Monday, July 18, 2022

Antiquing: Toby Character Mugs


Toby Character Mugs

It's summer! What better time to spend wandering around local Antique stores to stir up the dust and take advantage of summer sales. In each of my three forays last week, I have benefitted from a summer sale. I imagine that sellers are happy to move slow moving inventory so that they can restock their rented stalls in preparation of the Autumn season, which, I imagine, is the busy season for these shops. I may be wrong, but in my experience, the shops, no matter how small, decorate for the holidays and host celebratory events.

This shop, Three Sisters in Blue Island IL, is one that I had never visited. When I first walked in, I thought to to myself, there's nothing here for me. But that feeling never deters me from the browse. I usually have something in mind that I'm looking for like a shelf for some curiosities that I purchased at another shop. I went to the basement first, my least favorite level of a shop typically, but I found something. And a shop worker happily took it off my hands to put up at the check out desk. On the main floor, I found that the shop was buzzing. It had a great vibe, the employees were friendly, and I found that they had to keep taking things from me so that I could continue shopping hands free.

At the end of the visit, I found the Toby Character Mugs. I didn't know that is what they are called, even though I have seen them before, until I checked out and the woman at the register told me that she had a collection of them in excess of 500. Goodness! What does she do with all of them? I have many collections, but I never stay with one too long as too much of a good thing can indeed be too much. And these little mugs aren't something that I would ever have looked at before. I've encountered them plenty in my travels, particularly in Great Britain. They just haven't been my thing. But then I thought ... a recent trend that I have resisted are the women's head planters. They are everywhere ... from Home Depot to Anthropology. And I've had my hand on one or two, but no!  I don't need one.

And then I saw these little guys. The shop keeper who owns 500 of them told me that they originated in the 18th Century. In a cursory search, I found that they were named for a man,Toby Fillpot, for he drank 2,000 pints of ale. Goodness. I imagine that some of these hold tremendous value, but the ones I picked up, on sale for 20% off, ran from $5-10. And it occurred to me that they would make perfect succulent planters. I've been working on my plant game. It's not been easy as my home tends to the dark, so I have to find plants that can tolerate low-light. In the kitchen, at the window, I have had success in planting succulents. The arrangement of this and that on the window sill probably needed some attention as I looked at these jugs and so bought them.

I wasn't wrong. The Toby Mugs make for perfect 'head' planters that are different than norm. And I'm happy with the purchase and the repurpose of these little treasures.

Toby Mugs with succulent plants.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Antiquing: Someone Else's Treasures Make for Great Finds

For as long as I can remember, I have been an avid antiquer. My first experiences of going into a store to peruse a collection of someone else's things may have been when we would drive to Sioux City, Iowa to visit my grandmother and also to my Aunt's in Nebraska, who lived on a farm. These ladies loved to visit the local Goodwill Stores to pick up affordable household items and books. I found in my first forays into those stores that I could afford to buy a few of the treasures with my very limited budget of a couple of bucks. 

Another event in my life that very well may have contributed to this hobby was the death of my paternal grandmother, Anne. Where I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, my grandmother lived, alone, in the heart of it. We didn't visit here there often, but when we did, the setting was very exotic to my younger self. The apartment was only a studio, but the furnishings were some that I hadn't ever seen before. She had gold metal shelves that were lined with mostly hardcover books that I imagined that I would like to read. Her bed, which was in the main room, was made to look like a sofa. And in a corner of that same room, an easel stood and canvases leaned against the wall that she herself had painted. Grandma Anne died when I was 17 years old. I'm not so sure that her life had become what it was meant to have in her estimation. Her death, I think, was of disappointment more than the cancer that spread through her body. My father was her only child, so her possessions were all dutifully packed up by my mother and brought to our house. Each box held a new treasure to behold. Most of the clothing, my mother put in her closet and used for a new job that she had started as we went off to college. But one wouldn't have been appropriate for the workplace, a pale blue satin dressing gown. When I would put it on, it would transport me back to a time when I suppose that she herself wore it in a glamorous setting. At 17, I didn't have any glamours occasions to wear it, so I would wear it to the local teen disco night. I loved to dance and the disco gave me the floor to live out my love of beats and movement. The gown knew how to move as well. We made a great pair. To this day, I still have a lot of the jewelry that she had left behind. Most of it was costume, but good costume that was made in an earlier time. I visited an antique store in California a few years ago and saw that the shop keeper has used vintage, costume jewelry to decorate a tree shaped styrofoam cone. I borrowed that idea and at Christmas bring out several trees bedazzled with Grandma Anne's jewelry to decorate for the holiday. 

In college, I was great friends with someone who also loved to spend the day browsing through other people's cast offs. When he left the Midwest to return to his home in the East, I would visit. There, the antique shops were full of items different from what I was used to discovering. He collected all sorts of sea fearing items like boat flags, buoys, and light house remnants. We spent hours and days going from one warehouse to the next along the water. Then he made some serious money in software design and bought a beautiful house. For the first time, we would crawl through serious antique stores looking at French antique chairs and tables. These items were all well beyond my budget, even now, but it was wonderful imagining who owned them a century before.

Now what to call what it is that I like do. I've always called it antiquing. I expect to find stores or markets full of 'things' that are old. Anymore, the term 'vintage' is used and that they are, however, I'm not inclined to say 'vintaging.' Another term bandied about is 'thrift.' But when I think of a thrift store, I'm more inclined to think of clothing not household items. And as much I love to buy a trinket, I'm not one for buying clothing second hand. For one, I find the sizing to be small. And another, as I worked in retail for ten years at an high end department store, I like my clothing fresh off of the rack ... the clearance rack of course, but brand new none the same. But that is for another sort of post. I'm going to stick with antiquing. And in a new vain of posts, I'll talk to what I've found out on that road. As I look around my house, I have many collections of items and some furniture that I've found in my search. And now that I've been doing this for a few decades, I'm beginning to find a story of what is to be found and what has gone away.