When I happened upon these glowing objects in the bedroom of Keith Bick and Keith Carollo, the guys behind all the fun at fredflare.com, I was immediately transfixed. Made out of Tupperware cups by their artist friend Tony Meredith, all I could think of was the packed of Tupperware my mother kept right next to the dishwasher. Inside were Jello molds with inter-changeable tops that would make the imprint of, say a Christmas tree or a Valentine’s heart right on the top of her wiggly dessert. There were also some square containers that she would store the leftovers of a “Busy Day Skillet,” or some extra chopped onions that were remnants from a taco fiesta. And then there were the plastic drinking cups, just like the ones on the dresser of the Fred Flare guys.
This sunny re-use of mundane kitchen objects also serves to brighten a corner of my own past When I was in fifth grade, drinking milk at lunch absolutely made me ill. I could drink water and I could drink juice, but no way could I choke down that smelly carton of milk that the lunch ladies brought on trays to our classroom just before the food cart rolled up to the door. Instead, I brought my own beverage to school in a cup just like one of these, and would sip from it, feeling special from the other kids gulping down their milk, as I wolfed down a chicken fried steak or a slice of Texas toast. Since my Tupperware cup cleaned in the hot water of the dishwasher, the lids were often warped, and they sometimes leaked whatever I might have brought for the day: apple juice, fruit punch or even not-so-iced tea.
When I look at this creation, I notice the name of a little girl, Melanie, on one of the cups. I imagine her mother wrote her name in Magic Marker around the perimeter of the cup, just in case it should to be separated from its owner. Maybe Melanie couldn’t drink milk either. Or maybe she was from a large family and her mother was trying to keep from doing to many dishes. Either way, this bright creation certainly jogged an old childhood memory.
I do not love oysters, but I adore this duo of oyster plates found at New York City’s Housing Works. The shapely shell design of this serving plate makes me yearn for the approaching warm weather and the days of lounging on an old wooden boat while anticipating the red and orange streaks of a dropping golden sun. I also imagine this plate topped with gray lumps of oysters jiggling in their juices, ready to be dipped into a piquant red sauce from the dish’s blue, center bowl. I can almost hear martinis being shaken in a metal vessel or the cork popping off a vintage bottle of champagne, both fit for my fantasy oyster feast!
However, since I really don’t plan on eating these fictional oysters, I started thinking of other land-based uses for this fantastic plate. (Now I do love deviled eggs and their corresponding plates. So the uses could be similar.) What about taking this plate and using it as a catch-all on the dresser for odd change? It could also turn into the perfect jewelry organizer. Rings in one shell section, bracelets in another. I would display my many cufflinks from all over the world. Use it to serve other hors d'oeuvre, candies, or nuts. The uses for these sea-worthy plates are limited only by the imagination!
I’m also reminded of a story that an old friend recounts to me each time we’re en route to our Fire Island beach destination. The story pops out as we pass the Oyster Bay exit and ends in quite a little tongue twister. As a child growing up in the South, he tells of a family friend who really was named Esther Oyster. My version of Esther Oyster has evolved into that of a woman who only lives in my brain. Esther Oyster has a curly mop of gray hair above a pair of red cat-eye glasses and she's wearing a red checked apron as she shucks these sea creatures in a red metal glider on her front porch. She might even have a bit of a mustache above her sweat-dripping upper lip that she tightly purses as she coaxes her knife into the opening of the oyster shell.
For some childhood fun, he and his sisters made up a little line that as kids tickled them to no end. And today, every time we pass by the Oyster Bay exit, whether it’s the middle of August or this holiday weekend, we can’t help but giggle as we repeat it: “Happy Easter Esther Oyster!”
When I see something at a thrift store that I absolutely love, especially if it’s something small that I can tuck away and actually use such as table linens, I always buy. On a recent stay in the Kansas City area, I discovered these two treasures that evoke such warm memories for me that I couldn’t pass them up.
These cheery, delicate French napkins exude springtime. I’ve mixed them with my other vintage table linens for a bright and whimsical tabletop. Again, I found this set of six at the Kansas City's River Market Antique Mall for about $5, which is a little more than I would normally pay for napkins. However, the quality was perfect and at $5, I would still call that a bargain!
The pièce de résistance here is a hand-embroidered, hand-tatted table runner that I paid $1.65 for at the Independence Disabled Veterans Thrift Store. What says spring more than a colorful and chic-motif-of-the-moment motif: the butterfly.
This lovely winged creature trips my memory of the careful handiwork my mother lovingly applied to the yokes of the shirts she made me as a child. They are still in the bedside table of my childhood bedroom. Every time I open that drawer, I’m reminded of how proud I was to wear to school those beautiful, checked shirts, each with cheery Old Mexico and cowboy designs emblazoned on the shoulders. I imagine that someone spent many hours, just like my mother did, to create this fantastic, fluttery specimen and how happy the maker was when it was displayed in her home. (Or maybe his home. I learned to embroider at an early age!)
The lace trimming is slightly torn, but that makes me love it even more. It has lived a full life and aged gracefully with use. When I run my fingers over its delicate structure, I remember Aunt Lou. Her full name was Louetta Bacon and she really wasn’t an aunt -- just a dear friend of my grandmother who was like one of her sisters. Even though her hands were riddled with arthritis, that didn’t stop her from tatting amazing rows of lace on an old broomstick as she watched her stories from her comfy, old chair.
The embroidered butterfly also brings to mind the beloved singer and songwriter, Dolly Parton. Her favorite motif is the butterfly, so much so that in the 1970s she wrote a song about it: “Love is like a butterfly, as soft and gentle as a sigh. Its multi-colored moods of love are like its satin wings. Love makes your heart feel strange inside. It flutters like soft wings in flight. Love is like a butterfly, a rare and gentle thing.”
As you'll learn, I'm an avid thrift store shopper. I love things that evoke memories, pique my imagination and offer an original spin on any project I may be undertaking.
So when I bumped into this odd object at Kansas City's River Market Antique Mall while on a fantastic thrift hunt with photographer Bob Greenspan, I was initially spooked. This slinky, heart-shaped picture frame appeared to be made out of snakeskin and was perched upon a glass display counter surrounded with gilttery, costume jewelry.
As I slipped in for closer inspection, I realized that the entire piece was crafted from tiny pieces of Camel cigarette wrappers, woven together just as a child would have done to make a chewing gum-wrapper chain. This intricate example of handiwork is what some people call prison art, not a subject of which I'm knowledgeable. This frame is believed to have been created by someone behind bars who used whatever he could get his hands on to make this specimen of beauty for a special someone.
I like to imagine this frame was made by a prisoner back in the 1960s and at one-time held a beloved black and white image of its creator. It might have sat on Dear Mother's dressing table or at the bedside of a sweetheart back home. Either way, this object of desire was crafted with love.