Thursday, December 4, 2008

Topanga Antique Shop

So for months I've been driving by this shop. It used to be a video store, which closed. Then it was repainted, and a sign went up, saying "Main Street Antiques."

I never seemed to have time to stop by, but I noticed how first the porch started to fill up with antiques, and then the edge of the parking lot started to fill up, and then a shipping container was brought in, and then garden antiques were piled up around IT and then pretty soon the raw sides of the container were obscured by stone columns, and wrought-iron gates and architectural salvage and....

Obviously, this dealer has a lot of stock.

So finally today I stopped in. When I pulled into the parking lot, I immediately looked at the assemblage of things against the fence and encroaching on the parking spaces. "Parking lot" is a misnomer - the store is situated in a wide spot in the road, at the base of a hill where houses climb the western side of Topanga Canyon.

Tucked into the nooks and crannies and narrow peninsulas were all kinds of outdoor garden antiques, pots with plants, architectural ornaments, and this large clock face. It made a beautiful garden spot. Beyond that were some ornate terra cotta drainpipe pieces, and a wrought iron woodstove with decorative details. I walked toward the shop itself, past a sign from a realtor, offering the property for sale.

I loved this bentwood armchair, its cream colored paint worn to show the birchwood beneath. The pink upholstery was soiled, but pretty. As I climbed the porch steps, there was a mate to this chair.

I said hello to the owner, a pleasant woman named Tauni, and started to look around. You know how some antique stores are filled with a lot of boring and useless clutter, where you have to pick through ho-hum items before finding a nice piece?

Well, this shop was quite the opposite. Everything my eye lit upon was fantastic! There was an incredible wrought chandelier shaped like a hot air balloon. A pair of amazing wooden candelabras, massive and painted fantastically red, white and blue. A clutter of filigreed ironwork.

And then my eye lit on something, a small wooden box. "Oh, my. Is that box a piece of tramp art?" I asked.

Tramp Art is a term I'd first heard in the 1970s when I lived in New York's Greenwich Village. There was an antique store on Bleecker Street that had wonderful pieces of folk and rustic art, including boxes, frames and curios all made of bits and pieces of wood, notched and layered and stacked together. They were supposedly made by traveling itinerants and hoboes around the turn of the last century, out of pieces of cigar boxes and packing crates, as tokens of thanks for handouts of food or a dry place to sleep in a homeowner's barn. Typically, the edges of the wood is carved with notches, or "chipped" in decorative intervals, and sometimes the pieces are ornamented with buttons and bits of broken mirror.

Today, the term "Tramp Art" is sometimes frowned on, and the term "Chipwork" is substituted. Experts say that Chipwork was a hobby for many American men, not just for traveling hoboes, and often men made keepsakes for their wives, children, or girlfriends. The style may have come from German or Scandinavian immigrants, imitating the style of cuckoo clocks or "Black Forest" folk art.
Tauni has several pieces of this uniquely American folk art. She showed me a mirrored box; a box shaped like a pyramid, and another intricate box shaped like two connected globes. She showed me a Tramp Art picture frame holding a large tintype photograph.

Also in the case with the picture frame was a series of smaller tintypes. They were all framed in black, so when I saw them, I first thought they were a collection of mourning photographs, until I picked one up and saw they were photos of dogs. I laughed. "Aren't they funny?" she said. "Who'd take a photo of their dog back then?"

"How'd they get them to stay so still?" I wondered. But there they were - she has a collection of dog tintypes.

Clearly, this is an antique dealer with a great eye.

Tauni's cell phone rang, and I said, "I'm just going to browse. Can I take some photos?"


So here's a sampling of her shop. Here's a lamp with a blue globe, and colorful wrought blossoms. And guess what? It's one of a pair. So you could double this gaudy abundance!

She has wonderful Mexican brown clay pottery from the 1920's, decorated with white and green slip. Some tourist pottery from Tehuantepec. A porcelain doll.

At the base of the porch, there's an ancient playground riding toy, on a large coiled spring.

Here's a beautiful miniature dressing table - maybe used as a jewelry box - with pretty inlaid marquetry work. Beneath it is a hand-made train set toy.

Here's a toy drum set, displayed on top of a cabinet with beautifully distressed paint. I love the tattered little stuffed toy leopard next to it.

Many of the pieces I saw were unique treasures, and priced accordingly. I'm not in a position to afford the Tramp Art boxes, wonderful as they were. Also, as we are trying to figure out what do do with Mom's house and belongings, my family is more focused on getting rid of things, not acquiring them.

But I sure did like that pair of bentwood chairs.

If you find yourself in Topanga, here's another good place to explore. Main Street Antiques is on Topanga Canyon Boulevard, right in the heart of the canyon.


Woman in a Window said...

Frig! That stuff is beautiful. I love to just stand in places like that, breathe deeply and touch things. Things like that affect me deeply. That little drum set. Good god, can you imagine the child who got to play that? Freaken blows my mind. (and those urns, ugh, urns. Jars, bowls, vuluptous things.)

MMH said...

Love this post and am enjoying you blog. Like all the images. My sister just sent me a link, saying "I think you'll like this blog." I do. Have you ever been to Round Top, TX for their spring or fall antique fair? Never fails to excite and I always return with tons of photos. You found a great shop.

Vylat said...

Hey, I like that blue flower lamp. I could spend hours in a shop like that.

Beverly Kaye said...

When I lived in Encino there was no place around like this! What beautiful pieces, and "tramp art" is still okay to say. The little drum is a jewel and the dresser, well, I wouldn't have had any money left after seeing that! I'm sending this post to a friend who still lives in the LA hood and has plenty of moola!