Monday, March 7, 2011

"Antique Keys .50¢ ea."

found objects
waiting to become necklaces
I can be curious. I open lids. Sometimes to my detriment, but this time I found fortune and utter delight:  A pile of antique keys aged to perfection!  Too charming. Romantic, mysterious, symbolic and utilitarian all at once--Mine!

They came in a humble, grubby little paper box with a brown water stain and fading label and postmark on its lid, and a slip of linen cardstock stapled to its side, with "Antique Keys  .50¢ ea." carefully handwritten inside a fancy ink-stamped frame.

I don’t remember what I offered for the whole batch—it was only a few dollars—but I thank my mom for having taught me the value of haggling, and I was thanking the seller for being so unattached to the keys and willing to let them go for an insignificant amount. I mostly thank art school where I learned what wonderful pieces of art can be made from found objects.

I hung out with that box of keys for a few years, not knowing what I wanted to do with them. It’s likely that I tied them on a string and hung them in plain view because that’s what I always do with things so cool I don’t want to forget.  Out of sight, out of know--The Hoarder's Creed?  Eventually I would pair those keys with some leather reclaimed from thrifted vintage coats and make a pretty simple wallet, as quirky and imperfect as you please!

Sometimes I blush a little when I see the very first ones I sold online—not to mention the documented evidence of knowing nothing about photography!  But I also glow with pride a bit when I look at how far I’ve come from that serendipitous day at a neighborhood flea market where I took some things nobody wanted and turned them into some things that quite a few people have cherished.  I call them Urban Heirlooms. 

What’s the neatest thing you ever found? What did you do with it?


  1. At my one of my favorite flea markets, I found a large box filled with letters and postcards from Europe in the 1920's. I still haven't found a use for them, aside from displaying them in my house, but they are so lovely.

    I LOVE your work, btw. The juxtaposition of the antique keys and leather is so appealing.

  2. Thanks, Lulu :) Vintage images are another thing that's fun (and addictive) to collect. Those letters and postcards might be invaluable to some collage artists!

    I hope you'll share your display ideas on your blog once you find a use for them.

  3. What a great story! I also found a box of vintage postcards from Europe at a flea market once. I don't think I'll ever use them in a craft. I can't think of cutting them or gluing them. I've given some away to friends who loved them also, but they both framed them.

  4. My Hideaway, thanks for sharing that! European postcards are pretty popular I see! I love the elegant writing on the backs of them.

  5. that's an awesome score! i'm jealous! (ps. found your blog through the etsy blog team forums )

  6. Thanks, Jody! But don't be too jealous--the keys in the second picture were not in that initial box; they are what I have in my current stash after much treasure hunting. :)

  7. wow, what a find! i just love old keys, and you've put them to beautiful use!

    one of my best finds was a HUGE stash of vintage lucite and czech glass beads i got on ebay for a song. helped me start my first etsy shop :)


    p.s. found you via the etsy blog team!

  8. Lesley, sounds like you really lucked out. I love glass beads too. Thanks for sharing!


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