Minnesota Prairie Roots

Writing and photography by Audrey Kletscher Helbling

My thrifty ways: flea market finds May 31, 2013

I GREW UP SHOPPING for clothes from the sales racks at JC Penney. Rarely, if ever, was I allowed to buy anything from the full price rack. So why bother to look.

Because I was the oldest girl in the family, I got the new clothes, which were then passed down to my ungrateful sister. I use that adjective because Lanae didn’t especially appreciate my fashion taste. She was right. My indecisiveness often led to bad choices.

By my middle school years, I learned to sew. And from then on, I stitched most of my apparel. I didn’t mind. I loved selecting patterns and fabrics and creating one-of-a-kind clothing.

Still, mostly, it was all about saving money. And money was tight in our poor farm family of six kids.

I found this vintage Minnesota beverage tray for $2 at the recent Rice County Gas and Steam Engines Flea Market. All other items featured in this post were found at the same venue.

I found this vintage Minnesota beverage tray at the recent Rice County Steam & Gas Engines Flea Market. All other items featured in this post were found at the same venue.

With that background, you can understand my delight in seeking out and scoring bargains. Thrift stores, yard and garage sales, and flea markets are my favorite shopping venues. Not only can I find merchandise at affordable prices, but I typically discover something few others own.

At the same vendor where I purchased the tray, I bought this floral etched and painted box. If I remember correctly, this is termed "hobo art."

At the same vendor where I purchased the tray, I found this floral etched and painted box. If I remember correctly, this is  “hobo art.” I got the box and the tray for $12. These may be given as gifts; I haven’t decided.

I’ve passed this love of bargain shopping onto my three offspring. My 19-year-old college intern son, attempting to furnish his first apartment on a budget, recently negotiated the purchase of a leather couch for $25 at a Goodwill store in Rochester.

From another vendor I bought this Fire King bowl and handstitched tablecloth trimmed with rick-rack. Total cost: $5.

From another vendor I bought this Fire King bowl and handstitched tablecloth trimmed with rick-rack. Total cost: $5.

Last week his sister, a Spanish medical interpreter in northeastern Wisconsin, shopped a half-price sale at an Appleton thrift store and purchased an easy chair for $24. A mint condition coffee table found next to a dumpster at her apartment complex cost her nothing.

The oldest daughter, who lives in Minneapolis, also sometimes shops at second-hand stores and even bought her bridal gown for her upcoming wedding at a vintage bridal shop.

Yes, I’m proud of my kids and their thrifty buying habits. Not only do they save money, but they recycle what others have cast off or can no longer use.

This kitschy art is so ugly it's cute, if that makes sense. For 75 cents, it was mine. My husband just shook his head, but then hung it on our backyard fence anyway, per my request.

This kitschy art is so ugly it’s cute, if that makes sense. For 75 cents, it was mine. My husband just shook his head, but then hung it on our backyard fence anyway, per my request.

My own house is furnished with lots of second-hand furniture, lamps, art, kitchenware, etc. I don’t need new. Old works for me, my tastes and my budget. How about you?

I had the perfect spot in mind when I bought that frog art.

I had the perfect spot in mind when I bought that frog art.

© Copyright 2013 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

Black Friday shopping my way & a shooting November 25, 2011

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Amber's $10 vintage coat.

SO, DEAR READERS, did you shop today, on Black Friday?

I hadn’t intended to, but then my oldest daughter ran downtown to the bank and I decided to tag along. We, along with my other daughter, perused merchandise at The Clothes Closet, a used clothing store operated by the Faribault Senior Center.

Amber, the oldest, walked out with what she termed a “vintage” jacket. Price: $10. You can judge whether this qualifies as “vintage.” She’s happy, even though her brother claims she looks like Santa in the coat. (Brothers!)

As a bonus, the clerk threw in a free pair of $2 earrings on a “buy one, get one half price” special.

After lunch, during which my husband called from work in Northfield to tell me about a shooting last night near the Target store, Amber left to return to her Minneapolis home and Miranda and I headed to the Salvation Army Store. (Click here to read about the Target area shooting, which began with an armed robbery and reported shooting in Faribault.)

Yes, I realize that now you could care less about any purchases I made and you would rather hear details of that shooting. But, alas, I have nothing more to tell you about the crime or the waiting-in-line Target shoppers who heard the gun shots and saw the cop cars and helicopter.

At the Salvation Army Store in Faribault, signs of an earlier crime remained in a boarded up front window. Several weeks ago a man allegedly drove into the building then fled the scene. Why is it taking so long to replace that window?

All this crime aside—and honestly, we typically do not have shootings in Rice County or cars driving into buildings—the second daughter and I spent $9.21 at the Salvation Army. Miranda got a shirt and a dress. I got two vintage trays and an original painting.

No crowds. No rush. No shootings. No worries. Just bargains with the money going to a good cause to boot.

HOW WAS YOUR Black Friday? What did you do? If you went shopping, tell me about your experiences and deals.

A $4 dress and a $2 shirt from the Salvation Army.

I purchased two vintage trays for $1.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling

 

My latest art-at-a-bargain find from the Salvation Army August 7, 2011

My Jose Maria de Servin painting.

WHAT’S YOUR PREFERENCE in art?

Do you shop for mass-produced art at a big box retailer?

Or are you the gallery type, purchasing one-of-a-kind fine art?

Maybe you shop flea markets, rummage sales or thrift stores for hand-crafted or vintage art.

Perhaps you’re artistic enough to create your own art to hang in your home or workplace.

If you know me as well as I expect you may from following Minnesota Prairie Roots, you would rightly guess that I prefer to find one-of-a-kind art at a bargain by shopping second-hand. Notice that I didn’t say bargain art. I said art at a bargain. There’s a difference.

My collection includes original paintings by hobbyist painters, prints by unknown artists, embroidered pieces by someone’s grandma… I’ve purchased most at unbelievably low prices—try 50 cents or $3.

Through the years I’ve even acquired an original Jose Maria de Servin painting and a vintage print of South Dakota artist Harvey Dunn’s  “The Prairie is My Garden” at steal prices. Both times I had no idea what I was purchasing. I simply liked the art.

That’s the thing with me and art. I buy a piece of art not as an investment, but because I like it.

That said, I recently picked up a three-dimensional rendition of  “The Last Supper” at the Salvation Army Store in Faribault. I debated whether I should pay $14 for the made-in-Spain art. In fact, I set the 24 x 17-inch piece down twice before watching another woman pick up and admire it. At that precise moment I decided I really wanted the unique art. I had to restrain my urge to run over and snatch it up after she set it back on the shelf. I waited until she was well out of grabbing range.

The Last Supper three-dimensional art I bought at The Salvation Army Store.

Later, the woman stood behind me in the check-out line and told me how she wished she had “The Last Supper” I clenched in my hands. “Then I saw you pick it up,” she said.

I responded with a seemingly casual remark: “Yeah, if you see something you think you might buy, you shouldn’t set it down…”

HOW ABOUT YOU? Where do you shop for art and what deals have you found?

Close up with Christ and the disciples at The Last Supper.

I hung the three-dimensional The Last Supper in my dining room.

© Copyright 2011 Audrey Kletscher Helbling