Perfect or Patina?

The iron horse (below)  languished at the bottom of the ocean off the Jersey shore until

it was discovered, along with many other small treasures, by a deep-sea-diving antique

dealer.  Its charm is so great that I have never wanted to part with it.

Would anyone else have chosen this rusty old downspout?  It is one of the oldest
downspouts in my large collection. The fact that its top is a bit bashed and I have
had to glue its original embellishments back on a few times has only made me
love it more.
Or this worn out puti? There is real beauty under the fabulous old paint.  It is nice
to see the cracks and texture in the straw-plaster mix and find parts of the iron
wire structure, that help to make permanent what really is so delicate, peeking out in
My best frame? Not for everybody. And, the gilded lion who perches inside it once graced
something far fancier than I’d ever possess. Unless covered in layers of paint and grunge.
The beautiful mirrored glass fragments with the deeply-cut stars were originally owned,
in the same broken condition, by a dancer with the New York Ballet who must have
loved them as much as I do. His downsizing (at a sale run by the fabulous Janet Sherwood
of Antiques at 30B) was my good luck and, while I’ve moved them around many times
over the last 15 years, I have never considered, even under the greatest of customer
pressure, letting these lucky stars leave my house.
Alligatoring!  Nice!  Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, of course, and alligatoring…one
of the many expressions of patina… is one that I always hope to find.
Most people don’t want lamps in this deteriorating state. But, “looks good, works good,
is good”, that’s what I say. The tests of form and function are both satisfied and so am I.
And I guess they wouldn’t pick this copper flag pole topper out of the crowd, either. Or
should I just admit that it is an industrial plunger and move on? Where there’s patina,
who needs a fancy title?
Patina with writing? I love it! This colorful early washtub is a testament to our
longing for beauty in our work-a-day lives, the hope for little pleasures to make
what could be a dreary chore more fun.
Zinc labeling on wood. Old gray paint. Good as it gets.
Nothing like a whole pile of patina to make my heart sing.  So many people stopped
on their way down our country road to ask when our sale started that we had to
pitch a tent, hidden behind one of the barns, to temporarily store this huge overflow
from a week’s worth of shopping at Brimfield.
Some would say that these doors had seen better days. They would be wrong!
Raggedy old her? Right up my alley!
Her, too…same alley.
Mighty good pickins in some of those alleys!
Why, oh, why did I sell this cupboard? Yes, I know it is the top half of a cupboard.
But, so what? Its proportions are good and just look at the layer upon layer of
whites, grays, blues over nice old pine.
And this one? Sooo pretty. And, look here: while the previous cupboard was the
top half, this one is the side half… cut down the middle. See the bottom rail? When
it was whole, it had a traditional inverted heart-shaped skirt. A clever fix for a
piece that must have been too damaged to retain its full width.
What about this cupboard? The paint is original on all of these, I swear that it’s
true. The way that the paint has re-arranged itself on this one is a feast for the
patina-loving eye.
At least I still have the weather vane (below).  It is not old, of that I am sure.
But it is extremely well made from old patina-ready iron parts and I couldn’t be
happier with it even if it were celebrating its hundredth birthday.
And, this one! I took it to my shop, then thought better of it and brought it right back home
where it belongs.
But, this pretty-in-pink shutter panel, one of 8…..gone with the wind.
Same sad story for the pink-over-green sofa. Gone but not forgotten.
Potato Chips? Paint chips? Who’s asking?
Another metal label. Why don’t they do this any more? I mean I know it’s about cost, but
what a shame to see bar codes on hard-to-remove stickers where craftsmanship used to
Green, over red, over white, over who knows what else? So many layers, so carefully
chosen, showing for all they are worth and knowing full well that things of beauty
have no fear of time.

And, patina does take time…
Sometimes the elements help.
But, wait! Did I say that patina takes time? I guess that I meant that SOMETIMES
patina takes time. While other times it just needs a little skill: like in the case of this
cupboard, currently at the Hudson Supermarket,  that benefited so greatly from
Ken’s magic brush.
I’ve never chosen perfect things and, to be honest, while I can appreciate items of
high quality and fine finishes, I don’t particularly care to own them.  They seem
ordinary,  a little hum-drum, too high maintenance. Maybe too easy. Definitely
not as much fun. Sometimes it is price that makes me choose the fixer-uppers, the
pieces begging to be turned into something else. Sometimes it is just the imperfection
itself that reels me in. I do know for sure, though, that given the choice between
perfect and patina, I will choose patina every time. Or, maybe that’s just another
way of saying that patina IS perfect.

Amusing Myself With Patina

Last week, while Ken and Ned tore apart my space in the Hudson Supermarket

(, I, who am so easily bored, wished for something

interesting to do while I waited for my turn :  to put it all back together again. 

I looked around, sighing, till I spied patina.  I love patina.  Endlessly fascinating,

patina, with its layers, textures and colors,  never lets me down. Here are some of the

patina-rich objects which were moving this way and that in my booth….


Above, a rusting farm thing, posing as a sunflower and an appealing tear in a canvas-

covered trunk. I guess this kind of beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And since, in this

instance, I am the beholder and I am alone, no one can dispute my claim.


Layers of paint on a diminutive (6″ x 6″) radiator cover and more farm things. Sometimes

I wonder what I would sell if it weren’t for farms and factories.


Above, left, is my favorite thing from July Brimfield, a zinc cupboard (no, not a fridge!)

from a defunct silver manufacturing company in Pittsburgh. The photo (below, left) is a

close up of the round industrial table in the photo (above, right). Hard-packed sludge…

ya gotta love it. (I am alone, no one can dispute me!)


I have a passion for these roof drain caps (above, right).  The shape, the color, the wire. 

Apparently, not everyone shares my enjoyment, as these sturdy little  gems were usually

tossed in the garbage, making them difficult to find. My pickers in Pennsylvania, who have 

the most discerning taste, had this nice bunch of 15 in their barn. 

Linen-covered French books (above) all in a row. Pretty toppers for a rustic work table.

I used them in my last blog to display my Vichy baskets. Today, when I was taking more

Vichy photos, I wished the books had been safe at home, instead of  in Hudson where they

were at risk of being sold!  I know that I have to let people buy my stuff. But, I don’t have

to like it.


Big cabana pins and a vane with peeling layers of old paint. I have hundreds of pins in both

Hudson and Bournebrook.  The staff in both centers say that all day long  they hear the

swoosh, swoosh, swoosh of the pins being pushed back and forth as customers look for the

one with a favorite number. Grain sacks, of course, are central to any discussion (of mine!)

about patina with their many weaves and beautiful old repairs.

Time spent admiring patina is never wasted.