Retro-Spective: Affordable Vintage Furniture in Traverse City
Feb 23, 2012
Last fall I was doing my usual quick spin through sprawling Wilson Antiques in Traverse City. I follow a pattern that seldom changes, allowing me to see everything I like within a frenzied 20 minutes if I'm pressed for time. I was halfway through my route, on the second floor, when I hopped up that little extra flight of stairs and stopped dead in my vintage-loving tracks. Before me lay a thoughtful display of Midcentury Modern beauty: a gorgeous teak wall unit served as a backdrop for colorful textiles, shapely chairs, clean-lined tables, and interesting accessories. I felt as though I should sit and stay awhile.
Lingering and sit-testing is indeed encouraged by the booth's owner, Erin Attwood Lane, whose keen eye and sheer love of vintage led her to open Retro-Spective in the four-floor antiques mall on Union Street. I met her there one morning while she was rearranging the shop after selling the beautiful wall unit. We grabbed a table for two next door at the always-welcoming Cousin Jenny's to do two of my favorite things: drink tea and talk vintage.
Erin didn't set out to become a vintage dealer. She set out to become a zoologist, earning degrees in zoology from both MSU and U of M. She developed her career in the field but took a different direction when she moved back to the Traverse City area to be closer to family. She now works in real estate and lives on a farm in Maple City with her husband, Vic, and 3-1/2-year-old daughter, Robin.
Diane Kolak: How and when did you discover your love of vintage furniture?
Erin Attwood Lane: When I was growing up, my mom filled the house with Victorian antiques. We never bought anything new. I always liked the look of older furniture, and the good craftsmanship. But I prefer the cleaner lines of Midcentury antiques to the fancier Victorian stuff.
DK: When did you open shop?
EAL: I just happened upon the space last fall , so I put dibs on it and got it. It's an ideal setup because I don't have to constantly work there, and it has good exposure downtown. I sell pieces I've found on my own, some that I've refinished or painted, and I sell on consignment, too.
DK: What's your criteria for items you buy for the shop?
EAL: I go for the more affordable pieces, the things other dealers might pass up because they don't have a designer label. There are a lot of Mid-Mod pieces that have solid construction and beautiful design, but they were mid-range pieces back in the day. Now, they're more attainable than the big names like Eames, Jacobsen, Wegner, and the like.
DK: Do you find most of your vintage furniture around Traverse City and Leelanau?
EAL: Yes, with an occasional trip to Grand Rapids.
DK: What are some of the names you look for, that fit that profile for quality and moderate price?
EAL: Drexel, Kroehler, Garrison, Dixie, Lane… there are a lot. Half the fun is scouring and spotting the finds, especially when people just think it's Grandma's tired old furniture.
DK: Do you think there's a growing appreciation in Northern Michigan for furniture from the 50s, 60s, and 70s?
EAL: I do. When I'm working at Wilson's, I can spot my customers. They're fairly young and hip, maybe wearing a funky outfit. This used to be everyone's furniture, but now it's being appreciated by a more stylish set of people.
DK: What's your personal favorite item in the booth right now?
EAL: There's a Broyhill Brasilia credenza that I just found. It has beautiful curves and a mix of walnut and pecan woods. I might accentuate that with a new finish.
To buy this vintage Broyhill Brasilia credenza, email Erin at Retro-Spective.
DK: What sells the fastest?
EAL: I haven't been in business really long enough to say, but I sell a lot of smalls [small accessories and knick-knacks]. It's an easy, affordable way for people to add personality to a room.
DK: You revamp a lot of what you find. How do you decide what to refinish and what to leave as found?
EAL: It's the finish. As long as it adds to the charm and history, I'll keep it. But some things are worth more pretty. I sell more to people buying for their own homes than I do to collectors, so often it's best to refinish and present a piece in its best light. I use a soy-based stripper so it's better for the environment.
DK: Where do you get your design and color inspiration?
EAL: From the era. Google Images is my best friend! I can find original ads for some of the furniture and see what colors the company originally offered. Old fabrics are very inspiring, too.
DK: Are you ever tempted to keep pieces in your inventory?
EAL: All the time! And I do. Right now I'm using a chrome dining set and a black lacquered buffet in my house. Robin has a vintage rainbow afghan and a lot of old books and old art.
DK: What's your dream find?
EAL: I haven't set that goal. I get excited enough finding something I like that's not being appreciated. I know I can find someone who will love it.
DK: Do you have any tips for decorating with MCM furniture and accessories?
EAL: I like to juxtapose it with modern color. A bright, fun wall with Mid-Mod pieces against it is beautiful.
DK: Midcentury Mod has been really hot for a long time now. Do you think it's here to stay? If not, what's next?
EAL: I'd like to think it's here to stay, but everything is cyclical. Mid-Mod appeals to a lot of people who want to simplify their homes and lives. It's a classic simplicity that I don't think will ever go out of style. I'm not sure what's next. I just keep buying things I like, whether or not they're from my favorite era.
The inventory at Retro-Spective changes often. Stop by Erin's booth on the second floor of Wilson Antiques at 123 South Union Street in Traverse City. Wilson's recently expanded to a second location at the former House of Denmark building in Acme, across from East Grand Traverse Bay. Out of town? Connect with Retro-Spective on Facebook, where you'll find timely updates and lots of photos of Erin's finds and projects.
Need a little help integrating vintage furniture into your home's design plan or achieving a look inspired by your favorite era? I can help. Just email me. —Diane Kolak
TAGS: erin attwood lane leelanau traverse city wilson antiques mall retrospective retro-spective vintage midcentury modern furniture 1950s 1960s 1970s decorating with vintage furniture
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Interview: Faith Givings of
Faith Ann Originals
Nov 29, 2010
I discovered Faith Givings' work in June when I was searching for an artistic wedding gift for an outdoorsy friend. I ordered this ceramic wall hanging with a beautiful relief design of canoes on a river's edge. Faith told me later that the piece was developed from a sketch she had drawn while camping on the Escanaba River in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, just a bit west of where I grew up. I felt like the gift had found me, and thus its eventual owners, who are also lovers of Michigan's wild places.
At her Etsy shop, Faith Ann Originals, Faith sells different types of ceramic pieces that start with a sketch and finish with two kiln firings on her signature watercolor glazing effect. Her pieces are surprisingly affordable and diverse. With gift-giving season here, I thought I'd ask her a few questions about her work and spark your interest in giving original art this year. She also has a selection of ceramic ornaments and gift tags, and some affordable buttons and pins that make nice present embellishments.
Interview: Faith Ann Givings of Faith Ann Originals
Tell me about your background in art.
I’m primarily self-taught. I spent my babysitting money (50 cents/hour) on one kind of paint after another and experimented my way through junior high and high school. My mom used to joke that if something didn’t move fast enough, I would paint it.
I majored in Poli Sci, but while I studied and raised a family, a once weekly course in pottery through our local Recreation Department got me hooked on clay. When my husband became disabled, I returned to the University to finish my studies in law and mediation, but I couldn’t help padding my courselist with a couple of courses in pottery and watercolor, thinking all along that it was a shame not to be able to do the two at once. So I studied and worked 6 days a week, then stole away to the UW ceramics studio to throw, pinch, and pound on clay or spread out on the lawn with huge, thick sheets of cold pressed watercolor paper, studying the ebb and flow of water and colors.
Do you work in any other media?
I still throw both pottery and art pieces on the wheel, with standard high fired or Raku finishes. I’ve also worked in oil, acrylic, wood, mixed media, and fiber, sometimes producing coordinating fiber and ceramic pieces.
What makes your work unique?
Wow, that’s a huge question. Most of my pieces are functional as well as art, but in a way that’s different from other functional pottery. My work is intended to function as art for the home or office, like a fine painting. Then, with nothing more than a moment’s notice, the owner can pluck the piece from its stand or right off the wall and put it to use offering crudités to guests, serving sushi for two, or showcasing that extra special treat. Dual-duty art for the economy-minded, for the down-sized, for the minimalist, the modern home, or just as a lovely conversation piece.
More notably, I’ve looked and other artists and gallery operators have looked. So far we haven’t discovered anyone else doing what I do. It wasn’t until a family friend and docent for the San Francisco Museum of Art visited and concurred that I began to wonder if my work was truly unique.
Without the benefit of a traditional education in art… I didn’t know whether watercolor and pottery techniques could be delicately and effectively combined, so I just kept trying.
Clearly, you're inspired by nature. Are there any other sources to which you regularly turn for inspiration?
Architecture inspires me, on occasion. That can be anything from an 1800s structure to an aging barn or silo, to a 50s-era landmark. Children inspire me, too. Always have, always will.
What's your favorite wildflower?
I think I go in stages, depending on what’s just about to blossom in my mom’s, my five sisters’, or my own backyard. One day it could be Wild Geranium, another day Bloodroot, Spiderwort, Solomon’s Seal, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lady’s Slipper, Bellwort, or even the common wood violet. The Trillium has always held a special place in my heart, though. As a youngster, discovering one in the woods seemed a solemn and magical occasion.
Say someone wants specific flowers or plants, or a custom sized tile for wall installation. Do you accept commissions?
Yes, I do. With plenty of lead time (and available plant life!), I am happy to consider commissioned pieces.
Recently, with my son Theo’s assistance, I delivered a commission of more than 100 custom tiles to the Schlitz Audubon Nature Center, featuring original watercolor scenes from their grounds. Other recent requests ranged from a set of four square hanging trays in graduated sizes, each with a single, perfect, fall-watercolored maple leaf, to a single holiday ornament of a sailboat on Lake Michigan at sunset.
What's your favorite piece in your shop right now?
My favorite piece in my online shop is a 2’ x 1½’, highly textured, single leaf piece called At First Light [pictured below]. The watercolor effect is delightful and the feel of it is amazing! It just begs to be touched!
Any new product ideas on the horizon?
Yes! Just released, small works of art. And coming soon, tiles for installation. With tightened pocketbooks and a number of galleries and shops closing, the joie de vivre that art brings with it is probably needed now more than ever. With that in mind, I’ve designed different kinds of small pieces that are as easy to afford as they are to hold. Each is still an original design. Each is still handmade.
A number of local galleries already have an assortment of these delicately colored pins, unique ceramic ornaments, decorative buttons, one-of-a-kind brooches, and cube jewelry (aka, tasteful “jewelry” with which to adorn one’s cubicle). You can see examples now here. These designs began as gifts I once made exclusively for family and friends with a combination of hand-carved designs and impressed leaves and blossoms. In addition to making perfect gifts, they can be a nice way of sampling my designs and colors while considering larger pieces.
Next on the horizon is a host of standard sized tile tests, requested by some of my wildflower and herb tile collectors who are currently planning home renovations and rejuvenations. Walking the fine line between maintaining the handmade and natural aspects of my pieces and achieving standardized measurements (accounting for shrinkage of the clay at 4 separate stages) has been a bit of a wrestling match. The nice thing for shoppers and collectors is that nearly every one of these "experiments" is a lovely tile in its own right! Some of these tiles and many ornaments, pins, buttons, brooches, and Cube Jewelry will be available at my online shop and at an upcoming event at Boerner Botanical Gardens Holiday Celebration in Greendale, WI on Sunday, December 5.
Why did you decide to focus on ceramics?
I think pottery and ceramics decided to focus on me. We lost our oldest son at about noon on Thanksgiving Day, shot and killed while our next youngest son was held at gunpoint, only about a mile from our home of 25 years. It’s been almost five years to the day, and I still can’t say that without having to stop and stifle a scream, and then remind myself to breathe. After months of shrieking and sobbing in agony, for the rest of my dear family’s sake, I returned to the relative silence of the pottery studio. It wasn’t that I stopped crying; I cried non-stop some days, wetting every bit of clay in front of me. But I didn’t have to talk to the clay, or explain my tears, or stop them. The clay absorbed every tear. And it still does.
What's on your own holiday wish list this year?
When family asks, my pat answer is moisturizer. You can catch me almost any hour of the day up to my elbows — literally — in clay, with clay clumps between my fingers, glaze smudges on my face, and clay dust in my hair. Seriously, though? Peace is my heart’s desire. Peace, and to keep as busy as possible… and maybe just a little more clay.
• • • • •
Thank you, Faith, for sharing your personal story and your creativity with Dwelement's readers. If you'd like to give the gift of original art this year or to contact Faith about commissioned work, visit Faith Ann Originals at Etsy.com. —Diane
TAGS: faith ann originals etsy faithannoriginals ceramic art for the home giving original art gift christmas hanukkah ideas wisconsin wildflower herb plant art floral tiles custom
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Vintage Accessories in Your Modern-day Home
Aug 14, 2009
Kelly from The Best Things
I love mixing vintage and modern in my home. So does Kelly Nogoski, owner of The Best Things, an Etsy shop with a wide array of kitschy and classy vintage finds for the home. Kelly has honed her ability to handpick vintage items with personality and satisfying functional qualities. She has a distinct vision for every piece she finds and has admitted to wanting to keep them all inside the diminutive abode she shares with her husband and business partner, Ron Olrich.
But she knows what she's doing, and filling a small home with all manner of flotsam and jetsam does not create a pleasing space. So she's created a venue by which she can scratch her kitsch itch and still maintain a well designed home. The Best Things features 100+ special finds, all beautifully photographed. I asked Kelly some questions about finding vintage accessories (and keeping your home from looking like Aunt Trudy's after that road trip to Caifornia).
Your shop has all kinds of wild finds, but somehow everything feels like it belongs there. Are there common elements you look for when you shop?
I'd love to say there's a rhyme or reason, but there's not. I think things, like people, have inherent qualities that can make them inexplicably beautiful, charming and endearing. Maybe a silly expression on a figurine's face, a folk art quality, a beautiful shape or finish, or even just a basic utility. They're things that, were they people, I'd wanna hug.
What are your three favorite items currently for sale in your shop?
Tiny fawn. I have a deep love for deer, and this little guy was actually hard for me to list. Vintage figurines made in Japan have an elusive look and charm that's almost impossible to describe. He's perfectly imperfect ... kind of scraggly, with slightly googly eyes that make him look both lost and wise. I just love him.
The coffee house. It's an adorable little wood rack for two mugs. Ron works odd hours and because there's always work in the house that needs to be done, we have few quiet moments together. We like to imagine the coffee house hanging in a little cabin far far away from our responsibilities. We'd pluck our mugs from the rack, pour our coffee, and just enjoy each others' company.
The cocktail shaker. It's made of sturdy glass, has a good strainer, and is all at once casual, elegant and classic. And it's completely transparent! I love a good gin martini, and the thought of getting to see one getting shaken around in that beauty gets me pretty revved.
I bought a white dove figurine from you a few months ago. (My husband swears it's an albino pigeon, but whatever.) It's on my entry table with a pair of egg-shaped teak bowls and a vase holding a fern from my garden. Do you ever wonder what becomes of the things you sell? Do customers ever send you photos?
I love that pigeon (I mean dove)! And I love seeing it in your lovely home! Coo coo. I do wonder what becomes of the things I sell. I've only had one customer send me a photo, but I've had other customers tell me where they've displayed their things, who they've given them to, why they bought them, and it makes me infinitely happy. I love playing matchmaker to these little sweet things and their owners, and I really get the feeling that my customers are as charmed by my inventory as I am.
It's hard to imagine displaying some of these things. I mean, an egg diorama? Do you have any tips for making kitsch look intentional?
You had to bring up the egg diorama! There are so many tips for displaying your beloved objects without making them look like Aunt Trudy's (though I have to say, I'd like to get to know this Aunt Trudy… she sounds fun). My simple rules for our wee house are as follows:
- Don't be afraid to display the unexpected.
- Group things by color, theme or style, and pay attention to arrangement. Variations in height, color, shape and/or pattern will take you a long, cohesive way.
- Think about where you're putting your kitsch. A vintage sign stating the price of eggs does not belong in the loo, nor does a vintage ad of a woman bathing belong in the kitchen.
- Isolate things you really love. The (ahem) egg diorama can be elevated to high art if on a display shelf all its own in a little nook or prominent spot.
- If you really love something, just put it out and love it. People are more attractive when they exude an air of confidence. Things are the same way. There's a carved tiki on the mantle ... so what?
- Don't go overboard. The above exception can only be used a few times until you've got yourself Aunt Trudy's.
In your own home, how do you know when enough is enough?
When we can't walk around without bumping into something ... help?
Really, when things start to annoy us. When I look around and feel suffocated. When things have gone beyond the realm of artful display and into the realm of "Where are we gonna put this?" We edit often, and I've parted with a lot of beautiful things because they just didn't jive with what we have (though my seashell creature collection isn't going anywhere, thankyouverymuch).
There's power in multiples. In your treasure-hunting, do you run across certain things over and over that might make a dramatic collection covering a wall?
Sure! The first thing that comes to mind is paint-by-number paintings. I've seen them displayed in multiple with quite a beautiful, graphic effect. I'm also weak in the knees for groupings of amateur portrait paintings. They're harder to come by, but oh-so-romantic.
Other things that come to mind: album covers, vintage ads from a common era, seashell pictures (again with the seashells!), 70s screen prints (Marushka is something to search for), vintage photos. Oh, and plates! Vintage plates can be bought and hung for a song in whatever arrangement you like and the overall effect can be quite stunning.
What's a vintage doodad in your home that you'll never part with?
That's an easy one: The deer painting. My mom bought it for us for $6 at an auction in southwest Michigan. The auctioneer actually laughed when he brought it out, but he's a fool as far as I'm concerned. I think it's fantastic. Just gaze at its majesty and tell me you're not mesmerized! It's at once graphic and painterly, and the handmade frame is kinda crooked. I like to just lie on the sofa and look at it. I honestly wonder who made it. What was their motivation? Where was it supposed to hang? How long did it take? These are questions that can keep me dreaming for hours.
The Best Things is updated often, and because prices are reasonable, inventory sells quickly. Keep an eye on the shop and when you see something you like, grab it! —Diane
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