It’s a great place to visit but I wouldn’t want to live there. That is what one of the many intriguing characters I met in NYC during my 10-day trip said about Chicago. I guess I feel the same way about NYC, but I have to say, it is easier to engage in discussion with people in the Big Apple. Everybody wants to tell you his or her story. This makes for great conversation and good memories, but is ever so fleeting. You could be talking to somebody really interesting on the subway … and a few seconds later, poof – they are gone without even a goodbye. John and Alfred How delighted I was upon returning from a day uptown on the first Monday of my stay, when my daughter said, “There’s John Lithgow with some other guy walking down the street in our direction.” Of course she always sees celebrities, including Hugh Jackman, who goes to her health club, but for me this was a treat. Turns out they were shooting scenes for Love is Strange starring Lithgow, Alfred Molina, and Marisa Tomei, who unfortunately was not in these scenes. This shoot literally took place half a block away from my daughter’s apartment. After we went back to her apartment, I dropped off my stuff and went back out to shoot pictures with the other gawkers gathered on Seventh Avenue. The actors seemed bemused by all of this and I got some good shots.
Jeff and I really got our fill of auctions a month ago when we attended a Pace Auction in Des Plaines – arriving at 10:30 and staying the entire day until every last lot was sold around 4:00 pm. I have been going to Pace Auctions since 1987 when I attended an auction they were conducting for an antique store going out of business on Lincoln Avenue in Chicago. I still have the pine dresser I purchased at that auction – it was a bit of a fixer upper but has served me well. Once upon a time, Pace held auctions every Monday night, but haven’t done so for years and now periodically have auctions on Saturdays. Jeff’s best Pace Auction tale goes back to 1999 when I took him to an auction and he purchased a huge lot of Star Trek Mego figures for just $45.00 and sold them for nearly $900.00 on eBay! When you are bidding, you have to factor in the 15 percent buyer’s premium and sales tax on top of the winning bid. An odd thing about auctions is that you have to be careful with gestures or the auctioneer will think you are bidding. Inevitably, my allergies kicked in around all that musty stuff and I started to itch. If I lifted my hand to scratch my head, it might be considered a bid, and I nearly did this a few times. This phenomenon has been parodied on a number of TV sitcoms over the years.
As a lifelong antique collector and fine artist, I appreciate objects that once belonged to strangers. I fully embrace the concept of recycling on many levels – environmental, global, financial, practical – and aesthetically. I have frequented estate sales for many years – mining the sales for treasures that I incorporate into my collage necklaces, mixed media works, to resell, and on occasion – to decorate my home. I love antiques for many reasons – they offer a glimpse into the past and sometimes reveal fascinating histories. I also appreciate the workmanship and fine materials employed by skilled craftsman of yesteryear. But I have to admit there is an inherently sad aspect to these sales and now that my elderly parents’ mortality looms on the near horizon, I am seeing possessions in a new light. My mother has been in poor health for a few years – several falls she suffered recently led to cleaning out years of accumulation at my parents’ house. There were a few treasures, but also a lot of junk – the kind of stuff that piles up over the years through entropy – after a dozen or so visits, I have made some progress.
Much has been written about the history of postcards and there are a plethora of websites, collector’s clubs, blogs, and books on the subject. The earliest known picture postcard dates back to 1840. It was a hand-painted design on a card, sent in London to the writer Theodore Hook with a penny black stamp. A rather eclectic postcard collection is among the many treasures I have accumulated over the years. Easy to store in one large shoe box, I take these out on occasion as inspiration for my collages. I have yet to sell any of this collection, but really have no attachment except for a few postcards that evoke long-lost personal memories. Some of these postcards date back to my youth – a few are vintage late 1890s-early 1900s. I have fond memories of riding my bike as a young teenager to Archie’s Coins in Edgebrook and buying a few really cool antique postcards for pennies. I also have an attachment to beautiful, early handcolored photographic postcards bought in 1979 at the Porte de Clignancourt in Paris – my first trip to Europe.
A few months ago I embarked on the rather difficult task of helping my elderly parents rid themselves of 53 years worth of amassed stuff in their home. A longtime art collector, my dad has a rather impressive collection that theoretically (depending on the fickle art market) will contribute to a very nice inheritance for my two sisters and I. However, it is not the art that has fueled my desire to analyze the psychology behind collecting. As the daughter of a psychoanalyst, it is very tempting to delve into this subject and learn WWFS in the process – that is, What Would Freud Say? I am guessing it is your mother’s fault, but we’ll see. In any case, in cleaning my parents’ home, I have uncovered a lifetime of junk and a few goodies, including: Rusty tools and hardware that is worthless Ancient papers that should have been shredded decades ago An old suburban bus schedule, circa 1964 A huge stockpile of Ace bandages, gauze pads, band-aids and other assorted first aid items that would make Clara Barton jealous A nearly full box of Tampax tampons circa 1950s that I actually sold on eBay Tons of traditional camera parts such as filters, meters, lens caps/hoods, film splicers, but it appears these have little value on the secondary market An Abercrombie & Fitch pocket warmer NIB, circa 1950s that I sold on eBay An old reel of metal/rubber weather-stripping, circa 1960s that I transformed into a funky art piece that is currently in the Crest Hardware Art Show A leather Hasselblad case for one of my dad’s classic Hasselblads sold long ago – I sold this on eBay to a European collector
One of the reasons we love going to Kenosha, Wisconsin a few times a year is not to buy cheese, but to browse a wonderful little shop crammed with treasures called Monica’s Thrift Shop. A bit off the beaten path, this unassuming store is loaded from floor to ceiling with an amazing array of new, vintage, and antique goodies with something for everyone’s taste. Our most recent visit was on May 29 and we weren’t disappointed. In fact, I would say that there was more merchandise packed into this place than the last time we stopped by. Even the bathroom at this shop is decked out with incredibly cool items.
Amulet: an object intended to bring good luck or protection to its owner. Talisman: an object held to act as a charm to avert evil and bring good fortune. Fetish: an object regarded with awe as being the embodiment or habitation of a potent spirit or as having magical potency. I have always been fascinated by talismans and good luck charms, but strictly from a visual standpoint. It is hard to believe that anyone would put so much stock in a trinket or charm, but throughout history this has been the case. My obsession with these symbols began as a young child when I bought my first rabbit’s foot. I was entranced with the dyed pink, turquoise, purple, and yellow varieties and the little claws poking out of the fur, as well as the attached solid brass key fob and chain. It is believed that this good luck charm harkens back to 600 B.C. among Celtic people. While I find the origins of this good luck amulet fascinating, as a child I simply liked the way the rabbit’s foot looked. When I was painting figuratively back in the early 1980s, I adorned several of my subjects with a trompe l’oeil rabbit’s foot, attempting to blend a Renaissance look with contemporary punk in my portraits.
I am pleasantly surprised by a new charity-related resale store that opened in Arlington Heights in January and always happy to give a shout out to new and worthy businesses. There isn’t much information on Humanity United Group; no website as of yet and just a couple of articles in TribLocal and the Daily Herald. Proceeds benefit homeless women and children in need in the Northwest suburbs. HUGS was formed to operate the resale store according to the Chicago Tribune article – a bit of an unusual approach, but certainly entrepreneurial. Typically, a charity exists first and a resale store is established later as a venue for fundraising.
I count my blessings that I have a lifelong antique collection to fall back on for a bit of extra income. A PR and communications professional, I found myself unemployed in mid-June for the first time in 20 years. I could write a 5,000-word blog just about my last employer, but I know that diplomacy will serve me better than spite as I strive to land a new position. So back to the matter at hand – a few of the high points in my hunt for treasure over the years. For this blog, I am posting an eclectic sampling of some of my most memorable finds – not necessarily because of the resulting sale, but for the memories associated with the acquisition. My mom bought this complete set of Hartland Plastics musical cupids in 1976 at a fantastic store that sold new old store stock from dime stores. Our close friend Bebe turned us onto this treasure trove of a shop called Mary’s. It was located near Yoshi’s Cafe, in the 3200 block of North Halsted – long before it became a hip neighborhood. In any case, Mary decided to pack up shop and move to Michigan while I was away at RISD, so my mom visited the shop and bought a few things at close-out prices. Mind you, Mary’s prices were fantastic to start, so this was quite a deal. I held onto this wonderful set until a few years ago, at which time I sold it to a lucky collector.
Revisiting my earliest memories, I have always loved antiques – but it is the hunt for that elusive piece that really rocks my boat. Actually, it is finding a treasure at a bargain price that keeps me hunting, although that has become increasingly challenging with the advent of the Antiques Road Show and American Pickers. My parents allowed me to gallivant alone at an enormous antique show at the Conrad Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago at the age of 6 or 7. I was transported to a magical place, imagining how people lived in the past surrounded by these beautiful objects. I only had pocket change and bought a small piece of natural turquoise. That following summer, I cannot remember where we went on our family vacation, but I do remember a cool coin and collectibles show at the motel where we were staying. Once again, my parents allowed me to roam alone at this show. I was drawn to the antique coins, but didn’t have money to buy anything. By the time I was 12, my mom would take me every summer to the Park West Antique Fair in Chicago. This venerable fair was an institution in Chicago for as long as I can remember, with dealers setting up shop in alley garages near Orchard Street. What I liked most about this fair was the European-like set-up – an upscale flea market where you could browse outside at leisure. We didn’t buy a lot, but this fair impacted me so greatly that I do remember exactly what my mom bought me over the years – a gorgeous ornate doll from Yugoslavia with a composition face and red leather boots; a Chartreuse Art Deco plastic department store butterfly display; a delicate Victorian gold ring with tiny opal; and a sterling silver brooch with a green art glass centerpiece.