Yesterday I finally managed to get my ass in gear and edit a new Crap I Found at Thrift Stores Video. The crap was starting to pile up and it was time! I do have big plans for this series and this concept. All will be revealed. The truth is, I don’t wish to keep most of this crap, but I do love finding it and sharing it with folks. As I’ve said before, I think of it as urban archeology.
We have reached a critical point environmentally and socially. Our mass consumer culture is wreaking havoc on our planet, the inhabitants, and our collective psyche. Where things were once made to last, they’re now imbued with planned obsolescence. Most things are designed to fail. Therefore, we are perpetually in search of the shiny new thing. The cycles of fashion and trend have become so accelerated that things become irrelevant moments after they are purchased. The detritus of our existence is mounting at an alarming rate. Our trash is running out of places to hide. Our consumption may well consume us. Then, there’s the human cost of mass production. People are suffering so that we can have that endless stream of cheap and shiny new things. One can only ignore this for so long. It weighs us down, even if we aren’t fully aware of why we feel so heavy.
I have been thrifting for decades. Much of what I own, which continues to be pared down on a regular basis, is thrifted or flea market-ed or estate sale-d or handcrafted and fairly traded. I have always been intrigued with history. I love ephemera. I find it fascinating to ponder where something has been and what it has seen. I also love the idea of giving an old thing a new life, instead of buying a mass produced thing. I do make exceptions, even I am sometimes swayed by the siren song of a quirky Target bargain. I am striving, though, to be more mindful of how I spend my money. That has implications. It is also true that some things are best purchased new, however these can be made with more sustainable, mindful, socially responsible practices. We can slow down, and reject the fast fashion mindset. We can practice conscious consumption.
I’d like to think of thrift shopping and buying handmade, fair trade, and recycled/upcycled as the antidote to our current reality. It’s the anti-mass consumer mindset. There is already so much stuff on the planet that can be given a new life with a little bit of vision and effort. Things made with care and craftsmanship feel good to buy and own. They have an energy that is palpable and positive. Taking an old thing and re-purposing it gives the owner a stronger sense of ownership.
20 years ago my husband and I opened a fair trade gallery called Oroboros. The Oroboros or ouroboros is the world snake, the serpent that eats its own tail. It represents the end as beginning, the cycle of life. We were making something out of nothing then, and we’ve spent the past 21 years together continuing on that journey in many different iterations. Back then we sold odd, unusual, funky, beautiful fair trade and handcrafted goods from artisans in the US and around the world. Many of the items sold were being made to help lift people out of poverty and train them in new jobs. We were different from Ten Thousand Villages, because we focused less on the ‘airport art’ designed to appeal to the Western Consumer, and more on the unique and interesting things that reflected the cultures from which they came and also items that reflected emerging and fascinating creative dialogues between cultures. Our focus was on making the world a little better by helping our customers become conscious consumers. Everything we sold told a story, created a connection to someone, made a difference. We hand selected every item, and sometimes sold items we made ourselves alongside things discovered at local thrift shops. I’m older and wiser and more savvy now, I see where we failed and were we might have done better. I think there’s a space opening up for this kind of approach to retail. I think people are growing tired of mass consumption. Less really is more, especially when it makes the world a better place. I want to return to this mission. These kooky videos are part of that plan.
I’m thinking deeply about conscious consumption, and how I can transition away from the mass consumer culture and towards a more mindful, sustainable, positive way of being in the world. I have plans. Things are happening. Watch this space. More to come.
Oh! And check out my latest Crap I Found at Thrift Stores Video! It’s a hoot.