Laura Soskin shows some of the unique works at Gallery 1925. (Photo by Gay Riseborough)

At 1925 Central St., a new business has moved in. Laura Soskin, an interior designer from Wilmette with 30 years in the field, has opened Gallery 1925 to show and share her collection of antique objets d’art and accessories.

What does the name “gallery” mean, exactly? Is 1925 an art gallery? No, although Soskin does show a few traditional art works such as paintings and drawings. Is it an antiques store? No, there is no antique furniture, no porcelains, no objets de vertu (small luxury objects) – only handmade, one of a kind, mostly old.

Are they colorful? No, neutral colors prevail. Where are they from? All over the world – Africa, Afghanistan, China, Indonesia, Egypt, India, even Chicago. They are made of wood, fiber, shells, clay and other materials. Jay Strommen, a local ceramic artist, has contributed a few large, salt-fired pots that look as old as anything in the shop.

What makes Soskin’s offerings at the gallery so extraordinary is the nature and origin of each piece. Works span from prehistoric arrowheads to contemporary paintings. It’s not uncommon to find natural items (sea sponges, coral, large crystals) mixing well with jewelry and sculpture. A magnificent Indian dowry tapestry, pieced and beaded, hangs on the wall.

‘There will be no bad energy in here’

In this natural light-filled space, one can spot an African Yumba tribe drum sitting comfortably next to a Japanese ikebana basket and Tibetan prayer scrolls hanging behind ceramic storage vessels from the Tang Dynasty. The more time you spend looking through the items, the more history unfolds. Soskin can tell you a story about each one.

One-of-a-kind, mostly antique pieces from all over the world fill the gallery space. (Photo by Meike Zuiderweg)

Art is everywhere – even in the bathroom, which at the time of my visit was filled with Pygmy art from Africa and a strange, carved abdominal fertility mask of a pregnant female. A scroll of Chinese bamboo, which Soskin calls the “mother-in-law’s gift,” is etched with the many forms of intimate pleasure a new bride can give her husband. (This would undoubtedly be called an objet de curiosité).

After a look around, you may choose from a large bowl of ceramic good luck pieces by Jay Strommen, at no charge. They look ancient and the artist’s signature looks like a rune. (I keep mine in a small pot with a plant that needs some luck.)

“There will be no bad energy in here. I want everyone to feel appreciated,” Soskin insists.

“It’s about how art and objects work together – how an object is seen,” Soskin says. “You need a foundation – art in the background, and an art object in front of it.”

Laura Soskin has 50 years of experience as a designer and collector. (Photo by Meike Zuiderweg)

Most of the objects in the shop are primitive, earthy or textural. Soskin’s taste runs to the highly unusual, slightly mysterious, even obscure.

Soskin is passionate about her collection and her 50 years of collecting. While I was there, she bought three globular baskets of vine from a visitor. She didn’t know what she was going to do with them, but she’ll figure out something beautiful.

If she doesn’t know the origin and purpose of every object, she can tell you the story of “the liar who sold it to her.” Many, if not all, the items can be used in today’s homes in a variety of ways – as functional or decorative items, as conversation starters or the beginning of a new collection.

A space with history

Gallery 1925 occupies one of a four-storefront building that has seen many iterations. Built in 1922 and called a one-story “farm building,” it was a plumber’s office in 1929, Becker Cleaners in 1954, Edies’ Resale Shop in 1962, the North Branch of the U.S. Post Office in 1966, a currency exchange in 1968, a Bank of America in 2007 and most recently, a Home Tech retailer who stayed 10 years.

Across the street is the now-shuttered Prairie Joe’s Diner, awaiting a new owner, and around the corner on Prairie is the new art studio of the former Prairie Joe’s owner, Aydin Dincer. At 2611 Prairie Ave. stood Chalk, a high-end designer clothing store for women, gone for two years now.

Gallery 1925 signifies the return of elegance to the neighborhood. Winter hours are Thursday through Sunday, 1-5 p.m., and Saturday 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Soskin hopes to expand the hours soon, depending on the weather. Check here for more information on Soskin.

Gay Riseborough

Gay Riseborough is an artist, has served the City of Evanston for 11 years on arts committees, and is now an arts writer at the Evanston RoundTable.

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