I used to be a DEMON op-shopper. I spent most of my late teens and early 20s collecting vintage frocks and kitchenware from op shops in Brisvegas and Melbourne. Back then I had a figure to rival the 60s Twiggy and could fit into anything, and my poor university campus was submitted to visions of me frolicking in my latest fluro paisley flared THANG that I had picked up for a couple of bucks. When we left Australia we packed the double garage at my parent's house full to the rafters (yes - the rafters) with our stuff - and most of this was thrifted, including Jem's huge chest full of collectable toys and those old bentwood chairs and squatter chairs and chaise lounges and 50s kitchen dressers that I was getting around to doing up.
So moving over here was a bit of a jolt to the system. Mainly because of the restrictions of manufacturing and availability of goods during the Soviet era, there simply isn't that much junk available from the last 60 or so years. And stuff that did exist was either worn out, thrown away, or not considered as something worth selling. For the first few years of living here we found an old junk market where people would congregate outside, unfolding their meagre wares on dirty old blankets on the side of the road. Every hour or so, the police would come by, and all of the junk sellers would disappear in the blink of an eye - just fold up your blanket and walk away. We never found much in this makeshift marketplace, among the taped-up stereo walkmans, phone cards, worn novels, rubber squeaky toys, war medals and electrical equipment. Frustrating - because I knew there must be attractive, retro Soviet material culture out there, but no one was selling it. Probably because most people owned (or HAD owned) one of most pedestrian things that were manufactured at that time, and often associated Soviet memories with these things. No one wanted to sell the stuff, if it still existed, and n one wanted to buy it either.
Antique stores and pawn shops around the city have always sold this and that - but most of it is pre-war, or even Tsarist era, more along the lines of your classic antique store. Which is great, we've collected quite a bit from these stores, but its not always affordable, and quite classical. It doesn't have that element of discovery or evaluation or just plain kitsch fabulousness that later-origin items have.
In the last few years things have improved marginally - we have found an awesome collectables fair that's held twice a year - it's on next weekend! There are also amazing shipments of humanitarian aid that are sold on every street corner op shop - mostly clothing - last year's fashions discarded by Brits or Germans and donated to charity. The selection is mind boggling - though mostly modern clothing. I suspect that 90% of Riga is dressed in second hand gear from these shops.
And still. From the perspective of Oz op shops, it's pretty slim pickings. Although I must say our house is still full of old crap. Whatever we can collect, we do. I need to take a car full to the Red Cross! So, ladies - remember when you are blogging all of your latest oppy finds, know that there is an avid reader in Eastern Europe living vicariously through your vintage sheets and surprise bits of decorative pottery. It's interesting for me to see what's out there these days. Gotta say, I am a bit surprised by certain bits of 80s nanna kitchenware that people seem to get excited about - but I guess its the time moving along, and the fact that all the cool 50s and 60s stuff is stored in my double garage!
I've decided to now and then blog a bit about what I've been collecting lately on this side of the world - bits and pieces over time. Let's start with a couple of pics from last year's collector's fair, in anticipation of next weekend.
This box of watch parts totally captured me last fair we attended - a plain wooden box, with a whole world of gears and cogs when you opened it up. Like something from one of Nick Bantock's "Griffin and Sabine" books. At the time I wasn't sure what I'd do with it, but I've remembered it ever since. I've sworn to buy it if I see it there again next weekend!