Sunday, February 13, 2011

It's time for a Tea Party! (with tea!)

*Since I've fallen in love with all the wonderful tea products I carry in my shop, I've decided to host tea parties (with tea!) What could be more fun than costumes, party food (I'm always trying new recipes!), great customers, specials every hour, (Remember the K-Mart "blue light" specials?) and door prizes?
*Last year I hosted five tea parties at The Looking Glass! On March 21st, we celebrated the White Rabbit's Unbirthday Party. (He was really surprised!) We had tea tables set up outside with china cups and saucers and white linens; tea was served by Alice (Tami in costume!) Competition was heated during the best hat competition!
*We honored Mother's Day with another outdoor tea party on May 2nd. All moms received free gifts!
*July 24th found us having a TEA-NY cocktail party featuring jewelry designed by artists in New York. I infused tea into our Mojitos and Cosmopolitans! It was quite a party!
*On Sept. 12th, at the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, the Mad Hatter showed up and served Mad Hatter tea punch and yummy appetizers.
*We ended our year of partying with the very successful Holiday Open House on Nov. 14th where customers had the special treat of seeing Cynthia Bloom's unique and beautiful Czech glass button jewelry. Cynthia even brought one of the tools that is used to hand make the glass buttons.
*This year is off to a great start with the Queen of
Hearts Tea Party which was held on Feb. 6th!
*I have plans for the March Hare's March Shopping Madness Tea Party on March 27th. Cynthia Bloom will be back with new designs of her Czech glass button jewelry (new buttons made from antique molds!)
*If you haven't signed up on my email list, please do so on my website. I'll send you invitations for all the parties this year (I've scheduled six!) It's a great opportunity to relax, have fun, wear a vintage or new hat, drink tea, eat, and shop!
*I think my Irish Auntie Betty would have loved my tea parties! Join us for a spot of tea!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Working on displays!

*Once I had my shop organized, I realized how much I enjoy "playing" with displays. I don't really use any commercial displays because I prefer to use objects in unique ways to showcase my merchandise.

*Every season, I change
all major displays. I look for inspiration everywhere I go. Sometimes when I see a terrific product at market, (in Atlanta) I will use that product to organize a theme for a display. For example, last spring I finally found some great Alice in Wonderland tea sets, cups, and plates. I set up a display on purple polka dot fabric complete with a wooden Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dee. (painted by my talented friend and gunsmith next door Dave Stewart)

*Sometimes I decide on a theme and go looking for merchandise to fit it! One summer I decided I wanted kitchen merchandise with a veggie theme. My daughter Katie made a two foot paper mache carrot to stand in the middle of a table surrounded by salt/pepper shakers, bowls, trays, etc. with a veggie theme that I found at market.

*This past summer I did a fruit theme on the same table complete with a manikin wearing a vintage navy polka dot dress with a Carmen Miranda style head piece with fruit on it!

*Objects often inspire my displays as well. Last fall, I noticed that my grandfather's plow that sits in my garden was looking a little rusty. I sanded it and sprayed it dark green. That helped me to decide to use tools that relate to the harvest in my shop. The plow sat in the middle of small bales of hay on the center table surrounded by fall jewelry and purses. I also had an old wheelbarrow (painted the same dark green) full of pumpkins in the front window. and vintage red toy wagons for my jewelry display. I think my grandfather would be happy to see his plow holding a place of honor in my shop!

*It's always fun to play in my shop! Come and visit and join me for tea!

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Birth of the White Rabbit

*While planning The Looking Glass, I decided I wanted a giant
White Rabbit in front of my shop to greet shoppers. It didn't take long for me to realize that there weren't many giant White Rabbits around, so I set out to make him.

*I enlisted the help of my creative daughter Katie who was a senior in high school at the time. We started with a big plywood base to which I attached a 7 ft. 2"x4" in the center. Then we started stapling chicken wire to the base and began molding the rabbit's body. We problem- solved along the way and had a great time deciding what he would look like. The rabbit form stood in the middle of our family room for several weeks because we were studying him to be sure that we had the right shape.

*My husband Jeff never asked what we were up to (probably because he was accustomed to unusual objects in our home!) One day, however, he came home from work and said, "Is that a giant wire rabbit?" Katie and I celebrated because the rabbit was obviously ready for his skin.

*I wrapped him in quilt batting and then began covering him in white muslin. I hand stitched his body cover onto his frame, adding fiberfill to soften his form. I made his giant ears with a pink lining and stitched them in place on his head. Katie painted his eyes on fabric, and I carefully cut out and appliqued his eyes and nose. She also fashioned his wire glasses and added broom straw whiskers.

*One day when Katie came home from school, we made an exciting trip to the fabric store. She had a vision of the clothes the rabbit should wear, so she picked out the fabric. She chose a purple/black houndstooth for his jacket, a green shiny fabric for his vest, glittery gold for his bow-tie,and black satin for his gloves.

* I made up a simple paper pattern from newspaper and began stitching by both hand and machine. Once he was dressed, I added vintage buttons to his bowtie and his double breasted vest and jacket. He also got a special vintage pocket watch and chain that Katie picked out.
I also realized he would be difficult to move in and out of the store, so I added wheels to his base so I could just roll him out everyday. After six months (now that's a long labor!), he was ready and so was The Looking Glass.

*The White Rabbit has had several repairs in his five years, including wheels with brakes because he has a tendency to go flying down the street when the wind picks up, but he goes in and out with ease. Everyone knows that when he's out, The Looking Glass is open.

*Look for the White Rabbit and join us for tea!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Looking Glass Green

...the continuing story...

*Once I found a spot for my shop in Buda (I had to wait a year for the building to be built), I set to work deciding on a color scheme. Since every store I knew was doing a white Shabby Chic theme, I immediately looked for an alternative color. I decided on a pretty soft green. Just as in nature, the color green--that is the right green-would be a great background color.

*I started by getting samples of green paint and painting swatches on plywood strips. After twenty shades of green and a lot of frustration, I noticed a "Welcome to my Garden" sign (a gift from a neighbor!) hanging on my garden room door. The background green was perfect! I took the sign to the paint store and had them match the color.

*I spent the summer before I opened painting about fifteen pieces of furniture "Looking Glass green". I reasoned that it would be easy for my customers to see that any green furniture was display only, while the antique furniture for sale would clearly stand out.

*I've been happy with my choice of green for years now--With the giant real ivies that grow along the walls, I feel that I'm in a garden room!

*Unfortunately, I have no idea where the green paint cans went, so when a friend wanted to paint some displays in her shop Looking Glass green, I had to loan her my garden sign so she could have the color matched. If you ever need to borrow my garden sign to match the green, just let me know!

Jo Ann

Thursday, July 8, 2010

How "Wonderland" Began...

*I have always loved to shop. Even when I didn't have much money, I loved to look at all the items available. My Irish Auntie Betty enjoyed telling the story of one of my visits to her home in Dallas when I was eight. Auntie Betty was very amused when I showed up in her kitchen, all dressed, holding my purse with my savings at 8:00 a.m. the first morning of my visit. I was most annoyed that I had to eat breakfast and wait for the stores to open!

*About fifteen years ago, I became disenchanted with shopping. It seemed everywhere I went, I saw the same merchandise over and over. Few stores stood out with any unique finds.

*Luckily, my love of antiques kept me from giving up . When I went on "safari", as I called it, I often found one-of-a-kind treasures. During this time, I told myself that one day I would own a shop that was a "wonderland" of unique items--both new, old, and handmade. It would be a shop unlike any others I had ever seen.

*Ten years ago I met a lady who was selling five large wooden Alice in Wonderland cutouts on stands. They had been custom-made, hand-painted for a nursery in a model home in Atlanta. She had bought them at auction and had stored them for five years. I told her that I needed them because I was going to have an Alice in Wonderland themed shop someday! Of course, the cutouts lived in my garage for another five years before they became the centerpieces of my shop The Looking Glass on Main Street in Buda.

*Now that I'm in my fifth year of business, I've decided to blog about my many adventures as a shop owner! If you're near Buda, (It's only fifteen minutes from Austin), stop by and visit. As my Auntie Betty often did, I'll make you "a spot of tea"!

Jo Ann