Category Archives: Blog

Make Mine Magnetic or How I Learned to Love the Kitsch!

Visitors to our gallery receive a free collector's magnet.

I never thought in all my remaining days on earth that I would be giving advice on how to make your kitchen into the Taj Mahal of magnetic magic. But now that embellishing your refrigerator with memorabilia has become a cultural mandate that transcends all notions of class, taste, and the fear of a surprise visit from Architectural Digest; how can I ignore this social imperative! Those of you without a magnetic surface must be frantic, or maybe just flummoxed. If you couldn’t care less that there’s no place to feature your children’s artwork or the latest photo of your grandkid or a free souvenir from that great funky gallery in Vermont, move on down the line. The rest of you: listen up!

Gecko Magnet

The sides of my SS cabinets are magnetic.

The urge to upgrade a kitchen seems to lean to stainless steel appliances these days. Why? I have no idea since it’s so hard to keep them looking immaculate, but I didn’t figure that out until I upgraded not only my appliances but half my cabinets to SS. While slick and stunning, not all stainless is created equal. The magnetism, or lack of it, is dependent on the amount of chromium and nickel in the alloy. Some so-called stainless is actually still magnetic. And, even if the front of your frig is not magnetic, check out the sides if they’re exposed. Hey, some manufacturers have felt your pain and now install a steel (read “magnetic”) panel behind the stainless, wood or laminate.

Raku Leaf Magnet

Raku maple leaf magnet on whiteboard.

One solution is to hang a whiteboard, making sure it’s magnetic, of course. Or you could do as my niece did, and hang a baking sheet spray-painted with chalkboard paint which then doubles as a message board. The trick is in the hanging and since the solutions are dependent on the available appendages in your kitchen and the possible ownership of a drill press, I’ll leave that step up to you. What I don’t recommend is hanging either one on the refrigerator door where it will abuse the SS surface that is already a pain in the butt to keep attractive.

Magnetic Wall

Flat, Lightweight Bottle cap magnets are perfect for magnetic walls.

There actually is magnetic paint so should you have an expanse of wall, or a suitable flush door (although I wouldn’t consider your refrigerator door suitable,) AND a steady roller hand, you might go down this road. It acts as a base coat leaving you many finishing options. A word of caution: read the directions thoroughly, especially the mixing and coverage recommendations. Oh, and the type of magnets you use – flat, light-weight, strong – is important.

Namaste Word Magnets

Heavy magnets like these porcelain tiles require a magnetic steel surface.

OK, you say, there are ways to get a magnetic surface in the kitchen but what about on the frig? Enter Choopaboard! It’s magnetic; it looks like stainless steel; it attaches to stainless steel with powerful suction cups; it’s quickly removable fully loaded for that magazine photo op; and, oops, it doesn’t work on SS appliances made by Thermador, Samsung and GE. GE! As in General Electric? Well, perhaps you have an Amana, so knock yourself out. Otherwise, keep reading.

Bike Chain Magnets

Recycled Bike Chain Magnets for the Cycling Enthusiast

Magnetic tape with pressure-sensitive adhesive backing does exist, not to be confused with the recording medium or tape intended for use on magnetic wall charts. Just a thought, though, as I don’t plan to test it on my Monogram appliances, attach a small piece in an obscure spot for, say, a week. Then remove it and flush any residue with Goo Gone, ammonia, or De-Solv-It (probably only one will work) to see if the SS surface was marred.  If not, tape away! It probably won’t be ideal for your kids’ magnetic alphabet or the Snarky Bitch Magnetic Poetry kit hubby put in your Christmas stocking, but as long as you don’t mind your photos, cards, artwork, and souvenirs all lined up in lock-step fashion, your magnetic masterpiece is good to go!

Recycled Spark Plug Plugbug Magnet by Fred Conlon of Sugar Post

Recycled Spark Plug "Plugbug" Magnet

Say what? You’re more spontaneous and expressive than ducks-in-a-row magnetic tape allows? Here are some options for random placement, some more pricey than others:

Hot gluing your entire magnet collection to your refrigerator door is a bit radical, I’d say, but I did find that solution offered online. EMPHASIS: I have not tried this!!

• Self-adhesive magnetic sheeting: The decision to  semi-permanently cover that expensive stainless steel with what amounts to magnetic shelf liner is yours alone.

Gnome-Be-Gone Kendra Magnet

Gnome-Be-Gone Kendra Magnet

Tacky Wax is a benign substance that becomes tackier as you rub a small ball of it in between your fingers. It’s quick, removable and reusable.

Quake Hold Museum Putty is a similar product to Tacky Wax but suitable for more permanently placed memorabilia, like your birth certificate everyone keeps asking to see.

3M Reusable Adhesive Tabs are another alternative for semi-permanent mountings.

Yardbirds Recycled Hardware Snail Magnet

Recycled Hardware Snail Magnet

Friggie Tape is a repositionable double stick tape that the manufacture claims can be removed from photos, cards, etc. with no damage to your treasures. Try it first on something disposable.

Stainless Cling are patches that stick to photos, artwork, recipe cards, even magnets, but adhere to the frig without adhesive. Magic, I guess!

Self-Adhesive plastic sleeves are probably the cheapest solution if you’re primarily looking to display your wunderkinds’ wonder-work. Available up to 12″ x 18″ for under $2 each. When your progeny finally goes off to college you can probably (that’s probably) remove the adhesive with one of the solvents mentioned in paragraph six.

Retro Vermont Bottle Cap Magnets

Retro Vermont Bottle Cap Magnets

So fellow magneteers, we have entered the realm of denim jeans here! Magnets on refrigerators are forEVER; for every man, woman and child on the planet; and for every socio-economic demographic. Bet ya’ never expected to have a thing in common with those 1%-ers who, I have on good authority, at every opportunity festoon the frig – all six of them!

Jendala Magnetic Frames on Frig

Jendala Magnetic Frames on Frig

A parting personal note: Here’s our magnetic-less GE Monogram converted into a kitchen kommunication korner using fabulous recycled steel frames by Jendala hung from suction cups. I’ve used felt pads on the back to protect the stainless surface.

Ire Over the Erie

Max at the wheel on the Erie

When Max was in middle school I sometimes would take his textbooks to my office and photocopy the pages blocking out distracting charts, images, sidebars, etc. One night I was too tired to trek across the yard to open my office, so I volunteered to read out loud a chapter on US westward expansion in the early 19th century. The mere paragraph this text devoted to the conception, construction and historical importance of the Erie Canal, left me slack-jawed.

Gabe and I are both native New Yorkers and a substantial segment of our American history education was devoted to this pivotal accomplishment. If you know us, you can just picture what happened next. We spent the winter researching the entire 373-mile route from the Waterford Flight to the Tonawanda terminus. By summer we had purchased a second-hand 25′ power boat and trailer, recruited a traveling companion for our son, loaded up our truck with photo gear and supplies, hooked our dinghy to the other car, and headed north up the Hudson Valley.

I won’t go into detail about the boat taking on water within moments of being launched, but picture a boat still tied to the trailer winch floating downstream in the pitch dark while the water-logged engine refused to start. Thankfully, that was the low-point of the entire summer. The rest of the season was spent advancing two vehicles and two boats lock-by-lock, sharing sleeping quarters among four people, eating alfresco, and bathing in the canal. Ah, what an experience!

Currently, we have 30 titles in Erie Canal Edition I. Future publishing plans include featuring some of the often-overlooked communities that grew up along the canal’s route; like Holy Trinity, a Russian Orthodox Monastery; Seneca Falls, the birthplace of the Women’s Suffrage Movement; and the middle Mohawk Valley with its prospering Amish dairy farms. The region has served as an able caretaker of the history that emerged as society pushed westward, made more comfortable and affordable by the Erie Canal. Read about this astonishing accomplishment at eriecanalgallery.com.

POWNAL, OUR KINDA (HOME) TOWN

Pownal Valley Panorama

The Pownal Valley, reputed to be one of the most beautiful in all of Vermont, was selected by the UN as symbolic of peace and its photo featured on the cover of the September 30, 1946, United Nations Bulletin.   I’ve been known to have one or two complaints about this town where our gallery is located and we now call home, largely due to the Appalachia-style accumulation of castoff debris in yards, meadows and wetlands; but, in truth, Pownal is one helluva stunning place, and it has a very interesting history. I think the community was just worn down by marginal farming, the loss of factory jobs, and the closing of the Green Mountain Race Track. As the jobs left, those who had a glimmer of opportunity elsewhere followed suit.

Frank Vincent DuMond, impressionist painter and Art Students League co-founder, found the valley so striking he brought students, including Robert Maione, John Marin, Frank Mason, Georgia O’Keeffe and Norman Rockwell, to summer at the Mountain View Inn formerly a part of the same farm as our barn. Others would follow, boarding at one of the hotels or with local residents.  In the 1962 photo of Pownal Center, the inn – locally referred to as Bartel’s Lodge, is the building complex in the center of the image and the barn in the lower right quarter is now the center section of our building. One of my “older” customers recalls as a child watching Norman Rockwell painting the valley village of Pownal Center from a point nearly directly across the street from where we now stand.

VERSION OF SCENE SHOWN ON COVER OF UNITED NATIONS BULLETIN SEPTEMBER 3, 1946 • CORN STACKS, POWNAL VT, OIL, FRANK MASON, 1949 • FORMER GRANDVIEW FARM GUEST HOUSE • POWNAL CENTER 1962

About the same time that DuMond probably started visiting Pownal, Lewis Hine, a photographer working for the National Child Labor Committee also visited Pownal. In 1910 Hine photographed child laborers working 12-hour days, 6 days a week in a textile mill in North Pownal. The fourth girl from the left staring intently at the camera would become the poster child for the abuses of child labor practices in the US. National attention was now focused on the abuses of child labor, and Hine’s photograph of a Pownal resident, 11-year-old Addie Card, standing bare-footed and filthy, next to an enormous spinning machine became the subject of an US postage stamp in 1998 commemorating the passing of Federal regulations governing child labor practices. Hine’s work was largely responsible for the passing of those laws. Local award-winning author Elizabeth Winthrop was inspired by the photograph of Addie who became the basis for her book, Counting on Grace. As the book was going to press, Elizabeth discovered Addie’s real name and author / researcher  Joe Manning tracked down Addie’s descendants living in nearby New York State. The rest of her story can be read at http://www.morningsonmaplestreet.com/addiesearch1.html

THE TEXTILE MILL IN N. POWNAL, LATER A TANNERY, WAS TORN DOWN IN 1988 • IN 1910 LEWIS HINE WORKING UNDERCOVER PHOTOGRAPHED THE CHILD MILL WORKERS. UNDERCOVER? • ADDIE CARD STANDING NEXT TO A SPINNING MACHINE • COUNTING ON GRACE, A NOVEL BY ELIZABETH WINTHROP

In those early 20th-century times residents could travel via trolley to neighboring towns in Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and even Connecticut. The trolley passed right in front of our barn, from 1907 – 1929, but apparently wasn’t enough of a distraction for the cows as the property remained a farm. The trolley’s historic presence is still evidenced by the brick power house located just north of our location. It is documented that efforts by the auto, petroleum and related industries were responsible for the eventual closing of scores of trolley lines to encourage the use of automobiles, but I haven’t been able to verify that was the case here.  As the depression hit and residents couldn’t afford to buy cars, that closing must have been devastating, especially for the high school students who depended on the trolley to get to school in Bennington.  What became of the trolleys? Scrap metal from the cars themselves was salvaged and sent to a company in Springfield MA to be made into cables for the Golden Gate Bridge. And the rails, long covered over by asphalt in most cases, were dug up in 1943 due to wartime metal shortages.

COMMEMORATING THE FIRST CROSSING INTO VT AT POWNAL OF THE BERKSHIRE STREET RAILWAY • POWER HOUSE WAS LOCATED HERE TO GET THE TROLLEY UP THE LONG HILL FROM WILLIAMSTOWN • SCARCITY OF AUTOS IN POWNAL MADE THE TROLLEY WELCOME TRANSPORTATION • TEARING UP THE PAVEMENT TO REMOVE THE RAILS OF THE FORMER TROLLY AIDED THE 1943 WARTIME SCRAP DRIVE.

Historically, Pownal settlers were early supporters and even members of Ethan Allen’s Green Mountain Boys, having disputes, often physical, with the neighboring “Yorkers”.  A few were with Allen at the Battle of Ticonderoga even though Vermont wasn’t a member of the Continental Congress and didn’t become a state until 1791, long after the Revolution. The town also contains the oldest house in Vermont dating back to the days when land along the Hoosic River was clearly part of Rensselaerswyck Manor indicating that New York probably had a legitimate claim to at least the southwest corner of Pownal.  Two presidents – James Garfield and Chester A. Arthur – taught school in Pownal, but though the location is rarely cited, It surely wasn’t one of the eleven neighborhood schoolhouses that were scattered throughout the countryside.

A FEW MILES NORTH OF POWNAL THE CATAMOUNT TAVERN HEADQUARTERED THE GREEN MOUNTAIN BOYS • THE DEVOET, MOOAR/WRIGHT HOUSE, THEN .......AND NOW • OAK HILL SCHOOL, POWNAL, 1908.

In the mid-60s Pownal VT was again a happenin’ place. US Route 7 had just been widened and mostly relocated to the old trolly bed, and a thoroughbred race track opened at the southern end of town.  Farms traversed by the relocation had to repurpose their dairy barns to offset farming loss, by catering to the swelling tourism trade. This activity increased US Route 7′s reputation as THE route to experience New England from Long Island Sound to Canada.  (We’ve been told that the main Pownal attraction was actually an “adult” store just over the border from Massachusetts in the once lawless Vermont!)  In 1992 the race track which had abandoned horse racing in favor of greyhounds closed abruptly after an animal rights organization successfully raised awareness of that sport’s cruel and inhumane practices.

A NEWLY WIDENED - AND STRAIGHTENED - US ROUTE 7, CIRCA 1965 • GREEN MOUNTAIN RACE TRACK CLOSED ABRUPTLY IN 1992 • THE SUCCESS OF WHAT WAS EVENTUALLY CALLED 'THE POWNAL VIEW BARN' ENCOURAGED OTHER BUSINESSES

Likewise, as part of that early transition from farming to tourism, our barn was expanded and turned into a gift emporium featuring – what else – local cheeses, maple syrup, other foodstuffs, furniture and local crafts – and referred to by all the locals as Quadlands.  It is said that when the Quadland family converted our barn for retail, they acquired the three glass cases I now use for jewelry from another local family whose shop along the old Route 7 was a casualty of the relocation. Local legend has it these cases  were castoffs from the original Madison Avenue Brooks Brothers.  I didn’t believe it for a minute until I had a visit from the grand-niece of the man who actually brought those haberdashery cases to Pownal!

THE ORIGINAL BARN BEFORE CONVERSION TO THE CENTER PORTION OF OUR COMPLEX • POSTCARD FROM MID-'60s SHOWING OUR BARN AS A COMMERCIAL SITE. • THREE HABERDASHERY CASES FROM THE ORIGINAL BROOKS BROTHERS ARE NOW USED FOR JEWELRY

This community, with it’s commanding views of spectacular, softly rolling, limestone mountains, but dotted with blighted housing, abandoned or deteriorating trailers, and piles of debris people can’t afford to dispose of properly, is still proud of it’s past and hopeful of its future. Affordably priced homes and building lots with incredible views are attracting retirees, second-homers, and families who’s livelihood isn’t dependent on the local economy. This past year was the 250th anniversary of the the chartering of Pownal by then New Hampshire governor Benning Wentworth and named for the then governor of Massachusetts Thomas Pownall. Many local organizations produced fascinating commemorative events, including a house tour (by the Pownal Valley Affordable Housing Committee of which I am a member) that emphasized how energy developments and costs have affected architectural design through the past two and a half centuries. The final home on the tour takes advantage of many recent technological developments in energy efficiency and has a total energy bill of under $70 per month. Here, in the mountains of Vermont!  In that same vein, two companies have started the permitting process to build alternative energy installations on the site of the former race track, now called the Southern Vermont Energy Park. Perhaps Pownal is on the verge of once again becoming a happenin’ place!

FORMER MILL HOUSING ON FRENCH HILL TODAY • THOMAS POWNALL, WHOSE NAME WAS MISSPELLED WHEN THE POWNAL CHARTER WAS DRAWN UP IN 1760 • RECENTLY COMPLETED ENERGY-EFFICIENT HOME CONSTRUCTED OF SUSTAINABLE MATERIALS WAS DESIGNED AND BUILT BY A POWNAL CONTRACTOR.

PHOTO CREDITS IN ORDER OF APPEARANCE
0. Postcard photographed by Gustav Anderson, vertical version appeared in FAIR IS OUR LAND by Samuel Chamberlain, People’s Book Club, Hastings House Pub.,    1942, and subsequently on the cover of UN Bulletin.
1. Painting by Frank Mason
2. Now a private home referred to as the Love House, ©Palmer Kane LLC
3. Stylized Treatment of Photo from Early 1960s travel pamphlet.
4. Photographer and date Unknown
5. Photographed by Lewis Hine, courtesy Library of Congress
6. Photographed by Louis Hine, from Library of Congress
7. Photograph by Louis Hine, ©Random House
8. Photographed by  Kinsley Goodrich, Bill Volkmer collection
9. Photographed by Gabe Palmer, © Palmer Kane LLC
10. Photo courtesy unknown customer
11. Photo courtesy Bill Volkmer Collection
12. Photo courtesy Vermont Historical Society
13. Postcard 1909 published by W. B. Hale, Williamstown, MA
14. Photographed by Gabe Palmer, ©Palmer Kane LLC, courtesy Jean and Gary Dickson
15. Courtesy of Mary Louise Mason
16. Photo courtesy unknown customer
17. Photo courtesy John Armstrong, owner Pownal View Barn
18. Photographed by Alden Pellet, AP Photo
19. Unknown photographer, courtesy The Studio Club ArtWorks!
20. Photographed by Alois Mayer, Mayer Photo-Graphics,circa 1970
21. Photo by Gabe Palmer, ©Palmer Kane LLC
22. Photo courtesy of Joe Manning
23. Painting by unknown artist
24. Photographed by Gabe Palmer, ©Palmer Kane LLC, used courtesy of Designer-Contractor Pauline Guntlow