Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Cabinet of Curiosities

When I was seven or eight, my grandmother's neighbor took me to a garage sale a few streets over. She had a passion for quirky old things and often invited me along on her thrifting excusions, partly because I shared her love for vintage items and partly to give my grandma a break from babysitting.

On this particular outting, I fell in love with a wooden medicine cabinet someone had pried off the wall and priced at $0.50. "It will be mine!" I declared. "I will do Great Things with it!"

I bought it, hauled it home (with considerable help from my older friend; the thing was damned heavy), and did absolutely nothing with it for the next twenty years and more.

At one point, I thought to cover it with postage stamps and turn it into an installation of sorts, like what Dave McKean so often built for his SANDMAN covers. I envisioned a number of tiny found objects affixed inside, each with its own story.

This probably would've been awesome if I hadn't forgotten all about it.

A few years later, I lit on the cabinet's true purpose: it was a TARDIS! If I painted it that particular shade of blue and added a light to the top, I could unleash it on the world as a DOCTOR WHO-themed curio cabinet. Again, this probably would've been awesome--except I kept forgetting to look for the right shade of blue paint, and I found I had little enthusiasm for rigging up a papier mache TARDIS roof besides.

Oh well. At long last, I decided it was time to let someone else have a go at the thing. I stuck a price sticker on it and added it to a pile of garage sale stuff.

I forgot to haul it outside on the appropriate day--not once, but three times. This made it difficult for anyone to buy it.

The years rolled on. I clearly sucked at the whole do-something-with-the-grotty-medicine-cabinet angle, but I started making other stuff. After a chance encounter with some oh-so-lovely beads and a pair of jewelry pliers, I started making earrings. I made lots; far more than I needed myself. So I decided to offer 'em up for sale.

Effective earring display is a bit tricky. After an experiment with a picture frame and a piece of netting, I remembered the medicine cabinet. Maybe I could do something there.

First, I gave it a couple of coats of green spray paint. When my single cannister ran out and proved impossible to replace, I filled in the gaps with a dark blue wash (which itself ran out; argh), and strung picture wire across each shelf so's I could dangle the earrings to best effect.

A bit of tissue paper and a slightly creepy sixteenth century picture later, the cabinet finally had a purpose.

The front is nothing too special, but that's okay. Few people will ever get a good look at it, since the cabinet is meant to be viewed open. I made the blue as dark as I could with my dwindling paint reserve, added a cascade of green and gold tissue leaves, plastered the slightly creepy portrait in the bottom corner, and added a thin gold wash over the whole thing. I'll probably add a thicker coat of gold to the lock at some point or another.

Inside, the open door makes a nice place to drape longer items. I'm currently using it to display the remnants of my vintage rosary collection. Once those go, I can see myself draping longer beaded necklaces or ribbon bookmarks here, depending on what I feel like making.

Each of the top four shelves can hold up to fifteen pairs of earrings (if one wishes to squish them in), or a smaller number plus some accent ornaments. Right now, I've got an assortment of vintage china animals tucked here and there. As they acquire new homes, I'll replace them with Breyer Stablemates (small model horses) or Red Rose Nursery Whimsies. If I ever get around to playing with my Sculpey again, there'll likely be tiny dragons in the mix, too.

It took a long, long time to come together, but I'm pretty durned happy with how my medicine cabinet finally turned out. It should serve me as an effective display for many years to come.

Well, unless I do something stupid, like drop it. Solid wood is bloody heavy.


  1. Welcome! Nice new place you have here. Sooo ... that cabinet has quite the story. Looks like you found a clever use for it, and it looks good. I finally posted something to my blog today. Bookish stuff. I've been a bit scarce over there lately.