Lost Arts

Several years ago Husband and I were in a Fargo furniture store where we purchased a pair of lovely table lamps. They are Tiffany  glass and mica and go well with the Mission/Craftsman style furniture we have in our bedroom. They sit on either side of the bed.

I have had some buyer’s remorse since we purchased them as I didn’t take into account how fragile the shades are. Both Husband and I have  accidentally whacked the shades. I even knocked one on to the floor one morning. That resulted in a dent in the base of  the shade.

Stained glass artisans are not very common out here. We had one in Hettinger, about 80 miles south of us, but she retired a couple of years ago. She worked a lot on stained glass windows in local churches. I am fortunate that one of my coworkers is an artsy person and does some stained glass work, and was able to fix my shade.

We used to have furniture refinishers  and clock repairers out here, but no more.   There are a couple of  upholsterers in town.  They are old guys who I assume will retire one of these days. Then what?  I worry about too many arts lost.

Where do you get things fixed?  What lost arts would you like to see revived?









31 thoughts on “Lost Arts”

  1. my hatter is among the last hatter in the area
    he runs hamline cleaners from 6 am til 7 pm m-f and 7-1 on saturday and hats are not a big part of his business but he is the only one. i had a hat that needed to have some specific repair work done that requires a ribbon to be sewn around the brim . he sent me to a shop in st. louis where he had needed similar work done 20 years ago. i called that shop and they said that guy retired 15 years ago at age 80 and they sold the machines because no one knew how to work them. years ago everyone needed their hats looked after. today it’s me and a rare few others. they stopped using mercury in 1960 because they put 2 and 2 together and figured out mercury was causing mad hatters disease. hats were having enough trouble in 1960 with president kennedys hair being the new fashion trend then with no mercury the quality of the hat went in the tank too. many many hat companies disappeared altogether and only a few made it through
    now me and joe are the hat folks in the area
    upholsterers need to charge big money to recover a chair. i have my dad’s favorite chair to recover some day in the future but it will cost way more than a new chair
    you end up enjoying the quality in the world where you find it.
    tiffany glass is so beautiful and a thing to be enjoyed and appreciated
    we have some stained glass guys over here renee. if you need help let me know i’ll look them up. a cool craft indeed

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I knew that hatters suffered mercury poisoning from the use of mercury in the hat-making process, but I realized that I had no idea what, exactly, they were doing with the mercury and why it was necessary, so I researched it.
      We’re talking about felt hats here and specifically about hats made with felt made from animal fur. The premium fur, as you probably know, was beaver fur and one of the things that made beaver fur desirable was that the individual hairs had serrated edges that helped them mesh together in the felting process. Because beaver was expensive, many hats were made from the fur of other animals, like rabbit. Rabbit fur is smooth, not serrated, and doesn’t felt as tightly unless it’s treated to roughen up the strands. That is done by “carroting”, where mercurous nitrate solution is brushed on the fur (The mercurous nitrate is orange, hence the name).
      Apparently it also helps the fur separate from the pelt. When the carroted fur is steamed, it interlocks into a tight felted material, but the steam also carries mercury vapors. The accumulated effects of those vapors is what afflicts the hatters.

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Clock repair men are few and far between. Mom has a cuckoo clock brought to her by her from East Germany by a nephew when he was in the Army in the ‘50’s.
    I took it in three times to a clock guy and he keeps saying he’s fixed it and it runs for about 5 seconds at home and quits.
    Want to try another clock guy but he’s 60 miles away and just haven’t gotten there.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. My parents bought a grandfather clock in Sioux Falls in honor of their 55th wedding anniversary. I have it now. It works well, but I know it should be cleaned and oiled one of these years. The clock shop owners retired, but still will repair the clocks they sold. They live in northewest Iowa now. That is a long way to haul a clock!


    2. I have a clock—a schoolhouse regulator style clock—that I built for my parents one Christmas. Really I built the case and installed a good German-made works in it. When I inherited it after my parents died, the hourly chimes had stopped working for some reason. I don’t really have a place for a clock like that and so I haven’t pursued getting it back in running order. I think once it’s fixed, it needs to be hung on a wall to keep the pendulums working properly, so I probably won’t pursue getting it restored until I have a place for it.

      Liked by 3 people

    3. we live in a world of e-commerce
      maybe putting it in a box is a good idea
      10 dollars shipping is better than driving 2 hours and can be done in 10 minutes


  3. Rise and Repair, Baboons,

    This is a topic I often feel torn about. There are some items that I want to buy to be repaired. A year ago, or so, there was a long discussion here about KitchenAid Mixers that no longer hold up to former standards. Those mixers I want to be repairable because the older ones, manufactured before the company was sold, are just so excellent. I want a beloved vehicle to be repairable, too, into the infinite future. Antique items like clocks, watches, jewelry or furniture I want to repair.

    Other stuff really does get improved with age and improved manufacturing methods—vacuum cleaners for example. My long ago Kirby vacuum was heavy, awkward, and a real pain. I have gladly traded it for more lithe machines that are less repairable, more replaceable, and more easily transitioned into different functions (I.e. carpet, bare floor, upholstered furniture cleaning). Each version of my Shark vacuum seems to improve. I want to purchase those more often for less money.

    The guy down the street who loves to tinker is invaluable for fixing stuff or refurbishing things. He bought a 1949 fire truck, bought parts on eBay from all over the world, and now participates in parades all over Minnesota (see yesterday’s post!) with it. He also gives the neighbors rides.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. And my KitchenAid, the one that probably started the discussion last year, is still not a happy KitchenAid. In fact I just bought a small stand mixer from Aldi’s of all places and I’m using that for almost everything except large batches of cookies.


  4. String instrument repair is a challenge here. Our preferred place is in Fargo. In a crisis there is a guy in Bismarck. I have a third cousin who is a luthier in Madelia. He is a true tinkerer.

    Liked by 3 people

  5. We saw some beautiful medieval stained glass church windows in the Metropolitan Museum in New York last week. I can’t imagine what it took to get them from Europe to New Yotk.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’ve mentioned this before on the Trail, but St. Luke’s Church in Dubuque, Iowa has the fifth largest collection of Tiffany windows in the US, which amounts to something like 100 windows. One of the things that makes Tiffany windows unique is that Tiffany manufactured his own glass, using special proprietary methods for laminating colors. Here’s a link to the church and its windows:

      Liked by 3 people

  6. A classic example of the new way of “fixing” things is automobile repair. Increasingly, mechanics don’t even try to fix things. They run diagnostic tests to identify misbehaving parts, then bolt on new modules to replace them. Maybe the part is totally shot. Maybe it has a slightly bent dingus that could be fixed in ten seconds. It doesn’t matter. The least expensive way to fix many car problems now is to throw away the bad parts and replace them with new ones.

    It is easy to get all tut-tuty about this, but I have mixed emotions. Old fashioned tinkerers are to be treasured, and yet the new way of doing things might be more practical, given all the factors involved.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Back in the ‘70s, a friend and I decided to teach ourselves how to make stained glass lampshades. This was before stained glass was a hobby and there weren’t any stores selling supplies to amateurs. We went to Gaytee Stained Glass, a local shop that constructed and repaired stained glass to beg them to sell us some materials. While we were there, an old Scotsman named Andy showed us the basics of cutting the glass. We had to make up our own patterns and figure out the best construction methods. No far from the Gaytee shop was a store selling lamp parts, where we could get the components necessary to complete the shades. We sold a few, including at one Uptown Art Fair, but the cost of the materials and the time involved necessitated asking a price that put them outside most people’s range, especially for an impulse purchase. A few years later, the market was flooded with stained glass lampshades from Asia, priced below our materials cost.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. The title of today’s post reminds me that, back when I worked for a publisher of book series, I proposed producing a series of books under the heading of “Lost Arts”. The idea was to find high level artisans in various crafts and show what they do and how they do it. The concept as I envisioned it would not have been explicitly a step-by-step breakdown of the process, but just enough to give you an appreciation of the process. Also the books would have included lots of photos of the artisans and their environment, their tools and their craftsmanship. Each book would have been focused on a single craft. Topics could have been diverse as blacksmithing, glassblowing, stone masonry, timber framing, marquetry, gunsmithing, saddle making, millinery, historical costume reproduction and so on. The idea of being able to visit these people and put together a story about their expertise was extremely exciting to me. Unfortunately, my proposal went nowhere.

    Liked by 3 people

  9. One of the factors that prevents repair shops from being profitable is that you need a place to do business and keep supplies. Having a storefront takes up too much money, so repair people go out of business.

    I usually get things fixed at fix-it clinics. The workspaces are provided by libraries and community centers, or occasionally churches. Tools and materials are stored by the counties, who run the programs as an offshoot of their recycling programs. The fixers are volunteers. The costs are minimal, so it becomes feasible to fix things that could be cheaply replaced with a comparable new item.

    I’m always impressed by the knowledge and creative spirit of the people who volunteer.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. YA proved to be a valuable fixer-upper this week. Based on how nicely Edith spoke about her robot vacuum, we purchased one a couple of months ago. It takes hard use at our house with the dogs and cats and it started making a terrible noise a couple of weeks ago. YA took videos of it, she did research online and she contacted the company and they gave her some different ideas. Apparently she fixed it by putting a 10 pound weight on top of it for a half an hour and now it’s fine.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. It’s increasingly hard to find shoe or leather repair people. I’ve finally found a guy here in Winona, part of a little odds-and-ends shop that’s off the beaten track, and (if memory serves) is in a converted garage.

    I can’t find small appliance repair (think blender or rice cooker), Wonder what it would take to get a Fix-it Clinic going here. More energy than I’ve got, I’m afraid.


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