Thursday, January 8, 2009

Gimme Shelter

Ever since I can remember, I've found a strange sort of safety in objects.

I get that from my mother. She had exquisite taste, carefully cultivated after her dirt poor childhood in post war-Germany finally gave way to the economic opportunity of her newly-adopted homeland. Mom never spent indiscriminately nor lavishly, but her purchases (with one exception) were always surprising for their beauty, their craftsmanship, and their potential for increasing in value.

Above: The ugly ass exception to my mother's impeccable taste.
You can read the whole ugly ass story here.

Growing up, I often accompanied my mother on her weekend pilgrimages to flea markets, antique shops, and estate sales. She was the kind of woman who also regularly talked her way into people's attics and basements. Once, on our way back from her picking me up from school, she came to a screeching halt in front of a nearby house. She got out of the car, rapped on the front door, and within minutes, a puzzled but obliging woman led her into the home's side yard. My mother pointed to what looked like one of those winged chairs from the 1950s, only one made entirely out of metal mesh. How much did she want for it, my mother asked? The woman shrugged. Nothing. They were going to throw it out with that week's garbage. My mother could have it. It turned out to be a Bertoia.

To my mother, these objects of hers had meaning beyond their immediate usefulness or beauty. They had history. They told stories. They were to be respected and treasured and cared for.

For better or worse, I believed her, absorbed her philosophy, and continue to scour not just antique shops and garage sales, but also eBay, Goodwill on-line, and sometimes even Craig's List, all in the pursuit of my own particular passions. I am also the keeper of several of my mother's collections, some of which I use and take great delight in (the old pawn Navajo jewelry, her ginormous collection of Fire King Jadeite Restaurant Ware that not even Martha Stewart can touch) and some of which have become a certain kind of burden (do you know how crazy ass expensive it is to replace a cracked 9" dinner plate in Stig Lindberg's Bersa pattern?).

Above: The Mid Century Modern china pattern that ate Moi's bank account.

Right before she died, mom was also starting to develop a taste for vintage rhinestone jewelry. There's not much of it, but I'll never wear it, so off it goes. I need the room. For something else. Exactly what, I haven't yet decided. But you can bet it's out there. Calling my name.

Boxer, if you heart these pins, they are yours. Just say the word.

P.S. I know this necklace isn't rhinestone, but I've put it in here anyway because it's so damn bizarre. It's too hippiefied for me to ever consider wrapping around my neck, but someone, somewhere, just might love it.


Big Shamu said...

Don't let Martha know about your collection. She's got mad skilz when it comes to getting what she wants. Goodwill Online Auctions ROCK! However spreading that particular secret is BAD.

Doris Rose said...

I love your childhood stories and I'm sorry, I still like the Huey. Each to his own.
Never had the collector bug...well, I have had the 'accumulator' bug-far more virulent.

h said...

Hmmm. Are you giving away that cool-looking chair too?

I didn't know there was a Goodwill Online. Thanks for the info!

sparringK9 said...

fire king jadeite -is that that slightly milky light green sorta translucent stuff? i remember marthas spread on it. its reeeeeeeeel expensive. photos please!

i go to good will about once every two weeks and have scored some amazing clothes but no housewares.

another fun look. that last necklace is one hundred percent earth mother ware for flowy big skirts and long grey hair. no no no no no

never sit in the chair with shorts on. nobody wants to see flesh sectioned out in a grid. grrerhaha

Pam said...

Hmmmm, I'm secretly liking the Embers painting. Not that I would want it on my wall, mind you. So whatever happened to the artist? I did a quick search and didn't find him. I like it better than the chair for sure. Maybe some local gallery would love to have it for re-sale? Will look for Goodwill Online. Very interesting. Thanks for stopping by!

moi said...

Shamu: Martha don't scare me. But, dang it, I did hesitate before mentioning the G-word.

Doris: Hmmm. What's the diff between collecting and accumulating?

Troll: Unfortunately, that way cool chair was sold by mom. I would have loved to have had it. Keep the G-word on the DL, 'kay?

K9: Yes, that's Fire King. When I first started collecting it, you could get the chubby restaurant ware coffee mugs for pennies. Today, they're up around $25 each. All my stuff is SO going to do me good in the NWO Economy :o). But at least I'll have a classy mug for when I go Brother Can you Spare a Dime-ing.

moi said...

Pam: Okey, dokey, then, that's three for the painting! Somewhere in the great beyond, my mother is spilling her martini, she's laughing so hard. Kirk Huey I believe is now living and working in Paris. He has a gallery in Santa Fe. I stopped in there once with a photo and even his rep looked at the thing sideways. I really need to make a greater effort to get hold of him. He'd be in his late 60s, early 70s by now.

Jenny said...



I have a very special place to hang them. I recently added my MIL's Mother's Christmas pin and other rhinestone object of beauty.

Thank you - I'll take good care of them. xoxox.

moi said...

Boxer: Oh, goody! I'm so happy they'll have a good home. The lion pin is über cool, too, in that the rhinestones of his mane are not stiff, but jangle loosely, like bead work.

MommyHeadache said...

My mum, who was raised in post-war Austria, likes found furniture too but she was tighter than yours, we got all our furniture dumpster diving and then she'd give it a lick of paint, mostly the stuff turned out pretty well.

Big Shamu said...

Whenever I think of "found" furniture I think of two things, Volkswagon commercial and Poppi on Seinfeld. That's enough to keep me from going back with the van to do some volunteer hauling.

Wicked Thistle said...

Suddenly our dinner conversation has context.

I cannot believe you're not using that rhinestone jewelry for assemblage art.

czar said...

Gee, when I was a tyke, it was inch-thick plastic slipcovers in a room that no one ever, ever went into. No wonder I have no soul.

moi said...

Emma: Oh yeah. My mother could get crazy with the spray paint, too.

Shamu: I'm a terrible refurbisher. I can appreciate. I can visualize. I cannot revitalize.

Wicked: I'm all about context, baby. Context. I totally forgot about this stuff for assemblage day. Next time! I feel a statement necklace coming on.

Czar: Growing up, several of my friends' parents actually had their living rooms roped off. Fascinating . . .

Aunty Belle said...

Ho!! I wanna ride wif' yore mama!

Okay, I got a drawer ful of ole rhinestone stuff--but no lion!! Wow. Yore's is WAAAAY better'n any I seen.

The chair is kewel. I need an edoocation on jadeite--is it china or what? Crockery? Melamine?

Goodwill is online?

Groan...I'll never catch up--I doan know nuthin'.

Boxer Babe, is ya collectin ole pins? I have this jadite lookin' thang but it is not green, it is claret colored--a flower shaped IDEA what it is.

czar said...

roped off? i'm thinking one of two things: museum. crime scene.

moi said...

Aunty: Anything you have that is old and plasticky – like a bangle or pin? Rub it and see if it has a sharp chemical smell. If so, it could be Bakelite, which is highly collectible.

Czar: A murder most certainly could have occurred had any of us grubby-fingered, soot-footed chillruns entered those sacred "living" spaces.

sparringK9 said...

roped off? im sure there are some majorly dammaged folks walking around that grew up in that environment. sheeeesh.

The Poet Laura-eate said...

What a fabulous philosophy. Plus the treasures like your Mum are also the archivists of the rare.

Love the Xmas tree brooch.

moi said...

K9: Ripe for satire in a novel, is my thought. And doing.

Poet: Ooo, I like that. We're not consumerist piggies. We're historical archivists.

sparringK9 said...

everytime i come over here i like that mid cent mod pattern. i could live with that. very happily.

the Dread Pirate Rackham said...

retro vintage jewery is currently tres very cool - have a look at the stuff they are selling at jCrew right now - and how much it's going for! I kinda like that necklace - but without the giant ring. It can be worked.

VintagePurseGal said...

AHHHHHHHH! I can't believe I missed this post. I love your stuff. Your mom was a cool chick. I am hoping my kids appreciate me and my vintage habits as much as you so obviously do your mom.

moi said...

K9: I do heart it so. My mom also gifted me her entire set of Ruska, which is totally cool, too.

Pirate: Wow. That stuff is gorgeous! If I were craftier, I'd rework some of the stuff I've got. Say the word, that necklace is yours to do with as you wish.

Wendy: Oh, I'm sure they do. They just may not be conscious of it at the moment :o).