Sunday, March 21, 2010
The People Who Have Touched My Life...Touched My Art - Ethel & The Murano
I touched on this a little bit during the How I Fell in Love with Vintage Beads & Buttons Series... how a part of this journey was discovering more and more about the types of materials I wanted to work with - in the early stages, ah... I knew so little.
Meet Ethel! A largely boisterous old lady who had a 2-3 pack a day habit & went to bed each night with an old-fashioned as her toddy. Tough as nails, rough around the edges old farm girl who had dug her way around old barns and houses, went to every flea market and auction she could, to feed her specialty of glass treasures.
I'll never forget the first day I walked into this great little antique shop in St. Charles, IL...there sat Ethel behind the counter, and as she barked out "can I help you" in that deep, scratchy voice, I remember being a little bit afraid. But oh...Ethel, her bark was much worse than her bite & it was the start of a beautiful, every-so-often friendship. Every time I'd see her she'd yell out "hey kiddo," and we'd be off on an adventure of her educating me about art glass.
I never realized just what an impact those first several encounters had, until I walk around eight years later & see all the paperweights, pheasants and art glass that I now cherish. It was a delight to sit and learn from her, and listen to her tales about how she found some of the most exquisite examples of pre-1940's glass I have ever seen.
Not only did Ethel aid in starting my addiction to glass, but she was also one of my first connections to obtaining large quantities of vintage beads. She had a gentleman who would come from Georgia with bags & bags of beautiful necklaces. I remember her taking a chance on me when my pocketbook was small and I'd stash away 50-60 strands with a promise of return with the money & she believed in me. That very first purchase, was supposed to be with a friend, and I was never able to get this person to pony up the cash... and I was embarrassed, it had been far too long since the last time I had seen Ethel with the promise of a soon return. Somehow I finally managed to get the money together and make my visit to pay for all those treasures she had been patiently holding for me.
Little did I know at the time that I was primarily sitting upon the biggest collection of antique & vintage murano glass beads that I have since never seen. Unknowingly, I parted with some of these beauties to my friend for a song! As I continued to research & learn more, I honestly told my friend that I had made a mistake, and if I had known, I would not have been such a good sharer! But that's okay, I learned as I matured in my interest & knowledge of glass. And honestly, Ethel knew very little about beads herself, so neither of us knew the value of the treasure she had bestowed upon me.
Ethel isn't around as much now, having lost her husband about 3 years ago. I have tried to keep in touch with her, but I think her passion for glass has waned a bit and she's getting up there in years & now lives a more quiet & peaceful existence. I will forever be grateful to the old lady who may have been gruff, but was willing to share about her stuff. If it wasn't for her, I would not have evolved and grown my passion for all things glass.