Friday, December 31, 2010

Cards! Cards!

Dear Reader -  One of the guiding principles that I've been using when choosing card lines (and everything else, for that matter) is making sure that they fit the description of "rare find" - meaning that they're not already carried in town - and, in many cases, in Delaware at all.

To that end, I've been finding individual designers and little card workshops (like Borealis) around the country.

One of my favorite finds, both for the quality and beauty of his cards, as well as for his like-minded philosophy, is Jonathan Wright of Los Angeles:

Here's a little note from his website re. his take on stationery:
"Some say that stationery has gone out of style, I beg to differ. In this world of increasingly rapid-fire and impersonal communications, receiving a tangible hand-written note or inspired invitation has become even more meaningful. If fine social stationery has become a luxury, I say 'indulge,' and I invite you to do so with Jonathan Wright and Company."

And Mr. Wrights cards do have a singularly luscious and indulgent quality to them, finding a rare balance between beauty and whimsy that results in a sort of soul-feeding that I just love.

For instance, take the simplicity of this birthday greeting:

Or this appropriately staid sympathy card:
And I love his beach collection, like these boxed cards for correspondence:

But probably my absolute favorite creations are his vintage stamp cards. He encloses the vintage stamps in acetate, attaches them to the cards with a grommet, and then includes a little note about their history on the back of the card. These are a little more pricey - but just look what you're getting:

What philatelist or vintage art lover wouldn't be tickled to receive such a unique card?

Finally, what drew me to Mr. Wright in the first place was his collection of book plates. His "Matey" design speaks for itself:

Connect all of this to his thoughtful and comprehensive care for nature (find his environmental statement in the About Us portion of his website), and you have yourself a winning designer - perfectly suited to little Lewes, Delaware. Looking forward to perusing his cards with you in person!  - Jen

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Christmas Gift Redux: Grandma Moses, Otto Kallir, and my mom

Dear Reader -  A couple months back I tripped across the newly-minted Milford Public Library on one of my little buying adventures. I was looking for a ladies room, they were looking mighty clean, and so I stopped in.

Imagine my delight when the greeter in the lobby had a little sign announcing that their book sale was beginning the next Monday. Of course, I made my way back, having a blast filling bag after bag of great books - so many, in fact, that the ladies who ran the show began to get curious. They took splendid care of me - watching over my amassing books, oooing and ahhing over my finds, and finally helping me get them all out to my car. The woman who helped me cart the books finally got up the nerve to ask what I was up to, so I told her about biblion. She was tickled as all getout, and quickly told me their sale schedule for the year.

The next sale was on December 1. It offered many of their nicer books, which were priced accordingly. In fact, many were priced such that it made no sense for me to buy them (there's no way that I could sell them at any sort of margin that'd let me pay the rent). One of them was this volume on Grandma Moses by Otto Kallir:
For those of you who've been paying attention, you'll recognize that it's sitting on the carpet in my office, and you'll be wondering, "But, Jen, if this book was too pricey, what's it doin' coming home with you?"

This book, dear Reader, is my Christmas present to me. I overpaid for it - as is the case with many Christmas presents - but I didn't think twice (or even one and a half times) before snatching it up from the Milford ladies.

You see, I have a thing for Grandma Moses that comes by way of my mother, Judy:

Judy had a knack for seeing people for who they are and for celebrating the best in them - in both grand and subtle ways. Take Mary and Dalene, for instance (here they all are playing dress-up one Christmas):
Mary and Dalene were the unique and intelligent sort of women who did not fit neatly into the box of feminine expectations in my little hometown in Kansas (Mary, in fact, weathered a horribly bigoted incident near the end of her time there that near-nigh did her in - but she, with her indomitable nature and sense of humor, prevailed). My mother, of course, loved them fully - gently turning her back to the people who eschewed them and gaining deep friendships in return that enriched her 'till the end of her days.

Judy also had a particularly keen ability to see children as people, too - appreciating the full "peopleness" of each one. Her ability here was evidenced in her community work, having lead the town's children's theater and having started the arts council with a special attention for children's offerings (she had volumes of photo albums with pictures of her plays and such - volumes which I'd love to see again [alas, see previous post re. well-meaning sister-in-law]). She was loved by my friends, as she turned the warmth of this ability on them, too - and, blessedly, she was not one of those parents who inexplicably withheld this attention from her own kids.

So it was, that one Christmas when I was a girl, I received this paperback volume from my mom:
It's a much smaller, abridged version of my Milford find, and it evidences the years of living in my parents' smoking household and my hours of perusal, but I still keep it in a special spot on my bookshelf.

Why? Two reasons. When mom gave it to me she said that she'd sought it out because the detail in my drawings (I was a prolific illustrator at that time) reminded her of Moses'. That was cool, but that wasn't what really touched me. I was so moved that I'd been noticed - that I'd been seen (not always easy with the kind of attention that my brothers required). Something about my mother's gift made me feel that she knew and valued me.

To my little hands, the 9"x11" book seemed vast - seemed special. I knew I'd received something that had meaning and worth.

But little did I know at the time what worth and depth there was to the book. When I started to wend my way through Kallir's full volume, I was amazed.

The plates were stunning:

The photographs enlightening:

And her story so lovingly assembled, down to the gilt tables of contents for each of the book's four sections:
 At the end there was even a catalog of her every work:

With that kind of love and attention, I just knew that there had to be a story behind the author, Otto Kallir:
And, thanks to the wonders of Google, I found out that I was right.

Kallir was an Austrian who fled the Nazis and made his way to New York City in the late 30s. He quickly became a leading figure in the New York and American art scenes, founding Galerie St. Etienne on 57th Street and becoming key to the recovery of looted art from World War II. You can read an essay about him from their 55th anniversary. (You can also read about the sale that he was obliged to make to Hitler [from which he did not profit] back in the day here on the Looted Art website.)

St. Etienne was where Grandma Moses' work first gained national and international exposure, via the exhibition "What a Farmwife Painted" in 1940, and they went on to become her exclusive representatives. You can read more about their relationship in Otto's daughter Jane's essay from the Moses anniversary exhibition early this year.

The second reason why I've so treasured the Grandma Moses volume is something that Moses, Kallir, and my mother have in common: rebirth and reinvention. Moses and Kallir both had remarkable transformations - his rather phoenix-like, having had to abandon a successful career in Europe at the age of 45 and start over from scratch in America - her's more like a butterfly, having lived in a very different state of being for most of her days, only to be revealed in a startling new twilight.

Even as a girl, I latched on to this aspect of her story - of the fact that it's never too late for something extraordinary to manifest in our lives. And as I watched my mother navigate the challenges of her life with grace and joy - forever seeming to be able to make something beautiful out of it all, no matter what - I, too, believed that it was possible for my life to eventually amount to something positive, even if it didn't seem grand or important or relevant at the time. All it takes, I realized, is to just be fully myself (which I've since realized isn't always as easy as it sounds).

So my bookshelf has a new occupant this year, and my heart has a renewed appreciation for life's ultimate goodness and possibility - quite fitting as Miss C and I are set to embark on the next leg of our new adventure as the new year chimes in. Blessings to you and yours as you watch the clock tick down to 2011!  - Jen

P.S. If you love a great story, you'll love this charming NY Times one about Jane Kallir's second marriage to her first husband.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Farewell to our Thistles friends

Dear Reader -  Well, it's official. Beth and Allyn (and Ellen, too!) have moved on to greener and non-hours-posting pastures.

My dear friend Anne from Connecticut and I stopped in for Beth's last few minutes open on Christmas Eve to say so long:

We looked at art, we chatted about window washers, and we admired Beth's angel pin (given to her by a student years ago):

Allyn now has his weekends back, Ellen's looking forward to traveling, and Beth's opening her arms and heart wide to see what the universe brings to her next.

What I've been struck by as folks have found out that biblion books is moving into their space is how beloved they all are and how deeply missed they'll be - not just as an art shop, but as people, as friends. Folks have come up to me again and again and mentioned spontaneously how wonderfully kind the people of Thistles have been.

What a perfect pattern of beauty that Miss C and I will have to follow and live into.

Thank you, Thistles. Truly  - Jen

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Thistles going out of business SALE!

Dear Reader -  You have only three days left to visit Thistles at 205 Second Street (644.2323), as Allyn and Beth prepare to pull the curtain on a decade of being Lewes' premiere art shop.

They're both ready to shift gears from the retail lifestyle, and they and some of their artists are offering some generous discounts as they make the transition.

Stop in today - buy a piece of original fine art or fine craftwork, and tell them thanks for being such an asset to Second Street and Lewes!  - Jen

Monday, December 20, 2010


Dear Reader -  I'm really (really) excited about the card lines that we're planning to carry at biblion. We've worked hard to build an assemblage of beautiful, thoughtful, quirky, cute, and funny ones. And I decided I'd give you a little foretaste, telling you about some of the designers that we've found in a series of posts.

The first thing that you need to know is that I come from a long line of card-reservers*. My mother was one (she was so organized about it all that her box of spare cards was organized by her very own file of occasions). And her mother was one, too - though her cards were always kept in a box:

A Komfort Kings box (please read their tag line and please, please tell me that you'll talk me off the wall if I ever decide to pursue a marketing slogan using alternate spellings):

When I was a little girl I would spend hours sifting through Grandma's and mom's card boxes. I loved them. Who could resist the charming graphics, the sprinkles of glitter, the witty sayings:

I also had a major thing for the button tin that my mom kept, too - it had three or four generations of buttons in it - I, again, would play with them for hours - sorting, anthropomorphizing, etc., etc.. I loved her cards, and I loved those buttons. So you can understand, Reader, how sad I was when I learned that all of my mom's treasures that I'd played with as a girl - her buttons, her cards, her jewelry boxes full of generations of pieces, and her closet of very uniquely-Judy (that was her name) clothing all disappeared one day when my mom's cleaning lady and my brother's wife decided to clear out her stuff from the house to make things easier on my dad. Just one of those things I had to mourn for an instant and then release (kinda like the spring morning of my childhood when I woke to find that my treasured collection of panoramic sugar Easter eggs had all dissolved on my dresser overnight, stolen by the the warmed and moistened Kansas breeze that drifted through our open windows).

I, too, have my own collection. I'm more like my grandmother, just keeping them all piled together in a bag and box. But I know each one by heart.

So when it came time to go looking for card lines for biblion, the first place I went to search was my own box, turning over each card to find its maker and then heading to my computer to find them.
 I particularly love the one in the middle, from a line made in Bath, England, that I found and procured many years ago. I quickly found that they were no longer in business, but I really wanted to carry cards with quotes from authors and thinkers and the like, so I set out on a Google search.

What I found was a little outfit up in Blue Hill, Maine, called Borealis Press (if you click on the Buying Borealis tab at the top of their website, you can see some of the cards)

I fell in love with them instantly - and not just 'cause they have cool, well-priced cards.

They're up in the middle of nearly nowhere (not unlike us):

And they're the ultimate small-town-small-shop endeavor. Settled in this little coastal town, they're working with a very sane and simple business model, sustainably creating sustainable products. Very happy.

Here's where they live and work:


They're exactly the kind of people that, just by being themselves, make me feel good about carrying their products.

And, as providence would have it, once I'd discovered them along this path, I just kept finding more and more folks of the same ilk. More for later  - Jen

*Card-reservers are those folks who buy cards that they like and keep them in reserve for just the right occasion.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

This is not a dream . . . at least not in the usual sense

Dear Reader -  One of the most typical responses that I receive when someone hears that I'm opening a bookstore is, "Oh! That must've been a dream of yours for a long time!"

The truth is, it wasn't. Not at all.

I never thought of it 'till I was in the midst of a meditation. I was just sitting there, minding my own mindful business, when the clearest vision just popped into my head: used bookstore on Second Street in Lewes (I know the whole meditation thang may sound mildly insane, but just roll with me on this one, Reader).

And I knew instantly that the idea was perfect. Perfect for Lewes 'cause we lost our only general bookstore this year (it had really shifted to become more cafe-oriented, anyhow - the other bookstore in town is Seekers, which offers a really cool mix of books, cards, and gifts for spiritually-minded folks of all faiths). Perfect for the Delaware beaches 'cause the only other general used bookstore around here isn't open very often (John Milton & Co. in Milton is a super store, with tens of thousands of volumes - the owner is a college professor, though, so he's only able to have the shop open on Saturdays - there's also a 7-days a week shop down in Fenwick Island that only carries novels, called A Novel Idea). And perfect because Lewes has a charming, viable downtown - frequented by locals and tourists throughout the year.

It was also perfect for me and Miss C, since it allows us to enjoy doing this together (as opposed to me being away from home working and her being with stuck with a sitter when she's not in school), while simultaneously letting me continue my work as a writer and editor and also working with the special events that I love to help, like St. Peter's Art Show, Comedy at the Beach, and Taste the Fruit of the Vine.

I know it's not a proven path to millionaire acres, but we have a very simple lifestyle, and I felt confident that the shop'd provide us with what we need.

So I had this idea, right? But I had no idea how or when it was going to be effected. So I kept up my meditating and praying and just stayed open to where I'd be led. I knew that I'd need inventory, so I started buying books. Knowing that our life needed to be more nuclear and walkable for this to really work well, I starting putting feelers out for making the move to Lewes. And knowing that I'd need a storefront, I started to network, letting property owners know what I was looking for.

Early in the fall, the housing piece of the puzzle fell into place, thanks to my friends Libby and Tom. And then, shortly thereafter, I found out that the shop that I'd secretly determined would be the best for what I had in mind was coming available at the beginning of the year.

Since then, in an almost uncanny fashion, every other aspect of the shop has just effortlessly fallen into place. I couldn't have made it happen any better if I'd actually planned it.

It's been an adventure, indeed - and now Miss C and I are craning our necks a bit, happily anticipating what's coming around the next bend. I'll keep you posted!  - Jen

Saturday, December 18, 2010

A (brief) object lesson . . .

. . . in why I haven't posted in the last few days, Dear Reader:
The Sorting Room has run amok, and I'm running amok in it.  - Jen

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Happy holiday roadblocks

Dear Reader -  My daughter, Miss C, and I decided that today's our day to decorate for the holidays. Now she's been sleeping in, so I've been taking advantage of the quiet to finish up a few things on the little newspaper that I edit and to become so distracted by it all that I burned (impressively) my steel cut oats.

But when I walked out into the hall after I was done (both the the paper and with the toast that I made to replace the oats), I realized that I had a load of work to do before we could decorate in earnest:

You see, we have a process here at Casa J&C. Books find their way home with us, in large and small doses, and then they patiently (sometimes they have to be more patient than others) wait in the halls to enter the sorting room. Now, we'll have to talk about the sorting room and the magical things that happen there some other day (when we're not already behind on our cleaning); but suffice it to say that I have a few hundred books waiting in the wings (and the wing-ettes, as the boot of the car is full as well).

Part of the problem is that, well, the books are pretty - and they're interesting. Like that Tulips book in the foreground . . .
. . . it's gorgeous - and it's hard not to want to stop and spend some time with it. There are these lovely tulip photographs, sometimes alone on the pages and sometimes paired with a quote, like this one with Oscar Wilde:
There is not a single colour hidden away
in the chalice of a flower . . . to which,
by some subtle sympathy
with the very soul of things,
my nature does not answer.
                                                     - Oscar Wilde

Frankly, Reader, I'd much rather go grab my cup of tea and hide myself away with this book than vacuum the living room rug.

Oh, and then there's Jim Harrison, who just happens to be sitting right next to the tulips:

I love Jim Harrison. A lot.

First, it'd probably make sense to admit that I have a serious thang for Walt Whitman. I found him later in life, and I think that's not by accident - I don't think that I would have appreciated him in the same way when I was young and fresh and green and unspoiled, as it were. But today, after the years have worked their own magic on me, I adore him - love how he sees and loves every corner of the world. I'm convinced that we'd be best buddies if we could hang together. I've been known to sit and read his poems aloud to myself for an hour at a time (I know, I know, I'm just weird like that).

And there's something about Harrison that resonates with me in the same way. He looks into the human soul with sometimes frightening clarity, like he did in the novel that many know him for (thanks to Hollywood), Legends of the Fall - and I connect keenly with this sense of place and his deep communion with nature. But it's his poetry that sends me, for it's there that he demonstrates an unflinching ability to turn that piercing, one-eyed gaze of his on his own soul. I walk away from every one moved and enlarged.

And, sorta like Walt, I confess that I have some wild imaginings about Jim - I'm convinced on some primal level that he and his wife are gonna up and invite me to one of their western homes one of these days (I know, I know - weird like that, yadda, yadda, yadda).

But, rather than succumbing to my thirst for beauty among the tulips or Harrison's pages, I'm off to cook some pancakes for the now-awake Miss C, and to vacuum that rug. I'll leave you with a video from the NewsHour on Harrison:
Writer, Poet Jim Harrison Is a Determined “Outsider” : NewsHour Poetry Series : Video : The Poetry Foundation

Happy holiday preparations to you and yours  - Jen

Thursday, December 9, 2010

All things tangible and semi-tangible

Dear Reader -  I have a confession: I have taken full advantage of the fact that I hadn't yet told you about this blog to focus my attention on the more solid aspects of my bookstore in the last few weeks, ignoring the semi-tangible, electronic world entirely. I have chosen paint colors, picked a floor (sort of), finalized my signage, chosen bags (almost), finalized card lines, etc., etc. - with ample stories about each endeavor to share.

But now, thanks to the stellar skills of my friend and colleague, Mr. Danny Schweers (webmaster, graphic designer, photographer, and artist extraordinaire), I have a web page up and a "shrimp scampi"* of a domain name to link up with this little blog - And thanks to the contribution of Theresa at Quillen Signs, who demonstrated the patience of Job in working with me on my logo, it looks especially pretty. It's just a placeholder of a page, but it gets us started.

And now I'll turn my attention back to my new obsession with all things Danish and WOCA oils, as I finalize my flooring choice. If what's under the glued-down, decades-old commercial carpet that's in there is salvageable, then we'll have a WOCA oil party with that - if not, I'm leaning toward a batch of heart pine that was reclaimed from a Georgia barn - what'd you think?
Onward!  - Jen

*NOTE: I realize that I made this allusion before and then I realized that not everybody thinks that "shrimp scampi" is as funny as I do, so I should explain my repetition of this goofy joke. Scampi (singular, scampo) means "shrimp" in Italian. So the ubiquitous "Shrimp Scampi" that we see on American menus is Shrimp Shrimp. Biblion is book (or small book) in Greek. is, hence the scampi reference and my undying amusement.
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