Surprising Winter Elk

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We picked up this giant elk photo alongside the hutch at The Brown Elephant, and although I was originally going to share it as a score earlier this week, I ultimately broke it into a separate post because 1) it’s not for the kitchen (we don’t think?) and 2) once I did a little Googling around, we were all whoa!

Let me explain.

It’s a 20″ x 30″ signed photographic print, and it was hung all very nonchalant-like by the restrooms. It caught my eye because it was cute, it was an actual signed photo (not an art print) and it was huge! We didn’t take it off the wall, but not able to find a price, we asked a sales associate, and after a quick hmm, he replied with $25.

The last thing we need is more art, but Scott was on board, and I thought, would I buy this for $25 if I saw this at an art fair? Yes! And so it came home with us. The frame, while nice, is more traditional than we’d lean, but with a clean white mat and an equally clean white frame, this print would really shine! You know we’re complete suckers for animal art in general, so really, no one should be surprised that we’ve added more animals to our repertoire. See that stud in the bottom left corner licking his lips? I love that guy.

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The surprise came the next day, however, when we took a look at the back of the frame and saw an artist statement from Thomas D. Mangelsen, a well respected nature photographer (and all around good guy, really!). Our photo, titled Winter Herd – Elk, is edition 32/950, and, um, you can buy it right here for the price of one month’s rent (maybe a small box in Chicago, but still).

I had a flashback to this movie (if you’re an art lover, it’s a fun flick) and then I thought, hmm. Why would someone give this away? I’m an overly nostalgic person, and it always makes me feel a bit weepy to see discarded artwork (I just think of those long nights I spent cooped up with classmates in our college-day drawing studio). Regardless of what the photo is worth, we love it, and we just feel so lucky that we totally scored.

Has anyone else found art while thrifting and come home with something that was worth much (much) more? Art, furniture or otherwise? (And on a side note, I swear I had a poster of Mangelsen’s snugglefest polar bears as a child. Didn’t we all?)

PS… We’re sharing a round-up of kitchen ideas on Bali Blinds today – with a lot of them coming straight from your own experience and input over the last month! You can check it out right here.

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  • Katie - January 15, 2015 - 6:55 AM

    Whaaa?! Congratulations on winning the lottery and bringing such a beautiful and soulful piece of artwork into your home!ReplyCancel

  • Kyley & Ammo the Dachshund - January 15, 2015 - 7:19 AM

    my late grandmother had picked up this old/dirty landscape painting at a yard sale years and years ago. She was always collecting “treasures” most of which we always thought was junk. Over the years the painting didn’t survive well – it even had a hole punched through the front of it at one point. Years later my grandmother was at an auction house trying to find out if any of her “antiques” were worth anything. With no luck on the way out the door she mentions the painting with a hole in the front. Intrigued, the appraiser wanted to see it. Needless to say it ended up being valued at $30,000 – convincing my grandmother to sell it was a whole other challenge (as she needed $ to live off of)! It was a nice little surprise and goes to show you one man’s junk is another man’s treasure!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 15, 2015 - 7:26 AM

      Wow, how awesome! Do you know or remember the name of the artist?ReplyCancel

  • Theresa - January 15, 2015 - 8:14 AM

    Holy cow! uh, maybe it should be holy elk!ReplyCancel

    • Sarah - January 15, 2015 - 11:11 AM

      Those elk without antlers (the females) are called cows, so “holy cow” works too :-)ReplyCancel

      • Theresa - January 16, 2015 - 11:23 AM

        Then I stand by my original comment. Holy cow! :)ReplyCancel

  • Trish - January 15, 2015 - 8:15 AM

    I’m a fellow Chicagoan and I love The Brown Elephant for treasures. While I’m a fan of the piece I am not so keen on the matting and framing. You have such good taste I think it will be great to see how you reimagine this piece in your space.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 15, 2015 - 8:29 AM

      You’re right – the frame and mat combo isn’t our style, but that’s an easy fix!ReplyCancel

  • Laura @ Rather Square - January 15, 2015 - 8:49 AM

    You’re like the “Google-it” version of Antiques Roadshow! Except this isn’t an antique really. I wonder how donated items are assessed when they come into a thrift store – like do employees have time to do any kind of internet search on the value of an item, or is it just “all men’s pants: $1” kind of generalization?ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 15, 2015 - 4:51 PM

      I think for some items, they would HAVE to google, right? This one slipped through the cracks!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - January 15, 2015 - 9:56 AM

    I love how much you two love animal art haha. This was such a great find! This is going to look great in your home.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 15, 2015 - 10:09 AM

      We’re like 2 moths to a flame. What is wrong with us?ReplyCancel

  • Jen - January 15, 2015 - 10:23 AM

    WOW. Great find! It already has so much character. And with white matting, it will be incredible!ReplyCancel

  • Heather {A Fire Pole in the Dining Room} - January 15, 2015 - 10:23 AM

    WOW! That’s so awesome! We want this exact experience, but with an Ansel Adams (a girl can dream, right?)

    I feel similarly about discarded art, BUT I think it’s really art looking for a new person to love it. We recently purchased a piece at an antique mall. It’s a relief print that appears to be an early work of a St Louis artist. It’s signed and numbered (two things we’ve decided we’re sticklers about when building our collection) I emailed the artist hoping to get some more details, which I’ll post if we get them.

    I think the biggest score we’ve had is our couch, which we think is by a famous mid century furniture designer (and therefore worth WAY more than we paid even after the reupholstery) but we haven’t been able to confirm yet.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 15, 2015 - 10:28 AM

      Aw, yeah, I really like the way you put it! Our friend asked us if we were going to sell it, and we were like, no way! We love it. I guess it was looking for us? :) Is it too much to ask for this experience again, but maybe for a Diane Arbus? Or maybe a Richard Avedon?

      So cool about your relief print!ReplyCancel

  • Jaime - January 15, 2015 - 10:53 AM

    A Mangelson PHOTO for $25?!?!? That is a major score!! I love his work, but I only have a signed poster of his that I got back in the mid-90’s that I framed and still have hanging on the wall in the guest bedroom. Its his famous grizzly bear snagging a salmon mid-air shot that I just LOVE!! Great find!ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 15, 2015 - 11:08 AM

      Yes! Love that shot (and hungry bear)!ReplyCancel

  • Alison G - January 15, 2015 - 11:04 AM

    Wow if that isn’t a find. Good for you. You have a big house with lots of walls to fill, of course you needed it.ReplyCancel

  • GreenCanary - January 15, 2015 - 11:06 AM

    I once found a 1973 screenprint entitled “Telephone Poles in Yellow” at a thrift store that I really liked. I got it home, did some research, found the artist (Arnold Mesches), and struck up a great email conversation with him! He was excited to hear how his artwork had traveled out into the world and found its way to my grubby little hands :-)

    ALSO! I once found a beautiful Danish modern rocking chair in the garbage. Turned out to be a Frank Reenskaug Model 182 rocking chair, designed for Brahmin Mobler in 1958. It’s my prized possession.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 15, 2015 - 11:08 AM

      Awesome!! Garbage finds are sometimes the best finds. People don’t know what they have…ReplyCancel

  • Monika - January 15, 2015 - 11:23 AM

    Whoa, you’re right, big time score! Good for you. Knowing your affinity for critters, this is an even better acquisition. Well done. Mangelson used to live in my home state of Colorado and is especially well regarded around these parts. You guys are soooo lucky! Big time congrats. Enjoy those elk wherever they may roam in your Chicago home. :)ReplyCancel

  • Emily P - January 15, 2015 - 11:28 AM

    I knew that was a Mangelsen photo when it popped up in my feed! My husband would die if he knew you found a Thomas Mangelsen piece in a thift store. Thomas Mangelsen is his favorite photographer, and we always peruse his art galleries when we’re in Denver and Omaha. Unfortunately, we can’t afford anything, but we pick our favorites and imagine what we would buy if we ever won the lottery. I hope you enjoy the picture! His work truly is lovely.ReplyCancel

  • Colleen - January 15, 2015 - 11:39 AM

    That’s the dream right there! It’s a really cool photograph as wellReplyCancel

  • Julia@Cukoo4Design - January 15, 2015 - 4:41 PM

    I totally love it and would have bought it too. Can’t believe what a steal!ReplyCancel

  • alexis - January 15, 2015 - 11:26 PM

    I was with my mom at the salvation army on a 50% off day, she’s has an amazing eye and found a beautiful Pacific Clay tall urn in great condition for $30. We got it home, did a little research and the urn is worth more than $1,000. It’s crazy, I’m just mad I didn’t spot it first!ReplyCancel

  • ryan - January 16, 2015 - 1:36 PM

    I have a little painting that I picked up at the thrift store up the street from my house. Its one if those “all sweaters are $2” kind if places. The painting is in framed and I don’t know enough to know if its acrylic or oil. The subject of the painting is a farm landscape with a big tree and a barn. The notes on the back lead me to discover that it was mist likely painted by a patient in a government run hospital in wyoming for soldiers suffering PTSD, or battle fatigue/shell shock as it was then called. This particular man would have served in WWI and based on census records had been at the hospital for near 20 years.

    I love this little painting that I picked up for $1 two summers ago. I like to think about why he painted it, and what it was like living in an institution in the 1930s.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 16, 2015 - 1:46 PM

      Wow, what an interesting story! It’s sort of how I like to look back at all those vintage photos and wonder about the people in them. Curious minds… ;)ReplyCancel

  • Brandi - January 16, 2015 - 2:39 PM

    Great post, and score!
    Question: Do you ever just pull out your phone and google the artist while you’re contemplating on whether or not to buy it? I find that I do that more often than not. Either way, if you love it, I suppose it doesn’t matter if it is a famous artist or not. I have actually taken a picture of the picture, and noted the name, gone home to “research” it on the internet, then returned to find it was gone. Can’t wait to see what it looks like reframed.ReplyCancel

    • Kim - January 16, 2015 - 2:50 PM

      Oh, yes, we definitely do that! We didn’t do that for this print for some reason, but we’ll quickly google any maker marks on furniture, etc. Regardless of what we find out, we’ll still only buy if we love it – not because of a name. I’m always trying to declutter around here, and we’re still making our way through furniture from the old home that we can’t quite seem to find a place for in this house!ReplyCancel

  • Julianne - January 16, 2015 - 7:49 PM

    I bought an Atlantic coffee table book by photographer Jake Rajs for $20 at the used book store still in the plastic. Inside was a signed photo print that goes for $175 on his site and the book itself goes for $75. I was just happy to get the book because it is huge and the pictures are beautiful but the signed photo was a nice bonus.ReplyCancel

  • Nadia - January 19, 2015 - 2:07 AM

    The lips-licking fella stands out so much. =DReplyCancel

  • Our principles for buying art | - February 11, 2015 - 11:08 AM

    […] we were happy to tote this piece home with us. (Although if we ever run across an awesome, piece like Yellow Brick Home did, I’ll do a seriously nerdy, white girl happy dance in the middle of the store.) It […]ReplyCancel

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