It seems most everyday I hear people bemoaning the fact that “young people these days” are not interested in anything old or antique; that everyone buys their furniture at IKEA and has no love for anything with the patina of age and use. I know this is not entirely true, as I have plenty of peers my age (46!) and younger selling many things vintage, and when I am out picking--at estate sales, thrift shops, flea markets, etc--I encounter many of the same. And yet it is certainly truer than I would wish it to be, and as I sit here at the Essex Exchange, the multi-dealer vintage and antique shop where Critical Eye has a small space, there are indeed significantly more retirees than 20 and 30 somethings who come in to shop, and of the younger set, many seem to prefer old things that have been repainted and prettied-up to things that show their histories.
With Critical Eye, I am arguing for the value of surrounding oneself with things that have character, substance, and stories to tell, and for the idea that life is better lived surrounded by beautiful, interesting and unusual (which definitely need not mean expensive) things. The process of choosing what to live with and surround ourselves with, I believe, reveals us to ourselves and to others—it’s a way of learning who we are, and making that visible. How much better it feels to host a party or entertain guests when our home is filled with things that truly reflect us--things we are eager to share with others, and to share the stories and histories of. But most importantly, living with things one cares about is a gift to oneself.
I say live with objects that function as souvenirs of one’s own adventures--whether of places travelled, or interests and passions that have been sparked along the way, even if that just means through the process of perusing the internet and discovering something wonderful!
There is little I own that does not carry memories and deep meaning for me; I live surrounded by objects that bring me great pleasure and delight, whether functional things like handmade cups and plates, artwork and textiles hanging on the wall, pottery bowls filled with shells and rocks, little carved and sculptured animals that sit on ledges, plants potted in pretty vessels (often hiding little chips and cracks), or trays and boxes that group and hold collected odds and ends. And all of these inhabit what is otherwise a fairly minimal environment-- i.e. the ongoing acquisition of special (and in my case quite eclectic) things need not mean clutter!
Almost invariably, when I am considering buying something, I do a quick valuation — i.e. this is equivalent to a cup of coffee and croissant, a pair of movie tickets, a nice dinner out. While this is usually enough to justify the purchase, I can also remind myself that as opposed to those, whatever this thing is will be around to bring me joy everyday, for a long time, and also that I am doing well by the thing itself, to be its steward into the future. Often as well, buying something that piques my curiosity is the inroads to learning about it, where it came from, how it was made, leading to new knowledge and awareness and, typically, provoking new curioisities along the way.
With Critical Eye, I aim not only to share with you the lovely and unusual things I find (with the hope you might love them too and wish to bring them into your world!), but also to share my joy in the process of hunting and discovering and learning about these things, in the hope that it too might be contagious!