I'm very lucky. I come from a family that adores history, antiques, and has no fear scouring dust, rust, and the occasional bug to find something special. My grandmother owned an antique store in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, before she died, and most of my early memories are of watching adults go nuts at auctions over broken pieces of jewelry and furniture missing hinges and knobs and other unsightly blemishes. My dad restored the pieces we brought home as a hobby, specifically antique rifles and clocks, so having something new in our house was a novel and exciting concept. I remember being mad when I told my parents I wanted a desk, and the first thing they got me was a lady's writing table from the 1800's, when all I wanted was a white Pottery Barn style computer desk like all my friends had. My parents were much wiser than I gave them credit for.
So when I, (and probably a lot of other people), hear that Keith Johnson, a buyer for Anthropologie, has gotten a show chronicling his travels around the world to buy dusty antiques for an over priced catalogue, respectively called Man Shops Globe, I turn a little green, and a little red. Salon.com quickly followed up with an article titled "Overpriced Antiques for Anxious Yuppies," citing the upper middle class's obsession with rustic objects d'art as a quest for meaning in an otherwise cardboard boxed, pre-packaged, quick-fix world. While the criticism of a trend is fair enough, it seems weak to poke at people who are "existentially wobbly" and long for something meaningful, even if that something turns out to be an ottoman from the former Ottoman empire, or a blown glass lamp from Tunisia.
Anthropologie also owns Urban Outfitters, the store I did not discover until my freshman year at college in Washington, DC. This is when I discovered that the curly-cued wrought iron adornments and faded fabrics my parents had so adored were being mass produced with a hipper edge, and I liked it. Around ten years old I told my parents I'd never buy anything that wasn't new, because old stuff was creepy and dirty, so I suppose my infatuation with the Urban Outfitters apartment section was the beginning of my regression from those words - a compromise between new and dingy.
I think the entire marketing strategy of stores like Urban Outfitters is to make everything look like a patch work quilt sewn together with pretty, textured fabrics. Nothing really matches, but that's ok.
The thing with purchasing from a catalogue that the Salon article railed against, and which I fully agree with, is that objects such as the mirror above from anthropologie.com and listed for $500.00, are a ridiculous way to go about acquiring unique pieces. Part of the value of being a collector of antiques and art is doing the scouring and the searching yourself, and knowing exactly where the piece came from, and if it's a new handicraft from an exotic location, then getting to experience where it came from and meet the person who made it. As far as the mirror above, I could definitely smash a few old $5 throw away frames and glue them onto a new one. Someone write me a check!
Of course, being a quick-fix protege of the times, I get frustrated not knowing the outcome of things, so part of the allure of places like Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters is that the final product is already done for you. Collecting takes time and patience, and it's easier to order part of a whole - such as a sofa from a picture of a completed room - with the final design in mind. This is something I need to work on - letting go of the desire to know the ending. None the less, I want that scarf. And that hat. And that jacket. If I got that $500 check, it might cover all three pieces.
Of course, for the poorer people amongst us, including myself, there was always Target's Global Bazaar, which I again agree with the Salon article when it describes these objects as focuses of resentment when they pale in comparison to legit antiques and handicrafts after coming out of the shopping bag. Nonetheless, I will always love Target.
Here, Keith Johnson examines carpets in a Turkish carpet store, another activity that I loathed my ninth grade year as my parents looked at unrolled carpet after unrolled carpet in stores across the country. Living in Izmir, we get to travel frequently around Turkey, so I maintain that, despite my annoyance at the time, I'm a lucky girl. And as beautiful as some of the pieces he selects here may be, they still will never hold the relevance that a carpet my mother picked out from the store in Izmir where she had tea every week with the shop keeper while I petted the almost-stray German Sheppard outside does; one of many pieces that still make me think of her when she was alive and the wonderful year my family spent together in Izmir. These are the things that make an object powerful. Sorry, Anthropologie. It's just not the same.