Wednesday, January 14, 2009

January 2009

By now you are on a budget and thinking what else can you put on ebay to get through this winter. Well maybe that’s just me talking out loud. Christmas was a financial bust and as they say, baby needs new shoes. Too panicked to sit at a computer and do something easy, I loaded up my truck and a borrowed trailer after New Year’s and I hauled Detroit to Atlanta. Turns out the recession beat me there. But, the show must go on and antique dealers on the road put carnies to shame. Let’s just say it’s a work hard, play hard group and do we know how to have a good time. First there was the boon doggle of a free four-night’s stay in the presidential suite my gal pal won in the hotel’s drawing. Instant party, just add roadies. I am forever mentally compiling footage for a documentary, and this scenario was no exception. The people drawn to this business are usually somehow unfit for the office. Smart, crazy, definitely not conventional, these are fascinating characters that may look rough, but know more about some obscure era of craft than you do. Put them with other people just like them and you cannot imagine the cinema that ensues. It’s always Homer’s Odyssey. First there’s the trip there, always harrowing, if not equipment malfunctions then it’s freak weather, everybody’s sleep deprived and on edge by the time they pull in. Then there’s the set-up, sketchy porters, some sober some not, with no sense of urgency to unpack but manage to break your things anyway. There’s the hot item everyone is hovering around that you wish you had 10 of. And the heavy stuff no one is looking at that you wish you’d left behind. Next it’s time for the pricing game, more mystical than practical. Oh sure you paid x for it, there may be some precedent, but there’s always some nuance of condition, a round not square nail, a questionable signature and so on. You’re either over zealous and price it too high or you aim low and the hawks are circling for the kill. You then spend the rest of the show holding that once hot item that’s now garbage you can’t give away or you’re calculating a growing pile of money that would have been yours if you’d only stuck to your guns. At the end of the day you count your spoils and maybe some treasure you think you stole. Coming from Detroit, it was just nice to shed a few layers and enjoy the sun when it finally came. Luckily, I sold some things, I bought some things, packed it up and got back on the road.

Naturally there was an ice storm on the way but rather than do a 360 (last year’s trick) I wisely pulled off and called it a night. I arrived home in time to unload between snow storms and before a severe temperature drop. I don’t know what it is, but somehow people know when you have just arrived with something fresh. The bigger the mess, the more they love it and if it’s a day you are normally closed, here they come. I’ll get it organized and display it just so, but the aura will have dimmed somehow and chances are they will have preferred to shop when and where it got dropped. Always, it’s the thrill of the hunt and the thirst for a fresh kill.
Christmas 2008

Now don’t think I’m boasting, but it is true that times like these are made for salvagers like me. It’s not like my salvage/antiques/alternative collections are exactly on everyone’s holiday shopping list anyway. So if you are feeling blue about the new austerity, maybe I can cheer you up. Of course I wallowed in self-pity and boo-hooed around about having no reason to celebrate. Feeling broke and unloved, I committed the cardinal sin of retail and ordered no holiday merchandise. Call me the anti-Christ, I just didn’t feel like it. Like your old Aunt Mary, I stuck what money I had under the mattress and called in my scrappy band of pickers and artists and said dream something up with what we’ve got.

First there was the jump-start from Holly, my funny, razor-sharp friend/artist and vintage clothing dealer who took one look at my lifeless body and organized a holiday “bailout ball.” With cursor on send, there it was: an invitation to hundreds for a now annual party. Like a grungier, back-alley quilting bee, there I sat at the ninth hour with my street-genius artist friend Jon and his crazy garbage-picked collection and together we made “holiday wreaths.” Every sentence to describe these wreaths started with, “nothing says Christmas like…” and off we went. First it was the car accident wreath; vintage photos of car accidents, a broken car, then on to nudie pin-up girls and bondage Santa. A feverish trip to the dollar store yielded bright green plastic dissecting frogs with see-through organs that became biology wreath, festive with old hemostats and bows. 1940’s bow ties became the best-dressed man’s dream wreath. The film enthusiast got a wreath with popcorn boxes, old theater photos and film strip bows and the fisherman got a wreath of lures and tangled lines. We were on our way.

My painter friend David took all the scrap wood I had laying around and made urban-fresh wall pockets that looked up country. To hang on doors, walls or fences, stuffed with greens or dried flowers, these he painted with simple stencils of snowflakes, birds and initials. The result is clean and elegant and will continue looking good long after the ornaments get put away. Lisa, she with the most treasures wins, took her collection of architectural fragments and made ornaments with bits of crystal, charms and upholstery tacks. She cleverly dismantled old silverware and made window-mounted bud vases with their handles. Irreverent holiday cards with vintage photos, sewn on with buttons, are loved by those who share her devilish streak. A last minute entry by our partners at Richard Gage Design Studio kept us all smirking with disembodied Santa heads in homemade snow globes and an x-rated wreath I had to hang behind the counter.

All this is to say that the holidays aren’t just for kids or the beautiful people. Santa may not come in the way you had hoped or expected, but maybe that wasn’t all that satisfying anyway. He came for me, not under the tree or in my cashbox, but with true friends to my messy studio and store by the tracks.