SNAKE Q&A 018: Jeremy Ross Armstrong
Brooklyn-based junkman on Pearsall, Sonic Youth, Dando, a secret fragrant spot and more
Snake is a weekly newsletter covering severe deals and knowledge, mostly in furniture. For a representative sample, click here for the most recent auction rundown, and here for the most recent designer rundown.
Now at Snake: Every other Friday or so a free interview with a person in good standing of the newsletter whose taste in vintage, furniture, collectibles and adjacent fields is worth celebrating and learning from. Sellers, buyers, set decorators, artists, adjacents, etc…
Jeremy is the most generous person I know in vintage and an encyclopedia of aesthetics on the edge—scary stuff, outsider work, folk shit, Americana, USHC and its state deviations—as well as what’s up lately, trends, and what’s good on the higher level. He lives nearby and works all the time and manages to find an insane amount of shit in my zone. It brings up the question: is stuff out there, or do people atrract it? Follow his IG for consistent and surprising ephemera, and a deep and broad selection of wild-ass T-shirts. I will note here that due to its limitations, my image-editing software cut off his Gucci loafers.
Fav flea market?
Expo Gardens, Peoria, Illinois.
Best flea market day ever—what did you get?
Third sunday market in Normal, Illinois. I think it was 2014... Some guy selling salt n’ pepper shakers had a crate of early 1900s odd fellows scene bearer-type robes with the skull/crossbones embroidery and a slew of wire mesh masks he had been sitting on all day. He told me they were Hallowe’en costumes. I gave him the money.
Best eBay purchase?
Three Stoney St. Clair flash sheets from the 60s. Cost me a whopping $400, as they were being sold as unknowns. They were obviously his, but his signature was covered and they slipped through the cracks. I do think those days are over now, but i just keep looking.
Best Craigslist find?
It's a tie between a Sunn Coliseum 880 Amp for $400 (played it for years) and an Adrian Pearsall platform sofa for $100, long gone now. resold at $1k. The Coliseum is currently in my kitchen awaiting annihilation (UPDATE: Sunn just sold to a friend). I miss it already.
Best LiveAuctioneers find?
I can't deal with the buyer premiums.
IG seller account you hang out on/look at their stuff the most?
I guess there’s a slew of collectors out there showcasing outsider and folk art that they are hoarding, but I think the first one that comes to mind is @cooljerk1949.
He runs a page I stumbled upon when I used to live in illinois. Photos, collages, scraps, and found objects. Mostly old children's drawings he seems to be drawn to...just one that consistently shared these images for the love of it. A few years ago, my friend Dave took me to his family’s Thanksgiving and introduced him to me. Turns out it was his father. Isn't that SOMETHING.
Thing you most regret passing on?
Evan Dando's guitar. I learned from a source that Gibby from the Butthole Surfers was selling his gear down in Red Hook, and there was a nice 60's Silvertone there with the amplifier/case combo. I really couldn't figure out why I needed a third guitar, but I feel like I do now.
Best thing you got for insanely cheap?
Ten unplayed copies of Barbara Streisand's notorious PSA recording for the National Association For Retarded Children Spot Announcements 12", in Creve Coeur, Illinois at the thrift shop. $5 but it was half-off day so $2.50.
Best thing you overpaid for?
Sonic Youth T-Shirt from the Byron Coley collection. Shirt was made for the show specifically on 7-14-1989 at the New Ritz in NYC. Printed over an older shirt by Tannis Root. One’s got Winona Rider on the back and the other has Uma Thurman, along with the bands on the bill—Old Skull, Mudhoney, and Laughing Hyenas—printed on top of their faces. This one has Uma. The Winona sold on eBay for over $2K. Dealt with them directly to get the Uma after the fact. Shirt collectors are out of their minds.
Favorite piece of furniture you own?
Record shelves that go from floor to ceiling and are throughout my apartment here in Brooklyn. Hand built by one of my oldest friends, Vince Klopfenstein. He loves wood. He lives in Pittsburgh, Pa. and is one of the best people living on this earth. @rch_carpentry is his woodworking page. He’s also an avid drummer in the PA HARDCORE scene.
What’s one thing you own that you won’t ever sell?
A print/painting I made that was stamped and signed by Thom DeVita on April 24th, 2017.
Piece you have now that you despise and want to replace?
I liquidated two thirds of my junk when I moved to New York.
Who do you think sold more records: Nelly Furtado or Three 6 Mafia?
Three 6 was robbed!
Secret spot that you love but won’t tell anyone about? (Please describe as judiciously as possible while omitting any identifiable characteristics)
Theres a little spot that has more junk coming in daily than I’ve ever seen in this city besides the bins. the only difference is there is little to no competition here except for other friends I’ve told about it. It’s probably changed in the past week but it feels like its just an unending supply coming in from all directions. Everything from stage props to rare books to batteries. near a methadone clinic and gym, plus a nice stench of the [REDACTED], this place has everything you need for a dig. Everyone deserves a chance to find something special, but I’m not saying the name unless you ask.
Rarest/most canon vintage thing you have but never wear?
Might have to be the autographed William Burroughs shirt that he shot multiple times with a shotgun. That or my James Thomas sculpture of a man in a casket. I never take him anywhere.
Most jealousy-inducing thing you’ve seen? (e.g. I saw a guy in Foremost jeans once in 2012 and I’ve never gotten over it)
I'm not the jealous type.
Favorite Russian novelist?
I only read American.
Is there a field of collecting are you looking to get into in the near future? (Furniture era/paper/autographs/stamps/model trains/computer shirts/90s Harley shirts/digital watches/lighters/slot cars/faberge eggs/Amish quilts etc)
I’m trying to eliminate more categories than I'm trying to add at this point. Selling in antique malls for years has soured me on diversity. I’ve owned multiples of almost everything on this list. Anyone wanna buy a quilt?
What’s the item that’s been on your watchlist the longest without you having pulled the trigger?
1967 Daisy Chain "Straight or Lame" LP, on my watchlist for two years. I finally just bought the thing after a lot of back and forth with the seller not entertaining a single offer. Fuck it. It’s incredible.
Is the best vintage/furniture online or in the wild?
In the wild! Back in Bloomington-Normal, Illinois, I used to find furniture on trash nights. I’d drive around and find Eames chairs, oil paintings, and midcentury junk to resell. Well, in 2006 I spotted a silver sparkle 60s Slingerland drum kit with all the trimmings sitting in a pile of trash as it began to rain. I pulled it out and loaded it up without thinking twice. A friend of mine bought it immediately and restored it. He played that thing for years.
Has all the cool shit been discovered? (Yes or no answer only)
Any vintage accounts you want to rep or boost? Furniture? (feel free to include local spots)
Follow Jeremy on IG.
Read previous Snake Q&As.
Items ending this weekend:
Guzzardo agate glass vase, Mich., in-house shipping, $25 (like a marble for adults)
Sapper for Artemide Tizio lamps, NYC, flat shipping, $250 (3 1/4’ high, classic, futurist-modernist design, goes with everything… cheap)
Dunhill rosewood humidor, Chicago, $40 (So says the seller: “It is very close to being a cube.”—the first LA copy in all my years that has moved me like eBay ones have.)
Lamperti swivel lamp in yellow, $50, Hudson NY (I have this in red; perfect lamp)
J. Wade Beam for Brueton ‘Tee’ console, Nazareth, Pa., $900 (no idea what this is; pictured)
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