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Friday, February 26, 2010

Dress Up Your Nautical Interiors With a Nautical Chart Lampshade

Looking for an easy way to dress up and personalize your coastal/nautical interiors? Well here’s a style secret used by designers to create local interest to the finely-fitted nautical room. Replace your old lampshades with a custom-made nautical chart lampshade using a navigational chart from your local or favorite coastline. You can select from 1,000-plus U.S. coastal and Great Lakes nautical charts created and updated by NOAA (National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration). Nautical chart lampshade not only create a great look to your room, but also becomes a point of conversation as you study the lighted charts, similar to viewing a terrestrial globe! Visit the NOAA site by clicking on this link to find the right nautical chart for your local waters.

Skipjack offers custom nautical lampshades constructed in our own design center located in Olde Towne Portsmouth, VA. We use only the highest quality materials including authentic NOAA navigational charts. Each shade is trimmed with a muslin-colored grosgrain ribbon and features a washer top for attachment to any standard lamp. We can duplicate the size of your existing lamp with the only limitation being the size of the navigational chart. Visit our website by clicking on this link for additional information and costs of producing your custom nautical chart lampshade. We also produce a nautical chart nightlight and offer a great selection of brass and hand-made nautical lamp finials to adorn your favorite lamps.

Click here to go to Skipjack's Nautical Living home page.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Sailor’s Valentines- A gift of Love

The distant climes may us divide
to think on you shall be my pride
The Winds and Waves may prove unkind
In me no change you’ll ever find.

A magic spell will bind us fast
And make me love you to the last
Let Cupid then your heart incline
to take me for your Valentine

OK, so I am once again sitting here at my desk reviewing the list of upcoming blogs that I intend to write. It’s Valentines Day and Alison and I had earlier this morning exchanged a small assortment of gifts and cards. You know, there is nothing better than to spend Valentine’s Day with someone special, and it is a wonderful feeling to give someone you care about a truly unique gift. It is that idea that has stirred me to write this blog on Sailor’s valentines.

As sailors traveled around the world, they often made or purchased mementos of their travels for their loved ones back home. As stated in Marine Art & Antiques "Jack Tar, A Sailor's Life 1750-1910" by J Welles and Rodney P. Carlisle,  "the sailor was concerned with making a fine appearance once he returned to shore, and hence would embellish his shore-going finery. He never stopped thinking about women and the love-life he was missing, either representing his fantasy by buying a gift he would later lavish on a particular woman. The sailor converted the long hours into cherished artifacts and bought still others."

 Such as the fancy-work sailor’s valentines from the island of Barbados.

The romantic verse above was taken from a Victorian era Valentines card. Most of these valentines would include an illustration depicting the departure or return of the sailor to their sweethearts and wives. This spiritual message below was printed on the reverse side of an early 19th century Sunderland pearlware mug. The saying "Forget Me Not" is again used on the Sailor's Valentine pictured above.

The sailor tost in stormy seas,
Though fir his bark may roam
Still hears a voice in every breeze
That wakens thoughts of home

He thinks upon his distant friends
His wife, his humble cot
And from his inmost heart ascends
the prayer-Forget me not.


Seashell collecting became popular by the early 1800s, especially in England and America. By the mid-1800s, sea shells were brought back from the Caribbean to Europe and America for use in home display cases. This interest in shell collecting may have later inspired the idea of the sailor's valentine, and the intricate shell display cases influenced the busy designs of these affordable souvenirs of sea voyages.

Research has discounted the long-held belief that these were made by sailors themselves as shipboard diversion. Several facts point to the West Indies, and particularly Barbados, as an origin for sailor's valentines. The West Indies had enjoyed close economic ties with England and America since colonial times. Barbados, easternmost of the British West Indies, was an important port of call for ships engaged in trade among the islands. The most windward of the Caribbean islands, Barbados was visited by merchant seamen, whalemen, and yachtsmen alike, who arrived for a variety of reasons, including trading, reprovisioning, and touring the island. Visitors who wanted to remember the island by bringing a tangible reminder of Barbados home with them could easily find objects made on the island.

In the book “Sailors' Valentines” by John Fondas, he concludes that the primary source for sailors' valentines was the New Curiosity Shop, located in McGregor Street, Bridgetown, Barbados, a popular shop where sailors would purchase souvenirs. The shop was owned by the English brothers B.H. and George Belgrave. Decorative shellwork was at its height in the 1820s, and the Belgraves' shop was sought out for its locally crafted shell designs in eight-sided boxes, similar to those that encased ship's compasses. Purchased typically by seamen for loved ones back home, these pieces were soon dubbed sailors' valentines.

A sailor's valentine is made of one, or, more often, a hinged pair of octagonal wooden display cases lined with fabric. Small shells, seeds, or other materials are glued to the fabric, usually forming a colorful design. The name "sailor's valentine" comes from the fact that there is usually a sentimental phrase, such as "Forget Me Not," "With Love," or other sayings that we use on Valentine's Day. The shape is thought to come from old compass cases carried aboard sailing ships.


A hand-full of artists still produce these marvelous fancy works. You will see though a broader scope of designs than their victorian counterpart. Sailor valentine artist today create everything from replica valentines closely resembling the 19th century designs to completley original and very elaborate creations unique to themselves. Canadian artist Judy Dinnick is one of these award-winning artists creating sailor's valentines masterpieces today.

"It 's wonderful to see the resurgence and appreciation of this old art form inspired by the aesthetic beauty of shells, gifts from the sea for us all," stated Dinnick. Judy lived in the Bahamas for many years where she first became acquainted with Sailor's Valentines.  After being involved in many aspects of the decorative arts for many years, Judy now devotes all of her time to creating Sailor's Valentines.

 "I also do shell stars, hearts, and roundels incorporating bubble glass, reminiscent of Victorian times. I like to paint miniature oil paintings for the centers of my designs. A table I have done features a 19th century painted ivory. I do scrimshaw on ivory and sometimes carve little ivory fish to add interest to my valentines. Often I line the inside walls of the box with silk or place my shell flowers on a silk cushion."

Judy Dinnick has won single and double valentine contests in the Sanibel Shell Show for 2009, 2008, and 2007. All six earned ribbons, two of which were blue (1st place) . Judy also recieved the Judges Special Award for my 2007 double valentine. Her valentines are seen in galleries and at the Royal Canadian Yacht Club. Judy's art has been featured in both Canadian and American magazines and has been featured on Martha Stewart Show. Watch the video on Marth Stewart's website
Creating valentines is a fascinating and challenging craft ; a labor of love to all of us who do them.

(above: Sailor's Valentine - "Forget Me Not", shell, cedar, glass, metal, cotton, paper, ca. 1870. Courtesy of Strong Museum.)

(above: Sailor's Valentine - "A Present/Think of Me", shell, cedar, glass, metal, cotton, tintype, ca. 1895. Courtesy of Strong Museum.)

A Regency needlework silk picture- "The Sailor's Farewell", depicting a Tar leaving a weeping woman in front of a domestic setting with stumpwork trees.

"The Sailor's Adieu" Nathaniel Currier, lithographer and publisherThe Mariners' Museum

"Tis Our Sailing Thing" Original Sailor's Valentine by Judy Dinnick.

Sail Round with Sailing Ship by Judy Dinnick.

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Sunday, February 7, 2010

Using Authentic Ship Parts in a Nautical Bathroom

At Skipjack, we  like to demonstrate to our customers how to transform and successfuly use authentic ship salvage elements in their nautical/coastal home. As shown in this corner view of  a Florida bathroom, they've incorporated into the design authentic high quality naval brass ship salvage elements instead of the usual decorator furnishings. A vintage 90 degree passageway light illuminates a ship porthole converted into a cabinet and fitted into a wall above a teak wainscoting. The thick frosted glass softens the look and create a semi-opaque view of the cabinet interior.  You can reproduce the look  by covering a standard porthole using a frost window tinting film in a translucent color. The hinged bolts with dog ears locks down the porthole door making it a  perfect choice for use in the finely fitted yacht.

*Naval brass, alpha-beta brass is also referred to as Admiralty brass, contains tin (not exceeding 2%) and  is less liable to corrosion in seawater and is used in naval construction. For this reason, naval brass is a preferred product to use, both in the interior and especially around the exterior of any coastal home. Admiralty metal is a trademark.

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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

“From Sidewalks to Rooftops”: Outdoor Folk Art

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – A fascinating array of folk art meant for the great outdoors comprised the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum’s exhibition, “Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art,” that recently ended in January of this year.

According to an article posted by Joanne Molina, The Curated Object, International Decorative Arts Exhibitions-Williamsburg. Sidewalks to Rooftops: Outdoor Folk Art. Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Museum of Folk Art :  “ 'The objects in this exhibition were made to be installed out of doors, so weather has taken a toll on them,' said Barbara Luck, curator of paintings, drawings and sculpture. 'Guests will see objects in a wide variety of conditions because of their use, exposure and maintenance during their useful life.'  The exhibit celebrates the 19th-century predecessors of modern advertising, including painted signboards featuring eye-catching symbols and three-dimensional trade figures—such as cigar store Indians—that have largely disappeared from today’s sidewalks, building facades and countertops. "

As a dealer and collector of American folk art for more than 20 years, I have certainly been exposed to some of the best and have been fortunate to have lived within a short distance of such exceptional collections as that housed at the Abbey Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Williamsburg, VA. This outstanding collection has been such a great inspiration to me and the motivation for the opening of our American folk gallery, The 1740 House Antiques Country Gallery which was an annex of my parents business, The 1740 House Antiques located in Charlottesville, Virginia. The 1740 House Country Gallery solely focused on authentic American painted country furniture blended with both period as well as contemporary folk art representing some of America’s top folk artists.

Here at Skipjack, we continue to represent some of the finest contemporary folk artists, but our focus is directed to marine subjects such as nautical theme trade signs, weathervanes, decoys and whirligigs as well as ship’s figureheads and sailor’s art including valentines, ship’s in a bottle, fancy knot work, scrimshaw, decorated sea chests and other art forms derived from our maritime heritage.

Early weathervanes sometimes served as advertising symbols such as this Nantucket sperm whale made by New York folk artist Steve Hazlett, but most simply signaled shifting winds and changing weather patterns. As they became more popular, homeowners and businesses installed them atop their homes, barns and buildings for their decorative appeal, and many structures were considered incomplete without one. The simple rounded and stylized contours of this primitive whale convey an impertinent energy. It was handcrafted from a single 100+year old heart pine board salvaged from a barn located in Bath, NY. Antique copper flashing is applied to the tail and outer edge of whale. Blue and gray buttermilk paint is applied in numerous layers to give the piece a dry and crusty as-found appearance. The piece is hallmarked and mounted on a metal museum mount for display.

The signboard pictured at the beginning of this article was created by Jac & Patricia Johnson and is carved from a solid piece of wood with a thick-shell wall and hand-lettered "Chesapeake Bay Oyster."  A truly wonderful original art piece reminiscent of trade signs that decorated the fronts of buildings in the oyster trade.

The ship’s chandlery sign at right was recreated from a photo by New York folk artist Charles Jerred. The trade sign measuring 16 X 55 inches was produced on very rustic primitive boards that retained the original hardware on the back. This signboard is typical of the types found on old warehouses found along northeastern seaports.

Click here to go to Steve Hazlett's Nantucket Sperm Whale Weathervane.

Click here to go to Charles Jerred's ship's chandlery trade signboard.

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