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Great Expectations in a Second Hand Thrift Store

TaraFly's 3-year-old daughter Mia in the studio.

My daughter Mia, posing with Mommy's thrift store finds.

This weekend I had the rare opportunity to spend Saturday afternoon treasure hunting.

Joe stayed at home with the three little beasts, and I hijacked the car for a pleasure-filled frolic through Hagerstown’s thrift-store district. ;)

My purpose for this little adventure was to find some props for staging photo shoots.
I’ve been growing increasing dissatisfied with my current set-up…
Even though friends tell me “Your shop looks great!” … I’ve decided that I want to brand my work against soft, romantic backdrops of lace and porcelain.

I have this vague destination in mind, and I’m struggling to find the right path to get there.

Most people have enough “things” lying around the house, that if mixed with a little creativity, can produce interesting tableaux…
and believe me, I’ve searched our house from top to bottom.
My blinders must be heavily padded, because I’ve given up, unable find any cute knickknacks to stage a scene with.

We don’t really own much anymore… I’ve learned one lesson after years of living with cats and children:

1. Do NOT bring anything valuable or fragile into your home.
And
2. Don’t grow attached to your material possessions.
Okay, two lessons rolled into one. ;)

But I’m determined to set my work apart… even more so than it already is… so it’s off to the Goodwill thrift store, to look for diamonds in the rough.

wooden jewelry box with keyhole lock

a charming wooden jewelry box

In the past, my trips to the second-hand shops were focused on finding usable, affordable items – tables, dressers, toddler clothing – especially children’s coats and seasonal items that will be destined to repeat the adoption cycle in a few months.

I don’t normally see Hagerstown’s thrift stores as eclectic troves of buried gems, not like the dusty yet magical shops depicted in made-for-television films… where the heroine discovers one-hundred-year-old love letters in an antique writing desk, and embarks on a journey to uncover the couple’s star-crossed history.

Browsing the racks of my local Goodwill typically gives me as much excitement as weeding out my closet.
My neighbors’ discarded apparel, worn paperbacks, and chipped dishware look nearly identical to our own.

As the saying goes: one man’s trash is another man’s… ermmm… trash.

porcelain water pitcher, basin, candle holder with handle, copper skillet

A few of my recently acquired treasures...

Saturday was different, however. My mission wasn’t to search for everyday functional items… rather, I specifically wanted old junk.
The older the better.
If a piece wanted to tell me its story, I would invite it home for coffee and biscuits.

I walked into the Goodwill with a fresh pair of eyes – leaving those industrial-strength blinders at home where Joe would likely need them. ;)

I headed past the racks of clothes and toys, making a beeline for Housewares. Originally hoping to find some crystal goblets or china plates… I was met with initial disappointment at the limited selection.

But my luck soon turned, after stumbling upon this lovely porcelain water basin and pitcher… looking for all the world like it belonged on the bedroom nightstand in a prairie cabin. I scooped it up for $8.00 and canvassed the shelves for similar accessories.

porcelain pitcher and water basin with vintage photo filters

My pitcher and basin, with candle sticks on a string...

Additional treasures I unearthed included a colonial style candle holder with handle, a pair of large wax candles molded as Victorian Christmas carolers, and a wooden plaque sporting a reproduction of baroque painter Peter Paul Ruben’s self-portrait with his wife Isabella Brandt.

trio of painted bird figurines and box covered in tapestry paper

My bird trio, and a papered box

I also picked up this decorative trio of bird figurines for $5.00, because I liked the irony of photographing my predatory cat portraits alongside their painted prey.

Quite a number of people gave me strange looks after glancing at the odd mixture of items in my basket…
I wasn’t the typical Goodwill shopper: arms filled with paperback romances and blouse/skirt sets.

Studying my finds as an ensemble, I was mightily pleased with how well they coordinated (at least, they seemed related to me) …
and calling it quits, I hauled my collection up to front counter.

Passing the furniture section along the way….

Where I spied two lovely Victorian balloon back chairs positioned near the corner window.

victorian balloon back side chairs at thrift store

Pair of Victorian balloon back chairs at the Goodwill thrift store

I rested my loot on a farmhouse table, and went over to examine the side chairs.
They were $35.00 a piece, and although I preferred the chair with the squarish shaped seat, naturally I wanted them both!

Unfortunately, I hadn’t budgeted $70 to spend on furniture.
I snapped a couple of photos of them with my cell phone (my first attempt using the mobile’s camera, and it worked!) …before letting the cashier ring up my other items, and went home to beg discuss it over with Joe.

He acknowledged that one chair could be afforded, so I sent him back to grab the smaller one that I favored.

Shortly after he arrived at the shop, I received a phone call from him: the chair that I wanted, he feared, wasn’t structurally sound…
One of its legs had been broken and re-glued, something I hadn’t noticed.
I did see the cracks in its back frame, and some of the carved details had been sanded down.

The round chair, however, looked alright and felt sturdy when he sat on it. So I forfeited the smaller chair for the opportunity to bring home its sibling.
[See: Rule #1 above]

In addition to adding character to my product photos, this lovely piece inspires me to model again in my Regency wardrobe. I haven’t created any new stock photos in years.

TaraFly's art studio photography corner, with Victorian chair

My ready-to-shoot photography corner of the studio...

I even reorganized my art studio to accommodate an actual photography corner, where my precious chair and a temporarily repurposed filing cabinet can remain dressed and ready for lights, camera, action.

Of course, you know what this means… right? More work for me!
For the next few weeks, I’ll need to experiment with staging and photographing my art prints, incorporating these new props.

You won’t notice dramatic changes overnight, but I’ll gradually re-shoot the majority of my listings.

And once I finally have my shop designed exactly as I’ve envisioned it…

It will be time to begin all over again.

Because my website, much like my house, gets vacuumed 37.2 times per day on average… dust and fur doesn’t settle around here. *sigh*

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