Tuesday, May 5, 2009

ACEFACE: Jennea Frischke

Story & Photos By Harvey Hinton

Once upon a time, when one wanted to purchase a copy of the long-out-of-production Mad Magazine Game (Parker Brothers, 1979), one had to trudge though innumerable yard sales run by shady families who treated every overpriced, chipped novelty mug and piece of tarnished costume jewellery as if it were their firstborn child’s bronzed baby shoes. Now, one can find such a rare and hilarious item located near the bottom of a small stack of similarly strange board games in local kitsch merchant Jennea Frischke’s room in the Curious Cat Antiques Mall.

“I’ve always had an interest in vintage,” said Frischke, 25, “My mom, I was really lucky (that she) saved all her vintage clothing, so when I moved into junior high that‘s when I started to be able to fit into her old clothes.

“I started wearing it when I was quite a bit younger and we would go to thrift stores a lot. That‘s just kind of what my mom and I did.”

Those mother-daughter excursions to local thrift stores, which combined with her mother’s experience and taste with Frischke’s own developing sense of esthetics and self-education in the study of fashion, eventually led to the founding of their shared Antiques Mall room, named “Necessarys” by the Frischke matriarch.

“The last five years is when I‘ve actually been selling stuff” said Frischke, the topic of her store rendering her eyes almost effulgent with excitement behind a pair of glasses with black metal frames styled to resemble a kind of amalgam of wrought iron and lacework. “It started out as just a little, tiny display case at the Antiques Mall with my mom, and now we’ve had a room for a year.

“My mom and I used to go (into the Antiques Mall), and then one day we just asked how much it would be for a space and that we’d like to start small,” she added. “There’s always a little bit of space in the Mall.”

Frischke has also been participating in Calgary’s community-building Market Collectives as a vendor since last January.

The search for the perfect items with which to fill her shelves (and garage, which doubles as a makeshift storage space), such as a particularly eye-popping enamelled copper brooch featuring a brightly coloured pheasant, lead Frischke on pre-Kingdom of the Crystal Skull era George Lucas-worthy treasure hunts all across the city. “I go to flea markets, auctions, garage sales, thrift stores,” said Frischke, “Also, sometimes people will let me know if they want to get rid of some stuff, and I’ll go over.”

Frischke hunts for all manner of antique items, some produced as recently as the 1980s, though most from the 1940s-50s. Among her favourite items are Bakelite purses and house wares, avian jewellery and statuettes, and “big-eyed” art popularized by Margaret Keane.

“There’s one doll that I kinda want to get sometime, called “Little Miss No Name,” said Frischke of the object of her morbid longing. “I don’t think I’ll get it because it’s so creepy, but it was made in the 60s and she actually came in a box and she had this paper bag on her, and she had a tear on her face, and her had was outreached for money.

“You can’t find them in mint condition because kids were so upset by the doll that they would rip the tear off or cut her hair or put her in real clothes. They’re so expensive, and really creepy, but I really like them and think that there’s something really endearing about them.”

In light of her concern about the rarity of unaltered dolls, it is important to note that Frischke often modifies items to make them more saleable, though such items are always marked as having being changed from their original condition.

Arguably more challenging than actually finding antique clothing, furniture, knickknacks, gimcracks, baubles, and gewgaws is the task of putting a price on items which are often exceedingly rare, or rich with historical significance. The difficult nature of this business requirement is compounded by the fact that customers cannot haggle over set prices as in a flea market, as store owners are not actually present in the Antiques Mall, which is staffed by two cashiers at the entrance. “I use a lot of collector’s books as references, and sometimes I’ll go and spend a day looking around the Antiques Mall just to get comparisons for prices.

“Sometimes something could sell for more somewhere else, and you can’t get that price in Calgary.” As of press time the most expensive item sold by Frischke at Necessarys was a set of three attached orange plastic seats for approximately $500, though the store also stocks items at nearly all price points.

Customers come in all age groups as well, with young adults and hip baby boomers mingling in direct opposition to the antiquated (and unfashionable) idea of the packrat bag lady. “I’m not really sure what kind of crowd we draw at the Mall, because I don’t really work there, (but the Market) varies,” said Frischke. “I get a lot of younger girls, to people in their forties and fifties who are looking for something that they saw that reminds them of when they were kids.”

In addition to Necessarys, which requires an estimated average of two hours per week in stocking and maintenance time, Frischke also works part time at Diner Deluxe, as a clothes picker of nearly two years experience working in for Denmark vintage clothing store “Wasteland,” and as a summer instructor of bead-making and clothing modification courses for teenagers at ACAD during the summer.

In the coming months, Frischke plans to set up her own online store, to be called Piccala Vintage, on Etsy.com, as well as set off on a month-long road trip/supply run to Portland and Seattle with her boyfriend (a VHS collector) in the beginning of June.

Jennea Frischke’s website address is www.jennea-frischke.digital-arts.ca
The Curious Cat Antiques Mall, open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. all week, is located at 510 77th Ave. S.E.


Mark said...

I hope you're also on EBay. It's a good way of widening your customer base.

Bennovision said...

I loved the article, the photos and Jennea's collectible knick knacks! Keep up the good writing.