At some point in our lives, most of us collect objects we are attracted to for whatever reason. When I was a kid I had notebooks filled with Lisa Frank stickers that shimmered with images of killer whales jumping over rainbow ocean waves. As an adult, I still find myself collecting stuff, like antique cards and paper and animal figurines. For a while, I had a penchant for paintings depicting weird-looking women. We all have our thing.
For Isaac Martinez, collecting has veered into the strange, dark and what some might call twisted. The Encinitas second grade schoolteacher has spent the last three years picking up odd artifacts for his personal collection, like antique medical instruments and cosmonaut helmets from the Cold War. After getting married to a lady who also has an affinity for odd antiques, they decided to let some of their collection go. They started Urban Remains, a shop they run by appointment only out of their home in Downtown San Diego. They're letting go of more than 100 pieces of weirdly cool stuff, some of it hundreds of years old. How does Martinez know it's so old? He has a crack team of second graders investigating his pieces, that's how.
"I bring stuff into my classroom," he says. "Some stuff I have is very odd or rare, so I bring it in and have them investigate it. We try to find out what it was used for, or what it was made for, or who it was made for. They research on the internet. If we find a marking, we search that. They're actually pretty good at it, and it becomes a history lesson."
Among the collectibles for sale are furniture pieces, antique armor—including a French Army suit from the 19th century—old barber chairs and sideshow carnival art.
"My stuff is definitely not for everybody," Martinez admits. "A lot of people are freaked out by the things I have. I guess some of the items I collect can be considered dark, but a lot are historical."
Letting go of all his prized possessions is not easy for Martinez. However, he's happy knowing they will go to a good home.
"There's some stuff that I'm like, 'Man, I don't think I'm gonna see that again,'" he laments. "One of the things was a Civil War wooden prosthetic leg. It's really well-made. It moved in certain ways and had hand-forged iron on the side. I wonder where that is. But I tell myself, 'That’s OK; someone will enjoy it.' "
To add some of Martinez's cool collection to your own, call him at 619-977-3287 to make an appointment. But first, check out the Urban Remains website to scope out some of the interesting merch.