Friday, February 10, 2012

Singing My Song

So . . . 
I was travelling cross country on a buying trip recently,
and searching for some exciting old items that would
energize my customers when they came into the shop.

There's not a lot "new" in the antiques world . . .
(no pun intended)
but our remix of items every few years seems to keep things fresh and happening.

The decorating/antiques/home furnishing biz 
is regularly shaken up and infused with a new perspective from time to time, 
causing us all to have a desire to redecorate or re-theme our homes.

When I began in the 70's we were making our urban and suburban homes mindful of the
 wholesome, self-sustaining world of
 country living.  
We loved the look of a wooden bowl, a rolling pin, an oil lamp, a butter churn . . .

these were the tools we were drawn to 
as we honored our grandparents' pure, simple, lifestyles. 
They bespoke a work ethic born of necessity . . . 
a "get the job done with what you have"

The timeworn look and soft feel of a handcarved clothespin can still turn my head!

By the eighties, I was searching for a fresher, newer look in my shop.
I edged away from the natural oak and maple woods,
and utilitarian kitchen tools,

leaned toward crisp white Victorian linens,
white ironstone,
blue and white hand thrown pottery from local mountain potters,

handwoven oak splint Appalachian baskets,
and what I referred to as 

birds nests, feathers, shells, river rocks, branches in vases . . .

There was a beauty to adding nature to the one of a kind, 
hand thrown jug or hand turned wooden bowl.
I decorated my home with old, scrubbed, Irish pine furniture 
(although no one else seemed to be buying it),
it was plentiful because it hadn't found favor with American buyers yet.

There was an essence of the simple and thoughtful accumulation of meaningful items.
Old World pine, (servants' furniture), was reminiscent of my heritage.

My favorite rugs were creamy white rag rugs made in the south of the scraps the factory workers collected from behind cotton mills.
My perception was that this recycling/upcycling of what was otherwise headed for destruction
was a smart idea.
It was what ingenious and thrifty pioneers had been doing throughout history,
these scraps created a cottage industry for families 
who otherwise would have 
been hungry.

I was usually several steps outside the norm,
(read "odd" )
in my style. . . 
but these rugs became a mainstay in my business at that time.

The nineties brought my excitement with old metal bins and wire baskets
 and factory tables . . .
not immediately of interest to most of my customers,
who simply didn't get it.
I had started swathing my furniture in linen and muslin,
 and cheesecloth made awesome
(cheap) curtains, when I bothered to have curtains.
I was happier draping an ancient tatted-edged table runner over a tree branch
and tucking it above a window for softness
than actually curtaining off the view.

By 2001, I was selling down in Texas at the Round Top Antiques Fair.
I was in the process of collecting furniture and architectural pieces with old white peely paint,
but I just didn't know where to find enough of it to supply the wonderful customers I was selling to.
I began collecting this genre because no one else wanted it, and it was practically free.
"Good" surfaces were expensive and in demand,
and I wasn't able to compete in that market.

So, I began painting reject and hand me down furniture
then sanding it back to look like it had been around forever.
A furniture craftsman shared that he "aged" surfaces by strapping the painted piece to the top of his car, and running it through the car wash repeatedly, until the desired patina was achieved.

My grandmother was dismayed, 
she was busy stripping paint 
old pieces,
liberating the original, beautiful wood
while I was busy slathering paint
 on . . .
but, each to her own.

I was set up at Round Top one spring
 when who should appear in my booth but that well known guru,
Rachael Ashwell, newly of Shabby Chic fame.
She quietly pointed to several pieces of my furniture,
smiled at me, and went on.
Her one assistant wrote a check, and the other loaded up the furniture and carted it off.
(I will probably take that to my grave as one of the highlights of my life.)

OK - Sandra Bullock also purchased an item from me,
 but it's not polite to brag!

Deep inside I have a hunger
 to continue the quest for the next fresh look.
No one knows what will rock our worlds,
but by turns we have evolved through
country, shabby chic, retro, Tuscan, 'frenchy', 
industrial and urban chic.

I'm still travelling
still searching
still longing 
for the sweet, fresh, happy look.

Still singing my song! 


  1. Joy, I loved going on your journey through all of our style phases. I too, collected Irish pine pieces and started living with white, while my friends and family wondered what I was thinking. At this stage in my life, I think I have figured out to live with what I love...what makes my heart sing... and my home reflects me, my interests, and lifestyle.
    Keep rocking our world with your quest and I shall hum along, as you sing your song.xxoo

    1. Mar, Someday we'll have to go onan actual roadtrip together and explore some wonderful resources! What fun that would be . . . I love your style!

  2. Thank you Joy! I think you and I would have a grand adventure in our treasure hunt! xxoo

  3. Hello Joy! I love reading about your past in collecting and selling. And what an honor to sell to Rachel Ashwell. You collect some amazing items and there is no doubt why she would have been interested. Have a great week!



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