Inside the Los Angeles Oddities Flea Market | Haute Macabre

Inside the Los Angeles Oddities Flea Market

I can scarcely believe the next Oddities Flea Market is less than a week away. While I wish I could magic myself there, it seems like only yesterday I was finally attending one of these dazzling events myself.

Every time the market has taken place in New York, I’ve watched from my home, clear across the country in Portland, OR, up to my eyebrows in FOMO as countless artists, artisans, and collectors each announced their participation on social media and then contributed to the tide of photos that subsequently washed over my feeds as the event itself unfolded.


Black Veil Tattoo Studio on stage at the Oddities Flea Market

Carefully curated by Ryan Matthew Cohn, along with beguiling Regina Marie Cohn and artist Meagan Meli, the Oddities Flea Market (OFM) is a bizarre bazaar of dazzling proportions. Three floors of the Brooklyn Bazaar are filled with vendors set up to entice the crowds with “an endless sea of strange and unusual objects.” What’s your freaky fancy? Anatomical curiosities or taxidermy? Natural history specimens or medical history ephemera? Handmade jewelry and other forms of fancy finery? One of a kind works of art? Ritual items for your altar space or decor for your living space? Something else entirely? Chances are you’ll find treasures aplenty for your respective collections here.


Regina and Ryan Cohn

Meagan Meli

I had every intention of eventually timing a visit to NYC to coincide with one of these incredible events (actually, I still do) when I first learned that the OFM was at last coming to the west coast. Huzzah!

I heard the news, months in advance, from my lovely friends Alyssa and Layla of The Creeping Museum, who informed me they would be vending at the LA market and invited me to help them run their table. At this point there’s little I wouldn’t do for these two wonderful humans. The Creeping Museum is an entirely non-profit endeavor that exists to enable artists use their own work to contribute to local charities of their choice while also enabling art lovers to add to their collections, regardless of the size of their budget.

The Creeping Museum

It also happens that I’m a socially anxious introvert, thoroughly crowd-averse, who – save for plant nurseries and old book stores, especially ones with resident cats – would rather shop online for just about everything than venture out into the world where…the people are. All this is to say that, for as much as I’ve longed to attend one of these markets, I was equally certain they’d entail far too much peopling for me to handle for more than the briefest visit.

Of course I still yearned to go, stressors be damned. Plus, the opportunity to attend the OFM in an inside capacity, helping two ridiculously lovely humans, where I’d have a designated place to be, tasks to see to, and if need be (because this is a need that will always be) a place to hide, sounded ideal.


Blood Milk Jewels

By now you’ve no doubt read accounts of the Los Angeles OFM, which was held at the Globe Theatre, heard about all the fabulous vendors selling their wares and – assuming you weren’t also there – experienced all the FOMO I’m so familiar with myself. So instead I’d like to talk a little about my experience attending the market from the inside.

L’esquelet

If I have one regret from that Saturday, it’s that I didn’t take more photos while vendors were getting their tables set up. I worried (because, introvert) about getting in the way or making people feel self-conscious about displays that weren’t quite complete. Once the crowds of eager shoppers descends, taking photos of vendors and their wares means you’re in the way of people simply trying to shop, not to mention distracting vendors from attending to their customers. I love the photos of the crowds, the crowded tables, and the overhead views of the theatre floor, but I’m sorry I didn’t take the time to document more of the individuals and the treasures they’d brought. Next time (because, yes, there is going to be a next time, next May!), if I’m again fortunate to be able to attend in an inside capacity, I intend to overcome my shyness and make a point to run around taking LOTS of photos before the event officially begins.


Ave Rose Art

The Oddities Flea Market was a busy, beautiful, and entirely (yet somehow acceptably) overstimulating affair that provided a much needed reminder that my people are out there. Most of the time I may prefer to be home with my books, cats, and spiders, but oh, how uplifting it is to remember that you’re all out there too. It was a pleasure to meet artists and artisans I’ve long admired from across the internets – some of whom have also become friends – for the first time in person or simply for the first time in a long time. I suspect there are some of you I’ll only ever encounter at events like this, but as long as we connect whilst we’re there, that’s just fine.


The Mystic Museum / Bearded Lady Vintage

The market also reminded me that a great many of us are introverts, an easy thing to forget when one is about to face a large social event, but also an important thing to try to bear in mind. We each brave the outside world and, yes, all the people, for singular events like this – to feast our eyes, add to our collections, and even nourish our souls with reminders wherever one looks that there are people in this manifold fucked up world making beautiful and fascinating things, people who scour corners near and far to find strange and amazing objects to share with kindred spirits, to see the lights of fascination, wonder, and want flash in another person’s eyes.

Brooke Weston

While chatting with a friend who’d also been at the market, she wondered aloud what it would’ve been like to attend the OFM as a child. I saw plenty of people in attendance along with kids of all ages and can easily imagine how enthralling it would’ve been to soak up that atmosphere as a child. I’d have been captivated by all the people I immediately knew I wanted to look like when I grew up, while simultaneously compiling a mental wishlist of all the items I wished I could buy.

And consider how valuable it is for kids to see people of all sorts running their own small businesses, creating and selling no end of marvelous things. How inspiring to discover the existence of a creative community that they can one day be part of as well. Likely all of this is nothing new for some of them, but instead further incentive to do exactly what their hearts tell them to as they grow up.

Ritualcravt and Curioscape Designs


Stephanie Inagaki / Miyu Decay

The OFM was a very crowded event, to be sure. However I was thrilled to learn that next year’s market will span two days, instead of one, and the layout will be different, all in effort to better accommodate the countless people who wish to attend. But for this first west coast foray, I was so impressed with the patience of people who waited in line to get in and then navigated the heavy crowds. I was moved by numerous stories I heard from people who, though weary from waiting in line, were still so excited to be there. As for myself, I’ve already said that I loathe being stuck in a crowd, yet I was surprised to find that this event still felt like home.

That’s not to say that it wasn’t lovely to have a table to hide behind, out of the ceaseless currents of people making their way round the main floor, but not for the reason I mentioned previously. It wasn’t so much that I needed that place to hide, it was that being behind a table meant I got to interact with people attending the event, to watch the expressions of amazement, curiosity, and desire wash over their faces as they examined all the offerings in front of them. I heard so many stories about attending the market – from the journey there (I spoke to numerous people who drove from out of state simply to attend) to much more personal accounts of how people connected with certain items being sold.

The real treat of being able to attend the Oddities Flea Market both as an assistant to a vendor and as an attendee, was being able to see firsthand that this is about so much more than just shopping (and also about lots and lots of shopping). I had opportunities to speak with numerous vendors, as well as Ryan, Regina, and Meagan, about how much time, planning, and effort, and goes into making these events happen. It’s a colossal and complex undertaking for everyone involved and I felt downright spoiled that all I had to do was be there on the day itself to help out where needed, and, of course, explore and shop whenever possible.


Miss Havisham’s Curiosities

That sense of community and being amongst kindred spirits is one of the reasons I’m over the moon to share the news that Haute Macabre will be vending at the next Oddities Flea Market in the Brooklyn Bazaar this weekend, December 1st and 2nd. Samantha will be there surrounded by all the treasures currently on offer from the Haute Macabre shop. I’m just sorry I won’t be there to join her and to say hello to all of you. More FOMO for me.

But! Should The Creeping Museum get to vend again next year (*cough* graceless hint *cough*) or if Haute Macabre does (sorry, I can’t help myself) or both (heh, can you blame me for trying?), I will be back in Los Angeles for the second annual Oddities Flea Market (west coast edition), May 18th and 19th, 2019 at the Globe Theatre.

Lastly, a few practical notes for first time attendees of future markets: I recommend dressing lightly. All those bodies makes for a warm space. I was very thankful for my lack of sleeves that day. Bring money for drinks to keep yourself hydrated. I was delighted to find that both adult and all-ages-appropriate beverages were available at bars throughout the theatre. Wear comfortable shoes. I about hobbled myself by the end of a very long day spent almost entirely on my feet in 4″ platform heels. Leave your concerns about socializing at home – we’re all strange here. And, whatever you do, don’t forget your sense of wonder.

Find Haute Macabre at the Brooklyn Holiday Oddities Flea Market this weekend, December 1-2, on the main floor of Brooklyn Bazaar.


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Maika
Maika is a queer femme bird-obsessed writer, bibliophile, and spider botherer. Social Media Specialist for refugeingrief.com.

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