The 16 year quest for a proper pair of fireplace andirons has finally come to an end. I have my holy grail. A pair of late Victorian or early 20th century cast iron owls with glass eyes.
This has not been an urgent andiron search; I wasn’t sure what I was looking for but I knew I’d know it when I saw it. I flirted briefly with a newer hammered iron set, but that didn’t seem right for our eclectic vintage meets cottage meets Ikea by way of Pottery Barn decorating style. I tried out a pair of entirely respectable Victorian brass andirons. They were the equivalent of Mary Poppins at a Ramones concert. Clearly out of place and definitely confused.
And then I saw my first pair of owls. And their big yellow eyes. At an auction. The bidding was competitive and I was short on nerve. After they were gone to someone else, I had immediate regret. It was then and there I vowed that the next pair of owls would be mine.
It was three years before I saw owls again. Another night, same auction house. These owls were like me, a bit shabby. One broken eye, one missing bit of connector, an overall coating of soot. Functional and soon to be mine. Mwah-ha-ha.
The bidding move known as raise-your-number-in-the-air-with-an unwavering-straight-arm is not a move I execute often. It’s only used when a bidder wants to make it absolutely clear to all competitors that they are not planning to back down. There was a straight arm standoff between two women a few months ago over a particularly succulent vintage Barbie lot that had the entire room transfixed. On this night, the owls were announced and displayed. My arm went up. There was some competition, but not much, because I was so clearly stating that I was not leaving without those owls.
I gave them a brushing and cleaned the eyes. I’m sure I could have fancied them up with more elbow grease and some stove polish. But as far as I am concerned, they are practically perfect in every way just the way they are.