Saturday, 18 May 2013

Our Japanese Screen

There is an urban myth about flea markets. It goes like this, a person you don't know goes to a flea market and purchases an item for some cheap price. They get it home and then discover that its worth thousands of dollars. No one knows one of these people personally, but the myth continues to circulate and many of us hope to be that lucky flea market lottery winner.

Being the skeptic that I am, I have always thought such a story was a fantasy though I love flea markets. Glenn and I found many things in the old EVC in these markets and we are similarly building the new EVC with re-used and old materials. We were not hoping for the proverbial flea market find when we went looking for a couple of used lamps to light up our work space until the ceiling lights are installed. We were just tired of working in the semi-dark.

The flea market had recently opened at Highbury & Florence in a big warehouse and it was kind of dark itself because all their lights were not yet installed. We wandered through rows of old couches, past piles of dusty stuffed toys, around mounds of dirty tools. It looked like we would not find our lights in these dim corridors of yesterdays treasures as we made our way to the very back of the rows. And then, there it was.

Behind some old ski equipment heaped on a dingy couch stood a Japanese screen that was being used as a wall at the back of the flea market. As I got closer it looked like it was hand painted on wood. But it couldn't be, I thought. It must be some kind of resin made to look like hand painting. Glenn came up and was in similar disbelief. We tried to lift just one of the three sections of the screen and it was heavy for two people to lift. Yes, it was solid wood, hand painted and carved, with gold leaf finish. It was a genuine antique, potentially over 100 yrs old, and the price was a completely affordable fraction of what it was worth. Glenn said, in my 5 years of travels through Asia, I have never seen a screen like this.

Just like in the urban myth, this extraordinary find was in a dark back corner of the shop. The only problem: it was 7' x 8'. Where would we put such a monstrous piece of art? Well you know we love art, so the thinking caps went on and we remembered that there was a stretch of wall between the two bathroom doors in the basement. But would such a huge piece fit there? We asked the vendor to please hold the screen and we squealed our wheels back to the new EVC to measure. What luck! We had a clearance of 1 1/2" at the top and 1" at the sides. It was like providence herself had sent the new EVC a gift - something we could never hope to purchase but can now share with you. I guess some of those urban myths are true.

1 comment:

  1. Congratulations Glenn and Linda! And thanks for posting the pictures of your amazing treasure for all to see. These pieces are definitely the "wow factor." Your viewpoint regarding flea markets will be agreeable with many Londoners. I like the line about "squealing our wheels." Again, "WOW"; you say this mural is 100 years old? Wow. I can't believe the great condtion. We can't wait to view it up close! I hope you are healing well, Glenn!