“Where do you find all this stuff?”

Number two question I get asked at shows. The answers, in order of preference, are:

Flea markets! I love me a flea. It’s the best of all possible junking solutions. It’s not necessarily the cheapest, but here’s why that’s ok. I could spend my every weekend going to all the estate sales in my area in order to acquire for the least possible dollar amount maaaaybe trunkfull of items I might be interested in, or I could let the pickers do it for me, hit them all up in one spot, and pay their (usually) very small markup, which you can negotiate down anyway (you’re not being mean by haggling, pickers expect you to haggle and work it into their price structure because it’s all part of the game at a flea). I consider it a convenience fee and I’m happy to pay it, because I’ll spend less in gas and time, and come out ahead overall. It’s the same reason I’ll go to “hip” second hand stores. Because they’ve done all the legwork of going to every single Goodwill in the city and dug through the piles of polyester and whatnot, to find the cool stuff for me. The prices aren’t that much higher and I only have to go to one place. Plus, some pickers do it for a living, but some do it because they’re born scavengers and it’s a compulsion not unlike popping bubble wrap, and there are enough of those just trying to make back what they spent that you’re gonna get it so cheap it’s practically dumpster diving. They’re in it for the love of the hunt. I can relate.

Estate sales! When someone dies and their family (or whoever, if they have none) doesn’t want to deal with cleaning out their house, they hire a company to catalogue, price and sell everything. Estate sales usually happen Fridays through Sundays. On Friday, you’ll get the best selection of stuff, but the prices are way higher. These companies work on commission, so they’re motivated to get top dollar. On Friday they won’t haggle with you and they won’t give you a bundle deal. On Sunday however, they absolutely will, because it’s their last chance to make any money. On the last day of the estate sale, prices are usually down by 50-75%, they’ll take less, and they’ll bundle. The down side is you’re usually picking through dregs because all that’s left is the stuff that’s on its way to Goodwill or the dumpster. If you’re an artist, this doesn’t matter too much. If you’re a picker, this is not your day.

Yard sales, Goodwill, etc! You can find some awesome junk at these places. They’re my least favorite because you usually have to hit up many, MANY of them before you get anything like a worthwhile trip out of the adventure. The exception is church rummage sales. Like a flea, there are multiple contributors to the overall junk selection, but because it’s basically 30 households or so having a yard sale in the same place, the prices are low. Downside is it’s mostly kid stuff. Which, if you have a kid is great, but if you have an art project is a bit limited.

Lastly, because it’s an opportunistic act rather than something I do because I need junk for art, is dumpster diving! I don’t dive on the regular. It’s more of a magpie thing. If I happen to see shiny I investigate. Now at a flea market, don’t be too proud! There’s great shit in those dumpsters (stay AWAY from the ones near the food vendors though). I’ve found doll heads and vintage books all for the bargain price of free because someone decided there was no money to be made with them and chucked ’em (pro tip: the pickers at the flea check the dumpsters too, and many have admitted to putting what they find on their own tables and selling it). But mostly I just keep my eyes open on trash day because you never know. One day I was walking the dog and found two child sized chairs sitting in the alley. Good quality ones, too. If you’re following me on the Facebooks, you’ve seen what they turned into. I’ve found an old chippy, peely cabinet, antlers off a 6 point buck that are at least 50 years old, anatomy and neurology text books from the 60s, broken dolls and various and sundry awesome rusty shit, all in my tiny neck of the woods. A friend in New Orleans once found a huge, hand made Indonesian mask! People throw out the damndest things, so don’t let those opportunities pass you by.

So, that’s where I find all this stuff. Any other junk lovers out there are welcome to hit me up if you want someone to go junking with. I go to Grayslake just about monthly, and I’m always up for company. Just don’t mind the weirdo caressing an old, rusty piece of farm equipment or a half decomposed accordion, mumbling “My preciousssssss”. That weirdo is me.

Mid summer dump

Wherein I quickly recap the last month, throw some pictures of new stuff in, and remind everyone to come out to my next two shows, cuz, SHOWZ!
Ready?

Right. So. August?? How the hell did that happen?
Well July was unremarkable but for the start of Bristol Renaissance Faire, which has occupied my weekends for the last 22 years. Ren faire is where I got all my real education (if they taught fire eating in college I might have liked it better), and though I don’t travel anymore I still do my home show. Money is good and I get to catch up on all the road rennie gossip I miss as a townie. You can take the girl off the road…

Anyway, the weeks have been taken up with learning new skillz and making old junk into new things. I took an online collage class with the incomparable Lynn Whipple (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Lynn-Whipple-Art/346136962142796) and LOVED IT.

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It was my first real foray into 2D and feels yummy in my brain, plus being yet another way I can reuse old junk. I like it so well that I’m adding it to the general mayhem in my shop.

Which, is going through a slight restructuring. Some things are going away once what I have has sold, like the hat/hair bling and jewelry. They’re labor intensive and don’t really move, plus feathers don’t like to be packed and unpacked repeatedly.
Probably signs too.

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The first two shows this season were so crappy it’s hard to gauge whether or not those are going to be a hit, so I’m giving it more time, but I think I’d rather make those as the spirit moves me rather than as a stock item like the mini nichos. I’m leaning in general towards a “as the spirit moves me” attitude, shifting away from my crafter roots of feeling like I need to replace what sells with something of the same sort. FSM knows if that’s a good idea or not but I’m having such a stimulating time working with found objects that it’s worth a go.
For example, Junk Angels. Junk from a basement, a job site, a junk sale, the gun range plus taxidermy and glitter. I freakin’ LOvE them. I hope I’m not alone in this, but whatevs.

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And these mixed media memento mori I did with the lids of old cigar boxes, which I think came out quite nicely.

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And so many of my friends and coworkers are getting in on the fun with scavenging, that I’m up to my elbows in bones. I got bones from a hunter’s midden pile, bones from under a porch at a carpenter’s job site, bones from a creek bed up at Bristol. Everybody is finding me dead stuff!* It’s awesome! The challenge is what to do with it all. C’moooon Spirit! Move meh!
So yeah. That’s been fun.

And upcoming here in August are two shows back to back. Glenwood Ave. Arts Fest in Rogers Park on the weekend of the 16th and 17th, where I’ll be on Morse with my glittery shenanigans and my bestie and creative partner Dave and his industrial/found object/generally weird and slightly creepy lighting, which is made of awesome.

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And the following weekend, the 23rd and 24th, he and I will be at the Glen Ellyn Festival of the Arts, where I shall take a last stab at seducing the western suburbs over to the dark and glittery side. Though I think my attempts at such things is coming to an end. If Glen Ellyn doesn’t show me some mojo I think next season’s applications will be more city based. Though I’m seriously considering applying to the Spring Green art fair in Wisconsin. I don’t know if they’ll like the cut of my gibberish, but like half the artists I stalk do it, so I may take a shot. The worst they can do is turn me down.

Now you know where I’ma be at, you can come visit and share a yak and a cocktail and keep us company for awhile.

*Everything died either because natural causes or food. I’m strict about that shit.

Nerd-cation

Who goes to an Earth Day event on their vacation? My boo and I do. Because we’re epic nerds.
Before we got nerdy, we did the vacationy things, have no fear. There was junkin’ and yarn-ing (that roving? hand processed and dyed by the shop owner from her very own sheep), ate of the beefy goodness (burgers made from local, grass fed, humanely raised cattle slaughtered by the country’s only slaughterhouse run on Buddhist principles, I shit you not) and drank of the local brew at a pub called the Grumpy Troll in the Troll Capital of the Midwest, Mt. Horeb. We also drank wine and played Combat Chess (it’s like regular chess, but you throw all your pieces at your opponent’s king with no regard for their safety or a strategy of any kind, in effort to end the game as quickly as possible) at Baraboo’s fabulous wine bar, Con Amici, the owners of which will proudly tell you how they compost all their food waste and recycle every possible thing.
So there was already kind of a theme brewing.

Then the lovely proprietress of Raven House, (one of my all time favorite places to find old keys, doorknobs, silverware and the odd baby head) hands me a flier as we’re getting ready to leave her shop and informs me that it’s for an art exhibit involving art made entirely from recycled materials. I love art, and I love junk, so, perfect.
We went assuming that was it. But it was actually an entire Earth Day shindig put on in the college gym with everything from the Madison Herpetological Society to local archeologists, eagle, crane, prairie and wetland conservationists, soap makers, bee keepers, sorghum farmers, artists and? the Coast Guard.

I’m an information junkie. I love learning about absolutely everything. On my bookshelf you will find subjects ranging from the history of the spice trade to forensic psychology and criminology textbooks, the world history of prostitution to quantum theory.
So I will actually sit and talk with the Coast Guard guy about ships knots, and the sorghum farmer about harvesting and processing the cane, and the archeologist about the earthworks in the area and the new technology used to find them under a tree canopy and a foot of leaf litter, and be utterly fascinated the entire time. No, I did not thrive in college. Too intellectually stifling. So yeah, gabbing for half an hour with eagle conservationists about roosting habits was a totally worthwhile way to spend my vacation.
And if you think all that has nothing to do with art, you may have never asked a sampling of artists where they get their inspiration. Up in Sauk County, a lot of them get it from the gorgeous countryside they live in and the sincere desire to preserve it.
Which was what this art was all about.

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These are only a few of them. There were a good dozen plus. Everything from kinetic sculpture to quilting. Every piece was made from junk. Even the ribbons on each of the pieces was made from recycled material by a local fiber artist.

There are many reasons I love Baraboo, but one of the big ones is their focus on the land and keeping it healthy. One of the founding fathers of the modern conservation movement, Aldo Leopold, hails from up there, and his family maintains an educational facility in the area.
I’m a conservation nut from way back. This gal composts, recycles, buys local, organic and humanely raised, rages against the Monsanto machine, and tries repeatedly (and unsuccessfully thus far, but hope springs eternal) to convince her parents to convert that ridiculous waste of space that is the American lawn into a mini farm.
That attitude has made it into my work in the form of lots of salvaged parts. My junk chimes are all…junk. Stuff that would end up in a landfill or rotting away in a garage. I dig that ethic. I dig that there’s an entire passel of artists that are all about that ethic, too.
Yeah. Good vacation.

It’s not Antiques Week…

Because who’s got the money for a road trip to Texas before the show season starts? Not this guy. But we have all these antique and flea markets around these parts and man can you score some sweet finds if you’re paying attention. And spank the owners of certain stalls.
It was his birthday. What?

Two bins of assorted medical tools, marked low enough that we just bought the lot. I knew I was going to walk out of there with some, but it was too good to pass up. My bestie and creative cohort is making his mad science with some, so look out for potentially disturbing as hell light fixtures in the future.

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I’m going to dangle some from various things. Possibly more farm equipment. Possibly something else. I’ve had two huge cow bones defleshing by the compost pile for a season now. They should be just about ready. The bone mobiles are always popular. And some of this stuff is appropriately creepy. Don’t know what any of it is, but it’s perfect.

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Heh, people stapler.

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Not only did these fine folks have crazy amounts of awesome, but they brought a couple of bird cages for me. I didn’t even have to ask!

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Mmmm, brass. Those will corrode nicely all summer long in the rain and wet of my back yard, and by fall, be ready to get turned into something like this…

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What a productive day it was. There’s another one coming up in Grayslake that we’d like to hit. And then a big outdoor one in Elkhorn, WI that looks great. My favorite Baraboo-ian pickers, Raven House Antiques, will be at that one.
Now to go sort through my new junk.

Internet poll time!

I’m stuck. Pubert (one of the twins) needs a head. Piglet has a head, so I’m not worried about her. But Pubert needs a head. There are so many good heads out there, which one to choose?
This whole thing started because I put something besides a head-like head on Pubert’s torso, and mah boo thought it was funny and took a picture. Now we’ve roped you in. You’re welcome.

Egg head?

Egg head?

Dead head?

Dead head?

I’m not sure how I feel about that one.

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Too organ-y, maybe? How about…

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Tiny creepy baby heads are always good.
Then there’s…

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There’s actually something kind of appealing about a giant flower for a head.

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Technically that’s the Dryad’s head, but just to get an idea of what a giant ass deer skull would look like on Pubert.

Hat head? I kill me.

Hat head? I kill me.

Then there’s this one.

Dear Internet, this is not a penis.

Dear Internet, this is not a penis.

I think that one may be misconstrued.
These two are my favorite thus far.

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I like the shape of the coyote skull. I’d do something to it. Glitter or something. Obviously. Cuz it’s me we’re talking to here.

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Slightly larger baby head. I think this one might be it.
But you! Internets! Weigh in.

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Goin’ Junkin’

I love going junkin’.  In a town like Chicago, a lot of the shops have delusions of grandeur when it comes to their junk. There’s one place in Andersonville that has bar none the best junk ever. But their prices are absurd and I’ll only go to browse. Go next door however, and there is junk of equal caliber but kick ass prices. The difference? Location and window dressing. Shop one is on the main drag and fancied up for your seekers of shabby chic. Shop two is just off strip and essentially in a warehouse. Guess were we went? Mmmhm. Why? Well, in addition to being generally broke as most crafty types are, I’m making their junk into new junk which is my junk and selling it. Low cost of materials makes everybody happy.

So to Good Deal Garage we went. The proprietors name? Is Elvis. Right? I mean, c’mon, you know Elvis will, in fact, give you a good deal. And he did.  Found a lovely bird cage for one of my many homeless baby heads. That added to the gorgeous rusty sickle that my pal kindly put a bunch of holes in for me (sacrificing what, five drill bits to the cause? old farm tools are hard as goddamn), and a leftover cow bone from last season and I’ve got the makin’s for a Mobile Marathon this week. Which is good. I need a break from all that epoxy.

After Elvis made us happy, we went to Ya Ya’s Antiques further south on Clark for a couple of old and decrepit frames. One will be my new shop sign, one will either house my beautiful Gomez and Morticia watercolor that the outstanding Molly Young made for me, or a gas mask/sun god thing that’s been percolating in my brain meatz. Not sure yet. Gomez and Morticia will get framed and hung, I just need to decide in what.

Lastly, to Wooly Mammoth on Foster. Which is not a junk shop, but an oddities shop. Which, sadly, I can’t afford. But I do go for inspiration from time to time. And because mah boo had never been, we stopped in. And saw this…

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Seven and a half feet tall and begging me to take him home. Anybody wants to give me a very expensive present, he’s only $8,000. Which is actually pretty reasonable for enormous taxidermy. Waaaaant!!

That, and the trepanning drill, and the human skulls. When I wed, we’ll be registered there. Fyi. Because those who wish you a happy marriage, do it with taxidermy.

Strange taste

I occasionally moonlight as an electricians assistant. Hey, a girl’s gotta have glitter money. This week we were in a semi posh house in north Evanston replacing a light fixture for the owner. This is the fixture we took down.

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Well, one very like it. The one we took down only had three horns. Can you believe anyone would want this awesome thing removed???

Well, their questionable taste is my gain, because guess who got the old fixture for her very own? This guy! The horns are all broken, sadly, or my fellah would have to tolerate this monster hanging in our house someday. But disassembling it yielded a pile of solid brass parts enough to make three or four small lamps or baby heads on pedestals, or whatever. I have that ceramic baby head that is now of course going to be a nightlight. Because who wouldn’t want a baby head glowing softly in the dark to guide their way to the loo at 3 am?