Marburger Antique Fair Opens Today

March 30th, 2010 comments 0

fayette county in Texas is swarming with antique lovers this week. Here’s a collection of Marburger memories: shipping containers, road trips, big skies, morning fog, rental trucks, canvas tents, porta-potties, fire ants…..

Everything’s bigger in Texas.

Texas bluebells in spring.

And French antiques galore…..

Spring “Snow” From My Window

March 29th, 2010 comments 0

I hope it’s “snowing” where you are!

The Stairmaster

March 28th, 2010 comments 0

When I first saw this little French house I call home it was a coup du coeur – love at first site. It certainly wasn’t to my design taste, but it was beautiful to the 85 year old woman who lived here. She had spent 30 years creating the home of her dreams. Yellow walls, provencal ceiling in alternating stripes of bright blue and red, each the sort of color that can only be created in a paint can. Nature would have never laid claim to theses shades. The kitchen was pink, hot pink, with un-matching tiles. She was from Brittany and she said the colors reminded her of home. As she showed me around the house I was touched by her pride and pleasure in her surroundings.

The house is a narrow village house, a little more than 4 meters wide. I was told that the reason so many of the houses are of similar width is because the sawmills that made the poutres1 only produced a standard width beam, hence a cookie cutter maison de village.

When Madamoiselle (she had never married) gave me the tour we started at street level. There was a cavernous covered space, stone walls all the way around. Not really a room because the entrance gate was open grillwork, but not a garage either as there was a step up to the stone tiled floor. Behind this space a stone arch opened into a vaulted stone room and behind that a cave, carved into the stone of the hillside the house is built against.

From ground level a set of worn stairs takes you up to the front door. I don’t know exactly how old these steps are but there’s a keystone in an arch down below that has the date 1744 carved into it. From the first level room another set of stairs lines the walls, and with 1970’s railing in hand we climbed another floor and a half.

As we were taking the last couple of steps up to the mezanine Madamoiselle turned to me, patted her bum, and referring to the stairmaster we were climbing said, “C’est bon pour la fesse!”. It’s good for the rear. I hope I’m still thinking about my rear at 85 years old! I think that’s the moment I knew this house was for me and we still had another two flights of stairs to go.

…..too be continued. I need to rest after climbing all those stairs. Meanwhile some photos of the “before”.

  1. poutres are the large visible beams that hold up the roofs in this type of construction

Laughing at Myself

March 27th, 2010 comments 0

when we first moved to France 12 years ago I didn’t speak a word of French. Well maybe a couple of words, bonjour, oui, non…. I spoke Spanish, but it only seemed to get in the way. My English thoughts went through a Spanish filter into a French translation and by the time they came out of my mouth, the appropriate moment for a comment was gone.

I read somewhere that when we learn an extra language as a child, the brain tissues associated nest directly on top of one another allowing for rapid-fire movement in between. This article said that when we learn a second language as an adult, we store that new learning in the opposite hemisphere of the brain from our native tongue. That seems to explain the right brain, left brain ping pong rally that occurred when I tried to construct a simple sentence.

I’m comfortable with French nowadays but back then I had to resort to some pretty crazy strategies to get by. One of the first things we learned in our French classes were the numbers, very useful things to know in many situations. I found the number “one” particularly difficult to pronounce. My French instructor assured me that many people have this problem and showed me a trick. If you make a fist and thump yourself in the solar plexus while attempting pronunciation, the appropriate sound just pops out. The problem was that this gesture was slightly awkward when standing in front of the clerk at the boulangerie with 7 people queued up behind you. So for the first 6 months of life in France I ordered 2 or more of everything.

We had a charming epicerie1 in the village where we were living at the time. This proved challenging because the produce wasn’t self service -the owners selected the vegetables from the displays for you. My 2 or more strategy worked well but when your vocabulary doesn’t yet include the names of fruit and veg, there’s a lot of pointing going on.

I thought perhaps it would be easier to be anonymous so I went in search of a larger grocery store. One of the most impressive sights in a French supermarché is the yogurt and cheese isle. I would have to live to one two hundred to try them all. But how does one choose when choice is endless? My strategy was observation. I would stalk shoppers who looked like someone I might know, or be friends with, or perhaps related to, and I would observe their food choices. I wanted to try new things. I didn’t want to stay stuck in the 1990’s brie and goat cheese rut.

So this morning when I visited our local supermarché I had a good laugh. “Welcome old friend,” I said, “it’s been a long time.” Roucoulons was the very first new (to me) cheese that I bought 12 years ago in France. And I bought it because the woman who picked it off the shelf in front of me looked like she might be a friend of mine -if only we had known each other. I guess if I’m guilty of profiling, fromage profiling can’t be all that bad can it?

  1. An epicerie is a small grocery store

Thursday’s Gallery

March 26th, 2010 comments 0

Weighing In…

March 25th, 2010 comments 2

it’s all about stone in this part of Provence. Our village dates to the Paleolithic era and it’s built of stone, on stone. Most of the structures we now call homes were never intended to shelter people. They’re patched together mazes of stone walls and stone caves that were constructed to house animals or crops. Our walls are stone, our floors and stairs are stone. You work with what you have and this region has it.

Samples of the stone in the higgledy piggledy place I call home

The quarries in the area supply the local building trade but if you’re renovating a house Provencal style my favorite places to source stone is the salvage yards. Centuries old mouldings, fireplaces, blocks, staircases, fountains….. waiting to grace a new structure. All with patina and age. In the nearby village Apt there’s a family run business called Jean Chabaud -Les Materiaux Ancien. In addition to monumental stone building materials they have pallet upon pallet of recovered tiles, poutres (beams) and roof tiles. Which piece would you choose for your home? Me? I’ll take the pigeonnier please, in hopes that the 3 turtle doves visiting my garden are confused and take roost.

notice the pigeonnier?

Stone window frame installed

This one found a happy home in Colorado

We make lamps with these!

Stuff and Things

March 24th, 2010 comments 0

Each family has it’s unique vocabulary. When my son was around 10 years old “stuff and things” became his go to, fit’s all, generic response. “What are you doing?” “Stuff and things”, “So you talked to Mat, what’d he have to say?” “Stuff and things”, “What happened at school today?” “Stuff and things.”

As an antique dealer I trade in stuff and things. Generic and ordinary they’re not. These things were well conceived from design to fabrication, and that’s why they’ve endured.

I wonder about today’s stuff and things. Are the things I use in my everyday life as well designed as the antiques I find so compelling? Will they be tomorrow’s trash or the future’s treasure? It’s difficult to avoid the cheap mass produced products and conveniences of todays world so in addition to thinking green I’m thinking legacy. What quality of stuff will I leave behind?

When I bring something new into my home I’m asking myself one simple question; “Will it stand the tests of time?” Will some lucky someone see the charm of this object 200 years down the road or at a minimum find it useful? It’s one place to start.

What are you doing to make a difference? ….and don’t say “stuff and things!”

The Very Small World of Antiques

March 24th, 2010 comments 1

Strange things happen when I’m antiquing.
Do these things happen to you too?

Entrance gates to Avignon deballage

For example, there was a particular deballage1 in Avignon. I arrived late (oops)… If you arrive late it’s easy to have the feeling that it’s over, that the good things are gone, that you’ve missed it all. As you enter the Avignon fairgrounds you pass the trucks of many of the international transporters and you see all kinds of goodies already packed in their trucks, things that you would have surely bought (had you gotten there earlier). As you’re walking in, the stuff is walking out and that’s when despair hits.

But there’s no time for that kind of thinking. What’s meant for you will be there, or that’s what I tell myself. On this particular day I started my hunt in the outside parking lot. Immediately to my right one of my favorite dealers had a piece that stopped me cold. It was an industrial cart with a large steering wheel mechanism that could (easily) raise and lower heavy objects placed on the table top. I’m a sculptor in another piece of my life and this seemed like the most brilliant of all inventions…. and it was beautiful to look at, and the patina was good. That’s the curse of being a visual person.

I asked his price. It was more than I felt I could pay. I stood there for a long time. I hesitated, I stared, and finally I walked away. I was in Avignon that day shopping for a particular client. I couldn’t – wouldn’t allow myself to be distracted. But I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

At the end of the morning, having resolved to buy my treasure, I stopped back by the stand. There’s nothing worse than seeing the dreaded red sticker at an antique fair, point rouge as we say in French. My treasure had sold.

I moved on quickly. “Not for me,” I said with a little twinge in my belly. Fast forward almost a year. I’m visiting my mother in Boulder Colorado, my hometown. I’m getting my computer fixed at the Mac store and walk next door to Anthropology to browse their French antiques. I seem to repeatedly cross paths with the Anthropology buyers at the French antique fairs, and by that I mean that I see their sold stickers on things I wish I would have (could have) bought. I’m strolling through the store and I freeze. Ce n’est pas possible, it’s not possible! What, if any, are the odds? My unforgettable (unforgotten) industrial lifting machine is sitting smack dab in the middle of this little store in my little USA hometown.

I’d like to say that it was meant for me so our paths crossed again (destiny and all), but the new and improved price tag said otherwise. These kinds of things happen to me often. So often in fact, that I’ve come to the conclusion that these objects have a radar. They’re seeking us just as much as we’re seeking them. And once they find us, who are we to stand in the way of destiny? I’ll try to remember that next time around.

  1. deballage is an international antique fair for trade professionals. Hundreds of dealers set up their wares for a sale that lasts just half a day.

Sunday in Isle chez Odile

March 22nd, 2010 comments 0

tucked inside the heart of l’Isle sur la Sorgue is the home and shop of Odile Bouscarat. As you pass through her treasure filled courtyard, you’ll see the shop in the back. Look at everything, because you never know what you’ll find hidden in a corner. Odile favors the 18th century and doesn’t mind when pieces show their age. Her displays always have the right amount of whimsy in the mix. As I walk around my own house I see just how many of Odiles treasures have made their way home with me and never left. Please visit her if you’re in town and email me if you need directions.

La Petite Curieuse is the name of her shop and as the name implies it’s a Little Curiosity. Today it was a petite 18th century chair and a demi lune table (she says she bought with me in mind) that tempted me. Just the right patina, just the right amount of age. Arrrggghhh, what’s a short on space antique lover to do? I’m not quite sure yet, but I’ve been plotting ever since I got home.

Hope and Protection

March 21st, 2010 comments 0

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the song without the words,
And never stops at all….

Emily Dickinson’s poem is my favorite metaphor for hope. The hope I scatter amongst everyday conversation is too often a watered down version of this noble concept. I hope it doesn’t rain (so I can go to the brocante). I hope I remembered to turn off the headlights, I hope my favorite dealers are there, I hope so.

In the Online Shop I have a treasure from the 18th century. It’s a shield that a woman would have used to protect her complexion from the heat of the fire that warmed the house (blushing cheeks were a beauty faux pas back in the day). On one side you’ll see the word Espoir, which is French for hope. I can’t help but wonder what hope meant to an 18th century woman. Was the Age of Enlightenment a hope filled era? And what was the lovely lady that held this object hoping for?  It’s a beautiful piece and it’s amazing that it’s survived time but then hope survives time, doesn’t it.

I’m hoping that hope makes a comeback. Maybe I’ll make it my new favorite 4 letter word. Hope is a gift, it has life changing power and as Emily Dickinson says, “it never stops at all”.

Where am I?

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