If you know anything about me, you know what I like: weird kitschy old stuff. Even not so kitschy old stuff. I just like old stuff really. It goes for clothing and furniture and weird little knickknacks. I can’t really explain it except for I like things that feel like they have a bit of history.
Even when I was a kid I loved antique stores and flea markets, which I’m pretty sure is the last thing an 8 year old is supposed to like. My grandparents lived in a small town in rural Pennsylvania where there was an amazing antique store. It was in a building that was built like a castle but was actually an old underwear factory. No joke. I would beg my parents to go every time we visited, but for some reason they just were unable to comprehend why I would ever want to go there. Why? Ummm, because it was AWESOME?
Anyway, not much has changed since then, and I have a tendency to collect weird little pieces of vintage nonsense wherever I go. Boston has a plethora of antique fairs and the like, but unfortunately, most of them are filled with vendors who expect you to pay shit tons of money for something they fished out of their grandmother’s basement. (I’m looking at you South End Open Market at Sowa.) I’m not gonna pay $25 for your ‘vintage’ Garfield mug from McDonald’s. Also I have one at home. SUCK MY DICK HIPSTERS.
Then, I discovered the Brimfield Antique Show. And by I discovered, I mean my friend Mariel discovered it for me, and asked me if I wanted to come. It might have been the single greatest decision I have ever made.
The Brimfield Antique Show is MASSIVE. It’s located in Brimfield, MA, about an hour and a half outside of Boston. It’s a tiny, quiet little town that doesn’t seem to see much action aside from when the fair is going on and fall foliage season. It seems like the kind of place that has a lot of pumpkin farms and not much else. It’s delightful.
The fair itself is mostly outdoors. It’s basically just a giant field of vendors set up in hundreds of tents. It must take up over an acre of land and antique vendors come from all over the country to sell there.
The Brimfiled Antique Show is actually kind of famous, for an antique fair at least. It’s where the HGTV* show Flea Market Flip takes place. You know, the show where a designer buys some old furniture and slaps a coat of brightly colored paint on it to jack up the price a few hundred dollars? That place. I know this because in lieu of actually remodeling the house, my dad incessantly watches HGTV house flip shows, which I believe is slowly driving my mom insane.
Anyway, the first time I stepped into Brimfiend it was a little overwhelming, but in the best possible way. I love vintage furniture but it’s hard to get anywhere in the city at a reasonable price (ie: not hundreds of dollars at SOWA) Instead, you’ll find a lot of stuff that runs about the same price as Ikea furniture, but unlike Ikea furniture, it has existed for 40 years, will exist for 40 more and isn’t make of particle board.
What I’m saying is that vintage furniture is much better if your’e on a budget, like funky stuff and don’t mind a few scratches and dings, PLUS your apartment won’t look like every single college dorm room in all of America. Also, if you have MAD SKILLZ you can even repaint or reupholster your furniture and make some really cool stuff. I do this sometimes, but mostly things just need a good dusting off and they look just fine the way they are.
Brimfield is also great for funky vintage jewelry, which I love, but like a rational adult, I am terrified that something I bring home will be cursed by like, a gypsy or something. I mean, I don’t believe in curses, but who wants to take that chance? I usually buy the jewelry regardless, but then I got mugged on the first day I wore a vintage ring I bought there, sooo. Yeah. It was coincidence. And yeah, I bought it cuz it looked creepy and yeah, I managed to get my stuff away from the muggers, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t not cursed, right?
Anyway, if you know I don’t like you and I give you a piece of jewelry for no reason….just watch out is all I’m saying.
But I digress. Brimfield is not just about furniture and cursed jewelry. They have a wide array of trinkets and doo-dads, dishware, lighting, a smattering of vintage clothing and oh yeah RACIST SHIT EVERYWHERE. EEEEEEEKKKKK!
This, I was not prepared for. Amongst the scores of delightful little trinkets there were mammy dolls, ridiculous characters of Asian people and Native Americans made into little figures, kitchenware and toys, pretty much everywhere. I think pieces like these are usually carefully edited out of sellers collections in the city because I hadn’t seen them before, but oh man, it was pretty much a free for all.**
My first thoughts were:
A) How is this happening?
B) Why is no one mad? Don’t bloggers go to antique fairs?
I went into liberal panic mode. Then I thought about that underwear factory antique store from my childhood. There were tons of mammy dolls there too, but I was a kid, so I recognized them as that-lady-from-the-syrup-bottle dolls and not horrifying reminders of our unforgivingly racist past. None of this is exactly new, after all.
I couldn’t imagine why anyone would want to buy these, but then I bought vintage glasses with women being groped/upskirted on them (in the name of patriotism) and I got even more confused. I don’t support women being groped…I just, I dunno…I thought they were cute and I like pinup stuff? Maybe it’s an, ‘Isn’t it hilarious how dumb we were type thing?’ Someone help me! I don’t know what I’m doing! I feel like you’re mad. Are you mad?
It’s not like racism or sexism is over, we just don’t keep it in our china cabinets anymore.
Unfortunately, I have no idea how to further comment on this conundrum, aside from the fact that I feel like I should apologize to someone, so lets move on.
If you’re still reading this and aren’t bored my old lady hobbies, think I’m a lunatic or are frightened by the moral gray area we have stumbled into, here are a few tips on how to hunt for some cool stuff.
- Most things at the market aren’t labeled with a price. The venders expect you to bargain with them. If you dress well, they’ll think they can get more money out of you. Dress like crap and you’ll get a better deal. And look, I had a really hard time not accessorizing that day, but in the end it’s worth it.
- The indoor venders and the highly curated tents have beautiful, amazing stuff. They also know exactly what they have and will charge a shitload for it. If you go to the less attractive tents you might have to do more digging, and things will need a good dust off, but in the end you might find some great stuff and won’t have to pay a crazy price.
- Go towards the end of the week, preferably Sunday. Vendors want to get rid of their stuff so they don’t have to bring it back with them, so they’ll be more willing to make a deal.
- Bring cash. Most vendors don’t take credit. There are cash machines but they are few and far between.
- Bring sunscreen and a water bottle. Seriously.
- There’s also an amazing discount liquor store called Yankee Spirits on the same street as the fair if you want to make an extra stop. AMERICA!
Want to check out the Brimfield Antique fair? It happens 2 more times this season! For more info go here: brimfieldshow.com (Seriously, take a look. Their website is adorably outdated.)
*My favorite show on HGTV is Houseboat Hunters, because instead of seeing people’s beautiful fantasy homes, you witness sad men going through midlife crises dragging their poor families along to look at dilapidated houseboats which no plumbing. (My advice to houseboat hunters: In lieu of ruining your family, buy a motorcycle!)
**Fun Fact: you will NOT see any mammy dolls on Flea Market Flip either.