Diary of a Picker: Brimfield 2013

I’m jumping in as a guest blogger today to share a little about my recent experience with Jeni at the Brimfield Antique Show.
When I started working for Jeni at Found Vintage Rentals back in 2010, I had visions of flea market shopping, antique stores, and fun buying trips. I imagined myself alongside Jeni finding beautiful and fun vintage pieces to add to the Found collection. I saw myself as a pretty good antiquer. Having grown up stopping at countless roadside “junk stores” on family trips, I thought I was a bit of an expert. I also fancy myself as one with pretty good taste. I’ve spent some time and thought on the decor in my home. I have a creative side. I can see possibilities in pieces others discard.
At least that’s what I thought. Even with my design experience, creativity, and willingness to get my hands dirty in the name of a good find, I had no idea what I was getting into. When it comes to pickin’, Jeni Maus is a force to be reckoned with.
Last week, after almost 3 years of working at Found, I had the privilege and joy of going on my first official buying trip with Jeni. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen Jeni in action plenty of times. You can’t get in a car with her without pulling over multiple times to check out something she notices out of the corner of her eye. I’ve been flea marketing with Jeni and we’ve “shopped” inside the homes of hoarders together. You might even say she’s always pickin’. But this was my first time on a multi-day adventure with the master.
On this trip, I got to observe Jeni in her element. I’ve always known she lives for the thrill of the hunt but this was a sight to see. Up before dawn. No breaks. No food. No water. A broken boot heel didn’t stop her (at one point, she shopped for 4 hours with nails sticking into her foot…. yikes!). A “sold” tag doesn’t prevent her from finding the buyer to make an offer. It was a little bit superhuman to be honest.
In fact, my mom was also along for the ride in Brimfield. She kept asking me, “Did Jeni eat?” “Is she still shopping?” and “Did she lift that herself?” Jeni doesn’t mess around.
And she isn’t afraid of the hard work of pickin’. Sweat, blood, and hours go into every piece she acquires. She schleps, lugs, and carries her finds for miles. She packs, repacks, and hoists each piece into an oven-like container to get them home. She overfills her carry-on luggage to get that precious last find on the plane.
While I’ve always admired the variety of beautiful and unique pieces at Found, it wasn’t until this trip that I recognized the true singularity of the collection. Going to New England, I expected to see farm tables for miles, crates in each corner, and French bottles everywhere I looked. That was absolutely not the case. I shouldn’t have been, but I was surprised at the scarcity of the really amazing pieces. Statement pieces like architectural elements, multiples of anything, and really quality items aren’t plentiful. Even among thousands of dealers and miles of antiques, you’ve got to “find” the great pieces. They are stashed in the back of trucks, hiding under tables, covered in mundanity. But Jeni sees them.
She’s hard to keep up with. I had to wear running shoes. She’s constantly scanning everywhere she looks. She’ll stop when all I see is junk. She reaches under, inside, and behind where I never would.
Lest you think that Jeni’s pickin’ is accidental, I will say that I have long-ago shed my dreams of shopping alongside her. I realized I don’t have the chops. Hers is an innate and acquired skill. It has taken years of practice, relationships, and savvy. Now, I can still find an accessory or two for my own house or catch a vision for a ceremony backdrop. But I’ve got nothing on Jeni. Her eye, her taste, her vision, her ability to anticipate set trends is astounding.
When people ask me if I get to buy things for Found, I usually smile and say “Jeni buys. I sell.” Little do they know that what they think is a dream job is full of blisters, pulled muscles, and the longest days you can imagine. I’ve had the easier task for sure. I just show people the incredible collection Jeni has curated, and it practically rents itself.
Pickin’ isn’t for the faint of heart. And if anyone has the heart, it is Jeni Maus.