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Saturday, March 5, 2011

Curio Cottage Thrift Shop Tag Sale March 11 & 12

Curio Cottage Thrift Shop Tag Sale March 11 & 12
(Appeared in Westport News 3/4)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Westport, CT – Kicking off the tag sale season and supporting great local causes, the Curio Cottage Thrift Shop’s annual tag sale event has had an impressive rise in stature in its ten years and offers another bounty of quality merchandise this spring.

Located at the Westport Woman’s Club 44 Imperial Ave. headquarters, the shop will conduct its annual tag sale in the WWC clubhouse on Friday and Saturday, March 11 and 12, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., rain or shine. All proceeds benefit Fairfield County-based charities.

The sale will offer a whole range of merchandise including furniture, vintage collectibles, china, glassware, housewares, home accessories, hostess gifts, small appliances, linens, artwork and games. Donations of saleable items (in good condition, no clothing) are tax-deductible and may be delivered to the clubhouse on Tuesday – Thursday, March 8-10, from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Karen Eickhoff, chairman of the shop, said the Curio Cottage’s beginnings were quite modest. “Back in 1999, a member had an idea to use an existing building space here on the Club’s property to house a thrift shop and offer tax-deductible donations for sale. We pulled items from our homes to stock the shop and opened in June that year in conjunction with the Yankee Doodle Fair, Westport’s 4-day, old-fashioned festival.”

In August 2000, the shop held its first tag sale. “We put a few plastic tablecloths out in the parking lot and placed a few items on them including costume jewelry, straw baskets and miscellaneous kitchenware. We were panicky that we wouldn’t have enough items to sell. I think we made $66 that year,” said Eickhoff.

“It was a humble start but encouraging,” Eickhoff added and, as the shop attracted more shoppers and donors – often curious stop-ins who became regulars – the annual tag sale grew in size and scope.

Six or seven years ago, a decision was made to shift the timeframe of the sale from August to March, which yielded several advantages. Explained Eickhoff, “The timing coincides with the beginning of the tag sale season, we’re not competing with a lot of other events and we capture some great donations as people are starting to do their spring cleaning.”

The sale was also moved indoors to avoid any weather issues.

The sale now commands extensive set-up time and the efforts of a number of volunteers, who give their time generously and enthusiastically. “What used to take two hours to set up now takes about four full days,” said Eickhoff. “There are so many items offered, they’re uncountable. We fill the entire auditorium in the main clubhouse.”

While the shop itself is a permanent revenue stream 52 weeks a year, the annual tag sale is a key fundraising opportunity, which takes in about $7,000 on average. Proceeds benefit over 40 organizations and charities including the Mercy Learning Center, Christian Community Action and Staples’ scholarship program. The Community Services Committee of the Woman’s Club handles the decision-making on funds distribution. “We try to spread it out as widely as we can to all the groups,” said Eickhoff.

At this year’s sale, visitors can expect to find quality items at great prices as well as eclectic unique items that are rarely seen, according to Eickhoff. “This year we received a lot of holiday items for all holidays throughout the year. We’ll also have a lot of wonderful artwork that would look lovely in any home.”

In summary, Eickhoff shared Curio Cottage’s motto: Where Shopping is Giving. “This is a fantastic resource that provides a great community service.”

For more information about the tag sale, call 203-227-4240.

CRASH Lands at Southport Galleries

CRASH Lands at Southport Galleries:
John Matos’ pop art prints to be on 
view thru March 28
(Posted to 3/5)
By Mike Lauterborn
© 2011. All Rights Reserved.

Fairfield, CT – You might call it a crash landing, but without any debris or injuries. In fact, the only after effects were smiles and amusement.

The “crash” in this case is graffiti artist John “Crash” Matos, whose uniquely personalized iconic work touched down Friday March 4 with an opening reception at Southport Galleries, 330 Pequot Avenue. Nearly 30 prints in all are being shown in the exhibit, which will run through March 28.

“We introduce a new exhibit the first Friday of every month,” said gallery co-manager Sarah Biggers. “Our advisor, Dr. Philip Eliasoph, at Fairfield University, suggested we book Crash given the popularity of his exhibit at the university early last year. We, as a gallery in conservative Southport, CT, could easily exhibit boats and seascapes, but we really want to be more edgy and surprising. We’ve started showing more contemporary work, which is still family friendly.”

Matos, who gained his nickname after causing a glitch that affected his school’s computer system, got his start in the South Bronx, graffiti tagging subway trains and streets. He took the work mainstream and experimented with oil paints, acrylics, pastels and watercolors to effect unique pop art that puzzles and plays on the imagination.

Matos’ work has even extended to the faces of guitars, which have hence been dubbed “Crashocasters”, spurred on by noted musicians like Eric Clapton.

Matos’ breakout show occurred at Real Art Ways, a loft space in Hartford, CT, in 1981. Fast forward 30 years and the 49-year-old remains committed to his craft and pushing the envelope with his unique expressionism.

Studying Matos’ work, Ryan Drake of Bridgeport, attending with Shawn Rafalski of Fairfield, said, “We both teach at Fairfield University and Crash exhibited there last year,” said Drake. “When we heard about this, we wanted to come and see additional pieces that weren’t included in that show. I like the dynamism, violence, juxtaposition and starkness of the work. It’s very interesting. These are not quiet contemplative pieces by any means.”

Gallery co-manager Katherine Cissel said Matos’ work was a new path for the gallery. “We don’t have anything like him here. I love pop. Lichtenstein is one of my favorite artists. Crash takes that type of work in a new direction and adds his own spin.”

Matos, himself, agreed with Cissel’s assessment. “When I was delivering the work last week, I noticed it’s very different from the current art here. I wasn’t sure it would work, but it blends well. The last couple of months, I’ve had a new resurgence in my painting, which is to be expected at a certain age. At 50, hopefully you don’t have to rush anymore. There’s enough of a body of work so you can kick back a little.”

Matos added, “I think you have to go for it, change up your style. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. It’s never a failure… all a learning process. You stop learning, you start dying.”

Kristen Matos, 17, John’s daughter, was on hand for the opening. “I really love living with a dad that’s an artist, and telling people my dad is an artist. I’m inspired by his work, but right now I’m drawing for fun. My real expression is through dancing, art of the body.”

Matos’ wife, Margarita, was also present and spoke about the artist’s process. “John does his work in his own space, but shows me as he completes things. He says, ‘What do you think about this?’ Whether I like it or not though, doesn’t matter. I actually inspired a piece when we were first dating, that he titled ‘Margie’. That was kind of neat.”

Admiring a piece titled ‘Piece Fire’, Shelly Harvey of Fairfield said, “I know his work and lived in NYC when Keith Haring was huge. That was my intro to graffiti art. Crash carries on the tradition. It’s fantastic to have him in our backyard with his show. I really like his use of color and the comic feel of the work. It’s reminiscent of comics from the 40s.”

Show attendee Tracey Thomas of Fairfield, co-founder of VENU Magazine, said, “I’m a huge Crash fan. We featured him as our cover story in our debut issue. This is a completely different show than the university show, which was three-dimensional and spray paint on canvas. I like the prints, particularly the piece on aluminum. It’s so cool.”

Dr. Eliasoph, who introduced the artist to the gathering, summed up how far Matos has come. “Can you imagine it’s 1968 and he’s running down the tracks with a can of spray paint in his hand fleeing the transit police and now world collectors are chasing him for his work.”