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Quirky Berkeley: Will Squier’s sufficiently strange kitsch

Will Squier's apartment. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey

One of my original rules of engagement for the Quirky Berkeley project was that the material culture (a.k.a. “stuff”) that I recorded and photographed and presented, be visible from the street, public path, or alley. Seeing Will Squier’s South Berkeley apartment and his world of kitsch was the tipping point for me and the end of my absolute visible-from-the-street rule. His apartment is just too wonderfully quirky to ignore in the name of principle or rule.

Will Squier'. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier. Photo: John Storey

Will Squier left Connecticut in 1979. He hitchhiked to California (as every young man should) to be a hippie. Course correction: the hippie scene was pretty much gone.

He went to Cal where he majored in English. After graduation he waited tables (as every English major must) and indulged his affinity for kitsch and the odd. He found a mentor and went into the antique business, working for 15 years with serious antiques at stores in St. Helena and San Mateo. He really got good at it.

But then came eBay and then came a new generation with new tastes and the serious antique business was dropping off. He went back to what he knew and loved — kitsch.


He buys at auction. He buys at flea markets. He buys at thrift stores. He sells at flea markets. He sells on eBay. By this he makes a living.

It is hard to get a sense of the whole by photograph, but if you add up the individual components you start to get a sense of a Very Quirky collection of kitsch.

Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley Calif, on December 30th, 2015.
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley Calif, on December 30th, 2015.
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley Calif, on December 30th, 2015.
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley Calif, on December 30th, 2015.
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier's apartment. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley Calif, on December 30th, 2015.
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley Calif, on December 30th, 2015.
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Quirky Berkeley in Berkeley Calif, on December 30th, 2015.
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Quirky Berkeley 12-30-2015
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey

Squier keeps a small fraction of what he acquires, constantly switching in and out.  The criteria for a piece staying in his collection is that it be sufficiently strange.

He arranges and groups pieces, and creates tableaux.

Will Squier's apartment. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier's apartment. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier's apartment. Photo: John Storey
Will Squier’s apartment. Photo: John Storey

Squier has fully embraced his affinity for kitsch, which was his first love. He has a tremendous eye for what he buys, a discerning eye for what he keeps, and a tremendous eye for how he places the sufficiently strange pieces that he keeps. As can be seen from the  tableaux above, he has a wicked sense of irony.


Visible-from-the-street will remain the preferred status for a Quirky Berkeley posting, but with a wonderful not-visible-from-the-street world such as Will Squier’s kitsch, only a fool would not bend the rules.

Tom Dalzell, a labor lawyer, created a website, Quirky Berkeley, to share all the whimsical objects he has captured with his iPhone. The site now has more than 8,600 photographs of quirky objects around town as well as posts where the 30-year resident muses on what it all means.

A longer version of this post may be found at Quirky Berkeley.

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