Thursday, August 28, 2008

Treasure Hunting: European Style

During a recent trip to Europe, my love of thrifting was taken to a whole other level. Paris. Copenhagen. Antwerp. Amsterdam. I’m heady with the recollection of these cities and the “oldness” that was everywhere.
Although there were so many sights to see, whenever possible Erik and I meandered through a flea market or ducked into second-hand shops in search of a little piece of history that we might take home in our suitcases.
{Noordermarkt in Amsterdam}
It was probably somewhat to my benefit that the dollar was at an all-time low when we were there. My temptation to bring home a bounty of vintage souvenirs was put squarely in its place! And so it was with my collage-artist’s eye that I proceeded to search for treasure of the small and inexpensive variety, picking up bits of ephemera, turn-of-the-century postcards, and old paper money to use in future projects.
The Parisian used booksellers, whose stalls line the Seine near Notre Dame, had wonderful old paper items, including antique engravings, newspapers, and magazines. Some sellers were tremendously overpriced, I thought. But after walking by enough of these stalls (and there are many), you get a feel for what is a bargain and what is not. My absolute favorite find of the trip were these old French fashion magazines. Ooh-la-la.
One of my favorite flea markets was Noordermarkt in Amsterdam’s Jordaan district. One dealer sold the most amazing vintage costumes. Perhaps from some opera production long ago. I wish I’d taken a picture. Along with many booths of new and quasi-vintage clothes, there were a great number of antique dealers, including many that had wonderful old paper goods. This is where I spent most of my time … rummaging through boxes of old maps and prints.
Here are few treasures from one dealer:
I found that old (but not rare and therefore expensive) books were also a great source of vintage collage material:
The day we were in Antwerp happened to be “Auto Free Day” (no cars in the city center). The influx of pedestrians meant that many residents brought out their surplus wares to sell on the sidewalk. Belgian yard sales galore! I found some sweet vintage playing cards.
Copenhagen also has a number of wonderful flea markets, often commingling with cafe life, like this one at Gammel Strand:

Happy European Thrifting!