Thursday, December 3, 2015

Cabinet of Curiosities - How I got Into Antiques

My antiquing addiction started with garage sales. Growing up, my parents took me every weekend, and every so often, we’d go to a big antique fair. From then on, my insatiable love for antiques spiraled into several collections of oddities and an idea for a book (Strange Luck).

If you’re ever in the car with me during a road trip, be forewarned that I will force you to stop at antique stores. Some of my best finds are from random mom-and-pop shops in the middle of nowhere. I like antiquing because I never know what I’m going to find and it’s a free history lesson. Even if I don’t end up buying anything, I usually walk away having learned more about a particular era, culture, artist, etc. 

I get asked a lot about the haunted antiques in Strange Luck and whether or not they are real. Unfortunately, the oddities are all a figment of my imagination, except for a few back-stories inspired by accounts of so-called haunted items and how they behaved. The show, Oddities, was also inspirational for ideas about bizarre, yet realistic items. In general, I used one rule of thumb - would I think that the item was interesting, weird, or creepy if I actually saw it in a shop somewhere? My favorite item I write about is the German mantle clock made by a mad puppeteer and how it emits phantom smells of apple pie and cinnamon. I would love to own something like that!

So, now that you know that I’m a fan of odd antiques, it should be of no surprise that I have my very own curiosity hutch. It’s a great conversation piece when guests come over and a fun little hobby. Here are some of my favorite things inside:

Prairie Dog Skull: Back in the day, I wanted to be an archaeologist and even went to an archaeology field school. As a career, it wasn’t for me, but every now and then I get the urge to excavate. When I lived in Colorado, my backyard opened to a wildlife reserve, which included a massive prairie dog colony. There were huge pieces of quartz and other cool rocks everywhere, so one day I thought I’d do a little digging. In the process, I unearthed tons of prairie dog bones, including this skull, but just kept the skull because it was in amazing condition. It’s such a weird thing to have in my house and that’s exactly why I like it.

The Strange Luck Cricket: Growing up, my parents always had a little cricket statue in our living room. When I got older, I asked where it had come from and my mom told me she didn’t know exactly, only that it was given to her by my great grandma who said it would bring their home good luck. I always thought that was neat, so when it came time for me to live in a house of my own, my mom gave me the cricket. Since then, it's traveled across the country with me. While writing Strange Luck, I got the idea of incorporating the cricket as a good luck charm and decided to research its origin. I was surprised to learn that I possess a "hearth cricket" - a symbol of good luck dating back thousands of years (there's even a Dickens story about one). There are tons of accounts as to why crickets are lucky, but the one I found most interesting comes from Asia where crickets were used to detect danger because they would stop chirping. Whether my cricket brings me luck or not, I like to look at his happy face each day.

Vanity: One of my favorite pictures of all time! Depending on how you focus your eyes, you’ll see a woman sitting at a mirror or a big skull encompassing the entire picture. It’s a very haunting and creepy picture that I purchased from a street vendor in Paris. 

Vintage Tarot Deck: This was given to me by my mother-in-law. I love the beautiful illustrations.

I’m also a fan of anything having to deal with dark circuses, which is why my upcoming book, The Nightmare Birds, takes place in one. Here’s a pic of me at Cirque Du Soleil. 

Although this next item isn’t in my curiosity hutch, it sits next to my writing desk in my office. My husband got this as a birthday card for me years ago. I love it because it’s a real Victorian picture that I find both creepy and hilarious (a tough combo to find!). The word Menschfeind (enemy of humans) is written beneath it, which makes the picture even more satirical.  

If you’re ever in these areas, check out some of my favorite places:

California - Alameda Pointe Antiques Faire: My absolute favorite antique fair of all time! It’s one of the largest in CA and takes place outside on a naval base. The vendors are always changing and they have awesome food trucks. Score! Plan to be there for at least a half day. If you’re further north, check out Vintage Bank Antiques in Petaluma. 

Colorado – Wise Buys Antiques: Niwot is a quirky little town just outside of Boulder—a perfect setting for a cute little shop like this.

Florida – Dysfunctional Grace Art Company: Reminiscent of Obscura (the shop in Oddities), this place features really interesting and weird oddities, art, and some cool antiques. Located in Ybor City.

North Carolina – Antique Tobacco Barn: Get lost here for hours! I got my awesome Phrenology skull here.

What’s your favorite place to antique? I'd love to hear your suggestions. Please comment below :)