Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Flea Market for Life!

I know I've talked before about all the fun places you can find beads.  Bead stores, craft stores, and bead shows are great and all...but what I really love is the thrill of the hunt.  Digging through a pile of somebody's broken cast off jewelry is one of main ways I find new beads.  Once a month, Nashville has a HUGE flea market at the fairgrounds.  Vendors inside and out, selling anything from shabby chic reclaimed furniture, to coins and collectibles, to any bit of household kitsch you could possibly imagine...and then some.  Last month I drug my PiB Kelly for an exhausting day of rummaging, hunting, scouring for beads.  Join our adventure!
A few of my favorite flea market views.
I always try to arrive early, because shopping the outdoor vendors is no fun with heat exhaustion.  Housed in the fairground animal barns, these vendors often have large bins or sections of the table marked at $1.00...I always dig through these because you never know if you'll find a piece of broken jewelry you can salvage for parts.
Kelly shopping - check out all those skeleton keys!
I always bring a bag full of food and drinks - nothing puts a crimp in flea market shopping like low blood sugar or dehydration.  This trip we decided to pack a small rolling bag to share the load - we took turns pulling it around, and poking our finds inside.
Me, shopping away...definitely going for comfort over fashion...
As soon as the day starts to heat up, it's time to cruise through the exhibit halls.  These are full of more established vendors, higher priced antiques, and ready made goods.  I like to make a pass through the antique vendors in particular...again, because they will often clear out broken jewelry for really low prices.  If you can see past the grime, plastic baggies, and costume jewelry, you will find vintage treasures waiting to be ingredients in your next project.
Of course, it wouldn't be a trip to the flea market without spotting a few things you never thought you'd see.  A box of rusting springs, 5 for $1.00...somehow I managed to resist.  I'm still kind of sad the wood sculpture of a lion munching on an antelope was way outside of my budget...  See all those little baggies?  Those were half off the marked price...I found a broken strand of OLD coral in there, the real thing that can't be harvested from the Mediterranean any more...for $1.00.
Dismantling with our feline assistant.
After arriving home, we scrambled around to find grungy tools, empty baggies, and a piece of fabric, went out on to the porch (great way to keep shards of wire out of the carpet), and started taking everything apart.  Rotten threads, corroded wires, and grungy broken clasps go in the trash bag.  I like to sort everything by how difficult it is to take apart, then get to cutting the useful beads and components out.  Want to see the whole hoard?
My loot on the left, Kelly's on the right!
We both ended up with a TON of vintage glass beads to repurpose.  Kelly got some interesting metal pieces, and some fossils she had been hoping to find as well.  I ended up with quite a few partial strands of trade beads, and some loose wedding beads in really unusual patterns and textures.  
My non-bead finds...
I just can't leave the flea market without a few weird items.  This trip it was a small wood animal mask for the wall, a large bronze strike bell, two miniature pottery jugs, and a plaster doll bust.  Maybe she was a mold test in the past?  There's still clay embedded in the creases of her face...and I just love how the vendor tried to make her more appealing by giving her a hankie kerchief.

Even if you don't have a local flea market, there may be neighbor hood garage sales, charity rummage sales, thrift stores, or antique malls you haven't checked out lately.  I hope this inspires you to the possibility of finding beads in unexpected places.  Happy hunting!


  1. That seems like great fun got some great bargains.

  2. Looks like you two had a fine time! I love flea markets, well most of the time. I find that vendors who come very week tend to overprice their items. I look for those who are just trying to clear out some old "junk" and are not regulars. They have the best deals.

  3. This is my kind of shopping adventure for sure! I love flea markets, thrift stores, antique malls, and yard sales. What fun! Thanks for sharing your fun and finds with us.


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