Friday, November 21, 2003


Junking brings out hunters in droves
When there's `good stuff' to be found, Cheryl-Anne Millsap knows where to look.

Cheryl-Anne Millsap
The Spokesman-Review
At a glance
New columnist debuts

Meet Cheryl-Anne Millsap, our newest columnist. Today is the debut of her weekly column, aptly titled Treasure Hunting.

An avid junker, she was born into a family of antique collectors and dealers. She owned a vintage clothing store and was an antiques dealer for more than 10 years.

While raising her four children, she has been a milliner (specializing in restoring vintage hats and creating new hats with vintage materials) and a jewelry designer.

A free-lance writer, Millsap has been writing for The Spokesman-Review for two years.

Junk, junker and junking.

Forget the definitions you find in the dictionary. In today's lexicon, junk stands for "good stuff." A junker is someone who likes to search for good stuff. And junking is the act of searching for good stuff.

I've been foraging for good stuff for a long time. And these days I have plenty of company. Home and Garden Television shows and upscale decorating magazines feature "trash to treasure" segments. Books with titles such as "Junk Chic" line bookstore shelves. Suddenly, junk is big business.

I grew up in a family of collectors. My grandparents gathered antiques, old bottles, postcards and anything else that caught their eye. My childhood was spent trolling flea markets and antique shows, or munching on Crackerjacks and bidding at auctions.

As a teenager, I looked for beautifully illustrated books, vintage clothing and linens.

In 1975 I packed up a vintage lace tablecloth, a battered sterling silver vase and a 1940s tab
le with a V-shaped shelf to hold my books, and moved into my college dormitory.

I put the table beside my bed, hung the tablecloth over the window for a curtain, and stuck a handful of pens and pencils in the sterling silver vase. I was home.

Now, nearly 30 years later, my style hasn't changed much. I have a Matelasse bedspread draped over my dining room table, my writing desk is the old oak table my grandfather used in his garage, and I keep my pens and pencils in pottery vases that I pick up at thrift stores. I still love old junk, especially when I find a new way to use it.

When my children came along, they joined me on my treasure hunts. Many Saturdays were spent pushing a double stroller stuffed with babies, books and whatever else I could squeeze in, around flea markets and estate sales.

Because I owned a vintage clothing store and rented spaces at antique malls for more than 10 years, I understand the business side of antiques.

When we moved to Spokane four years ago, I set out to see what was offered in the way of interesting finds, and I was pleasantly surprised. Spokane is rich in good junk.

We're lucky to have months of good weather for garage sales and flea markets, and since Spokane loves a bargain, the prices are low. On a nice day, hundreds of sales are scattered around the city and outlying areas.

Junking isn't about finding a lost masterpiece or Faberge egg in a thrift store. It's recycling in its purest form. If I don't need it anymore, I make it available for you. If it's trash to you, it might be my next treasure.

Learning the provenance, or history, of a find is half the fun. But creating a new story for each piece is the other half. If something is handmade, I wonder about the person who made it. If it is mended, I think about the way I too often replace instead of repair. I appreciate the work that went into the embroidered pillowcases I find at an estate sale. When I pick up a piece of china, I like to imagine the stories that were told over each teacup and saucer. Any junker knows the true value of a find is in the eye of the beholder.

This column will be a way to celebrate the love of anything and everything. Each week I'll be looking for interesting junk and interesting junkers.

I'll tell you where I've seen a bargain, how to spot a bargain and even how to bargain for a bargain.

We'll talk about the best way to go the distance at the flea market, and tips for success at an auction.

I'll be out there looking for treasures, just like you. If our paths cross, I might even take a photo of you and your favorite "find of the day" and publish it in my next column. We'll look at ways to restore and display our finds, and meet people who have found new uses for old things.

I'm looking forward to getting to know you. And telling you about myself. And I promise you that if we are ever at the same sale, and you get that wonderful something before I do, I'll just smile. And keep on junking.

  • Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a free-lance writer living in Spokane. Contact her at

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