Issue No. 13
Online Thrift Shopper Magazine
Dec. 2007


Shari Elf: Making Art from Discards


Vintage Christmas Ornaments
Antiques Roadshow Part IV
Altered Art
Casino Ashtrays

 
Read Back Issues of The National Thrifter

 

Shari Elf: Making Art from Discards
By: Cookie

When I say Shari Elf makes art from discards, I'm not just talking about yard sale or thrift store discards. I'm talking about absolute garbage, things anyone would throw away, like lids from empty sour cream containers, pull tabs from cat food cans, and old kitchen sponges. Shari transforms this trash and various other thrift store treasures like Scrabble tiles, buttons, and glitter into her signature three-dimensional pieces of folk art. Animals are often the subject of her art, and Shari likes to include sweet sentiments like "It's Good to Have Friends," and "Dog Bless America."

Shari's background includes a bachelor of fine arts degree, but she jokes that her professional education didn't cause any great damage to her creativity. Before she began making her art, Shari studied fashion, designed a clothing line, and operated her own business as a seamstress. After one particularly disastrous week of alterations, Shari decided to ditch her sewing career and commit to being a full-time artist. As luck would have it, Shari was discovered by set designers from the movie "Independence Day" during one of the first weekends she sold her art at a big flea market. Fifteen years later, the same set designers commissioned more artwork from Shari for the television show they were working on at the time, "Saving Grace," and actors Jennifer Tilly and Harry Dean Stanton also own some of her original art. Shari currently lives in Joshua Tree, California, and works out of her studio at the Art Queen gallery.


Artist Shari Elf at work in her studio

Q. How did you come up with the idea of making art from discards?
A. I think I've always been fascinated with trash, ever since I was with my dad and he was dropping off some construction stuff at the dump on Maui when I was little. I was probably ten years old, and I saw these TV's and lamps and furniture, and I was like, "Wow, all this cool stuff." And then as I got older, trash started to be more interesting. It's so much more inspiring to me than using brand new art materials. I also like recycling.
Q. So you're more inspired because you can envision something in the discarded material instead of just having to face a blank canvas and some paints?
A. Yeah. I used to love riding my bike or walking down the alleys of Santa Monica because that's where people would throw out their trash, and I would find old, weird things, and my imagination would be running. I'd already see pictures of what I was going to do with it. It's not what happens when you look at a blank canvas, not for me.
Q. Tell me about the first piece that you ever made where you decided, "I'm going to put something together with these things I've found."
A. Other than painting on my old shoes that were falling apart, I think one of the first ones I really remember that I was super inspired about was a big vent. It was about three and a half feet tall maybe. And it was something they nailed on the roof, and it had like a dish that went in so it was curved, and then I just instantly saw an altar. I was going to attach cans and put candles in it, and I was going to paint like a queen or something. So I actually did. I wrestled that thing up my stairs, and I had a little tiny studio apartment in Santa Monica, California. I hung it up with some heavy chain I had found at a thrift store and put the candles in and was just delighted.
Q. Did you keep that one?
A. I didn't. I guess I kind of wish I had it. I had a sewing business at the time, and one of my clients bought it from me. I sold it really cheap for like $100 or something, and it was neat to see it in their house.
Q Have the prices on your artwork gone up over time?
A. Yes, they've gone up. When I started, I was at $20 an hour, and my art has always sold really easily and fast. At swap meets I sometimes show up and there will be a little crowd, and people would fight over a piece. So I thought, "Well, it's time to raise my prices a little bit." So I would go up from $20. I think maybe my next jump was $30 an hour. And maybe a year later it was $40 and then $50. It was $75 for a while and then $100. It's now at $125 an hour. I'm still able to sell it. I hit a plateau at $100 an hour for like four years maybe, the whole time I lived in Kansas City. I think I gave myself a raise when I moved there.
Q. So you base it on how long it actually takes you to do the piece?
A. Yeah. I keep track of my time as best I can. Usually I will be working on three or four pieces in one day, and I'll try to finish them all in one day and keep track of my hours. I kind of guess how long each one took based on how much I needed to make for my time.

Q. Since you're also a seamstress, do you buy clothes at thrift stores and redesign them for yourself?
A. Definitely, yeah. I did have a favorite dress I made. Like two weeks ago I sat down and had a sewing day for a few hours, and I made this great dress. It was a slinky, white skirt I had, and I just attached a fitted bodice to it that was made out of knit and my signature S on the front of it. I often put an S on the front of my shirts. I got so many compliments. It was really simple but very elegant.
Q. Did you shop at thrift stores before you became an artist?
A. I learned about thrift stores with my ex-husband. That's not something my family was into. I didn't really know about thrift stores until college. My boyfriend loved thrift stores, so we would go to thrift stores and garage sales, and that's where I discovered that. In college, too, I guess it helps with furnishing your place.
Q. Do you have any favorite items that you specifically look for when you're thrifting?
A. The specific thing I run out of a lot is pearl necklaces for my dog teeth. And I like them to be inexpensive, and broken is fine, and having a little character is fine, a little beat up. My favorite kind of thrift store is the ones that sell really junky things that the other higher-end thrift stores would just throw away. Like paintbrushes that are too ruined to use, I use those in my art.

Q. How often do you go to thrift stores now?
A. Maybe once a week. Sometimes it will be a couple times a week. There's a thrift store out here that's so small and everything is really cheap. They get cool stuff, but it goes fast because it's so cheap. So now I realize I have to go there maybe twice a week. And also my boyfriend is building a house out here, so it's a good excuse to go shopping more because he needs some furniture. He loves thrift stores and old, beat-up stuff, too.

Visit ShariElf.Com to see more of Shari's artwork.

Vintage Christmas Ornaments - Facts and Fiction
By: Lindsey Hartman of LulusGroove.Com

I am a vintage Christmas addict to put it mildly.  Because I come into contact with vintage ornaments so often, I am in a unique position to help you sort through some of the common myths and misconceptions that swirl around regarding these little gems.  Some of the little white lies are started innocently, while others pop up to help sellers make a quick buck.  Either way, if you're going to collect them, here's some information you need to make your collection a show stopper.
Not every ornament on eBay is a Shiny Brite (no matter what they tell you), even if they are in a Shiny Brite box.   The term "Shiny Brite" refers to a particular manufacturer, not a style of ornament.  Shiny Brites were made in many colors, shapes, and sizes and were all the rage in the 1950's and 1960's.  Some of the most common styles are below:

All ornaments are not mercury glass, even if they say they are.   Less than 5-10% of all ornaments on eBay are mercury glass.  Many sellers have the misconception that any silvered glass qualifies as mercury glass, but that's just not true.  In order to qualify for that designation, the ornament must have 2 walls of glass with the silvering appearing in the middle of the layers.  Mercury glass ornaments are much heavier than your everyday ornaments and are not that easy to come by.  Most exhibit moderate to heavy oxidation (spots) because of age.  But most importantly, it is often impossible to recognize a true mercury glass ornament by sight.  Ask the seller about the glass to be sure.  Better safe than sorry.  A few examples are below
:

You cannot tell the age of an ornament from its cap.   While the style of the cap can be one indicator of age, it's a mistake to rely on that fact alone.  Vintage ornament caps get changed around all the time.  They get lost, they break, and they rust.  And because of that, they get switched.  The older ornaments tend to have skinnier necks.  Do keep in mind there are exceptions.  The original  caps are usually smaller and made of stiffer metal.  The glass is most often much lighter in weight and thinner.  Most vintage ornaments look vintage.  Aside from the rare exception, you can count on the ornaments having some signs of age wear.  And always remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
Premier ornaments are not Shiny Brites.  This is another mistake due to lack of knowledge.  "Premier" was an ornament company who produced vintage ornaments that appear similar to Shiny Brites, but are by no means identical.  Many Premier ornaments have elongated, thin necks with small caps, but they were produced in the 50's and 60's (see why you can't judge an ornament's age because of its cap?).  They have a brighter silver finish and resist age wear more readily than Shiny Brites.  See the examples below:


It's not a World War II (WWII) ornament just because it's transparent.  During the time of WWII, manufacturers were forced to change the way they made their ornaments.  Gone were the days of silvering and metal caps and hangers.  Any piece of scrap metal went toward the war effort.  So for a short period of time, vintage ornaments were transparent, clear, or opaque and were fitted with paper caps.  Understandably, over time, any ornament that fits this description has been touted as a WWII ornament, but that's not the case.  Some of these ornaments were made transparent to showcase sprigs of tinsel inside.  Others will disagree and assert that these ornaments are authentic WWII items.  But the tinsel placed inside was metal or aluminum. And so I ask, if they didn't have the metal for the silvering and caps, how did they find it for the tinsel inside?  Some "WWII style" ornaments were produced much later simply for looks.  Other ornaments that appear transparent have simply lost their silvering from age.  But worst of all,  some dishonest folks will manipulate regular ornaments by wiping the interior silvering out.  Their motivations are varied.  Some do it because they bring more money.  Others take an age worn ornament that doesn't present well, and by removing the silvering, it looks like a near mint WWII ornament.  Its often difficult to tell when this has been done, but I look for remnant specks of silver flakes inside, or residual silver near the neck of the ornament.  Either of these is usually a good indicator of manipulation.  See the row of pictures below for examples of authentic WWII ornaments:

That's enough to give you a good start, but if you are serious about collecting vintage ornaments, I recommend research, lots and lots of research.  There's nothing in this world that replaces firsthand knowledge and experience.  Good luck and have fun!

Glossary of Vintage Christmas Ornament Keywords (For Newbies)
By Lindsey Hartman at LulusGroove.Com

So the vintage Christmas ornaments bug has bit you in the behind and you've decided to build your collection, but as you scroll through listing after listing, you begin to notice oddball words that just don't seem to make any sense.  Have no fear and relax, my dear. I am here to save you.  The words and phrases below are commonly used descriptive terms for vintage ornaments, and you'll need to learn them to build that knockout collection that's been frolicking through your head.  I will not only tell you what they mean, but often how they are misused and confused.  Do remember I am mostly involved with ornaments of the 40's, 50's, and 60's, and my guides will reflect as much.

Off we go!

Manufacturers and Origins

•  Shiny Brite - refers to a particular brand of ornament, not a style as many would have you believe!  They were very popular during the 50's and 60's, and can be found by thousands on eBay.  Come in all shapes, sizes, and colors.
•  Premier - also refers to a particular brand of ornament.  Often confused with Shiny Brites because of shape and color similarities.  These gems were also popular mid-century, but they are some of the harder to find ornaments.
•  Made in Poland/Poland Ornaments - refers to a place of origin not a company.  Made in Poland ornaments are very common on eBay, and they are also among the most coveted.  A lot of these ornaments were hand blown and hand painted, and because of this, no two ornaments are exactly the same.  Mostly found in ball and teardrop shapes, and many have indents and glitter.
•  West German/West Germany - again we are referring to a place of origin, not a particular manufacturer.  These ornaments are not found in the same numbers as Poland and Shiny Brite ornaments, but are still fairly common. 

Ornament Attributes

•  Figurals - basically refers to any ornament that is not in the shape of a ball, teardrop, or icicle.  Figural ornaments come in many shapes and sizes.  These include, but are by no means limited to, trumpets, houses, animals, flowers, tops, Christmas trees, pinecones, baskets, acorns, etc.
•  Fancy Shapes - subset of figurals, but used to describe Shiny Brites only.  I'm not sure how this came to be exactly, but I believe the Shiny Brite Company marketed some of their ornaments under the term fancy shapes.  Shiny Brites come in several mid century shapes that can be hard to describe with any certain term because they are more abstract in shape than defined.  You'll see many sellers refer to these shapes as inverted Christmas trees, tops, satellites, twirls, lanterns, etc., but rarely do these terms accurately describe the shape.
•  Mini's - can refer to any ornaments smaller than 1 inch across.  Again, this term is usually attributed to Shiny Brites, but you'll also see it attached to other small ornaments as well.
•  Feather Tree Ornaments - another term that is used to describe ornaments smaller than 1 inch across.  This term is one of the most misused in the realm of vintage ornaments.  True feather tree ornaments were lighter in weight and fancier than your everyday Shiny Brite minis.  Most were figural and made prior to the 1920s.  Though the Shiny Brite minis may be the perfect size for a feather tree, they were not made to decorate them.  But I must confess, I misuse it, too, because the misconception has been cast in stone.
•  Indent - refers to a concave feature in the design of the ornament.  Indents are decorative holes, if you will, in the body of an ornament, that are used to reflect light.  They are as varied as the ornaments they decorate.  Some are very shallow, while others are so deep that they touch the interior glass of the ornament's opposite wall.  Some have stars, flowers, etc. at their center and others just come to a point. Indents might have a single level or have 2 or 3 to their design (levels can be determined by how many times the design steps down or changes).
•  Mica - another misused term, but refers to sandy or sparkly granules used to decorate ornaments.  I myself am a bit confused by the whole mica terminology. Most of the ornaments you'll come across will actually be adorned with glass glitter, not mica.  Again, I confess to misusing this term because it has evolved over time and come to mean something else to most people.
•  Pontil/Pontil Mark  - small bump on the bottom of an ornament where it was cut from the cane of glass.  These marks are surefire signs that an ornament was handmade.
•  Aluminum Tree Ornaments - plastic ornaments made especially for mid-century aluminum Christmas trees.  Two of the most common makers are Jewel Brite and Bradford.  Come in many different shapes, sizes, and colors.
•  Stencils - refers to ornaments with solid color bases that are decorated with a white stenciled design.  The stencils are most common to Shiny Brites, but do appear on other ornaments.  They usually depict a scene or saying and come in a wide range of sizes and colors.
•  WWII - refers to transparent ornaments that were produced during WWII.  All of these ornaments were unsilvered and produced with paper caps because of the metal shortage.  They are fairly common, but very collectible because of limited production runs.  Please read my Facts and Fiction guide for myths and misconceptions regarding these beauties.
Mercury Glass  - common misused term in vintage ornaments, refers to the silvering of an ornament.  Many sellers call any type of silvered glass mercury glass, but they are very, very misinformed.  True mercury glass ornaments have two walls of glass with the silvering sandwiched in between them.  Please refer to my Facts and Fiction guide for more info.


Risky Business - Cleaning Vintage Ornaments
By Lindsey Hartman at LulusGroove.Com

I'm going to throw up my own big, red warning flag before you continue. The technique described below should only be attempted as a last resort. If you aren't familiar with vintage ornaments, do not try to clean them. Your best bet is to leave them be. No matter how much experience you have, you will ruin several ornaments before perfecting this cleaning process. It has taken me 5 years of trial and error to get this down and make it successful.

You have been warned. Continue at your own risk.
***********************************************************************************
Many of us have welcomed vintage ornaments into our home that have scars from spray snow, smears of tree sap, and layers of grimy film from years of cigarette smoke. And those are just a few problems. But what can you do? You can't clean without ruining them, right? Wrong! If you follow a few simple instructions, you can be on your way to restoring those marred ornaments to their former glory.

Qualifying Your Ornaments
Not every ornament is a candidate for this cleaning procedure. Do not attempt to clean ornaments with:

•  cracks in the painted surface
•  lots of hand painted details
•  significant areas of mica/glitter
•  hardened areas of tree sap

By choosing the right ornaments, you will up your success rate exponentially.

You Cannot Clean..
Not every surface on an ornament can be restored. Do not attempt to clean:

•  mica/glittered areas
•  hand painted details
•  stencils
•  painted bands/stripes

Despite the fact that these areas are more vulnerable to severe damage, its been my experience that the dirt sticks regardless. It just doesn't want to budge. Save your time and avoid the risk.

Supply List
Have these items by your side before you start:

•  Box of Q-tips
•  Soft paper cloth - not a paper towel! Most are too abrasive and will scratch the ornament's surface. Try an automotive shop cloth instead.

Its Go Time!

•  Do yourself a favor and pick a "beyond help" ornament to practice on. You risk a broken heart otherwise.
•  Most of the cleanable area of an ornament will be the base color portion. So start there.
•  Take a dry, clean Q-tip and gently rub it across the surface of the ornament. Many times, this will be all that is needed to bring the sparkle back. But many other times, it will take more. If so..
•  Get a new Q-tip and place it in your mouth for a second or two to moisten it slightly. You cannot use water. Nor can you use any other type of liquid. It may sound gross, but if you want a clean ornament, just do it!
•  You should only feel a trace of dampness on the Q-tip. If it's more than that, kiss the colored finish of your ornament goodbye!
•  Take the moistened Q-tip and gently rub the area to be cleaned. Check the tip constantly for color transfer. If there's only a bit, you can proceed with caution, but if it's more, abandon your mission and pick a new ornament.
•  Use your shop cloth to periodically buff out the smears. (You'll see)

General Tips

•  This may seem obvious, but do not ever put the same Q-tip in your mouth more than once. Many times, it looks like the Black Death hitched a ride on the end of it, and you don't want that in your body.
•  Change your Q-tip often. It will get very dirty very quickly, and you'll just be smearing the muck around before you know it.
•  In cases of spray snow disasters, it's relatively easy to remove the bulk of the white gunk. But many times it will leave behind a ghost imprint on the surface of the ornament. Leave this alone. More often than not, you'll take the ornament's color off before you can get rid of the gunk.

Good Luck!

ANTIQUES ROADSHOW PART IV: Interview with Elaine Banks Stainton
By: Cookie

Antiques Roadshow appraiser Elaine Banks Stainton is the executive director of the Paintings and Drawings Department at Doyle New York (make this a link) where she is responsible for auctions and appraisals of European and American art. Dr. Stainton completed her master's degree in classical archeology at the University of Maryland in 1975 and received her Ph.D. in Art and Archeology from Princeton University in 1978. Her career history includes teaching at the University of Delaware and the New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies where she was an instructor in art and connoisseurship. Dr. Stainton has also worked at various auction houses and art firms, including Sotheby's, and was a senior editor at Harry N. Abrams where she edited distinguished art books. When the Antiques Roadshow made a stop in Orlando, Florida, in June 2007, Dr. Stainton graciously answered our questions about thrift stores and her experiences with them.

Dr. Elaine Banks Stainton
Q: Do you shop at thrift stores?
A: Sure, yes.
Q: Have you found a lot of worthwhile paintings at thrift stores?
A: I'm embarrassed to say, but I like to buy clothing in thrift shops. My connection with thrift shops is that I'm often asked by them if the painting is any good. And then if it is -- I work at an auction house -- they consign it to our auction house. What happens is one of the thrift stores in New York will call me over and show me some paintings. And occasionally they're worth several thousand dollars. So then I'll say "Great, we'd love to have it." And they consign it, and we give them a discount because it's a charity.
Q: What's your opinion about the Jackson Pollock painting, or the supposed Jackson Pollock painting, that was found by Teri Horton?
A: I must say I'm not an expert on Jackson Pollock, but I think it seems kind of dubious. I'm very skeptical of it, actually.
Q: Even with the matching fingerprint? I just can't get around the fingerprint.
A: Fingerprints can come from a lot of places. Jackson Pollock had a number of friends who painted, some of whom were amateur painters. The fellow named Matter who was friends with Pollock and used to paint with him, his mother and father who painted with Pollock died. They were both artists. And the son came up with paintings in Pollock's style and said that they were by Pollock. The fact

is, we know that they all worked together in the same studio and they visited each other. And the work, to me, looks a bit off. I'm not willing to attribute a painting based on a fingerprint. It's the wrong way to approach it. But I agree the fingerprint has to be accounted for in some way.


Cookie and Dr. Stainton

Q: When you're appraising paintings for the Roadshow, do you ask people where they got the artwork?
A: I do. A lot of people are buying at yard sales and thrift stores and places like that, and on occasion they find really nice things.
Q: Is there a painting that stands out in your mind that came from a thrift store?
A: The best thing I've ever seen at a thrift store was a painting by a Hungarian artist that I had never heard of before. I think the name was Zichy. It was just a wonderful, wonderful painting that looked like one of those very good Victorian artists that paint almost like photography. It was an exquisitely meticulous piece of work. We sold it for something like $10,000.
Q: And that was at one of the thrift stores that calls you to come over and look at their paintings?
A: Yes. It was about 20 years ago.
Q: So that would probably be worth much more now?
A: It could be. That's a market that has gone up and come down. The market for very meticulous Victoriana actually went sky high at that time. They sold it at the right time. It has come down since then, actually, so it's not clear to me it would be worth more, but it might be because it was so wonderful.


Dr. Stainton doing a Roadshow appraisal

Q: On an average Roadshow day, what percentage of the paintings do you find are from thrift stores?
A: At least 50%. There's a lot of buying at thrift stores. My expectation was most things would come through their family, but no, people are out there buying. They're going everywhere looking for things, so that's new I think. People are possibly inspired by the Roadshow and they're going out and looking. The paintings are usually only worth a couple hundred dollars, but they've often paid less. So they'll pay $60 and it's worth $200. The ratio is usually something like that.

Altered Art
By: Wanda Eash of Two Crafty Mules

What is Altered Art?

Altered Art has swept the nation and has increased in popularity over the past couple of years.  This form of crafting results in the revitalization of old items and breathes new life into them.  There is no right or wrong when altering items to be made into something new.  Many techniques have been discovered as a result of someone making a mistake - and voila - a fresh new technique is born!  The beauty of altered art is that an item made for a specific purpose can be used for something totally different.  One good example of this is a puzzle piece.  People paint and embellish these and make them into decorative pins and magnets.  In the altered art world, one is only limited by his or her imagination.


Altered Art Techniques

In altered art, any type of technique can be used to change the appearance of an item.  This includes, but is not limited to:  painting, decoupage, embellishing, gluing, beading, rusting, stamping, drawing, sewing, quilting, cutting, sponging, and many others.

Altered Art Items and Project Ideas

The list below consists of just a few of the many items that can be altered and projects that can be made from them:
Record albums/45's - Make these into decorative purses; melt albums and turn them into chip and dip bowls.

Puzzle pieces - Paint, rubberstamp and embellish them and make them into decorative pins or magnets.  Personalize these even further by gluing a photocopied photograph to the piece.
Buttons - These can be used to decorate picture frames, jewelry, and art quilts.
Playing cards - One of the favorites in the altered art world, ATC's (Art Trading Cards) and ACEO's (Art Cards, Editions, and Originals) can be made from these.  Paint, decoupage, and embellish these with trinkets and words.  These are fun and economical to make.



Optical lenses - Use these to frame small photographs and wear them as necklaces.
Slide mounts - Not just for labs anymore, these little pieces of glass can be painted and stamped with designs.  Make a slide sandwich by enclosing a photograph between two slides and securing the edges around the glass with copper foil.  If desired, solder the copper foil with lead-free solder and turn these into lovely pins and necklaces.

CD's - These can be decorated whole with pretty paper and embellishments; made into picture frames, clocks and wind chimes.  When warmed with a heat gun, CD's may be cut into small pieces with old scissors and painted, stamped and embellished.  These pieces may be used as magnets, pins, and even gift tags.
Poker chips, Tri-ominos (triangular dominos), dominos, and backgammon pieces are fun to rubber stamp and embellish and can be made into pins or magnets. They can also be used to embellish bigger pieces of altered art, such as purses or photo frames.


Mint tins - These are fun to cover with polymer clay.  They can also be fired with a torch to remove the paint and wording, wiped off and repainted with other colors.  Decorate the inside of the box to make a little shrine.  Glue photos to the inside to make a neat little picture frame.   These may also be turned into mini portable photo albums and purses.
Matchboxes - There is no limit with what can be done to these little gems.  They can be decorated with chalks, paints, clay, or decoupage.  The inside can be decorated to match the theme on the outside of the box or to enclose a message to the receiver if it used as part of a gift.  Matchboxes make adorable pendants and pins.
Luggage - Paint and decoupage luggage for an interesting showpiece.

Paint cans - Decorate the outside of a paint can with decorative papers and images fitting a theme and fill the can with related goodies.  As an example, for a baby shower you could decorate the outside of the can with little teddy bears or baby images on soft pastel paper and fill it with small items like nail clippers, a pacifier, a rattle, socks, and all sorts of other little goodies.
Checkbook covers - There are a myriad of clear checkbook covers being sold these days.  Slide decorative paper, images or artwork into the inside of the cover for a unique checkbook.
Clipboards - Not just for the office anymore, clipboards can be decorated and embellished; these are frequently used as mini bulletin boards and picture frames.
Lunch boxes - These are easy to find at scrapbooking stores. Once embellished with papers and paint, they can be made into purses or recipe holders.

Slide Mailers - Coat these with gesso and let dry.  Use colorful paint, rubber stamps and buttons or trinkets to decorate these.  Glue photos of choice in the space designated for the slides, then glue slide mounts into place over the photos.
Formica tags - These are readily available in any hardware store.  Paint and rubber stamp these and turn them into pendants, magnets, and key chains.
Kitchen items - Spoons can be cut and made into little angel pins.  I have also seen a unique purse which someone made out of a metal colander.

These are only a few of the many items used to make altered art projects.  Try something mentioned above or try something totally different.  You never know when you might come up with the next rage in the altered art world!

Please feel free to check out my store for some examples of altered art jewelry.  Hopefully, these will give you some inspiration to try your own creations.

All artwork by Wanda Eash of Two Crafty Mules

Casino Ashtrays - Why Are They Valuable?
By: Ron Gilbert

I believe that Las Vegas and casino ashtrays are going to increase significantly in value over the coming years.  Here are some of my reasons (some of them specific to ashtrays):

•  These vintage items are no longer produced and used.
•  They represent a specific period in a casino's history, which will never be repeated.
•  There is now extensive media coverage about poker tournaments and the 'new' Las Vegas as a destination. Many television programs and Internet sites also focus on the old Las Vegas and how it used to be.  When I watch these programs, I often see some of my collectibles and say "I've got that one!"
•  Over 30 million people visit Las Vegas yearly and there are many signs that this number will continue to expand with new and repeat visitors.
•  Many Las Vegas visitors are now or will be collectors of Las Vegas memorabilia.
•  I was there recently and searched around some local antique and collectors' stores and saw very few ashtrays and other Las Vegas memorabilia.  Those that I did find had prices 3-10 times more expensive than what they can be purchased for on eBay.
•  When these items (ashtrays, postcards, menus, etc.) were produced, the target audience was a tiny percentage of what it is today and will be in the future, so proportionately there were not many produced.
•  The massive expansion of the Internet has shown the number of collectors growing exponentially, and their appetite for

collectibles will only continue to grow.  Las Vegas collectibles will continue to be among the more popular collectibles.  They are affordable, all have an interesting story behind them, and more and more people have been to Las Vegas in person.
• Many ashtrays get tossed away or broken when family members are cleaning up after a loved one has passed, resulting in a dwindling supply of these great ashtrays.

Some Ashtray History
At the end of World War II, clever entrepreneurs realized that ashtrays were an economical means for a business to advertise itself (prior to the war, they were generally blank), at a cost of $.15-$.25 each (even cheaper in larger volumes).   Salespeople across the country then began selling countless thousands of ashtrays to every business possible . and in Nevada, almost every town had casinos.   In Las Vegas the casinos would even give hundreds of ashtrays to outlying motels to put in their rooms (knowing people would take them), thus extending their advertising even more.

The ashtray manufacturers designed some ashtrays that were beautiful in shape, and they had graphic artists employed to create aesthetically beautiful artwork for these ashtrays.  By the mod 1960's, many of the ashtrays had become less interesting with less attention to the unique design and detail which made them so fascinating.  When smoking began to receive more negative publicity, the casinos stop purchasing and using ashtrays with their name on them and now almost all casinos only use plain ashtrays.

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Book Review: Poetry Lessons by author Fred Kashani
By: Felicia Brown

I initially started going to thrift stores out of necessity. When I was growing up, my parents were barely able to afford our living expenses. Thrift stores enabled us to have the "luxuries" of middle class. I should explain that my dad's idea of "luxuries" included things like toys, books, small appliances, and furniture. Now that I'm an adult with a real job, I still find myself drawn to thrift stores, not out of necessity but out of choice. Now I do it to support charities, promote recycling, and protest mass consumerism. I feel like I'm making a secret political or social statement by

supporting thrift stores.

I thought my unspoken motivation for thrift shopping was unique to me until I read "Poetry Lessons" by Fred Kashani. The story is essentially a quirky love story, but it makes many references to thrift shopping. The following quote is from one of the main characters, Maggie, who is a pack rat artist: "Thrift shopping is a great way to redistribute wealth. Shoppers get great deals. Charities get money. Donations are a tax write-off. Everybody wins. All kinds of things get recycled and find new life." When I read this quote, I realized I wasn't alone. There must be others who share my views.

I found myself identifying with Maggie constantly throughout the book. When asked by her boyfriend, Henry, what she looks for in thrift stores, she replies, "You don't get it. That's not the way it works. I don't look for things. Things look for me . The universe guides me to things that should be in my life. This is my connection to divinity." I think about this quote often now when I'm thrift shopping. In the past I looked at all the stuff in the

stores as random donations. stuff other people didn't want anymore. Now I wonder if there might be some hidden order to all the treasures in thrift stores. After all, everything in a thrift store has a story that's been lost to history.

Maybe it's possible that through a million coincidences the Universe placed something just for me in a thrift store. something I'm supposed to have, or something I need to serve the greater good. There have been many times when browsing through books I came across a title that related to some issue I was having in life. A book on how to conquer fear or on when to leave a relationship appeared at just the right time. A picture book on simple home repairs has made me less dependent on the men in my life.

"Poetry Lessons" was obviously written by someone who has spent a lot of time in thrift stores. Reading it has given me a new perspective on thrift shopping. I think anyone who has the sensibility to enjoy thrift shopping will appreciate this quirky love story.

Thrifter of the Month
I Buy Things Nobody Else Wants
By: Mattie


Like most hardcore thrifters, I can point to nearly everything in my house and say, "I bought that at a thrift store." My clothes, furniture, household items, knickknacks, and books are almost entirely thrifted. There are plenty of good reasons to thrift: It saves money, it keeps useful items out of the landfill, and it's a fun way to create a unique personal style. But I thrift for another reason, as well.

I'm an artist and I create artwork from - there's no other way to say it - junk. Sometimes I find my materials on the sidewalk or sticking out of a trash can, but my favorite place to find castoff stuff is the local thrift store.

I like materials that show their age. Old buttons, scratched picture frames, broken

toys, even stained fabric all find their way into my artwork. I'm especially drawn to old photographs and postcards. I've found all these things at thrift stores.

Sometimes a cashier will give me a puzzled look and ask, "What are you going to do with this thing? And by the way, what IS it?" Usually I don't know exactly what I'm going to do with it, and sometimes I don't even know what it is. I buy things that speak to me and spark my creativity. I guess I also buy things nobody else wants. The last two buttons from a card of six? Sure, I can use them. An old science textbook with missing pages? I'll take it.

My studio is crammed with thrifted items that will someday become art. Some of these treasures have been waiting years for the opportunity to be glued or stitched into a collage or assemblage. Jewelry boxes, game pieces, and broken appliance parts share space with more functional items like thrifted spools of thread and jars of nails. I've thrifted virtually all the tools of my trade. My sewing machines, drafting tables, and even some shelving units were thrifted. I keep most of my hoard on open shelves where it's visible because I like to look around and allow an item to catch my eye. When the muse hits, it hits fast, and I hate to waste time searching for something I know is in there somewhere.

My goal, in all my artwork, is to give the viewer an opportunity to see discarded, forgotten, or overlooked objects in a new way - a way that will connect those objects to personal memories. And if those memories - discarded, forgotten or overlooked - are brought to light in a new way, then I've done my job.