Tag Archives: Round Top

Discipline with Excess-ories

Living small is not about acquiring more.  The consumer orgy known as Round Top is not a good place to be if you are trying to learn to let go of stuff. The event long ago stretched beyond the idyllic burg of Round Top for miles in both directions along Texas Highway 237, about 20 minutes from Brenham, bringing a wild mix of antique, collectible and junk fairs twice a year, in early April and early October.

Hard to resist, especially when the vendor explains that she's making her chandeliers on the spot from combined parts.

Hard to resist, especially when the vendor explains that she’s making her chandeliers on the spot from combined parts.

If you have just a smidgen of shopping gene in you, Round Top exerts a powerful pull. My niece Lesley hadn’t ever experienced it, so I took her out for a very long day earlier this month. She’s contemplating her first apartment, and apparently planning to fill it with Coca-Cola memorabilia. We found plenty of that in the fields at Warrenton, which is where you go when you don’t mind a serious scavenger hunt. (If you want the goods beautifully curated and marked up accordingly, head to Marburger Farm.)

Some people grumble that Warrenton, long a junker’s paradise, has been overrun with cheap imported goods. But further back in the fields, you can still score a treasure here or there and find vendors with garage sale-like setups, where everything’s thrown on a few tables and marked $5 or $10.

Made here in Brenham, as it turns out.

Made here in Brenham, as it turns out.

It’s best if you’re on a mission. If you don’t know what you’re looking for, the visual cacaphony can overwhelm you pretty fast. My goal this time was simple: I’ve coveted Margaret Meier’s vintage European flax linens for years. Based in Florida, she sets up at the Rose Field in Warrenton as Vintage Fabrics & Etc. I had a project in mind: recovering a much-loved chair we bought for $75 years ago in the mountains of North Carolina.

European flax linen: Stay tuned. The chair should be ready in three weeks.

European flax linen: Stay tuned. The chair should be ready in three weeks.

My eyes fell on a 13-yard bolt with a double butterscotch stripe in a darker-than-usual color. Margaret, a subtle but sure saleswoman, assured me I’d made a great choice: the butterscotch was rare, she promised, especially on a bolt so wide. Almost $700 later, it was in my trunk. And we’d been out less than an hour, with the full day ahead of us. Dangerous.

Of course you don't need it, but these vendors sure know how to make you think you do.

Of course you don’t need it, but these vendors sure know how to make you think you do.

My discipline held up with objects like bird cages and lanterns. But because the garden yields so much joy, and it needs to be brought inside or shared with friends, I have allowed myself to continue collecting small vases. As luck would have it, a booth that clearly stood out as something different was at the aptly-named Excess show, where a lot of the dealers make and sell goods from repurposed industrial objects.

I could see these hanging from the living room ceiling.

I could see these hanging from the living room ceiling.

Many of these vendors are regulars but I hadn’t seen John Norton before. A chemist from North Carolina, he buys up lab glass from factories — test tubes, beakers and such — and “Silver Flashes” them. He says that unlike mercury glass, his pieces hold water; although he warns against shoving in thorny rose stems, which can scratch the silver.)

Lesley shops the Industrial Age Antiques booth at Excess.

Lesley shops the Industrial Age Antiques booth at Excess.

Norton’s beakers exude the coolness of objects you might see in a MoMA catalog. In fact, he said MoMA had contacted him about selling them. Look for them in the museum store soon if you’re in New York. In the meantime, Norton’s company, Industrial Age Antiques, also has a website.

I cratered.

I cratered.

I managed to keep my purchase to just small bulb-shaped vase. Lesley couldn’t resist, either. She’s a fast learner.

Sale!

Do you have any idea how hard it is to resist a sale of knick-knacks that your neighbor has spent a year collecting, even though you have SWORN OFF accumulating any more stuff since a bunch of yours that you’ve almost forgotten after five months is still in storage?

Well, here’s the deal. Betty and Don down the street have been setting up for a week, putting tents over their driveway, layout out tables, piling on the stuff and blocking the driveway with their pick-up trucks for security. This morning, they finally opened up shop.

Image

Betty said she does this every year about the time the Round Top dealers roll through town. (Actually, the shows are twice a year.) The fall shows start tomorrow at Warrenton, and Blue Hills has been open since last weekend. (I went to Blue Hills and discovered the gardens, which I love love love, but I didn’t buy a thing. Not even the pillows from some High Point, N.C. ladies with pretty prints of bees, which I could have used. Progress!)

Traffic has been noticeably heavier in Brenham this week as everyone in the antiques and junking world descends for the twice-yearly stuff-fest.

Image

Betty puts up a wooden sign at the end of the block that says, simply, “Sale.” Not “Garage Sale” or “Estate Sale.” And no address. It’s like an exclusive club, kind of: If you have to know more, you probably don’t belong there.

Image

With their granddaughter-in-law Adie and a few other friends helping, Betty and Don held court and collected money as ladies in-the-know prowled through the goods, most of it glassware.

You must have a big storage room, I said to Betty.

She pointed a little sheepishly, grinning, toward the windows of a back room in her house, which might be a dining room or a glassed-in porch or both – I couldn’t tell for sure and didn’t want to seem too nosy. I’m still new around here. (Anybody whose family hasn’t been in this town for five generations is new, so we’re more like aliens although everybody’s been really nice.)

Clearly visible in the shafts of morning sun were three or four shelves on the back wall absolutely crammed with small glass goodies. “Sometimes it’s hard to let them go,” Betty said.

Image

I got out of there with just one painted metal basket, which I actually need to hold fruits and veggies. Yeah, need, that’s right. It was $5, and a teensy gold and black “Made in China” sticker is still on the bottom, but I love the clean, cheerful shape. It was satisfying enough that I didn’t need to purchase anything else.

We’ll see how the discipline holds up when I head out to Warrenton in a day or two.