Tuesday, December 22, 2015

CHRISTMAS OVERLOAD FROM VEGAS - Bellagio Conservatory December 2015

How Vegas does Christmas?  Over the top, naturally.  We tend not to have seasons that support snow here, so the beautiful Bellagio Conservatory and Botanical Gardens works their magic in providing the illusion of winter for us desert dwellers (sigh).
This is the reality of a Vegas Christmas, as seen from inside the atrium of the Four Seasons Hotel at Mandalay Bay.  I did hear yesterday that this may be the warmest Christmas on record for LOTS of folks across the United States.
They do give it their best shot - the beautiful snow photo above the Four Seasons check-in desk is our Red Rocks Canyon, blanketed in a dusting of snow...probably from about 6 years ago, when we actually got some for a minute.
There's no better place in town to be transported to Christmasland than the grand Bellagio Conservatory - Christmas overload at its finest!  And, ALWAYS, my beautiful American flag prominently displayed, no matter the season (which is usually the HOT season).  Thank you, Bellagio, for keeping it in place.
A 42-foot White Fir, resplendent with 2,500 ornaments, and 7,000 lights...flanked by a 12 foot Jack-in-the-Box (and you thought creepy clowns were just for the circus?!), 10-ft. stockings, huge packages amid ribbon curls, and 14-ft. wooden soldiers.
The three bears on display are covered with 22,000 white carnations, while the penguins are decked out in Vegas finery.
The large guy at the bottom pops up from the igloo above, and looks around (for victims, probably - yeah, I really don't dig penguins since the Batman movie!).
I'm fairly certain Clark Griswold would LOVE Vegas Christmas.
Poinsettias (28,000) as far as the eye can see - cyclamen, azaleas, mums...and roses, too.  35 THOUSAND flowers in all!
Lunch at the beautiful Cafe Bellagio - take a friend and let her buy you lunch (thanks, friend!).  The open wall provides a view of the Atrium.  Out the other side?  The pool and "actual" Vegas December.
A 12 foot snowglobe, and a "rockin'" horse...
Cheers abound!  The moon?  10-ft. tall and 5-ft. wide.
It all spills out into the rest of the hotel, as well...the gift shop off the side is always full of twinkling, shiny things and Led Zeppelins - the Chocolatier around the corner is always good for added calories. The Chihuly glass ceiling in the lobby adds to more grandiose decorations, and the area behind the registration desk, I could live in - seriously!
The display is in place now through January 3rd...always free...always spectacular...always a magical illusion that masks the casino hustle and bustle.
Two of my best presents this year arrive tomorrow!  My wish for you and yours, is a SAFE and lovely Christmas and New Year, spent in the company of those you treasure the most.  Merry Christmas!  XOXO

Monday, December 7, 2015


It's DEFINITELY Bakelite.  It's DEFINITELY old.  It's DEFINITELY hand-carved.  It's DEFINITELY mine (those who know me know I have a Bakelite sickness weakness).  I've been told the color is called Cherry Amber.  Beyond that, it's pretty much a mystery!  (And right up front, though all thoughts or comments are welcome...this has already been seen by several Bakelite aficionados/dealers, who had their own thoughts on it - possibly an "after-hours" or "home" carve"?  All agree it's Bakelite, and it's OLD.  It has also been in the hands of an expert who has verified that it is NOT of the Taiwaneese "Fakelite" ilk either, as the prior experts first concurred.)
So, the story on Bakelite goes like this.  There have been three major developments in plastics over time - first manufactured in 1855, and further refined in 1868, came Celluloid.  Fabulously malleable under heat, but VIOLENTLY flammable and explosive.  It saw great use in vanity sets, pretty bracelets set with rhinestones (it's usually ivory in color)...and film.  Due to many theater fires, celluloid was eventually replaced by the far less flammable cellulose acetate in photography.
Galalith came next, in 1897.  Beautiful colors, and stronger than celluloid, it was also molded by heating.  The setback here was it was not strong or moisture resistant, and had a real tendency to warp.  Galalith was used for small things like hair combs, buttons, buckles, jewelry, and knitting needles. 
Enter Bakelite.  In 1907 New York, a Belgian-born chemist named LEO Baekeland invented Bakelite (he also invented Velox).  He combined phenolic resin with formaldehyde in the presence of a catalyst and heat, and came up with a plastic that was nonflammable, intractable, and could withstand 1000,000 volts of electricity, intact.  It hardened permanently when cured, and would not soften again with heat.  It was first used in electrical insulation and radio, telephone and car parts, and later found use in cutlery handles, kitchenware, smoking articles, vanity sets, poker chips, chess pieces, billiard balls, radio cases, and JEWELRY.
Plastic costume jewelry made it's first real appearance in 1918 - mainly celluloid pieces filled with rhinestones and geometric designs.  A Shipping Heiress returning from an African trip with armloads of ivory bangles, around 1929, caused the plastics industry to jump on the bandwagon and offer reproductions of these African bangles that had caused such a jewelry riot...1929 also saw the start of THE Crash.
As the Great Depression gradually receded, it was found that many of the rich women could no longer afford the fine jewelry they were accustomed to, and the plastics held a real draw at 20 cents to $3 each (certainly not the prices of today's market).  By 1936, 70%  of all jewelry sold was cast phenolic resin (or Bakelite)...by 1942 and the start of WWII, Bakelite was needed for defense items, and the jewelry production was done.
There is never a seam to be found in Bakelite, unlike the molded plastic products of today.  Each of these bracelets started as an extruded tube of plastic.  Slices of varying widths were cut from the tubes, and handed off to skilled artisans who hand carved each piece.  The Ace Plastic Novelty Corp. in Brooklyn, and the Moure Family/Alta Novelty Company out of Manhattan seem to be responsible for most of the items found today.  The ten member Moure Family turned out some of the more imaginative carved, figural, and geometric jewelry pieces of the late 1930s.
All carving was done by holding the piece of tubing against lathes with high-speed carving tools attached, and the use of hand tools.  Extraordinary skills developed, allowing for more and more intricate designs...as these were all hand done, no two pieces are ever exactly alike.
My name is Tanya, and I have a weakness for plastics.  I bought this a few weeks back, and it's a mystery.  As with anything else that gains popularity, there are new knock-offs being produced "across the ocean" - pretty easily recognizable for what they are supposed to be, but beware - they are out there.  However, the designs on those are almost always the popular florals or geometrics. 
I bought this from someone who had been collecting since she was 5, thanks to a grandmother...she thought this piece to possibly be a Zodiac reference.  The Zodiac was not a "thing" to people living in the late 1930s.  Not only that, I know enough to know that the carvers would have added Lions or the astrological sign, instead of flowers.  Nope, not astrological.  
My own thoughts went immediately to the name carved on it...LEO...as in Leo Baekeland!  This piece is pretty incredible - not only is there ONE Leo carved into the side, there are FOUR Leos carved around the sides.  There are also four large pinwheel flowers, with an assortment of flowers and "berries" around the top and bottom of the piece.  It's a whopper in size - about 1.25" wide;  the standard 2.5" inside diameter;  and about 3/8" thick.  Was this done for him by one of the carvers?  Did someone experiment with the carving tools, and do something really out of the ordinary (usually Bakelite has florals or geometric carvings - names such as this were never carved, and are nowhere to be found in any of the numerous books on Bakelite)?
I never intended to purchase it - really!  I wrote to her (twice) to let her know my take on it, as opposed to her Astrological description, and that it might "mean" a little more - I was honest with her, as I was just trying to help her out with information.  She wasn't biting, and instead, dropped the price drastically, at which point Leo came to live with me (I also have two Leo birthdays in the house, so "whatever works").  NOT astrological, but mine now.
The mystery is in who carved it, and for what purpose or for whom was it carved?  Right now, it was carved for ME!  Happy early Christmas.  It's a mystery.