Flaneur in NYC

Walking around New York City is never dull. I grew up in the city but now I am just another visitor with a camera.

This is my first post via iPad do bear with me as I learn. Always a journey, right?

barneys NY, photo ©Liza Cowan

Billboard in process. NYC, photo ©Liza Cowan

shop window, NYC. Ralph Lauren. photo ©Liza CowanShop Window. Ralph Lauren, Greenwich Village. photo ©Liza Cowan

Flaneur in NYCFlowers in shop. New York City. Photo ©Liza Cowan

No Water, Don't Waste It!! No Guns.

No water don't waste it
No Water Don't Waste it No Guns!

Artist, William Tasker. Federal Art Project, Silkscreen, circa 1941/3. Source

I found this image on Pinterest. It's one of the things I enjoy about Pinterest - finding great images, even if people don't source them well, grrr. 

This one caught my eye not just for the great graphic but because the message seems so awkward now. It was made to remind/convince people to conserve water for the war effort. That's the "guns." Government wartime propaganda.

But as a viewer in 2012 I read it as, No Water, No Guns....don't waste it. That is, there is no water and no guns....therefor don't waste these recources. Which brings to mind some dystopic sci fi movie, or contemporary news and activism about water as a resource. Big topic. Water. Resource. Or did it mean, War over Water...another dystopic story -in- the making.

It only took me a minute to remember to adjust my time frame to World War 2 to realize that the idea of conserving water for the wartime/militarizaion effort  would be common enough that the poster made sense immediately.

It's also possibly true that it's just not that well written enough to telegraph it's meaning. I can't tell from here.

Scrapbooks: Writing With Scissors - Ellen Gruber Garvey

Speaking of Pinterest (I was, actually) I came across this blog post about the history of scrapbooking. I urge you to read the whole thing, but here's a snippet:

"May 5 is National Scrapbooking Day. Like National Fig Newton Day or National Golf Month, its purpose is mainly commercial and it was unsurprisingly started by an album company. Scrapbook making is hugely popular and profitable. Stores that sell scrapbooking supplies use the day to sponsor scrapping gatherings or crops where scrapbookers (nearly all women) get together. They spread their projects out at tables with equipment for diecutting, embossing, and distressing paper (to make it look old). Tips about layout and technique are shared as they paste family pictures and memorabilia into their scrapbooks.

The men and women who compiled scrapbooks in the nineteenth century had a different idea of what a scrapbook looked like and what it was for. Abraham Lincoln, Sarah Bernhardt, Thomas Jefferson, and Susan B. Anthony all made scrapbooks. Like the thousands of other nineteenth-century scrapbook makers, they created scrapbooks from their reading, mainly for their own and their contemporaries’ uses. Their records — without family photos — are intimate and revealing. These scrapbook makers saw their interests reflected in the newspaper. Worried about losing the poems, articles, and stories that spoke to them, they made scrapbooks of them — sometimes hundreds of volumes."

1878 agricultural reports repurposed as scrapbook. Collection of Ellen Gruber Garvey1878 Agricultural Reports repurposed as a scrapbook. Page toward the end shows underlying text. Source: collection of Ellen Gruber Garvey

The book is Writing With Scissors: American Scrapbooks from the Civil War to the Harlem Renaissance. 

The blog post this I've quoted is HERE

Another Ellen Gruber Garvey article on scrapbooks, Imitation is the Sincerest Form of Appropriation  is HERE


PINTEREST: will you join me?

I talk to a fair number of people about Pinterest. Some adore it but many scratch their heads and think it's a ridiculous waste of time. Why would you bother, they wonder. Well, I'm a collector and a curator. I love images. I love looking at them, and I love putting them in my own little categories. Is it brain science? No. Will it save the world? No, of course not. Is it satisfying and inspiring. Yes. 'Nuff said

SmallEquals (smallequals) on Pinterest

My pinterest boards. Small Equals. Screen capture.

I've just rounded 400 followers. I pin under the name "small equals" because that's my business and twitter name.  I love what I pin...and I love the folks I follow. You can check out my pins HERE


Bear with me while I learn some coding

I've been taking an online blog coding course with Elise Blaha. I know I'm going a bit crazy over the top with everything I'm learning, but you can imagine how tempting it all is.

Feel free to send me a note to tell me if you are enjoying the re-design or if it really is all too much and you think I should rein it it a bit.

But it's so much fun. Not where I want it yet, but it's always a work in progress.

RIP Maurice Sendak

One of the greats, Maurice Sendak, is now in heaven, or somewhere like it. Probably Brooklyn.

A Hole Is To Dig was my introduction to Sendak. I was very small. It had just been published. Yes, I've loved Sendak all my life. I met him once on an airplane. Thrill. 


A hole is to dig 2 001

Ruth kraussRuth Krauss/ Maurice Sendak. A Hole Is To Dig. 1952. found here

Maurice Sendak collaborated with Carole King to produce one of the greatest soundtracks of all time..in my opinion. The Nutshell Kids present Really Rosie. It was the soundtrack of my oldest daughter's early years, in the 1970's. Good times. I can still sing it word for word.


Alice Austen in LIFE Magazine, 1951

Just a few months before she died, Alice Austen made her second appearance in LIFE Magazine.

Alice Austen Day Life Magazine
Alice Austen Day. Life Magazine, October 29, 1951

"Alice Austen, America's first great woman photographer, had been rescued from the poorhouse and oblivion by the sale of her superb collections of pictures (LIFE, Sept. 24). But until this month the 85-year-old artist had never had a public showing of her work. On Oct. 7, however, the Staten Island Historical Society, custodian of her photographs, celebrated "Alice Austen Day". More than 300 of Miss Austen's old and new friends crowded into the museum to look at her pictures and say hello to her once more. Miss Austen herself was an hour late. Worn out by a television appearance two days earlier, she at first refused to come. But her friends convinced her that she would enjoy herself, and enjoy herself she did. There were speeches and orchids and gifts and refreshments, but above all, there were friends. Some, like Mrs. Charles Barton had posed for her in the old days on Staten Island. Others, like Coapes Brinley of the Staten Island Historical Society, helped win recognition for her work. Miss Gertrude Tate, her closest friend, had lived with her for 27 years at the Austen home until the two ladies lost their money and the home was sold.

The old lady in the wheelchair knew how to get the most out of every moment, although she mostly wept when Mrs. Barton bent over to kiss her hand. As the newspaper and magazine cameras recorded the afternoon, Photographer Alice Austen said proudly, "I'd be taking those pictures myself if I were 100 years younger." When the pictures and the refreshments were over, she went back to the private nursing home where she now lives, a little tired by the festivities but glad that she had lived to see Alice Austen Day."

Alice Austen and trude in LIFE MAG 1951
Alice and Trude, now Mrs. Charles Barton, donned corset covers and petticoats and posed for this wicked picture taken 60 years ago on Staten Island. Alice Austen, LIFE Magazine 1951


Alice Austen, Deeply Moved Mrs. Barton, LIFE Magazine 1951
Deeply Moved, Alice Austen bites her lips as old friend Mrs. Barton impulsively kisses her hand. Mrs. Barton now lives in New Jersey but visits Alice often.


Alice Austen and Gertrude Tate, 1951, LIFE Magazine
HIGHLY PLEASED, Alice Austen beams up at Gertrude Tate, who lived in Austen home, took trips to Europe with her, nursed her during arthritis attacks.

For more on Alice Austen see HERE  and also visit the Alice Austen House Museum Website

ALICE AUSTEN: video interview with directors of Alice Austen House Museum


Alice Austen fans...great news. The Alice Austen House has a beautiful new website and Facebook page, and is proud to be one of the only museums in the US devoted to a Lesbian. Yes, that's right. They are proud of it. As they should be. Here's an interview with Alice Austen House directors Carl Rutberg and  Ann Marie MacDonald on New York City TV show, City Talk. 

You will note that they talk about Alice as a Lesbian, which is great, yay, and that they discuss the first time Alice was "outed" at the 1996 NY Public Library Stonewall Aniversary Exhibit. Now, we know this is not true, because DYKE magazine ran an article about Alica as a Lesbian in 1976. However, they filmed this interview before I posted the Alice article here at SeeSaw and  at the DYKE A Quarterly Annotated Online Archive...so we forgive them for not knowing, right? Right. Because Dr. Rutberg got in touch with us immediately, and we have been emailing ever since. He now knows that we had the scoop on Alice. And as he said in a Facebook comment to me,  "We want to make sure the LGBTQ community rallies around Alice"

And we will. 

So go to the website and Facebook page, and if there's still time, you can vote HERE for the Alice Austen House to get a $100,000 grant from American Express.

THE TRIBE: What Barbie can show us about being Jewish today. Nu?


Barbie booklet 1958 pages. Photo © liza cowan

I have to see the movie, The Tribe. Tiffiny Shane, director, producer and Co-Writer. Ken Goldberg, Co Writer. Gil Gershoni , art director.

 Here's what the filmmakers say:

"What can the most successful doll on the planet show us about being Jewish today? Narrated by Peter Coyote, the film mixes old school narration with a new school visual style. The Tribe weaves together archival footage, graphics, animation, Barbie dioramas, and slam poetry to take audiences on an electric ride through the complex history of both the Barbie doll and the Jewish people- from Biblical times to present day. By tracing Barbie's history, the film sheds light on the questions: What does it mean to be an American Jew today? What does it mean to be a member of any tribe in the 21st Century?"

Could you just plotz?




ALICE AUSTEN, visionary 19th Century photographer

Here's a reprint of an article written decades ago in DYKE A Quarterly,  a magazine of history and social commentary.  I published with Penny House from 1976-1979.  Copies of the  magazines are now housed in the library at the Museum Of Modern Art in New York City, and also at The Schleisinger Library at Radcliffe College, which also has the collection of all the ephemera and collateral materials for the magazine that we kept over the years.


I know that you, my regular SeeSaw readers, will be particularly interested in this article about 19th Century pioneer photographer, Alice Austen. originally published in 1976.


Dyke No 3 p 34DYKE, A Quarterly. No 3. p 34.  1976. Alice Austen

By Penny House and Liza Cowan, written & published in 1976

Alice Austen was a Lesbian born on Staten Island, NY in 1866. She started taking photographs at the age of twelve and continued until the nineteen thirties. She was an enthusiastic athlete, excelling in swimming, cycling, boating, golf and tennis in an age when women were just being allowed to do any sports at all. She was an excellent mechanic who with her lover, Gertrude Tate, and other friends, took long car journeys in a time when there were almost no paved roads. 

Dyke No 3 p 35. Alice Austen and her dog PunchAlice Austen and her dog Punch. Alice leaving for the Chicago Exposition of 1893. Alice is holding the concealed bulb of the remote shutter release. DYKE A Quarterly No. 3 p 37

She thoroughly documented her own life and that of her friends, where were well-to-do young women, both Lesbian and straight, and who were straining against the last remnants of Victorian morality. She photographed extensively the immigrants and street life of the lower east side of New York City. The style of her photographs was unusually realistic for her time.

Alice austen photo of violet ward and her lover. Dyke a quarterly no 3 pAlice Austen Photo. Violet Ward and her lover. DYKE A Quarterly, no. 3 p 36

In 1929 she lost all her money. She and Gertrude supported themselves by selling their furniture, renting rooms in their home, running a tea room, and by the income from Gertrude's dance classes, which she taught until she was in her late seventies. They were finally forced to leave their home on Staten Island in the nineteen forties. They moved into a small apartment, but soon were forced to separate. Alice, 83 years old, suffered from severe arthritis and Gertrude had a difficult time caring for her. Gertrude's younger straight sister, who had long tried to separate the two, took advantage of Alice's ill health and the morality of the time which dictated a two bedroom apartment which they could not afford. Gertrude went to live with her sister and Alice to a nursing home. Gertrude visited regularly, bu they were both very lonely. Alice was kicked out of several different nursing homes for her too independent nature, and at 84 was admitted to the hospital ward of the Staten Island poorhouse.

Her plate glass negatives had been sold to the Staten Island Historical Society, and in 1951 were "discovered" by a photographic historian. He sold some of the photographs to magazines and turned the money over to Gertrude, who moved Alice to a pleasanter home Alice began to be recognized for her life long work as a photographer. A year later, in June of 1952, she died, sitting in her wheelchair in the sun. Gertrude lived on for ten years, and when she died her sister was unable to bury her next to Alice, as they had wished.

Alice Austen photo of Violet Ward and Daisy EliotViolet Ward and Daisy Eliot. Photo by Alice Austen. Violet was a childhood friend of Alice's. Daisy Eliot was a professional gymnast. Violet, an enthusiastic cyclist, invented a mechanism for bicycles that was universally adopted. Alice took the photographs for Violet's book, Bicycling for Ladies, published in 1896. Daisy was the model.

Alice Austen, Bessie Strong's Bedroom, in DYKE A Quarterly no 3, 1976.Bessie Strong's Bedroom. Bessie was a friend of Alice's. One of the special aspects of Alice's work is that she was interested in documenting the the intimate details of young women's lives, where few other photographers were willing or able to do so. Note Alice's photographs tacked up on the walls. DYKE A Quarterly No 3, 1976


Of the estimated seven to eight thousand glass plate negatives that Alice took, approximately one half are known to survive. Alice was a stickler for detail, often making her friends pose for hours and hours until she could get the exact expression, setting and light she wanted. She carefully marked the envelope for each glass plate with the time, date, place, exposure and lens type.


Alice Austen, newsgirl on NYC's lower east side from DYKE  A Quarterly no 3 p 40Alice Austen, Newsgirl on NYC's Lower East Side. DYKE A Quarterly No 3, 1976

Alice carried nearly fifty pounds of photographic equipment on her journeys. She always liked to have at least two cameras with her, as each camera could take only one size print. No enlargements were possible in those days.

"Alice luckily was a tall and strong woman, perfectly capable of carrying her own heavy camera, tripod, and box of plates...She spent hours on end in her closet -like darkroom, developing plates and 'toning' and 'fixing' her prints...Because there was no running water in the house when she was young, she carried [the plates] all downstairs and out into the garden to be rinsed in a basin under the hand operated pump, winter and summer. sometimes she changed the rinse water twenty five times, she recalled. Gertrude Tate attributed Alice's photographic success to a combination of artistic sense, the tirelessness of an athlete, and sheer stubbornness of will."

Alice Austen, portrait of Gertrude Tate, circa 1900, from DYKE A Quarterly, No. 3 p 41Gertrude Tate, Alice's lover, circa 1900. DYKE A Quarterly No. 3, 1976

"The originality of Alice Austen's work becomes strikingly clear when it is compared to that of other photographers of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Women photographers in particular succumbed to the fashion of making photographs to illustrate romantic tales of childhood, and of colonial village life or popular works such as The Rubiayat of Omar Kayyam... Daily American life, if pictured at all, was sentimentalized beyond recognition. The children picked posies of wild flowers in sublime landscapes while their mothers struck classical poses in diaphanous flowing garments of some eclectic style...most photographers of her period did [their] best to prove that photography was a form of art by trying to disguise the fact that [their] pictures were made by mechanical means -the precise fact that Alice enjoyed about photography. Alice's work was out of tune with the fashionable dictates of her time.

Alice Austen, Gertrude Tate circa 1920. From DYKE A Quarterly No 3 p. 42Gertrude, circa 1920. DYKE A Quarterly, No 3, 1976

"Alice Austen...photographed people and places as they actually appeared, focusing her lens so sharply that every small detail of leaf or woodwork, facial expression or lettering on a sign, was recorded. She approached her subjects straightforwardly, without any attempt at the refinement, grace and decorative sense encouraged in the photographic journals of her most productive years...Pictorialists may have portrayed nymph-like young women floating apparently weightless in unruffled ponds and dancing on tiptoe effortlessly through flower filled fields: Alice Austen recorded her friends in the flannel skirts and woolen stockings of clumsy bathing suits calculated to impede the movements of the strongest swimmers, and she showed them doing  their daily gymnastic exercises to develop the strength their daily lives required. Alice Austen's women ride bicycles and horses, work in the streets and market places and are a vigorous and real as Alice herself."

Alice Austen and Gertrude Tate. from DYKE A Quarterly no. 3. p 43Alice and Gertrude. DYKE A Quarterly No. 3. 1976

Thanks to Ann Novotny for help, information and photographs. All quotations are from Ann's book, Alice's World - The Life and Photographs of An American Original: Alice Austen 1866-1952, which will be published this fall by Chatham press. Quotations printed with permission of the author.

Alice austen, that darned club, from DYKE A Quarterly no 3, 1976
Cover photo. Alice and her friends, Trudy, Julia and Sue formed a cooking and sewing club. "The four girls spent so much time in each others company that disgruntled young men referred to 'the darned club,' a name the members delightedly adopted." Alice is on the left, once again holding the remote control shutter release.

Ann is chairwoman of The Friends Of Alice Austen, who are trying to restore Alice's house and turn it into a museum of her life and work. They plan to have rotating exhibits of women photographers. Anyone who is interested or would like to help should write to Friends of Alice Austen, 315 W. 78 Street, New York, Ny 10024 #1,

Photographs courtesy of the Staten Island Historical Society.


Typewriter marks end of original story


See more about creating the cover for issue No.3. using Alice's photo That Darned Club, here

DYKE A Quarterly no 3, 1976 photo by Alice AustenDYKE A Quarterly, No. 3. Photo That Darned Club by Alice Austen. Design Liza Cowan


The Alice Austen House did come to pass. It is a National Historic Landmark on Staten Island. Ann Novotny died of breast cancer shortly after we wrote our story, but her work and passion lives on. Read about the Alice Austen House HERE.


kodak, woman photographer. 1898

For more on women and photography at the turn of the last century try this wonderful blog, Kodak Girl. Kodak invested heavily in marketing their cameras to women, quite successfully. 


Bicycling for Ladies, ME WardBicycling for Ladies. ME Ward. Maria Ward aka Violet. See more HERE

how to coast illustration ME Ward Bicycling for Ladies from photo by alice austen
How To Coast. Illustration from Alice Austen photo in Bicycling for Ladies by ME Ward.


Frances Benjamin Johnston 1Frances Benjamin Johnston, American photojournalist, took this self portrait with a bicycle. Johnston wrote What A Woman Can Do with a Camera for the Ladies Home Journal in 1897, a year after Bicyling For Ladies was published. Notice the painted on moustache.

The ladies did like to lark about.

And do check out the ALICE AUSTEN HOUSE WEBSITE   

and their Facebook Page, filled with images


Heinz ads from 1925, fun reproductions now available.

Did you know that Heinz used to make peanut butter? I didn't until I ran across this series of ads in The Saturday Evening Post from 1925. I bought a stack of the old magazines years ago and made copies of the ads. I've reproduced them, full size, and had Silver Maple Editions in Burlington  fine-art laminate them on high density wood. You can buy them at my online store.

Heinz peanut butter  saturday evening post 1925, Heinz Peanut butter. 1925. Ready to hang.

heinz peanut butter ad 1925 saturday evening post detailHeinz Peanut Butter, ad, Saturday Evening Post, detail

Heinz baked beans ad 1925 Saturday Evening Post Heinz Baked Beans, 1925 ad. Saturday Evening Post

heinz oven baked beans ad 1925 Saturday Evening Post detaildetail, heinz baked beans

Heinz pure cider vinegar saturday evening post 1925 small equals     Heinz Cider Vinegar, 1925 Saturday Evening Post. 

Heinz cider vinegar ad 1925 Saturday evening post, detail  detail, Heinz Cider Vinegar.

These are all available in very limited quantities  at the Small Equals online store. HERE

BIG CARTEL: finding a great online sales platform

 ©small equals online store at Big Cartel
Small Equals online shop at BigCartel. Screenshot. 

After I closed Pine Street Art Works, my bricks and mortar store, I had to figure out how to keep selling, but online. I was developing a line of products - wooden Keepsake Boxes - that I was excited about, and wanted to offer on the web. I did my research and decided on BigCartel as my platform. I considered Etsy because I know a lot of crafters and antiques vendors who are happy with it, but I thought about the tradeoff - possibly more visitors via the well known site vs. the ability to jump around once the shopper is inside the site. I decided I'd rather have a captive audience. And on BigCartel I can sell products made by other people or manufacuturers, like Seed Bombs by VisuaLingual, or Canetti Pure Acrylic Magnet Frames, two of my most popular items.

Screenshot small equals online sew to the moon keepsake box big cartel
Small Equals at BigCartel. Screenshot, product page for Sew To The Moon 

When I first started selling on BigCartel the design options were more limited than I would have liked. I don't know how to code but I have high standards. But that changed recently when BigCartel offered new design options for the coding-challanged. 


Screen shot small equals big cartel online store close up dogs rule keepsake wooden box
Small Equals online shop at BigCartel. Screenshot, Large image of Dogs Rule Keepsake Box.

 To have a beautiful storefront you have to start with a good, or at least a good looking, product, good pictures and a strong enough design sense. But that's a given. All of that takes a lot of work, and a skill set that takes time to develop. Once you have that, and have found your online platform, there's still the work of marketing. But it makes all the difference to have a good platform, and I have to say I'm hugely pleased with the folks at BigCartel.

I'm very happy that I can write as much text as I like about a product. Regular readers of this blog know that backstory and provenance mean the world to me, and I get to tell it on each product page. I've even included a video on some pages, of me showing the box. 

There's even an option for pages, including a page for your blog. I love this feature because the more a customer knows about the folks who make a product, the more personal it becomes. Story sells. And as a customer, I like to know who I am buying from. 


Screenshot small equals store at big cartel showing seesaw blog
Screen shot, Small Equals online store at BigCartel. Showing page for this blog.

The support staff at BigCartel is superb and that counts for a lot. Quick, friendly advice and help? I'm hooked. 

BigCartel even has an app that connects to my my small equals Facebook Page, for seamless shopping online.

Small equals facebook page screenshot with big cartel app
BigCartel app on small equals FaceBook page. Screenshot

My ancestors peddled door to door and then opened up one of the worlds' first catalog companies. It makes me proud to continue in the family tradition...but in a 21st century venue.

Find my online store HERE

If you are interested in using bigcartel as your online platform you can find them at www.bigcartel.com

and happy shopping! Or selling.

PINTEREST: Heaven for the virtual flaneur.

Screen shot, results for flaneur
Pinterest: screen shot, search for "flaneur"  See also HERE

 Pinterest. Who isn't talking, blogging, face booking about it? Curators, editors, bloggers, students, designers and all kinds of businesses are in on the newest social media hit. As are oh so many folks, mostly women, for whom Pinterest is their newest hobby/obsession.  For those of us for whom a picture is worth a dozen words, Pinterest is a dream come true.

The dream can sometimes be a nightmare, and there  have been articles cirulating on the web about the dangers and pitfalls of Pinterest in terms of ownership of images, copyright, theft and the like. You can check some of them out here and here. This is not about that, however.


Pinterest, circus horses, carousel horses, liza cowan, small equalsPinterest. Screen shot. Small Equals (that's me) board, Carousel and Circus Horses.


I've noticed that there are roughly two types of pinners. The serious image collectors, and the casual "this is my life" type. The serious ones interest me.  The others less so, although I admit to reading through hundreds of recipes and household tips and it's true that for practical matters, Pinterest can be  a wonderful resource. People who post about how they want to color their fingernails, or the hairstyles they crave, or who post images for their upcoming nuptuals can expect me to give them a pass in a hurry. I understand that they want to keep a log, and I support them using Pinterest for that, but I really don't care.


Pinterest curried chicken recipies screen shotScreen shot for curried chicken search. This can be a great way to find a recipe in a hurry, and one of the most practical uses for pinterest. 

Pinterest orgainiza screen shotPinterest screen shot  for "organize" search. I've found some great ideas this way.

If Pinterest were only good for sharing household and cooking tips, it would be good enough. But it is so much more. For serious image collectors and curators it is a g*dsend. Because it is so easy, and because all the images can be sorted and resorted, each board becomes like a section in the library of your imagination. Interested in a topic and need a place to store your images in a way that is easily accessible and easy to rearrange? Yes. Pinterest. Want to see what others are collecting in the same idea range? Yes. Pinterest. Need to show something to  a client, a friend, or a reader? Yes. Pinterest. Easier to access than a website or a blog? Yes, Pinterest is easier even than Flickr or other photo sharing sites. Which is why so many people find it addictive.

Some of my favortite boards to follow are the very specific ones. I follow one woman, a seeming clothing historian, whose 104 boards include: "Doublet" "Robe a la Polonase" "Bretagene-Pays Bigouden." See her pins here. (linked with permission)

Pinterest screen shotRiding Habit 18th centuryPinterest, scren shot of 18th Century Riding Habits.

Another of my favorites is from a real-time friend, a museum director, whose gorgeous and insightful boards include "little structures" "text/image" and "cloth." I can spot her pins even in thumbnails they are so gorgeous and unusual.

With a curators like these two, and with the other visually knowledgeable and talented pinners, we are taken almost directly into their deepest imaginations. As with any well curated space, virtual or tangible, there is always something fresh and exciting to learn, something to stimulate the mind and the senses. 

Pinterest screen shot _text image_Pinterest screen shot from a board by a museum director.

 Unlike  bricks and mortar musuems, galleries or shops - bounded by space and time and budget - the speed and ease of curating images online allows for an almost endless supply of visual and historical information. Interaction is not only possible, but encouraged. Linking - both within Pinterest and to the original sources -  leads to an endless supply of visual material. The structure of Piterest invites and facilitates random meandering as well as purposful searches, making Pinterest heaven for the virtual flaneur.

Some Pinterest guidelines:

1) Always credit your sources. This is the number one problem with amateur pinners or those who do not respect visual /intellectual property. I try to end each pin description with "source" and a hyperlink to the blog, website or source where I found it. Just copy the url and paste it in, pinterst will automatically shorten it.

This should be mandatory, but it's not. Make it your priority! Even though clicking the image should take you to the source from which the image was pinned, this is not enough, particularly because not everyone gives credit to begin with. Tumblr blogs are notorious for leaving off credit (though many Tumbr bloggers are scrupulous) because it is so easy to reblog other people's images. Ditto Flickr. Do your homework. Find the original source and give credit where credit is due: right on your pin.


Pinterest screen shot small equals showing sourcePinterest. Screen shot, Small Equals. Showing hyperlink to source.


2) Do not remove credit and sources when you repin. I find this happens a lot. I have carefully credited my sources but when the image is repinned (you will get an email that something has been repinned) I find the source gone. I always leave a comment, with credit, and a reminder to include the credit. Sometimes people will thank me, usually they ingore me. This drives me nuts!

3) If the source you are pinning from doesn not have credit information, either do an image search to find the credit, or Do Not Pin. Do not pin any image you do not know the source for. 

4) Tip: when you find something you want to pin, you can highlight any part of the text you want to include - credit, information, descriptions- and copy it. That information will automatically be included in your pinterest description if you use the Pin It button.

4) If you are pinning your own work, take the time to put in  a watermark or sign it in some way. I didn't do this for the first five years I hosted this blog - I didn't think it was necessary - but now I find that folks have pinned images from SeeSaw without artist credit. I keep finding repins of pictures I made and also, and this really bugs me, pictures by artists whose work I showed in my gallery, Pine Street Art Works. I notify the pinners as soon as I find out, but sometimes things get repinned really fast. 

5) If you have a website or blog and want to see who is pinning from your site you can do this:

http://www.pinterest.com/source/YOURSITE.com/ (don't use "www" for your site, just the name.com. - or org or edu)

6) And here are some more articles on Pinterest: 

Here from Average Jane Crafter, 4 Tips for Happy Pinning.

From Alexandra Wrote at Blog-Her, My Thoughts on Pinterest's New Terms, HERE 

Pinterest and the Intellectual Property Conundrum by Alexandra Bolt also at Blog Her Here

You can find my Pinterest boards HERE

Happy Pinning



Barbie booklet 1958 pages photo ©liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie Booklet 1958. Various pages. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections. All Barbie images ©Mattel International. All photos ©Liza Cowan.

Ebay score! I got two original Barbie booklets, the kind that came with the dolls. How well I remember these. I loved the booklets almost as much as I loved the dolls. Thumbing through them for the first time in over forty years, I am, in my minds eye, nine years old, the year the orignal Barbie came out. I got her as a holiday present, and over the next couple of years I acquired almost every outfit in this book, and I can still feel the textures, the tiny stitches, the petite buttons and hooks and tiny accessories. Barbie and Poor Pitiful Pearl were the only dolls I ever cared for.

Barbie Teen-age fashion model,  book front Liza Cowan Ephemera

Barbie Booklet, Cover. 1958. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


photo ©Liza Cowan. Barbie booklet 1958, Barbie doll fashion model set, swimsuit, floral petticoat, fashion undergarments Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Barbie booklet 1958. In her first bathing suit and undergarments. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


Barbie booklet 1958 floral petticoat detail liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie booklet 1958, floral petticoat, detail

Barbie booklet 1958 sweet dreams, nighty negligee, liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie Booklet, Sweet Dreams. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

photo ©liza Cowan. Barbie booklet 1958 barbie q, friday night date, liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie Booklet 1988. Barbie Q and Friday Night Date.  Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


photo ©Liza Cowan. Barbie bookelet 1958  busy gal liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie booklet 1958. Busy Gal and Cotton Casual. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Barbie booklet 1958 Busy Gal detail liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie booklet. Busy Gal, detail.

photo ©Liza Cowan. Barbie booklet 1958 Sweater girl, suburban shopper and picnic set
Barbie booklet 1958. Sweater Girl, Suburban Shopper, Picnic Set. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

Barbie booklet 1958 sweater girl detail liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie Booklet, 1958, Sweater Girl, detail. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

photo ©Liza Cowan. Barbie booklet 1958 winter holiday liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie booklet 1958. Winter Holiday, Resort Set, Apple Print Sheath, Cruise Stripe Dress. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Barbie booklet 1958 Apple Print Sheath, detail
Barbie booklet 1958, Apple Print Sheath. Detail.

photo ©Liza Cowan. Barbie booklet 1958, evening splendor liza cowan ephemera collections
Barbie booklet 1958. Evening Splendor. Liza Cowan ephemera Collections.

Barbie booklet 1958, peachy fleecy coat detail.
Barbie Booklet 1958, Peachy Fleecy Coat, detail


Barbie booklet 1958, Let's Dance, Enchanted Evening

Barbie Booklet 1958, Let's Dance, Enchanted Evening. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

Barbie booklet 1958, silken flame, commuter set
Barbie Booklet, Silken Flame, Commuter Set. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections. 

Barbie booklet 1958   commuter detail
Barbie Booklet, 1958, Commuter, detail. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

Barbie booklet 1958 solo in the spotlight, plantation belle, Liza Cowan ephemera collections
Barbie Booklet 1958 Solo In The Spotlight, Plantation Belle Dress Set, Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

Barbie wedding signed
Barbie Booklet, 1958. Wedding Dress. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


For more about Barbie I suggest these two books:

Forever Barbie: The Unauthorized Biography of a Real Doll by M.G. Lord 

The Good, The Bad, And The Barbie: A Doll's History And Her Impact On Us by Tanya Stone.


Hot off the presses: Small Equals Keepsake box with image from a chromolithographed trade card from former  Burlington manufacturer Wells, Richardson & Co. Here are children painting their eggs with Diamond Dyes.

small equals keepsake box with image from Wells Richardson & Co, children painting easter eggs with Diamond Dyes

Small Equals Keepsake Box, paint your eggs with Diamond Dyes

For a tiny eco footprint...and less money than it would cost to send a dozen roses, why not send a box filled with seedbombs? Invest in the future with one small gift.

Available at Small Equals Online Shop HERE 


Pine Street Art Works was gorgeous space. The first time I saw the showroom at 404 Pine Street in Burlington I recognized the great bones. Although it was not living up to it's potential then, it was easy to see what the former fiber factory could become. High ceilings, brickwork, skylights and wooden beams made this a former city dweller's fantasy space.

photo ©Caroline Bates. pine street art works, burlington vermont, photo by carloyn bates
Pine Street Art Works. Photo by Carolyn Bates.

I divided up the 4,000 sq. ft space into three rooms and a hallway with walls that didn't go all the way up, interior vintage divided light windows and doors to add more light and charm to the rooms. And I painted the walls. It took three of us to paint, using many layers of custom blended paint, hand ragged and wiped...but what an effect. If I could have sold the ambiance I'd be a millionaire by now. People would walk in and just go, "Wow. Love your space." It didn't hurt that I also added halogen lights to show off the art, and lots of ambient lights for added coziness and atmosphere. Throw in a series of leopard print rugs, vintage furniture and, of course, the ever changing art on the walls, and you pretty much have my dream space. 

Pine Street Art Works 404 Pine Street burlington vermont
Pine Street Art Works 404 Pine Street burlington vermont photo ©Liza Cowan 

When I closed the gallery another organization moved in. First thing they did was prime the walls white. They took away all the color. They either left on the primer or didn't chose their whites carefully.  Now, I know that there are wonderful whites and a space can, I suppose, look grand if it's done in the right tones of white. Kauffman color specializes in finding just the right whites for gallery spaces and seem to do a great job. I've read their books and learned a lot from them about how to color a wall. But the walls here are dingy and cold looking. 

Then they took away all the ambient light. Not a good idea. Next, they covered up the show window - a main source of warm south light - with a backdrop wall. I understand the impulse...it makes one more show wall inside and in some ways makes it easier to do a show window...but in my opinion the trade off is a disaster.

The floors...well I liked the look and history of the well-worn concrete, but I placed area rugs all over for pizazz and to soften the standing surface. They added visual appeal and much needed cushion for the legs and texture for sound absorption. Concrete is hell on the legs and all that brick and concrete makes sounds bounce all over.  

404 pine street under new management all white
404 Pine Street...under new management.

Why would anyone re-do a place so that it looks worse? I can't say. And I won't say who is running the place now...but I will say it's an arts organization and in my opinion they should know better. At first I was embarrassed because I was afraid people would walk in and, not knowing I'd closed Pine Street Art Works, would think I'd lost my mind. Or my taste. Now it just makes me sad and a bit mad. 

I try to avert my eyes when I walk by.

NEEDLE PACKS: More from the archives.

For all you fans of needle packs, sewing ephemera, mid century ephemera, women's history, historians of sewing and needlle arts, graphic design lovers ...have I named all the fan categories for mid twentieth century needle packs? Of course not. Why do you love needle packs? Enlighten me.

Meanwhile here are some more delicious images from the Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

Needle pack coal easel drop signed 1000
Unusual needlepack in the shape of a coal bin. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Needle pack home guard custom color paint easel s Liza Cowan Ephemera collections
A gift from Gambles Home guard Custom Matched Colors, diecut in the shape of a paint can. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.

Needle pack united states ship liza cowan ephemera collections
United States, Ocean liner. The popular travel theme.

Needle pack lucky lucky new york paris Liza oan Ephemera collectioan
Lucky Lucky New York-Paris. Needle book, Lucky That's all. Liza Cowan Ephemera collections.

Needle pack one world Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
One World.  World's best needle book. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Needle pack bulldog  children running with dog liza Cown ephemera collections
Bulldog Needle Book. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections.


Needlepack pigo needle book Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Pigo Needle Book. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


Needle pack army navy Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
The army an Navy Needle Book. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections


PAINT BY NUMBER: A video from the 2007 Pine Street Art Works Exhibit

Liza Cowan et al, Paint By Number, at Pine Street Art Works on Art Express, PBS

I've just found this video by Paul Larsen, host of Mountain Lake PBS' popular show Art Express.  The show segment is about Paint By NumberAnonymous Works from Mid 20th Century America, one of the most successful, and one of my favorite, of all the exhibits I curated during my five year tenure as Director and owner of the Burlington,Vermont art gallery, Pine Street Art Works. 

The video features Harry Bliss, Mark Waskow, Christie Mitchell and Liza Cowan.


Mad Magazine no 41 Sept 1958 Paint By Number Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections
Mad Magazine, September 1958. Liza Cowan Ephemera Collections

Here's what I wrote in 2007 about the exhibit on the Pine Street Art Works Website:

Paint by number. The craze of the 1950's - paint by number swept the nation in the era of Eisenhower, Levittown, post war prosperity, and a post war concept of leisure time - which probably had more to do with women being squeezed out of the workforce and back into the home than with any real decrease in the need for labor. It doesn't seem surprising that paint by number was marketed to women, although plenty of men did enjoy making the paintings.

Is Paint By Number art now? Was it art then? Do time, distance and a changing art market alter our perceptions and judgements? 

At Pine Street Art Works we love them, or we wouldn't be showing them. We are fascinated by their subversive allure - the tension created between the pleasure of viewing and the original - and ongoing - horrified responses by the gate keepers of high culture. 

Although now PBN has been the subject of a show at the Smithsonian, and of many academic and popular essays, and regularly show up in design magazines and blogs, there is still the vacillating response - are we allowed the pleasure we get from looking at (or making) these paintings? 

Most of the paint by number sets of the fifties and early sixties depicted nostolgic scenes: historic and pastoral landscapes, christian religious images, adorable or noble animals, sentimental glimpes of far distant cultures as well as copies from the canon of romanticized European figurative art. Critics at the time were disgusted with the mechanized mass produced nostalgia.

But now, with our vantage point from the 21st century, these paintings have aquired the patina of age and distance. Have they aquired the "aura" that Walter Benjamin wrote about? Or are we nostalgic for the more innocent nostalgia of the 50's? Are we caught up in second order - or even third order -nostalgia?

The August Paint By Number show doesn't answer these questions but provides some gorgeous evidence for future theories.

The website I refer to in the video, where I saw the post about the room-sized Paint By Number that inspired me to curate the show, was Apartmenttherapy.com and the painting was by Curtis Robinson. You can see it HERE. I was very pleased that Curtis actually came to Burlington to see the show.

For more images from the exhibit see Pine Street Art Works website and an earlier post on SeeSaw

Paint by number exhibition pine street art works norman rockwell clown design liza cowan 2007
Postcard for Paint By Number exhibit Pine Street Art Works, design by Liza Cowan 2007


Tibor gergely self portrait oil painting 1935
Tibor Gergely, self portait, 1935

Tibor Gergely is best known in the US as the glorious illustrator of Scuffy The Tugboat and The Five Firemen, and 70+ other well loved childrens books, most published by Golden Books. If that were his only work, it would have been enough. But that is far from the whole story.

Tibor gergely, Gossip. #FC40 from tiborgergely.com
Tibor Gergely, Gossip, from tiborgergely.com part of a large series of drawings he made in the 1920's and 30's in and around the village of Kortvelyes, Hungary.

Gergely, an Austrian Jew, had a full, rich, life as an artist and intellectual in Budapest and Vienna before he emigrated to the US in 1939. You can find his story and more images at TiborGergely.com.

Tibor Gergely sketch of Paul Robeson '29 Vienna
Tibor Gergely portrait of Paul Robeson, signed by Paul Robeson

While Gergely was in exile in Vienna in the 1920's he worked for the newspaper Der Tag. This portrait of Paul Robeson is one of many he made for the paper.

Tibor gergely charcoal sketch of woman in hat
Tibor Gergely, charcoal sketch of woman in hat.

“It often happens that the essence of a whole lies concealed in some minor, insignificant detail. To find that detail and to express with it the whole - this is the joy of discovery, and the painterly gratification of the artist.”  Tibor Gergely

Fleeing the Nazi regime, Gergely and his wife, the painter Anna Lesznai, landed in New York City, and immediately fell in love with the hustle and bustle of Manhattan.

Tibor gergely %22the battery%22
Tibor Gergely, The Battery, guache, painted from atop the Staten Island Ferry Terminal.

Shortly after he came to the US, Gergely met Georges Duplaix, who was head of production at Artists and Writers Guild and they collaborated on Topsy Turvy Circus. In 1942 Duplaix  became head of the Graphics Department at Simon and Shuster where he introduced Gergely to Lucille Ogle. They, along with Albert Leventhal, created Golden Books. Here Gergely found the home that would bring him millions of delighted readers. He created illustrations for over seventy Little Golden Books.

  Tibor gergely a year in the city 1948

Tibor Gergely, A Year In The City, Simon & Shuster, 1948


Tibor gergely fireman illustration with color samples
Tibor Gergely,  the right half of an original illustration for "Five Little Firemen" 1942 

tibor gergely the taxi that hurried

Tibor Gergely, The Taxi That Hurried

Tibor gergely five little firemen
Tibor Gergely, Five Little Firemen

tibor gergely, scuffy the tugboat

Tibor Gergely, Scuffy The Tugboat


Körtvélyesi kert | Artportal
Painting by Anna Lesznai found here


You might be interested in this book about Golden Books.

  Golden Legacy; How Golden books won children's hearts

Golden Legacy, How Golden Books Won Children's Hearts, Changed Publishing Forever, And Became an American Icon Along The Way.

Interveiw with author Leonard S. Marcus HERE

And here is a wonderful little documentary about Gergely by his step great granddaughter, Sabrina Jaszi, including a telephone interview with her very knowlegable father, Peter Jaszi. 


YouTube video about Gergely

And it give me great pleasure to be able to make some Small Equals Keepsake Boxes with Gergely images. I only use pages from books - mostly Goldens - that are too beat up to salvage. I sometimes have them in stock, sometimes not, depending on what old books I can find. Look for them at my ONLINE STORE


  Small equals keepsake box tibor gergely the chief is on his way

Small Equals Keepsake Box with Tibor Gergely illustration on lid.

If you are interested in seeing more Gergely images I have a lot of them collected at Pinterest.


Keepsake box, small equals, chicken painting by Liza CowanSmall Equals Keepsake Box, chicken painting by Liza Cowan
For those readers who have been enjoying my ephemera and my art over the years - I'm now putting them on the Keepsake Boxes I've been developing for the past couple of years.
I have the boxes made for me in Vermont, of Vermont pine, so they are lovely and local. Small footprint for me, please. Vermont Wooden Box, the company that manufactures the boxes, is a tiny outfit on a dirt road about an hour's drive from my studio. Feels just right to me.
Small Equals Keepsake Box. Sew To The Moon. Cowan Ephemera Collections
I know there are a lot of needle pack lovers out there, and these make great sewing kits.  See more about needlepack HERE on this blog.
Box lacted food open
Small Equals Keepsake Box, Wells Richardson Lactated Food, Cowan Ephemera Collections

You can read more about Wells Richardson & Co. HERE on this blog.

Small Equals Keepsake Box, Trumpet Vine, photo Liza Cowan
These boxes and more are available at the Small Equals Online Store HERE




Ml spoor hickory dickory three mice liza cowan collections
Mary Louise Spoor. From 1917 schoolroom poster

Two Mary Louise Spoor schoolroom posters are now available at my online store. One is a single sided triptych of Hickory Dickory Dock.


Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock. Cowan collections. Mary Louise Spoor, Hickory Dickory Dock  

ML Spoor Bye baby bunting med.
Mary Louise Spoor, Bye Baby Bunting

Posters available HERE
More about Mary Louise Spoor on this blog HERE