The Pop-up Shop is Open!

We’re up and running through May 13th at the Tusinski Gallery, 2 Main Street in Rockport. Karen Tusinski, the artist-owner at the gallery, hosts a show every April in conjunction with Earth Day, and this year she opened her space up to The Roving Home.

Our pieces are a great fit with the idea behind Earth Day, one of appreciating our planet’s resources, and by extension, conserving these resources. We take the old and, in a sense, make it new again by presenting it in a fresh light. Of course this has always been done — antiques shops are not a new concept — but the difference now is that old stuff doesn’t have to be valuable to be valued, if you know what I mean. People are catching on to the fact that vintage pieces add depth and patina to a home, and vintage doesn’t mean fine antiques. It can mean a collection of humble milk glass, or a cast iron gooseneck lamp — the type of lamp that was at every work desk in every factory in America for decades. These seemingly insignificant items provide a real connection to the past. And even better, they’re still functional. (Yet another reason to keep them around.)

Some of the pieces in the show are old items, pulled apart and re-worked into genuine originals, like our handpainted taxidermy boxes. And other pieces in the show are re-worked ideas from our collective domestic and decorative past. Such as the chinoiserie panel that is hand painted over a base coat of chalkboard paint so that the colors of the design could be changed according to whim, the owner able to interact with the piece in a way that traditional hand painted chinoiserie wall coverings do not encourage.

We had a little party to kick off the shop; a few friends contributed their talents by making deviled eggs and red velvet-esque cupcakes — both old fashioned culinary delights that are back in vogue. My husband made a brutal batch of Haymaker’s Switzel, a drink designed to put some pep in your step back in the 19th century. Here in the 21st I don’t think we have the stomach for it. (Some things are better left un-recycled.)

Here are a few shots from the shop’s opening, thanks to friend-of-The-Roving-Home Carolyn Mohr!

One of the gallery windows. The light is built from a reclaimed beam and massive cable.

Handpainted taxidermy in vintage box. The photography light is part of a set of three from the 1940s.

Like all good hipsters, we listened to records while looking over the recycled glass bottle lanterns.

Checking out the Dollhouse Project in front of a wall of snapshots in vintage frames detailing our obsession with our possessions.

The living room in the dollhouse, with its Dorothy Draper inspired interior.

The sign for the pop up shop.

Haymaker’s Switzel, a hair-raising ginger infused drink, with vintage glassware on a vintage tray.

A large vintage photo print of elephants, taken on safari, and other manly-themed elements on the gallery wall.

Projects: Handpainted Taxidermy

Like nearly everyone else in my design demographic I have a fascination with taxidermy. The trend, like other symbols of hipsterdom, will probably run its course among the general population, so I can only speak for myself when I say that I think I will always find compelling the art of stuffing and mounting wildlife, trend or not. Taxidermy, when well-executed, is the perfect combination of natural history and the art of the diorama. And everyone likes a diorama. My grandfather took me to the Ohio Historical Society when I was a kid, and I remember taking in all the wealth of details found in the dioramas depicting natives of the region, crouched around an orange resin fire while just beyond the edge of the encampment stood a host of animals in various poses. The deer, bear, fox, rabbits et al. looked as though they were ready to rush in and jump the Native American family during dinner.

Of course the down side of taxidermy is all that killing. So, while a few pieces have come into my possession, I always sold them without too much regret, as it is one thing to appreciate taxidermy and another thing to live with it. With those cold, fake eyes staring at you. All the time. Another drawback is the terrible associations we have with collectors of taxidermy, thanks, in particular, to unforgettable characters like Norman Bates, or, more recently, the villainous uncle in Nicholas Nickleby. Collecting taxidermy is a sort of shorthand for being seriously disturbed or morally questionable. Or both. (I think Norman Bates qualifies as both.)

I bought a great vintage box, made of plywood in the 1950s, at the flea market a few summers ago thinking it would be great for some sort of shadowbox project. It’s so big, however, that the idea began to take hold that the case would be perfect for a preserved specimen of nature. Only I have no plans to take on taxidermy anytime soon. And then it occurred to me: I should paint a series of birds. Faux taxidermy! If the fashion-conscious can parade around in pleather and faux rabbit fur, why can’t I make up my own process for creating a victim-free form of taxidermy? Of course, my painted, stuffed birds don’t suffer scrutiny and the real wildlife expert would not be impressed. So that’s why I just made up the birds I painted – no way was I going to attempt to copy the perfection found only in the originals.

I was inspired in the design of the birds by an image I found on this great resource for antique taxidermy, the website of a dealer in the UK  (www.antique-taxidermy.com). You could spend a lot of time wandering around pages and pages of examples of taxidermy, some in perfect condition, some a little worse for the wear — all of it fascinating.

My faux taxidermy project will be finished this week. And after it’s done I plan on spending some time contemplating the diorama I’ve created, an approximation of the wonders of nature, if only nature were as bloodless.