Hey, Is This Collectible Antique, Vintage or Retro?

For any of us who are collectors of anything of value (hopefully real as opposed to merely perceived), we are at some point or another — and more often than not, at numerous points — confronted with the niggling thought as to whether what we’ve been collecting are antiques, vintage items, or retro pieces. Similarly, those of us who sell collectibles — as we do here at Dogbotz Boneyard — are asked the question “Is it antique, vintage or retro?” by our customers. Now there has been excessive discussion about this topic on auction websites such as the ubiquitous eBay, on blogs focusing on collectibles (such as this one), in newsletters (e- and not), etc. So much discussion, in fact, that I was at first loathe to add my proverbial two cents until, of course, Randy (one of our customers) asked me the very same question about the 1945 edition of the Cootie game we presented a few blogs ago (see Why Collect Vintage Games? posted August 27, 2012).

However, before reviewing the age differences between antique, vintage and retro, I thought it might be best to consider what exactly is a collectible, since many folks have sent me e-mails about that subject as well. In my experience, collectibles fall into three categories: manufactured, personal passion, and memorabilia.

A manufactured collectible is an item made specifically for people to collect — think any sort of tradable cards, such as those featuring sports celebrities or the fantastic creatures of Magic: The Gathering; Spiderman tumblers sold through a national fast-food restaurant chain; Hallmark Christmas ornaments, and so forth. The terms special edition, limited edition and variants such as deluxe edition and collector’s edition fall under the category of manufactured collectibles, since they are used as marketing incentives for various kinds of products, originally published products related to the arts, such as books, prints or recorded music and films, but now including cars, cigars and fine wine. A limited edition is restricted in the number of copies produced, although, in fact, the number may be either quite low or high. A special edition implies extra material of some kind is included.

A personal passion collectible is an item that was not initially nor intentionally created to be collected; however, at the point when different people purposefully began to purchase numerous items of similar style, function, design and often origin, they became by default “collected.” For example, I doubt that Shaker women of bygone centuries thought, as they were crafting their baskets, “A-ha! Some day this egg basket along with the dozen others I’ve woven (not to mention those of young Sally Fair or that gentle and wise Mrs. Smith) will be collected by folks in the 21st century so they can make mucho bucks from my toil!” The same probably holds true for match boxes, andirons, Victorian door knobs, Depression glassware and Inuit snowshoes.

The third important field of collecting is memorabilia, which includes collectibles related to a person, organization, or event, including t-shirts, posters, program booklets and numerous other paraphernalia marketed to fans. Memorabilia, though, can also include ephemera from historical, media, or entertainment events. Initially, these were items that were meant to be thrown away, yet they were saved by fans and later accumulated by collectors. Memorabilia from rock concerts, historic sporting events, and even political rallies (save those Obama and Romney signs!) are much sought after ever since memorabilia as a collectible category has become big business.

So, to review: Items marketed to be collected such as Captain America glasses are manufactured collectibles. Items collected out of a unique interest to a certain individual or group such as Art Deco inkwells are personal passion collectibles. Items associated with significant events or celebrities that were produced for one-time use but were saved by others as a cultural reminder of the times are memorabilia.

A final word about collectibles: Because a limited supply of collectibles of any sort exists, they are sought for a variety of reasons, including a possible increase in value. From a financial perspective, collectibles can be viewed as a hedge against inflation. Over time, the value of collectibles may also increase as they become rarer due to loss, damage or destruction. One drawback to investing in collectibles is the potential lack of liquidity, particularly for very obscure items. My rule of thumb? Well, I ask myself, would someone else be interested in buying what I just did? For example, am I the only person who values the vivid, fluid, and magical imagery of a Kathleen Kills Thunder painting? If so, it’ll probably end up being donated to a museum of First Nations artwork when I die. If not, I should collect her works and sell them when the time is right. The same holds true for that Kenneth J. Lane Maltese Cross brooch or that cast-iron Aunt Jemima doorstop.

Ok, now, is that painting, brooch or doorstop antique, vintage, or retro? I don’t doubt that whatever I say will be contested by throngs of others. But, hey, that’s part of the fun of blogging!

Here’s my take!

Antique: The Merriam Webster dictionary defines an antique as “a work of art, piece of furniture, or decorative object made at an earlier period and according to various customs laws was created, made, or manufactured at least 100 years ago.” That said, the stereographic cards manufactured in 1908 that I just acquired from a nearby estate sale (and plan to re-sell on Dogbotz Boneyard) are antique as they are, quite simply, photographic images more than 100 years old. Even the stereoscope that I purchased with the cards qualifies as an antique, as it was manufactured in 1897.

Vintage: Okay, now there are those who really (and I mean really) hate this term, and perhaps rightly so, hence they whine. The word vintage relates originally to a specific year in which a wine was produced, such as a chardonnay vintage 1998. Later the term was associated with vehicles (a vintage 1967 Mustang), and much later with everything else (my HP Pavilion Entertainment PC laptop vintage 2010).

Lovely as the supposedly “official” use of the term vintage is, language is a living process, which means that shifts in grammar, syntax and vocabulary (gasp!) are constantly occurring. Thus is the fate of vintage! Though debate ensues as to whether the term refers to items that are at least 20 years old, 30 years old, or 50, I defer to a common website where folks can sell (not auction) their goods — Etsy. I know, not the most academic of resources, but if thousands of folks can sell thousands of products a year on Etsy, then that website is reflecting back to us — the everyday sellers and buyers — want vintage means to the general public. And for Etsy, that’s 20 years. So, I follow that rule of thumb for goods I sell on Dogbotz Boneyard. If I indicate an item is vintage, it was made a minimum of 20 years ago but not exceeding 100 years.

Retro: The word retro simply refers to an item (frequently, but not always, clothing, accessories, and jewelry) that looks out of style for the current time period. Thus, any new design that references styles, structures, or ideas from the past is deemed retro. Other interchangeable terms are retro vintage or vintage inspired. This should not be confused with a reproduction, which is an item that is purposefully made to look exactly like an antique or vintage product but that uses contemporary materials in its manufacturing process.

Hopefully, you now have a better feel for what a collectible is and, based on its age, whether it’s antique, vintage or retro. I have provided examples of products available at Dogbotz Boneyard to illustrate the three types of collectibles as well as the age-restricted terms.

Hassle me if you disagree with my thoughts.

All the best,

Patrick Price
Proprietor
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

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The Truth behind Nemadji Pottery — or the Great American Indian Hoax?

Since the grand opening of Dogbotz Boneyard this past June, Dan and I have been selling in our Home Goods department a variety of Nemadji Pottery pieces. You know — wedding vases, ribbed ewers, miniature bowls, and so forth.

We love Nemadji Pottery because of the striking color splashes and swirls created by the natural clay during the firing process. No glazing is ever used on the exterior, leaving the vase or bowl with a creamy matte finish. Only the interiors of the pieces are glazed for firing and left glossy and water-resistant when done. Thus, one of the best incentives for collecting Nemadji Pottery lies in the fact that no two exteriors are ever the same. Though some of the shapes of various Nemadji Pottery pieces have been duplicated, the colorful swirls that decorate the exteriors are always unique. This is the creative, if not artistic, force of Nature at her most sublime.

One seldom contests this natural wonder, but the debate persists on who created Nemadji Pottery. Are the origins of this stunning pottery Native American or of some other culture? Now, we have stated in the descriptions of the Nemadji Pottery pieces sold at Dogbotz Boneyard that the works are not Native American, despite the fact that the word Nemadji itself, which translates loosely as “left-handed,” is Ojibwa (also known as Chippewa) in origin. And for many, it follows that, if the pottery bears a Native American name, it must be crafted by Native Americans.  Well, it isn’t.

There are numerous misinformed folks, including some collectors (which I find phenomenal), who believe that Nemadji Pottery must have been made by American Indians because the pieces are made from “native clay.” Hmmm, really? Could it be that the word native here implies the concept of “indigenous to the region,” not “indigenous peoples”? Others quirkily claim that Nemadji Pottery was made by Nemadji Indians. Hardly! Sorry, folks, but half of my genetic makeup is Ojibwa and I can tell you no Nemadji Indian tribe exists. There are those who are “lefties” such as my brother Michael, but they hardly constitute an entire tribe! Even more elaborate mythic musings have been generated based on the markings of Indian heads, canoes, etc., on the bottom of the pottery, which surely must confirm that these beautiful pieces are exotic art crafted by Native Americans. But, alas no; it just isn’t so. Nor are Ojibwa folk or other tribal nations the perpetrators of such inaccurate notions.

Instead, here are the facts behind the hoax.

Nemadji Tile and Pottery started production in Moose Lake, Minnesota, in 1923. Originally producing Nemadji Tile from clay collected at the Nemadji River, the studio produced Nemadji Pottery during the Depression to fuel tourist markets, usually in the western and northeastern United States. The pottery was marketed as “resembling” ancient Indian artifacts, so Nemadji Pottery became known euphemistically as “Indian” pottery. As stated earlier, the pottery’s name, which roughly translates as “left-handed,” originates from the Ojibwa language; however, the craftsmen originated mostly from Scandinavia.

Nemadji Pottery has a very distinctive look. It is typified by its swirled paint look, which was developed by Eric Hellman in 1929. Hellman went on to work for Van Briggle Pottery before World War II and opened the Garden of the Gods Pottery in Colorado Springs in 1950. The last Nemadji Pottery was produced during 2002.

There — you have it. Nonetheless, in the end, what’s truly remarkable about Nemadji Pottery isn’t the craftsmen who fashioned and fired it but the inherent breathtaking beauty of the clay revealed once fired.

Here are some delightful examples of Nemadji Pottery available through Dogbotz Boneyard’s Home Goods department, plus we’ve added some images of the brand marking:

Geegawabimin (roughly “Until later”),

Patrick Price
Proprietor
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

Why Collect Vintage Games?

“With all the video, computer and Internet games available to kids these days, why would anyone want to buy vintage board or card games!” That sentiment was conveyed to me by Jason, a longtime business colleague. When I informed Jason that just the other day I had a customer who purchased not one but four vintage games from Dogbotz Boneyard, one of which was fully designed, written, and produced during pre-World War II Germany, he was amazed. “Wow! Really?” was all he could say.

As a former editor of fantasy role-playing games in the 1980s for TSR, Inc., the then-producer of Dungeons & Dragons and its various spawn, I learned that play in all of its diverse formats is a fundamental human endeavor. The ancient Romans termed that concept homo ludens, “the playful man.” In fact, much can be learned about a culture by studying how its citizens approach the idea of play. Anthropologists and sociologists have done much research in this arena, and from archaeological discoveries, we have learned that some of the basic components of play are several millennia old — dice, sticks, tokens, and even playing tiles or cards. These are devises we still use to this very day for play. Even the more “modern” games such as Go, Halma, Mahjong, Chess, Checkers, Backgammon, and those based on the standard 52-card, four-suit card deck are all antique, if not ancient, and are the progenitors to Old Maid, Stratego, Monopoly, Yahtzee, Scrabble, and so forth.

So, contemporary collectors of vintage games are sometimes motivated to add to their collections because they appreciate the historic perspective a game might convey. For example, the very rare 1890 Game of Dr. Busby is a sought-after card game because of its less-than-politically correct portrayals of  African Americans, caricatures that were rampant prior to and well beyond the turn of the 19th century.

Another impetus, which follows alongside historic appreciation, is the artwork created to illustrate the various components of a game. Board games, for instance, have been around since Victorian times. These games were beautifully lithographed and generally had intricately detailed artwork, playing pieces and storage containers. The oldest board games, whether manufactured in the U.S.A. or Europe, are hot commodities in today’s collectible market, the rarest selling for a minimum of $10,000. Turning to more recent times and remembering the artist contracts that I drafted as a game editor, I can guarantee you that the collectibility of the artwork (both color and grayscale) that has populated heroic fantasy and science fiction role-playing games since the 1980s  is . . . well, let’s just say, a huge market.

The more iconic a game becomes, the more its variants may become collectible as well, which makes the vintage game market more dynamic. Think about it! How many versions of Monopoly are there? I am not merely talking about the different editions of the standard game or its computer or Internet versions but the thematic diversity the essence of the game has engendered. Austin-opoly, Gay Monopoly, and, even one Dogbotz Boneyard has for sale, Dino-opoly — all of these are the thematic grandchildren (or perhaps, step-children) of an old master.

Finally, and with prevalency among the Baby Boomer generation, the desire to recapture one’s childhood is a motivating factor for many who collect vintage games. Therefore, some Boomer collectors seek to purchase the vintage Dark Shadows board game for the same reasons that they watched the similarly named Tim Burton film that brought to life almost 50 years later perhaps the oddest of all TV soap operas ever written and produced.  And so it goes with the Dukes of Hazard game or the Man from U.N.C.L.E. game or even images of Jerry Mathers himself in the numerous Leave It to Beaver games featuring different storylines.

Historical appreciation, beautifully designed and artistic components, thematic diversity and childhood regained are some of the reasons that I believe people collect vintage board and card games. But perhaps the most important of all is, quite simply, it’s a lotta fun!

If you are a collector of vintage games, or if you are seeking to start a games collection, here are great examples of vintage board and card games as well as other vintage toys and models available through the Playthings department of Dogbotz Boneyard.

Now it’s your turn to roll the dice or play a card!

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

Outsider Art: Raw, Naïve, and Psychic — or Mad, Fantastic, and Psychotic?

When we announced in our recent Dogbotz Boneyard newsletter that our August art exhibit would feature folk and outsider artists, many of you indicated that you weren’t sure what the term outsider artist meant or what sort of art to expect for sale at the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art.  Readers indicated that they knew what folk art entailed (and many others thought they did), but not too many were sure about outsider art. Well, here’s what we know — and we’ll try to contain it in the proverbial nutshell.

Historically, the term outsider art was first coined in 1972 by art critic Roger Cardinal, who was trying to define in English the concept of art brut (“raw art” in French), a label that had been created by French artist Jean Dubuffet to describe artwork created outside the periphery of official culture. In particular, Dubuffet was interested in art created by those outside the “established” art scene such as children, beggars or the homeless, or mentally ill patients.

The actual awareness of the forms or creative expressions beyond the accepted or traditional cultural norms, which were defined by the realm of academia or “fine art,” began with the research studies conducted by psychotherapists in the early 20th century. The most significant work of that era was Artistry of the Mentally Ill, a documented study by Dr. Hans Prinzhorn, who collected thousands of works created by his psychiatric patients. This study became an influential document among the Surrealists and other artists.

One artist particularly affected by the artwork Prinzhorn presented to his peers as well as to the general public was Jean Dubuffet. With the assistance of regional artists and writers, Dubuffet formed in 1948 La Compagnie de l’Art Brut and then sought and collected works of extreme individuality and inventiveness by artists who were not only untrained but also often had little concept of an art gallery or even any other forms of art other than their own.

Dubuffet’s concept of what constituted L’Art Brut, or Raw Art, were those works that existed in their “raw” state, unaffected by cultural and artistic influences that defined fine art of the day. Dubuffet gathered a vast collection of thousands of works, those which bore no relation to developments in contemporary art yet were innovative and powerful expressions of a wide range of individuals from a variety of backgrounds. Typically, those labeled as outsider artists had little or no contact with the mainstream art world or art institutions. In many cases, their work was discovered only after their deaths. Often, outsider art illustrated extreme mental states, unconventional ideas, or elaborate fantasy worlds.

Dubuffet’s great collection eventually found a permanent home in the city of Lausanne, France, and La Collection de l’Art Brut is now one of the most powerful and overwhelming outsider art museums to be found anywhere in the world. Today, an increased awareness of all the diverse works of outsider artists has led to a network of small organizations in both Europe and the United States devoted to the preservation of such works and the support of their creators. Similar collections to the one in Lausanne have been established in many countries, and exhibitions of different aspects of the phenomena are a regular occurrence.

DEFINITIONS

Ever since awareness of the phenomenon began, controversy has surrounded the exact definition of outsider art and its allied fields. Therefore, we provide you with some definitions that, as an art enthusiast or collector, may help you understand the differences.

Art Brut: “Raw art” (English translation) is artwork that is metaphorically “uncooked,” which is to say that it is artwork unadulterated by the culture from which it originates. Raw  implies creation in its most direct and uninhibited form. Not only are the works unique and original, but their creators are seen to exist outside established culture and society. Art Brut is visual creation at its purest, a spontaneous psychic flow from brain to paper.

Neuve Invention: Dubuffet soon realized that many artists were producing works of comparable impact and inventiveness as those designated as Art Brut; however, their greater contact with normal society and the awareness they had of their art precluded their inclusion within the strict Art Brut category. These folks are often humble workers who create art in their spare time, or eccentric and untrained artists trying to make a living from their work — some of whom have dealings with commercial galleries.

Outsider Art: Today, this term not only encompasses the concepts of Art Brut and Neuve Invention but also refers to the works of almost any untrained artist. It is simply not enough to be untrained, clumsy or naive. Outsider art is virtually synonymous with Art Brut in both spirit and meaning, to that rarity of art produced by those who do not know its name.

Folk Art: This simple and direct term has become much used — and over-used — especially in North America. Originally pertaining to the indigenous crafts and decorative skills of peasant communities in Europe, the term was later applied to the simply made practical objects of colonial days — a combination of charm and practical craftsmanship. In contemporary terms, folk art can now cover anything from chain-saw animals to hub-cap buildings. The crossover with outsider art is undeniable; however, most folk art emanates from a set of cultural traditions  and societal norms, which are often vastly different from the psychic flow of Art Brut.

To test your skills of identification, we’ve added some examples of outsider art intermingled with folk art that will be available through the Dogbotz Boneyard Gallery of Art in the coming weeks as part of our “Folk & Outsider Art” exhibit. Can you properly identify which pieces are outsider art as opposed to folk art? If you can, send us an e-mail at info@dogbotz.com indicating the art category of each piece and win a prize!

Enjoy the new exhibit as it unfolds in the weeks ahead,

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

What Costume Jewelry Is, and Isn’t

After reviewing the Wearables department of Dogbotz Boneyard, Claire wanted to know what exactly constitutes “costume jewelry.” In her e-mail she asked, “Isn’t any cheap jewelry made from the 1930s on referred to as costume jewelry in today’s market?” And my response is, “Well, no, not exactly!” To genuinely appreciate what constitutes costume jewelry, you need to understand the three major categories of jewelry: fine, bridge and costume.

When I think of fine jewelry, my mind automatically turns to the renowned French designer of classic jewelry and watches, Cartier. And, if I consider the works of Cartier, I note that what makes them excellent examples of fine jewelry is that his pieces are all made with precious metals such as platinum and karated gold. In addition, his jewelry is often set with precious gemstones  — be they diamonds, emeralds, rubies or sapphires. So, fine jewelry is made, in essence, of precious metals and precious gemstones

Bridge jewelry, on the other hand, is exactly what its name implies — a transitional style between fine and costume jewelry. Like its more flashy cousin, bridge jewelry is also composed of previous metals, most frequently silver; however, semi-precious gemstones such as amethyst, aquamarine, citrine, grant, opal and topaz are used instead. How do you know if a gemstone is semi-precious or not? Simple: If it’s not one of the four gemstones listed in fine jewelry, it’s deemed “semi-precious.”

Examples of bridge jewelry sold through Dogbotz Boneyard include the pieces made by jewelry designer Darlene Soyka.

Movie producer Cecil B. DeMille first coined the term costume jewelry in the 1930s to describe non-precious jewelry. Following the logical progression of the first two types of jewelry, one can easily conclude that costume jewelry made with base metals that are gold-, rhodium- or silver-plated (often called “gold tone” or “silver tone”) and set with “artificial” faceted-glass stones such as rhinestones or crystals. Think the brand name Swarovski here.

Numerous sub-categories of costume jewelry exist. For example cloisonné refers to costume jewelry that has enamel divided by sections of metal, whereas as diamante means “set with rhinestones” In addition, as it uses non-precious materials, costume jewelry has been made from a great gamut of materials, including papier-mâché, celluloid and Bakelite.

But, beware: Just because costume jewelry is not composed of precious metals or precious or semi-precious gemstones, it isn’t necessarily “cheap.” In fact, collectors of vintage costume jewelry have paid up to $5,000 and more for a single piece of jewelry. For example, a high quality piece of Bakelite jewelry in excellent condition may cost well into the thousands. On the opposite side of the costume jewelry spectrum, the necklaces, earrings and bracelets made by contemporary jewelry designers such as Kenneth Jay Lane and Napier are reasonably priced and available through large department stores.

Here are some wonderful and diverse examples of bridge (the first three images) and costume jewelry (the final six) that Dogbotz Boneyard offers:

Finally, only jewelry that catches your eye and pleases you is truly worth buying and collecting!

Continue to sparkle,

Patrick Price
Proprietor
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
http://www.dogbotz.com

Voices of the Stone Nation

My dear friend Amy was curious as to why Dogbotz Boneyard, an online resale shop of eclectic vintage items, would also include in its store inventory totem carvings, fetishes and spheres made from gemstones, fossils, or petrified wood. “Patrick, I mean, really, a hematite fox fetish or a sphere of bloodstone?”  Amy questioned in a recent e-mail. “Shaker ladder-back chairs, primitive stoneware jugs, and Nemadji Pottery vases, I can understand — these are vintage goods. But an orb of Peruvian blue opal?”

When my partner Dan and I first contemplated the mission of Dogbotz Boneyard, we wanted not only to promote the concepts of reselling, recycling, and repurposing to help protect Mother Earth’s valuable resources but also to focus on natural substances. When one considers that the Great Pacific Plastic Garbage Patch has increased 100-fold in the last 40 years, the last thing we need is more plastic. Thus, the immediacy for reselling, recycling, and repurposing existing products as well as selling natural goods that eventually biodegrade seems all too apparent. Hence, at Dogbotz Boneyard, we focus on the sale of naturally made products, of which stones fall into this category, in addition to the resale of usable vintage items.

Yet equally as important, as a First Nations man, I believe that all the peoples of Earth Mother (and here I am not merely referring to the diverse communities of humanity) have something to teach us, if we just remain quiet and listen to their voices. Native cultures (whether Lakota, Maori, Celtic or Yoruba) know that the Stone Nation is the eldest voice of Earth Mother, as the stones, caverns, sands and soil have shaped her flesh throughout the millennia. Since this nation’s life existence far exceeds our own brief mortal journey, much ancestral memory, spiritual awareness, and perennial wisdom is contained therein. Thus, the Elders remind us that the stones have much to teach and we have much to learn from them.

My intent here is not to present a treatise on the healing vibrations or spiritual teachings of each type of stone, precious or not. Many books have been written on this subject by longtime practitioners who use stones in healing work, meditations and visualizations, and/or spiritual or shamanic journeys. Nonetheless, for the novice, I do recommend Healing with Crystals and Gemstones by Daya Sarai Chocron and The Book of Stones: Who They Are & What They Teach by Robert Simmons and Naisha Ahsian (what a delightfully palindromic name!). These are the main texts I review when describing the healing voices of the stone carvings, fetishes, and spheres sold through our Etc. Department at Dogbotz Boneyard.

Instead, my goal is to challenge you to take the time to marvel at the ancient beauty and experience the mystery of stones. Pick one up and consider its colors, structure, texture, hardness, and so on. Hold it, if you can, between your palms and then be still while breathing deeply and listening to what it has to share. When we begin honoring what nature has to offer us in terms of guidance, we understand that each voice of the Stone Nation (well, any nation for that matter, be it four-leggeds, wingeds, herbs, trees, creepy crawlers, or the celestial beings) has a unique story that heals us. And so, when we need to strengthen team dynamics, the imagery of cohesive scales of Dragon Septarian can show us the way. Or if we need to remember the potent messages of our dreams, we have a friend in the silver striations among the midnight field of Black Tourmaline.

Thus, we make available such natural guides at Dogbotz Boneyard. Here are a few examples:

All the best,

Patrick Price
Proprietor
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

A Brief Introduction to Shaker Artifacts

We recently heard from a young mother who was intrigued by the Shaker artifacts that we have available at Dogbotz Boneyard, both in the Furniture and Home Goods categories. However, as she considers herself to be a novice, contemplating whether to start collecting Shaker goods, she asked if we could provide a brief introduction to Shaker artifacts.

The United Society of Believers in Christ’s Second Appearing, known as the Shakers, is a religious sect originally thought to be a development of the Religious Society of Friends. Founded upon the teachings of Ann Lee, Shakers today are mostly known for their cultural contributions (especially in music and furniture).

The Shakers’ dedication to hard work and perfection has resulted in a unique range of architecture, furniture and handicraft styles. They designed furniture with care, believing that making something well was in itself, “an act of prayer.” Before the late 19th century, Shakers rarely fashioned items with elaborate details or decoration, making only things for their practical intended uses. The ladder-back chair was a popular piece of furniture. Shaker craftsmen made most things out of pine or other inexpensive woods; thus, their furniture was light in color and weight.

Early 19th-century Shaker interiors are characterized by an austerity and simplicity. For example, they had a “peg rail,” a continuous wooden device with pegs running all along it near the lintel level of a room. Shakers used the pegs to hang up clothes, hats, and very light furniture pieces such as chairs when not in use. At the end of the 19th-century, however, Shakers adopted some aspects of Victorian decor, such as ornate carved furniture, patterned linoleum, and cabbage-rose wallpaper.

Shakers won respect and admiration for their productive farms and orderly communities. Their industry was the crucible for many unique inventions; for example, the rotary harrow, the circular saw, the clothespin, the flat broom and the wheel-drive washing machine. Shakers were also the first large producers of medicinal herbs in the United States and pioneers in the sale of seeds in paper packets.

By the middle of the 20th century, as the Shaker communities themselves were disappearing, some American collectors whose visual tastes were formed by the stark aspects of the Modernist movement were attracted to the spare artifacts of Shaker culture, in which “form follows function” was also clearly expressed. Other artifacts of Shaker culture are their spirit drawings, dances, and songs, which are important genres of Shaker folk art.

Examples of Shaker artifacts that you can find and buy through Dogbotz Boneyard:

Be well, and enjoy the weekend.

All the best,

Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com