Thursday, September 10, 2015

Curtis Jere and Marc Creates (Brutalist and MCM Wall Art for Pennies on the Dollar)

Hello again!

Do you ever get a "when it rains, it really pours" feeling about vintage items? Sometimes it seems like I'll spend years looking for something, and all of a sudden in a short period of time, I find not one but two or three or four of the same thing that was scarce as hen's teeth before. Remember my $10 Curtis Jere from March? Well, buckle your seat belts, kids, Mama brought some siblings home for my now growing metal art wall collection:

Trying to find juuuust the right place to put this now. Cameo by Matthew's arm and Al Jolson.

I was minding my own business at work on a Friday afternoon, making my list of houses to hit on Saturday and combing through estate sale listings for suitability, when a picture caught my eye. Tangent: Do you fellow estate sale lovers look through the pictures on or Craigslist before venturing out into the wild for fun stuff? I always try and rank sales by what I see in the preview pictures, be it sixties' green carpet or a very Leave it to Beaver kitchen, to gauge whether or not I'll be able to find more goodies. All tools in a garage? Naaah. All contemporary furniture? Noooope. This house in Hendersonville looked to be from the late eighties' or early nineties', and nothing furniture or smalls wise really spoke to me. I usually flip through the gallery with my finger pressed to the right arrow key, giving me a split second montage of all the images, and I had to stop and go back for this one in the midst of all that maroon and forest green upholstery:

Well, well, well...what do we have here?I was pretty sure I was seeing a Curtis Jere Brutalist piece hiding in plain sight. As poor, beleagured Matthew was getting off work two hours before me, I sent him an SOS via text message of the above photo and an address. "PLEASE GO GET THIS, MUST BE LESS THAN $50", the distress signal read, and off he went out of his way to go grab it (because he is #1 husband of the year, in case you were wondering). About an hour later:

Me: Did you get it?!
He: Yeah! 
Me: [elated] Really?!
He: Yeah!! It's right here in the Cube!
Me: How much was it. It was like fifty bucks, wasn't it.
He: No, it was $25!
Me: What'd they say at the sale?
He: Well, I just walked in and went straight to it, took it off the wall, and then went up to pay. The ladies there were like, "I guess you know what YOU want!" And then said didn't I want to look around in the garage or anything, so I did, but they didn't have anything.

The poor guy didn't even get rewarded for his hard work by a secret stash of old video games or computer monitors. C'est la vie. The conversation continued:

Me: Can you look to see if there are any markings on the front of it? It'll look like a little CJ in a circle, or like someone wrote "c jere" on one of the squares in Sharpie.
He: Ok, let me seeeeeee...[pause]....yeah, no, I don't see anything like that, but it might just be a case of Bab eyes. [a medical term for when he's sent looking for something and I come in five minutes later and pluck in from directly in front of his field of vision].
Me: [a little disappointed] Yeah, it might just not be a Curtis Jere or whatever. Can you look on the back of it where it hangs on the wall?
He: Oh! Here we go! [as hope swells within my bosom] There's a little sticker that says "Marc Creates".
Me: [très deçu] Oh....well...that's ok, It IS metal, right? Is it heavy?
He: I mean, it seems heavy to me? But...?
Me: I'll just look at it when I get home. 

Was my usual acuity with antiques dulled by disuse? Had I been fooled? I was worried that I would get home and the piece might be some Syroco or similarly down market version of what I was looking for. Matthew brought the piece in from the car when I got home and I was pleased to see that it was real metal, and heavy! AND GORGEOUS! Get a look at it next to the C Jere Brutalist guy from earlier (and no, I'm never taking that $10 sticker off):

YES MA'AM. "Marc Creates, huh..." I says to myself, and started googling.

"Marc Creates" is the brand under which Marc Weinstein, an artist from St. Louis, MO, sold his own line of midcentury metal creations. His website mentions that he got his start in metal objets d'art in the late 1950's, when he started working in a scrapyard his father owned.  From the website:

Weinstein began experimenting with different welding techniques after learning the basics from a local handyman. Welding brought Weinstein's artistic abilities to the surface and by the early 1960s, he was transforming scrap metal into works of art.... He spent the next two years welding textured metal sculptures in a shed in the corner of his father's scrap metal yard. What started as an artistic release in his spare time, was now starting to consume his days. Weinstein said, "My Dad thought the sculptures were interesting, but was also concerned about running a business." 
On a whim he took a metal wall sculpture to a local furniture store to see if they would buy it. "The old guy who owned the place didn't like it, but his son stopped me before I left and said that he wanted it. He purchased the sculpture to sell in the furniture store and it sold immediately," said Weinstein. Shortly after he sold his first work, he was receiving orders at a slow but steady rate until a furniture sales person spotted his sculptures hanging in a store. The sales person contacted him to see if he could carry his artwork. The sales person used Mark's sculptures to accessorize the walls of a furniture show in Chicago. As a result of this exposure, manufacture representatives from all over the country began to inquire about selling his art. By 1967, the demand for Marc Creates metal sculptures was outgrowing the shed in the corner of his father's scrap yard. In need of a full-time production facility and showroom, Weinstein opened a studio in downtown St. Louis. By the early 1970s, Marc Creates was producing metal sculptures and furniture, shipping thousands of pieces of art throughout the world.

PLUS THE WEBSITE HAS A PDF OF HIS 1975 CATALOG. Color me thrilled. Check out the cover and some of the pieces from inside:

As in most of the vintage things I bring into the house, what I love about these brutalist pieces are how dramatic they are. Anything that catches your eye and holds your gaze is something I want in my house, be it a cow skull or a ventriloquist dummy or one of these characters. Also, that one on the left? That would be mine! :o I know it's goofy, but the wanna be archivist/ former librarian in me gets thrilled to pieces when I'm able to track down the provenance of something neat I've found. Nowadays, Marc Creates is sold under the name Curtis Jere thanks to some business merging, and I think that's actually a good idea as the two look so similar!

Speaking of Curtis Jere....

What you can't see in this picture-- how badly this thing needs another three nails to hold it up, or how sharp the edges of those leaves are! Caution, peeps.


The day after Matthew brought the Marc Creates home, my parents and I ventured out into the sweltering heat to visit one of Michael Taylor's warehouse sales. I wandered around the unairconditioned space (there were fans going, but the air that day was so hot they weren't doing much but moving the air around), not really looking FOR anything so much as just looking. Michael Taylor is the KING of estate sales, and I regularly just hit whatever sales he has going on a given weekend-- this one happened to be a number of items relocated from other sales to his business location on Allied Drive. I had seen a few knickknacks I was interested in but resisted mightily light of our recent clean out efforts. Then, draped over an ottoman like "one of your French girls" was this gold leaves metal piece. Two in one weekend? NOT POSSIBLE. I shimmied through a bank of couches and chairs to where the glinting leaves lay. As a lot of the items at the warehouse sale are do we say this...competitively (read: sky high for a little pennypincher like me), I was worried that even with the half off discount running the dadblamed thing would be marked $200, effectively placing it out of my price range. Mais non, the postal tag attached to it read $45 in magic marker. 

"Oh, well then it's probably not an actual Curtis Jere, right," I said to myself, eyeing it for a signature. I turned it over in my hands carefully and squinted as beads of perspiration started forming on my brow from stationary activity. "OR MAYBE IT IS!" I thought, spotting the tell tale signature bold as brass across one stem.

So, a real C Jere for $22.50, bayBEE, quite a mark down from this 1stDibs listing at $725. YAHOO. I told friends I almost paid with my life as the line to checkout was long and fraught with credit card reader difficulties (side note: if I see one more person paying for items at an estate sale that total less than $20 with a credit card, I might just lose my actual mind), but in the end, it was worth almost heat stroke to add to my collection of knock-yer-eye-out vintage wall hangings.

The family all together, for size comparison.

All right, enough blabbin-- what do you think! And apologies to my Facebook/Instagram friends, I blew up soc'med at the time with my finds, but you know how I love to write things out longform here on the blog. :) Do you have any metal wall art in your house? How/where do you display it? Had any crazy "when it rains it pours" estate sale or flea finds lately? I'd love to hear all about it!

That's all for now, but more next week! Have a fantastic weekend and I'll talk to you soon!!


  1. oh goodness, you are striking gold as usual! I go nuts over as my Thursday routine, hoping that something will show up and be actually within Los Angeles county! This place gets nuts on first day, with just about everyone being a reseller of some sort, but there's usually a couple nice things left by 1/2 off day for us collectors :)

    1. Thanks! And oh, am I glad I'm not the only one poring over, it's really one of the best parts of my week! I know what you mean about the first day resellers, they can be brutal. I used to have every other Friday off so I could get there on Friday sometimes, but almost never on Thursday (when a lot of the sales start in these parts)...I'm amazed though at how much is left/at what great prices on Saturday's half off day! A lot of that stuff I wouldn't have been into at $40, but at $20, give me two! :D

  2. Woah! You are on fiyah! Sometimes when I am at goodwill, I have my ebay app open so I can consult to see how much things are worth. This was especially a hobby when I was jobless and reselling my ass off! I used to keep a log of how much I spent vs sold, and it was nothing next to those...but I made several hundred. Now, I don't always resell, but I still like to know resell value purely for bragging rights! I'm trying to get better, but if its worth a lot...I will buy it...even if its not my aesthetic. I figure if nothing else I can pass it on to a good home. BTW- I love that last c jere masterpiece...the one that looks super deathly sharp.

    1. Thank you! I think using the technology at hand to check on makers is a really good idea-- I usually only do that if I think it's a little high but I still want whatever it is, to make sure I couldn't just go home and wait and buy it on ebay for the same amount/less and not suffer through that "should I/shouldn't I" feeling. I need to pick your brain about reselling, I'm not buying to resell but oh GOOD GOD the things I have in the attic that need to be resold, haha.

      I told Matthew when I got home that the last piece was the best thing to be walking through a crowded sale with because people give you a WIDE berth when you're coming at them with a shield-like metal pointy thing. "Back UP, people, give me some room!":)

  3. Oooh, I WANT that starburst-looking one! Oh and hey, I love Syroco! But then I've always been drawn to the cheesy stuff. I mean, it's true, I'm creating this look in my home. I keep telling my mom "I love this, it's so cheesy". Lol, and believe it or not, it's coming together nicely!

    1. I believe it! No, I'm a huge fan of Syroco, I was just worried that as far as price, $25 was like 10 x LESS than what a metal wall thing like that should have been, and about 5 times MORE than it should be if it was plastic (even cool fake plastic, lol). I know I have more than I need wall art wise, but I'm going to be on the lookout for more stuff from that Marc Creates catalog, wasn't it something??



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