Back In the 80’s — during that feminist backlash — career gals (such as my mother & her friends) and women pursuing education for careers (like myself) removed their now defunct ERA buttons and consoled themselves as well as one another with cute pin-back buttons which extolled the virtues of leaving housework behind in the dust.
Two years ago, hubby and went to the junk yard to get replacement doors for our van, Ookla. I was utterly fascinated with the junk yard itself and was almost disappointed when we found the right doors — but the adventure wasn’t quite over yet…
I sat down inside the van, to get out of the hot sun, while Derek went about the business of removing the doors from the junked van; I looked about. Clearly the last owner’s belongings had not been cleared out of the vehicle. Paper and trash were strewn about, but then there it was — a Playboy magazine. Water-damaged and smelling of mildew, but there it was, right next to a bottle of Axe body spray. Does it get any more kitsch than that?!
(Now, before I go any further, you should know a bit more about when we went to purchase Ookla, our old conversion van. When the salesman unlocked the vehicle and showed us the spiffy airline lights which ran along the floor and the ceiling, the first thing I said was, “Hey, was porn made in this van?” Both the salesman and Derek blushed. So I’m neither a prude nor surprised that the previous owner of this van was also marked with smut — it just seemed to be a sign that along with make, model and year, these doors were the right match for dear old Ookla.)
But before I could reach for that Playboy, my eye spotted something else…
Yup, that there is a used tampon, folks.
I carefully reached for the Playboy. It was only the cover and badly damaged — but where there’s a cover… So I kept looking about, being very careful where I put any part of myself, least I find another tampon. Or worse.
Next, I spotted a notebook with a fancy silver foil cover. Only the first page was written on — a cheap attempt at fantasy fiction, with the main character discovering a magical notebook with a silver cover. (Yeah, I took that home for giggles later.)
I then found a bill for the van’s last oil change, paid for in 2005; been sitting here awhile, I guess.
I eventually found the insides of the Playboy and I put them with the magazine cover pages and the silver notebook just as Derek called for my help to hold the doors while he took out the last bolts.
I got out of the van, headed to the back. Standing there, just holding the doors, I scanned the insides of the van from this new angle. Immediately I note Star Wars light saber boxes — not one, but two of them. If the amateur sci-fi-slash-fantasy-fiction and Axe wasn’t proof enough of an under-sexed goober, the Star Wars weaponry was. This van was owned by a nerd. A nerd who, according to the oil change bill, had the first name of Jim.
Then I spy something else…
“Hey, Derek, what’s that by your foot?”
“What’s that black thing by your foot?”
“I dunno. Let’s get this door off…”
We set the door down and I go to get a closer look at the black thing which was by his foot. It’s a bit of fabric… After the tampon, you’d think I’d be leery, but I had to know what it was, so I cautiously picked it up.
In my hand I then held one very small pair of black nylon panties, bikini style — with lots of lace. I should’ve dropped them like they were on fire, but they were very, very clean looking. I started laughing.
Oh my God, it looks like Jimmy had himself a woman. At least once. A light-saber-playing, small-black-panty-wearing, menstruating, Playboy-accepting woman who could tolerate the smell of Axe.
There’s someone for everyone.
This vintage hand painted wooden napkin holder was a $1 find at the thrift store (I think; the sticker tags can be deceptive). I was drawn to her sweet simple face and those blonde curls beneath her red cap.
Not needing another napkin holder, I’ve turned her into a memo holder. Stuffing my writing and blogging ideas into her head, I hope, keeps my own head more organized.
If you’re looking for a way to hide your enthusiasm, get this spectacular 1950’s chrome lighter:
(It’s a little thin, but it is 7 inches long — and it gets too hot to handle.)
OK, so we didn’t make a lot of money at our rummage sale this year — but we did empty our house of a lot of clutter. However, I did keep a few things that my mother had sent over for the sale. (Since she said we could keep the profits & dump whatever didn’t sell, I figured she wouldn’t mind.) One of the items I opted to keep is this odd, badly chipped, vintage painted wooden man.
I had dubbed him “the little German gnomish guy.” I can’t say why… due to his red-dotted mushroom cap hat, basket full of mushrooms and handful of pine cones he could be Swiss or Austrian or some other European dude.
Anyway, we had set him out for sale for a whopping 50 cents — and still couldn’t sell him. Maybe because we didn’t know what he was. Other than “odd,” I mean.
People picked him up. A lot.
In case you aren’t familiar with having yard sales, or selling at flea markets, etc., there’s always a “little German gnomish guy” at every sale. One object that, for whatever reason, is continually picked up, asked about, but doesn’t sell. At least not for a very long time. It’s not because it’s too highly priced (this guy was only 50 cents), but because he’s unusual enough to beckon and yet too unusual for a person to justify “needing” it, especially if no one knows exactly what it is. This item is dubbed the “it” or conversation piece of the sale. (Former public sale mystery “it” items have included an antique metal buckled leather loop for some sort of horse-pulling harness-esque thing and a vintage hand-held lemon press.)
When it became obvious the little German gnomish guy was the “it” piece for this sale, we let him lure people over with his paint-chipped vintage charm and start the conversation ourselves with a, “We don’t know what he is, besides ‘vintage’ and ‘shabby gnome chic’… Do you know what he is?”
Eventually, as usual with these “it” items, a person came along who knew what the shabby chic wooden guy was: an incense burner. You set his open bottom over a burning cone of incense and the smoke wafts up & out through his little ‘O’ of a mouth, like he’s smoking.
Once this discovery was made, we slapped our heads like we could have had V-8s. Then I shuttled him the house to show the kids. “Oooooh, can we keep him?” Of course we were keeping him; we’d have to try him at least once, right?
Even if the stem of his pipe is stuck in his throat like some twisted moral interpretation of “smoking kills.”
Shopping in an antique mall, there are many charming things to distract one from one’s mission — if one had a mission. Which I usually don’t. I just let serendipity direct me in the real world (while online, libraries, etc., are for dedicated, obsessive, researching). So I walk along, taking as much as I can in with my eyes until I spy something…
Can you guess what I spotted?
Here, I’ll narrow it down for you:
Out of all the adorable items to charm the pants off a person, I selected the 2 inch high figurine now dubbed Mr. Yellow Yarn Ears.
(At just $3.50, he could have been a Cheap Thrills Thursday — but I’m pretty sure I can find something else for tomorrow lol)
He now sits with my “Vintage Ceramic Figurines With Fur Applique” collection — even if (I’m pretty darn sure) his ears are made of yarn. Though, I must admit, I’m completely willing (and capable) of starting a collection of animal figurines with yarn ears. So who knows?
In this photo taken by John Loengard in 1967, Georgia O’Keeffe holds her favorite stone — that’s a pet rock, nearly a decade before Gary Dahl launched his pet rocks at a gift show in San Francisco in August of ’75 and started the craze.
About as classic 70’s as you can get: a cookie jar with orange mushrooms.
I often spot these vintage Asian themed pottery pieces in antique malls, flea markets, garage sales, etc.– I mean literally this same TV planter. (Of course, when I go to search for them online, no luck. But then, in my defense, there are plenty of words one can use to describe them.) Anyway, because I really do see them often, when I spotted this ad in a copy of The Workbasket from the 1950’s (July, 1952, if memory serves), I had to scan it and share it.
A few things to notice:
* The color “Chinese red” is not capitalized.
* The planters were sold, among other options, as decor to set on top of your TV.
* The pair of “hand painted figurines in matching or contrasting colors” were sold separately — sometimes you will find these have survived without the wooden planter and they will be sold, individually or in pairs, as shelf-sitters. (They also may have been sold independently too.) The pair of figurines were less expensive than the “etched hardwood” planter in “rich hand painted finish.”
For every bit of useful information (research help, household tips & recipes), there is the moment of shocking disgust that even though you already knew of its existence (or at least expected to find something like that there) results in the auditory combination of frontal forehead slap and an “arg!”
This sport has become quite popular, even among the non-collecting set, who have exploited the kitsch of yesteryear & reclaimed it in the names of feminism and/or capitalism, spawning a bajillion blogs and inspiring Anne Taintor, among others.
Derogatory statements & words (like the B-word, bitch) were often reclaimed by women, much like the N-word; only we women could use those words, label one another & our products with them.
Obviously, sometimes, it was pure capitalism. Perhaps even with a pinch of misogyny — or at least irony — as it was men like Ed Polish & Darren Wotz who really capitalized on women’s mockery of their own history by selling them bold & defiant sayings juxtaposed with domesticated retro images of women.
At some point whatever genuine interest there may have been in giving females a hearty last laugh at female history was perverted into a glut of raunchy retro styled products which twisted & sometimes down-right confused sexism with sexy. At first, it felt only natural to mock & rebel against the ridiculous notion of woman as virgin & then (married) mother — with never a thought to her own pleasure or desires.
So, much like the B-word, we took over the S-word, co-opting it for our own use, putting “slut” on a slew of merchandise.
Bur then we went too far, I think, including putting “slut” on clothing for kids. *gasp* (No, I won’t link to or promote any of that.)
Products such as Bitch & Slut Body Detergents are no longer are around (hello, collectible!) — but in the specific case of the body detergents, the problem was with the icky gritty soap, not the packaging. (And it should be noted, in the interests of accuracy and equality, that Mabel’s LaundrOmat also served silly, dirty & derogatory soaps about men too.) However, it seems the company continues to make stereotypical sundries which may chafe & chap those without the ability to laugh at things such as Extra High Maintenance & Extra Dizzy Blond Lip Balm.
Today, it’s difficult to enter a hip gift shop, bookstore, or boutique and not be bombarded with such humorous merch. A lot of it is funny. But some of it seems to actually be reinforcing the old myths & stereotypes. And many of the profits in the process of using humor to free women from the humiliating shackles of the past are lining the pockets of men, not women… Is that really liberating? Or funny?
I wonder about that stuff when I buy it for my collection. Because even while I may be “documenting history” (and modern items are both “today” and “history”), I don’t want to be buying the old party line when I buy my trinkets, you know?
Maybe it’s summer, but you still love your favorite sweater… Take the too-warm sleeves off and turn them into vases, leaving a sleeveless summer sweater for you to more comfortably wear. OK, there’s no use pulling the wool over your eyes, it wasn’t that easy for Alyssa Ettinger to make these Knitware Vases; but it’s the sort of conversation I’d have around these pretty pieces.
Maybe I call her “My Therapy Doll” because I’ve got special needs kids & so I spend a lot of time dealing with therapists; because she’s really a four-sided doll displaying emotions. The printed fabric doll is weighted at the bottom to stand, has straw hair, & felt embellishments to show four emotions, which are named via printing at the bottom so you don’t get confused (which is not an emotion displayed on the retro doll).
Images may not be used without crediting me & linking to this blog.
I am happy today
I am sad today
I am bored today
I am furious today
In which I show you things I got so cheap, it’s embarrassing — for someone other than me. I love my bargains.
This vintage boudoir doll is made from huge (baby diaper sized) safety pins, beads, some wire, and a small vinyl doll head (which reminds me of Dawn Dolls).
No, I won’t take her apart to show you how she’s made — I lurve her. Plus, she was a quarter — and supplies will cost more than that. But if you want the all-expense-paid fun of making one, here are what appear to be the instructions. (Really crafty folk probably guessed all of this anyway.)
Find your own romantic future with Esther Derkx Improved Crockery Teacups featuring retro beefcake and flirty gymnasts posing provocatively in your teacup.
They say you can’t find the answers in the bottom of your beer bottle, but maybe you’ll find the answers you seek when you use this retro Magic 8 Ball barware set. Well, technically the five-piece set is marked “Odd Ball,” but you still get the drift, right?
I have a penchant for odd handmade things found at thrift stores. (In my rationalizing collectors’ mind, I call these things “outsider art” — but I do know better.) So, when I spotted this heavy clay sculpture of a Smurf’s head (clearly made by a child in art class), I gleefully spent the $2.99.
Hubby, who affectionately mocks my weaknesses, wondered what I’d do with it. (You’re supposed to do something with everything you collect?!) I defensively pronounced it would go with my “Easter Island Head.” But once I got it home, I decided my new retro Smurf head would serve a practical purpose holding my glasses.
For equally zany obsessives, I will tell you the Smurf head is approximately 6 inches tall & bears no carved name of the maker or even a date. :(
From the November 19, 1953 issue of The Tatler & Bystander (the weekly from Illustrated Newspapers, LTD., London; not the “News & Gossip About Books” Tatler put out by The Putnam Book Store, New York), a three-page illustrated sketch by Alex Graham with humorous party tips for your Christmas party.
Cop And Robbers
The host suddenly dials 999 and announces that “some joker has snitched his watch.” Anyone who refuses to be searched is called the “thief,” and is “arrested on suspicion” by the police when they arrive. A prize is given for the best solution as to how the “robbery” was effected.
This is a very good game with which to end a successful party…
This is “Pass The Pencil”…
Hunt The Hooch
This is one the boys can play while the ladies are taking off their coats. The host announces he has “lost” a bottle of whisky and the guests are a ‘search party.” The whisky is found in some not-too-difficult place (on the sideboard, for instance) and each member of the “search party” is given a small prize.
Just when you think you understand British humor, then there’s this game, which is a serious game here in the US — it’s even standard at showers, isn’t it?
Can It Be Ethel’s Garter?
Collect a number of small assorted objects (e.g. tap-washer, sprocket-wheel retaining pin, cast-off dentures, rabbit’s skull, bicycle lamp-holder, etc.) and place each in a paper bag. The bags are then passed round, and players have to identify the objects by touch alone.
Small prizes (e.g. tap-washer, sprocket-wheel retaining pin, cast-off dentures, etc.) for fullest correct lists.
“Who’s Got The Towel?”
And my personal favorite…
Where’s Young Simonds And Our Effie?
Two of the youngest guests — a boy and a girl — leave the room, and after half an hour or so, the remainder of the party go to search for them.
Philip Alcabes was on The Daily Show recently promoting his book, Dread: How Fear and Fantasy have Fueled Epidemics from the Black Death to the Avian Flu, and talking about how our fears play a huge part in epidemics — like the recent return of the swine flu. So, with this on my mind, I find Frank DeFreitas’ post on historical hysteria over postal pieces as “carriers” of disease timely and fascinating:
Many letters in the past were opened for fumigation, then closed using sealing wax. The list of diseases that were singled out include plague, yellow fever, typhus fever, cholera and leprosy.
DeFreitas’ post contains many links to suit the most die-hard history detectives (obsessive nerds); I wonder if Alcabes’ book does — and if it even contains the story of disinfected mail?
Deadmark, a little smashed plastic man between your pages, is a creep-tacular way to mark where you left off in the magnificent tome you’ve been reading.
My hubby thinks it’s more emotionally fulfilling than bookishly practical, but for those of us who hate to be interrupted while reading, slap-squishing “Mark” is a tolerable way to vent frustration at having to put our book down.
It’s true; even for a clear rain bonnet with a bit of blue.
(Of course, once you go black…)
Now that I have your attention, I’d like to mention a few other things I found this week…
Two great things that go great together: Matadors & Black Velvet.
Now together again… On clothing? Yes! Check out this vintage 1950’s souvenir skirt, with sparkles even!
You can totes say “Ole!” to the men who charge at you now, and brush them aside with your skirt. Just don’t get any blood or other man-stuff on the skirt though… It isn’t terribly troublesome to get blood of sequins, but it will stop the sparkle until you do.
This inspires me to buy velvet and make my own black velvet painting skirt… But I’ll need to practice painting Elvis first. Ooh, and Jesus too. Maybe I can paint a black velvet skirt with Elvis & Jesus! Of course, I’ll need some nice wooden platforms to go with it.
In contest news, you can bloody Win a Living Dead Jason doll — Signed By Damien Glonek!
1. Given that we’re a site about collecting, we’re looking for the most original concept about what Jason might collect. Please submit your photos, jpegs, videos and pdfs to firstname.lastname@example.org
2. Nothing sexist or racist will be allowed. All entries will be displayed on the site and will become property of Collectorsquest.com
3. Deadline is March 31st. Winner will be selected thereafter
A pair of vintage pets for your walls:
Wouldn’t they be cute holders for your pet’s snacks? At least on the wall, kitty couldn’t get to these by herself!
Up for grabs:
The Jason 3.75 inch Toy Fair 2009 Limited Edition Produced exclusively for the 2009 New York Toy Fair, he comes with his trademark machete and removable Glow In The Dark mask.
Cinema Of Fear Friday the 13th 2009 Remake 7in Figure The legendary slasher of Camp Crystal Lake strikes again in the all new Friday the 13th film. The Jason Voorhees figure is crafted with incredible detail, full articulation, & comes with an array of weapons used in the film.
I can’t win because I’m a staff writer — but there’s no reason why you can’t win! Here’s how to enter the random drawing:
2. Upload a collection and you will receive 5 entries. Present CQ members must upload a new collection for entry.
3. Drawing will be held on March 14th and winner announced thereafter.
(Thursday Thirteen header by Jenn.)
Just 13 things I found shopping online and had to share this Thursday…
1. Time out of whack? Whack it back with this ping pong paddle clock:
2. Ever wonder what your kitchenware does when you’re at work? They play croquet, of course:
3. I just love this vintage watercolor of Browning, Montana’s “Drugstore & Moving Picture House, in the Snow”:
4. Is it just me, or does it look like this retro poodle got drunk on kitty whiskey?
5. Vintage 1940’s porcelain, wood and fabric Carmen Miranda pin:
6. Two great things that go great together: flamingos and black velvet!
7. Because I often write as Pop tart, you know I’m loving this Cherry Pop-Tart Ring:
8. This is a reproduction, but if you love the style of those classic retro heads — authentically colored turquoise, yet — this head’s for you:
9. Cuddle & coo with this retro Dankin Dream Pet poodle:
10. Get a bit of vintage cheesecake for your cupcake:
11. Miss Piggy went to the UK in the 80’s; bring her back.
12. Go nutty with vintage style peanut bags:
13. And what can go better with circus-style peanuts than vintage hot pink clown shoes? Answer: Nothing. Then again, few things do ever trump vintage clown shoes.
This lithograph of Nude, Sleeping by Wolf Kahn was part of The Vincent Price Collection.
No, it’s not like Vincent Price himself owned the nude — but is his selection of the art for a collection to sell at Sears any less creepy?
Yes, you read that right; Vincent Price, the famed B-film master of kitschy horror was selected to head a retail art sales program for Sears.
While we all remember him for his ghoulish yet flamboyant film personae, Price was a Hollywood film star in the 60s when George Struthers, Sears’s vice president of merchandising, came calling — but Price lent more than star-power cache to Sears. Price had been a student at the Courtauld Institute of Art intending to become an art historian when the stage came calling, and while he became one of Hollywood’s biggest stars he was also known world-wide as a passionate art collector, a former art gallery owner, and, having spent a dozen years studying art at Yale and the University of London, an art lecturer.
The art sold wasn’t cheap reproductions — in fact, they weren’t reproductions at all, but original works of art. And Price was no simple pitch-man; he searched throughout the world for fine art for Sears and had the authority to acquire any works he considered worthy, buying single works, whole collections, and commissioning artists, like Salvador Dali, to create works specifically for The Vincent Price Collection at Sears. It’s clear that as an art lover, Price cared about the collection.
You can — and should! — watch this kitsch-tacular instructional film from the 1960s, in which Vincent Price guides Sears Roebuck employees through the art he’s selected for sale in this collection.
The collection had works by artists like Rembrandt, Chagall, Whistler, Picasso and Reginald Pollack.
But not all were the big names in Art with a capital ‘A’ as they are today. And that’s sort of the point of all of this.
Sears-Roebuck had already established a history in selling art; they’d been selling art as early as 1895. But as America entered the 1960’s, the do-it-yourself hobby mentality clashed with this new-fangled art movement called Modern Art. Of the art buying public (i.e. older folks with money to invest), few understood Modern Art; some never accepted it. But most all were intimidated by it… What would be a good investment or at least not be an embarrassing purchase?
Americans who were interested in art had several problems: Knowing what to buy, knowing who to trust to buy it from, and access to purchasing it.
Vincent Price’s role was that of popular art expert; and Sears was the trusted retail outlet you could trust, who brought art to locations throughout America — and at prices folks could afford.
Did it work? You bet! According to Sears, artworks ranged in price from $10 to $3,000 (and customers could also purchase items on an installment plan for as little as $5 down and $5 a month), and that between 1962 when the collection began and its end in 1971, Sears & Price moved over 50,000 pieces of fine art through about a dozen physical locations and Sears catalogs.
Vincent Price’s personal art collection was donated to East Los Angeles College’s Vincent Price Art Museum (VPAM).
The nude art work is part of the American and European Paintings Auction, March 12, 2009 at Cowan’s Auctions.