Sunday, May 31, 2009

Timeless pursuits - Or not?

This week has found me out of routine. Catching up on work, laundry and sleep has taken all my energy, or at least all my creativity!

Yesterday was my official "Closet Change of Seasons". I took the opportunity to go through everything in the closet to determine what still fits. This spring, I started an effort to lose weight and am seeing preliminary results. Not so much a size change, a size shift might be a better term. Still wearing the same size, but at the smaller end of the range.

Anyway, while going through the closet, I found a little booklet that intrigues me every time I look at it.

I do not remember how it came to me, thrift store, estate sale, antique mall. It is published by Dennison Manufacturing Company and is copyright 1922.

Inside, it provides instruction and ideas for creating art from sealing wax, presumably an item found in most homes back in the day.

"Beads, pendants, vases, favors and flowers" were all possibilities. The tools needed: Sealing wax, a few steel knitting needles of various sizes, a small vegetable knife, a wax spatula, a wax 'moulder' and an alcohol lamp with denatured alcohol. Interestingly, denatured alcohol was "impossible to obtain" in some localities so "methylated spirits" were suggested as a substitute.
An inserted chart shows the colors of wax available.

The thing that intrigues me about this booklet is that I don't believe that I have ever encountered an example of "Sealing Wax Art". Maybe it was a passing fad, or maybe it was not a durable media, but this booklet is the only evidence that I have come across.

That got me to thinking about passing trends, and why some things stay current with cycles of increased interest (knitting and quilting for instance) and some things enjoy a hey-day and then pass (Huck weaving, macrame and latch hook rugs come to mind, examples of all these can be found in a small sampling of estate sales!)

Just a glance through my 1959 edition of "Good Housekeeping's Complete Guide to Needlecraft" illustrates my point; Tatting and Weaving are still with us, but not in the mainstream. The 1971 edition includes "netting" which seems to be a hybrid of tatting and macrame.

The 1979 Edition of "Reader's Digest Complete Guide to Needlework" includes machine embroidery, which of course, is a technology development, not a new craft.

Just as today, browsing the aisles of any craft store, you will find pamphlets to give you project ideas and instruction (and a list of supplies that you may need to purchase!), The Dennison Mfg Co, offered other booklets for such other intriguing crafts as "How to Make Paper Costumes" and "How to Decorate Halls, Booths and Automobiles" (I always tell The Mister - it's all about accessorizing at car shows!)

Scrapbooking and other paper crafts have become very popular in the past decade, or so. (I am the grateful beneficiary of the trend. Dearest Sister has created many lovely scrapbooks, two of which belong to me!) Huge sections of craft stores are dedicated to supplies and many magazines and books are available for ideas. Of course, origami (paper craft) and scrapbooks are not new, but today's memory books have infinitely more formats, motifs and accessories than previous years' pressed flowers, ticket stubs and photos.

In 1979 or '80, I worked with a woman who brought in an exquisite beaded Christmas tree that her cousin had made. Several of my co-workers and I wanted to learn how, so we contacted the tiny shop where the beaded tree craft was taught. We strung the beads on wire and twisted them into branches. We searched for tiny clay pots to use as 'tree stands' and interesting beaded jewelry to deconstruct to make ornaments from. I went to stores specializing in miniatures to get tiny motif wrapping paper to make presents with. The beads were sold in a "hank", with about 20 strings of beads about 18" long. When the store was closing out its bead inventory a few years later, I bought all they had, so I could continue the craft.

The last year she was with us, Deeply Missed Sister and I made trees for several gifts. (You can see the one we made for DS here) Shortly, though, the pre-strung branches were available to buy ready to assemble and tiny ornaments and wrapped gifts could be bought ready made.

It makes me wonder, are new craft trends created by the companies making the supplies that they hope to market, or does the market drive the suppliers to jump on the trend?

What do you think? Have you ever been in on the beginning of a craft trend? Have you ever seen "Sealing Wax Art"? Inquiring minds want to know!


Iron Needles said...

So I am thinking that in 'Puff the Magic Dragon', Little Jackie Paper brought him strings and SEALING WAX and other fancy stuff...not ceiling wax...which I really never knew what that was exactly, maybe something to stop leaks???

By the way...excellent post. Really.

Anonymous said...

I am mostly a follower...after a trend is firmly settled. Adventure is not for me!! Love, WS

Allie said...

I've lived long enough to see crafts that were popular when I was a child, popular again with young crafters. But I've never heard of sealing wax art!

I think with the internet, trends are coming fast and furious - and the companies who make supplies are watching all the blogs and craft sites to see what's hot.

I'm going to stick with embroidery and quilting.....that way I'll be able to find my way around my sewing room!

Martha said...

Well...not sealing wax art, but certainly sealing wax in its more mundane role -- sealing things. I had a whole set in the 60's but I didn't use it much. From the 70's I have many letters from my younger sister, Mary -- all stamped with sealing wax (she loved all that romantic stuff). I wonder if you can even buy sealing wax now.

That tree is amazing -- I love all the little ornaments and presents. I'm sure it was a lot of fun to find all the tiny stuff and put it all together. My sister, Sally, and I used to make all kinds of weird crafts we would see in Woman's Day and Family Circle (she once made a big picture entirely out of seeds -- a rooster I think). We made some really dumb things, but I have very fond memories of making that stuff with her just like you and your sisters.

Lynne said...

What a quaint and charming booklet! I have never heard of doing anything else with sealing wax besides using it seal a letter. Back in the early 70s I did have a stamp and some sealing wax that I used on letters. It was orange, but wasn't nearly everything orange back then? Back in the 70s I did macrame too ... :)

Sometimes I am certain that trends are started by companies so that people will buy what they are trying to market. Good question!

Thanks for the trip back down a memory lane of crafting!

Anonymous said...

I tried Dogpile for sealing wax art and found one place where it was mentioned-- ebay. Someone had the same book as you for $25.00. There are alot of sites about sealing wax, but that was the only one about sealing wax art that I could find. That is very interesting. I miss the artistic side of my life. (I haven't done any "artsy" stuff for so long! Tish