Andy had his cookie jars, Angelina has her knives, Michael had his exotic pets and this guy is bananas for bananas … is there any human act more subjective than collecting? I can’t tell you how many estate sales I’ve been at where, confronted with a table covered with dozens of somethings, I’ve thought, “Why in the world that?!” Not that I should be one to talk, having collected everything from thrift store paintings to vintage potato chip tins. This should not lead you to believe that I’m a hoarder, however; I can get rid of anything at any time. In fact, I just divested myself of the ‘tater chips tins last week … and I’ve been trying to get rid of the paintings, too. It’s just that no one will take them (convo me if interested)! But along with those items I’ve also been an avid collector of the too big and too heavy, the rusty and the concrete … both of which are the subject of this post. Behold my latest acquisitions, from the top: A pair of vintage concrete incinerators, a painted concrete thunderbird bird bath and a verging-on-folk-art barbecue/smoker. In the past my penchant for the massive and leaden wasn’t the issue it is for me now, physically. But this limitation hasn’t stopped me from falling for an attractive silhouette, an odd OOAK face, a ponderously weighty bottom … I just know I’ll need it delivered, then placed by backs younger and healthier than my own. Let’s look at the goods …
VINTAGE CONCRETE INCINERATORS: Picked by friend Stephen Penn, who kindly offered them to me (at a really super price), this pair of old-style trash burners now stand like squat geometric samurai at the Rancho’s back gate.
When Stephen showed me these incinerators at his salvage yard I was concerned about how they might be delivered without incident … wouldn’t they be horribly heavy and unwieldy? I was delighted when he said they were made up of simple shapes that fit together against each other, their weight helping them to stand upright: This meant moving, then re-assembling them, wouldn’t be a problem. Happily, Stephen delivered and put them back together again (on poured concrete bases Paul created). I am in love with these trash burners with their rusted front doors and interesting patina and paint job. Stephen capped each with a wire basket and metal pipe lid, which looks great but may change. I woke up out of a dead sleep the other night, thinking: LANTERNS! I should cap them with industrial lanterns … I have to call him and see what he’s got down at the yard.
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THUNDERBIRD BIRD BATH: This piece was not something I was looking for. It just happened to be adjacent to one I had tracked down on craigslist. Lurking, half-obscured by stuff, I caught sight of that attractive beak and had to see the rest. The owner dug it out and I pronounced it sold! The two-faced T-bird base was great (in a stylized, ’50s-southwestern kinda way), but what really sold me was inside the basin: The simple face of a woman. With wavy hair, a plaintive expression and wearing a pearl choker, she insisted I take her home. With the condition problems at the basin’s rim I probably paid too much … but I’d gotten such a good deal on the original object of my trip I didn’t mind.
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RUSTED STEEL BBQ/SMOKER: This was another piece that just happened to be in the same space as something else I’d found on craigslist. But having seen it I instantly declared it mine. The homemade look of it, the faceted vertical shape, the cactus cut-outs on the sides … it gave me the feeling of a space capsule that had just made its way through the earth’s atmosphere and landed in somebody’s backyard with the mission of ‘cuing up some carne asada! And again, I got an amazingly good price. It was delivered, then sat for a while. Considering where it should be placed since it would be a focal point, I finally decided on my repurposed fence board deck. To play off the piece’s facets I drew an X-shape onto the deck and added more colors randomly; my brother-in-law reinforced the wooden structure from beneath. Once completed, he centered a concrete form on the deck and topped it with the BBQ. Will I ever use it for cooking? Doubtful. But I can see building a fire inside and using it on some chilly fall night as a fireplace … the idea of those cactus glowing orange is pretty irresistible.
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Collecting is something I clearly cannot stop, physical limitations notwithstanding … not only can I not handle moving anything weighty, but long car trips are out of the question too. Thank God for shopping online, read craigslist, and local vendors who are willing to deliver, set-up and move items per my suggestion. Oh, and here’s the address for Stephen Penn’s amazing yard and warehouse here in Riverside. You’ll want to check in often with him as he’s constantly bringing in the new and amazing, especially when it comes to garden and industrial items.
STEPHEN PENN, RIVERSIDE: J&T Military Surplus, 6009 Jurupa Ave., Riverside CA, 92504.