Branded

(Actually, this is not really an example of far-out branding, as Hermes is a sponsor AND makes top quality saddles and equestrian equipment) Hampton Classic, Bridgehampton, New York

Tuesdays Thoughts On Famous Designers Designing Different Things (all in good humor!)

Tuesday afternoon I decided to scope out the Wedgewood website. Not because I was looking to pick up some duck print fine-bone china or a pair of crystal goblets to that cost more then my car. Just idly browsing. I enjoy homewares.

The homepage displayed some nice wares, with the stamp “Vera Wang”. Underneath the block Vera was “Wedgewood”, as if we needed reminding whose page we were on, and then below that in microscopic print: England 1759. Wedgewood, an English institution, who has made china literally fit for a Queen for actual centuries. Using a famous, celebrity-like designer who creates custom wedding gowns? Sounds like an odd… marriage.

I sat there, not clicking away and switching panes, but staring at her big Times New Roman plain font. When did the human race become so gullible that they’d buy anything as long as it had some recognizable designer name on it, even if that designer did NOT gain fame in that field?

What did Vera know about china? I’ll admit, I would give an arm and a leg and maybe a few eyeballs (no, not my eyes. I love my eyes) to be able to don one of her delectable creations on my non-existent wedding.  Her gowns are top-notch; that can not be disputed.

But what does the Queen of satin and silk, tulle and lace know about crystal stemware? I’ll admit, the pairing seems ideal. A fluted Vera dress and matching flutes to toast to your nuptials might definitely appeal to a specific character, with her happily ever after fantasy and colour coordination down to her bridesmaid’s underwear.

Still, the garment industry and the tableware industry are two distinct separate industries, for good measure. Just because you can design a dress does not grant you the authority nor knowledge or ability to design a tea set. Yes, the pottery was quite pleasant, no garish prints (I mean this WAS Wedgewood), but I was still irked.

Even if you can, do you WANT a Vera Wang white porcelain sugar container, at $135 a pop? Does the bride really need to receive all her new china from someone whose name is eponymous with weddings and dresses? Weddings are fun and all, but I don’t think the marital bliss will remain simply because every time I look down at my scrambled eggs the plate boasts Vera’s name.

Just because she was good at gowns, she could just plaster her name on anything and think it would sell? That countless advisories and marketing analysts and financial consultants all agree with this mindset? I know there’s months, years that goes into getting that goblet on the go, but still, couldn’t she leave it up to the specialists, such as Wedgewood? Why did everything have to intermingle? I always felt like products as such were cheapened somehow, even though I’d never utter a word of that nature in direction of her dresses.

I’m not going to even touch in this article about the whole over-saturation of a brand name and how that can drown a company that was previously Titanic –quality in its respect.  I’ll save that for my next post.

In the meantime, for some quality, handmade, unbranded, vintage porcelain made by dinnerware artisans, head over to www.etsy.com/shop/japonicanyc !

Exposing Your (Creative) Bones

(Don’t flat out refuse like this cowboy) New York, New York

Friday musings about being torn between the reluctance to share and desire to protect.

Exposing Your (Creative)Bones

In college, I took an intro to entrepreneurship class. We were required to present a business idea to the class. I, always brimming with ideas (usually as a result of my own frustration with some aspect of daily life), piped up.

“What if someone steals it?”

My professor didn’t miss a beat, even though he often would pause before speaking.

“You will be doing yourself a disservice. Keeping it to yourself will not prevent anything. It is your idea, your passion. Other people may listen, and like the idea, and yes, they could take it and run with it, but it burns brightly within you, with a fire that they do not possess. If you truly believe in it, and work for it,  it will belong to you.”

(I am paraphrasing this, as my memory has not improved with age, fancy that!)

I pondered this. Did I want to divulge my (what I thought brilliant idea) to a group of young eager students all dying to make money?

Reluctantly, I took his advice. Some of their eyes brightened, a few less had a bone to pick, thus of course driving me crazy, and he himself enjoyed it, but had some reservations, as he did with most of the others too. And that’s when I realized.

You need feedback. Secrecy does one no favours when it comes to developing an idea- we humans are not meant to operate alone; most mammals live in packs or groups. Scores of great things never would have been built/achieved/discovered if it hadn’t been for teamwork.

You need a fresh outlook, a different perspective other then your own. When you love something, often you are too close to it to see the imperfections. You overlook the flaws and focus on the favoured.

With the age of technology and social media, a lot of artists put their work out there. I often ponder this with my own Instagram account- I want people to see and like them, but at the same time, with all of the re-posting that goes on, I am so afraid of someone taking credit for my heart and soul as their own.

Yes, there are selfish people, who are in higher positions and may use the ideas of those less powerful, to spin them into something better, or blatantly copy for higher gain. This is a risk, but unfortunately this can’t always be avoided. A creative idea is almost like a child- you give birth to it, you love it; it’s your creation. The pain of having it stolen away is unbearable. Fight for it back; you can’t let them win.

So, do we shield our ideas from view? If you hide, no one will ever know you are any good, and you will most definitely never get discovered. The written word is especially hard- someone may not copy every line, but steal fragments here and there that sound suitable. But, if no  one ever reads your work, no one will definitely ever want to then read your work.

What do you think? Are you hesitant to expose your ideas, bare your creative being? Not for fear of ridicule, but because it will no longer be yours if it is out there? Or are you all for sharing, growing, editing- confident in the fact that it will remain yours?

10 Ways To Justify A Purchase

(This was over the course of a year, I swear! Or was that 365 minutes?) Brooklyn, New York

The things that you try to tell people when you know you shouldn’t have bought something (All in good humor)

10 Reasons You Justify A Purchase

  1. Time. “I’ll have this replica of Big Ben until my children’s children’s cousin’s ex-wife has children! The test of time….”
  2. Quality. “But…its four ply cashemere, the other sweater was see-through…”
  3. “It’s $3 off of $150 for this vial of sand from Egypt! You know it’ll never go lower then this!”
  4. “In HomeGoods they were $40, but this cute little old lady in Missouri is selling it for $4. You know replica flowered milkcans, theres a lot of details in those flowers….”
  5. Can’t Find it Anywhere Else. “Where else can I find a pair of earrings consisting of a frying pan and a slice of toast with eyes? Sold!”
  6. Aspirational Shopping. “I know, I know, I am a size six and these are a zero from 1996; but I went jogging for ten minutes with Jen the other day….”
  7. Once In A lifetime opportunity! “They never carry vacuum cleaners in pink- who wants boring gray?”
  8. It’ll go perfectly with…. “Those green burlesque Betsey Johnson pumps I picked up at her Hamptons yard sale five years ago!” and never wore.
  9. One of A Kind Item. “I’ve never seen a kitty litter box that the cat has to jump into before….mess free! Must buy”
  10. I’m Indulging My Whims. “Oh, I got a C on that assignment the other day, I definitely deserve this antique Moroccan kohl container…. Oh c’mon! It was statistics!”

 

So you go on https://www.etsy.com/shop/JaponicaNYC and shop for vintage porcelain items until your hearts content….

3 Stores For The Rest Of Your Life

(Then again, a french supermarket might be a good idea, as you’d never lack for sweets…how DO they stay so slim?!) Paris, France

If you could only shop at 3 businesses for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This is, shop for EVERYTHING. Food, clothes, makeup, hardware, technology, EVERYTHING !

We humans love to choose our “favourites”. Favourite food? Favourite television show when you were seven? Favourite shade of white to use for a wedding dress? No matter how trivial, we like to declare our personal favourites.

I’ll start off with mine:

  • Any of the huge European general stores/hypermarkets. Carrefour, etc.  Like a Wal-Mart (which I refuse to step into or support), but way better quality products. Food, toiletries, you name it….
  • Bloomingdales. What can I say, they carry everything you could possibly need to outfit yourself for any situation, casual or formal.
  • Apple. Because unfortunately my two other options don’t carry technology products. Maybe I should say some other technology store that as more variety, in case I want other things? Ok, I was a weak one with this choice.

But then again, there’s also Etsy….where you can buy clothes, collectibles, craft kits to entertain you forever…and vintage porcelain at www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

Nostalgia & Quality

(I think the graffiti only adds to the character, don’t you?) Bushwick, Brooklyn New York

Monday morning musings about the tie between nostalgia and the quality of products

“Antique-design table”. “Retro hand-mirror”. “Converted radio flyer planter”. Every which way you turn, something harkens to days past, when it may in fact be brand new.  Nostalgia for days gone by, your younger years, has always been present. However, I feel more and more, in pop articles and articles generated by the bunch, that people are yearning for yesteryear. Why does this seem more prevalanet? Times were always simpler, inventions and such have always existed.

This is a topic that has been long debated, and I won’t profess to having any answer. However, in terms of nostalgia pertaining to home products, this is a lot easier to pin down.

Quality is the key word to this nostalgia for old products, buildings and designs. As I walk along Fulton Street in Brooklyn, I see so many old brownstones being gutted, just empty shells standing, while other less desirable structures are merely bulldozed and new, generic, bland looking buildings are erected in what feels like mere minutes. No decorative detailing, and everything looks eerily temporary, despite the steel beams and cement.

Technology, although wonderful with all we can accomplish, has made the process of mass production possible. The more of something that exists, the less desirable it becomes, as it is not rare, unique. We humans seem to crave uniqueness, why, maybe because we have less and less to worry about. “Too much of a good thing” is perhaps true. If you were to all of a sudden possess 300 Sailor Moon Sculptures, the original would immediately lose its value, its prestige, when before it was as rare as the “Heart of The Ocean” (diamond necklace from Titanic, duh!)

When something is handmade now, we see it as a gift from the heart, something special, something that will ultimately cost more money because it took much more time and skill to produce.  It is something unique, as no mold is being used, no two products can be completely identical.

As time goes by and the technology is honed and perfected, it somehow makes products less and less respectable, despite often improving certain aspects about them. New materials and ways of using old ones to maximize profit and minimize costs are being produced. For example, polyester is cheap, and man-made, and although can imitate silk, it does not hold a candle to the quality of silk, no matter how nice the drape is.

The items hailed from simpler times, when the current worries of the modern world did not exist, or were just a far off future issue that were not actively on our minds. With worrying about whether your Instagram post was filtered enough or if the Starbucks new drink is going to have too many calories, it is nice to rest your eyes on something from a time where you had to wait by the landline phone to hear back from someone and milk cost 10 cents, not 8$ at WholeFoods. Sub-conciously, they sooth us.

Maybe when all of the similar looking brownstones were developed, people felt the same way about them .”Oh look, another 3-window façade with a flowered scroll etched in the cement above them. Not again!” Just because we see NOW that they were quite beautiful structures, doesn’t mean that when they were new, people thought the same thing.

Perhaps it takes a lot of time to pass to realize what we had, to adjust, to accept, to realize that something is not all that bad. Maybe sixty years from now we’ll think that that clothes from Forever21 are something to clamor for, but in the meantime….. I’ll just shop for vintage porcelain dinnerware and other cute vintage items on www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

Top 10 Ways You Know You’re Obsessed With Your Stuff

(There’s nothing wrong with carrying an antique mouse- look, she fits right in !) Berlin

You’ve been this way since you were two (home videos to prove it). Written with more then a touch of humor-Happy Friday!

  1. Your cats knock over your snow globe from Austria and you scream so loud your downstairs neighbor phones in a distress call and the cops show up only to find you covered in fake snow and sobbing while your cat’s green eyes peep out from the cage where you have banished them (possibly for good).
  2. When doing an airport transfer, you happen to book the flight out of Vienna instead of a direct flight, just so you can replace the said broken snow globe (authenticity is important! And that 8-hour glue repair job leaked the water, making a ring on your antique table, thus causing another catastrophe).
  3. You purposefully step AROUND your antique Persian rug to avoid wearing it out- you want to be able to hang on to it for another 400 years, and just because the museums hang up the holy ones, doesn’t mean YOU like that raggedy look!
  4. When traveling, you opt to stay in the room one night because the new guy who moved into the bunk below you kept eyeballing your newly purchased lederhosen, and there’s no way you’re going to let that creep run off with them (after you just spent 45 minutes haggling with a man who kept drenching you with a shower of spit.)
  5. You buy a backup of each memorial shot glass so that in case the one you have on display breaks, you will have another one to remember the occasion by. Hey, when you say you have a shot glass from every state, you mean every state. Just because Hawaii was the last state to join doesn’t mean it’s going to be the first to leave!
  6. When you have guests over (twice a year), you immediately have to give them a tour of al of the new items you’ve picked up, like you are a guide at the Met or something. It only gets worse, after you’ve consumed half a bottle of wine and then proceed to show them your family photographs from 1880, fawning over relatives you never met.
  7. You don’t let your best friend Magdalena from high school ever stay with you, even though she now lives 5296 miles away, because you remember her “sticky fingers” and know she’d love to set them onto your Barbie-esque pump collection. So, you pretend that you’ve now become a recluse, and can’t have guests, even though you live alone and have two guest bedrooms.
  8. You have a concise list and strategy prepared for the next family heirloom meeting (whoever said blood is thicker then water clearly hasn’t seen godmother Ingrid’s Ming vase collection).
  9. You let your battery powered toothbrush accidentally fall into your heater and in the mad rush in the morning, forgot to retrieve it, and then on the subway (do not) resist the urge to go home. Who cares if you’ll be 50 minutes late to work, the thought of your antique postcard collection from Las Vegas going up in flames after you outbid some old man by $300 is just too much to bear. Oh, and your cats? Yeah.
  10. Whenever someone mentions that you have too much stuff, you sigh, start combing the room, looking for things you “haven’t used in the past 10 months (years)” and such, move it all into a “going away” pile, only to stare pitifully, remembering how that was your first tube of Chanel lipgloss you bought back in the sixth grade…..

…and the items gravitate back to their spots, the spots that were all clean and shiny, from lack of dust. Boy, did your room just look, for a fraction of a second, so shiny. Wowwww!

So, you “forget” to give them away. Shop for vintage porcelain and other items  www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

The Trip-Ups (literally) Of Living Urban, With Pinterest Dreams

(just hit my elbow on that antique rocking horse again, ugh!)

Since discovering the floral-filled world of Etsy and Pinterest for my shop, I have been blown away buy the variety of merchandise for sale. There is a never ending supply of things that you could outfit your house with that even Martha Steward would raise an eyebrow at. Retro ice cream maker! Antique library stamp (to stamp my kindle?) The inner mom in me found me with a super modern tee-pee in my shopping cart- meant as a kids toy. At 5’7” it’s half my height. For where? The fire escape?

While some of these items seem blatantly unnecessary (I can just squeeze the lemons myself, really, I need to keep up these arm muscles), I’ll have to admit, I stare in wonder and think about going and unfreezing my credit card from that 20 pound block of ice to go on some wine fueled shopping spree. I would definitely be the hostess-with-the-mostess (forgetting that the friends I do have always adamantly refuse to come to Brooklyn, despite it being the place du jour. Thanks Lena Dunham!).

Then I remember, that I DO live in Brooklyn, and although my apartment is more spacious then a studio on York and 75th,  it is still not quite conductive to creating the amazing spreads that feature a different cloth napkin for every type of holiday imaginable that I see all over Pinterest. “I want this!” I cried ecstatically, only to meet the furious glare of my sister. “We downgraded my bed to a twin kid sized bed, and you want an antique television BAR?!” There goes the dream of literally watching bottles like the dancing wineglasses in Beauty and the Beast.

What should I do? Move to the country, or some suburbs where rent is affordable (certainly not Long Island, where the prices are mostly on par with Manhattan) so that I can make my Pinterest Dream Home? Am I missing out, while women my age in Wisconsin have their own craft rooms where they create hand knit owls for their kids playmates? I tried to make my bedroom my own art studio, and the one cat decided that the boxes of supplies were her new bed, and the other one decided the recycled metrocards looked better flying around the room. Dreams of a studio vanished.

Should I trade in my shoebox? When I could be living a Pinterest Paradise elsewhere, not tripping over your bed or your coffee table or shoeboxes (since the shoes cost as much as your rent and you insist on keeping them pristine, even though technically you wore them out in that blizzard the other night). Sometimes I wonder. I look wistfully at those accounts, those large homes with dining rooms! Living rooms! Dressing rooms! Basic, hallways and coat rooms and closets! But where would I buy batteries (don’t ask) at 2am, and find every cuisine in the world?

In life there are certain trade-offs, you get this, but you don’t get this. I guess you just have to decide which means more to you personally, at that moment. The motto now is, acquire what you need, survival way, not what you want. I will have to quell my desire for vintage porcelain cats after all, and maybe just squeeze the living, breathing ones I have.

Not quite ready to (ever) leave New York, so  I guess I’ll just have to stick with my tiny collectibles and admire the holiday spreads and handmade feathered wind chimes from afar, and just sell them on http://www.etsy.com/shops/japonicanyc

Tchochke Nation

Forget about Fast Food Nation. As Americans, we are a consumer nation. A hoarding nation, in less delicate terms. What’s with all the teacups? Yes, perhaps due to our (well, once) growing economy, we have over the years amassed a staggering amount of tchotchkes. I recently opened an Etsy shop, (closeted avid porcelain tableware collector) and realized just how far down the rabbit hole we have gone in terms of acquiring “stuff”. Is it called hoarding if each piece is not take-out containers and old balls of string? Hey, that….mug from MSG has a story I swear! I’ll go ahead and call it organized hoarding, to take some pressure off of myself and my treasure trove.

The term tchotchke is derived from a Yiddish word, which means a pretty, useless woman; in blunt terms: a trophy wife. Which is vaguely disturbing, but we Americans obviously shanghaied it and used it pretty much for the same purpose (useless decorative trinket), only in softer, less offensive terms, as we refer to inanimate, porcelain cats as tchotchkes, not living breathing humans. So have you. I’ve always been fond of the term, not sure what that means about me.

Maybe we should start with the history of human life and possessions. As nomads, cave people, for years, we moved from place to place. If you couldn’t carry it, it was not coming with you. Point blank. Also, being a primitive ‘society’, very few items were made. It was only when humans transitioned, staying put to plant and harvest crops, that we could begin to acquire more then we needed. However, during those times, humans did create the cave art that has been found, the little carved statues.

Tchotchkes are perhaps popular because originally they were a sign of wealth. As a person, you had the items you needed- pots, knives, dresses, hammers. Not even that. Immigrant families often shared silverware and such, just like in Bread Givers, a novel about Jewish immigrants in 1920’s New York. People on the Oregon Trail eventually abandoned their mementos, their heirloom grandfather clocks, as the oxen gave way, leaving behind an American Pickers wildest dreams, a trail of stuff. They survived with the bare minimum, because they had to.

If you had a porcelain doll, such as the popular Dresden dolls (from Dresden Germany- I couldn’t resist the lure and bought one when I visited), it meant that could afford items that were unnecessary, it was a sign of stability, a sign of at least minimum wealth (wealth being used as money, not as we use it generally). Then factories and technology to mass produce came along, and, at least in Europe and the United States, economies grew and people had more discretionary income to spend on whatever suited their fancy. That Virgin Mary statue? Sure go right ahead- add it to your collection of 50 others. Guinness!

Tchochkes often hold memories. A trip to Bosnia, I purchased a brass cat, which I eyeball on a daily basis, looking into those green eyes and thinking about how I was sweating in the 100-degree dry summer, touring mosques. Other tchotchkes are family heirlooms from a beloved grandmother, or perhaps a gift from a close friend. They can be useful- such as elaborate photo frames, clocks or pencil holders, salt and pepper shakers, even awards. But mostly, a true tchotchke has no purpose; it is just “a thing“ that we place high importance of.

They say that “home doo-dads” and Etsy stuff, are the things that women buy when they no longer care about impressing a beer belly husband, or their appearance. When they’ve given up on little dresses, either for themselves or for their children. Or when they’re single, and have nothing else in their lives to hold onto, lest that Tinder date, they fill up their homes with little porcelain angels, crosstitsch pillows and enough “Live Laugh Love” handcrafted signs,o army a gang of teenage girls (who also, interestingly, seem drawn to those inspirational signs). Quotes that they don’t even live by, but stare at wistfully.

Why not men? Men don’t seek out home décor, at least not in the same way that females do. Sure, I’ve met men who love antiques and vintage items, maybe an old tin firetruck, but they’re not out there purchasing potpourri containers and Sea World Memory Plates.

They decorate our homes, add a bit of colour to our office cubicles. They are the solution to what to give Aunt Birdie as a Christmas Gift. They make us smile, they are there if we need to throw something, and there when it’s moving day and you’re suffering a broken ankle. They’re art, they can even make us think. Just because things don’t have a crucial purpose, maybe that’s why we like them. We need something that just relaxes, that reminds us that the world is not so go-go-go all of the time. Maybe we hoard them because we don’t have to, that’s the beauty of something you don’t need. A frivolous want we can indulge in for 99 cents on eBay.

On that note, I’ll keep collecting my vintage plateware, I’ll not ship my heirloom antique makeup containers to Staten Island (dump), and I’ll keep smiling nostalgically at my paintings from Spain. Vive le tchotchke! Visit JaponicaNYC shop on Etsy to see my obsession.