Wednesday, February 22, 2012
I think we can all agree that it would be fairly tasteless if ads for estate sales always featured the profession of the deceased, but sometimes the estate sale companies just can't help themselves. Certain kinds of dead people attract more buyers. I've already discussed how the estate sales of doctors tend to be hot tickets, and I recently went to the sale of a person touted as San Antonio's Most Famous Flamenco Dancer. I bought San Antonio's Most Famous Flamenco Dancer's vintage telephone, as well as a box of her office supplies (never used, just $4).
But the one kind of sale I hate to miss is the kind that almost never gets played up in the ads: teacher sales. Especially art-teacher sales. That sounds horrible, right? Like I'm some kind of ghoul, gleefully rubbing my hands together in anticipation of more teachers dying? Well, I'm pretty sure most of the teachers whose sales I've attended were just moving into nursing homes—really nice nursing homes. And the rest were merely downsizing and relocating to Dallas to be closer to the grandchildren. (Yes, sometimes a little magical thinking is necessary if one is going to continue frequenting estate sales.)
Anyhoo, the thing is, the teachers' families didn't want their children's books and art supplies and crazy retro teaching materials but I do. Let the teachers' families fritter their lives away standing in line at the one open register at Michael's or Hobby Lobby; I'd much rather replenish the coffers of my kids' craft cabinets, art bins and desks at an estate sale.
A question I'm often asked as I wait in the check-out line—balancing stacks of kid books and old paintbrushes in the crook of one arm, brandishing my checkbook with the other—is, "Are you a teacher?" Nope. "A home-schooler?" Hell, no! When would I have time to go to estate sales? (Duh!)
I'm always psyched to come across Sakura Cray-Pas. They're versatile, easy to use and unbeatable for rendering rainbows. The Japanese company started making them in the 1920s, and they were specifically designed for children as part of a new movement in art instruction, which was kind of anti-art-instruction, encouraging kids to free draw instead of copy. A radical idea at the time, apparently. But even better than the cray-pas themselves are the boxes. They're so rad—dig that midcentury-style rooster!
If you buy new Sakura products online, the boxes don't pack the same graphic punch, though they are still being made. Whenever I'm in NYC, one of my must-stops is the Kinokuniya bookstore across from Bryant Park, where I spend way too much money on hamster stickers, Totoro pencil cases, the latest Moshi books, Moomin and Miffy stationery. The store has a great art supply section and stocks Sakura products in the rooster boxes, but a wee little pack of cray-pas is, like, twenty bucks. So far I've managed to back away slowly, knowing that before I make too big of a dent in my stash of vintage art supplies back in San Antonio, another retired teacher will be relocating to Dallas.