Saturday, October 29, 2011

Old Ladies and Mushroom Bowls

I’ve been sitting here fondling a bowl. Not just any bowl. (What do you take me for?) A mid century bowl.


A Finel  Mushroom bowl designed by Kaj Franck back in the Sixties. A pristine, mint condition Finel mushroom bowl. Picked it up this morning thinking it might have some resale value (it does). But dang, when you sit there fondling a bowl as long as I just did, you might have to rethink the resale!

I know I’m going to resell most of these – after I enjoy taking a peek through them.


Whole bunch of Mary Engelbreit magazines, some of which I haven’t seen before. I auctioned a bunch of these on eBay before we moved, so I know I’m not the only one who likes them.

They came from the kind of sale that makes the heart of someone like me go pittypat. (Cathy G., you would have been drooling!) Two women were clearing out their stashes of vintage and artsy and crafty stuff. The driveway was packed. About the first thing I saw was this book.


Didn’t buy it though – after all, I can write my own ‘long way to Oregon’ story! I flipped through the crafty books, admired the vintage embroidered pillowcases and fifties printed tablecloths, glanced over the tables full of stuff, stuff, stuff. Nearly succumbed to a small tablecloth with a vintage embroidery design stamped on it; one motif was partly stitched, and there was thread and a hoop in the bag with it. But I asked myself rather sternly how likely I was to actually finish this piece and use it, and the answer was ‘not too.’ So I left it for someone else.

Quite a few of their items had a higher price tag than I was interested in paying, but it was great fun to look at everything. Then I started chatting with another lady who was looking through a shoe box of old photos. She held up one. “Wow, look at this dress!” she said. I looked.


“There a name on the back.” She squinted at it. “Earl.”


We both gazed at the picture. “Well, maybe it is Earl at that.” We giggled. But I took the picture when she put it back in the box, and the more I looked at it, the more I liked it. The dress is amazing, yes, but it’s the face. If you look very closely, there are fine wrinkles all over her face.


I think she looks patient, and wise, and though her eyes are sad, her mouth is about to curl up into a smile. The pin at her throat looks like an Eastern Star pin, and I have in my button collection at least one button like the ones on her dress. While we were looking at the photos, one of the sellers came by and we asked where all these pictures had come from.

“Oh, my husband went to appraise a house one time,” she said, “and he found stacks of these things in the trash can. So he brought them home, and I used them in art projects for years. There’s a family name on the back of a lot of them, and you can kind of trace the history of the family through the pictures.” We all agreed it was such a shame that no one in that family had wanted or valued these pieces of their history. But this one at least has a new family – me. I’ve adopted her as one of my forebears, and she’ll be going in a frame soon. I think I’ll have her hang out with this other portrait I love.


That’s the author Dorothy L. Sayers, one of my favorites. And since the plot of the new book I’m starting to write involves some old family photographs, these two ladies will be here on my desk for the next few months as my muses.

I was about to leave this sale with my magazines and Mrs. Earl’s portrait when I saw one more thing I had to have. Back story: my husband could not get everything on the rented truck when he brought the last load of our belonging up from California, there just wasn’t quite enough room. Like the pioneers crossing the vast American plains, he simply had to leave some things behind. He made good choices, but one thing I really miss – my little footstool.


It wasn’t much to look at, but it was the perfect size to sit on and weed garden beds, or sort books on a low shelf, or give the cat a perch. If I ever see another like it, rest assured I will buy it. Meanwhile, I’ll use this.


A bit taller than my old one, but still compact and very sturdy. My husband took one look and said, “Nice lines.” The top is covered in old oilcloth, but it will be easy to take off and recover. And this is the sort of piece that’s at home anywhere, even among MCM pieces.


After this sale I headed north, where most of the sales in town were supposed to be today. But until I hit sale with The Bowl it was a bust. But the trees are putting on a lovely show, and though a bit foggy there was no rain, so a Saturday morning drive is a treat. And if I hadn’t headed north, I might never have seen this local landmark!



  1. I suppose a wife might throw her ex husband's family portraits out otherwise I can't imagine why anyone would throw such treasures.

    Let us know the progress of the mushroom bowl. xx

  2. Cowlamity Jane????
    One of my big weaknesses is finding old photos of "new relatives." Would be so cool to know the histories of all these forgotten people....

  3. I would have been very sad to leave that footstool behind. Very very sad. I'm sure it has a good home. The new one, though, is very, very nice! You are right - it would fit in anywhere.

  4. I'm lusting over the mushroom bowl and the stool.
    Nice finds.

  5. I'm drooling at the thought of anyone clearing out their vintage textiles.
    Nice to see you are still at it.

  6. That's such a quirky landmark! Is it some sort of regional thing? Here in the Tidewater area of Virginia (south-eastern VA), we have some big statues like that all over the place, but instead of cows, we have mermaids. A few years ago, Virginia had local artists decorate a bunch of them, and then tried to raffle them off to raise money.


I really love your comments. Thanks for coming along on my thrifty adventures!

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