Speaking of old books…

Forgotten bookmark.I love when you open an old book or magazine and find a bookmark, or forgotten picture, or scrap of receipt or a recipe scribbled on a tattered old piece of paper.  I found this little bookmark on a piece of heavy card tucked into the front of “Mysterious Japan.”  I’m a little curious what the center roundel depicts.  At first I thought it was a religious scene, the woman wearing a veil and kneeling in the middle of her… bedroom?  Is it an allusion to an old biblical story or myth?  It’s probably not from classical antiquity…not with those robes!  There’s no poetry or quote on the back, and no publisher or printer marked on it either.  Anybody have any ideas what or who this picture might depict?

I was surprised to learn there are entire websites dedicated to those lost bookmarks and 2kitchensheaderrecipes.  The first is Forgotten Bookmarks.  Their sister site, Handwritten Recipes, collects all the recipes into one place, and people are already testing and trying them out!  There’s a recipe for “Pasta with Artichokes” that sounds absolutely fab(!!) and was tested by the ladies over at A Tale of 2 Kitchens.  It was the first time I’d heard about their blog, and I’m taken by lazygourmetstheir ingredient-driven, seasonal food blogging.  They’re definitely going on my to-read list!  I think the first thing I’ll try making is their Warm Breakfast Quinoa.  I’m always looking for another excuse to eat quinoa!  Also new to my blog-list this week is the lovely Two Lazy Gourmets.  The recipes are fresh, pictures inspiring, and there are also informative videos.  I’m looking forward to reading more of their blog!

…. (a little bit later)…

I took a little break while writing this post to go through some boxes from my grandmother’s house.  She sadly passed away about 3 weeks before I came home from Japan, and it was a real blow for me.  While I was sorting through some things, I found another bookmark!  The front has a scene from the Nativity, but it’s the poem on the back that really got me.

Don't Quit! PoemThe poem continues:

How close he was the the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out -
The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,
And you never can tell how close you are,
It may be near when it seems afar;
So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit, -
It’s when things seem worst that you mustn’t quit!

It’s kind of like my grandma is sending me a message – I like to think she’s watching from Heaven and cheering me and my family on!

~MS the Younger

Postcard as Muse

walker_evans_postcard_big1I’ve always been a fan of the picture postcard.  When visiting a museum I purchase cards to mail to family & friends in an attempt to maintain the genre and share images of art.  Over the past few years I’ve amassed a collection of over one hundred postcards issued by museums and galleries, announcing the next exhibition or show. Interestingly, the volume of paper ephemera issued by museums and galleries has declined as the price of production and postage increases.

At work I display a dozen postcards at a time, my personal exhibition, using a device with a dozen arms of varied length sharing a common base; a simple loop of wire at each end holds a card.  At home I use a mobile suspended from the ceiling, its several arms each terminating in a small plastic alligator clip, for my personal display.

At a recent exhibition sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I learned that 20th century American photographer Walker Evans shared my affection for postcards and collecting.

Th[e] exhibition focuses on a collection of 9,000 picture postcards amassed and classified by the American photographer Walker Evans (1903–1975), now part of the Metropolitan’s Walker Evans Archive. The picture postcard represented a powerful strain of indigenous American realism that directly influenced Evans’s artistic development. The dynamic installation of hundreds of American postcards drawn from Evans’s collection will reveal the symbiotic relationship between Evans’s own art and his interest in the style of the postcard. This is also demonstrated with a selection of about a dozen of his own photographs printed in 1936 on postcard format photographic paper.

Unknown artist Woolworth and Municipal Buildings from Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 1910s Postcard, Photomechanical reproduction; 3 9/16 x 5 1/2 in. (9 x 14 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive, 1994 (1994.264.38.3)

Unknown artist. Woolworth and Municipal Buildings from Brooklyn Bridge, New York, 1910s Postcard, Photomechanical reproduction; 3 9/16 x 5 1/2 in. (9 x 14 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive, 1994 (1994.264.38.3)

Unknown artist Future New York, The City of Skyscrapers, 1910s Postcard, Photomechanical reproduction; 3 9/16 x 5 1/2 in. (9 x 14 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive, 1994 (1994.264.20.2)

Unknown artist. Future New York, The City of Skyscrapers, 1910s Postcard, Photomechanical reproduction; 3 9/16 x 5 1/2 in. (9 x 14 cm) The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Walker Evans Archive, 1994 (1994.264.20.2)

For examples of Walker Evans’ photography, see his catalog on ArtNet.

Related links:
Main Street Postcards as Muse by Roberta Smith, February 5, 2009, The New York Times
Photographer Walker Evans: answers on a postcard by Liz Jobey, February 5, 2009, The Guardian.co.uk


Cold days and icy nights

Cold days and icy nights are in the forecast for Long Island over the next few days, with Friday bringing a high of 14° Fahrenheit and a low of 1°.  Perfect weather for the ice follies or the World Ice Art Championships held in Fairbanks, Alaska.  When the temperature is just right ice can be sculpted into amazing shapes. The annual ice sculpture competition is held in February and March and features single block and multi-block sculptures. Pictures from past events can be found here and here:


The Birth of the Blue Bird, Realistic. Junichi Nakamura of Japan, Daniel Reboltz, USA, Shinichi Sawamura, Hitoshi Shimmoto Photo by: Unknown

Pat Healy-Golembe

Animal Parade, Realistic,1st Place - 2005 Multi-Block Classic. Artists: Heather Brown, Steve Brice, Tajana Raukar all of USA and Mario Amegee of France. Photo by: Pat Healy-Golembe

Pat Healy-Golembe

StarBurst, Abstract, - 2005 Multi-Block Classic. Klaus Ebeling, Dominique Colell, Phillip Hunter all of USA; Ronnie Daanen of Netherlands Photo by: Pat Healy-Golembe

January 5th marked the opening of the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival, held in Harbin, China. The festival lasts for one month, and features large ice and snow sculptures, ice lanterns, swimming in the icy Songhua River and more.


6Image source.

For more photos of the Harbin Festival, as well as a collection of recent photographs of all things frozen, go to Boston.com’s The Big Picture.

Finally, there’s the Sapporo Snow Festival, held from February 5th to February 11th 2009 at Odori Park, Susukino and Sapporo Satoland, Japan. The festival is best known for the ice sculpture competition attracting artists from around the world, competing to create the largest and most elaborate artworks from ice and snow.


Related MadSilence posts:
Chill Seekers, or the art of ice
Ephemeral ice art
Auto on Ice: The Frozen Car Project


Ephemeral ice art

The epemeral ice art of Brazilian artist Nele Azevedo

Comments from Calvin and Hobbes on the impermanence of the medium and the transience of life.

 Via Neatorama

Related MadSilence posts:
Chill Seekers, or the art of ice
Auto on Ice: The Frozen Car Project




From the Fortress of the Gods

The Kingdom of Bhutan, located in the Himalayan Mountains between China and India, has some of the world’s most unusual and highly collectible postage stamps.  As a stamp collector in the 1970s I recall first learning about the Himalayan kingdom and Fortress of the Gods after discovering their “talking stamp.”  Since then Bhutan and other world countries created postage stamps that appealed to the world collector’s market while bringing in needed revenues from stamps sales.  It would take 20 years before the U.S. Postal Service would begin purposely creating stamps designed to stimulate collector interest.


The world’s first “talking stamp” (above) was released in April 1973.  It’s a tiny vinyl record, that when played at 78 rpm, included the Bhutanese national anthem and a brief history of the country.

Silk stamp (above) from Bhutan


Scented stamps (above)

Now Bhutan has released “the world’s first CD-ROM stamps“.  According to Time Magazine:

Now come the world’s first CD-ROM stamps. Self-adhesive wrappers contain documentaries marking the 100th anniversary of Bhutan’s monarchy and its shift toward parliamentary democracy. And at nearly 4 sq. in. (26 sq cm), these stamps aren’t just pushing the envelope.  


Want your own a stamp from Bhutan?  Visit here.

Related links:

Bhutan: Fortress of the Gods
Bhutan – Mountain Fortress of the Gods displayed more than 500 objects in order to provide a comprehensive insight into the history and culture of this country.

Postage From The Edge: Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan Ranks High in Philatelic Firsts
By Gabe Oppenheim, Washington Post Staff Writer

~MadSilence the Senior

Note-ably artistic

Post-it® Notes art via Digg This!

If you’re like me, you find these lightly-gummed bits of colored paper to be indispensable in home and office. I especially like the little ones I can adhere to reports and books without damaging the pages. My current 3M office favorite is the pen that dispenses little multi-colored flags.

The “necessity, desire and innovation” that inspired the creation of 3M’s Post-it® Notes has apparently inspired artistic-types to use the notes in creative and unusual ways.

For example, there’s conceptual/installation artist Rebecca Murtaugh who chose to cover her bedroom with Post-its (images above). And there’s David Alvarez who created a portrait of Ray Charles with more than 2,000 colored Post-it Notes:

Of course, Post-it notes can also come back to haunt us, especially if used for the ubiquitous to-do list:

This flaming phoenix and 15 more Post-it Note pranks, sculptures and murals can be viewed at WebUrbanist.

How about a Jaguar sedan covered with post-it notes?

Art from the 3M Canada Post-It® Note-able Art Competition:

Seriously, though, Post-it Notes provide the artist with a simple method to apply colorful pigment to canvas, whether the canvas be a wall or automobile, creating an exact image in the manner of chromolithography or pointillism. It’s like painting, only without the brushstrokes and color mixing, and working in primary colors.

Need more creative post-it inspiration? Try the book Post-it Ideas That Stick!, containing “222 Ingenious, Creative, Practical and Simply Preposterous Ways of Using Post-it Notes.”

Related links:
Getting Creative with Post-it notes from Just Keep the Change
Post-Its On Crack! from Design O’Blog
Post It Notes Art from You Tube


Rice art of Japan

 Mona Lisa rice paddy art via  Cool Things in Random Places

Created by intermixing the purple and yellow-leafed kodaimai rice along with the green-leafed tsugaru-roman variety, imaginative farmers in rural Japan grow rice paddy artworks in their fields on a massive scale.  According to Pink Tentacle, “In recent years, a growing number of local governments around Japan have started organizing rice paddy art projects as a way to attract tourists and educate people about rice farming.”


Via Pink Tentacle:  Rice paddy art in Yamagata
Via Cool Things in Random Places:  Rice Field Art
Via Japanesque:  Rice-paddy art,  and  Beauty is in the Rice of the Beholder!
And finally, there’s the Japanese website:  Rice Art

Related MadSilence posts:
The art of the lawn
The Quilt-Barn Movement Catches On


Close Cover Before Striking

These adorable matchbooks with tiny printed match heads are from Japan via ReubenMiller.  Seeing them reminded me of my family’s habit of collecting matchbooks.  We had examples from all over the United States and Europe.  A highly incendiary collection!

“A matchbook is a small cardboard container (matchcover) that holds a quantity of matches inside and has a coarse striking surface on the exterior.  A flap on the front is lifted to access the matches, which are attached to the interior base in a comb-like pattern and must be torn away before use.”

Phillumeny is “the hobby of collecting different match-related items: matchboxes, matchbox labels, matchbooks, matchcovers, matchsafes, etc.”

Virtual Museum Match World.  The Japan Match Manufacturers Association and Japan Match Lateral Corporation operate this Match Museum.  The biggest feature of this museum is superior match labels, which are specially selected from Rankei Library’s gigantic match label collection of twenty or thirty thousands pieces owned by the Japan Match Manufacturers Association.  Visit the museum to learn about the history and science of matches.

Contemporary Japanese matchbook from Virtual Museum Match World.

The Virtual Matchbox Labels Museum is “dedicated to the images on the matchbox labels – the small artworks that most of us do not pay much attention to.  But they reflect our history, our likes and dislikes and sometimes they are real artworks in themselves.”


 Best Match.  Made in Japan.  From The Virtual Matchbox Labels Museum.

Surprisingly, matches are a relatively new invention, dating back to 1827 when English druggist John Walker marketed a sulfur tipped splint called a “Congreves.”  The first matches were explosive in nature and unpredictably dangerous to handle.  Matchcovers didn’t receive much recognition as a collectible until the 1930s.  During the late 1940s and early 1950s, there were over 1 million matchcover collectors in United States and Canada.

When a match is rubbed against a rough surface, friction supplies the match head with sufficient heat energy to enable the chemicals to react, and because the rate of heat production by the reaction is greater than the rate of heat loss to the environment, they burn with a flame. 


Judo.  Holds and sweeps.  Madi in Japan.  From The Virtual Matchbox Labels Museum.

Related links:

Matchbook Museum  from Lileks.com
Matchcover Collecting  from Hobbymaster
American Matchcover Collecting Club


What’s hot and what’s not


A recent visit to an antique and collectible market gives insights into what’s hot in collecting and what’s not.  The Long Island Depression Glass Society’s February 2008 sale offered a large selection of collectibles, including glass, ceramics, some furniture, prints and paper ephemera, kitchen ware, advertising, and a variety of smalls and decorative objects.

What appeals first to my collector’s heart is glass: Depression glass, elegant glassware, glass from the 1950s and 60s, and contemporary glassware.  What was most obvious: the market for Depression glass has cooled considerably.  Suffering from a plethora of reproductions and waning interest, sales have stagnated and prices plateaued.  One dealer told me, “Veteran collector’s are only looking for those few rare pieces missing from their collections, while there are fewer and fewer new collectors.”


The demand for art pottery is also cooling.  Vintage pottery by McCoy, Roseville, and Hall was plentiful, but suffering from slow sales. 

From what I was told, World War II era memorabilia and military collectibles seem to be holding their own.   Dealers selling vintage advertising and vintage prints of known artists reported good sales.

Two dealers reported the globalization of collecting and their expansion into international markets.  Apparently Korean and Japanese buyers are keen to purchase American glassware from the 1950s and 60s, and elegant American glassware.  Container loads of Anchor Hocking Fire King glassware, including decorated mugs, are being shipped to Asian buyers.  The Japanese market is particularly strong with Japanese buyers insisting on mint quality items for which they pay a premium.

Antique American phonographs are also selling to international buyers.  One dealer who refurbishes vintage phonographs demonstrated an early Edison wax cylinder phonograph from around 1900, as well as early record players with decorative horns.  Shipments of a dozen machines are regularly sent to eager overseas buyers.       

The show was distinguished by the absence of young buyers: the average age of customers appeared to be around 50.  Harry Rinker of Rinker Enterprises, Inc.is a prolific antiques and collectibles writer who postulates that people collect their childhoods.  Rinker reports that many younger collectors have discovered the post-1945 period.  While the primary focus is on post-1945 modernist ceramics, furniture, glass, and metals, a growing number of collectors are discovering movie, music, and television collectibles.  Which may explain why a sale sponsored by a depression glass collector’s group didn’t draw young people.   


As for me, my sole purchase was a 1940s vintage candy container in the shape of a Miniature Wartank.  Made in glass by the Victory Glass Co. of Jeanette, Pa. 



10+1 Best Links Ever for Valentine’s Day



On Valentine’s Day, Americans celebrate love and friendship by exchanging cards, flowers, and candy.  As a gift to our many readers, here’s a list of Valentine’s Day links, personally reviewed & certified by MadSilence.  Enjoy!  

Today in History: February 14.  A collection of resources for Valentine’s Day, including brief history of the holiday and valentine cards, images, historic love songs, and other material from the collections of the Library of Congress.  http://memory.loc.gov/ammem/today/feb14.html

A Thousand Kisses: Love Letters from the Archives of American Art
“This selection of affectionate communiqués to and from American artists gives us insight into the lives of painters, sculptors, illustrators, and others—their relationships, perceptions, and creative energies—from the mid-19th century to the late 20th. They also allow us to empathize with artists through the most universal of human emotions: love in all its permutations.  The letters presented here cover a range of intensity, from sexual passion to the devotion of a parent, and from the durable bonds of friendship to the enthusiasm of fans.”

Let Out Your Creative Juices
“Create your own Kleenex® Oval tissue box and bring your personal style and vision to life.  Celebrate a special occasion, feature a silly moment or simply show anything that makes you smile.  Only $4.99 USD + shipping.  Pick a background image, add photos, frames, clip art & text, even your own art, pick a lid color, and you’re all set!”

Send That Special Someone…A Virtual Hug

U.S. Census Bureau: Valentine’s Day 2008: Feb. 14

Valentine’s Day from the History Channel   
Extensive background on the History of Valentine’s Day, a Survival Guide, History’s Romantics, Games, and much more. 

CNN.com/IN-DEPTH: Valentine’s Day   
This special feature from 2002 addresses different aspects of Valentine’s Day and romance.  Includes articles about the history of Valentine’s Day, romantic gifts, online matchmaker services, and joint finances and marriage. 

For Saint Valentine’s Day, a collection of Victorian Comic and Lace-Paper Valentines

Making Valentines: A Tradition in America
This online exhibit “is designed to show the evolution of the Valentine’s Day card.”  It features annotated images of early Valentine cards from before 1850, background about Esther Allen Howland (an innovator in Valentine card design and production, who began making and selling Valentines in the 1850s), the George C. Whitney Valentine manufacturing company, which was in business from 1866 to 1942, and Victorian cards.  From the American Antiquarian Society.

Valentine’s Day: Love and Romance Through the Ages   
This exhibit on the history of Valentine’s Day features images of early greeting cards (with 3D interactive views), symbols associated with the holiday (such as Cupid and flowers), Valentine’s Day in history and literature, religious and spiritual traditions, and more.  In English and French.  From the Virtual Museum of Canada.

And finally, from our friend Steve Levenstein at Japanorama, here are nine fun Valentine’s Day advertisements from around the world.


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