Three times a year, the sleepy little New England town of Brimfield, Massachusetts mushrooms into an antiquing mecca with an international draw. The Brimfield Antique Market boasts 22 separate fields featuring over 5,000 vendors. The sellers converge from all over the U.S. to peddle items ranging from chipped glassware & bits of metal junk haphazardly displayed on muddy tarps to high-end 17th century English furniture staged beautifully in showroom-style vignettes.
The estimated traffic is over 250,000 visitors per show. That’s a quarter-million antique hunters!
Like the vendors, the shoppers come from all over. Their taste has the same vast range as the items being offered. A lot of folks swoop in from the nearby cities of Boston, Philadelphia and New York. In addition to the American set, I have personally sold to clients from Canada, England, Switzerland, and Japan. These foreign buyers often target Brimfield in search of those unique items they’re itching to get their hands on.
While the majority of the shoppers and dealers are what one could term ‘ordinary folk’, with that many people amassed in one locale, there are also a good number of characters. Dudes in kilts, slave boys in leather hot-shorts, mod ladies, shirtless wonders sporting their own built-in sweaters, steampunkers, etc. I saw quite a few models for the characters in my novel-in-progress, Phreak Show.
One girl in particular was the perfect fit for Twiggy. I pitched my novel concept, shared my character sketch, and asked if I could snap some photos for reference. She is a fan of both fantasy & steampunk, and graciously obliged the rambling request of a stranger. Danielle is a fantastic lady–you can just feel the fabulousness oozing out of her. Check her out on Etsy http://www.etsy.com/shop/ConstantlyAlice & Facebook http://www.facebook.com/ConstantlyAlice. Also, I’m pretty sure I have added another pre-publication sale of Phreak Show to the list. 😉
Celebrities also slip into the mix at Brimfield. A few big names are frequent shoppers. Tommy Hilfiger and his crew often swoop in placing tag after tag on items they’re interested in. [Making the dealers quite happy.] There were rumors that Barbara Streisand was at this last show. I personally wouldn’t be all gushing to see her pass by, but I sure ran into a lot of people that seemed more interested in hunting her down than searching for an antique to purchase.
I did meet and interact with two celebrities-of-sorts which are more inline with my personal interests.
First was Evan Michelson, co-owner of the NY shop Obscura, cohost of the show “Oddities”, and lover of all things weird & macabre. My partner and I went with a Fun Haus theme for this show. Over the last two months, we focused on collecting circus & carnival items, medical & funerary equipment, anatomical models, and both animal and human specimens. Evan was in our booth three different times chatting with us. She purchased 4 items from us and gave us a verbal pat-on-the-back with, “You guys have really great stuff.”
Between visits, Micah said, “We should get her autograph.” I talked the fanboi off the ledge and convinced him not to badger the poor woman. Evan likes creepy things, but I’m pretty sure gushing fanbois are excluded from her must-have list. In exchange for his reserve, Micah got to assist her by carrying some items and escorting her to her vehicle. On the trek, Evan shared some insight into her personality and how the show has affected her life. So, instead of a restraining order, Micah got a bit of personalized interaction with Evan.
The second celebrity I met and chatted with at length was Bruce Rosenbaum. If you’re into steampunk–and you don’t know this name–then rectify this at once. These links will help: http://www.modvic.com/ & http://www.facebook.com/ModVic. It may be overkill, but I consider him the reigning godfather of the Steampunk movement. We talked about steampunk in general, where Micah & I are heading with our design company, my Phreak Show concept, and random other topics. I showed him the YA Steampunk I was reading, The Girl in the Steel Corset. It turns out he personally knows the author, Kady Cross. At the end, we exchanged business cards and he told me to get in touch with any questions along the way or if we come across any items he may be interested in.
It was great to meet these folks. Especially at the juncture where Micah & I have set a new aesthetic & philosophical course for our business. We are calling it “Victweirdian”. Think: Steampunk furniture, lighting, accessories, clothing, jewelry, and art mixed with oddities that would be included in a cabinet of curiosities. Our shopping and brainstorming for this new venture have already begun. The leading photo of this post shows some of the ‘Steamjunk’ raw goodies. Stay tuned over the coming months to see how Lucah transforms them.
One piece I’m really excited about is a Victorian ‘Fat Jiggler’. You know–the shaking machine with the belt which supposedly shimmies all your fat off… Well, I found one with a great trapezoidal cabinet design. The belt has been removed. With a little tweaking, tuning up the motor, and the addition of some metal arms and implements–Lucah will have its first automaton maid.
Cool stuff, and what a fun event. Thanks for the links. I love that you accosted a girl and told her she was the embodiment of one of your characters. That’s awesome. Even better is that she didn’t freak out and she has an Etsy shop.
I saw Danielle pas by at one point and was like, “Wow. That’s Twiggy!” I didn’t chase her down, though. But when she passed by a second time…
very cool and I love her dress 🙂
Tons of walking and browsing in Brimfield. The key is to be comfortable–with style.
Your business is fascinating and sounds like it goes hand in hand with your new book! I bet Danielle was flattered to be included as a character in your book!
The business is def fulfilling. Creating is my thang, and yapping with strangers is [apparently] a gift I possess.
Danielle was very gracious–no doubt. We have connected on FB & she has read this post. She’s already quasi-famous! Now to finish the book and get her cast in the role of Twiggy in the Phreak Show movie.
Love your steamjunk – there are some amazing goodies in there! Looks like the fair is the place to be 😉
We shopped for 5 days while manning our own booth. And this shot doesn’t include the bigger pieces and the jewelry components we picked up.
Gosh, well done. I bet there are some amazing pieces that you found. Very jealous indeed.
Stay tuned for the finished pieces…