Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Happy Michaelmas!

Today is Michaelmas, the autumn counterpart to St. George's Day in April and a celebration of the Archangel Michael and his power over Lucifer. In everyday terms, that means winter is coming, so everyone had best gird up and get ready for foul weather and all the highs and lows of the holiday season.

Today at Castle in the Air we're slaying dragons just like George did, even as we hang up devilish decorations in the store. The upstairs gallery space was painted yesterday, and in the coming days we'll be hanging our first gallery show -- an exhibit of photographs of children from some of the best photographers of the early decades of the art form.

Our show will feature prints from Julia Margaret Cameron, Edward Curtis, Gertrude Kasebier, Carl Moon, Edweard Muybridge, and Alfred Stieglitz, just to name a few. We're also delighted to have a number of prints from Lewis Carroll. In the picture above (sadly, not one that will be in the show), Carroll photographed the Kitchin family children playing out the St. George story. My eye is of course drawn to the brave knight and the beautiful maiden, but Mr. Marsh wonders who got roped into playing the part of the fallen soldier. (And what a great use for the family leopard-skin rug!)

Friday, September 25, 2009

The Journey

Today Mr. Marsh brought us a publication from one of his wandering correspondents in Portland, Oregon. He says he's inspired by the magazine--Communicating Vessels--because its publisher rejects so many of the trappings that most of us take for granted, including a computer, telephones, and beginning with the next issue, outside printing services.

Despite the material differences between his publishing and ours, we seem to share common roots in what inspires us. Here's a page from Communicating Vessels where a traveler describes his visit to a "castle in the air."

The journey has been long and hard. I have trudged through cities, villages, towns. There seems to be no place for me. My feet keep moving and moving. Here a place there a place and then over there a place. Wandering and wandering and wandering. Forever wandering. I light my lantern and continue on. Continue on my journey. To where? I couldn't give you precise details. I let my imagination take me on the journey. Why let my weary imagination lead the way? You sure ask huge handfuls of elaborate questions. But I will answer you anyway. My feet are exhausted and my heart is barely mendable so I follow the vast ocean of visions and utopian dreams my mind draws into focus.

Castles standing tall in the air amidst peach and nectarine trees and wild flowers. Wild flowers as far as the eye can see. As you journey into the castle a friendly jester greets you by doffing his hat that extends to the roof. He holds out his hand and you open your mouth in awe. But I will save it for another time. The complete story will be told at a later date. I need to stop daydreaming and get on the road. Get on with my journey. Stop distracting me with your curious questions. I must go. Good day to you and remember to keep your lantern lit. Sometimes the path on your journey can be dim.

To order a copy for yourself, you can send a letter and a donation of cash or stamps to:
Communicating Vessels
Post Office Box 83408
Portland, Oregon 97283

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More mail for the Blue Castle Badger!

Castle in the Air correspondent Nina sent us this gorgeous illustrated letter. Thank you, Nina! You're the proud owner of the latest Blue Castle Badge. The Blue Castle Badger was truly excited by this piece of illustrated mail. He kept trying to eat the toy ants Nina had glued along the bottom of her card!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Glass for Bonnie Prince Charlie

by Raphaella

Following Bonnie Prince Charlie's defeat and exile, his Jacobite supporters among the clans of Scotland were suppressed to the point where they could no longer openly display clan regalia. Instead, they began to express their support for their "king over the water" by etching coded symbols and initials into their glassware. The picture just below the portrait of Prince Charlie is of some surviving examples of Jacobite glassware. We made some of our own this morning -- you can click the picture to see more detail.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An Illustrated Letter for the Blue Castle Badger

Among the first recipients of the Blue Castle Badge was our friend Caron, who sent us a darling letter illustrated with her watercolors of an undersea scene. The Blue Castle Badger was so excited as he trundled around the shop with the envelope. He just loves the scent of illustrated letters!

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Take a Holiday

Castle in the Air is getting decorated for Halloween today, so in that spirit we've decorated the Holidays section of our Online Shoppe with several new vintage postcard images. See for yourself!

Monday, September 14, 2009

The Blue Castle Badge

What's that silver glint on the lapel of the boy you just passed on the street? What's this blue enamel pin on the blouse of the woman standing next to you in the cafe line? Why, it's none other than the Blue Castle Badge, the official sign of noble and noteworthy individuals!

The Blue Castle Badge is awarded to those who have accomplished one or more of the following achievements:

* They have sent a real, paper letter to Castle in the Air illustrated with some of their own artwork.
* They have sent a real, paper letter to Castle in the Air telling us of a good deed they have performed.
* They have been mentioned favorably here on the Castle in the Air weblog.

Scores of people have already earned their Blue Castle Badge. Maybe you'll be the next!

Send your letters to:
Castle in the Air
1805 Fourth Street
Berkeley, California 94710

By participating, you understand that Castle in the Air may use your letters for promotion or as a basis for store merchandise and may display your letters in the store or online. All of us at Castle in the Air understand that your privacy is very important, and we will always do our best not to reveal your personal information.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Old Man Grinbough

Who says trees haven't got spirits? Here are some photographs John McRae took of a tree in France. Can you see the face smiling for the camera?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Come buy! Come buy!

Morning and evening,
maids heard the goblins cry,
"Come buy our orchard fruits,
Come buy, come buy!"
-- Christina Rossetti, "Goblin Market"

Today we sent out our announcement for this weekend's sale via the Castle Crier list. Here's a link to the email in case you aren't yet on the list: Summer Sidewalk Sale.
If you haven't yet signed up for the Castle Crier list, please do!

We're looking forward to the bustle down on Fourth Street and all the familiar and new faces we'll see over the weekend, but our real bundle of joy came today in the mail: a copy of Martha Stewart Living with another mention of Castle in the Air! The team at MSL put together some incredibly cool animal masks with our crepe paper, including an owl and pussycat duo. It doesn't get much better than that!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Goodbye Summer

The seasons are shifting, even though it can sometimes be a little difficult to tell what time of year it is in Berkeley. Today we had a cool breeze that really put a hint of fall in the air for me.

Depending on your temperament, the end of summer is either poignant, a time for reflection on the late-night porch dinners with friends, perhaps, or is bracing, a time to gear up and get organized for school days or the eventual holiday season.

But one thing summer's memoirists and winter's warriors can agree on is a sale at Castle in the Air. Whether you want a hand-bound journal or album to record your memories of summertime's parties or a day-planner to get your schedule sorted, we've got it at the shop and it's on sale this weekend. The store will be joining many of our neighbors along Fourth Street this Saturday in the annual Summer Sidewalk Sale, with discounts of 40-60%. What's more, our shop will have its own sale on Friday and Sunday, with 25% off nearly everything in the store (excluding classes and selected items).

With all the shops bringing their wares to the sidewalk to mingle with shoppers and the live music along Fourth Street, it's like our own little summer sendoff. Hope to see you there!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Back from the Dead!

We were all smitten with this hapless fellow the day Ulla Milbrath brought him in to Castle in the Air. He's our sample for Ulla's Dia de Los Muertos Shadowbox class. He once lived a vibrant life, but sadly died of a broken heart. Ulla took pity on the little guy and arranged his bones inside a pretty little casket decorated with velvet and Dresden trim. A candle sits on top of the casket and the door is hinged in case he ever gets a little more life in his bones.

Speaking of which, the Shadowbox class sold out so quickly that Ulla's agreed to teach it a second time, on Friday, October 30. Whether you missed the opportunity to sign up for the class originally, or if you're just now meeting this charming but brokenhearted box of bones, now's your chance to make your own Dia de Los Muertos Shadowbox. See you then!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Jigs & Reels!

When she was five, my older girl fell in love with the music of Scottish fiddler Alasdair Fraser. She even taught herself how to use our home stereo so she could fill the house with some rollicking jigs and reels or cozy hearthside tunes. When she told me that Fraser's music made her feel like dancing, I said I was sure there were dances she could learn that were perfect for the music, and set to finding a way for us to learn.

As luck would have it, the nearest Scottish dancing class was nearly in our backyard! So for the past year and a half, our family's been going to the community church about a block away from our house every week for an evening full of Scottish music and dance, and the lively, friendly people who love it as much as we do.

The teacher, Mary, leads classes for children and adults and it's just beautiful watching her work with everyone, leading the dancers through knotlike steps and patterns with grace. My girl has taken to learning the dances with focus and seriousness, and has a great time mixing with the other children. It's wonderful to see her working hard at learning something tied to the music she already loves, and it's been great to get to know the variety of people of all ages in the class, so many of them role models for my growing girl.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Caron's "I'll Fly Away" Fabric Book

Ever have one of those days? One where you just wanted to wing away and leave all your troubles behind? Our felting teacher Caron Dunn has shared with us a little preview of her upcoming "I'll Fly Away" Fabric Book class. It looks so sweet that probably by the time you're finished felting it, your troubles won't seem so bad after all.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Castle in the Air in Martha Stewart Halloween

Today might be September 1, but we're already thinking about the last day of October here at Castle in the Air. So is Martha Stewart, apparently, as we just got our copy of her Halloween special issue. And it's more treats than tricks for us this year, as Castle in the Air's doublette crepe paper is featured on the first page of the magazine's costume section! Many thanks to Morgan Levine and all our friends at Martha Stewart for the inclusion.

We've been fortunate to have grown a nice relationship with the crafting staff at Martha Stewart over the years. Our crepe paper has become their favorite -- any time they need some for a project they come to us, and we're always happy to oblige and to see what they dream up with the paper, just like the Halloween hat, headband, and treats basket seen here -- a fun twist on the paper flowers like those made by Anandamayi Arnold and Aimee Baldwin!

To celebrate the beginning of the fall crafts season, and to say thank you to our loyal online friends, we're offering a "write in" special on crepe paper orders placed through the Castle in the Air Online Shoppe. This month, for every three pieces of a particular style of crepe you buy (either rolls or folds of doublette), we'll send you a fourth of the same style for free. Three rolls of florist gets you a fourth roll, three sheets of doublette gets you a fourth sheet. Six rolls will get you two free rolls, and so on. All you have to do is write in what style and color you'd like in the "Notes" section of the order form. Happy crafting!