Tuesday, June 30, 2009

How I missed out on a pair of Bertoia chairs because I hit the snooze button

Saturday morning I dragged myself out of bed at 6:45 (unheard of!) to head down to an estate sale in Westport, CT. I'd never been to an estate sale before, but this one looked especially good. The former resident was an artist, and in addition to many (accordingly priced) paintings, sculptures, and photographs, she had amassed a huge collection of midcentury furniture, art books, knick knacks, and sewing and embroidery supplies. They were advertising a pair of Bertoia wire chairs, and while they looked a little beat (like everything else in the house), I was up to the challenge of repairing them if the price was right.

I had intended on arriving at 8 a.m. (the official start time) but didn't actually stroll up until around 8:20--only to see the coveted chairs being carried off by someone else. I was so mad I wanted to leave right then. But luckily, I did not.

While they took the time to price the high-end stuff (the jewelry, the art, the furniture), they didn't care too much about the mountain of books and craft supplies that I carried out--they charged me $18 for everything! I love estate sales!

I picked up a few practical items: a yard stick, embroidery hoop, and needle nosed pliers.

Airmail envelopes, greeting card bearing the message "Joyful New Year 1927", and a shear sharpener in its original packaging.

The mountain of books.

Here we have a typography book, The Human Figure in Motion (on Eadweard Muybridge), Abbie Hoffman's Revolution for the Hell of It, a guide to letterpress and lithography, and a museum catalog on Marcel Duchamp.

I don't know that I'll use the letterpress and lithography guide but I love the illustrations contained within.

I picked up a few paperbacks: Alice's Adventures Underground (which apparently is a facsimile of the manuscript that developed into Alice's Adventures in Wonderland), Lord of the Flies, The Art of Aubrey Beardsley (I can't believe I got this one for the equivalent of pennies--it's a leatherbound book published in 1918), Flatland, Other Voices Other Rooms, and Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.

Almost forgot about this French pamphlet of the works of Paul Klee.

On the way out I grabbed this little sculpture of a bull (it was only ten bucks--as Dave said as we were leaving, next thing you know it'll turn out to be made by Picasso or something).

After I got home I looked up Mary Oppenheimer, the woman to whom all of this amazing stuff once belonged, and to my surprise found that she was only 60 years old. I had been picturing a 90 year old lady who'd had most of this stuff for years, but maybe she was just a flea market shopper too. Everything in the house looked to be more more than 30 years old, down to the spools of thread.

While I was happy to leave with my little treasure trove, I couldn't help feeling a tinge of sadness at the fact that this poor woman spent a lifetime collecting and amassing so many amazing things (which, while they did not look well cared for, I'm sure she cared about them), only to die and have a hoard of strangers ransacking her home two months later. By the time I left (around 10:00) there were books strewn all over the floor and dishes were broken (or at least that's what the crash I heard from a few rooms away sounded like). It was a little heartbreaking--but despite those qualms, I think I've found a new thrifting source.

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