It’s a Sunday afternoon, and I make the drive down Alberta towards 42nd Avenue. Finding a spot on the street, I park, looking up to see Old Salt Marketplace with Miss Zumstein Bakery beside, the prominence of each dominating a building with a secret tucked behind.
I walk around the side, noticing a sign held by a wooden art easel, the display earnest in its preface to the treasures it conceals. Pausing for a moment before walking inside, I take a quick glance to both the left and right, finding no other indication of Fabius Grange’s occupancy.
This absence creates the impression that the shop’s residence is fleeting, its treasures temporary in their habitation of the space. With its single advertising element holding this mobility, an anxiety builds, and you gain a sense that once the sign is put away, once the shop closes, you wouldn’t know where to find it again.
But there’s an eccentricity that prompts curiosity, all of it lending an immediacy to your desire to enter. Fabius Grange presents itself as a discovery, as something harbored, revealing itself to those recognizing the profundity and depth of what it contains.
And inside, a reserve of design riches abounds. Fabius Grange inhabits a space of no more than a couple hundred square feet, with a prior function as the storeroom for Old Salt. But with such a limited capacity, you’re exposed to everything at once, the abundance of what you’ll soon find presented flooding you with a desire to investigate further.
The walls are lined with oil paintings and drawings, and small-scale sculptures are given unexpected employment on bookshelves. Mid Century portraits prop up along the walls, and speckled pottery piece of varying textures and shapes are found huddled on tabletops and shelves.
Deb Zsori holds a long-established love of vintage, an interest enduring through the currents and cycles of temporal trend. It’s an interest extending beyond aesthetic appeal. Speaking with Deb only a few minutes, it’s already evident that she values pieces’ integrity, seeing them not as single entities, but rather the product of cultural concern, and the result of a design era’s particular center.
“Retail was instilled within me, but I’ve always loved hunting for and discovering old things, looking for pieces with stories, for pieces that hold so many different elements of interest. By going to markets, thrift stores, and estate sales, what I find is always new to me.”
An uncovering of something with a prior context. And in collecting vintage, Deb repositions this to fit a new one.
Making the transition from retail to full-time vintage dealing, Deb has found her way through a series of collectives. Stars Antiques, Portland Flea, and now Urbanite, an antique mall on Portland’s SE Grand.
But despite loving the constant hum of inspiration that her close proximity to other creatives brought, there was always a quiet desire for something separate, something pronounced in its expression of Deb’s view, her perception, and understanding of the pieces she collects.
“I had always dreamed of a brick-and-mortar shop, but never gave it serious thought. I think that, in the way it all happened, it was very much so a Portland thing. A Portland thing in the way this space came to me.”
Deb’s collection keeps the year’s time with subtle nods to its ebbs and flows. You see it in the art lining the store’s walls: this is where Deb acknowledges change. Seascapes are put up in summer, and later a series of modern abstracts settled in among them, strokes of the brush in black and sepia, -- the scheme a quiet declaration of the colder months’ changing color palette.
“There are so many people who buy vintage only with a consciousness of what will sell. Again, I’m looking for a connection beyond that. Something sustainable. If I see something’s potential, I’m hoping that others will see that as well.”
Deb sees each piece in its entirety, allowing it first to hold space in her collection, all the while envisioning its possibility as a part of someone else’s. In being mindful of this transaction and transition in an object’s lifetime, Deb is able to create a coherence in the space, cultivating cohesion in an undertaking that seems almost inherently without a center. Fabius Grange, in some ways a compilation of found objects, comes together seamlessly as a unified whole.
So often, we think of the artist solely by what she produces, by the results of her efforts. But I think, more so, we can define the artist by the objects she surrounds herself with, the materials with which she chooses to work. We see this in Deb’s collection: There’s perspective, with evident care given to context. At Fabius Grange, the pieces are positioned thoughtfully, lovingly within.
There’s beauty in what’s discovered, in what’s sought after not in a way that’s deliberate, but that’s hoped for. There’s a serendipitous inquiry into an object’s potential, an examination of its possibility, giving it future purpose. Discovery presents an element of chance, of luck but also of fate, of happenstance seeping into the object’s lifetime.
The beauty of what is found.