Friday, September 30, 2011

Norma DeCamp Santa Artist DVD Slideshow

I think the last time I updated you on Norma Decamp she was living in the Dominican Republic working in her son's mission.  She gave up her thriving Santa making business to labor hard physically in a very different climate and conditions than her North Carolina cottage.  A serious illness made her reconsider her choice and move back home. 

 I'm sure all her collectors are happy to see her well and back making Santas.  I understand her wanting to be right in the trenches working but I think donations from the proceeds of her Santas might be more helpful.  She was given a talent and the best use for that is to keep right on fashioning her Santas and Belsnickles.

Norma has 1000's of pictures of her Santas and she sent me around 300 of them so I could make a slide show so her collectors could see her past and recent work.  I felt kind of honored to be entrusted with this.

  I came up with a very simple DVD of about 300 of her Santa photos and I have it for sale here at $14.99 . Fifty percent of the profits go to Norma who sends them to her son's mission.  A second DVD is already in the planning stages.The DVD is about 30 minutes long and I think might be a nice little "background" to put on the television at Christmas when a movie might be too intrusive. 

Monday, September 12, 2011

If Not Now, When?

   For too many years I've lived with all white walls.  Too much moving from here to there and living in rented condos, apartments, houses, duplexes, all sharing all white walls.  Now that I have my own home I want saturated colors on every wall, on every ceiling. And I'm certainly not afraid of color.  My bedroom is orange walls covered in a red glaze to make a rich Chinese red.  The ceiling is midnight blue.  All taken from a poster I love.

A friend in her 80's stopped by to see my house before she and her husband were to move away to be closer to their children so they could keep an eye on them.   She saw the bedroom and exclaimed "If only I had the nerve to paint my house this way".  If not now, when?  Haven't you been sensible long enough?  Her new condo was taken over and painted by her daughters and daughter-in-law.  Sensible pastel colors.   Being sensible women they wouldn't have allowed exotic or strong-willed colors.


   A few weeks ago at a local antique mall I came across a vintage plaster lamp of three owls.  The sort of lamp repulsive but compelling.  $9.  I had to have it.  My friend rolled her eyes and my husband was hoping he would accidentally drop it on the way to the car.  But I knew it would be the perfect lamp for the corner of my desk.  And it is.  Funny thing is I purchased a magazine a few days later (Flea Market Style) and on page 19 was my lamp.  The article was about "cool, ugly lamps".  That about covers it.

    My decorating style is mostly about happy accidents or just accidents.   World Market had a great sale on a big wood table with 4 chairs and bench.  Carrying it up the stairs we scratched (gouged) the paint.  Rather than touch it up, why not repaint.  My olive green living room is now a stormy blue.  Not a thing was bought to coordinate.  Everything I own has been bought independently, on a whim, and mostly from Goodwill and ebay.  But it works.  It works for me.   You see I don't have to be brave to paint my walls red and ceilings blue or buy ugly owl lamps.  I don't care what anyone thinks of my style or lack of it.  I'm just compensating for too many years of all white walls.   And I don't want to be in my 80's and thinking I have to have nerve to paint my walls colors that make me happy rather than someone else happy.  There is no someday.  There is only now.  And if not now, when?

Sunday, February 27, 2011

What's New at Sugar Camp Cottage

                                                                                         I've been doing a lot of thinking lately about my business.  My business is me.  I choose everything I sell.  I take all the photographs, write all the descriptions, answer all the questions, and pack all the boxes.  Always,  I want to improve and grow.  I want this little business to provide a living for me.  I've already found the most important thing is to keep the customers I have.  I know I can't compete on price alone.  There is always someone smarter and  bigger who can charge a dollar less and there is always someone dumber who will charge a dollar less until they realize one day their business is a hobby.
 So I strive for customer service.  I will always answer your emails promptly.  If I don't know the answer to your question I will find someone who does.  If I don't sell what you need, I won't try to sell you what I have.   I'll find someone who does sell what you need and point you in their direction. I know I can't make everyone happy,  everyone satisfied.  But I'll try.                               I throw myself wholeheartedly in this business.  I try to choose unique things you may not find anywhere else.  I won't sell anything that I don't consider to be excellent quality.  I've taken some things from vendors and donated them straight to Goodwill.  I can't allow my reputation to be cheapened.  I will go out of my way to help, whether it's what glue to use with German glass glitter or how to get milk paint to crackle and age, I'll take the time to explain it.
I want to earn and keep your business.
In the photos are my latest offerings, my own collection of vintage chocolate molds, beautiful new and vintage millinery flowers,  Debra Schoch figures put out by the Bethany Lowe Company and giant German paper mache Easter eggs.  Just click on my ebay and etsy store links belowand have a look.

Monday, November 29, 2010

 The Sacrifices We Make
        Norma DeCamp could have spent the rest of her life comfortably in her North Carolina Cottage.  If you haven't heard of her, she is a Santa  maker.  One of few popular enough to make a living entirely from her craft.  Norma, reaching a time when most would start thinking of retirement and a time to take a well deserved break, instead chose to spend her life serving others

Her son, David, has a mission on Samana Bay in the Dominican Republic, and Norma chose to join him. Since then it's been a life of work, physical work, emotional work with little time for Santas. For the past 6 months or so Norma has been battling pneumonia and other ailments. Finally she has turned the corner and begun feeling better. I have pictures of her latest work. It isn't for sale. Norma has a loyal customer base and only needs to contact them for her work to sell. I think these pieces are some of her finest work. Maybe it was the long absence that was her inspiration.

I really admire someone who would make the choice of service over comfort. As I sit comfortably in my own home with the holidays approaching, what would it take to move me to such a life? What does it take to move anyone to give up the life you know and venture off into the unknown? What can I do from the comfort of my home this holiday season?

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Pink Holidays

About this time of year my local hobby store starts clearing the aisles to make way for Christmas ribbons and ornaments.   I used to groan, it's way too early for this sort of thing.  But now after selling holiday things year round for several years the decorations themselves have become almost season less, almost meaningless.  I'm sure a lot of you who make Santas or Easter Bunnies are working out of season.  At first it was disturbing, I didn't like painting chalkware Santas in September or unboxing bottle brush trees on a warm summer day.  These things always seemed as if they should be accompanied by Christmas music and cookies.                                                                                I live in a temperate climate, in northeastern Wisconsin.   At times I've loathed the bitterly cold days that keep you stranded indoors, the cold at times so extreme that spending any length of time outdoors borders on reckless.  I have lived in a tropical climate with year round balminess, then on to a rainy place, followed by a dry arid place.  Perhaps it's just because I was born and raised here that I like the rhythm of this northern climate best.  The definite seasons, winter being broken by days almost unbelievably beautiful as the grass begins to grow again and the trees leaf out.  We tend to associate holidays with these rhythms, a white Christmas, a pretty spring day for Easter, corn shocks and fields of pumpkins for Halloween.
As time passes I make peace with unpacking Halloween decorations in the middle of summer and Easter bunnies showing up right after Christmas.  I've found I still really associate the holiday with the changing of the seasons and not the objects, the dinners and traditions and not the  decorations.  I have found the meaning lies not in the things themselves but the meanings we give them when we invite them into our lives and give them a place in our homes.  These things we labor on out of season are just waiting for someone's family and home to give them meaning.    
Just an added note, I didn't create any of the things in these pictures,  I do show some of my chalkware Santas in another post.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Walter Dworkin and the Pursuit of Pixieware

 I thought I had seen everything.  At least everything available in an antique store or antique mall.  Not so.  I came across Walter Dworkin a year or so ago and found that he had not only amassed a huge collection of a vintage collectible I had never seen, but he'd also written the definitive book on them.    Pixieware was created by the Holt Howard Company in 1958 and was produced up until the early 1960's.  Even though I'm no very familiar with Pixieware there is something instantly recognizable about it.  Something from that era of new ranch houses, backyard grilling, bouffant hairdos and John F. Kennedy in office.  I asked Walter how he started collecting and what follows are in his own words.
                                                     " My infatuation with Holt Howard's adorable Pixieware condiment jars started when I was just a young boy. I had ventured into a neighborhood hardware store looking for an anniversary gift for my parents. This particular hardware store sold a lot of kitchenware items also. While shopping in the store, I looked up above the register and saw a real cute display of Pixiewares---there must have about ten condiment jars all lined up like soldier's. I think at the time they were selling for approx. $3.99 each, and I only had enough saved up allowance to purchase 4 of them. I remember buying the ketchup,mustard, jam 'n jelly & onions.

My Pixieware gift was well received by my parents and promptly displayed in our kitchen on a shelf. Everyday at meal time the Pixies greeted us with their great facial expressions, and I grew up with these whimsical characters constantly around me. But, for many years it always haunted me that I was not able to afford the rest of the Pixieware that I saw in the store that day. As time went on, I had moved into my own apartment, and then a house. My parents had to down size and were moving into a smaller residence and asked me if I wanted to adopt the Pixies, and so I did. Now I was displaying the Pixiewares in my own Kitchen window and still wondering why I never saw the rest of their clan anywhere. One day friends came over and notice the Pixiewares ( this was already in the 1980's) and mentioned that they see more pieces of these Pixies at the Atlantic City Antiques Show, and my hunt was on and a collector was born !

I started tracking down the rest of the Pixieware clan at flea markets, antique shops and collectible shows, I had thought that there were only 10 condiment jars to the set (little did I know then that there were over 65 pieces created by the Holt Howard Company). After many years, I was able to obtain a vintage 1957 Holt Howard catalog and was shocked to see just how many different Pixieware items were made. I would not rest till I found them all !! After many long years of searching to complete my collection, I had finally found all the pieces to the entire Pixieware set (and Mr. Howard and Mr Grant Holt) and decided to write a book.

Today, Holt-Howard's Pixiewares are over a half century old one of the hottest nostalgic collectibles!"
Walter has written Price Guide to Holt-Howard Collectibles and Related Ceramicware of the 50s &  60s available on Amazon  He also wrote Vintage Christmas Ceramic Collectibles.  He sells the wonderful set of  Pixieware in the first picture on ebay under the user id twingableseast  You can contact him directly at
Thanks for your interest in the Pixies. My name is Walter Dworkin, I wrote the 2 Holt Howard books on collectibles. These cute Pixies on the first photo were made by John Howard of the Holt Howard Co and he created them in 2003 to commemorate the vintage Pixies from the 50's--they are NOT reproductions since they are the only ones of their kind---they are orignals made by the same person by only in 2003, thanks Walt

PS---if you look in my latest Holt Howard book 2nd edition on pages 32-33 these pixies are in there--if you would like a personally autographed copy of my book $19.99 + shipping-or I can mail the pixies & book together and save you the additional shipping, thanks again, Walt

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Little Luxuries

I was reading Inc. magazine the other day and came across some of the best ideas for a business now.  One was for a cupcake shop.  The premise being that in a down economy we may put the big purchases on hold, but we're quite happy to treat ourselves to a fancy cupcake.  The absolute other side to this are all the discussions being held about "The latte factor", that those little purchases add up and are what is putting us in debt.  You've heard the story, give up your $4 morning chocolaty coffee drink and in 40 years you'll have $810,764 or something like that.               I've lived for many years like Scrooge, seeing myself in Silas Marner--forgoing the latte, the cupcake, and a good many other things.  Undoubtedly it did build my savings account, and I was good at it, but anything taken to an extreme like a diet can lead to anorexia.  How to know when to stop.  Living that way can lead to a feeling of scarcity, that if I don't save this dollar another one may never come my way.  Better that I learn to make a few extra dollars here and there and have my little luxuries.   It's hard to believe that the pretty roses in the first picture are actually soaps.  I came across them in the etsy shop Satin & Birch  They're raspberry roses with a splash of lemon.  I saw them and lusted after them for days.  I just ordered and I'm awaiting their arrival. I will update when I get them in.  (They arrived and are sitting on a rectangular Japanese plate and sweetly scenting my bathroom, really lovel soap.) You get a set of 4 and I'm keeping 2 and giving 2 to a friend.  One of those little luxuries.
The remarkably frilly tutu is from the etsy shop of Tiaras Tutus
It's a little indulgence for my granddaughter.  It's still being made and I can't wait to see it.  I have no idea what possible use it's going to have.  Maybe a photography session, maybe Halloween, maybe just for dress up.  A play-pretty with no other purpose than being pretty.                                                     Life is just so much more delicious with little treats.  We need clothing to wear, but don't need tutus.  We need food to eat, but no one needs a cupcake.  We need soap to wash with but it's not necessary that it's shaped into roses and scented.  But, rather than worrying that today's little splurge will lead me into poverty in later years I should view it a challenge and an ambition.  How to make the extra money to give myself this feeling of being unabashedly wealthy.  Taken this way my treats aren't "guilty pleasures", they're spurring me to ambition and action.