Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Heaven on Earth Antiques

To kids growing up in the Boston area in the 60's, the Christmas season was highlighted by
 an annual pilgrimage into the city.  We would get dressed up and take the train to see the lights on Boston Common and tour the huge, animated Enchanted Village display in the upper story of the Jordan Marsh store. Christmas shopping in the city, seeing Santa and getting an ice cream at the old Bailey's Ice Cream Parlour made for memorable finishing touches on those beloved, special days 
of pre-Christmas anticipation.

It's hard to replicate the thrill of childhood joys from simpler times.  When you find a place that gives you something close to that sense of innocence, it's easy to return.  That sense of delight is precisely why I began to treat myself to a vintage holiday item each year at Heaven on Earth Antiques, a tiny antique shop in the heart of the town of Sherborn.  Owner, Sarah Noss creates a detailed holiday extravaganza that takes me back to some of the sweetest moments of childhood wonder. 

It's an adult version of the Enchanted Village!

She goes all out and loads every surface with darling vintage vignettes that range from old and rare Victorian to fun and funky Mid-Century atomics. My personal favorites change every year, but the scandanavian woodens and elves are especially dear.  Partly due to my heritage and partly because I believe this is where Santa REALLY comes from!

Sarah is very knowledgeable about vintage and antique Christmas.  I've learned a lot by following her around the shop and listening as she talks about the treasures within!

These two pine cone elves come from two different places: the one on the left is the more familiar one that has become popular and collectible in recent years (thank you, Martha Stewart) - I believe this one was made in Japan,  The one on the right, however, is from Italy and hard to find.

Another weakness of mine: vintage angels.  Naturally, they abound in Heaven on Earth!  

I might need to go back and get her.  Look at the light in her torso!

Gorgeous vintage holiday graphics.

Unique His and Hers decorative felt gloves. 

Kitschy Fun!

Wonderful Vintage Classic Ornaments .... which I buy to create ...

 ... heirloom glass ornament wreaths: this one is currently on sale at the shop. It is covered in aged pastel ornaments and features a rare, vintage purple printed ball (about 8 o'clock).  Sarah began carrying my wreaths a few years ago.  

Last season, she began carrying some of my holiday spun cotton pieces. The angel on the tree (left) and Wish Fairy (right) are currently for sale!

A family of deer.

That ceramic tree everyone had in their homes in the 70's!

Season's Greetings 
Happy 2016!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

The Japanese Garden

I was thrilled to spend a few days in Portland, Oregon recently. The city spot that was the highlight for me was the beautiful Japanese Garden.

This will mostly be a photo essay because this was a quiet experience.  I was fortunate to take my journey through the garden alone - giving me ample time to take it in, get some photos and be reflective.  By the time I was at the end of the visit, I was surprised to find that I was internally altered and quieter: an unusual and lovely afternoon.

I imagine it transforms with each season,  making me curious to return ... 'til next time, Portland.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Heirloom Wreath Making Tutorial

It's Labor Day Weekend and the holiday season is already starting to peek out from behind the depleted Back to School displays.  Time to take this years stash of vintage holiday finds out from the attic and start constructing some wreaths and decorations for the season!

I love these wreaths - they are such a lovely use of special ornaments. They are a meaningful way to present precious family heirlooms and make a wonderful gift for those who no longer put up a tree or limit their decorating.  Everyone has a little wall space, right?

Over the past 10 years I have made dozens of them and have learned a few tips to pass on in order to make them stable and secure.  There is a little more to it than hot gluing ornaments to a base if they are to hold together over time.

First, gather all your ornaments!  Sort them by color, size, style, design: whatever way makes "sense" to you and think about your theme and/or colors.  You might just have a few old ornaments that you want to incorporate with newer ones, no worries - old holiday looks beautiful when it is mixed up!

I prefer to use old ornaments from the 50's or 60's: much older ones are often too delicate to survive the process.  When I do include these very old ones, I take pains to place them in a protected spot during construction.

The following supplies and ornaments areneeded to make your wreath look full.  The quantities listed are for the wreath size suggested.

Ornaments/Outer Ring:  16 or more - 2.5 inch balls, with bails removed from necks. This row is what will come in contact with the wall when it is hung, so don't use the very fragile ones. I often use the balls that look the most unappealing since they get covered. You can also blend in a few newer balls if you don't have enough or you want a particular color story

Ornaments/Inner Ring: 8 to10 medium size, bails removed.  Again, these will also get covered, so a few newer ones are not a bad trade off for stability.

Ornaments/Top Layers:  Specials and mixed shapes, sizes: 40+.  These are the balls that are the ones you will see most prominently.  Make sure you save the prettiest or most interesting ones to show off on the top layers!

Ornaments/Fill Ins: Small to tiny: 12+  These are the ones that fill in those small empty spots or just an added pop of color here and there.  Plan for at least a dozen - I usually use many more.

Other small decorations:  You can incorporate many types of other holiday decorations in your design, just make sure they aren't too heavy.

Styrofoam wreath base:  12 inch  round, white, rough styrofoam, base, about 1 3/4 inches wide.  Stay away from the smooth, dense (non-crunchy) styrofoam as it resists making good holes to secure the ornaments into it.  Joann's carries the right ones.

Hot glue and gun
Wire and wire cutter
Small wooden dowel or popsicle stick (to handle hot glue or help make openings in the styrofoam)
Tree tinsel garland

Step 1:  With your awl, make a hole in the center of the styrofoam base on the side edge.  It should be big enough to allow the neck opening of a large ornament to fit in snugly. Select the outside ornament that will be at the very top of your wreath and remove the bail from the ornament's neck. Test the fit and be sure the wreath will still rest flush on the table.

Step 2: On the flat back side of the wreath, tack the edge of the tinsel garland to the styrofoam.

TIP: Wrap your garland around the wreath and continue to tack as you go on this back side ONLY.  This will be important as you start to attach the ornaments to the other three sides.  You don't want to encounter gobs of hardened hot glue when you might want an ornament to sit someplace.

Wrap the entire base with the garland. One garland should be plenty.  I usually use a bit less than a full garland.  Be careful not to make it too tight - you should be able to push the tinsel aside on the top and sides.

Step 4:  Find the hole in the wreath from Step 1. Secure a wire right next to it as a hanger at the top edge - wrap the wire fully around the wreath base for stability.  
TIP: Set the loop to sit flush with the back of the wreath so that it is close to the wall and won't be in the way of ornaments.

Step 5:  Find the hole in the styrofoam again. Gently push the tinsel garland aside if you need to.  You want to be able to access the hole to insert the neck of the topmost outer ring ornament.

Get your glue gun into the hole and squeeze in a generous amount of glue.

TIP:  Working quickly, add glue around the top of the ornament neck onto the top part of the ornament itself.  When in place, this gives added stability as this glue will stick to the tinsel in addition to the styrofoam base.

Place the ornament into the glued opening - the glue should still be warm.  Gently, make sure it is actually IN the hole all the way.  Careful not to push or handle the ornament roughly.

Make sure the ornament is resting on the table.

TIP: While it is warm, gently direct it upwards - away from from the table very slightly. This gives the ornament a small distance from the wall, a bit of insurance for when it hangs.

It will take several minutes for the hot glue to secure.  You can work on the next ornaments while it's setting, but you can't remove the ball once it is set - unless you want to risk breaking it.

Step 6:  Take the remaining outer balls and plan their layout balancing color, texture and pattern. Continue to place them around the wreath: push the tinsel aside and make holes in the styrofoam as you did the first. You want to secure all the balls on the outside in the same manner : the double gluing keeps the ornaments stable in the wreath.  

Be careful to handle the wreath carefully - the ornaments can't handle a lot of propping or impact. It can be a little tricky as you continue your way around.

TIP: Try to fit the balls so that there is a very slight (1/8 inch) space between the outer balls in the outer layer. This keeps the ornaments from touching and crowding - which sometimes leads to breaks.

UPDATE:  When I first wrote this tutorial, I suggested 17 outer balls (as this wreath has), since then I have changed my method and currently use 16 balls.  This gives a bit more space between the balls, which is better.  When they come close to one another, the friction can make them more vulnerable to breakage.  It is also a lot easier to space them evenly.  I use a circular grid to place the balls easily an accurately.

Step 7:  Layout the inner row and start to plan where your special ornaments will sit.

Step 8:  This is the trickiest step: add the inner row of ornaments in the same method as the outer.  It is the trickiest because the inside space is smaller and little harder to access.

These two (inner and outer) rows are now a nice expanded frame for the beautiful top layer of ornaments!

UPDATE: Since the inside of the wreath is sometimes where I place a special vintage item or vignette, I have stopped using the inner circle of ornaments,

Step 9:  The fun part!  Roughly plan where you will place your most fancy ornaments or special decorations.  Balance scale, color, pattern, shapes and special features. Now you can glue them directly onto the base and use inner/outer row frame of ornaments for additional space.  I keep the bails on these ornaments for the most part.

TIP: Glue the first ornament near the wire loop at the top and fill in about 6-7 inches at a time.  Place the next closest featured, fancy ornament on the wreath and then fill in the space before going onto the next 6-7 inches.

TIP: Use the frame to create a pleasing arrangement, don't make a set of static "rows" - think of it as looking like they fell together organically. Use varying angles, mix up the shapes and colors - careful not to put those that look too similar next to one another.

Be generous with the glue and try to secure the ornaments in as many places as you can: to the garland, other ornaments and styrofoam if it is visible!

TIP:  Pat attention to the depth of the wreath from the table.  If you want to use an over-sized or deep ornament, make a little indentation/well in the styrofoam to sink the ornament a bit and accommodate its depth.  Using your finger tips, gently push down through the garland onto the styrofoam until it crunches and compresses. The ornament still might sit up a little higher than the rest, but this will help in securing and protecting it.

Have fun as you finish your wreath!  Add the last, small and tiny balls where there are openings or as an accent.  Double check the stability of the wreath carefully, take off all that glue gun string and treat your burns :0)

Please remember these wreaths are too delicate to be hung on a door or outside.

My etsy shop  has a few from last season back up for sale.  I will be making new ones in the upcoming weeks for the holiday season.