February 24, 2011

A Bit of Show and Tell

"You have a story for everything!" said my schoolmate after I finished telling her the tale behind something I was wearing.  I can't remember if it was a piece of jewellery or an item of clothing, but I do remember her comment made me laugh and then pause to acknowledge its truthfulness.

"Yes, I suppose I do," I said.

Even now, many of the objects in my home have a little history, a connection to some small though memorable event, and when I use them my mind will drift back to the time and place when I acquired them.

I remember going into the local Community Services Thrift Shop a few years ago and buying two china cups and saucers, one in pink and one in blue, for my daughters.  I think they were five dollars each.  The volunteer at the counter that day remarked on my desire to collect old things.  She told me her daughter did not want to inherit any of her mother's china or furniture, and preferred everything brand new and to her own taste.  She found that sad, and so did I. But then, I am a collector. 

It was my mother who taught me the phrase 'Waste not, want not.'  She often brought home useful things unwanted by others (and still does!) when I was a child.  She is also an historian and archivist and likes objects rich in history and family connection.  Much of our home was furnished with second-hand items and inherited objects from the homes of my grandparents. I cannot truthfully say that my home is made up of the same; we are outfitted with IKEA pine mainly, and have yet to reach the stage (thankfully) of inheritances - though I do have a few special things from my deceased grandparents.  I have added to these treasures 'finds' from the thrift stores of the various communities in which we have lived.  Not being of the budget to frequent antique shops, I rely on my fairly good eye and my 'Spidey senses' to lead me to hidden treasures in the thrift shops.  Over the years I have been very lucky.  I have a special fondness for vintage dishes and books, but I also keep my eyes open for kitchen items, wool sweaters, and paintings.

Many of the ladies at the local thrift shop know me well.  I go there once a week when time permits, I generally walk or ride my bike, carrying my green backpack.  One elderly lady, who no longer works there apparently took note of my taste in dishes.  One day, when I had only four dollars in my wallet, (they take only cash) I visited the shop when she was working.  She quietly called me over and said, "A nice Wedgewood cream and sugar set came in and so I put it aside for you."  She then took it out and placed it on the counter.  I did like it, and tentatively asked how much it was.  "Would four dollars be fair?  It is Wedgewood."  I thought it would be fair and emptied my wallet.

The pitcher pours perfectly - no drips at all.  I date these from the 1960's.

 Another time I found a wonderful Sadler teapot, which also pours perfectly, unlike my old one, for two dollars.  As I lined up to pay for it, the woman behind me said, "You are walking out with the best deal in here today!"  I liked the teapot because it was just so gloriously 1980's in its graphic black and white colouring and shape.  My son took an immediately liking to it and wants to inherit it.  It is rather masculine in style.

This pitcher I found at the shop one day, and when I looked it up on the internet I was thrilled to find that it was worth over ten times what I paid for it.  However, I would have loved it it any case.  It was made by California's Vernon Kilns and is from Don Blanding's 'Honolulu' series.  To me, the pitcher just shouts 1930's  and the golden age of Hollywood.  I felt very lucky to find it.  Apparently the series was discontinued in 1939.

I have four active children, and dishes get broken from time to time.  A few of my treasures have been broken over the years, which is always very sad but not devastating as I've rarely paid more than five dollars for them and they have no family history.  Besides it gives me an excuse to keep the treasure hunt going.  I do have a deal with my husband, though.  To keep the house from becoming completely cluttered with my findings, I have to purge every once in a while.  It is fair to say we regularly donate as much as we buy from the thrift shop. 

By far, the rarest find in the thrift shop is an original drawing or painting to my taste.  That is not to say the shop isn't filled with framed pictures of all kinds, I just rarely like any of them.  This week I lucked out, however.  After spending the morning working away at various projects I decided to go for a walk in the rare winter sunshine.  I had not been to the thrift shop for a few weeks and as it is at least a half mile from my house I thought it a good destination. I threw on my backpack and ventured out.  Wandering around the shop, visiting the kitchenware room first, then making my way to the back to look at the books and pictures I found, on the floor, leaning against another dusty picture, an oil painting.  I picked it up, studied it, put it back down and walked a few paces away to see how it looked from there.  I took it up to the counter and inquired as to the price.  "Four dollars, all pictures are four dollars today," said Rosie the shop manager.  I decided I liked the painting too much to leave it in the shop, but to walk home with it would be cumbersome.  I was considering whether to ask if they would keep it for me until I could bring my car, when my neighbours who were also in the shop, offered to give me a ride home with my painting.  That in itself was very kind, but the fact that their automobile is a huge diesel monster truck with 'Git 'r done' emblazoned across the back window makes my tale that much more amusing. 

We walked out with our goods to the parking lot.  I went around to the side of the truck.  My neighbour pushed a button and a step unfolded from under the door.  The back seat was at the level of my head and so I hoisted myself up using the step and placed my painting on the leather seat beside me.  My painting and I were carried in style to the tune of 10 miles to the gallon, amid a discussion of what the truck was used for (Search and Rescue missions and hauling their travel trailer).  When I was dropped off at my door I thanked my kind neighbours profusely for the ride home.  The step was unfolded once again, except this time my foot slipped a little on it and I sort of slid unceremoniously out of the truck to the ground far below. 

I hung up my new, four dollar painting straight away.  I loved how my eye was drawn around past the headland to the sunlit hill beyond. It made me think of the book Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. I have no idea who the artist is - a P or D Newton - or where in the world he/she was when he/she painted it, and although I am curious to know the painting's story,  I'm still rather preoccupied with my own story - about how I brought it home.

The frame could use a little work


  1. I'm a bit of a Magpie myself. Books and anything with a pleasing classic design. You know amphorae.
    Are you sure the black and white is 80s, I would have thought 30s/50s. I like that one too.
    Well done on the painting.

  2. i love this kind of shopping. many times i find nothing but memories, but you just never know...

  3. Love those teapots! The painting is definitely worth bringing home, and it's excellent to acquire a little story with it. I agree that items with stories have more value to me, even (especially?) quirky little tales.

    Most of our thrifting here is to keep the teenage boy in vintage suits.


  4. Oh, I am a second hand person as well. I have FEW, VERY, VERY few NEW things in my home. Yet, I like to THINK I have good taste. I love things with a STORY with a rich HISTORY. If I do not know the history first hand I like to fancy up one! ;)

    Lovely teapots and the picture as well!

  5. You do seem to have a good eye! Isn't it fun to discover those little treasures? I also love a good deal.

  6. I love these stories. I hope you write all this little provenances down in a journal somewhere for someday!

    The stories are always the thing for me. I love the emotion and history captured in the cracks and crevices of used goods.

    This was a magical post.

    Thank you for sharing it.

  7. How wonderful to get all these comments today!...

    Vince: You may be right about that teapot. I found one of exactly the same shape and make but without the striping on a vintageware website. I think what is confusing me is that the teapot is in extremely good shape, high gloss, etc so I originally thought it was an 80's item. If you remember, Art deco enjoyed a big revival in the '80's, which is why I dated it then. I will keep hunting for more information! I had to look up amphorae - I like that kind of design too, especially the simple but classically curved design of the Regency period, when Greek design enjoyed a revival of its own! BTW I liked your comment on the Yoga post about each part of the world focusing on a different body part in their dance forms. Great observation :)

    E.P.: "...you never know..." is exactly what keeps me on the treasure hunt!

    Val: Your boy is so cool! My Ian is into shopping for interesting button down shirts - he's getting quite a collection together.

    Diane: I know you love vintage stuff too, so I'm glad you popped by today!

    Jenny: This is my journal these days! And everyone keeps telling me to make a book of my best posts for my family. Someday when I have the time I just might...

  8. Jill: Oops, I missed your comment there...I have seen some of your finds too! It is one of my favourite hobbies, but I don't have as much time for it as I used to. That's probably a good thing :)

  9. smiles. actually i am not usually a fan of shopping but i do like finding odds and ends and good deals...and eclectic things...i like the pic....and i even like the frame with it...

  10. The Antique Road show will be knocking on your door!

  11. You have a great eye for a find and ear for a story. Our charity shops are not nearly as well stocked as the ones I hear about across the Atlantic.

  12. I hope you make it to the Antique Road Show someday and find that you will have to insure that painting for a small fortune. Of course, you may want to sell it instead. I am glad you provided an image of this beautiful painting.

  13. If the Antiques Roadshow ever comes anywhere near me I'll be sure to take some of my things...especially the painting. Thanks :)

  14. Rebecca,

    Okay, I am finally caught up!

    You are such an adventurous sort. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE old things, but I own almost none, except those which I have inherited. Hmm. Maybe I can make a school lesson out of thrift store shopping.

    I think I may agree with Vince on the dating of your black and white pot. I do remember an Art Deco revival in the 80's and this could be a good example, but there is something about that circular finger hook on the lid does not look like an 80's piece. I know absolutely nothing about this, of course. It is just a hunch. My gut says late 1950s.


I'd love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!