Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Paris Captured

"If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast." - Ernest Hemingway

On this day in 1889 the Eiffel Tower was inaugurated in Paris. Charmingly, I spent the day hanging our new gallery exhibition: "Paris Captured: Postcards from the Golden Age (1890-1914)." The show, which boasts over 80 postcards from the collection of Leonard Pitt, is a true walk through time. Magnifying glasses and accompanying notes allow the viewer to peek into a Paris that is long gone but still very familiar. I have been marveling all day at the costumes, architecture, and manners captured in these frozen vignettes.

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Corpse Reviver

I've written here before about the wonder that is Neverwas Haul and The Shipyard Studios, so you can imagine my joy a few weeks ago when I returned there for another evening of marvels. Of all the new inventions on display that night, the most impressive was the robotic bartender brainchild of Benjamin Cowden. Christened "The Corpse Reviver," Benjamin's machine makes a cocktail of the same name. We all know not to mix drinking with operating heavy machinery, but the combination has rarely been this fun.

As always, the people at The Shipyard were creative, brilliant, and friendly. Nearly everyone was dressed in turn-of-the-century costumes, and they appeared to be having the time of their lives sharing their work and ideas. Even though I left my Victorian finery in the closet that night, I still felt right at home among the dazzling inventions and their creators.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Easter Chick Candy Box

My older daughter spent the afternoon in the upstairs studio at Castle in the Air yesterday and turned out the sweetest little Easter Chick candy box using one of our paper-mache blanks, yellow paint, and some felt.

Not only is this a Quick Craft, it's a Quiet Craft, because the pictures tell you everything you need to know. (But of course you can always ask us for help if you need it.)

Friday, March 19, 2010

In Today's Mail

Thank heaven for Alan Brignull! The man is a shining light--just look at this brilliant bit of mail we got from him today. We posted about Alan and his William Blake "Rouze up O Young Men of the New Age" letterpress card in January, and as a thanks he sent us another card with the opening lines to William Allingham's "The Fairies" poem, complete with seven ornamental gnomes. Click on the picture to take a closer look. And thank you, Alan.

Sleeping Pills vs. Simple Peas

Of all the princesses in the world of fairy tales to dream of being, the princess from "The Princess and the Pea" is fairly far down on the list. Who would want to be such a light sleeper? But I found myself wishing someone had put that pesky pea under my mattress last night, as I overslept by quite a bit this morning. And when I arrived at Castle in the Air, I saw that John was putting the final touches on preparation for his "Princess and the Pea" decorated box class tomorrow. Serendipity indeed.

[Insert bad "Gogh"/"Going Going Gone" pun here]

Recently, we were dismayed to find out that our beloved Van Gogh pens (pictured above), from Visconti, had been discontinued and that what stock we had on hand was the last that Castle in the Air would see of these beauties. People must be tapping into something in the aether about the Van Goghs' imminent disappearance, because two of the pens sold one after another just this morning.

As sad as we are to see the Van Goghs, well, go, Visconti has mollified us considerably with the introduction of the Rembrandt pen (pictured below). These pens could well become my new favorite, what with their incredible design and hot blue, white, and red colors.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


Have you ever heard of the nixie? It's a water fairy, and just like a river, the nixie's appearance changes according to where you find it. In Germany, it's a man-like spirit who lures women and children into the water with his enchanting song. The English nixie is sometimes called a "neck" or a "knucker," and takes the form of a dragon.

In the United States, the most common place to find a nixie isn't in the water
, but in your mailbox! If you've ever mailed out a letter to a friend who has moved, then when your letter is returned to you it will have the word "nixie" stamped on it to mean that the letter carrier couldn't find them.

We were glad yesterday to receive a different sort of fairy in the mail. Several fairies, in fact, all tramping about on the envelope and letterhead of our correspondent Connie. We especially like the Latin motto she's adopted, and the little picture of Mr. Punch in his saucer-shaped dogsled. Run faster, Toby!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

A Mysterious Visitor

John McRae was downstairs helping a customer this week when the most amazing thing happened. Out of the clear blue sky, in swooped a hawk! John didn't realize how big the raptor was until it turned to leave, getting a running start and spreading its wings to take flight. Before it left, though, John noticed the hawk had something in its beak. Some young people who had been sitting outside rushed in to ask if we'd seen the bird, it happened so fast.

What could the hawk have wanted? An Easter egg from our window display? A Fourth Street mouse? A delicious gnome? It must have been something tasty for the raptor to come into the shop, unless of course it read our "Castle in the Air" sign literally and thought our doorway led back to the clouds. Who knows? At any rate, stealing from Castle in the Air and killing animals in the store are activities that get birds (and people) on The No List for a Blue Castle Badge, so we've got to say that this bird won't have that distinction anytime soon.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Last Chance To See

If you haven't yet made it to Castle in the Air's upstairs gallery to see "Prints, Charming," you've got one week left before the dressed prints all twinkle off to their new homes and the whiskey ship sails off into the sunset.

Prints, Charming
(Closes March 19, 2010)
Castle in the Air
1805 Fourth Street
Berkeley, Calif. 94710

The Icing on the Cake

Many thanks to our correspondent Janelle, who this week emailed us with this photo of a cake she decorated with some of our Dresden trim.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Tiniest Cake Party

There we were early this afternoon, going about the business of running the shop, when all at once we looked down and saw the most spectacular party going on, right there by the pen cups! The sock monkey brought a berry pie, the rabbit an almond tart, and the bees and the ladybug (who seem to be on the guest list at every picnic) brought their appetites. These magical creatures said they were friends of a woman named Victoria, who enjoys visiting Castle in the Air. To look at her creations, we say Victoria's got a bit of magic in her.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring Fever

The seasons always seem to come sooner than their official date on the calendar, and this is precisely what's happening with all the woodland creatures at Castle in the Air today. Our gnomes, usually content to stay near the pine needles and mushrooms on the forest floor, have been behaving unusually, riding their dragonfly friends in races and jousts, and floating down from high places with green leaf parachutes.

It being March, all the hares are kicking and leaping about. All of them, that is, besides the ones who are just content to sit, stare, and nod. Maybe they're shaking off their winter stupor!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A Weekend of Calligraphy

Our spring season in the Studio for the Imagination begins tomorrow with Bill Kemp's Calligraphic Flourishing and Introduction to Spencerian classes. Bill arrived from Albuquerque this morning to prepare everything for the weekend, and we couldn't help but notice the gorgeous turned wood oblique pen holders he'd laid out on the table. Our students this weekend will get first crack at these beauties, which he picked up from a maker in Colorado, and we plan to carry them in the store soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

In Today's Mail

Look at this astounding illustrated letter from our creative correspondent Crissi. Incredible. The Blue Castle Badger got it moments after we snapped this photo and has been snuffling it around the store all afternoon. Thank you, Crissi!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Blessings and Good Fortune!

My family celebrated the Chinese New Year a few weeks ago by taking part in the festivities on Fourth Street. By far the most exciting event all day was the lion dance, performed by Kei Lun Martial Arts. Located in San Francisco, the Kei Lun dancers visited Berkeley to bestow good fortune and blessings on the shops and merchants of Fourth Street.

As part of the performance, the lion and the monk characters came into Castle in the Air. Roann, one of the newest members of the Castle crew, was downstairs that day. Recalling the excitement later, she said "They blessed the registers!"

According to the website for the Kei Lun Martial Arts group, "the kei lun is a benevolent mythical creature from Asian folklore. As an adjective, kei lun can be loosely translated as 'talented.'" Their lion dance on Fourth Street was featured that night in a segment on our local television news, and we certainly agree that they are talented.

Monday, March 1, 2010

March On!

March is here, and so is our new trade card calendar featuring our young French chef (we call him Gaston) and his culinary capers.

With March comes the first of our spring classes, beginning with three days of calligraphy with Bill Kemp. Bill's classes mark an auspicious start to this season in the Studio for the Imagination, as he will return in April to help Michael Sull teach the week-long Advanced Spencerian Saga.

There are only a few weeks left to see our current gallery show, "Prints, Charming," so do come by if you haven't been yet. We'll be taking the show down March 18 in preparation for our next exhibit -- stay tuned for details!

And finally, we're all breathing a sigh of relief because Easter is not until the first weekend in April this year. That means we have all of March for crafting and painting eggs.