Graceland

Graceland Living RoomI’ve been back in Toronto for a while now, but I still had to share the photos and impressions I got from visiting Graceland. Yes – Memphis Tennessee, home of Elvis Presley Graceland. I’m not going to discuss his music, his legend, or his death. I just want to talk about his house and specifically the interior design. Graceland is like a 1970s fever dream of shag carpet, monkey statues and indoor waterfalls. I loved it.

Elvis (along with his girlfriends and family) really went for it in home decor. They had money to spend and they spent it. Ridiculously. But even with the white carpets and mirrored walls there is a coziness to Graceland. There’s hospitality in Graceland, and there is definitely fun in Graceland. You can imagine a little Lisa Marie running down the stairs to the basement rec room, or out to the stables to ride her pony. It’s a slice of perfectly preserved American dream circa 1977. If you are interested in vintage decor or kitsch and you find yourself in Tennessee you need to visit.

Let’s take a look!

GLext1The exterior.  Very symmetrical and pleasant. Looks like a dollhouse. Note the smaller size of the home. It’s a mansion, sure, but not a monster home like so many nowadays. There is a charming scale to the interior you might not expect.

Graceland living roomThe first room to the right of the front door is the living room (also pictured at the top of this post with those amazing peacock windows). This couch was something like twelve feet long. White shag carpet, white couch, white TV. This wasn’t the place you plopped down with a glass of red wine. This was fancy guest space. Of all the rooms I saw in Graceland this was the most dramatic and feminine. It was completely impractical and I liked it.

Graceland dining roomThere were a lot of “antiqued” mirrors in Graceland, like the dining room table surface. Patterned mirrors are actually making a comeback. Elvis remains a trend setter!

Graceland KitchenThe Graceland kitchen. As I said in my post about this fabulous vintage design book, you can tell that people did drugs in the 1970s because they put carpeting in their kitchens. Fun fact – the kitchen wasn’t open to the public until 1995, because the last resident of Graceland, Elvis’ aunt Delta, used it until her death in 1993.

Graceland basement rec roomThe basement TV room. All yellow and black and white. The lightening bolt was a symbol Elvis loved and used late in his career. The monkey statue was unexplained but obviously horrifying. Anyone need a pillow?

GLrr2The other side of the TV room showcasing three TVs so Elvis could watch all three (at the time) national networks. And no, this is not where Elvis pulled out a gun and shot out a TV because it had Robert Goulet on it. That happened in Vegas (of course). Not pictured is a wet bar on the other side of the room decorated with Murano glass clowns.

Graceland pool roomThe Billiards room! I swear my camera could not focus properly on this room. It could be because the furniture was wearing wall camouflage.

GLptr1Why did we ever stop doing this to our ceilings? My flat white ceiling looks so boring now.

GLportrait2Why hello hot young Elvis. I like the mirror cutout (notice the “antiqued” effect) that follows the line of the staircase. I love the pirate shirt.

GLjr3Do you like Tiki? Do you like wood tones mixed with darker wood tones? Then let me introduce you to the FABULOUS Jungle Room. This is what I’m going to be aiming for as I collect my tiki stuff. One day I’ll get there.

GLcouchjrThe term “lurid kitch” gets thrown around so often, it starts to lose meaning. Then you see a Polynesian inspired, fake fur covered couch with dragon arms and you understand.

GLjr1That brick wall with the red light? Fountain. That green shag carpet? All over the ceiling. What’s under the window just out of frame? More monkey statues. Apparently this room was decorated by Elvis after an “epic shopping spree”. VERY EPIC.

GLext2Back outside. The stables and rolling hills were behind me and this was the view of the back of the house. Graceland had won us over. By this point my husband and I felt our three hour drive from Nashville was worth it. Later we would go the the historic Sun Studio and be even happier we made the trip. Don’t miss either destination if you’re in Memphis.

There is a lot more to Graceland I didn’t cover. A few random photos:

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To paraphrase the Paul Simon song, for reasons I can’t explain there was some part of me that wanted to see Graceland. And I am very happy I did.

An inspiring visit

thenewcollector:

I had to share this great post from shadflyguy. It’s about a very fine antique chair and a very driven ninety year old collector. What an inspirational encounter! Follow shadflyguy for more real stories from over thirty years in the antique business.

Originally posted on shadflyguy:

windchairOver the past few weeks of summer I have been encouraged by the number of younger people coming into the shop and not only having a look around but on some occasions making what appears to be there first serious antique purchase. The other day a couple who seemed just short of thirty came by, and I was surprised when the fellow said to his partner This is one of those tramp art boxes I have been talking about”,   Then he went on to give a pretty good summary of the genre.(look it up) Even better, he bought it.

But this story is about another type of encouragement, and a big reason why I continue in this business after arguably being a full time antique dealer for thirty years may seem punishment enough for most people. 

Last week I received a phone call on this continuous arm Windsor…

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Vintage and Antique Shopping in Nashville

Before I get into my post, indulge me for a minute so I can describe where I am. Here, let me give you a visual:

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This is the view from the balcony of my room at the huge “Gaylord Opryland” hotel in Nashville. For most of our trip we were at a rented condo, but this week my husband has a conference so we got a free room here. It’s pretty ridiculous. There are three large atriums with full size trees, waterfalls, restaurants, shops… all under glass domes and surrounded by hotel room balconies. I have a two story waterfall right below me, which I love because it provides the greatest white noise. I feel like I’m outside, in a garden, without heat or bugs. Talk about ideal writing conditions! I could get used to this.

Anyway, before I found myself writing in a fantasy tropical paradise, I was hitting the streets of Nashville looking for antiques. I didn’t get to see a lot, but I did visit the 8th Ave. South area. This is considered one of the main Antique districts in the city. The first place I looked, Classic Modern, was also one of my favourites. It had a great selection of vintage (1950s – 1970s) furniture and accessories, as well as antiques from the 19th century, jewelry and folk art. They had quite a few complete sets of furniture – a full 1950s chrome kitchen table set, or a 1960s couch and chairs for instance. Very cool. Prices were reasonable for the quality of the items. I also talked to the owner and a fellow patron for quite a while – real friendly people around here!

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The second place I visited was “Pre to Post Modern”. I liked the signage out front because it reminded me of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. It said something like “Come inside! It’s fun in here!” on the clapboard, and you can’t resist that.

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It was fun inside! They had a well curated selection of mid century accessories, advertising, clothes, decor and even some furniture. Everything was organized in themes so the clothes, hats and purses were together in a room, there was a rec room with albums and posters, the tiki stuff got its own corner etc. Very fun to browse. The best part was the prices! I was looking at smalls, but even the furniture was affordable. I wish I could have schlepped home one of their bar carts, but as it was I took three tiki mugs for a grand total of $12. If I lived in the area I would be popping in all the time.

Finally, the last place I visited was a good old fashioned antique “mall”. This one was called 8th Ave Antiques. The booths were a bit spotty in terms of age and quality, but I did find more antique furniture, china and art here. Some dealers had recognizable interests like pop culture memorabilia, kitchenware, or country furniture. Others were seemingly random with antique, vintage or even new and reproduction items. I didn’t see anything I had to buy (and pack – a deterrent for sure). Still, there was enough selection that if I were in the area I would gladly try again.

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Although I didn’t see everything the area has to offer (I missed a whole antique mall further up the road!), I enjoyed my antique and vintage shopping on 8th street in Nashville. There was a lot of mid century to 1970s decor, country smalls, and fun kitsch. Antiques (as in pieces over 100 years old) were harder to find but there were some good examples. Prices were overall lower than in Toronto, especially for the mid century modern stuff. Let me put it this way - shopping at even these three stores I’d have no problems outfitting a fabulous vintage rec room. Now I just need to get some bigger luggage!

Peacock Alley: Vintage Chenille Bedspreads

thenewcollector:

I’ve always loved the pretty, cheerful charm of vintage chenille bedspreads, but I didn’t know the history. This blog gave me new appreciation for the classic style, and the work that went into these handmade textiles. I found it fascinating!

Originally posted on topdrawerlinens:

Do you love vintage chenille bedspreads? I am in awe every time I find one – they are a rare and disappearing part of American history — it is incredible we can still lay our hands on them at all.

cabin crafts setscotty dog chenille hand tufted

You have probably read the story many times of Catherine Evans, the young girl who started the industry, but if not, here it is in brief (and there is so much more!):

Catherine Evans (later, Catherine Evans Whitener) was from Reo, Georgia. She was 12 years old in 1892 when visiting a relative and saw a beautiful hand stitched cover on their bed she loved. Determined to make one for herself, she designed one of her own using a form of candlewicking[1] and tufting[2]. She gave one of first spreads to her brother as a wedding gift in 1900. Soon she had requests to make them for…

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The Nashville Flea Market

IMG_4841Howdy y’all! I’m in Nashville, Tennessee! We came to town for a wedding and a conference, and with a week in-between the two events we decided to rent a place and live like the locals. It’s been great! The weather is hot, the people are friendly, and the boots are cowboy. As part of my work I’ve been checking out the local antique and vintage scene. I thought I’d share my experiences this week as I tour Music City, USA.

My first adventure was at the HUGE Nashville Flea Market. Held at the Tennessee state fairgrounds, this sale has been voted best flea market in the state, and considered one of the top ten in the Southern US. I can believe it. The market is usually held on the fourth Friday, Saturday, and Sunday of each month, although it sometimes shifts for holidays. You can find all the dates and information on the Fairgrounds website.

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I saw an ad for the flea market in a tourist map and, having a Sunday free, my husband and I thought we might check it out for a few hours. Oh silly Canadians. This is not a place you casually “pop into” for a quick look. This is building after building after shed after outdoor aisle full of stuff. You could go every day of the weekend and not see everything. The market, after all, boasts over 1,200 sellers!

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Most of the antique and vintage booths were outside, which coincidentally was SCORCHING HOT and reminded me of last year’s trip to Antique World. There’s something about the hottest day of the summer that makes me want to walk around for hours I guess. Although we didn’t realize it until the end, the highest concentration of antique and vintage dealers were in an outdoor section marked “Antique Alley” , as well as the nearby “sheds” (which are actually repurposed animal stalls).

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One thing I find interesting is seeing how the general selection of antiques changes to reflect the history of each place I visit. At the flea market I noticed a lot of advertising for local Nashville businesses and classic US brands. Vintage furniture was more abundant than I’ve seen in Canada. There were antique toys, cowboy hats and boots, civil war memorabilia, and collectibles relating to country music. I didn’t see a lot of paper artwork or antique clothing but I did see a few sellers of cow hide. One seller explained that it’s very difficult to find antique and vintage textiles from the area, as the heat and humidity often damages these pieces over time.

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There was a lot of inexpensive vintage costume jewellery. Perfect for crafty types to restore or reuse!

Of course, the antiques and vintage were just part of the flea market. There were also buildings (sweet, air conditioned buildings!) with new “as seen on TV” type products, 1980s toys, home decor, and just plain junk. There were definitely trends in the reproductions for sale - lots of rusty licence plates, American flags and hand painted “RC Cola” tin signs. And classic flea market stuff? Oh my. If you wanted cheap fashion accessories, jumbo packs of socks or slightly expired toiletries than this was the jackpot.

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One giant box was nothing but gum in weird, probably discontinued flavours. I was strangely tempted.

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If you decide to visit the Nashville flea market, I have a few words of advice. Number one, wear comfortable shoes. Most of the “sheds” and outdoor spaces are on uneven dirt. You will probably stumble. Also, there isn’t a lot of seating. Food options are a few trucks and one restaurant that sells fried foods at decent prices, and cold beer to boot. If it’s summer, wear a hat and carry water. Parking costs $5 and there is no admission charge.

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One of the “sheds”. There were 4 or 5 of them filled with booths.

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In the end we did buy a few small items to take home, but I will cover them in a bit more detail later. I’m very happy to have had the Nashville flea market experience, and I would definitely recommend it. It was a great introduction to what I hope the area has to offer!

A Brief History of Tiki

Vintage Postcard of Don the Beachcomber's

Summer is in full swing around here (you’re ignoring those “back to school” commercials right? Good). The tropical climate always makes me think of the bamboo bars and Polynesian themed decor of Tiki. Tiki today is sometimes confused with inflatable palm trees and plastic coconuts, but this is not real Tiki. Real Tiki isn’t plastic, and real Tiki is vintage. Technically a sub-set of the Modernest movement (lasting from the 1930s to the 1970s), Tiki was more than a style – it was a uniquely American pop culture form. It can be found in food, clothing, music and architecture of the mid 20th century. Tiki has a history, and it can be serious stuff for the vintage collector.

Tiki culture as we know it began in 1934 with the opening of Don the Beachcomber, a Polynesian-themed bar and restaurant in Hollywood (that’s a postcard image of the dining room above). A world traveller, Don took elements of real South Pacific locations - Tiki statues, lush tropical vegetation, bamboo furniture – and created a fantasy of simplified tropical splendour. It was not authentic of any one place or society, so it became known as “Tiki”. Three years later, Victor Bergeron, better known as Trader Vic, adopted a similar Tiki theme for his restaurant in Oakland California. Born of the restaurant industry, Tiki was originally symbolized by dark wood toned decor, Asian (usually Cantonese) inspired food and an escalating competition for extravagant rum based drinks.

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Tiki culture spread inland from California and was fuelled by an interest in travel. When soldiers returned home from WW II, they brought stories and souvenirs from the South Pacific. In the 1940s and 1950s, the expanding middle class could afford trips to far away destinations. For the first time, suburbanites were looking at places like Tahiti and planning their next vacation under the sun. Popular books and movies of the time featured exotic beaches and locations. Even the possibility of Hawaiian statehood drove interest in the tropical lifestyle, and Americans fell in love with their romanticized version of a “Tiki” culture.

Thus Tiki was more than masks and rattan furniture; it was a byproduct of American wealth and growth in the mid twentieth century. At its height of popularity, Tiki architectural form (A line roofs, wood panelling, interior gardens) cropped up on all types of buildings – churches, shops, hotels, even tract row housing. Is it any wonder that once Hawaii did finally become a state in 1959 Tiki had begun to wear out its welcome? As is always the case, kids didn’t appreciate the same “square” things their parents enjoyed. Tiki began to be seen as a symbol of decadence and cultural ignorance. As the 1960s progressed the younger generation rejected Tiki and by the 1980s almost all the biggest and best examples of Tiki style had been replaced.

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We are currently experiencing a resurgence of Tiki culture, thanks in part to our interest (finally!) in fancy cocktails, but it begs the question: What does Tiki mean now? Tiki was always a form of cultural appropriation. A real “tiki” for instance, is a type of wooden carving representing the first man. The Maori used tiki statues to mark sacred land. Tiki culture used those same forms to hold fruity drinks. Tiki was an invention to bring in business, without deep understanding of the societies it represented. On the other hand, Tiki was also always a fantasy. It was a hodge-podge of influences, put together to resemble a tropical dream. I’m not an expert (I wasn’t even born until after Tiki stopped being cool) but it’s easy to believe that in the confines of 1950s America people wanted an escape. Not everyone could afford to travel, but most could afford a Singapore Sling in a bamboo covered bar. It was a version of paradise everyone could reach, and it still is today. It’s up to you, but I prefer to remember and enjoy Tiki in this context.

I’m new to collecting, but here are some of the pieces in my vintage Tiki barware:

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If you want to put a little Tiki into your home, you can easily start small. Vintage tiki barware, artwork and postcards can be found online and in shops. Tiki mugs (ceramic and sometimes branded like mine from the “Hawaiin Inn”) were often sold as souvenirs and are probably the most popular type of Tiki collectible. If you want to enjoy the full Tiki experience, Tiki bars are popping up once again in urban centres, including here in Toronto. While some complain that the modern revival of Tiki isn’t “primitive” enough, I personally don’t mind a little glamour with my Mai Tais. For me, Tiki is about being in a fantasy tropical paradise, even if it’s the middle of winter and there’s no beach in sight. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to play some Yma Sumac, mix up something with rum, and pretend my backyard is a white sand beach.

As an amateur fan of Tiki, I found the following sites really helpful:

Tiki Central – Forums with everything Tiki. These people know A LOT about tiki culture.
Modernist Architecture: Tiki Modern
– Amazing photographs of Tiki architecture.
Tiki Culture - Well written dissection of Tiki culture in the past and today. Also has a handy “this is NOT Tiki” list.
Behind the Scenes at the Enchanted Tiki Room (youtube video) – A short behind the scenes look at the room of computers needed to make those audio-animatronic birds sing, shot when the attraction first opened. One guy in the comments section calls the Tiki Room an “insidious early 60s nightmare”, so there’s also that.

The Collectivator Upgrade is Here!

I’m back! Greetings friends! First I want to say I’m sorry I dropped off the face of the Earth. I missed writing this blog and I never intended to be away from it for so long. I got swept up in an exciting project and I knew I couldn’t write until I was done…

The Collectivator upgrade is here! It’s finally here! After nearly a year of discussions, plans, timelines, testing, feedback, bug fixing, and giant leaps of faith, we are finally here. None of this would have been possible without a Toronto based company called Qaribou, and the amazing talents of developer Joshua Koudys. I am so excited about this new chapter in our enterprise. We rebuilt Collectivator from the ground up, and I can honestly say it has been one of the most challenging and rewarding projects of my working life.

I invite you to visit Collectivator, and click around to see what all this fuss is about. Just gaze upon the loveliness of our shiny new homepage:

The fabulous new face of Collectivator!
So what’s the big deal about a website redesign? Everything. Literally everything. We completely changed not only the design, but the back-end CMS (content management system) that supports all the new functions. Josh wrote code for new interfaces, new posting procedure, new search… there was basically no part of Collectivator we didn’t take apart and put back together. Designer Denise Pinto made us look oh so cool with a bright, coherent theme that expertly showcases the items. One huge improvement is our touch-based mobile support. We finally look good on a tablet! Swiping through thumbnails feels natural, and it definitely makes browsing antiques more fun.

I’m not going to bore you with details about every little thing we’ve done (explore and find out for yourself!). But to give an idea of the hours put into this upgrade here are some notes I still had lying around my desk. Yes, I have a computer, and yes, I still write everything down like it’s the turn of the last century:

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Who needs emails when you can write large format, rambling notes? Developers love ‘em!

Diagrams of possible webpages, notes from feedback, and my own pearls of wisdom like “maybe less white space but still have some?”, “people are circles, items are squares” and “I like dots”. In the end a lot of it was changed, or rejected, but the big vision was realized. Again, I am so grateful for the people who helped get us here.

As we begin a new phase at Collectivator, I look back with pride on our original concept and design. Eight years ago my husband Anson Chan originally created the site for my dad, Phillip Ross. The three of us working together honed our system through concept, design and good old trial and error. The bedrock of the site has always been quality stock and it continues to this day. We’ve been able to attract some of the best antique dealers around who are experts in their fields. We’ve had encouragement from established collectors, and random strangers on the street. We’ve been able to grow a professional solution for one antique dealer into a vibrant selling platform for many. The most important thing I want to say is thank you. Thank you to everyone who visits the site, and everyone who has joined us on our journey to becoming an antiques and vintage destination.

The new tagline for Collectivator is “Seeking the Authentic” and that’s what I am committed to do. Real antiques, real art, real vintage. I want to make Collectivator a vibrant community not only for selling, but for education and encouragement – especially for new collectors. It’s exciting to think about what is possible now! If I had to encapsulate all our work into one image (having used the exciting pile of papers image already), I think it would be this screenshot from one of our many meetings:

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That’s Josh in front, Anson and I in the little boxes, and Josh’s cat Sebastian performing a classic photo bomb. Every meeting should be interrupted by adorable cats.

I welcome your comments! Thanks for reading this self-congratulatory post about my business (next time I’ll get back to cool old stuff I promise). Cheers!

The Leslieville Flea

Last Sunday was a lovely early fall day – perfect for shunning indoor chores and going for a stroll. We decided to check out a small vintage show near where we live – the Leslieville Flea. Leslieville is a hip neighbourhood along Queen street in Toronto, full of funky businesses and some of our favourite restaurants. The Leslieville Flea is open 10am – 4pm, on the 3rd Sunday of every month from June to October.

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The Leslieville Flea operates behind The Duke.

I was curious about “the flea” (not sure if that’s the official nickname but it sounds cool) because it represents a growing movement in the whole antiques industry – what I call the melting pot vintage space. In these usually urban spaces the emphasis is on a style rather than traditional definitions of antiques or vintage. It’s a place where mass produced mid century design is sold alongside rustic antiques, and salvaged items can be mixed with brand new artisan crafts. There are clothing dealers and nostalgia items. There is glorious glorious kitsch. It’s a place I think many new collectors feel comfortable in because it’s reasonably priced ($15 – $50 for many items) and the sellers are friendly. It is in variety similar to a normal flea market but taken up many notches on the “ratio of stuff I actually want to buy” scale. You will probably not find early painted 19th century furniture, but you also won’t see boxes of random tupperware lids.

We had a great time touring the three rows of booths and looking at the stock.  Although not a large show, we saw everything from classic Canadiana like antique snowshoes, to 1980s toys, to large pieces of furniture like vintage Canada Post mail sorters (displayed as a possible wine rack). You could spend a lot of money on high quality collectibles or a little money on something easy to carry home. Some of it felt like it had a “hipster markup” on the price, but most things were very reasonable. The dealers were happy to tell you about the items, and honest enough to admit when they didn’t know something. Most importantly, we found a bunch of stuff to buy! The trip was a complete success and I would gladly visit again.

The dealers were also very social media savvy and encouraged me to take photographs, so here be a bunch of pictures!

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Anson is about to grab that vintage fan from Coco & Bear. It still works! I love how the design makes absolutely no attempt to stop wayward fingers from whirling blades.

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A gorgeous selection of Bakelite from Lucky Patina. They also sell vintage brass jewelry.

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Anson finds a 1950s Chinese Checkers board. Is this the start of a new collection?

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Vintage felt pennants from Bragg & Bee. I had to buy that one on top.

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Put a bird on it. A bowlful of cute and kitschy buttons!

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A good selection of vintage clothes for the vintage clothes horse (or human) from MaPtiteChouette

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I’m not sure what that wheel does, but it looks exciting.

Custom signs

Signs made out of reclaimed lumber and licence plates available from Fair Judy’s.

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Beautiful terrariums from crown flora studio

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With all my purchases and ready to head home.

Special “not so fast!” coda: We bought a few things I didn’t photograph until later:

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A bit of beach in a bottle. Blue tinted Crown jars for a friend.

Kitschy mushroom needlepoint

My kitschy toadstool needlepoint. The frame is good, and the mushrooms are very mushroomy. A small piece to inject some cozy into a corner of the house.

Arcade marquees

Plexiglass Marquees from old “Growl” and “Circus Charlie” arcade machines. Cool things to put on a wall and way easier to collect and display than the actual machines.

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I picked out this Growl marquee based purely on the image. The lions and text are great. Apparently the game’s plot is about a man saving wild animals from evil poachers. A very special added bonus is that it looks like the hero isn’t wearing pants.

Until next time, Leslieville!

Antique World and Flea Market

Antique World sign
Last month Anson and I visited the Antique World and Flea Market in Clarence, New York. This well established picking destination is composed of multiple group shops, storage unit stalls, and a sprawling flea market every Sunday year round. Clarence is a short drive over the US border (crossing at Niagara Falls), so we figured it would be a great destination on a beautiful summer weekend.

The first thing I learned during my visit is to ARRIVE EARLY. We woke up a little late, but we only stopped at the border and for the obligatory road trip Egg McMuffin, and arrived around 11:00am. I felt we made good time but it was obvious we were still late for the flea market. Many of the tables were packing up, and empty spots were evidence that some had already left. I spoke to a dealer who told me that in the summer the action starts at 7am if not before, and that the first few hours are swarmed with buyers. He suggested I arrive no later than 7:30 for a good selection. Fair enough. Any show is the same – early bird gets the worm.

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It didn’t help matters that this was also shaping up to be one of the hottest days of the year! As it got close to noon it became almost unbearable in the full sun. We found what was left of the flea market pretty uninteresting but there were enough almost promising things that I think you could find some treasures if you came early. I did see a fair selection of toys, housewares, old postcards, jewellery, and collectibles like baseball cards. Nothing really for us, though, so we moved to the adjacent Co-op buildings.

The Co-op buildings have storage units along the exterior walls. These rectangular, windowless units are rented as selling spaces or storage. It’s a pretty good idea because sellers don’t have the hassle of packing up when it’s time to leave. The downside is that if it’s a ridiculously hot day you are confined inside a small, airless tomb. Thankfully, within five minutes of looking I saw something – Vernonware in Tam O’Shanter pattern! A whole pile of it! AND it was on sale. I was able to pick up all the following pieces (with egg cup!) for around $40. I usually buy my vintage Vernonware online and shipping is a huge extra cost. You can pay, like, $10 for the piece and $25 for shipping to Canada. I felt like the trip was already worth it as I put my first purchase in the car.

Vernonware Tam O'Shanter dishes

I literally squealed with delight when I saw this on the bottom of a dusty shelf

The few storage booths that were open had a decent assortment of stuff, as long as you weren’t looking for very old antiques. There were a lot of vintage housewares and decorative items. Used books and clothing. A few guys had a “man cave” (the term really fits when it’s a dark tunnel full of neon beer signs). Other booths had new home items like scented candles and tole painted “Bless this Mess” signs. In one booth that had largely automotive items I found a set of 1970s glasses featuring Archie comics characters. I love Archie comics as much as Jughead loves hamburgers so the glasses were the next things to come home with me.

One of the storage units

China, glass & housewares in one of the storage booths

It was time to hit the buildings. The buildings at Antique World are probably where you will find the higher end stock, and the quality (and price) varies for each building. The Expo Center is good for vintage and less expensive items. One large area is set up in traditional booths, and the other large area has rows of display cases. This building had lots of items in the $20 – $100 range. I saw great vintage Sci-fi paperback novels, sports cards, kitchenware, small furniture, and comic books.  I also finally found a classic McCoy “Arcature” planter with bird, and Vernonware tumblers!

Comic books for sale

Vintage Business pens

Anson is a big fan of vintage business pens. At $1 each, they were an easy buy!

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Cabin Ashtray

We walked across the giant parking lot to the Indoor Flea Market building next. This building has, as the name implies, a hodge podge of different items. There was furniture in every style from Victorian, to turn of the century farmhouse, to 1980s bamboo. Smalls like textiles, kitchenware, holiday decorations, and toys were common. One dealer had a large selection of records and musical paraphernalia. I found a few items, including a vintage tea towel featuring a Caribbean theme with original tags. If there is one thing I love, it’s a tea towel that brings the fiesta to the kitchen.

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Vintage Kitchenware

Christmas decorations

How adorable are these little houses? I was tempted to buy them all.

The third building we visited was Uncle Sam’s Antique Co-op. This is a great mid range building with some surprises for the collector. One booth featured the best selection of vintage linens I’ve seen for a long time. Another had a terrific assortment of 1950s/60s Jadeite kitchenware. I saw vintage Halloween and Christmas decorations (picked up some Shiny Brites for $2 – $3 each), old Barbie dolls, lamps and even large pieces of furniture. Uncle Sam’s hit the sweet spot for my taste and budget. It felt like the dealers set up here had well-developed stock in their areas.

Vintage Halloween decorations

Jadeite

Shiny Brites

The last buildings we visited were 3 Old Dogs Antiques, and The Premier Antique Center. 3 Dogs had good quality primitive furniture, antique train sets, folk art and some nicely framed artwork and advertising. It is a very nice shop with good antiques. The Premier Antique Center is a group shop that had a likewise high class of antique. This large shop had chandeliers, fine furniture, and display cases with delicate porcelain – everything you think of when you think classic antique shop. It was nice to browse but we didn’t buy anything.

booth

Finally, after five hours, it was time to call it a day and go home. There were buildings we didn’t even have time to visit! I will say this for Antique World, it’s big. It seems hard to believe anyone couldn’t find at least something to buy. Between the deals at the flea market, to the mid range booths and high-end shops, there’s something for everyone.

If you plan to go, remember to get there early if you want to see the flea market. The flea market operates every Sunday year round, with extra large (and popular) flea markets the 1st Sunday of the month from May to October. The buildings are open every day of the week except Wednesday. 

It’s bragging time! Check out the haul from our first trip to Antique World:

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Vernonware tumblers - Homespun Pattern

Vintage Caribbean tea towel

Hola!

Vintage Aluminum Tumblers

“Royal Sealy” aluminum tumblers in nearly new condition? Yes please!

Vintage tea towel

Finally a tea towel for all the Irish Jockey enthusiasts

McCoy 3 Lily planter

Classic vintage McCoy planter in the Three Lily design

The Ups and Downs of Buying Antiques

I am a big believer in everyone buying antiques and vintage, but sometimes I forget how intimidating it can be to make a purchase when you’re out of your comfort zone. I have my background growing up in the business, but that doesn’t mean I’m immune to uncertainty and faults in my own judgement. It can be scary so I thought it might help other new collectors if I shared a recent buying story. It turned out great in the end, but I went a little wacky before I found my happy place.

A few weeks ago Anson (my husband) and I went to the Sunday Antique Market in Toronto. It’s a large market with dealers set up inside and out. The packed area offers a great assortment of decorative and housewares items, jewelery, collectibles, art and small antique furniture. Anson and I had each happily bought small items and we were getting ready to leave when I spied a round bamboo shelf near the doors. My first reaction was to smile because the shelf looked to me like pure vintage Tiki. Round with asymmetrical platforms, sitting around 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide, it felt like something out of the 1960s or 70s. I could see it gracing a rec room along with a couch in a tropical print and a hifi stereo. This is what happens when you buy old stuff, by the way, your imagination takes over. Removed from a defined setting, antiques become curiosities in themselves, and you fill in the blanks (right or wrong) of the item’s story.

Anyway, to my surprise Anson was not opposed to checking out the shelf in more detail. So we went up and took a closer look. The price was $125. Hmm. Not an easy bit of cash to drop on something I wasn’t sure about. A man approached us and began to tell us about the piece. He told us the shelf was not from the mid 20th century, but much earlier. He though it was Victorian (late 1800s) and he made reference to the burnt finish as proof. He said the shelf was all notched construction without the use of nails. Finally, he lowered the price to $110. Now, all of a sudden, it was exciting to think we could own this marvelous piece. Victorian bamboo! Isn’t that really collectible? The rush of emotion was saying “I must have this” and it felt good. Looking at Anson, I could see he felt the same way. We paid the man, shook his hand, and carried the shelf to our car.

In the ten minutes it took to carry the shelf to the car I experienced my first taste of bitter suspicion. The shelf was solid, yes, but some of the bamboo was cracked. Why hadn’t I seen that? There were not nails but large screws helping hold the bottom construction together. And what about the style? I knew this looked a lot more 1960s than Victorian. Or did I know that? My mood crashed as I tried to reconcile what I was now suspecting with what I had believed only moments earlier. Was it even old? I did a Google search on my phone and found a warning about fake and newly made bamboo being sold as Victorian.

Had I been bamboozled?!

Even thinking of that pun could not lift my spirits! The money wasn’t even the point – my pride was hurt. I was certain the man who sold me the shelf thought he was telling us the truth. But was it the truth? The whole ride home I was voicing my concerns and bouncing between opinions. I decided the shelf was not new – it was too well made and the finish looked old. But questions remained. After much comforting Anson finally asked “do you still like it?”. Yes, I answered. “Then it’s worth it!” he said. Anson had a clarity I lacked. Yes, I did like it. Yes, I liked it even if it wasn’t Victorian. Yes. Okay.

When I got home I took a few photos and phoned my parents for some quick feedback. They liked the shelf although it was not really to their taste. They thought it probably wasn’t Victorian but maybe from the 1940s to coincide with that time’s heightened interest in “Oriental” design. I confirmed it was solid and not missing any pieces that I could see. Finally we agreed it was just my style and really, what can you buy nowadays with $100? They thought it was a good buy, Anson thought it was a good buy, and now I did too.

I put the shelf on an antique cupboard in our dining room and put some of my McCoy pottery on it. I had bought the piece specifically to display the pottery and I was happy to see it suited my vintage planters nicely. So in the space of a few hours the saga of the bamboo shelf had finally come to an end. In that time I had gone from the rush of love at first sight, to the lows of suspicion and fear, and then back up to contentment. Kind of a crazy amount of emotion for a shopping trip, but also probably normal for a less experienced buyer like me. I still don’t know for sure when the shelf was made, but that’s sometimes the reality of buying antiques. I know it’s well made, and most importantly I know I like it. Every buyer has to take a leap of faith sometimes (no one – buyer or seller – can be an expert on everything), but if you buy what you love you will not regret it.

Now to see what all the fuss was about! Here’s the shelf:

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