By Karen Parr-Moody
It's the perfect time to return to the golden age of picnicking with vintage finds from GasLamp Antiques and Decorating Mall. And when packing these items, its best to forgo the paper plates and toss in the classic melamine tableware. Because with these lightweight, sturdy and whimsical items, you'll want to grace a patchwork quilt with style.
Picnicking calls for lightness and ease, so choosing items made of vintage hammered aluminum will make the day. GasLamp typically has its halls sprinkled with such items, including everything from serving trays to oversized bowls. This ice bucket in the photo, right, is yet another of these treasures with a history that stretches back into the early 1900s ($27; B-174). Hammered aluminum pieces arrived in homes from the 1930s to the 1950s and were often given as wedding gifts.
Over the years people have called hammered aluminum "poor man's silver," but this is something of a misnomer. Hammered aluminum was not merely designed to appeal to the thrifty. In fact, it was found in many of the better department stores and was designed to attract a range of consumers with its well-made handles, beautiful floral patterns, or dimpled surfaces. What makes hammered aluminum great for picnicking is that it mimics silver but is lightweight. So merrymakers can carry it hither and yon without breaking a sweat — or breaking off a dainty teapot leg.
There are cool fishing baskets. There are quaint antique sewing baskets. Then there's the iconic picnic basket. Used to carry foods on a foray, the picnic basket has as its ancestor the splint basket, such as the red one seen in the photo, left ($24; Booth B-206). Hundreds of years ago splint baskets were made all over Europe. Then Native Americans and settlers alike made these baskets in the New World. For centuries, splint baskets have been made of splints of wood that are plaited. Designed to be strong and light, they were used for gathering foods from the garden and market. It is easy to see why such a basket, with its great looks and practical features, is perfect for a stylish picnic.
Shielding one's face from the sun is easily done with a Chinese umbrella, such as the one seen in the photo, right ($22; Booth B-303). Like the splint basket, this is another item with roots deep in a culture; the age-old tradition of Chinese umbrella making dates back approximately 2,000 years. Among the hallmarks of a Chinese umbrella are the dainty paintings of birds, flowers and the romantic Chinese landscape. Such umbrellas were once made of silk. Later, paper umbrellas arrived on the scene. Despite being made of almost transparent paper, the Chinese lacquered and waxed the material so that it would repel water and could be used in the rain. Frames are typically made from bamboo or mulberry bark.
Don't want to break any heirlooms while on a picnic? Then look no further than these fabulous wooden bowls signed "Made in America, Woodcraftery" (photo, left, $24; B-2015). This Mid-century Modern salad set contains three small bowls, one large bowl and a serving fork and spoon. Such bowls were made via the centuries-old craft of wood turning, which began as strictly utilitarian effort but gained interested in the last century for its inherent artistry. Like so many industrial designs of the Mid-century Modern era, wood was exploited for its beauty initially by Danish designers. They saw in it a way to turn everyday items into objects of sleek beauty. This era marked the popularity of wooden salad bowls and pepper mills. They came to dine with the newly popular stainless steel flatware in modern designs — and today all of these items work well with the casual nature of the picnic.
It's not enough that the picnic looks stylish. Who doesn't want to look like a Technicolor matinee idol while sashaying to the picnic? With this fabulous vintage handbag from Jamaica (note the word "Jamaica" stitched on top), it's an easy look to pull off (photo, right; $24; B-2015). Such bags were a result of the travel boom that followed World War II. At that point, travel became affordable. Dashing off to Central America, South America or the Asian tropics was considered highly chic. And, naturally, women wanted to return with a visible chic totem of their trip, so during the 1950s and 1960s the novelty resort bag emerged. Included in the design of such bags were hand-embroidered details, such as raffia flowers or beads.
No picnic would be complete without some sassy napkins. While rarer now, cloth napkins were once popular – and are abundant once more at Aunt Enid’s Attic, Booth B-110, where these monogrammed versions are found (photo, left; $12; Booth B-110).
With a bit of help from GasLamp, one can get completely packed for a picnic. Just add a little sunshine to these finds and you'll have the perfect recipe for a stylish outing.