Frank’s Kitsch Collection Arrives at Fox and Finch

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Shown above is one third of the cartons of 1940-1960 Asian kitschy figurines stacked in my apartment above the shop. Those that are not vintage were left out to be given away. The ones for the shop are this type:

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Now What?

How can I display these in a way which would encourage customers to see that a collection of these would be colorful and fun?

 

The rainbow display is trendy and modern. The colors of the 40s and 50s were various shades of maroon, Chartreuse, dark green, pink, red, yellow, turquoise, black and white.

Better Homes and Gardens

I like this Chinese boy bookend shown in this person’s collection mixed with natural specimens, a gourd and books. There are bookends in the cartons. I can’t imagine how the braid was never broken.

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I am picking up 24 printer trays next week so I can fill a couple of the trays with the three-inch statues.  The plan is to use Velcro Dots to adhere them inside the tray.

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Chinatown, New York City, 1930s

When my friend Frank was a child in the 1930s, his grandfather walked with him through Chinatown in Chicago. It was an exotic place and his  hand was securely held within his grandfather’s larger one. One day, Frank’s grandfather stopped in front of a shop to converse with someone and that placed Frank directly in a shop doorway.  Looking deep within the dark shop, he saw an old Chinese man sitting in the back room. The man wore a long Chinese robe, had a long braid, sprouted long fingernails and was smoking a long pipe. He returned Frank’s stare. So, why did Frank begin to collect Chinese and Japanese figurines? Because they remind him of the feeling  he had that day. It is the memory of being afraid of the old man and yet, not afraid, because his hand was within his grandfather’s hand.

Frank is a Korean War Veteran. After returning home, he signed up again  and spent  years, 140 miles north of Anchorage, Alaska. When he came back to Illinois he worked for 30+ years in the railroad yards. This is a man who isn’t afraid of much. His collection reminds me that inside all of us, even the biggest of men, is the child we once were.

No one in Frank’s family wants his collection which is how they came to Fox and Finch. I like them.  I remember seeing them everywhere when I was a child. Stay tuned to see how I decide to display them.

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Lucille Ball on the set of I Love Lucy standing with her “Oriental” figurines.

41 thoughts on “Frank’s Kitsch Collection Arrives at Fox and Finch

  1. For Halloween, way back in the first part of the 60s, my mom dressed us as Chinese kids. I never knew why she made up a long, long braid (out of nylon hosiery). Now, I do!

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  2. Enjoyed the fascinating account of your acquisition of the figurines. Even kitschy pieces would build up to lasting visual experiences if tastefully displayed, also probably enhancing in their values in the process. I am sure, Ginene, you will set them up in winning formations to provide a unique shopping experience to prospective customers dropping by your facility. Looking forward to see your display….

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  3. I love the backstory and the symbolism of your newest acquisition. I guess you could describe my home decorating style as a “walk down memory lane.” The pieces (nothing of any value so to speak) remind me of a memory (person, place, or thing.) I imagine when I no longer alive, my kids will get rid of it all too! :)

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    • I collect the least valuable things in the world…all just for the memories. Debbie, where I live looks like I am in the 1940s. Down to the utensils in the kitchen drawers. Except for just a few items, I still think that stuff was made better. I have a modern juicer, they are a definite improvement, but the mix master and the toaster, 1940-1950 was better.

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      • I dread when an appliance breaks down. We kept the same washer, dryer, and refrigerator for 24 years, broken knobs and all! The new ones will not last nearly as long. I agree with you that old is usually better! Although, this past Christmas, I did ask for new mixing bowls to replace (really, in addition) to the glass ones (with flower designs on the side) I have always had. The new ones are stainless steel with a white coating on the outside and rubber bottoms to keep from sliding on the counter tops. I love them! For the most part, I would always pick old over new too!

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        • Debbie,
          I think the life on a modern refrigerator, and a washer and dryer is about half of 24 years. I, too, absolutely dread, when I know the 10 year mark is approaching. I find myself worrying about the washer and dryer because I know they are built on a 10 year model. I have to tell myself to quit worrying about the washer and dryer! And for heaven’s sense, washer and dryer makers…quit doing that!

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  4. This was a very cool narrative. It is the backstory of acquiring things that often intrigues me more than the items themselves. I would make copies of this blog post available for potential buyers! Looking forward to seeing how you display them. Please share at some point.

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  5. I wonder if we all collect “stuff” that reminds us of our childhoods, maybe in ways we can’t even articulate consciously. This collection is fascinating–kitschy, fun, not entirely politically correct! I love that photo of the children holding on to each others’ braids . . .

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    • Yes, everyone collects what they had or what they wanted when they were children and didn’t get. I dreamed of having a pink Princess phone when I was a young teen. I did get one and had it hooked up in the shop until the phone company went digital. Darn!

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  6. Oh Ginene, this sounds like a dream come true to acquire these treasures. And I agree, it’s amazing the braid on that boy is still intact. So often the little details, so important, are lost forever. My sister and I stopped in your lovely shop a couple of years ago and we look forward to seeing how you display these wonderful pieces of history.

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  7. As usual, a very interesting post. As mentioned before, the back story, in its self, is just as important and precious as the piece. Love the bookend. ~Joanne

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  8. I am very fond of Asian design, especially Aesthetic Period pottery / transferware and silverplate. But these figurines are a collectible I know nothing about. From what I see, I like them too!

    One way to display them might be little vignettes of related activities. I’m sure you have given this much thought and however you display them, I know it will be lovely.

    Can’t wait to see!

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  9. Oooooooo Ginene! They couldn’t have landed in a better place. I know you’ll give them the care and showmanship they deserve.. I can’t wait to see what you do! I ditto what Deb said.. it was a great story. It’s so hurtful when family members don’t want collectibles passed down. It’s so funny just last week I was talking to a friend (who isn’t into pass-me-downs) about family heirlooms and she said.. that stuff never phased her.. she enjoyed looking at them when her relatives would have them but never thought to want to keep anything.. I, on the other hand, eat that stuff up :-) Congrats on adopting that vast collection – I look forward to seeing them.. (like a kid opening gifts on christmas :-)

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  10. Hi Ginene :)

    I so enjoyed catching up with you, after being on my blogging break.

    I’m sure however you display those darling figurines that it will be lovely. I love the story behind them too.

    Also, thank you for sharing the fact that you use New Life Masque. I’ve been looking for something to use on my grandfather’s childhood bedroom set from 1920.

    xo,
    rue

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