Monday, January 11, 2010

The Object of My Desire: From The Heart

We all know that things are just things and stuff is stuff, but sometimes objects continue to haunt us long after we've offered them as a Gift of Thrift, shipped them off to a loving, new home or even left them in the spot where we spied them.

Such was the case when when I bumped into this odd object at Kansas City's River Market Antique Mall while on a thrift hunt with Bob Greenspan, who photographed more than one-third of The Find: The Housing Works Book of Decorating With Thrift Shop Treasures, Flea Market Objects, and Vintage Details.

I was initially spooked by this slinky, heart-shaped picture frame that appeared to be made out of snakeskin and was perched upon a glass display counter surrounded with gilttery, costume jewelry.

As I slipped in for closer inspection, I realized that the entire piece was crafted from tiny pieces of Camel cigarette wrappers, woven together just as a child would have done to make a chewing gum-wrapper chain. This intricate example of handiwork is what some people call prison art, an object created by someone behind bars who used whatever he could get his hands on to make this specimen of beauty for a special someone.

I like to imagine this frame was made by a prisoner back in the 1960s and at one-time held a beloved black and white image of its creator. It might have sat on Dear Mother's dressing table or at the bedside of a sweetheart back home. Either way, this object of desire was crafted with love.

Always Frugal, Always Fabulous!

The Elegant Thrifter


  1. Stan, is there any way of tell if such an item is prison art or tramp art with out knowing its provenience? While both art forms a akin they are delineated by circumstance. Have a pleasent day. - G

  2. Gary, You are absolutely right. There was no way for me to tell whether this item was made in prison or under other circumstances. I also considered that it may have been made by someone while away at war, but since I did not buy it and the vendor had no idea from where it came, I allowed my imagination weave a story around it.


  3. nothing finer than a thrifty prisoner. or a crafty 14year old with a new cigarette habit.

  4. I really love Tramp Art. It's often beautifully made and, as you said, made with love, at the very least, the love of something well crafted. Do you know how paper chains are made? I guess Google will say somewhere; I am intrigued. Merci; great post, as always.

  5. I do know how to make the chain. When I was a kid, we used to make gum-wrapper chains, so I would say its the same principal of cutting and folding. I imagine it is the same technique.



Blog Widget by LinkWithin