Searching For Gems In The Junk.

Everything in my house was either free or under 40 bucks, and people come to my house and can’t believe that I picked up everything on the street or in a thrift shop.~Elle Varner

1960s era Viking longship found on top of a garbage can...

1960s era Viking longship found on top of a garbage can…

We’re a re-purposing type of family… We love going to flea markets, yard sales, and thrift shops.

I’ll even admit to looking at what people are throwing out on garbage day as I drive by. If you haven’t paid attention yourself, I bet you’ll be shocked if you start noticing.

No, I don’t get out and dig through the cans! Often, interesting and valuable stuff is set out to be added to the local landfill… Like this Viking longship that hangs in our library…

Clothes, books, tools… Just about anything can be found with a bit of searching, and sometimes in new condition.

We start out our Saturdays by visiting the thrift store at the retirement community where we’ve made friends with the volunteers who work there. After coffee and snacks we head out to other stores we know, and hunt for garage sale signs.

The daughters accompany us on these outings… They’re thrifters too.

What's better than a Yeti's Best Produce box? The same box with metal ants on it, of course!

What’s better than a Yeti’s Best Produce box? The same box with metal ants on it, of course!

My main drive for thrifting is to find unique and interesting “things”.

Much of my professional life has been spent as a sculptor, and I use found objects in many of my pieces.

Some of these items will find themselves incorporated into my sculptures, and some will just be used for display around the house…

I enjoy finding interesting items that have been discarded and giving them new life. I like to think about when and how something was made… and why.

Somewhere, sometime, someone thought giant metal ants were the way to make a fortune… Or maybe they just wanted to create them. I don’t know the whys of their existence, but I have three of them…

Items come and go… I’ll sometimes trade something for another object I want even more, or sometimes stuff gets packed up and given to charity for the chance at a new life with a new owner…

Even so, our house resembles a museum… I like it that way though.

Strange little clay thingies...

Strange little clay thingies…

I’m going to keep these last…  things? People? Huh?

I found these in a thrift store in Gainesville, FL on a half off table. I think I paid a couple dollars each for them.

They’re handmade and fired clay pieces. I assume they’re from Central or South America, but I haven’t been able to find out much about them yet.

Does anyone know what they are and where they’re from?

They look like healers to me, so that’s what they are. I keep them with all my other spirituality stuff whose home is a handmade solid wood secretary desk where I sit to think and read… And yes, I got the desk for next to nothing while thrifting.

To me, older and used is often better than new… The objects that I keep have a history attached, even if I don’t know the story. This gives them a life, a sense of realness that mass produced plastic and pressboard things lack…

I’ve learned to appreciate what I have, and to see value where others do not. This makes my life more of an adventure, and makes me happy…








  1. One of my favorite movies is the Fisher King. In one of the scenes, Robin Williams, walking alongside his date, pulls something out of the garbage and hides it behind his back. When he reveals what he has, he has shaped an old chamagne cork into a little chair, beautiful! and says: You never can tell what you’ll find in the garbage. Now this movie is based on a book which is a Jungian analysis of the Grail myth so the “garbage” is meant to mean “shadow” and what we hold in our shadows holds is everything we don’t want to look at about ourselves but actually holds tremendous energy for us. okay, ’nuff said, but you Monkeys sure do put up posts with great insight!

    1. I love that movie, and completely forgot about it! Now I need to see if I can find it online somewhere and watch it again…

  2. sculpturesteph · · Reply

    The ‘strange little clay things’ look like clay models for ‘Dhokra sculpture’.
    These are made in India in West Bengal over the last 4000 years.
    The clay core is covered with pure beeswax and covered in a clay shell. This is heated and the wax runs out leaving the hollow for the image to be cast in metal (hence ‘lost wax casting’).

    They do look (stylistically) a bit different to the ones from West Bengal, and your regional guess might be more accurate, but they very likely are clay models for figurines made in the lost wax casting, which is probably the oldest metal casting method in our history of technology.

    You and Doug could take it to the nearest museum and see if an appropriate curator and/ or conservator can give you more information.
    You never know, it might be the beginning of another journey?!

    They are fantastic!

    1. Hey Steph- Thanks for the input. I don’t think these were used for investment or lost wax casting… They were glazed and fired and have a nice finish that doesn’t show up well in my photo.

      I worked for quite a few years in a fine arts bronze foundry and have done a lot of casting- I’m familiar with what you describe- But I think these are finished pieces.

      I’m sure the answer to what they are will present itself… For now, I just enjoy looking at them. I thought they were fantastic as soon as I saw them, and couldn’t believe no one else thought so too. Oh well, their loss, my gain.

      Thanks for puzzling this over with me.

  3. well, i spent a month in peru bout 10 years ago and well, the 2 items there lewk like the little trinkets i would see at the museo de oro “the museum of gold” definitely LOOK! peruvian by nature the way i see it, very very kewl find, 🙂 Q

    1. Hey Q- In my mind they look to be from around there too… Sometime during my art history education something must have stuck in my head that makes me think this.

  4. Hey John!

    As usual I am digging your work. I find as repurposing applies to me it can be viewed as reframing as well.

    I am continually trying to repurpose negative situations or outcomes that aren’t exactly what I had in mind by reframing my perspective of them and finding what is useful in the situation to further personal growth and I know you know what I mean. This is me smiling.

    Good stuff John. Keep at if.

    1. Thanks Glenn- I do the same… I didn’t spell as much out it my post, but I hoped the idea of repurposing in a broader sense was conveyed… Apparently it was!

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