Sunday, March 30, 2008

Gem and Mineral Show!

Twice a year, there's a small Gem and Mineral Show at the local fairgrounds. Of course it doesn't compare to the ones in Arizona or other cities out west. But, short of traveling out there, it's the best that I have and I look forward to it.

I hit the show on Saturday - so many pretty and shiny things! But I always hold back. My husband will just see the receipts and shake his head. Do I really need another strand of beads?

I only bought a few things.

Of course I went home and thought about what I had missed out on. Why didn't I buy some mother of pearl beads which are priced HALF of what I would pay at my local bead shop? How about those kyanite beads which I've been lusting after for so long?? Then what about the many things that were just so unusual??? Why didn't I buy them?!!!

Luckily the show was still open on Sunday - and the admission was good for both days!

Yes I went back. I always do. And I always spend WAY too much money

Here are the latest additions to my stash:
Just added these to my stash!
Some labrodorite, prehnite, mother of pear, kyanite (aren't those long beads wonderful!) and some other stuff! It may not look like all that much, but I spent more than a couple hundred dollars. And that's after the silver order I placed this week - about $250 ! I'm sure that most jewelry artists think this is a really minor purchase, but I only do this part time as a hobby so this is quite a lot for me. (Selling my jewelry helps with the costs. So far I've been pretty much breaking even.)

The first thing I made was a brand new ring from some amazing mother-of-pearl mosaic beads. (I already listed the ring in my online shop!) I'd never seen any like these beads before and I probably paid too much - but they're so pretty! They have an amazing flash. (I only bought 3 beads.)

Tomorrow I'm taking a jewelry class on how to make bezel-set pendants- the first jewelry class I've ever taken in my life! I bought a fossil just for tomorrow. (You can see it in the upper center in my stash.) I thought it would look great set and hung from some turqoise heishi.

I'm going to bring my camera to the class and take some photos. I'll plan on posting them later this week!

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Saturday, March 29, 2008

A few crafty links.

I found this great site called Crafty thoughts from Crafts forum Members which has tons of tutorials. One that I thought was really cute and really great for the spring is a card with a pinwheel on it. It's perfect whether or not March comes in like a lion or goes out like a lamb. The tutorial seems like a lot of fun.

A couple of years ago, I asked for an iPod for my birthday. All 3 of my kids already had one and I felt a little envious. I love electronics and thought that an iPod would be fun to play with. My husband bought me on of the more expensive models - I was tempted to return it because of the cost. But I'm so glad I didn't, because I use it all the time. I travel a lot and I take it with me everywhere. I even installed an iPod adapter in my Mini Cooper so that I can play on the way to work. I really never expected how much pleasure it would give me!

The one thing I really should have done is bought a protective cover for it. But I thought that that was a bit silly : buying things for my things. Can you believe it! But the iPod does tend to scratch.

So when I saw this tutorial for a nano, I thought it would be a great thing to make. (Pity I don't sew!)

You got to admit it's adorable!
Just for fun:
10 historically inaccurate movies

We all accept that movies stretch the truth in the interest of building drama. The following ten flicks, however, treat the truth like it was Silly Putty -- pulling and twisting it until it's unrecognizable.

10,000 B.C.Director Roland Emmerich is usually a stickler for realism (see: sending a computer virus via Macintosh to aliens in Independence Day). So we hate to inform him that woolly mammoths were not, in fact, used to build pyramids. Heck, woolly mammoths weren't even found in the desert. They wouldn't need to be woolly if that were the case. And there weren't any pyramids in Egypt until 2,500 B.C or so. Movie Info   Trailers & Clips   Production Photos

GladiatorEmperor Commodus was not the sniveling sister-obsessed creep portrayed in the movie. A violent alcoholic, sure, but not so whiny. He ruled ably for over a decade rather than ineptly for a couple months. He also didn't kill his father, Marcus Aurelius, who actually died of chickenpox. And instead of being killed in the gladiatorial arena, he was murdered in his bathtub. Movie Info   Trailers & Clips   Production Photos

300Though this paean to ancient moral codes and modern physical training is based on the real Battle of Thermopylae, the film takes many stylistic liberties. The most obvious one being Persian king Xerxes was not an 8-foot-tall Cirque du Soleil reject. The Spartan council was made up of men over the age of 60, with no one as young as Theron (played by 37-year-old Dominic West). And the warriors of Sparta went into battle wearing bronze armor, not just leather Speedos. Movie Info   Trailers & Clips   Production Photos

The Last Samurai

The Japanese in the late 19th century did hire foreign advisers to modernize their army, but they were mostly French, not American. And they certainly were not Scientologists. (ARGHHHH!) Ken Watanabe's character was based on the real Saigo Takamori who committed ritual suicide, or "seppuku," in defeat rather than in a volley of Gatling gun fire. Also, it's doubtful that a 40-something alcoholic Civil War vet, even one with great hair, would master the chopsticks much less the samurai sword. Movie Info   Trailers & Clips   Production Photos

ApocalyptoThis one movie has given entire Anthropology departments migraines. Sure the Maya did have the odd human sacrifice but not to Kulkulkan, the Sun God, and only high-ranking captives taken in battle were killed. Yes the movie was entertaining, but when have you ever seen a complete solar eclipse that lasts for approximately 2 minutes - the time it takes to save the protagonist. Sigh. Movie Info   Trailers & Clips   Production Photos

Memoirs of a Geisha The movie wasn't nearly as good as the book, and the book was just OK.

The geisha coming-of-age, called "mizuage," was really more of a makeover, where she changed her hairstyle and clothes. It didn't involve her getting... intimate with a client. In the climactic scene where Sayuri wows Gion patrons with her dancing prowess, her routine - which involves some platform shoes, fake snow, and a strobe light - seems more like a scene from Flashdance (and we all know how realistic THAT was) than anything in pre-war Kyoto. Movie Info   Trailers & Clips   Production Photos


According to the movie, Wallace's blue-eyed charm at the Battle of Falkirk was so overpowering, he seduced King Edward II's wife, Isabella of France, and the result of their affair was Edward III. But according to the history books, Isabella was three years old at the time of Falkirk, and Edward III was born seven years after Wallace died.

Who cares, though. We got to see Mel Gibson, in his prime, in a kilt. Movie Info   Production Photos

Elizabeth: The Golden Age

In 1585, when the movie takes place, Queen Elizabeth was 52 years old - Cate Blanchett was 36 when she shot the film - and was not being courted by suitors like Ivan the Terrible (who was dead by then). And though the movie has her rallying the troops at Tilbury astride a white steed in full armor with a sword, in fact she rode side saddle, carrying a baton. She was more of a regal majorette than Joan of Arc.

Movie Info   Trailers & Clips   Production Photos

The Patriot

Revolutionary War figure Francis "The Swamp Fox" Marion was the basis for Mel Gibson's character, but he wasn't the forward-thinking family man they show in the flick. He was a slave owner who didn't get married (to his cousin) until after the war was over. Historians also say that he actively persecuted and murdered native Cherokees. Plus, the thrilling Battle of Guilford Court House where he vanquishes his British nemesis? In reality, the Americans lost that one.

Oh well, at least Mel Gibson was easy on the eyes. Again.

Movie Info   Trailers & Clips   Production Photos

2001: A Space Odyssey

According to this film, in year 2001 we would have had manned voyages to Jupiter, a battle of wits with a sentient computer, and a quantum leap in human evolution. Instead we got the Mir Space Station falling from the sky, Windows XP, and Freddy Got Fingered. Apparently the lesson here is that sometimes it's better when the movies get the facts all wrong.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter Bunnday!





babybellecookie 2

Friday, March 21, 2008

Crafting links

How cute is this! What a great thing to do with the kids for Easter or spring! I have never seen these before but I think I'm going to have to make them with my daughter. My only problem are the robin egg whoppers I like them so much I refuse to buy them because I might go through an entire bag in one sitting. I think I'll be much safer using jelly beans. ).Directions on how to make your own chocolate bird's nest are from The Angry Chicken.

Did you know that The Graphics Fairy posts a free Vintage & Victorian clipart download every day!

The graphics are part of her large collection and include old wallpaper, early photos, advertising pieces, Victoriana scraps, and other assorted ephemera.

They make me want to run right out and try my hand at making a collage.

You're free to use all clip art and photos, with the exception of the banner, in any of your projects created for resale or pleasure. (You are asked, however, to limit yourself to just 4 vintage cliparts per project.)

Decorating eggs is a custom that dates back before what we know as Easter was ever celebrated. Eggs are a symbol of spring, renewal, and fertility for many cultures. And sometimes they are works of art.

Here's a link to six ways to color easter eggs. Some of these you're familiar with. some of these are amazing. And some are quite a bit different. And none of them use PAAS.

The article contains links to tutorials for all of them.

Accent Yourself Jewelry creates Briolette Flower Pendants using both semi-precious and glass briolette beads and a variety of smaller beads for the center of the flower.

She's been kind enought to create a tutorial on how it done!

She also has a great etsy shop which includes these briolette flowers pendants as well as chainmaille and, something I'm a sucker for, sea glass. (Yes, I have my own small collection of sea glass to which I'm adding all the time. Someday I hope to get some time and work on creating some of my own sea glass jewelry. Until then, I'll probably need to get a bigger container for my collection :-)

Links that amuse me:

  • We've all heard of urban legends, those plausible sounding but false stories that circulate so widely on email and news groups, such as the old lady who microwaved her cat, or the Nieman-Marcus $250 cookie recipe. Well, this site debunks Kitchen Urban Legends

  • Neverland Ranch. Amazing collection of photographs that were taken this month.

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Thursday, March 20, 2008

Photos, even those showing the scale of the item, are not a substitute for the real thing. There have been many times when I've known the exact dimensions of an item and seen the photographs, and then have been surprised when I finally received it. It's either smaller or larger than I imagined, or the colors are not exactly what I had hoped for. (I do this all the time with gemstones. It's happened so often that I really hesitate to buy them online.)

That's the problem with buying jewelry or clothing online. Without touching it or holding it against you, you're only guessing at what it will look like on.

Seeing it modeled can give you a little better idea of how the item might look like on. But I've heard lots of contradictory views about using a live person. Lots of people feel uncomfortable about someone wearing items before they buy them.

We each have our own views on this. Personally, I wouldn't mind seeing jewelry - even earrings - modelled. It can give you a good idea of how the jewelry will look on. But I know seeing earrings on a live person would really gross some people out. (Me, I'm more skittish about seeing hats being modeled on people. Yeeech! But that's just me.)

So I try to strike a balance in my shop. None of my earrings are modeled on people. I give the dimensions and, to provide perspective, always show a photo of the earrings in my hand. With my necklaces, however, I like to show one photo of them on a real live neck. (I hope that won't gross out too many potential buyers.)

OK, this brings us to a slightly different topic. Models.

First of all, I won't model necklaces. I've tried to, but I run into 2 dillemas:
  • no one in my family can take a reasonable photo

  • no one would want a necklace modeled on my neck. My modeling days are long past. (Please see comment above above grossing people out)
My 17-yr old daughter, Katie, however, is lovely and anything she models looks beautiful. BUT, she doesn't want to do it! I have to beg, coerse, shame, and even BRIBE her to model. (Yes, I have stooped that low.)

Her excuse?
"I feel so used. It's like I'm not a real human being, I'm just a neck."

I had the upper hand this week - her friend asked her to go on spring break with her. So of course she would do ANYTHING while waiting for a (hopefully positive) decision from her parents.

Oh yes. Everytime I asked her to model a necklace, she smiled and sweetly said, "yes".

Here's a picture of Katie modeling my Pearl Cluster Necklace:
Now I have to run and make some more new necklaces before I give Katie a decision about spring break.

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Monday, March 17, 2008

More doctors smoke Camels

Sunday, March 16, 2008

It's interesting to sit back and reflect on what exactly inspires you and causes your ideas take tangible form.

I think some people work very hard at their craft and have a formula that generates creativity (or, at least, creations). Others are inspired by what they see, borrowing from it to create something new. Then there are those moments of inspiration - ideas that come from who-knows-where.
I don't think a single one of these describes what goes on in my head. For me, personally, I feel that it's a combination of the three.
I know my creativity is limited to a certain extent on my likes and dislikes, as well as my abilities, knowledge, as well as my medium. And it definitely has its limitations. In this sense, I'm working within a certain formula.
Inspiration also comes from around me - it may come from nature or from someone else's designs.
And then, sometimes I have a moment of epiphany. An idea, almost completely formulated, comes from seemingly nowhere!
Do you ever doodle, trying to make ideas take form? I know I do. I can't help it, but when I go to meetings at work, my notes end up being covered with all kinds of weird shapes, scribbles, and spirals. Designs that seem to have some promise get transcribed in a notebook that I keep specifically for potential projects.

Oddly, almost none of these doodles ever amount to anything. The ideas may seem promising on paper, but once I transfer them to metal or beads, they're completely hopeless.

For me, sitting down with my medium - beads or wire - and physically manipulating and playing, seems to result in the best designs.
For example, this past week, I wanted to create a new earwire design - perhaps incorporate a spiral to make something unique. So I started playing with some copper. These are exactly the steps that I took:
They didn't seem right. But I kept looking at the patterns I created. The more I looked, the more the patterns reminded me of my Unraveling Earrings. Those earrings are really nothing but swirls that become hoops. Then suddenly an idea came to me: an inside-out swirl incorporated in a hoop!
The first two prototypes were made in copper, as you see above. Essentially, these are backwards Unfurling Earrings. I was so excited with the concept that I couldn't go to bed until I transfered the design into silver:
I can't say whether this design hasn't been created by anyone else. In fact, I'd be surprised if it wasn't. All I know is that I created it independently. And, for me, that's all that matters.

(These earrings are now available at my online shop.)

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Friday, March 14, 2008

I just wanted to share some pictures from pipsjewellery who wire-wrapped some beads using the tutorial I posted yesterday.
Photobucket These are mica shift beads. And if you noticed, they're flat rather than rounded, which makes the wire wrapping a little more challenging.

I think she did a great job!

If anyone else used my tutorial, I'd love to post your results too!

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Thursday, March 13, 2008

I've had some folks on Etsy ask me to write a tutorial on how to wire wrap a briolette. So I finally got around to it. Remember, this is the way I do it, and it may differ from other instructions you can find in bead books or on the internet.


  • Silver wire. (22, 24, or 26 gauge, depending on the desired effect, size of stone, and size of holes in the stone ) I don't cut my wire at a particular length; I use the entire roll and cut it at the end.

  • Bead / gemstone (briolette, teardrop, or marquise shape)

  • Round Nose Pliers

  • Cutting Pliers

  • Fingers

    1)Thread the wire through the bead's hole, making it poke out about an inch on one side.

    2)Pinch both wires at the top of the briolette to form the shape of a triangle, making sure that the stone is centered

    3) Take the short end and wrap it around the longer wire 2-3 times, like this:

    4)Snip off the tiny bit of wire sticking out.

    5)Using your round pliers, create a loop:

    (You could actuall stop here, finish with a wrapped loop, and be done. But we'll continue with wrapping the wire down the gemstone.)

    6)Now start wrapping the wire. You will wrap around the wire below the loop, then wrap around the bead. You can stop wrapping above the hole in the bead or below it, depending on the look you want. In this case I wrapped below the hole.

    7) At this point you need to decide how to finish this off. There are a number of ways:

    • Cut the wire flush and either tuck it under the last wrap or press it neatly against the stone. (Tucking it under can cause the wrapping to loosen and become "messy". )

    • Wrap the wire back up the bead carefully, then secure it by tucking it into the bead hole. Below is an example of what it would look like. (This gorgeous wirewrapping was done by Raes Creations, who had the earrings for sale in her Etsy shop. Her blog is here. )

    • To create a purposely "messy" look, wrap the wire back up the bead loosely. Then secure below the loop as explained above. Example that I found on Etsy:

    • To create a swirl in front of the bead, cut the wire, leaving about 1/2 inch. Then create the swirl and press it against the bead. Example:

    • Wrap the wire back up once accross the front of the wrapping, then a couple of times below the loop. (My preferred method). Example:

    And that's all there is to it! Happy wire wrapping!

    Update on 3/18/08: The above can now be found at my online shop.

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    Contrariwise Jewelry is now a proud member of Metalsmiths in Action:

    Wednesday, March 12, 2008

    ...well, maybe we're a few years off. But I thought I would share some pictures from Emma's last gymnastics' meet. (BTW, Emma is 12.) This is from her floor routine:

    I think I could probably do most of these moves too...except they would be quickly followed with a huge splash from our swimming pool.

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    Tuesday, March 11, 2008

    I recently wrote that I didn't think blogs were all that great for promotion. Maybe I was wrong about that.

    Etsy just published its results from their January 2008 survey. 30,000 people responded -almost half were buyers only.

    I took a look at the data. 26% of the buyers found out about Etsy on blogs, and 17% found handmade Etsy products through blogs! (Still, the most frequent way buyers find out about Etsy is through a friend - 33%).

    With regard to MySpace or Facebook, almost three quarters of buyers have a profile on at least one of them! And a quarter of buyers use Flickr.

    My conclusions:

    • I may have been wrong about the impact blogging has on promoting. I had planned to continue to blog, but now I won't be so negative about its potential use for promotion.
    • I am definitely going to work on my MySpace account, and possibly look into FaceBook.

    Maybe I'm going to have to invest in this:

    (Hey, it's deductable as a business expense!)

    You can find more about the survey results on The Storque.

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    Today I went shopping. I just wanted to buy 2 kinds of silver beads for the "Nothing but Sterling" earrings in my shop.

    That's all that I needed. No more. No less.

    So off I went to a local bead shop, the Bead Palace. (Yes, that's the name. The Bead Palace is owned by an entertaining Indian family. They actually own their own mines in India and China, with workers who mine and cut the stones for them.)

    On my last 2 visits to there, I went in with a grocery list, and came out with exactly what I needed. Temptation was there, but I didn't succomb.

    I really don't need any more beads or gemstones. I have so many of them lying around in bags, waiting to be incorporated into jewelry. I have months of projects that I could be working on!

    This time however, the Bead Palance must have gotten a new shipment of gems. They had labradorite briollettes, and some love light light purple amethysts, cut into smooth teardrop shapes. Oh, and some light blue chalcedony in graduated rondelles. And so many more!

    It was so hard with all the temptations around me. I couldn't resist. I had to get something new.

    I finally decided I could not live without these baubles: lovely spring-green prehnite marquise-faceted gemstones:

    They're such a great color of green. They make me think of tender new green shoots bursting out of the warm soil on an early spring day.

    I've had a number of people ask me to post a tutorial on how to wire-wrap briolette (teadrop) stones. These beads inspired me. So I decided it was time.

    I created some wire-wrapped earrings tonight, took some photos, and will be posting a tutorial tomorrow!

    Stay tuned!

    BTW, when I got home with my stash, my dog, seemed relatively unimpressed. This is her usual location in my "bead room" formerly known as my college-bound son's room. (Yes, we had to fumigate it.)

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    Friday, March 7, 2008

    Yes, I had good intentions. I was going to do Gemmafactrix' 30 day Design-A-Day challenge and I was going to work religiously on it.

    Unfortunately, life got in the way. During the 30 days, I went on 2 business trips (Dallas and San Diego), had one birthday event (my son's 21st--OMG! I must have given birth at the age of 11!), and one trip to Phoenix for my daughter's national gymnastics meet (which she came in 1st. Go Emma!).

    I managed to create a new design 15 days in a row which, I guess, isn't too bad. Some of these have been listed in my Etsy shop but most haven't. (Hey, it take time to take the photos! Plus some of the designs weren't really that good. LOL.)

    Preamble over. Catharsis achieved. Now I feel much better.

    Last weekend a local bead shop had a trunk show and I picked up some wonderful natural turquoise beads. New beads always inspire me and I couldn't wait to work with them.

    I finished a new set of earrings with them yesterday and decided to wear them today. And, would you believe this, I had somebody buy them off my ears! The first time this has ever happened to me! It just made my day.

    Tomorrow: gymnastics in Louisville. 1 foot of snow already on the ground. More expected.


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    In this post I am only going to write about promotions I've tried (and tell you whether they seemed to work for me).

    1. Business cards (5 Stars)
    Get business cards made up – and hand them out to whomever you can– friends, family, co-workers, whoever. (I've actually had former customers ask me for large quantities, so that they can hand them when they get a compliment on the jewelry they bought from me.)

    Add your cards and fliers to bulletin boards you have permission to use. When you ship an item sold at your Etsy shop, don't forget to slip in a couple business cards. (One for your customer, and one to hand out!)

    2. Flickr account. (5 Stars)
    Of anything I've done on the web, this has brought me the most sales. My tips:

    • Don't forget to add your Etsy site to your profile. (Remember, you're not allowed to include it in the description in the photo. They will suspend your flickr account if you do!)
    • Join a lot of groups and, every time you add a new picture to Flickr, make sure it's sent to all the relevent groups.
    • Don't post a lot of photos to Flickr at once. My strategy is similar to my Etsy listing stratgey: space them out to give me the most exposure in the groups.
    • Make friends. You get to see what other people post and they see what you post. Plus people surfing Flickr like to check on other people's friend lists - and you can be seen that way, too.

    3. Blogging (2 Stars)
    A lot of people swear that blogging is a great promotional tool and claim steady sales from their blog. My personal experience is that I have not had a single sale due to blogging. (I keep track of my stats on FeedBurner and have found that get very few clickouts to my Etsy site. In fact, while there have been over 30,000 hits on my blog, I think I've had less than 10 clickouts to my online shop! )

    But you may have a different experience. If you blog or plan to blog, read all you can about increasing traffic to your site - you can't promote unless you have visitors!

    Here's a great site that has strategies for using your blog for promotion: Tips for New Bloggers.
    I also wrote a post about increasing traffic to your blog.

    I also highly recommend Feedburner; it automatically pings your site to search engines, thus increasing your visibility.

    4 Deviant Art (2 Stars)
    This is very similar to Flickr but I think that the people who use it are younger and artsier. I would recommend it to photographers and artists.

    I have an account and regularly submit photos. Unlike Flickr, you can add a link to your Etsy shop within the description of each photo. I've found that I get a lot of views, comments, and clickouts to my Etsy shop. (I am not aware of any sales generated from this site.)

    5. Squidoo. (1/2 Star)
    Squidoo is a network of user-generated "lenses" --single pages that highlight one person's point of view, recommendations, or expertise. Lenses aren't primarily intended to hold content; more emphasis is placed on recommending and then pointing to content on the web, therefore they are great at pointing people to your website.

    You can create a sections with photos directly linking to Flickr, links to your Etsy site, your blog etc.

    I like the fact that it provides great stats on number of visitors and clickouts. I've gotten quite a few clickouts to my online shop. Since you join groups (many of which are devoted to shopping), you can get exposure to the right customers.

    My gut feeling is that you need to spend a lot of time on Squidoo to get yourself seen and generate sales. So other than setting up my own lens and joining some groups, I've pretty much given up on Squidoo.

    6. Craigslist (2 Stars)
    This is like an internet classified ad. I've listed a few times and have correlated the listings with increased people viewing my online shop and a couple of inquiries. I'm going to try to advertise some more on it before I give up.

    7. MySpace (??? Stars)
    I have heard that you can get a lot of traffic to your site through MySpace - but you must have a lot of friends and join groups. Lots of people swear that they get lots of sales through MySpace. Problem: you need to invest a lot of time to create the site, update it, and make friends.

    There's a great thread on Etsy about using MySpace as a marketing tool.

    I have a MySpace account, but have not used it after I set it up. (OK, I confess, my son set it up for me.) If you want add me as a friend on MySpace I would appreciate it. It would force me to get more involved in it.

    Once again, there are TONS more ways to promote outside of Etsy and the above is only my firsthand experience. Unfortunately, you could end up spending all your time promoting and less and less time creating. It's definitely a balancing act. So my last piece of advice is:

    Track where your sales come from so you can focus your energies where they're most effective.

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    Thursday, March 6, 2008

    Wilhelm Staehle created Victorian scenes by superimposing silhouettes over paintings, and gave them somewhat subversive captions.

    Simply brilliant. (I wish I could buy them as cards!)

    Silhouette Masterpiece Theater

    Silhouette Masterpiece Theater

    Silhouette Masterpiece Theater

    Silhouette Masterpiece Theater

    The enigmatic Wilhelm Staehle is a clever gentleman indeed whose nomenclature appears on two lovely sites: Silhouette Masterpiece Theater and The Dollar Dreadful Family Library.

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