Credit: Leslie Schwartz

Mark and Jeri Webb’s collections include—but are far from limited to—vintage travel postcards, wooden deer heads, antique Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls, outsider art, religious iconography, and the old wooden shoes that hang like crown molding around the perimeter of their kitchen. “It starts with one,” Mark explains, “and then there’s another one, and before you know it— “

“You have them hanging on the wall,” Jeri interrupts.

Hanging 3-D objects on the walls is just one of the ways in which the Webbs maximize the display possibilities in their 1,600-square-foot Lincoln Square cottage. To keep things interesting, they create odd juxtapositions, vary heights, and group like objects for maximum impact. Their collection of wooden snakes, for instance, frames the doorway that leads from the foyer to the living room.

Out of respect for sensitive guests, the Webbs keep religious iconography like crucifixes and altar candles upstairs, in the master bedroom. “If you want a tattoo, put it someplace where not everybody has to look at it,” says Jeri, who travels the world searching for new products as the director of stores at the Field Museum. (Mark’s a museum guy too: he works as production manager for the Adler Planetarium.) “You don’t want to offend anybody.”

But circumspection didn’t stop them from putting a life-size African statue of a nude man on a tree-stump pedestal and placing it prominently between the kitchen and the dining room. “By putting him up that high you really get to view him in his entirety,” Jeri says. “I love the surprise of that.” —Tate Gunnerson

Jeri: “It’s literally a plastic Christmas cookie tray with a dome over
it. Inside there’s a voodoo box that’s from, Ghana maybe, and then
there’re two little beaded animals from India. All three of those
things have beads on them—repetition of pattern.”

Mark: “The platter has little beads on it too.”

Jeri: “This friend of mine had this very used Raggedy Anne. She said, ‘You know, I was in this thrift store and I saw this for 25 cents, and it just looked like it had been so well loved.’ So the next time I saw one, I thought, ‘You know, OK, I can’t just leave this here. Because what’s going to happen to it? Nobody’s going to want it.’ Then I started collecting the ones that were missing an arm or they didn’t have any little outfit left anymore. Some of them are quite hideously
deformed, and some of them are actually quite nice. For a while, I was kind of refurbishing them and selling them, but who has time for that anymore? That collection has really stopped. I don’t try to pursue that, because, I don’t know, how many do I have? 50 of them? That’s enough.”

Jeri: “The clogs are sort of about my roots, my family having been
farmers in the old country. I don’t know anything about them, but I’m
an earthy person. When I started off, I only bought ones that had been
worn. So you get the sense that somebody’s foot has been in this
shoe, and they went out and worked hard.”

Mark: “Almost all of them are French. We looked for them in the
Netherlands, but we couldn’t find any.”

Jeri: “You’d think those Dutch people would have left some shoes
behind, but as it turns out, they didn’t.”

Mark: “I think we’ve stopped with the wooden shoes. We might buy
another one if it was really good, but we’re not actively seeking them
anymore.”

Jeri: “There’s this guy in New Mexico, Homero Enriquez, who twists up wire and makes these animals, and I think he’s just a genius—an amazing sculptor.”

Mark: “They remind me of complex line drawings made three-dimensional.”

Jeri: “It’s a little bit of an OCD thing in three dimensions.”

Jeri: “We don’t want to cite the name of the store, because we don’t want to send people there, but it’s just a junk store in Seattle, let’s just call it that.”

Mark: “He was just sitting there next to a cardboard cutout of George Bush.”

Jeri: “Why not snakes? I think they’re sort of interesting, the way people
have made them into fanciful creatures. The way snakes mean different
things in different cultures, but it’s always about power or
sneakiness.”

Mark: “It’s always a surprise when you come across a snake. They don’t
announce that they’re coming. It’s sort of interesting when you walk
in the front door and see them there.”

Jeri: “Not to get deeply psychological, but it’s like a little test.
If you come into the front hall and you see all those snakes and you
still want to come into the house . . . it’s like a little warning.
It’s going to be different here.

“The snakes are from China, India, France, southwestern United
States, Guatemala, uh . . . outsider art stuff. I just got a really
nice painting from Cuba of somebody with a snake.”

Mark: “They’re mostly tourist postcards from the 40s and 50s. They’re
based on posed photographs. They’re sort of artificial, but the people
are very real. These people are being asked to put on a show about
their culture or what somebody thought their culture was in order to
make tourist items to sell to people. It’s looking a bit beyond the
image. I’m always thinking about what those people were like. What was
going on before and after that picture was taken?”

Jeri: “You can get close to them and really look at them. If they were
all up on the wall nine feet in the air, you wouldn’t be able to see
them. But these are pretty visible.”

Jeri: “Who doesn’t like sock monkeys? We started getting ones that
didn’t look like normal sock monkeys.”

Mark: “When we found one that was different in some way, we’d pick it up.”

Jeri: “So some of these have dresses. Some look like people more than
sock monkeys, but they’re still in that sock genre.”

Mark: “We’ve got one that’s made out of a pair of brown men’s socks.
Not even a sock money sock, just a regular pair of socks. They’re all
hand made and have individual personalities.”