Are You a Junker of Fine Junk?

Antique shop in rural NY and weathered little lovelies.

So, recently I'm full of energy to purge the house of clutter and also to re-examine and revitalize my junk collections. And all this has me thinking and dreaming and scheming about beloved junk. Yes, junk and junking and junkers! "Junking" is a term that entered into my vocabulary somewhat recently. I was struck when my dear friend, Kehren Barbour, introduced herself as a fourth generation junker. It sounded so important, declarative, and inherited nonetheless! When Kehren left the Bay Area for more rural pastures, she gifted me with a handful of art supplies, small pieces of furniture, brilliantly random ephemera for potential crafting, and a copy of Mary Randolph Carter's book, Big City Junk.

I was mesmerized by Big City Junk, started researching Carter online, and was overjoyed to have found this organized subculture of "junkers". Soon after, I eagerly deemed myself a junker, and realized I was a third-generation junker nonetheless! Dating back to my grandparents little antique shop in rural New York, I saw the junker lineage so clearly in my father's barn, shed, and garage full of treasures and my mother's basement shelves filled w/ goodies for all seasons.

But it wasn't just the collecting side of junking I associated with. It was also the treasure-hunting. Fond childhood memories of waking up early on Sunday mornings to load up into the truck and take to the local flea markets, auctions, and estate sales only to come back w/ boxes or bushels or bags full of "junk"! Sweet bliss. Not too surprising, my brother just opened up an antiquing business of his own now spending his weekends at antique fairs and other fine junking venues.

Junking (or collecting, or recycling, or a penchant for vintage, or treasure-hunting, etc.) is something that also feels very relevant for my creative life. You could look at Brenda Coultas' book of poems, A Handmade Museum, or Joseph Cornell's assemblages to see how other artists are using this subject matter in their work. In junking, certainly the items are recycled/ re-purposed and often vintage or otherwise full of stories, history, even archeology of sorts. But the actual act of junking even feels like a creative pursuit: the sifting, the considering, the analyzing of odd objects, the honing of instincts and aesthetics, the balance between intellect and instinct until you settle in on your beloved junk collection.

It's like interior decorating meets assemblage-making meets green consumer dollars. What joy! Also, you enter into the subculture of junkers keeping beloved items out of landfills and preserving cultural histories. And with this, you can consider yourself a treasure-hunter, collector, green buyer, vintage addict, pack rat, or otherwise: junker.
(P.S. Check out Poppy Talk's recent articles on collections, very much along junker lines.)


  1. Shauna1/30/2008

    good god damn, this blog gets better and better by the day.

  2. i love shauna's comment. good god damn, it is!
    i have very fond memories of going junking with my mom as a kid. she'd give me $5 and i spend the entire time searching for the perfect treasure. it kept me occupied and happy. i still love junking. and i love that my mom is sitting next to me as i type this making lovely art from junk we discovered earlier today!

  3. I found your blog by linking from Kelly's... It is so cool that I am finding people all over blogworld that speak the same language. I am a 4th generation packrat, hoarder,junker extraordinaire. My mom decorated our house with flea market finds. My favorite things have come from thrift and junk stores. I am bummed that it will rain all weekend and spoil my finely laid plans of flea marketing in Alameda on Sunday... You know you are a true junker when you check the weather to see how it will affect your junking...

  4. This is a WONDERFUL post!!! I love junking... I actually drive my family a little batty on our vacation road trips - yup, I'll yell out "Stop there!" as soon as I see a flea market, thrift store, or antique store!

    I've been a junker all my life, and that's the way they'll bury me!



Thank you for your comments, friends. I like to think we are creating a dialogue in this space--building a virtual community.