Friday, March 30, 2012

Trading cards, anyone?

Among the vintage ephemera that I have amassed over the past few years are a few small trading cards from Wills's Cigarettes, which have exquisitely crafted full-color images on one side and interesting trivia on the other, all framed with convenient little mentions of the sponsor's name. There's also a notice, in very tiny print in the margins, that you can purchase an album for displaying the pictures from any tobacco shop, for one penny.

Those cards are English (as in UK, that is), and I don't see a date on them, but a quick check on the Internet tells me that they were issued during the late 19th/early 20th century, and that complete sets of some of the series can be quite valuable.

In the book, Minnesota on Paper: Collecting our Printed History, authors Moira and Leo Harris write that trade cards reached the height of their popularity in the U.S. in the 1880s, and that, at that time, "the trade card was truly the most ubiquitous form of advertising in America."

And I, for one, can certainly understand the appeal of these little cards. As a maker and trader of ATCs (artists' trading cards), I am attracted to the artistry, the trivia, and the small format of such cards, although ATCs aren't quite as small as the Wills's Cigarettes cards; Wills's cards measure about 1.5" by 2.5" and ATCs are 2.5" by 3.5".

Little cards with art and information appeal to my arty didactic little heart. So, naturally, I thought I'd make some of my own, to promote my Etsy shop, of course, and, also, just for fun.

The bumblebee card is one of two with a Minnesota focus.
But because the cardstock I have that's heavy enough to make nice trading cards comes in a light brown color described by the folks at the Wausau paper mills as "driftwood," I thought it would look better to stick with black line art. And, besides, I already have ink drawings of animals, and some interesting trivia to go with it, which I made into note cards a while ago (and which are available for sale in my Etsy shop—here's the note card section, fyi).

The backs of the four cards are all the same
If you'd like to get a set of four Arty Didact trading cards (the size of ATCs—2.5"x3.5") for free (I'll even cover the postage!), use the envelope icon below to send me a message with your mailing address. I'll even throw in a couple of extra bits of Arty Didact original and unique ephemera while I'm at it. And if you want to be notified of art events that I'll be participating in (in Minneapolis/St. Paul), say so when you send me the message. If you don't request it, I won't mail you anything else—because I have no interest in wasting money just to annoy you.

The first set of four Arty Didact trading cards

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Growin' of the Green

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

I started some clover seeds in pots about six weeks or so ago,  hoping to have a pretty display of cheerful shamrocks on St. Patrick's Day, but after a couple of setbacks, they really only got started four weeks ago. So I'm happy they've come as far along as they have.

You may think it odd, or that I am mistaken, to call this plant, the common lawn weed Trifolium repens or Dutch white clover, a shamrock. But it is far more likely that this little weed is the true Irish shamrock than is the showy oxalis sold at florists and grocery stores this time of year.

To begin with, there is no actual shamrock plant; shamrock is simply an Anglicized spelling of seamrog, meaning "little clover" in Irish.

Back in 1893, Irish naturalist Nathanial Colgan asked people throughout Ireland to send him a sample of the plant they believed to be the true Irish shamrock, and the overwhelming majority sent him T. repens. Charles Nelson conducted a similar survey in 1988, and found T. repens to be second runner up to another clover, T. dubium, or lesser trefoil. (46% for T. dubium vs 35% for T. repens, as reported by the BBC in 2004)

The plants generally sold as shamrocks in the United States are a type of oxalis, and likely would not be recognized by an Irish visitor at all!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

Sunday, about 5 p.m.*

"The calming ritual of tea is another  of those idle pleasures that have been sacrificed to productivity and profit in recent years. Whoever first conceived the idea of taking it at four o'clock was a genius. This is because 4 p.m. marks the point in the day at which one's energies are turning. The long, listless, flat hours between two and four, when it is impossible to do much and when the sensible idler has taken to his bed, have come to a close, and our brains are once again stirring. It's time not to do, but to think about doing."
—Tom Hodgkinson, "4 p.m.: Time for Tea," How to Be Idle (HarperCollins, 2005)

In my ideal existence, on most days I would take an afternoon nap and then have tea. I don't recall a day ever when I have actually done that, but one must have something to strive for.

Today, because Nora is home on spring break and was scheduled to go in to work at 5 p.m., we had an early dinner. After the dishes were done, I thought how a cup of tea would be just the thing right now. I considered sticking a tea bag in a mug and taking it to my desk to resume some things I had been doing earlier on the computer. Then I remembered that chapter from How to Be Idle, and instead made a little ritual of it, brewing a small pot of the Earl Grey tea I have in whole leaf form, setting a couple of Swedish ginger cookies on a pretty plate, sitting at the table where the afternoon sun was streaming in, and just reading a book for about a half hour. The tea was delicious.

"Tea should be a time for gentle chat and reflection, a cigarette, a little mental workout. It should last for at least half an hour." —Hodgkinson, again.

Why don't I do that more often? Not the cigarette part, but the rest suits me very well.

Well, of course, there are a host of reasons, all of which may be the same reasons that you don't take afternoon tea, either. 

But now I think I just may try to work it into my schedule once or twice a week at least. Care to join me?

* I should give a nod here to the lovely Denise, whose elegant blog, Chez Danisse, inspired this single-photo-centered-at-the-top-with-caption approach to posting. It seemed to fit the mood of this particular topic.