Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The junk collector.


A lesson in seeing what others miss.

My great Aunt June describes herself as a "junker."  She regularly scans newspaper ads for local garage sales, barn sales, estate sales and flea markets and then goes hunting for "treasures." Aunt June is my Grandma's younger sister and, like Grandma, has a keen eye for detail, for color and for texture.  She is my mother's favorite Aunt and I can tell why; she's hip.  Whenever I visit her treasure trove, I leave with an appreciation for Aunt June's unique way of seeing the world.

Occasionally, Aunt June's barn becomes too rich with treasures and she has a sale of her own.   I've accumulated some of my most beloved possessions in this way; when I moved into my first house, in college, it was Aunt June who supplied me with the wooden nightstand with a painted rose on top, the antique mirror with gold molding and a set of white eyelet curtains.

Aunt June found herself in the mood to part with some of her findings this September.  The timing was lucky; I had just moved into a larger apartment and needed some things to make it feel like more like home. Needless to say, I made out like a bandit.

Aunt June's treasures:  chairs galore, vintage tins, blue glass, quilts, pottery and dust bins.

I saw many things I envisioned bringing home with me - a man's barbershop shaving kit made of tin, painted white and flecked with rust; I could imagine it retailing for $50 in an East Village boutique.  There were brightly colored aprons from the 50's, cheerfully decked out in gingham and printed flowers - great gifts for a wedding shower or birthday present.  She had rows of mason jars in different sizes and colors - they too are en vouge right now, and can be used to hold flowers, food and candles.  During a recent shopping trip, I saw similiar blue tinted ball jars priced at $20 in the Chicago neighborhood Andersonville.  Aunt June's price ranged between $1 - $5, depending on size.


I was really digging this feather hat, but couldn't make up my mind.  My mother has since informed me that it left with a more decisive buyer. 

Aunt June dispensed background information on all of her junk.  You could tell each piece had earned it's place in her barn through some kind of connection Aunt June had forged with it.  A few were family heirlooms.  A gigantic pair of roughly hewn wooden scissors hanging on the wall were crafted by a distant relative, my aunt informed me.  They were custom-made to remove hot clothes from the laundry basin.

My treasures
Gradually, I honed in on what I wanted and loaded up the car.  The grand total came to $48; I think I may have gotten a family discount as well.  Mom, Grandma and Aunt June were amused at the items I picked out, like this cream colored birdcage and tarnished candelabra.

Despite some initial protests at home over the legitimacy of of my new treasures - What did we need a birdcage for, anyway? - I tried to weave them in with our more contemporary items:

Lace curtains and metal curtain holder for my office.

Barn mirror - my Aunt said this was hanging in the barn for the cows to get a glimpse of themselves.  Now I look in it everyday.  Moo!

Birdcage with no bird.

Fur collar

Duvet cover

Inspired by Aunt June's junk collection, when I got back to Chicago I picked this up for $5: 

It's huuuuge! Push-pin map of the U.S.

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