Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Vintage shopping and tips

By Elizabeth Prata

In the 'fill-a-bag for $5' sale at my favorite vintage store, I came away with some fine purchases.

I sit at my vintage, mid-century Formica and chrome table for most of the day, writing and studying and reading. When I look up from my laptop or my book at the wall in front of me, I want a nice piece of art to look at. I'd had an original piece of art there for many years, which I moved to the bedroom to refresh the different views. It was a painting of the bay of Naples with the volcanoes in the background and a trattoria in the foreground. The piece of art I replaced it with is beautiful (lighthouse on crashing waves seashore) but the proportions were all wrong. The piece was too small. I've been searching for another ever since. I needed big art at a low price. It took a while but I found it.

The poster is on foam of a black and white vintage shot of the Venetian bridge Rialto with a gondola underneath for $3. Sold! The proportions are good and I like the change from my usually colorful art around me to B & W.

A sweet two-tone ivory and creamy yellow teacup went into the bag also. The pottery mark said "Pickard" which was a company I was unfamiliar with. It turns out that the company is a US pottery and china making corporation in continuous production since 1893. They supply the US State Department, Blair House, United Nations, Air Force One, Camp David, Hilton Hotels and many other establishments. Whoa! So cool. The cup is from the mid 1930s and I love it.

This wallet or pouch caught my eye. The red and gold were opulent and I saw that it was well made and in good condition. What could it be?

A score keeping notebook for bridge? In fine Italian paper! Each page displays a different Italian bridge and the pages are edged with the delicate illustration you see below. The cover is soft leather, fine tooled. I'm a sucker for paper. A sale posting for a similar bridge tally notebook reads, "Multicolor & gold Florentine scrollwork. Exquisite color printed graphics. Made in Italy, circa 1960."

The item is most likely from Marcel Shurman. The history of that company goes like this:
Schurman Retail Group was founded by Marcel and Margrit Schurman in 1950. Both European immigrants, they were inspired by a love of fine art and by an appreciation for beautiful, high quality papers and design. They had a vision for bringing a range of products of uncompromising quality to the United States and began importing and wholesaling fine art postcards to fine retailers. Since the early days of the business the company has evolved and in many ways and is now focused in Retail and On-line Brand development. Currently Schurman Retail Group now owns over 300 stores that operate under multiple Brands.
I love paper and especially Italian paper. I was delighted with this find.

I've long wanted to make the front of the apartment look nice, but buying lots of outdoor things can get expensive. So I was happy to find this medium sized birdhouse and the welcome slate, which I popped into the $5 bag.

I already hung the slate up and I'll clean the birdhouse later then put it in the tree.

I am always happy to find usable things that I need and also the charm of the unique finds like the Pickard teacup and the Florentine vintage bridge tally notebook. Sadly, even these minimal purchases will have to come to an end for a while as I have medical bills and vet bills to deal with. Priorities, lol! I know I'll be enjoying these purchases for a long time, and meanwhile, I'm glad there are free libraries around for me to get some more books to borrow! I already got Nathaniel Philbrick's Mayflower which I plan to dig into by the end of the week! Meanwhile I'll be enjoying my past purchases, either using or admiring.

My tips for vintage shopping are:

--Have a list of things if you're shopping for things you need. I had on my list "patio or outdoor items; art for kitchen, mid-century books." (RE the books: not to read, but I want to see the cover design, mid-century books are terrific with the covers and I'd tear them off for use crafting or to simply frame them and hang on the wall.)

It isn't a matter of remembering, since there were only a few things on the list, but holding a list with the items written down sort of confirms and guides me as I tend to get overwhelmed and want to just buy everything. A list forces me to stay the course. (Same for the grocery store).

--Go slow. Vintage shop when you have time. You need to slowly look at everything, sometimes squatting, uncovering a pile, sorting through a box, or just standing still and like an archeologist going grid by grid, look carefully at everything in front of you.

--Understand quality. I don't buy in order to resell, as so many people do. I buy for myself, to use or admire. If you're buying for resale, then knowing quality is important but not the only thing. Resellers have to also know the market, what will sell, and comparable prices.

I like quality, knowing that I possess a nice item. Like the vintage Schurman paper and the Pickard teacup. Does the item look good to you? Feel good in your hand? Will it last? I like knowing that my Pickard Teacup is 80 years old, and there are no chips or cracks in it. Drinking a cup of tea from a chipped and cracked mug is OK, but I also like drinking tea from a cup that feels and looks good as I drink it. Then it becomes a case of not only function but pleasing form and eye-catching beauty. Who doesn't need a little of that in her life?

Happy vintage shopping you guys.

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