We are the ladies of Blackbird Antiques, lovers of all things vintage and fabulous. (This is a polite way of saying that we are addicted to buying old junk.) It would be fair to say that we love everything we buy. This love may vary from the innocent "I want to save you from someone else's garbage can, so I will take you home with me" type, to the soul-searing Lord of the Rings-style "my precious!" kind of attachment, the "I will cut you if you take that" kind of lust. As roommates and business partners, we cultivate 50+ separate collections between us, and this doesn't really factor in that magical unicorn known as the crossover collection, which will be discussed in a future post.
Why do we buy? People have different reasons, which we have observed out of anthropological curiosity over the last decade of working in the antiques business. Sometimes, the need to buy comes from the good day/week/year that you are already having. You feel on top of the world, and cheerfully reinforce that with a slight junk-buying buzz. This is what gives you the opportunity to blissfully browse and purchase, without remorse, something that is interesting, pretty, or complimentary to what you already own. A pair of embroidered pillowcases, perhaps, or a nice, but functional, pottery dish.
Then there are the times when life is not going so well, when the baggage that you carry becomes a mountain that you have to climb up every day to make sure that it really is daylight somewhere (dramatic, huh?). A voice, just a whisper at first, starts to nag at you--buy something and you'll feel better. You try to resist, then you pretend to try to resist (don't be ashamed, we've all been there), and finally, like the true junk addict that you are, you say "well, maybe I'll just look around for a minute." This becomes "well, I'll just get this one" and moments later, you feel the buzz. It's a much tamer version of an illicit affair. You satisfy a craving, make yourself feel better, and then at the end you've still got a fabulous pair of smiling tomato salt and pepper shakers, which you will work hard to convince yourself and everyone else that you are actually going to use, because you really did need some shakers.
A collector buys with the intent to continue curating. We can now subdivide this into the casual collectors and the true collectors. The difference? A casual collector buys occasionally, but never seeks out. These people leave it all up to fate, and there is nothing wrong with that. It is a low-stress, low-maintenance way to accumulate things that you love, and collections made in this way are fabulous, regardless of the effort or expense it took to get there. What we call a "true collector" is a more aggressive sort. Regardless of personality, true collectors all have a Type A individual lurking in the back of the brain, one who will relentlessly pursue ownership of an item based on what is almost a primitive urge. These are the collectors who are always, always, on the hunt for that perfect example, the missing link that will elevate their collection to the ideal state. Wouldn't you love to have the World's Most Extensive, or even better, The Definitive collection of something? People would write books about you and your things! Museums would woo you! You might be on television!
And sometimes, every now and then, we have no idea why we buy. The stars align, an opportunity presents itself, and it happens to be on sale. Something unexpected catches our eye and calls our name. This is how new collections are born. We have a rule in the antiques business: three makes a collection. If you own three things connected by a common thread, then you are a collector, whether you want to be or not. Three slide rulers? Yep. Three or more rotary telephones? Sure. Three green glass vases, all of different shapes, sizes, and makers? Sorry, but you are officially a collector of green glass. Don't worry! Collections can be general or specific. Sometimes, they are both. We Blackbird girls are currently cultivating a collection of tiny tins. We don't care what the tins are for, which makes our collection general. The one unifying criterion is that they are smaller than 2 inches, which makes the collection quite specific. We have also added an addendum to the rule: if you buy one, with the intent to buy more, it's a collection anyway. Some things are harder to find than others. You could throw a rock in an antique store (not a good idea, because you might get arrested) and hit a dozen Coca Cola items, but what if you fall in LOVE with a single Eskimo figurine? In our part of the country, you don't find Eskimo-themed items very often. But if it whispers sweet nothings in your ear and you want nothing more than to take it home and build a shrine in its honor, then you are now a collector of vintage Eskimos. It may be five years before you find a second one, and another five before you find that third, but you can call it a collection in progress from the moment he winks back at you from your bookshelf.
For us, a vacation means stopping at as many thrift and antique stores as we can in a day's time. We have a "free love" kind of relationship with the junk we find. Approximately half of the items we buy for resale end up charming their way into the house instead. Our house will probably collapse under the weight of it all someday, or we'll have to buy houses next door to each other (we can't separate some of these collections!), but our junk brings us joy, and we wouldn't have it any other way.