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Rough Stuff

July 18, 2011

Rough, tough

I love going to estate sales, and in fact get emails from local sale organizers tipping me off to their locations. So, to be driving around on the weekend, only to come across a sign for one in our own neighborhood that I wasn’t already aware of, is pretty unusual. This being Sunday, the sale’s last day, there was lots of activity as we pulled up. Walking into the backyard area, past the checkout guy under his sun-guard, I could immediately tell this sale was different: these was lots of really unusual stuff! I zeroed in on several rough concrete rounds and homemade pavers and started a pile near the checkout guy. I quickly added a rosy-colored grinding wheel, a bowl-shaped concrete disk, a black-painted terra-cotta urn, an extremely heavy soldering platform that I initially mistook for a floor tile, a pink agitator chamber dotted with attractive perforations, and a rough concrete tube about 5-feet tall. (Inside, I found some terrific nesting gift boxes in festive colors, and some kooky old stationary.) From what I could tell the owners at one time did lots of traveling, were interested in heavy-duty craft projects including metallurgy, loved paper crafting and had a penchant for ethnic-look accessories and furnishings. Fun stuff. I asked one of the teenaged sale workers if she knew anything about the owners and she said two women had lived there, but that they must’ve had a male tenant in the back house since there were so many hardcore tools … ah, youthful naiveté. Anyway, all of my outdoor finds will make great additions to the garden as platforms and display supports. In the photo above, however, they’re supporting and providing a suitably-rough backdrop for my other Sunday finds: a collection of ceramic punk rocker/skinhead figures!

Nice guys, really.

I found these scratch-glazed figures at Stephen Penn’s place on Jurupa Avenue. After leaving the estate sale we tried to tip-toe past his yard of garden décor delights without stopping, but curiousity got the better of us. Penn was on-site and when he offered to show me what-all he had inside his warehouse I couldn’t resist. I was instantly drawn to these figures and knew I had to have them. Sculpted in an intriguing style that reminds me of R.Crumb’s herky-jerky cartoon energy, with the two larger figure’s amazing Doc Martin’s taking me to some of Philip Guston’s famous shoe canvases, their faces betray none of the expecting head-butting anger associated with punk rocker/skinheads … Penn told me he’d gotten them from a collector of many unusual objéts and that they’d been the winning entries in an art contest sponsored by the London Times, I’m assuming, in the 1980s. He didn’t know the artist’s name but offered to check on it and get back to me; each piece is stamped simply with SMc on the bottom. I love the figures’ heft and rough surfaces, but it’s their eyes that get me … I hope I’m not being naive but they seem almost sweet.

Stephen Penn is located at J&T Military Surplus, 6009 Jurupa Ave., Riverside CA, 92504. Contact him directly at California Estate Sale, 951 286 8280; or

4 Comments leave one →
  1. July 18, 2011 3:17 pm

    I could read your descriptions of concrete geometric forms all day. And the punks do have a Crumb quality, except cuddlier. I’d keep those for the house!

    • reubix1 permalink*
      July 18, 2011 3:56 pm

      Well, after yesterday’s near-aborted-due-to-the-heat flea market jaunt (nice to run into you there!), I thought it would be best to focus on my treasures of the weekend before … and yes, a cuddly skinhead must be part of the rotating house decor; love ’em!

  2. James Krueger permalink
    July 25, 2011 11:59 pm

    ” I hope I’m not being naive but they seem almost sweet.”

    You are not being naive. They are much too sweet to be skin heads or punk rockers. I think someone had a bit of a sense of humor. I hope I’m not being naive but
    they seem almost gay.

    Say hello to Paul.

    • reubix1 permalink*
      July 26, 2011 12:28 am

      Yes, but just ‘almost’! … I think a well-developed sense of ironic humor was definitely at play here, which is why they appealed to me immediately… I’ll tell Paul you said hi, Reuben

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