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Show us yours and we’ll show you ours. Nearly one in every three people in North America collects something. People collect for pleasure. They also collect to remember, to preserve, to belong, to make sense of the world.”

This is what was written at the entrance of the Museum of Vancouver’s (MOV) exhibit that featured 20 Vancouver collectors and their rather unconventional collections last year. It was a beautifully curated show that invited visitors to enter into the fascinating, and sometimes unusual, world of collectors. Guests could also become part of the show by sharing their own collections on red and white post-it notes that were placed on the walls around the entrance and through a digital display that featured contributions to the hashtag #MyCollectionatMOV.

The show was the brainchild of Viviane Gosselin, the Senior Manager, Curatorial and Curator of Contemporary Culture at MOV. “I have been working in the field for 20 years and meet so many collectors”, says Gosselin. “Collectors are my experts. They know all the details. They have specific knowledge, bridging between public and private knowledge. Museums are always relying on collectors.”

“But because each show takes two to four years to set up”, says Gosselin, “we can’t offer a show or do justice for every collection.” As a result, Gosselin had “collected” several collectors over time. Even though she couldn’t offer each of them a solo exhibit, she believed that “it was worthwhile to pay attention to their world and their passion and doing it as a way to study the phenomenon of collecting.”

This eventually led to the idea of a group exhibit that would explore “the act of collecting, the collector’s vision and the role collections play in building identity, public memory and social connections.” But more specifically, it was meant to potentially provide insight into the questions of why people collect and if private collections affect public consciousness in any way.

When asked which collectors stood out for her, Gosselin had many but highlighted three in particular: Melanie Talkington, Rob Frith, and Kyle Seller.

Gosselin was impressed by Talkington and her collection of corsets. “She learned to make corsets by deconstructing them and turned her collection into a viable business.” Talkington, who has been making, selling and collecting corsets for over well 20 years, owns Lace Embrace Atelier, which is located in Vancouver.

From her very first purchase of a red wool corset in 1997 and after years of collecting, it is no surprise that she is considered a corset expert and has one of the largest antique corset collections in the world.

“I now have over 300 antique corsets, hoops, garters, stockings and children’s corsets,” says Talkington. “My collection has shaped my lifestyle. I created a fun and interesting business out of my passion for corsets. It has taken me around the world to work on museum exhibitions, participate in trade shows, and make new acquisitions.”

Sharing her knowledge, and educating others around the many different roles corsets played in our history, continues to be important for Talkington. In 2013, the Louvre Museum in Paris borrowed 40 of her corsets for The Mechanics of Underwear exhibit and plans to make her private collection more accessible to the general public by creating a museum in the back of her retail store.

Another, standout for Gosselin was Rob Frith and his display of vintage concert posters. “You can tell music has played a big part in his life.” And indeed it has.

Rob Frith owns Neptoon Records, Vancouver’s oldest independent record store. Although Frith has several items that he collects, the concert poster collection is one that is near and dear to him. “Music means everything to me. Posters are an important part of that. I have thousands and thousands of posters. Most are from Vancouver, but I have some from all over.”

He acquired his first poster when he was 12 years old. “I was always interested in art, especially art that was interesting and weird. My dad was a builder and had bought a house that had been rented by draft dodgers. He took me to the house to help clear it out and on the walls were several concert posters. I was blown away by the artwork and took them home and put them up on my bedroom wall.”

From then on he started to notice them all around Vancouver. He also went to his first concert when he was in Grade 8 and started to casually buy posters after the shows. Eventually his passion grew to include records. This led to him owning a record store and creating his own record label. “I have also reissued records and the posters have come in handy for those projects.”

Sharing his collection with a broader audience also matters to Frith. “I feel that this collection is important, it is a historical document. I have let people use my posters for illustrations in books, LP and CD releases, newspapers, magazines, television, and movies.” He has also been scanning images of all of his posters and placing them on his Facebook page.

Kyle Seller is another collector who stood out for Gosselin. Several of his vintage pinball machines and arcade games were on display at the MOV. All were in working condition and people could play some of them for a dollar or less.

Seller bought his first arcade game (Bubble Bobble) when he was 16, and still has it today. His collection has since grown to include around 60 and having to be creative with storage has led him to build a unique career for himself. “With my business, East Van Amusements, I restore pinball machines and rent pop-up arcades in pubs and other establishments around the city.”

According to Seller, the pinball and arcade market has found new life in Vancouver. “There are pinball leagues with regular tournaments and a massive culture for collecting.” All of this is good news for Seller as he continues to find new and exciting ways to be a part of that community and grow a business that fuels his passion.

In terms of why she thinks people collect, Gosselin suggests that it is related to how people see themselves. “It is tied to their identity and is an identity building process. As you build your identity, you are building yourself. They are always in that process of building, selecting and following their passion. Starts with intuition and interest but then you become more knowledgeable. And you get to know yourself better in relation to different topics.”

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Spring has arrived and where most people are excited to see flowers in bloom…I myself am thrilled to see the new crop of church rummage sales, flea markets and other shows announce their spring sale dates. And of course, I want to share that information as soon as it is available as I know there are others out there like me! Here are the dates for the ones that I know about so far in and around Metro Vancouver:

Gracie’s Thrift Store
Every Second Saturday, 10am to 2pm
April 14, 28 – May 12, 26 – June 9 (closed March 31)
803 East 16th Avenue
Vancouver, BC (off of Kingsway and 16th)

The East Side Flea
March 23 – 25 (and every other weekend)
Friday 6pm – 10pm, Sat/Sun 11am – 5pm
1024 Main Street (Ellis Building)
Vancouver, BC

Royal Canadian Legion 118 Flea Market
Saturday March 24, 9:30am to 2:00p
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123 West 15th Street (at Lonsdale)
North Vancouver, BC

Vancouver Flea Market – Antique & Collectible Show
Sunday March 25,  8:30am to 4:30pm $2.50
703 Terminal Ave
Vancouver, BC

Cloverdale Antique & Collectible Show
Saturday, March 31, 9am to 3pm $5 (early birds 8am-8am $10)
Cloverdale Fairgrounds, Showbarn Building
17798 62 Ave, Surrey, BC

Kerrisdale Antiques Fair
Saturday and Sunday, April 7 & 8, 10am to 5pm $8
Kerrisdale Arena, 5670 East Blvd (@ 41st)
Vancouver, BC

NEW  Century House Association Thrift Sale 
Saturday April 14, 10:00am to 2:00 pm
Century House, 620 Eighth Street
New Westminster, BC

Fraser Valley Antique and Collectible Club Annual Antique & Collectible Show
Saturday April 14, 9am to 4pm & Sunday April 15 10am to 2pm $5
(early bird Fri Night 5pm-9pm $20)
Queens Parks Arena (1st Street and 3rd Ave)
New Westminster BC

NEW Vancouver Welsh Society
Saturday, April 14th, 10am to 2pm Grand Spring Sale
The Cambrian Hall, 215 East 17th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

NEW Neptoon Records Semi-annual Spring Record Convention
Sunday, April 15th, 11am to 5pm, $3
Croatian Cultural Centre, 3250 Commercial (At 16th)
Vancouver, BC

West Vancouver Seniors’ Activity Centre Annual Flea Market
Sunday, April 22, 9am to 3pm
695 – 21st Street
West Vancouver, BC

Knox United Annual Thrift Sale
Friday April 27, 5pm to 8pm & Saturday April 28th, 9am to 12noon
5600 Balaclava Street (just off 41st)
Vancouver, BC

St Mary’s Kerrisdale Rummage Sale
Friday April 27, 5pm to 8pm & Saturday April 28, 9:30am to 12noon
2490 West 37th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

St. Philips Rummage Sale
Saturday April 28, 9:00am to noon
3737 W. 27th Avenue
Vancouver, BC (just west of Dunbar)

West Vancouver United Church’s Elegant Flea Market
Saturday May 5, 8:30am to 2pm
2062 Esquimalt Avenue (at 21st)
West Vancouver, BC

NEW St. George’s School Fair
Saturday, May 5, 10am to 4pm $1
3851 West 29th Avenue
Vancouver, BC

21st Century Flea Market
Sunday May 6, 10am to 3pm  $5 (Early birds 7am-10am $20)
Croatian Cultural Centre
3250 Commercial Drive (at 16th Avenue)
Vancouver, BC

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There are so many festivals lined up for the summer and Bohemia Gallery (3243 Main Street) is ready to meet your needs for any kind of vintage/retro outfit that you might want. In particular, Bohemia is known for having some of the best pieces to suit the distinctive looks for the Burning Man in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

Held annually, this festival attracts people from all over the globe and the wilder the outfit the better. This year it will run from August 25th to September 1st. If you are planning to head down to Burning Man this year, stop by the store to see what they can pull together for you. They have the perfect outfits, for both men and women, that will keep you cool during the day yet warm and comfortable during the evening.

Burning Man 4

Burning Man 1 2014

Burning Man 2

Burning Man 3

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With over 200 vendors from across British Columbia and Alberta, the Fraser Valley Antiques and Collectible Show, now in its 18th year, on the surface appears to be like most antique shows. But it isn’t. Digging a bit further into its history one quickly discovers that this show, nostalgically referred to as the “Bottle Club” show, is quite unique in that it is run entirely by members of the Fraser Valley Antiques and Collectible Club (FVACC).

According to Brian Lefler who has been a member of the club for 35 years, “The club was pretty hard core in the beginning.” First known as the “Old Time Bottle Club of BC” it was established in the early 70s in the Fraser Valley. “Back then there were only twelve members and the only way you could join was if someone died,” says Lefler who was lucky enough to become an official member in 1972 when he participated in his first “dig” at Arbutus and 25th in Vancouver.

“For this select group of collectors, digging for old bottles was the common bond that brought them together,” says Tim Mustart a club member since 1985. “They would often get tips word of mouth potential excavation sites and actually dig for old bottles or historical artifacts on vacant lots or even better at a brewery site or a bottle making company.”

At one point they were also known as the “Valley Diggers”, says Al Reilly one of the club’s current historians and a member since 1971. Now in his 80s, the only digs he gets to are the ones in his garden but he remembers some of the first digs quite well. “There was a dig at 12th and Slocan, where the Italian Cultural Centre is now.” “It had somehow managed to get into an American publication on digging and a lot of people showed up from all over Canada and the U.S.”  He says this was a particularly good dig as there had been a ravine and people used to throw their garbage into creeks back then. Not good for the environment, but great for diggers.

Reilly believes that they were instrumental in helping to preserve parts of our history that could have just as easily been lost. “Diggers were not good archaeologists though,” says Reilly. “Instead of planning out the sites in advance, they would dig a deep hole and expand from there.” However he does go on to mention that “a good digger would always take the time to fill in the holes afterwards.”

As interest grew in the club they eventually had to expand and start to do things differently. In 1984 they became a non-profit organization and the name was officially changed to the Fraser Valley Antiques and Collectibles Club. Now with over 150 members, they represent an eclectic group of collectors who are “devoted to the identification, preservation, appreciation and collection of local historical antiques and collectibles.”

Accordingly, there is a different kind of digging going on these days. The club started to host an annual antique and collectible show while also holding monthly meetings where members could buy, sell and trade their prize possessions. They also publish a bi-monthly newsletter called the Fraser Valley Holedown.

For most members like Lefler, the shows offer an opportunity to sell off parts of their collection but more importantly it gives them a chance to connect, catch up and share stories with other members. “I now come over only once a year to do this show and socialize,” says Lefler who has since retired and moved away to one of the coastal islands. According to Tim Mustart, these shows also “help to support club activity financially while also encouraging new members to get involved.”

Other types of treasures unearthed at the show include vintage pop bottles, many still with pop in them, as well as old ginger beer bottles, glass inkwells, liquor bottles, and fruit jars. But the show is now about so much more.  Dealers also sell, among other things, tins, advertising, pottery, ephemera, antiques, train memorabilia, and even comic books.

As a result, the FVACC show is a special event that runs deeper than most shows in that it brings together a group of collectors and dealers who all share a common passion for digging through our past while also staying connected in their mutual respect for preserving our history.

Next show set for Saturday, April 21st 9am to 4pm and Sunday April 22 10am to 3pm. Admission: $3. Early bird admission on Friday from 6:30 to 9:30pm for $20. Click here for more details.

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With a large wide brimmed hat decorated with a purple ribbon and bright blue feathers, she stands out. But it doesn’t stop there. She is also wearing a long turquoise sweater, bright purple gloves, rhinestone earrings and a long vintage beaded necklace. Adrian who is a regular at the Kerrisdale Antiques Fair in Vancouver, always arrives exquisitely dressed with vintage flair and the most wonderful hats. Her style and elegance seems to be quite fitting for an antique show; taking us back to a time when going out in public was an anticipated event and men and women would always wear their finest.

In Vancouver, this penchant for “dressing up to the nines” appears to be coming back into fashion, especially at the shows. Not only are shoppers more formally dressed, but they are often fully clad in vintage and retro clothing. There is a local couple who consistently show up in 40s gear. Her hair is usually pinned up with large rolled bangs and she wears “popover” wrap dresses and platform shoes while he sports a smart blue fedora and wears cap toe dress shoes. And then there are the pin-ups. Women who have found a way to modernize the vintage pin-up look, making it work with both style and function.

Others like Adrian are a bit more classic in their approach. They attend the Kerrisdale Show looking for very specific items. “I come to the shows to find vintage jewellery, accessories and clothing,” says Adrian, who is a show regular. “As a designer and a pianist, I enjoy being able to wear vintage, and vintage inspired, clothing and jewellery.”

The Kerrisdale show is a perfect venue for these shoppers who are drawn to using the past to inspire their current sense of style. Whether it is about a fashion aesthetic or creating a vintage/retro feel to their home, vendors at this show carry a wide selection of items to satiate their stylish needs.

Catherine Cafferata from Highend Resale, a consignment shop in Vancouver, has been selling at the Kerrisdale show for the past two years and has found it to be a great market for her vintage designer handbags and antique jewellery. In terms of the jewellery, she specializes in designer brands such as Chanel, Tiffany and Gucci (sold an 18 carat gold Gucci ring at the last show). She also carries vintage and discontinued modern designer handbags such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Chanel and Hermès. Her bags range in price from $95 to $295 dollars and are always in mint condition.

Cafferata has recently noticed that “the most popular items right now are vintage alligator, lizard, and ostrich handbags.” She sold a few of these bags at the show and mentions that they are in incredibly high demand in Europe and Asia.  “Charlie Watts, the drummer from the Rolling Stones, recently came into my shop at the Pan Pacific and bought every single alligator, lizard and ostrich bag that I had in stock,” says Cafferata. “These bags are considered quite collectible and desirable because of their unique designs but they were also incredibly well made.”  She goes on to say that, “Because these types of bags are so expensive to reproduce, to buy them new would cost from $4000 dollars and up.”

Susan  from Suzie’s Collectibles in Burnaby carries a terrific selection of retro housewares and vintage collectibles from the 50s and 60s. She also took the time to dress up with some 50s flair at the recent Kerrisdale show. “Why not” she said “and isn’t it great that Adrian looks so amazing.” Together they stand out, especially since Susan is also wearing dark gloves and a fuchsia coloured hat with the mesh covering her face and a matching fushia sweater. Even her booth feels like stepping back in time, with cute salt and pepper shakers, several matching sets of swanky glassware, and vintage linen.

Perhaps we can all learn from Susan and Adrian and take some time out to explore local shows like the Kerrisdale Antiques Fair for vintage and retro finds. Like them we can create our own time machine, taking ourselves back to different moments in time – even if only briefly. The next Kerrisdale Show is set for September 3 – 4, 2011.

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Several years ago I used to offer secondhand shopping tours called Secondhand Safaris all across Metro Vancouver. In tour buses, supplied by the late great Dan Tapp at Explore BC, we would venture to consignment stores, thrift shops, antique shows and so much more. In groups, sometimes as big as 75 and mostly women, we would set out for the day and stop at some of our city’s finest secondhand shops and shows.

These tours were quite unique and a lot of fun. There is something to be said about heading out on a secondhand shopping spree with a large group of like minded folks – who all love to scour through thrift shops, consignment boutiques, vintage stores as well as antique shows and flea markets….with the odd stop at a garage sale along the way. There were many fantastic finds but half the fun was just being out having a good time doing what we love to do…together as a group.

It has been a few years since I offered a tour but in thinking about going “on the road” again, I decided I wanted to do something a bit different this time. I wanted to go to London, England and I didn’t want to go alone. It occurred to me that a Secondhand Safari type tour to visit all the incredible London Markets might appeal to others as well. So I approached my good friend Alison at Marlin Travel, who was a partner in crime when starting the original Safari Tours. She jumped on board immediately and put together the most amazing travel package.

London Markets
From Portobello to Petticoat Lane, join Alison from Marlin Travel and Jo-Anne from Secondhand Savvy, for an incredible week in London exploring many of the famous (and lesser known) markets.

The date set is May 22nd, 2010 and the price (based on double occupancy) is $2010 per person (CAD & all taxes included) and includes all of the following:

  • Return airfare from Vancouver to London (all taxes included)
  • Round trip transfers between airport and hotel
  • 7 nights accommodation at The President Hotel *** in Central London
  • Hotel located close to shops, park, pubs, restaurants, and cafés
  • Continental breakfast at the hotel and coffee/tea tray in each room
  • London Visitor Travel Card (6 day pass for London’s Public Transit)
  • Ticket to see one of London’s premier shows (show confirmed before trip)
  • London’s “Hop-On Hop-Off” One Day Bus Pass (stops at key attractions)
  • Essential London ½ Day excursion
  • Marlin Travel Escort and Savvy Shopping Guide
  • Guided tours to as many markets as we can fit in
  • Guide with maps and information for over 60 London Markets
  • Comprehensive Insurance Package (Slight increase in price for traveller’s over 59)
  • EXCLUSIVE BOOKING BONUS Earn 50 BONUS AIR MILES® reward miles! Book by January 31, 2010.

The price will go up after January 31st, so book this week if you are interested! There are some terms and conditions, as with any tour, but if you are interested please contact Alison directly at (604) 438-3356 or 1-866-438-3356 or by Email at Alison.MoodyStuart@MarlinTravel.ca and she will go over all the specifics around this amazing travel package.

This should be a perfect trip for anyone who loves to spend hours at markets and then have a “show and tell” back at the pub in the hotel. There will also be time to visit other local attractions (with the Hop On Hop Off bus pass and the Essential London 1/2 day excursion, for those who can pry themselves away from the markets. And I was recently informed that the Chelsea Flower Show is  is happening May 25-29 which may be another fabulous market to visit for some.

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Main Street Vancouver has gone tree crazy. As one of Vancouver’s most eclectic and vibrant shopping districts it is not surprising that they have launched a colourful new holiday tradition called “Get Your Tree On.” Forty merchants along Main Street have joined forces to decorate Christmas trees and are inviting shoppers to vote on their favourite and enter into a draw for one of two amazing gift baskets. Each store has contributed either a gift certificate or product from their store towards the gift baskets, making each basket worth just over $1000…definitely making it worth while to head over to Main Street this week and to vote for your favourite tree.

Shoppers can vote either online at www.shopmain.ca or at a ballot box located at Re-Entry Espresso (4363 Main). Voting will be open until December 12th at 12 noon. Flyers with a list of all the tree sites, and a ballot, are available at each of the participating stores. The draw will be held at 2pm on December 12th at Once a Huckleberry Bush (4387 Main Street) along with a performance by the Vancouver Children’s Choir.

There will also be food boxes in each of the participating stores collecting donations for the food banks at St. Michael’s Church on Broadway.

Each tree is quite different and appears to reflect the personality of the store along with its owners. Bodacious (shown above) has showcased a stunning green “plus size” gown as their tree and and in similar fashion, Solid Threads (3851 Main Street) has decorated a mannequin in a vintage green dress as their entry.

Echo Unique Resale (3553 Main Street) has gone a very different route and had children (and some adults) draw pictures of trees. The drawings are very sweet and offer a unique approach to this competition.

Down the road, Public Lounge has also enlisted the help of children and had them make tree ornaments out of wine corks to look like reindeer and angels. They were done by children in the after school program at the Mount Pleasant Community Centre.

Vintage trees and ornaments were also popular for many of the store owners. Laura Frederick from Dandelion Emporium used a vintage “tinsel” tree from the 1960’s and decorated it with gold army men ornaments made by local artist Laura Skuse (Exskuse Design). The tree is standing on the Branch Table by designer Harry Allen. Neptoon Records and CDs also used some classic vintage ornaments on their tree and Sellution Vintage Furniture (3206 Main Street) put their unique spin on things by using antique tea cups, broaches, and silver as decorations.

The spirit of giving was also an important theme for some stores. Bohemia Gallery/The Loft decorated their tree with warm mittens, gloves, hats and scarves…all of which will be donated to St. Michael’s church to support families in need. Two of Hearts Clothing (3728 Main Street) had local designers create ornaments for their tree and are all for sale with 100% of the purchase supporting the Adoptive Family Association.

Yummy treats also made their way on to a few trees. Tina Teoli from Miranda’s Hat (3860 Main Street) decorated her tree with candy…and with each purchase shoppers get to grab a piece from the tree to take home. In a slightly different approach, the tree at Life of Riley (3697 Main Street) had dog biscuits attached with red bows.

Artistic expression featured well throughout all of the trees. Barbara from Plush used beautiful green fabric to create her tree while artists from Arts Off Main designed their own decorations to reflect their art being sold in the shop. The tree on display at Body Politic also showcased handmade ornaments by local designers and the tree at Scala was decorated with paper cut outs, all individually created. Kiddo Consignment was also quite clever with their tree…they used white hangers to create the silhouette of a Christmas tree.

Although all the trees were beautifully and thoughtfully decorated, and I am sorry that I couldn’t list them all here, two stand out for me a bit more than the rest. I was pleasantly surprised when I walked into On The Fringe Hair Design and saw that they had used red hair extensions as tinsel and gold hair rollers as ornaments…but even more captivating was the “corset tree” that was on display at Lace Embrace Atelier…a very provocative approach indeed!

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