medium heat; add scallion whites and a pinch of salt and cook until soft, 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup water and all but 1/4 cup corn; simmer until corn is heated through and almost tender, 3 to 5 minutes. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper, transfer to a blender, and purée mixture until smooth, adding a little extra water if needed to get a thick but pourable texture.
  3. Heat the same skillet over high heat. Add butter and let melt. Add reserved 1/4 cup corn and cook until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. (It’s O.K. if the butter browns; that deepens the flavor.) Add the corn purée and cook for 30 seconds to heat and combine the flavors.
  4. Reduce heat to medium. Add pasta and half the reserved pasta cooking water, tossing to coat. Cook for 1 minute, then add a little more of the pasta cooking water if the mixture seems too thick. Stir in 1/4 cup of the scallion greens, the Parmesan, the herbs, the red pepper flakes, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Sprinkle with fresh lemon juice to taste. Transfer to warm pasta bowls and garnish with more scallions, herbs, a drizzle of olive oil and black pepper.

We added sliced grilled chicken to it.  It is truly delicious….make it you won’t be sorry!  Served with my usual simple green salad and vingerette and, of course, lots of rosé or white wine!  We did my Strawberries Romanoff for dessert.

BOOKS BOOKS BOOKS: THE FORBIDDEN GARDEN

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I must admit I was drawn to The Forbidden Garden by its cover, I am a sucker for a floral book jacket and the garden in the title intrigued me and since this week’s posts are dealing with earth, particularly clay, why not do a book about a garden as my book review.  I have not read The Sparrow Sisters, which probably would have been a good idea since the Sparrow Sisters history is often referred to in this book. But not to worry you can get the idea of the first book and read it in the future if you enjoy this one, which by the way I did!

The story is multi layered but primarily concentrates on the history of an English garden that is in total shambles, actually, it has been dead for years, and a young gardener from the States who has been hired, because of her reputation, to bring it back to life with her unusual skills.  Sorrel Sparrow and her sisters have almost magical powers when it comes to gardens and making them extraordinary.  Sorrel is met at the airport by the brother of the Lady of the Manor, Andrew, and we really know from the onset that this will be a romance, how much of one I will let you read for yourself.  Andrew has been put in charge of taking Sorrel around London before they drive to the Estate, this, of course, includes some of London’s magnificent gardens.  I must say this and actually, most of the book made me very “homesick” for England, I truly love the UK, but by now you, my readers, know that!  The story is quite layered just like the garden and holds many hidden and forbidden stories.  They, of course, all come together for the climax.  We have hidden rooms, secrets held for decades, families almost destroyed by the past but the main story is of a living entity, the garden and how love can make it and the people around it come back to life.  To some extent, it did remind me of A Secret Garden, which we have all read, just a more “grown up version”. It seems the decayed, once magnificent, garden doesn’t wish to come back to life until Sorrel works her magic but does it spring back into bloom….perhaps!  Through the years the Kirkwood women have become ill after being in the space and what does this have to do with the hideous family tapestries, one of which is missing, does the missing piece solve this puzzle, perhaps!  The original garden was based on a Shakespeare Garden. I love the one I have often visited in Stratford, Canada, when I go to the Stratford Festival, and have had guided tours of the garden, not only is the layout of the garden described but each plant has meaning and is discussed.  This is done in great detail in the book and Sorrel keeps a diary of each planting and does a sketch of her plans which is charmingly featured at the beginning of the book.

Did I enjoy the book, yes, very much, who won’t find a romance of a space and people delightful, would I read another Sorrel Sparrow story, absolutely.  The author, Ellen Herrick, writes well, makes us like the characters, has thoroughly done her research and takes us on a most interesting journey.  Please leave your comments when you have read the book, (I would highly recommend it for your book club) or have you already read it!?

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From the book jacket:

“When Sorrel Sparrow is hired to restore the walled Shakespeare Garden at Kirkwood Hall—the ancestral home of Sir Graham Kirkwood and his wife, Stella—she finds desolation and shadows. According to family lore, generations have tried to return the garden to its former glory, but every attempt has failed. Determined, Sorrel vows to save the garden as only a Sparrow Sister can.

But as soon as Sorrel enters the garden, she feels a sense of heartbreak, betrayal . . . and perhaps even a dark enchantment. Intrigued by Kirkwood Hall’s history—and also by the haunting tapestries that tell its story—Sorrel, increasingly drawn to Stella’s enigmatic brother, sets to work. She slowly unravels the ancient garden’s secrets, only to learn that its destiny is irrevocably entwined with her own.”

For more on the author, Ellen Herrick go to her website www.ellenherrick.com

 

 

PROFILE: THE POTTERY BOYS

imageI had the great pleasure of seeing the Pottery Boys in action this week and I wanted to share their story with you.  I will be doing so in several posts this week and invite you to their pottery demonstration and open house on Saturday, August 19th in Blue Island, Illinois (see the bottom of this post for all the deets!)

How you might ask, did I hear about this talented duo…my dear friends (family), Tom Mantel and Tom Hawley have been collecting their pieces for several years and I have admired their pieces in their Mid-Century home (a post in the future!).

imageThree pieces from The Toms collection…aren’t they stunners!  The detail and shading are amazing let alone the size of the center piece.  I do love them against the brick wall in the living room, modern pottery coming from the earth against brick also coming from the earth and tracing Blue Island’s roots as the “Brick Capital of the World”!

Over the years I have admired the pieces and have said I wanted to meet Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand, I had that opportunity this week and was totally enamored with the process.  It was quite the experience to see Glenn in action and learn more about the art of potting (I’ll share that story later this week).

imageWhat Glenn was working on when I arrived at the workshop.

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Finishing the piece in very short order! Ready for decorating and then firing.

imageOne of the three kilns.

imageA portion of my workroom tour.

imageA selection of leaves waiting for their color to be applied.

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Heart shaped leaves (I will think they are inspired by my beloved redbud trees see the glorious weeping redbud, below, in The Toms garden!).

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As is usual I ask my “Profiles” to answer a questionnaire…this one has been tailored especially for The Pottery Boys and Glenn graciously answered my questions, you will read much more on his technique later in the week, and Keith gave me a tour of some of the finished product.

imageSome of the finished pieces.

imagePieces of Keith’s creativity.

When did you start doing your art and why pottery?  (I am the daughter of an artist so perhaps I view art differently, I hope so!) 
I have always loved making things and as a child would sew dresses for my friend’s dolls, or style their hair, or crochet something – I also had a learning disability – reading and grasping abstract concepts was difficult for me so I would often seek art as a way to feel productive. I was in special education from 3rd grade to 6th grade and I remember hearing that if you couldn’t do math, science, or read well, they would put you in art class – Thank God for art classes, that is where I found myself and was able to grow.
It was my high school teacher – Judy Wenig (who I am still friends with today) who introduced me to clay as well as a host of other art mediums but I fell in love with clay the moment I sat down at the potters wheel. My first piece was dated 1974 – I still remember that piece and how it gave me hope for my future as a potter.
 Has your aesthetic changed over the years, if so how? Has it just evolved or has your style changed completely?
I tell people all the time that my style has changed dramatically over the years – and it has. However, recently I met up with a college friend who was also an art major – he found me at an art fair in Indianapolis. My work has gone through so many changes as I explore different techniques and ceramic materials, so I was excited to show him my new work – but he said “I recognized your work instantly” I was shocked. At first I took it as a disappointing suggestion that I have not grown at all but the more I think about it, I guess it is a complement. No matter how many changes and transformations my work takes, there is still something there, a common thread that is evident despite the changes – to an artist this is a great compliment.
 
Where do you get your inspiration for your pieces?
I sketch a lot – I dream a lot – I admire other artists’ work a lot. You can see influence from nature in most of my work – some people see suggestions of gourd shapes, flowers, twisting branches, and even patterns found in snowflakes. The truth is, I never look at a flower and say – “I am going to incorporate that in my work” it just seems to surface as a desire to design, decorate, or create patterns. The general public tend to find the influence by asking if I was influenced by something specific – wow, I can see your influence from Asian potters, or lotus blooms, or . . . I often discover my influence through other peoples observations.
 
Do you do commissions?  How do they affect your creativity?
I will do commissions but only on rare occasions – when I feel the commision will take me down a path I would like to explore, I go for it. However, I NEVER take a deposit and I ALWAYS say, I will give it a shot and then move on from there. I do not like to spend time chasing after another person’s dream – If I can’t capture what they are looking for in the first series, I suggest they find an artist whose style is more closely aligned with what they are looking for. I work in small series – 6 to 10 pieces, if they cannot find one piece in that series that meets their needs, we both go our own way and I have a few new pieces to show. Chasing after commissions tends to disrupt the creative process.
 
I understand that you spend your winters in Florida how does that inspire you?
I became a full time potter in 2001 and moved from Evanston, IL to Palm Harbor, FL because Florida has so many outside art fairs, an artist has shows to pick from year ’round. I have never liked the heat and I am not into beach life so the influence one might think I would get from living in Florida is very limited. The greatest change to my work is color – when we lived in the midwest, my colors tended to be more neutral – browns, tans, rust, deep blue, and dark greens. These colors do not do well in Florida so we now use lots of lighter colors, teals, emerald greens, deep blues – very water borne colors. I am color blind – not totally but I never know what color I can’t see until we are talking color variations and then I am in big trouble – in mixing glazes, my thought process is more focused on the chemistry rather than the value or depth of color – when glazing I am looking for a color blend from light to dark to create weight and a sense of depth so it is less about color and more about how the colors interact, blend, and work to create that sense of depth – even if you were viewing the piece in black and white.
 
Why do you create in Blue Island?
I often say, Blue Island found us, we did not seek out Blue Island intentionally. After moving to Florida, we decided to establish a home base back here in the midwest – especially after deciding to participate in summer art fairs for 4 months out of the year – traveling back and forth was not an effective way for us to live and we needed a place to work and live for the summer months while participating in the art fairs (without relying on staying with family or friends). We met Bridget Scales at the Bucktown Art Fair – she told us of a building in Blue Island that might just fit our needs – a year later, we moved in and love the building, the town, and especially the Blue Islanders – Blue Island has a rich history and those who live here love it’s history and work hard to keep the city alive.
 
What would you do if you weren’t artists?
I would be a philanthropist or a counselor/psychologist – I have always wanted to help people – especially where people feel tormented by the contrast of who they are and who society wants them to be. Growing up gay in a small farming community where my best friends were Amish kind of set the tone for my life. Needless to say, I was surrounded by very conservative people whose thoughts and advice was not real supportive – not only of my sexual identity but also my desire to create. I remember my mom telling me “little boys DO NOT sew dresses” or crochet or play with hair. She caught me sewing in my bedroom one day – the others were outside playing. She was so appalled at what i was doing, she wrapped a towel around me and paraded me around the others while singing here she is, Miss America. It was great fun for her but I was totally humiliated (too much information, I know but artists do struggle to find ways to express themselves that are socially acceptable, a lesson I learned at an early age)
 
What are your passions outside of your talent?
I am a total clay geek, so I do not have many interests outside of my clay work – I do like to write – especially about my work in clay. I recently have had 5 articles published in “Pottery Making Illustrated” I also have a passion for helping people, looking for ways to build self worth. While I enjoy music, theater, I would not say I am passionate about those things. I love to invent, I love to talk to total strangers, I love to express my love and gratitude, I also can’t contain my distaste for something – like a political figure that seems to be misguided (in my own opinion, of course).
Informaion on the Pottery Demonstratons from noon to 5 and the Open House from 6 to 9

Saturday, August 19 – noon to 9pm
13201 Olde Western Ave. / Blue Island, IL 60406  /  727-504-6200

Glenn Woods and Keith Herbrand will be hosting an open house in their Blue Island Gallery on Saturday, August 19th. Glenn will be conducting pottery demonstrations from noon to 5pm while Keith tends to the gallery. The formal Open House will be from 6pm to 9pm with light snacks and refreshments. Several local artists will also be participating offering: Original Paintings; Mosaics; Jewelry; Ceramic Arts; and Pottery.

The gallery is located in Blue Island on the north side of the Cal-sag Canal, just under the Western bridge.

Glenn and Keith are full time potters who reside in Palm Harbor, Florida but have been summer residents of Blue Island since 2004. They have a formal open house once each summer due to their hectic summer art fair schedule. You can see their work at many local art fairs including: Chicago’s Old Town Art Fair; Chicago’s 57th Street Art Fair; Downtown Geneva Art Fair; Lake Forest’s Art Fair on the Square; Naperville’s Riverwalk Art Fair; Park Forest’s Tall Grass Art Fair. If you are unable to make it to those art fairs, this is a great opportunity to see their work AND to watch Glenn as he creates pottery on the potters’ wheel from noon to 5pm.

There will be several local and regional artists represented – all will be present to chat a bit about their work.

Crystalline Glazed Pottery – Glenn’s pottery is made out of fine porcelain and glazed with a specialty glaze called Crystalline Glaze. These glazes are noted for their ability to grow crystals in the glaze layer during a complex cooling process during the glaze firing. By altering the firing temperatures and the duration of the firing, special effects and wonderful visual texture can be achieved.

We are inviting you to come out for the day or evening to see our work, meet the artists and enjoy the company of art lovers. You can come out for the demonstrations – visit one of the many wonderful local restaurants in Blue Island, Midlothian, or Crestwood and then come back for the Opening to wrap up the day.

All photos were taken on site by Nena.