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Mikey is sitting in a very expensive and exclusive restaurant in Georgetown waiting to meet with a corporate executive whom he wanted so badly to impress, when he looked up and saw Bill Gates sitting not too far away. Eureka he says to himself, and walks over to Mr. Gates and asks him, “Hello Mr. Gates, I wonder if you would do me a favor.” Clearly amused, Mr. Gates says, “What can I do for you?” and Mikey explains, “I am waiting of a very important executive and I was wondering if after he arrives if you would be so kind as to say, ‘Hi Mikey’?”
Really intrigued now, Mr. Gates agrees and Mikey trots off back to his seat to wait for his executive. After his arrival, Mr. Gates watches as they get settled in and they order drinks. Then he walks up close to Mikey and says, “Hi Mikey!” Mikey turns around and says, “Get lost Gates, can’t you see I’m in a meeting!”
The term whatnot has been around since the mid-16th Century and was originally used to describe small objects and ornaments that were used to decorate the home. In the early 1800’s however, the term changed a bit as it began to be used to describe an actual piece of furniture. This furniture, in most cases made of wood, had shelves to display and store all of thewhatnot. They could be very simple or very elaborate; free standing or shelves that were hung on a wall. It all depended on the home that they were decorating.
Very simple whatnots were made of square or rectangular wooden planks and regular spindle legs or supports that would hold up the shelves. The more elaborate whatnots featured graduated carved shelves with highly decorated and intricately designed legs or supports. In either case, the whatnots were made of open shelves that offered clear view of all the display area and all of the ornaments, tchotchkes, and knick knacks that they held. The whatnot which saw its birth in England has a French cousin, the étagère.
The étagère was first seen in France in late 1700’s and bore a striking resemblance to its cousin the whatnot. Made of wood, the étagère consists of graduated and usually ornately carved shelves and very elaborate spindles or legs that held the shelves in place. They too held precious knick knacks and household decorations that were put on display for everyone to see and admire. Nowadays however, the names whatnot and étagère are synonymous to most people and many people have at least one in their home.
Regardless of whether you call it a whatnot or étagère, they can be used to store or display items. We have seen designers use shelving units in all rooms of a house because they come in so many different variations. There are corner units and hanging units; they are made of wood, metal or glass or a combination of any of those. They can be old and rustic, modern and painted or natural wood or metal. Their versatility also makes them very popular; they can be used to store linens, display a vintage cranberry glass collection or exhibit old family pictures.
The 24h Annual Antique Show & Sale at Historic Cold Spring Village in Cape May, New Jersey will be held this Saturday and Sunday, August 8-9, 2009. This annual show is one of the nicest in the Mid-Atlantic region and features old country furniture, antique Victorian furniture, primitives, vintage collectible glass and china, ephemera and vintage toys.
Tchotchkes, knick knacks, gimrack are all whatnot that have adorned and been displayed on whatnot shelves and étagères. Whatnot is an old term used to describe things, objects, ornaments and just plain stuff used to decorate the home.
Tchotchkes comes from the Slavic word for toys and in modern times has come to mean trinkets and other useless items that we collect in our lives. In sales and marketing circles tchotchkes have come to mean the items with logos from the company, such as pens, cups, towels and other items which are given away to clients and customers. These items are also sometimes called swag and although generally considered useful, and some people do collect them, they are usually cheap and of poor quality, which is also the meaning of another old word, gimrack (sometimes pronounced gimcrack).
The word gimrack may come from a Middle English word and was used to describe ornamental objects of no great value and the word may or may not be synonymous with knick knacks. Knick knacks were and are still used to decorate a home and in many cases are porcelain and china figurines made into human forms, animals and birds. The value of knick knacks may vary so in some cases they may be tchotchkes and gimcrack, such as the figurines that someone may buy at a dollar store. Other knick knacks cannot be considered gimcrack because their value can be in the hundreds or thousands of dollars such as Hummel and Lladro figurines.
In our July 3, 2009 Antiques Newsletter we mentioned an upcoming auction for world renowned psychic Jeane Dixon’s property. This week we learned that her crystal ball which was expected to bring in approximately $5,000 realized more than $11,950 at a Sloans & Kenyon’s auction. Her entire estate which included antique furniture, paintings, sculptures, memorabilia and decorative arts brought in more than $312,349. Which makes us wonder if she saw that in her crystal ball?
Born in 1904 in Wisconsin, Mrs. Dixon is probably the most well-known astrologer and psychic in the world and influenced many people including President Richard Nixon and former First Lady Nancy Reagan. In 1956, she predicted the assassination of the President John F. Kennedy. That prediction is probably what she is best known for, however she made many other predictions including the death of Bobby Kennedy and Winston Churchill’s defeat. She also made other predictions that never did come to pass such as a World War to begin in 1958 and a U.S. civil war in 1980. Mrs. Dixon passed away in 1995.
On Saturday and Sunday, August 8-9, 2009, The Blenko Glass Company will host its second annualFestival of Glass. This event will feature live glass blowing demonstrations and workshops as well as sales of limited edition pieces. The Festival of Glass will be held at the Blenko Glass Company headquarters in Milton, West Virginia. Blenko is one of the few surviving glass companies in West Virginia and is family owned and operated.
Blenko Glass has been around since 1893, when William J. Blenko first started producing in Kokomo, Indiana. Ten years later, in 1893, Blenko was forced to close down due to economic conditions of the time. After several attempts at a comeback, William J. Blenko was finally successful in opening up a new plant in Milton, West Virginia. William J. Blenko produced and sold his own glass. Blenko Art Glass is still a very popular collectible today and comes in many different patterns and styles but Blenko is most famous for their Amberina and Crackle Glass art glass.
At the end of the 1800’s Libbey Glass Company hired Joseph Locke from the Cambridge Glass Company. In 1883, he patented amberina glass. This Victorian Era glass is distinctive in its colors. Gold was mixed with the molten glass to produce stunning reds and oranges that tapered into a fine amber color. Other companies, including Blenko, Fenton, Boyd and Kanawha later received licenses from Libbey to produce amberina art glass pieces.