Friday, February 20, 2009

Defacing old things...

So when I first saw this antique postcard for sale I noticed a few interesting things:

1. It is postmarked Baden Baden, May 28th, 1901 making it 108 years old.

2. The stamp is from Bavaria which was still its own separate kingdom at the time.

3. It still has the original greetings written in pencil, though they are in the old script and not really readable for "modern" eyes.

4. The writer also traced over the old woman's eyes in pencil, something you can see when you hold it against the light.

Still, as intriguing as these aspects might be, I f
elt the postcard was lacking something. The illustration of the old woman and young girl is sweet bur it is gray as is the writing, giving the postcard an overall drab feeling. I knew I wanted to do something with it but the question was what? Both sides of the card were equally important so I didn't want to glue it onto something or stitch it up. I decided to simply wait.

A while ago I bought this packet of vintage stamps at Karstadt on Hermannplatz. Karstadt is a German department store, but unlike the department stores I know in the U.S. it also has a huge grocery store in the basement, a large sewing department with cloth and supplies and a hobby section with stamps among many other things. Not sure what I would do with them either, I found a lot of the stamps really beautiful (a pack of 100)so I went ahead and bought them.

Karstadt is a chain, but the one on Hermannplatz is ra
ther special in that it is in the notorious neighborhood of Neukoelln. Neukoelln is considered the "ghetto" of Berlin. The very mention of its name is enough to strike fear in the hearts of more suburban, middle-class Berliners. I lived in Neukoelln for years in a total of five different apartments. Though it is admittedly trashy at times, it is also wonderfully multi-cultural and totally safe, at least if you are a white girl like me (most of the problems are between Turkish and Arab boys duking it out...)

Besides, there are great apartments to have there totally dirt cheap. Here are some pictures of the last apartment I had there until I "upgraded" to Kreuzberg (the one before it had ovens where I burned coal for heat. "Kick ass!" I thought and "How very 19th century!" That is, until I realized how much dust they make....)

A cute little studio with central heating for 300 Euros. It was on Weserstrasse, right around the block from the infamous Ruetli Schule, a remedial high school where the teachers and principle wrote a letter to the city of Berlin a couple of years ago stating that it would be better to close the school down because all of pupils were hopelessly unteachable. Anyway, when I told people I lived there they told me I was crazy.

But I liked it. The area is really close to Kreuzberg and has a true urban grittiness to it. By far the coolest area in Neukoelln, and I'm a girl who knows that neighborhood....The ironic thing: Weserstrasse is now THE next big thing. The area even has a new name, Kreuzkoelln. I was there around a year ago and it is now lined with lots of hipster, underground bars and cafes and even a sushi restaurant. The whole two years I lived there there was nothing but Eckkneipen (old men pubs)and the cool but very small and by no means hip Crossanterie. Sigh. Genetrification, where were you when I needed you most?

Anyway, to get back to the original story of this post, the other night I was playing around with the afore-mentioned stamps, placing them in these gilded paper frames I bought at an art supply store. Though raised hardcore protestant, I've always been a bit of a sucker for the Virgin Mary. Therefore, not too surprising that I framed her and baby Jesus from a stamp from Fiji showing a painting of the visit from the three wise men. I then took another stamp (Canadian from 1970)of children with worshipful looks on their faces and framed that. After positioning them on the antique postcard on a bit of a lark, I somehow liked it. I glued them to the front and put a gilded frame over the Bavarian stamp on the back and- voila!- the collage Three Wise Stamps was born. I did feel a bit bad defacing something so old, but life's simply too short to not have fun.....

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