Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Pinch Me, I'm Dreaming: Curtis Jere Thrift Store Find of the Century

Good morning!!

How's tricks? I am back and whoooo boy, the things I have seen since last we spoke. Diana Ross, for one. Joe Gillis still stuck floating in Norma Desmond's swimming pool, for another (why do I always root for him?! Why am I always disappointed!!). But most shockingly of all, a rare southern snowpacolypse. The whole country's been experiencing weirder-than-usual weather patterns lately, but tell you what, this little non-snowbird has had a DOOZY of a fortnight with regard to the wintry conditions. After week-before-last's Ice-Planet-Hoth-like mix of snow and black ice in the usually temperate corner of the South I live in, I did manage to:
  1.  Eat up three consecutive days of vacation drinkin' mer-luht and suffering a semi-constant state of anxiety as to whether the weather would let up and let me go back to work, while binge reading three books cover to cover, 
  2. Manage to, on the one day I did get out of the house and into the car, get stuck on a hill/ almost  spin out into another car in the space of ten minutes' time, and
  3.  Stay home the following day for sheer fear of facing the ice again.
Lord, these nerves, people! I'm trying not to worry like an octogenarian over the potential icy conditions on Thursday, but until then, let's get my mind off it by talking about oh, maybe one of the best thrift store finds I've ever made.

Let me introduce you. Folks, mindboggling cheap Curtis Jere; mindbogglingly cheap Curtis Jere, my readers. I am so excited over this hunk of metal I could cry salt tears. Take a look:

I kept my ocelot print coat on so we would match. And also because I never want to take it off.
I was at a junk store with Matthew over the weekend after a long, fruitless day of flea marketing and junk store perusing. He was nice enough to come with me, trailing at a distance with his PSP as I dejectedly price guessed Hall vases ("$8. Is it $8?" ((checks bottom of vase for sticker price)) "$7.99. Am I good or am I good?" or "$20." ((checks price)) "$68?! Are they HIGH?", and so on). To have no luck at the flea market is pretty bad (I did pick up a dress and an Asian inspired fifties' charm bracelet, but nothing to write home about), but to have no luck at three subsequent non-chain thrift stores is downright depressing for this spendthrift. I'd lost my husband to a pile of snarled Game Cube controllers midway through this, our last destination, and wandered down another aisle. "Well, this is all right," I thought, picking up a pair of vividly pink elbow length gloves for $3 (Schiaparelli, anyone?) and a little black turban from defunct Nashville department store Cain Sloan for $4. I was almost at the end of the second aisle of the store, headed towards the front to take a maudlin swipe at the glass cases, when I stepped into a booth full of framed photos. Still on the hunt for something to display some thirties' sheet music, I stooped to look, but first I had to move a giant metal rectangle out of the way to see the frames underneath.

The booth minus one very important item, which I practically ran out of the store screaming with.
As I picked it up, I noticed it was H-E-A-V-Y, which, if you know your Jurassic Park quotes, usually means expensive. "Huh," I thought. "Wonder what it is." With some effort, I flipped it over and saw this abstract panel of oxidized brass and three dimensional strips of squares and circles. I still wasn't convinced, thinking maybe it was one of those Rent-a-Center/TJ Maxx style oversized art pieces. All T, no shade, you know what I'm talking about. I thought, idly, as I sometimes do when wistfully willing the next album in the Goodwill bin to be Judy Garland and not another self-produced seventies' religious recording, if it might be a C Jere...but no. Surely not. Surely I wouldn't find something I've been looking for nigh on four or five years here, in a booth next to a booth that sells nothing but diabetic socks....

However! BEHOLD:

My eyes went O_O
At this point I really think I felt my heart leap in my body and do a little somersault. Eeek! It was what I wouldn't have thought in my wildest fancy it would be. Lip bitten, I rotated the rectangle to get a better look at the price tag. Keep in mind I'd picked up a pair of Beatle boots, ankle length, deadstock, IN MY SIZE, in another booth and been outright shocked by the sixty dollar price tag. What would this be, like $300? $100? At least $50...

OR HOW ABOUT $9.99. For less than the price of a Woodlands buffet lunch, I could own an honest-to-Garshen piece of high end sixties'/seventies' kitsch. At this point, Matthew caught up to me. The following conversation ensued:

He: Whatcha got there, cutie?
Me: ((in a furtive whisper)) It'saCurtisJerethesethingsareworthlikehundredsofdollarsletsgobuy thisrightnow.
He: ((in a stage whisper)) How much does that one cost?
Me: ((through teeth)) : TEN DOLLARS. 
He: Wowwww....

I know it could have been Marlene Dietrich's earrings or an old soup can to him, but he was sweet to feign being impressed until I could later explain to him the far reaching implications of this purchase (or the short reaching ones, which are mainly that I now have a vintage wall piece that isn't super easy to find in the wild for under $100, much less under $10). For his trouble, here's a photo of him holding the Jere himself (I love that tiny face) :

On display. Like I said, this ish is heavy, too!!

Here's a picture of the piece precariously balanced on that-one-nail-I-can't-figure-out-what-to-hang-with-but-am-loathe-to-remove-from-the-wall. I have also found out that if I take a photo of a single object against that wall, it looks like the Polyore version of a clipping, haha. Did you know C Jere is not a single person (in direct contradiction of Artisan House's promotional material from the seventies', which described "his" schooling and "his aesthetic"), but the portmanteau pseudonym of artists and brothers-in-law Curtis Freiler and Jerry Fels? I didn't. Good cocktail party conversation in case anyone ever asks you (how I do wait for someone to ask me...). Also, I might leave that price tag on there forever. It's half the fun of the story!!

I was struck by what someone said in a documentary I was watching the other day about context while antiquing or junking-- the dealer in question had bought a slim, pale green lamp at an antique show for $10 "as a joke", thinking it was maybe a fake from the 90's of a better known design. The further he got from the dismal little corner of the field that the lamp had been on, however, the more life the lamp seemed to take in, until he realized it was actually a very good 1930's art deco piece, not derivative of anything, and that he'd bought it at a fraction of its actual value just on a lark. The lamp's proximity to so much "bad" stuff had made his otherwise impeccable eye for the "great" versus the "ok" fail him. Now, if you see a gorgeous rhinestone bedecked flapper masterpiece in a pile of polyester, sure you're going to know it's the best thing going on that sawhorse table. But sometimes, it's true, I buy something on an inkling of interest, get it home, and realize it's really something. This Jere is definitely a great example-- I wasn't even sure it was worth the energy of picking up when it was balanced on top of some cheap Home Accents 8 x 10 frames...but having it leaned up next to the record console every morning (pending my getting my dad to help me hang it on these thin walls with a certain degree of certainty), it's really grown on me how gorgeous it it. 

Once more, with feeling!

I haven't been able to find an exact copy of this on Ebay or Etsy, but if you've seen one there or in your grandmother's basement, you have to promise to let me know! The  more   ubiquitous Brutalist designs by C Jere go for anywhere from $400 to almost $6,000, with the figural windmills and sailboats and birds a little less expensive. My socks were knocked right off when I did my usual Google newspapers search and turned up this ad from Artisan House (which Fels and Freiler cofounded in the  early sixties') from the 70's :

$160 for the farmhouse, and $35 for the shipwreck. Do you know how much that is in 2015 money? That's $695 and $152, respectively. Holy smokes! It will never cease to amaze me how much old stuff cost before it was old.

All right, I have to get going, but what do you think? Do you love it or do you LOVE IT? Have you found anything you were cuckoo go gaga over lately out at the sales? Any amazing finds that defy the odds and spur the vintage imagination? You know I'd love to hear about it!!

I have a veritable backlog of things I need to gab at you about, and don't you know I've missed doing it! I hope I'm back soon, schedule permitting, to tell you all about what's been going on lately. Stay warm and safe in this crazy weather, and I'll see you in the funny papers. :) Take care! Til next time.

UPDATE: I found the one I have online on 1stdibs! And it has A BROTHER:

Also they're hanging it wrong if the orientation of the signature says anything about how you should hang it (I follow the same logic by judging where the front or back of the vintage hat is based on the maker's you fellow vintage ladies do the same?).

This one looks like a relative from the same collection:

My reaction:................!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


  1. My comment didn't show up for some reason, so here's a paraphrasing:
    "whaaat?! at least 90% off retail? crazy good find. I can't believe it wasn't a knockoff."

    1. Me neither! My hands started sweating while I was walking up to the cash register!!

  2. What a great find! I have to confess, I wouldn't have recognized it, what a luck you found it! And what a luck the sellers didn't recognize, either.
    It looks pretty cool and special, curious to see how it will fit on your walls.
    Seems as if february was the month of thrift-finds-of-the-century, I found an 18th-century chasuble made from silver-brocaded french silk for 10 CHF, a fraction of what it could cost at an antiques auction. So this is the stuff I recognize ;-)

    1. I had to look up what a "chasuble" was, but I am now properly impressed! That is so cool! I love what a difference a trained eye can make in finding SUPER deals out there in the antiques wilderness. :)

  3. THATS SO AWESOME! I love days like these at the thrift. It kinda makes up for all the days when all you see is 90s dollar store figurines and shitty paintings that were done by someone's "artistic" college friend. Once it gets warmer and I am hermiting far less, I need to get back in the thrifting spirit. I haven't been in about a month, and that's disgusting! May I ask where you found this one...I am always looking for more ideas.

    1. Thanks! Yeah, I think the more "spring cleaning" people do, the better the spoils at the thrift stores will be, so get out there!! Next time I see you, I'll give you the skinny on my secret sale spots. :D

  4. OH MY GAWD!!! Wow! Talk about SCORE! Looking at it, I agree, I would have at first though of a Ross/TJ Maxx type of thing, typically because Jere's stuff is more...skeletal...? Ya know, like birds and bridges without a backing and such... I also TOTALLY would have acted like you in your interaction with your man!


    1. Thank you! No, I know, most of the pieces of theirs I've seen (online, mostly) are either those barnhouse/steamboat/birds/rustic figural pieces or the abstract/brutalist/spiny pom poms and this is a little different. I love it though. I'm still trying to figure out where/how to hang it!

  5. Lucky you! Love that, gorgeous!!!!

  6. that is amazing! whenever i want something vintage that is a little out of my price range i just hope i'll find it in a similar situation. my best find to date i think is my gorgeous 5 foot pom pom tree in perfect condition with little mercury balls at the end of each branch for 20 bucks at an estate sale! on the THIRD DAY! it was meant to be mine! same with our hank williams bust we got for 5 bucks from the goodwill outlet. i regularly get emails from people offering me up to 400 bucks for it!

    1. That Hank bust is AMAZING...and I love your pom pom tree story. Wasn't that the woman you said was like "I'm going to have to have twenty dollars for it, AT LEAST...." Girl, please, take the sawbuck, I'm off to bask in the glory of my estate sale steal. Finding shocking deals on great stuff, man, those are the moments I LIVE for! :)

  7. I found a signed C. Jere Labyrinth wall hanging at a garage sale in Ohio for $6.00. That's $6 DOLLARS!! I darn near ran to pay for it and guarded it suspiciously while I paid and nearly RAN to the car with it. $6 y'all!

    1. WELL DONE!! The only thing better than finding something great is finding it for almost free. $6!!



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...