Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Dan Ruth - Among the Collectors

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Return of the Brooklyn Flea

Kent Avenue is back, buzzing and kicking Williamsburg’s Northside into a Spring frenzy. With both Smorgasburg on Saturdays and Sunday’s Brooklyn Flea both thriving on the East River, there’s once again plenty to do on the weekends. In the past, the Brooklyn Flea (Williamsburg wing) left a lot to be desired. With a huge emphasis placed on locally prepared food and less on antiques, collectibles and cool stuff, the Brooklyn Flea of the past, seemed more of a distraction and a bombardment of ideas, rather than an all-out flea market. This year it seems that with better planning, better space and better vendors, the Brooklyn Flea for the most part, is improving and worth a rummage. First off, the market is easier to navigate. It doesn’t seem quite so crowded with people walking and devouring pork sandwiches and fried dough.

Located directly in the center of the market, there’s now a much-needed seating area, filled with picnic tables for foragers and those in need of a bit of respite. For those who don’t want to sit in the hot sun, there’s always the outer shaded grassy area, next to the Brooklyn Edge’s promenade. Silly yes, and whether you like it or not, Billburg does have a promenade now. Stretching from North 6th Street, to North 4th, it includes, benches, grassy areas, the East River Water Taxi, and there’s even a pier now, just in case you want to catch your own fish, straight out of the East River (barf).

There seems to be more actual antique & collectible folks at the flea this year. The arts & crafts vendors of the past are still there, but now at least, these creative vendors have really stepped up their game. Some of the booths I saw on Sunday were not only cool, but clever as well.

First off, even though LP vinyl is making a comeback and people are returning to listening to records at home and in clubs, that doesn’t answer the problematic question of what to do with the piles of all the crap records you don’t want anymore or the LPs that have been damaged, etc. Well, “WRecords by Monkey” simply makes cool stuff out of them. They transform the unwanted LPs into jewelry, iphone protective cases, wallets and other utilitarian items. Cool and practical, this awesome idea really caught my attention, so best of luck to them.

Also clever and practical were the handmade Victorian-style scented pendants that were on sale by the crafts people at “Treehouse Brooklyn.” These simple porcelain decorated pendants act in the exact fashion as old Victorian snuff bottles, sachets or tussie-mussies. Think about it. New York, especially in summer, is not the most pleasant-smelling city in the world. This we all know.
In ages past, Victorian ladies were quick to clutch onto a scented sachet and fling in directly under their nose to protect their delicate nostrils from the horrid odors of rotting streets and beggars, now you too can put your favorite scented oil or fragrance on a small cotton ball, place it inside one of these Victorian pendants, and it’s off to Fresh Kills or Time Square with ya.

One thing rang true on Sunday at the Brooklyn Flea, and it couldn’t have made me happier. It would seem that we are in a true early 20th century revival. Along with the Victorian scented pendants, there were some incredible floor and table lamps on display, some made from solid brass and agate. The ones I saw were actually marked Akro Agate Company and positively screamed Deco. There were also some nice acid etched glass lamp globes to go with them, also from the early 20th.

“Invisible Gallery” touched on some true Victorian and TOC notions with their macabre, eerie and preternatural offerings, including what seemed to be an authentic human skull (I don't think it was for sale), some vintage Gypsy Witch fortune telling cards, some Velva-devil paintings depicting a red devil with playing cards and an old spirit board (Hasko Mystic Tray actually, not a Parker Brothers Ouiji board). All of “Invisible Gallery’s” items, including their huge vintage movie posters, brimmed with authenticity. 

One of the finest booth display, easily belonged to “Hunters & Gatherers.” This inviting booth was loaded with magnificent brass and hand-forged metal fixtures, vintage spittoons, candleholders, bookends, all with a clear emphasis on “brass.”

Along with the metal finery, it was impossible not to notice the plethora of nautical themes and creatures. This superb booth was over-flowing with taxidermy alligator heads, seashells, tortoise shells and coral. One can only assume that the alligators were either procured legally, fished out from the East River by hand or perhaps out of a New York City sewer. Regardless, the browsing at “Hunters & Gatherers” was just as good if not better than any shop on Bedford Avenue, so well done there.

So a good time was had at the Brooklyn Flea in Sunday. The items were better, they have an ATM now and there’s a pleasant vibe. Still I have yet to purchase anything at the Brooklyn Flea apart from last year’s rare vendor who actually was selling coins. If the Brooklyn Flea gets more clever vendors, and more legit vendors with vintage items such as antique glass, artwork, coins, memorabilia and primitives, Williamsburg will finally have a flea market to flock to. Sure, we love the tee shirts and the furniture, but they better get on it, because rumor has it that there’s a great big pool opening off of McCarren Park this Summer, and that’s sure to pull some folks, myself included, to Greenpoint.