Field Trip! Today we’re in St. Augustine, the oldest permanently European-occupied city in America. We started out at an estate sale south of the Old City and experienced great success — African masks, an African textile, a Chinese ceramic horse and Italian glass sculptures.
After the morning’s excitement we dawdled the afternoon away in the historic section of St. Augustine. Its Spanish colonial roots continue to draw locals and tourists alike.
Explorer Pedro Menéndez de Avilés, his troops and settlers, first sighted land on the feast day of St. Agustín. They came ashore on September 8, 1565 and immediately celebrated with a Catholic Mass. Here’s the heroic Señor Menéndez:
Castillo de San Marcos, the oldest masonry fortification in the country, faced bombardment twice in the 18th century — once by the British and once by Georgia’s Governor Oglethorpe. Its porous coquina walls, made from soft limestone and shells, simply absorbed the cannonballs.
After the Civil War, many Native Americans from the West’s Indian Wars were imprisoned and died at the fort. The Castillo stayed in commission until 1900, serving under 5 flags: Spanish, British, United States, the Confederate States, and back to the United States.
Here’s a view of Mantanzas River from the grounds of the Castillo. The Bridge of Lions stretches across the river in the background. The Spanish word mantanzas means killings or slaughters, a reference the deaths of French Huguenots in a massacre led by Pedro Menéndez.
St. Augustine charms visitors with its variety of architecture. This wooden house, now a coffee cafe, would be typical for the early settlers.
This cafe flies three flags of St. Augustine.
Typical bricked side street in the historic district:
In the late 19th century, oil magnate Henry Flagler financed the building of the exclusive Ponce de León Hotel in Spanish Colonial style with Moorish influences. The building is now a part of Flagler College and known as Ponce de Leon Hall:
Even though we visited at the end of April, the temperature hovered around 87 degrees. Yes, it was a hot day. The lush vegetation, however, proved delightful.
That’s a statue of Queen Isabella on a burro to demonstrate her humility:
As refreshing as the foundation looks, I cooled off with a champagne mango popsicle.
Thanks for stopping by. Your comments always delight us.
See this table? A lot of work went into it, and I’m proud of it. Rightfully so. One of my early pieces, I painstakingly stenciled on top and then put touches of gold details on the base. It would fly out the door. Of this I was sure. Yet now, almost 2 years later, it sits forlornly in my living room. The table looked radiant in Annie Sloan Emperor’s Silk Chalk Paint, especially once I stenciled a Royal Design Marrakech medallion in gold on her, highlighted with orange ice stencil creme.
Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery’s owner, Suszi, borrowed her from our booth and prominently featured her in special, seasonal vignettes — Christmas, St. Valentine’s Day, and yet another Christmas. My beauty sat in stunning front-door displays, where everyone who walked in saw her.
Nothing. We lowered the price. Nothing. Every time the season changed, our table boomeranged back to our booth where she languished.
Time for a makeover. It wasn’t an easy decision, but I finally embraced the idea that our elegant red, round table needed a personality change. I wanted to go for something completely different — and hoped she’d sell. I opted for coastal colors.
Since it’s spring in Florida — with summer arriving in a week or two — I chose a beachy color. I like Amy Howard’s Tick Tock from her One Step line and Ace Hardware now carries her products.
The thing to remember with Amy Howard’s One Step Paint is to mix it. It’s gelatinous on the bottom, so serious mixing is essential. Once it’s mixed, the paint is still thick. I like to cut it with water.
I covered the Emperor’s Silk with ASCP’s Old White — just one coat — and then moved on to Tick Tock. Here’s the table after I covered it with Old White and began to paint the legs with Tick Tock.
I applied two coats of Tick Tock but still needed to convey a sense of the ocean’s salt spray. I tinted my wax, a new technique for me.
I mixed Old White with Clear Wax, using more paint than wax. I didn’t measure but it had the consistency of cake frosting. Working in sections, I used a chip brush to apply this tinted wax. I waited a minute or less and wiped the mixture off. It left a light whitish covering — just what I wanted.
The white tint emphasizes the carvings:
I finished up with Clear Wax and chose not to distress her. I don’t want to detract from the salty spray.
Our new coastal table moved into our booth today and sings a serenade of spring on the coast. I’ll let you know how long she stays.
I planned to buy pre-made moss balls at Michaels but they didn’t have the size I wanted and frankly, the few in the store looked like rejects of the many shoppers ahead of me.
Really? I have to make my own? Please join me.
Let’s assemble materials:
a package of moss
a bottle of styrofoam liquid glue (my preference), or a can of spray glue for styrofoam
Take moss from the package, stretch it out and break off chunks.
I first tested Easy Tack glue because I already had in my supplies. No, no, no. Shouldn’t the name say it all? I switched over to the liquid styrofoam glue, a far superior adherent. Using my fingers I smeared the glue onto sections of the ball. That gets messy quickly.
Affix the moss in sections. I compressed each ball with both hands so that the moss would stick. A little pressure won’t tame the wildness of your moss.
After letting the moss dry, I checked for small areas of exposed styrofoam and glued additional bits of moss onto those spots. All told, I only used about one-third of my moss bag, so I should be able to churn out another four balls. I like the thick, lush sensibility of these balls rather than the thin covering on the pre-made ones.
Let me tell you about the containers. I bought them at estate sales. I didn’t do anything to the matching set other than create the moss balls for them. The blue one is actually pewter with art nouveau decorations. A while ago I painted it with ASCP Duck Egg Blue, Old White, adding Clear Wax and Dark Wax. I liked the moss balls with the white and gold goblets but I needed something different for the blue one.
I cut a silk peony to size and placed it in the urn. For my photo shoot, I fancied it up:
And a photo at dark:
But let’s get back to those moss balls:
They are easy enough to make and look good. My problem occurred with excessive time I spent photographing them. You may have noticed that we’ve gone from bright daylight to a softer evening light.
This is Part 2 of Iris Abbey’s top posts from 2015. Click here to see the top three posts. We’ve talked about furniture manufacturing history, estate sales, painting techniques, a paint review and a novice upholstery projects. To view any of the original posts below, just click on the titles you are interested in.
With the New Year almost upon us, it’s time to reminisce on 2015. Today’s list is short and sweet. I was tempted to assemble a long list filled with links to my most popular posts, but decided to focus on Iris Abbey’s top 3 posts of 2015. I will feature other popular posts soon but right now I want to give a bit of breathing room to the top 3. They deal with the history of a furniture manufacturer and challenging painting projects. Without further ado, here are Iris Abbey’s top 3 posts of 2015. Click on any of the titles to link to the original.
After we bought several amazing pieces of White Furniture from an estate sale, I found myself compelled to research the company. In my post I touched on the its history and included photos of pieces that I purchased. White Furniture has an esteemed place in this country’s history of furniture. The crown jewel of my two-part post came with photographs of the White’s Mebane employees taken by professional photographer Bill Bamberger.
Bill photographed the final months of the Mebane factory. He and Cathy N. Davidson published the factory’s story and photos in Closing: The Life and Death of an American Factory (1998). It’s a terrific book because it deals with the economy, human dignity, and loss.
Several months after my original post, Dennis Jones reached out to provide a lovely and perceptive comment, which I treasure:
How nice to find folks still enjoying some of the finest furniture ever produced. I worked at White’s for three summers while I was still in high school. Many of the folks pictured I knew and admired their skill (even at 16 years old I knew a craftsman when I seen one) these men and women took pride in their job. I picked up wood scraps and delivered them to the boiler to be burned for heat and other energy needs.) At times I would stand and watch for 15 minutes at the skill it takes to cut out the scalloped huge table tops, it was amazing to watch these guys handle these huge pieces with ease. The exact measurements used, the quality of wood, the skill to finish the pieces, the packaging for shipment was second to none. White’s also knew the skill it took to put out furniture of this quality and paid their employees a better than average hourly wage. My uncle worked there nearly 50 years, he and many others were able to raise families and put kids through college because of these fair wages. The book does give a good look of the factory near the end, but the over 100 years before is the real story of American pride. I so miss the folks I worked with there, but my memory of each one always make me smile.
I love his comment. Our White Furniture Company pieces, still available at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery, are showstoppers. Customers regularly comment on their quality of the wood, the craftsmanship, and the designs — everything Dennis wrote about.
The second most-read post focused on my trying Modern Masters Metallic Paint. I painted and stenciled an antique colonial revival dresser and discovered how easy Modern Masters is to use. I used Royal Stencil Creme for carved highlights and interior drawer stencils. It turned out beautifully and this lovely piece is now settled into a new home.
The transformation of my friend Anne’s antique mahogany piano takes third place. I used ASCP’s Paris Grey with Old White to highlight the carvings on the front panel. Since I wrote that post Anne informed me she bought the piano over 40 years ago in Rio de Janerio from a military couple originally from New York. I like the idea of the piano traveling internationally. This beautiful girl has a richer history than I thought. Since I painted the piano, Anne’s numerous visitors have remarked that it’s not as massive and foreboding and the carvings are much easier to see now that they’re highlighted. Good deal.
I’d like to give thanks to our many readers, supporters, patrons, and friends for making 2015 our best year yet. Happy New Year. May it be filled with joy, inspiration and success.
Grab your walking shoes. Let’s stroll through an English village.
David and I spent time in England visiting friends who live in a charming village in the East Midlands. I’ve already posted photos on Facebook but today let’s talk about the doors of this quaint village.
On a casual walk we began snapping pictures of doors. We didn’t plan this in advance. The colors, door designs, and gardens drew us in. Imagine a crisp autumn afternoon ablaze with color, coupled with brilliant curb appeal.
Some doors fronted the street, with just a single step down to the sidewalk.
Others had stone steps leading up to the door, drawing the visitor forward.
Greenery, trimmed to overgrown, adorned some of the doors.
England’s countryside looks like a storybook land, a far cry from Florida. The rolling green hills, the hedgerows, the sheep, the cows, and the narrow roads — we love it.
This post features photos of York. David and I are spending a few days here and I’m excited to share what we’re experiencing. I have two very different places to show you: the York Minister and Jorvik, the Viking village.
The current Minister is 800 years old. Some of its stained glass windows date back to the 12th century.
These five lancet windows below are made of green gray glass in geometric designs and commemorates British women who lost their lives in World War 1.
Here are a few more astonishingly beautiful designs in the Minster:
On to Jorvik, the Viking settlement begun in 866 AD. Here’s the young woman who greeted us.
David and I climbed aboard an automated car and wended our way through the village, viewing typical denizens. What added to the experience were the smells at various points of our journey: burning wood, cooking meat, and fish.
We hope you enjoy these photos from our adventures. Has anyone else been to York? We’d love to hear about your visit.
I’m not a stickler for what you put on your walls. You can turn a tangible piece of memory, like a ticket, a postcard or child’s design into art. But what is art without a frame? It can be as simple or ornate as you like. Make it or buy it, but show off your art.
At the end of the day, any item can be meaningful and provide color and richness to your decor.
In another life I taught Humanities courses, and for years I badgered my students to appreciate art. You don’t have to like everything, but you should appreciate an artist’s efforts. Find pieces that evoke a feeling in you: calmness, joy, excitement, or even despair. Just feel something when you look at an artistic expression.
All of which leads me to day’s topic: getting your art appraised. If you ever have the chance, jump on it. It’s a hoot.
One bewildered shopper stopped at the table. In a loud, excited voice he asked, “Is this the Antiques Roadshow?”
Now, I’m sure I don’t own any artwork valued over a few hundred dollars, but I’d never had my art appraised. Our carefully selected artwork is important to us. We have collected for years, as we travel, as we share new experiences, or as I receive artistic gifts from my sister. So are appraisals really necessary?
I wanted Henry to look at unusual art that we picked up at estate sales. Pieces we could sell so that others enjoy the power of art.
Avonlea’s appraisal rules were simple enough:
no more than 3 pieces per person — together, David and I could bring 6 pieces
$5 per piece — that’s fantastic!
Henry would impart info, so I took copious notes
I thought our best bet for a sensational find would be the large African King Tut painting on papyrus, pictured above. One of my son’s discoveries, its woody smell wafted through the air as we unrolled it. An indecipherable artist’s name appeared in the left corner.
Henry dispelled my hopes for something unique. He thought it probably came from the Treasures of Tutankhamun Exhibit that toured the U.S. between 1976 and 1979. The country went mad for King Tut. I, myself, flew to New Orleans, the closest location to me, and viewed the exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. I remember a long line of people standing outside the museum in the cold drizzle, which gave way to astonishing golden riches inside. I experienced a one-in-a-lifetime moment.
Henry advised us to flatten the papyrus — put it under heavy books for thirty days or more — and get it framed. As is, he estimates its worth around $125. The tightrope walk here is money, as always. I already took Tut to a frame shop and was quoted $500 from scratch. But, If I provide my own frame, glass and mat with dimensions that don’t perfectly fit the piece — which I can do — it will be $95. It might make the piece pop, but there’s not a lot of room for profit.
I showed him Trilobite, by another artist with an unreadable name. A trilobite is a fossil group of extinct marine invertebrate animals. What do you see when you look at the painting? I see birds on a wire, with a few feathers fluttering from above. I definitely don’t see extinct sea life. The dark colors, however, create a somber mood.
Trilobite’s artist created it using stone lithography, a technique where the artist draws an image directly on a flat limestone or piece of marble using a waxy/oily crayon. The next step involves water and oil and placing the paper over everything. Repeat, color by color.
This print is # 25 of a run of 25. Even though this was the last lithograph printed in the run, it was a short run. That’s good. The lines are crisp and overall condition excellent. Touch up the frame, Henry advised, and find of dictionary of lithographers’ chop marks. How easy will that be? In a gallery he would expect to see a price between $150 and $250.
The unexpected and delightful discovery came with three etchings that Michael, my son, snatched up at an estate sale several months ago. He plans to keep the Hofkirche, Luzerne and sell the other two. One look and Henry got excited. It turns out that they are original. One is dated 1921. Professor Paul Geissler (1881-1965) used copperplate to make the engravings on archival paper. He signed the plate, which means every copy shows that exact signature. Ours are unique because the artist also wrote his name and descriptions in pencil.
Henry speculated that Geissler exuded confidence because his name appears twice. Small wonder. A quick search revealed that Geissler received commissions from the German Empress and a Russian Grand Duke. He possesses impressive credentials.
Estimated price for each etching, as is: between $400 and $600. Imagine them framed. Imagine the expense.
Get them framed in Old Master’s frames, Henry advised. He’s talking about these kinds of frames — and they aren’t inexpensive. Does anyone have suggestions how how I can create the effect?
Henry couldn’t help us with our final piece. It’s a watercolor of a seated Japanese man. On the back of the frame was a handwritten label Tosa Mitsunobu, founder of the Tosa School of Japanese Painting back in the 13th century. Before you get too excited, none of us believed this piece displayed that kind of age.
Two areas of foxing, which are those age-related brown spots, appear on the face. More worrisome are tiny holes in the rice paper. Henry advised getting them fixed by a paper conservator. I’d need to find an expert in Japanese paper, which isn’t going to happen in Jacksonville.
Think! Wait . . . I have one credit left with Value My Stuff, meaning I’ve prepaid for one more item to be evaluated by this online company. I’ve used them before and been pleased with the results. Henry advised me to take the image out of the frame, take at least 10 photos that emphasize the holes and the foxing and send it on to the experts at Value My Stuff.
The event was a smashing success. Henry needs to come back more than once a year. Customers who didn’t know of the Art Appraisal Day asked: Will he be back tomorrow? Does this happen every weekend? If I run home now and get a picture, will he still have time to do it? No, no, no.
He was quite popular. I, for one, will suggest that Henry’s Art Appraisal Day become a regular event for the mall. Although David and I did not expect, nor receive, any momentous surprises with our art, a few people received startling good news. More importantly, we all had a jolly good time. Come back, Henry. Very soon.
Another month, another booth. After just two months in our beautiful aubergine space David and I realized we desperately needed more room. Lucky for us a more spacious booth became available unexpectedly.
The additional room created all sorts of possibilities, so this month we decided to try something different. We designed a mid-century room, on display through September, at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.
We had the furniture picked out, but we needed a little help selecting the paint. We wanted something retro yet modern, bold but without being kitschy. Thankfully Suszi Kerr, the owner of Avonlea, offered up her expertise. As you can see, Sherwin Williams’ Daredevil Orange looks terrific as an accent wall.
With the booth painted, we started filling it up. Almost all of the furniture in this room was manufactured in the 1950s by Reed Furniture Mfrs, Designers of White Craft, Miami, FL.
Let’s start with the lounge chair and foot stool. Large snaps hold the padding in place, a necessity because the padding is so heavy. Think I’m exaggerating? Do you remember when your dental hygienist placed the lead vest across your chest before X-rays? The foot stool padding is like that. The lounge chair padding is far weightier.
The matching all-in-one table lamp even offers space for magazines. A teak cabinet, made in Denmark in the 1960s, stands to the right of the chair.
We have a window in our booth and I’m scrambling for a treatment. But that’s a project for another day. Let’s just focus on to the sofas and side chair.
Check out the square pillows sewn from the same fabric as the lounge chair.
And the matching coffee table with woven strips of bamboo under glass:
Suszi helped with our wall art configurations. She’s amazing. David and Michael struggled to keep up with their hammers and nails. I’ve never seen pictures go up so quickly.
We integrated our eclectic artwork. A Thai temple rubbing rubs shoulders with panels made in Holland. African masks mingle with Asian art. We even hung reproductions of Pompeii mosaics underneath a contemporary aqua 3-D image.
Michael acquired this tension lamp with green glass pagoda globes. When they’re lit, they emit a yellow-green glow.
The bar, stools, and matching wall mirror stop people in their tracks. Even though I brought fall decorations, by the end of the day I only managed to hang one Halloween banner.
One month. That’s how long this design stays in this space. We’ve had two exhausting days but the customers’ comments made us laugh. There’s the common motif that the room looks so cozy . . . but what time will cocktails be served?
In October Iris Abbey hopes to move to an even larger space, where we will merge our styles of Mid-Century Modern with painted furniture and antiques. I think we’re up to the challenge.
My son and I rescued another end table from an estate sale. Solid wood and weighing around a hernia, we found ourselves drawn to its intriguing carvings. Unlike our earlier pet bed converted from an end table, we decided to leave the doors on because of the eternal pet debate: when company visits, should you close up your pet’s sleep space if you are able? Or should you leave it out because your pet is part of the family? I see it as a personal preference. This should have been a quick job but we ran into obstacles at every turn. It was very dirty. Every job begins with a thorough scrubbing using Simple Green cleaning solution. Inside and out, with sponge and a clear water rinse. A pet’s home should be pristine. Zinsser Shellac came next, exterior and interior, followed by a couple of coats of Annie Sloan’s Old White. We planned to have a white pet bed, but the dark wood and oils kept bleeding through.
We shellacked again over the Old White and opted for a stronger color: Emperor’s Silk, a striking red.
Once painted, David waxed the top. Big Red Flag: he forgot to put down the Clear Wax first; he just spread Dark Wax directly on the paint which darkened the piece far too much. Frustrated, he brought it to me and asked what was wrong. Luckily, I knew a simple solution to this problem. I simply erased the Dark Wax using Clear Wax. The technique is to dip a cloth into some Clear Wax that you’ve put on a palette and go to town. Over and over again until your cloth is brown with Dark Wax. I love Emperor’s Silk and it looks terrifically opulent with Dark Wax, but I always start with Clear Wax. Next, I chose the wrong fabric for the upholstery. The red and white flannel matched the Emperor’s Silk but lacked the stiffness to make the fabric manageable. It took lots of time and patience to get the seams right and everything glued into place. But it looked like snug little home once I finished. Kind of like a logger’s warm flannel shirt. Let’s just skip to the end. David nailed in the faux tacks to glitz it up and we added a new, cushy pet bed. Unfortunately we forgot to take an updated photo of the tacks outlining the flannel on the doors. The Dark Wax really emphasized the exterior carvings, and we used Rub N’ Buff on the hardware. We carted the Luxurious Pet Bed to our shop at Avonlea Antique Mall and, within 48 hours, it went home to a lucky kitty or pup — just not this curious kitty. Her name is Starbuck and unlike this table she will be staying with us.
Ann Marie and David
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