The gardener's eye

The Gardener's Eye

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Material Culture on Black Friday

Material Culture at 4700 Wissahickon Avenue in Philadelphia

Beautiful Objects and Artifacts in the Lobby

Antique Chinese Ceramic Vessels and Forms to Fabricate Shoes

Antique Chinese Cabinets and Furniture

Indonesian Polychrome Figures and Antique Indian Stone Columns

My Main Reason for Coming: the Stone Pedestals from India

Buddhas, Buddhas and More Stone Buddhas

Material Culture Has a Excellent Selection of Handmade Rugs From Around the World

West African Art

Wooden Masks From West Africa

West African Art by Nigerian artist Prince Twins Seven-Seven

Barack Obama was a Popular Subject of the West African Art

"Black and White Are One"

We usually spend Thanksgiving with my family, where I grew up, in suburban Philadelphia. For the last ten years or so, a visit to Material Culture has been the Friday-after-Thanksgiving tradition. Material Culture specializes in antiques, furnishings, handmade carpets, art and collectibles from around the world. It is located in a 60,000 square foot former warehouse in North Philadelphia.

Material Culture, according to anthropologists, is a non-specific way to refer to the artifacts or other concrete things left by past cultures. The store describes themselves "as a venture dedicated to exploring, sourcing, preserving and supporting many of the world's traditional arts and crafts, we conceive of material culture as: humankind’s hammered and burnished self-portrait: It includes everything we have consciously made to sustain ourselves throughout existence. As such, it encompasses art and architecture, clothing, tools, decoration-all manner of thought made tangible in the form of objects. Its moniker is not necessarily ‘made by hand’ but ‘made by human’. It is the comprehensive inventory in long-hand of our journey through the dark and mundane, the dream in which seemingly limitless multitudes of ‘candles in the night’ light our way home. Holding this, we hold material culture".

Over the years, I have bought carpets, chairs, mirrors and miscellaneous artifacts at Material Culture. My favorite objects are the stone pedestals from Turkey, but more often, India. I have collected about a dozen of them in various sizes and shapes. They are the perfect stands for potted plants on the terrace.

My garden is quite small and one of the ways I try to make it more special is to make all its elements: the pots, plants, and furniture, distinctive and unusual. I like the objects to be hand made if possible. I steer away from the mundane and mass-produced. The stone pedestals are very handsome, made of a natural material and have a patina of age that makes a garden feel more mature. This year, I found a small pedestal just right scale for one the potted succulents that I display on the terrace.


  1. Michael,
    Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, who lives in Frenchtown just north of here, has opened a business specializing in similar artifacts and art objects. If you ever get back this way, stop by here and also visit her place in Frenchtown. Les, of A Tidewater Gardener, first told me about it. At present, it's only open on weekends.

  2. James,
    Thanks for the tip and the invitation. Sounds like an excellent road trip for next spring!

  3. Michael,
    We head up to PA about once a year, and now thanks to you, I have another place we need to visit. Before I read James' comment I was going to try to mention the place in Frenchtown, but could not rub enough brain cells together to remember its name. Frenchtown is not that big and the store is on the main road south of town and worth a visit.

  4. Les,
    If you haven't already been there, Chanticleer is my favorite public garden in the Philadelphia area.



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