Our booth at the Princeton Fall Antiques & Fine Arts Show 

Here's how things looked when we started out on Friday night:





Lighthouse Museum Stonington Historical Society

The 1823 lighthouse in Stonington Connecticut was first built in 1823 to guide vessels crossing Long Island Sound. Ships could see the beacon as far as 12 miles out to sea. Due to storms and erosion, the lighthouse was dismantled and rebuilt in its present location in 1840. It remained in use for the next 49 years. In 1927, it was designated as a museum and contains 6 rooms depicting local history and specialized trades through exhibits. The lighthouse museum exhibits antiques including a fine display of Stonington pottery. Visitors can climb to the tower and see a sweeping view of the harbor and shoreline.



Grain Painting Workshop at the Mennonite Heritage Center

I'm a technician. I'm not satisfied with ideas or book knowledge. I need to learn by doing. So, every opportunity I get, I try to learn something new about the world of material culture.

The Mennonite Heritage Center in Harleysville, PA has regular workshops that teach some craft from Pennsylvania German folk art culture. Today, I joined a workshop led by Jim King to learn grain painting. That's important to me since we sell so many objects decorated with grain painting.

So what is grain painting? It's that technique you've seen on picture frames, blanket chests (like this one, cupboards--just about anything wood. It's a fanciful way of putting a patterned decoration on a painted surface. It works like this: the piece gets a coating of paint called the ground. Yellow is a nice starting point:

A wooden box with yellow ground paint

 Then, the artist applies a glaze paint that will create the grain effect. After brushing the glaze (a contrasting color, like brown or red), the artist then uses a tool or their hand to create a repeating pattern by scraping some of the glaze off the base. Combs, corn cob, sponge and finger prints all work well:

Using a tool to create a pattern in the glazeThere aren't many rules to this art. During the 18th and 19th centuries, the Pennsylvania artists didn't really aim to recreate wood grain. The painters produced exuberant surface effects that show a lot of joy and delight in playing with this medium. So, now I know first-hand the anatomy, if not the art, of a grain painted surface. (Stay tuned for my finished pieces--they still need shellac and trim paint.)


Goschenhoppen Folk Festival

The Goschenhoppen Folk Festival is celebrating it's 43rd year this weekend. The festival is the primary educational event held by The Goschenhoppen Historians. The Goschenhoppen Historians was established as an educational society dedicated to learning about preserving and teaching the Pennsylvania German folk culture.

We saw a potter making redware, a wood turner making spokes for a wheel, all manner of textile crafts, and timber dressers. Central to Pennsylvania Dutch (as the English called them) life was worship. So, of course I stopped by to see the organ maker:

We stopped by a wood carver who specializes in bird carvings. He makes bird trees. These are bent sassafras branches mounted on a turned base. On the model tree, the maker attaches hand carved and painted birds. This carver had a tree with eight birds. Bird trees were a form of whimsical craft. They were made by amateurs for decoration in the home. Because they were fragile, very few have survived. The few that come to market in good condition and are of bent branch material can fetch steep prices.

We really admire and are grateful for the superb work the Goschenhoppen Historians are doing. They have acquired the Henry Antes house and surrounding 26 acres. They have a master plan for building out the site for expanded educational use. This is exciting, and we wish them the very best of success.



Captain Palmer House, Stonington, CT

Built in 1852, this house was the home for two brothers, both sea captains. They originally named the house “Pine Point” after the area between the 2 coves of Stonington.

The house has 16 rooms and was considered a marvel in its time. One bedroom contains a sink with running water, fed by a cistern on the roof which held rainwater. The Captain’s office has a built-in desk within a closet; another room has a china closet.

The older brother, Captain Nathaniel Brown Palmer, inadvertently earned fame--he landed on Antarctica during a sailing expedition for seals. He didn’t know that’s where he was until later. Today, a section of land in Antarctica is named “Palmer Land” in honor of him.