Sometimes it’s the ones you don’t know about that turn out the best. Every Friday evening I sit down with the newspaper and my phone to create a list. Yard sales. The newspaper has ads that I scour for interesting locations and items and the ones I like I write down the location, the start time and maybe a keyword or two. Then to the phone for my yard sale app. Type in the date and general location and wham!, up pops a map full of red dots representing sales. Click on the dot and it gives an address, description and start time. From all of that I make my list.
I’ve seen as many as 62 sales listed within 20 miles of my home. Obviously, I can’t get to all of them. Especially when they all start at the same time! So I have to narrow the list to something manageable. Like 15 maybe. That’s a good Saturday morning. Sometimes it’s the description that eliminates an ad from the list. Baby stuff doesn’t cut it for me. Or maybe the location. I like older neighborhoods or places where I know there are eclectic people. New yuppie subdivisions don’t usually cut it. Just sayin.
But then on Saturday morning when I hit the road in my search for treasure there will invariably be a sign somewhere that says yard sale thisaway. And that one isn’t on the list. Or even advertised in any of my data sources. Somebody just put up a sign on the road, at a stop sign or busy intersection, and is hoping that someone will be intrigued enough to come on by. Must work. I see it all the time. And sometimes, these are the best ones.
I was driving down the road, going from one sale on the list to the next, when I passed a house with a lot of cars parked in front, and a little sign. Yard sale. Not on the list. But I had to stop. I went in and looked around. They were moving and just about everything was for sale in the front room and the hallway. I saw an interesting piece of furniture on the front porch, but wasn’t interested enough to buy it. Looking around the rest of the place didn’t yield much else of interest. And then, being me, I went into the room that wasn’t really included in the sale. There was a lot of stuff in there that said not for sale, but a few things that were. I don’t just want into people’s private space you know.
I looked up at the wall, and there it was. Modern found object sculpture. There were a half dozen or so of them. Spectacular! But one in particular really caught my eye. A piece of roofing tin with a bunch of wires and an old rake and some other stuff attached. And a sparkplug. It was a face! I loved it.
The man who seemed to be the homeowner came by and I asked if the sculptures were for sale. He hesitated. Then said he thought so. His wife was the artist and he’d have to ask her. She came in and it began.
After several phone calls over the next couple of weeks we finally agreed on a price and set up a time to meet and make it mine. That simple exchange turned into a looong and wonderful conversation. We talked about art and sculpture. Louise Nevelson and Howard Finster. How she’d been a starving artist living in Atlanta. She couldn’t afford an apartment so she just rented the couch in someone else’s pad. When I met her she wasn’t starving anymore. She was in the process of moving to the beach in Florida. But she wasn’t sculpting anymore either.
It was a wonderful meeting. Just chance? I think not. I got a great sculpture. And she got something more than cash. Her words and demeanor told me that she really loved creating art. And missed it. And she seemed tremendously pleased that someone, me, had shown such interest in her work. Maybe she’ll get back to it again.
Her name is Emily. But in the folk art world they call her Emil. And that is how she autographed my sculpture. The Smoker.
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