To Find, To Have and To Give Away

These days I have begun to separate my life into two separate eras which I call BE and AE, “before eBay” and “after eBay.”  How could there have been so many things in the world which I never knew that I wanted?  I think back to the early days of my marriage, when my husband and I lived in a 1400 sq ft Victorian “doll house” with wide board pine floors and a pitched roof and wonder how I managed to live without so many “accessories?”   It wasn’t until we moved to California, and bought a Spanish style home with very large rooms (“Honey, I shrunk the furniture!”) that the woman who owned the store where I bought my new furniture declared, “Now all you need to do is accessorize!”   And so I did.  Ebay became the source of my many so called “accessories,” previously known to the world of interior design by the Yiddish word “tchotchkes.”  Who knew that thistle themed items could be so attractive, and yet so ubiquitous?

The upside of eBay is that after a while you get to know who the best sellers are.  Everyone makes mistakes at first—I remember the alligator skin antique doctor’s bag which looked SO good in the pictures, but smelled SO bad when it arrived that it went straight into the outdoor dumpster by the barn, usually reserved for horse manure.  Sometimes antiques are charming and full of character.  But sometimes they are just plain old and smelly.  When I got my first deerhound many years ago, I became interested in all things Scottish, and discovered that Queen Victoria of England, was similarly enchanted with Scotland, where the royal family still maintains Balmoral Castle. In the mid to late 19th century, Scottish “pebble” jewelry became immensely popular, formed from polished agate typically surrounding a faceted cairngorm, a type of quartz mined in the Cairngorm mountains.  Brooches of this design, especially the larger ones, were commonly used on kilts, particularly to fasten the shawl or upper portion of the kilt known as the “plaid.”  In addition to beautiful rocks, Victoria also loved dogs and children, in that order– the phrase “children should be seen and not heard” is attributed to her reign. Portraits and etchings of the dog breeds she loved, including the deerhound, abound from that era.  And judging from the walls of my home, I seem to have located most of them!

For the past several years, I have put on an auction to help raise money for our West coast Scottish deerhound club.  The money raised helps us put on our annual regional show and allows us to subsidize our traditional after show dinner.  This year I did it for the National show as well.  I have discovered that my enthusiasm for Scottish and Victorian artifacts is transferable.  I mean, who DOESN’T want to picture themselves as a wild red haired Scottish lassie dancing around the May pole in the rain, or a strong handsome barrel chested kilted lad leaning against the standing stones of remote mountains?  And if you haven’t ever thought of it, tune in to the upcoming new Starz series “Outlander” and you too will be longing for a kilted man, pebble brooches, thistle emblazoned artifacts and an antique etching or two. I have begun to give away some of my collection so that others can share the romance of the Highlands.  Join us and share the fantasy—the best is yet to come.  And by the way, a deerhound puppy is a prerequisite, ye lairds and ladies!

Mel’s Posh Junk

With apologies to any of the really nice people who live in Aspen, Colorado

I admit it—I have a little bit of an eBay habit.  May I be permitted to say that cruising eBay helps me relax after a long day at the office?  I have all my favorite searches set to notify me if one of my desired tchotchkes suddenly comes up for sale, and I have my favorite sellers marked.  One of them, a dealer from the UK, calls himself “Mel’s Posh Junk.”  I love that, since both my father and my stepdaughter are named Mel.  I’ve bought more than a few items from Mel’s junkyard, which seems to be a jewelry shop specializing in Victorian and Edwardian costume jewelry. Queen Victoria had nothing on me when it comes to gaudy brooches from the Scottish hinterlands.

This past weekend, I was tasked with traveling back to Colorado to make a disposition on the contents of my father’s townhome in Snowmass.  I love Aspen and Snowmass in the summer, when the lupines and Indian paintbrush dot the hills in front of the Maroon Bells.  I can remember some lovely trail rides from the T Lazy 7 Ranch and Brush Creek Outfitters.  I also remember taking a summer ride in the high speed gondola up Aspen Mountain, affectionately known as Ajax.  I was so dizzy from the added height and movement of the gondola up over 11,000 feet that I insisted on crawling down the mountain.  Literally crawling, on my hands and knees, all the way down.  I do not like heights.  Or icy cold.  Or falling down.  Hence, I am not nor will I ever be a skier. But that is another story.

Dad is here in San Diego now, and the sale of the condo closes in two weeks, and it was time to decide what was going where.  He decided to buy new furniture here, scaled to his smaller apartment rather than move the grander furnishings of the place there.  My chief mission was to get his art moved.  An artist himself, he has been a collector all his life, and the paintings that hung on the walls in Colorado are his most treasured possessions.  But what to do with the furniture, and the rather impressive contents of my mother’s closet?  I called ahead to several consignment shops in the area.  The first woman, from Aspen proper, came through with the realtor days before I got there.  With one dismissive wave of her well-manicured hand, she declared, “I can’t use ANY of this.  It’s SO very DATED.”  I decided to move “down valley”, as the natives say.  I figured that surely the good people of El Jebel, Basalt and Carbondale could use a living room and two bedrooms full of high end furniture.  I figured wrong.  The lady from Basalt was equally dismissive.  She walked the floors solemnly, proclaiming that no, she couldn’t sell this, or that, or even those.  Until she stopped at the table where I had placed my mother’s silver and antique Limoges for safe packing.  She said, “I’ll take THOSE.”  I said, “No, I don’t think so.”

On Saturday, my friend who had met me in Snowmass with her cargo van to transport the art, and I painstakingly went through my mother’s clothing.  She was a petite woman, barely 100 pounds.  Unfortunately for me, I cannot wear a size 4.  But she had exquisite taste, and a penchant for fancy labels.  We loaded the truck full of Burberry, and Ralph Lauren, and St. Johns, and cashmeres from Sak’s Fifth Avenue and leather jackets custom made in Italy.  We drove to the second hand store in Basalt where the proprietor could not be bothered to even direct us where to park, or help us unload the van. She took one disdainful look at the offerings, and said, “Most of this stuff will go directly to charity.”

My friend and I made the 960 mile drive back safely from Colorado in 16 hours on Sunday.  We did not want to stay overnight on the road with our precious cargo of Dad’s art, and Mom’s antiques. On Monday, Hector from Habitat for Humanity will pick up the contents of my parents’ 3000 square foot condominium.  I am quite certain that Habitat will find folk who are thrilled to have down stuffed couches in perfect condition, and sleeper sofas, and beautiful lamps, and my father’s custom made walnut desk and file cabinets. I am happy about that, because I want people who appreciate quality and construction to have the furniture.  I guess that Mel’s posh junk just wasn’t posh enough for Aspen.  Oh well!