Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Here we go again! Faux is foe! How hard is that?

A quick visit at an import store nearly put a pie in my face. Kokeshi and Matryoshka dolls are the new black in holiday decor, stationary and cookware. What Japanese Kokeshi dolls have to do with the holidays is one big head scratch.

The sad thing is both dolls have origins in pride, originality and craftsmanship, celebrated for their unique quality. And both traditions have been around longer than anyone reading this post.

Seeing them massed produced and sold for ridiculous prices is heartbreaking. Once again a case where consumerism has made the cheap knock offs more expensive than the originals. I was about to expand on that thought but realized, I all ready have.

That original, hand-painted, bone china Wedgwood tea cup for $4 at the thrift store? It's 80 years old and has a chip! Toss it over your shoulder and buy a mass produced ceramic one instead.

Same with the Kokeshi and Matryoshka dolls. Nevermind they are a cultural tradition. There's a whole display of them at the mall - all made in China. Maybe shoppers can buy one get one free or super-size.

Faux is foe!
August 27, 2009

I encounter it all the time. Say it’s a dainty teacup with elaborate crazing and a blurred emblem with letters that look like they might be from a French restaurant long past. I think, “Why, that’s darling!” I am so enraptured by the prospect I fail to note the finish is a bit too shiny, the style too modern. I turn the teacup over to see that cursed Made in China sticker stuck to the object like a canker sore devaluing it and my confidence that I can sniff out a fake. I feel infected.

Why do we have an entire retail movement dedicated to presenting a vintage appearance to NEW products? Isn’t vintage earned? Fading and crazing often accompany use. Add a slight chip to represent honest use. Now that’s a real treasure, a piece of history. With age, don’t we chip and craze? Many cultures place a high value on scuffs and tears; signs of wisdom and experience.

I like to imagine that these items, products, have little souls. Take that fake vintage teacup I referred to and serve it at high tea. THAT teacup, with no experience, would shout, “Help! I’ve never done this before! Quick, I need Valium! Oh, I’m starting to shake and hyperventilate!” Who wants a shaking teacup? While, an old, experienced teacup would lovingly say, “How many lumps of sugar, dear? Milk? Lemon?” The aged, experienced teacup provides comfort.

The fact that manufacturers attempt to create vintage in factories in China is a complete head-scratcher. Add in that people actually buy this stuff and it gets troubling. Now, think about the prices people pay for these new, old-looking items! Is having something that looks old in pristine, new condition a sign of a refined style? I don’t think so. I've fallen prey to this before but those days are gone thanks to the thrift store.

In many ways, thrift stores are a mere reflection of the new product market but with a wonderful dash of estate goods. The fakes run out onto the field but at least there is competition from the originals. In thrift stores we have level playing field and the shopper is referee. I blew an “Out of bounds!” whistle at that fake teacup.

I’m not writing about furniture found in alleys and thrift stores brought back to life by painting and refinishing and sold in boutique home stores. That’s reuse or repurposing. It’s imaginative; art. I’m talking about massed produced furniture that is made to look like its distressed and 100 years old. Good gracious!

I guess it’s somewhat parallel to the American ideals of preserving physical youth. We can’t fight off age. So we suck in Botox and attempt to surround ourselves with objects that look old (like we are) but are new in origin (like we are not). Perhaps we are trying dictate what is agreeable and stylish when it comes to signs of age in both plastic surgery and product manufacturing. Perplexing, no?

If I could wave a magic wand on women and I'd convert crow's feet to peacock feathers. Frown lines would become endeared frauleins to keep your spirit young. Frolicking frauleins to accompany you wherever you go making you laugh and smile, getting richer with age.

How a woman ages is not based in plastic surgery, it is based on her ancestry (genetics), her choice of her lifestyle, the scars from mistakes…In the end shouldn’t our bodies be a part of the book of our lives? I agree that trauma deserves help, but everyday living should be celebrated.

Put an end to this madness! Celebrate age! Say, “No to faux! It's off to the thrift store I go!" Acquire originals and be an original.


susabell said...

HI..I am so glad to have found your blog. I love your advice and take on life. I work as a redesigner and am always scouring the thrift stores and garage sales. I used to beeline it to the furniture and accessores, but lately have been stopping to check out the clothes. I have found some incredible sweaters and shirts. Mostly brand new, some with tags some without, but I am sure they have not ever been worn. Now not only am I saving money, but I am protecting our precious earth. Thanks, susabell

Anonymous said...

Fantastic post, thank you.

Teri said...

My boyfriend tends to eat in the living room, watching tv, instead of at the nice cherrywood table. So I picked up a lovely silver tray at half price at the thrift store. I liked it so much I bought him one too. I can't understand why anyone would get rid of one. They make the simpliest things seem elegant. I am starting to keep an eye out for more silver (even if plated) and anything high quality that needs a good home. I've been a thrifter for a long time, but I haven't often gone for quality for myself.