VOLUME 9, NUMBER 2 - MAY 2009
2009 Convention Information
The photos on the above of the newsletter are three of the unique pieces that will be offered in the Fourth Sebastian Convention Auction to be held in the Masonic Lodge, North Reading, Massachusetts. The pieces on the front page are a sampling of the outstanding items that will be in the auction. These pieces are: LC 28 Colonial Girl (value-Rare), SML 185 Chiquia Banana (value-$400.00), and SML 260 Texcel Tape (value-Rare).
The Convention will be held on Friday and Saturday June 19 & 20, 2009 and will offer new and old pieces for the collector. To tell you more about the Convention here is what John Scannell, the host of the Convention, has to say:
For several years, I have created an AOL journal that illustrated my trips to the Midwest Fair. I also used a journal to provide the information for the first three Conventions. After all of this hard work, AOL decided to eliminate its journal function. All of the work that went into that development was lost. The trips to the Midwest Fair were usually visits to antique shops along the way, and there were pictures of the hotels and descriptions of our meals. The loss of this information wasn’t devastating, but I no longer had the ability to create a new journal for the 4th Sebastian Miniature Collector’s Convention. Fortunately, I received some pictures from my sister from her trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show. She used a company called Shutterfly, which provides unlimited picture storage. The timing was impeccable. I was now able to photograph all of the auction pieces and load them to Shutterfly so that everyone could view them in advance of the Convention. Then I discovered a way of developing a Shutterfly “site”. There was a lot of experiments with the software, but it looked pretty good. It isn’t perfect, but neither were the AOL journals. If you haven’t seen it, the address is: http://4thconvention.shutterfly.com/ (Editors note: we didn’t put a period at the end of this sentence as we didn’t want to have it confused with the website address.)
The website contains a “Schedule of Events”, and a link to a dinner reservation form, “Paint-Your-Own-Sebastian” form, and an auction listing. There are also pictures of all of the items in the auction. I you click on a picture, it will give you a larger view along with a brief description.
There were a lot more Sebastian Miniature consignments than would fit into the auction. Therefore, there was a need for other websites to offer these items for sale. The addresses for these other websites are:
All of the items in the auction, as well as the items on the “Sutterfly” sites are from the Bob Johnson collection. When I visited his niece, I was surprised at how meticulous he was with his record keeping. There were over 50 cases of Sebastian Miniatures and a listing of where he purchased each and every one of them. Bob lived in a two bedroom apartment in Buffalo New York and had over 1,200 Sebastians on display. If that sounds incredible, then also consider the fact that he collected many other things. He would constantly talk about his collection of Kentucky Derby glasses and his Buffalo China collection. Everything he owned, except the Sebastian miniatures, was sold at an estate auction by a major auction house in Buffalo. I traveled there to witness the event and I was shocked at the volume of items for sale. A lot of the items had been on consignment in antique shops throughout the area. I simply cannot imagine where he kept all of these “things”. Since his retirement from teaching, he traveled all over the country in search of his “Buffalo Bee”. He was finally able to purchase one just a few years before he died. That is one item his niece would never sell. I am sure that Bob is pleased that his prized possessions, his Sebastian Miniatures, are going to Sebastian collectors.
Anyone who has never attended the Sebastian Miniature Collector’s Convention should seriously consider this year’s event. You should come early and spend the whole day. There will be coffee and donuts available in the morning, and lunch is available at a very reasonable cost. This year’s Convention will have a few new sellers. This is so we can provide as much of a selection of Sebastian Miniatures to the collectors as possible. Now is the time to buy because even some of the “rare” pieces are available. Let me know if you cannot find the item you want because I do have access to other collections. It never hurts to ask! The doors will open around 8 A.M. on Saturday. There will be several tables of Sebastian miniatures for sale. You will be able to meet Woody Baston and his wife Margery. I am sure that Woody would be more than willing to sign any of his creations for you. Again there will be a table for Jim Garrabrandt (official Sebastian Miniature appraiser), and Linda Garrabrandt (official Sebastian Miniature restorer). If you have a special Sebastian Miniature that is not in the best of condition, bring it (or a picture) with you to the Convention. Linda can give you an estimate on what it would cost to return it to like new condition. After viewing all the items for sale, you can take your time and inspect the auction items. Don’t forget to register to bid at the auction. Many of last year’s auction items sold for a very reasonable price. There are some bargains to be had, but you can’t win unless you register and bid. If you can’t attend the Convention, you can still register and bid via the “mail bid”. There is a link to the “mail bid” form on the website. The link is:
On Friday night, we have a special dinner prepared by the Eastern Star. This is used as a fund raiser for their Masonic organization. The evening schedule includes a social hour with cheese and crackers, fruit tray, and two kinds of punch. Following the social hour there will be a family style dinner including turkey, backed potato, vegetables, salad, (light) desert, coffee, and tea. The evening is always a treat because dinner is followed by a presentation by Woody Baston where he has the opportunity to talk about the new pieces he has created over the past year. The cost for the event is $28.00 per person and there is a reservation form at:
One of the more popular events on Saturday is the “Paint-Your-Own” contest. This is our fund raiser for charity. Each contestant, for a $25.00 per person registration fee, gets to paint their own Sebastian Miniature. Everyone wins because you will receive a pewter Convention medallion just for entering. The painted pieces will be judged by Woody Baston and Jim Garrabrandt for completeness, quality of work, and accuracy. The winner will receive a gold painted pewter Convention medallion. All of the proceeds of the “Paint-Your-Own” contest will be donated to the Susan G. Koman foundation. Again, there is a link to the registration form at:
The keepsake for this year’s Convention is the spade and this will complete the set of four suits in a deck of cards. If you don’t purchase the other three year’s keepsakes (diamond, club, & heart), there are just a few remaining. Also, there are about 6 remaining bases for the Convention medallions. If you are interested, see me at the Convention or email me at JHSAntiques@aol.com
I think the “gamble has been a success and now it is time to move on to the 5th year milestone (2010). I have been thinking about a theme for 2010, but I guess I am not that imaginative. I am certainly open to suggestions. The item should be approximately the size of the previous medallions (Festival or Midwest Fair) and not too complicated. Now is the time to use your creativity.
In conclusion, I hope to meet each and every one of you at the Convention this year. We only get together once a year, so let’s make it a good one. Now is the time to add to your collections and brag to your Sebastian friends about the one you just missed on eBay. The true value of Sebastian Miniatures is the years of enjoyment they have provided,; for that alone, I am grateful.
2009 Christmas Pieces
Since the winter edition of the newsletter was a bit later this year, for reasons we explained on page 7 of the winter edition, the spring newsletter has come due sooner than usual. Furthermore, because of the wealth of information we have to share with you about the June Convention the spring newsletter must stay on schedule and cannot slip a bit. However, this timing has offered some unexpected benefits. With the normal sequence of events I do my sculpting and then work on the newsletter. This year, because of the compression of time, I am working on the 2009 Christmas pieces while writing the newsletter at the same time. I find that I write better in the morning so my workday for the past few weeks has started out with my spending a few hours on the computer and then after lunch I work on my sculpting. I suppose one could make the argument that neither project is finished quickly, but both are being worked on simultaneously.
Working on more than one project at a time is good for the creative process. I find that if I spend too much time on a project at one sitting I don’t have the opportunity to look at the work, especially the sculpting, with a fresh eye. Therefore, if I am not careful I can work myself into some problems; whereas if I put the work down and do something else I come back to the work with a fresh eye and solutions or areas that need to be addressed jump out. Frequently I will sculpt two pieces at a time and this works well as I am looking at two different creative tasks. This time I am working on the Christmas pieces and the newsletter. The system of splitting the work still works fine with the added benefit that as I am sculpting the piece I am also thinking about how I will write about the new design.
In the afternoons as I was sculpting I found that ideas would come to me that I thought should be included in the newsletter. Therefore, because I have learned over time that I need to write down a good idea when it comes to me because when I need to recall the idea later on it sometimes isn’t there. I will remember I had a great idea, but the idea itself could be lost. Being aware of this shortcoming, I kept a pad of paper by my work bench and every time an idea came to me I would write it down. I like this concept of note taking so much I plan to continue it even when there is not the need to write in the morning and sculpt in the afternoon.
Well, since it is the morning, let’s see what the note pad suggests I write about. Top of the list is the subject for this year’s Christmas piece. I felt that I wanted to do a third gingerbread piece to complete the group. I feel that a single piece gets lonely and two pieces give the appearance of being a bit sparse, but three pieces make a nice set. With that decision out of the way all that was needed was a subject for the third gingerbread piece. For some time I had been toying with the idea that it would be fitting to have the third piece a bakery. There was a certain logic to have a bakery as part of a group of pieces that dealt with baked goods such as gingerbread. The next decision that needed to be made was the form of the final piece. For quite a while I was envisioning a bakery made to resemble a western store. This would have been a piece with a flat roof and an extended front façade onto which a sign could be attached. Although I bought into this concept, there was something that was suggesting to me that it was not the perfect building to house Santa’s bakery. I was bothered that a western themed bakery might look a bit out of place with the gingerbread house and the church. The first two pieces had a northeastern feel to them. With this in mind, I started to research different types of buildings. After a while I settled on a saltbox. At first I wondered whether a saltbox would be appropriate for a store. Most of the saltbox structures one sees in this part of the country are homes not small businesses. Then I recalled that the portion of our barn that houses my workshop was a saltbox that was built ca 1750 and was used as a two room schoolhouse and a store before a few large animals dragged it from the train station to its present location after the Civil War.
It was now time to visit Google Images and study different types of saltbox structures. Again I found that most of the images were of homes and not of stores, but I had crossed that bridge and had moved on. With the inspiration of the pictures I had been reviewing I thought it was time to sketch out my own version of a saltbox or to be more precise a gingerbread saltbox. In the past I have commented that I have tried to sculpt the gingerbread pieces so that they look as if they could have been made out of real gingerbread. This means that there is less detail than in many of my other structures.
Because of the shape of a saltbox I found that the building needed to be taller than the gingerbread house although the width is the same. This means the overall mass of the piece makes it the largest piece in the series. However, this larger size allowed me to add more elements to the piece. For example when I first laid out the piece I had only one window per side. The single window didn’t work and I moved the single window to the front and added a second window, ever since the 186 Tremont Street piece I have lost my fear of painting windows. Speaking of windows, I decided that since the piece was to be a bakery, it needed a larger front window to allow Santa to display his latest creations. If one is not careful, there is always a tendency to follow a pattern that one has used before. Therefore, when I first laid out the front door and the display window on the front of the bakery, I put the door on the same side of the piece as I had done with the house. The more I pondered the layout the more it bothered me. The new piece looked too similar to the first piece. When I switched the positions of the door and the display window the bakery looked better. Now when the three pieces are displayed together the house and the bakery act as bookends for the church with the windows on the two end pieces facing toward the center.
With the two dimensional work completed it was time to figure out how to turn the drawing into a three dimensional piece. Here there were a number of options. The first thought was to glue up some wood to the thickness desired and then cut out the general shape on a band saw. After the rough shape of the house had been cut out of wood I could add a few details in wax. With that work done I could then make a rubber mold on the modified wood piece. From the rubber mold I would make a hydrocal cast and from that I would finish the piece. Another approach would be to make the whole piece in wax from start to finish. The third approach would be the old fashioned way and that would be to start the piece in clay. This is the process that my father used with all of his pieces. It may have been because I had not used this last method for quite a while, but it was the course I decided to take with the bakery. When I began I thought I would craft a rough shape and then make a plaster waste mold on it and from that mold I would cast a hydrocal bakery. Later I would refine the piece and add windows, a door, candy canes, etc. As it turned out, the more I worked with the clay the more I decided to do. I found that the clay was much softer than the other materials and as a result I was able to roll it more easily and this allowed me to add the windows, the candy canes, and the door quite easily. I even went so far as to add the lettering, “Santa’s Bakery” to the sign on the roof. As a result I did the whole piece in clay. Now, because the clay is soft it is next to impossible to finish the piece in the clay. Therefore, it was necessary to make a plaster waste mold and cast a positive in hydrocal on which I could do the final detailing. Should you be interested in this process, the Johnson book does a good job following this procedure with pictures starting on page 33. The astute reader will note that my father calls the process the “lost mold process”. This is not the only time we have different names for the same thing. However, both names signify that in order to get the casting out of the mold, the mold ends up as a pile of plaster/hydrocal scraps in the trashcan. Therefore, there is some added pressure to get a good casting the first time around since there is not a second chance as there is with a rubber mold. The reason that it is necessary to make a plaster mold instead of a rubber mold on the clay is that the clay has sulfur as one of its ingredients and rubber will not cure against a surface that has sulfur in it. Recently I heard that there was a new rubber that would cure against anything, but I would not use enough of it to make it worth procuring. As with most things that come in a can, one uses a small amount and then it hardens and you throw the rest away. As an example, how many cans of window glazing have you thrown away with the can mostly full? There is another attribute of the plaster mold and it is that the plaster mold does not shrink as a rubber mold would. Once I had the hydrocal cast, I was able to refine the piece using files and dental tools.
Now the bakery is done and it is time to turn my attention to the ornament that will accompany the bakery. So far we have a traditional gingerbread man and an angel ornament. With the bakery I thought there were two options. The ornament could be one of Santa’s helpers at the bakery, it could be Mrs. Claus, or it could be the man himself. After some thought, I opted for Santa. If the building offers a challenge to sculpt it in a manner that could have been made out of gingerbread, the ornament presents an even more interesting challenge. The ornament needs to look as if it could have been made with a metal cookie cutter. This means that the design has to work on one plane. There can be slight height differences but they must be the type of fluctuations that could be explained by the use of frosting. Therefore, the first pose I contemplated would not fit that criteria. I thought it would make sense to have Santa holding in front of him a tray full of some of his product. However, the arms, hands, and tray which would be overlaid on the front of the torso could never be made with a simple metal cutter. Therefore, I needed a different pose. The next pose was Santa with one hand raised as if to wave. This worked fine but it was the same pose as the first gingerbread man. Then I thought I would have him raise the other hand. This looked a bit better, but I thought I could combine the first concept with this one and have him holding a tray with a pie or a cake on it. I was starting to get used to this when Margery came in to the studio and thought it looked as if Santa were about to throw the pie at someone. I must admit the though had occurred to me and to hear it immediately from someone else told me this pose would not work. The final solution was a traditional arms out straight pose with the addition of a chef’s, traditional red winter coat, and boots. Having explained earlier the various materials I could use to sculpt the bakery, when it came to the ornament, I thought the best method to use was wax, a rubber mold and a hydrocal cast on which I could sharpen the piece with it’s final detailing.
Now that the gingerbread series is finished, I have been doing some thinking as to what theme I could use for next year’s Christmas pieces. As you know I embrace Mark Twain’s thought when it comes to future projects and that is I reserve the right to be smarter tomorrow than I am today. That being said, I am leaning towards a series depicting Santa and his favorite means of transportation. Envision Santa in a sporty roadster, Santa in a pickup truck, or Santa driving a tractor pulling a wagon full of presents. We will have to see what next year brings.
For those of us who live in the northeast, the month of March is a period of transition. The weather, although never hot is transitioning out of winter into spring. March is also the month when the Eastern Star holds their annual meeting and at that meeting they introduce the new Sebastian. As I have described in the past, the trip to the meeting can be interesting. Just a couple of years ago there was a major snow storm. For a while I thought I was not going to make it, but perseverance and a car speed of 15 to 20 miles an hour was the solution, and although I missed dinner I was in the hotel where the meeting was held in time for the introduction and signing festivities. Needless to say, I did not tarry after the event and was back on the road shortly after the last piece was signed. This year the weather was beautiful and there was no problem getting to the Holiday Inn in Boxborough.
Although the name of the hotel is now Holiday Inn there was a time when it was called the Sheraton Boxborough and yes, it is the same place where the first Festival, and many more were held. That brisk March evening, a couple of months ago, when I drove up the long drive and parked in front of the inn there was a sense of déjà vu as I walked into the lobby. The building had not changed at all. The Eastern Star folks were having dinner in the same dining room with the large plants and the water accent in the background. As I was shown the room where the introduction was to take place it was one of the conference rooms off the tennis courts where the first all Sebastian Miniature auction was held. A lot of water has gone under the bridge and over the dam since those Festivals in the early eighties. What would we have done differently had we known then what we know now? But “That’s another story”.
The reason I was at the Holiday Inn in Boxborough in mid March 2009 was to introduce and to sign the “Stars of Hope” piece. By now you know that each Eastern Star piece depicts specific symbols as well as qualities and attributes the incoming Worthy Grand Matron has chosen to emphasize during her year in office. The focal points for this year’s piece were a polar bear and a penguin. The polar bear and the penguin were to be positioned in such a way as they could be shown to be reaching out to shake paw and flipper in a gesture of friendship. In addition to this “handshake” it would be desirable if I could work a bas relief of the globe into the composition. As we met to discuss the composition I did some very rough sketches to help us come to some consensus of the composition for the piece. As we talked I recalled the portion of the globe I used for the base of the Christopher Columbus piece I made for the Sebastian Miniatures Collectors Society in 1992. As we looked at the Columbus piece we could see how a globe could be integrated into the piece. Instead of having the globe as a base, we thought it would be more visible as a backdrop. The globe would be larger than the one on the Columbus piece and because it was to be upright it would be a good support for the paw and flipper shake. As the first meeting was drawing to a close, Joan Atkinson, the Worthy Grand Matron for 2009-2010, mentioned that she was very particular about the shape of the polar bear and that the polar bear had distinctive characteristics.
All that was left for me to do was to craft an acceptable piece. I thought I should spend some time researching polar bears, and I turned to my favorite pictorial tool, Google Images. With a few clicks of the mouse I had pages and pages of pictures of polar bears. At this point I have to make a small admission, I had a great time scrolling through the pictures of the polar bears. These white bears can get themselves into some amusing and hilarious positions. It is hard to remind oneself that if one were to meet one of these amusing bears in the wild, it would think of you as their next meal. While on Google Images I also visited the pages for penguins. Armed with my new research, I set about working on the rough wax for the piece. Things went well and the rough three dimensional piece was approved. As I was working on the wax model I also added the circle and triangle symbols Joan wanted to have on the back if the piece. It was decided to omit the lettering on the back and have just the two shapes. Later it was decided to add the Eastern Star emblem to the lower right side of the triangle. Now that the composition of the piece was approved it was up to me to finish the piece. Joan got a good head start and the piece was well underway in the spring of 2008. Speaking of a good head start, next year’s piece is already done, but that will have to remain a secret until mid March 2010. The “Stars of Hope” is a limited edition of 250 pieces and will be available at the Convention and through the order form that is enclosed with your newsletter.
In the past I have included in my articles about the Masonic pieces information about the history of the Masons. It occurred to me that it might be a good idea to do the same for the Eastern Star. Therefore, I did some research on line and the following is the result of what I found on three different sites.
Wikipedia gives the following description:
“Order of the Eastern Star
The Order of the eastern Star is the largest fraternal organization in the world that both men and women can join. It was established in 1850 by Rob Morris, a lawyer and educator from Boston, Massachusetts, who had been an official with the Freemasons. It is based on the teachings from the Bible, but it is open to people of all monotheistic faiths. It has approximately 10,000 chapters in twenty countries and approximately one million members under its General Grand Chapter. Members of the Order are aged 18 and older; men must be Master Masons and Women must have a specific relationships with Masons. Originally, a woman would have to be the daughter, widow, wife, sister, or mother of a master Mason, but the Order now allows other relatives as well as allowing Rainbow Girls, Triangle Girls, and Job’s Daughters to become members when they become of age.”
To give a fuller account of the history of the Eastern Star the following is from the www.jabron.net/oeshist.htm website:
The Order of the Eastern Star is an adoptive rite of Freemasonry with teachings based on the Bible and objectives that are charitable and benevolent. The founder of OES was Dr. Robert Morris, a lawyer and educator from Boston, Massachusetts, who was a Master Mason and past Grand Master of Kentucky, but he failed to overcome the great opposition this idea engendered. After his first published ritual in 1849-50, he became associated with Robert Macoy who wrote and published a ritual based on Morris’ in 1867. The first Grand Chapter was organized in the same year. (There is evidence for an organization of the same name founded variously in 1788 or 1793, but this group was defunct by 1867.) Subordinate (local) chapters operate under charter from the state level grand chapters which are responsible to the General Grand Chapter at the International Eastern Star temple in Washington, D.C.
Members must be eighteen years or older and either Master Masons in good standing or properly related to a Master Mason in good standing. The latter category includes wives; widows; sisters; daughters; mothers; granddaughters; step-mothers; step daughters; step-sisters; and half-sisters. In 1994 this was expanded to include, nieces, daughters-in-law, and grandmothers.
Each chapter has eighteen officers, some elected and others appointed. Two officers are specifically male (Patron and Associate Patron) while nine officers are specifically female (including Matron and Associate Matron). While the Worthy Matron in considered to be presiding officer of the chapter, the degrees cannot be conferred without a presiding brother in good standing (hence the Patron and Associate Patron).
Each chapter retains the right to decide who shall be a member of the organization. Election to the degrees must be unanimous, without debate, and secret. The successful candidate must profess a belief in a Supreme Being and is initiated in five degrees, which are conferred in one ceremony. (When Eastern Star was created, it was intended to be the first of a three degree series. The second and third degrees were Queen of the South and the Order of the Amaranth, respectively.)
Interestingly enough, OES requires the belief in a Supreme Being even though the degrees are based in both the Old and New Testaments. While non-Christians are not specifically barred from membership, it would seem to be difficult to be other than Christian and belong to the Order.
The above article was edited from Dave Sites Masonic FAQ page.”
The above two accounts have some similarities while at the same time differ slightly. As a matter of fact it would seem from the texts that Wikipedia might have used some of the text verbatim from the second text which in turn was taken from the work of David Sites. Therefore, for a third and final account I visited www.easternstar.org/oeshistory.htm and found the following information:
“Order of the Eastern Star
History of the Order
The history of the Order of the Eastern Star is divided into three Eras:
1. The first Era extended from 1850 to 1866, under the leadership of Dr. Rob Morris, Poet Laureate of Masonry.
2. The second Era extended from 1866 to 1876, under the leadership of Robert Macoy of New York.
3. The third Era extends from 1876, when the General Grand Chapter, Order of the Eastern Star, was established to the present time.
Of these eras, the first is perhaps the most important as it prepared the way for the other two.
The real origin of the Order of the Eastern Star, like Masonry, will always be shrouded in mystery. Many researchers believe it had a French origin as early as 1703. By some, this is claimed to be the first inception of “Female Masonry” or “Androgynous Degrees” – (degrees for both men and women).
There appeared at this time, to be a demand for “Side Degrees” or Degrees conferred on ladies, and quite a list sprang up – “Heroines of Jericho”, “Danger in the Dark”, “Tall Cedars of Lebanon”, etc. These were extensively used but soon fell into decay for lack of lasting worth. As to the real origin of the Eastern Star degrees in its Initiatory form, there is not the least shadow of a doubt that the honor belongs to Dr. Rob Morris and its real origin comes under the First Era.
Dr. Morris had traveled many years. He had written many books on Masonry which are valued references in many Masonic Libraries.
Never quite satisfied that all the good in Masonry should be confined to men, Dr. Morris felt that Masonry should be for the whole family. But by the laws of that Ancient Order, women were not eligible for its degrees. Knowing he could not change the Ancient Landmarks of Masonry, Dr. Morris sought some method by which women could share with the Masonic Brother the same inspiration that ‘prompts man to noble deeds.’
Although he harbored these feelings for years, it wasn’t until 1850, while confined to his home after an accident, that Dr. Morris fully developed the Eastern Star Degrees in their present initiatory form.
During this time, he carefully thought out the symbolism and significance of the floor plan and the corps of officers. He conferred the degrees upon his wife and daughters, and some neighbors, presumably having an idea to clothe the ladies with certain words or signs whereby they might make themselves known to Master Masons.
These signs and so-called mysteries of the Order were communicated to all Master Masons and their relatives. Dr. Morris and other prominent Master Masons gave many lectures and conferred the degrees on many ladies throughout the nation.”
The above accounts of the history of the Eastern Star should give you a better idea of the organization. Although much of the information about the organization is privileged, a picture of the Eastern Star as a benevolent group that spends a lot of its effort supporting charities emerges. I do know that the income from the sales of the Sebastian Miniatures is used to further the cause of a number of charities.