Friday, December 26, 2008

A spin artist whose medium is vinyl

Harold Gold and Max I. Million at their Bryn Mawr Record store which sells vinyl albims as well recycled albums at 851 Lancaster Ave. Bryn Mawr, Pa.It is, perhaps, a fitting indication of the artistic and commercial bond between Harold Gold and his wife, Max I. Million, that they hit on the idea for a new product line together.

Max I. Million sorts albums at Gold Million Records. She makes interesting and colorful objects using classic vinyl album covers, both jazz and rock. These range from clocks and ashtrays to Beatles wine boxes and Grateful Dead skis. Million, who has a design degree, is married to Harold Gold (former owner of Plastic Fantastic) and together they run Gold Million Records in Bryn Mawr. It was early 2005, and the couple had just closed their landmark Plastic Fantastic record store in Ardmore and moved to smaller quarters up Lancaster Avenue in Bryn Mawr. They had already trucked up more than 1,000 U-Haul boxes of LPs, CDs and magazines, and they no longer had the space to display them all.

"And people were starting to say, 'We like the album covers, but we're not buying records anymore,' " Harold recalls. Many no longer even had turntables.

So Harold the promoter looked at Max the artist/interior designer, and the notion of turning records and album covers into art objects was born.

A desk assistant and bowl made from recycled albums at 851 Lancaster Ave. Bryn Mawr, Pa They started with a Jimmy Durante album cover featuring a life-size drawing of the comedian's face and its Nebraska-sized nose. Max remembers it like this:

"So Harold says, 'Look at that honker. How do you think it would look on a tissue box?' The whole concept of turning a two-dimensional object into a three-dimensional object was an amazing thing."

Now, they have literally bent and twisted the concept into such directions as Santana and Billie Holiday album-cover clock faces; Beatles jewelry boxes; Easy Rider cigar boxes; Jimi Hendrix tissue boxes; a Madonna handbag; and records shaped into bowls and desk caddies.

The items are available only at their Gold Million Records store, 851 Lancaster Ave., and their Web site,, although Max says, "If Neiman-Marcus wanted to pick us up on an exclusive, I wouldn't object."

Handbags bejeweled by Max I. Million at Gold Million Rrecords. Prices range from $5 for the smallest bowls made from 45-r.p.m. records, to about $100 for the most elaborate wine carriers and desk caddies.

The first prototypes were made at the couple's Villanova home before they converted part of the store's upstairs to a workshop and added a window sign that reads "Cool Stuff Made from Records."

"We had no vision for this part of the place," says Harold as he and Max stand in the upstairs kitchen, where Max crafts the line. "But we knew that we wanted it."

Harold, a tall, bearded man "in my 50s," is dressed all in black, topped by a "Titanic" baseball cap. Max, who is in her 40s, is wearing a black jumpsuit and a necklace crafted from 45-r.p.m. record spindles, rhinestones, and Swarovski crystals. They finish many of each other's sentences.

He is a native of Great Neck, N.Y., who had been sales manager for Polygram Records in Philadelphia when he founded Plastic Fantastic in 1976, buying and selling LPs.

Handbags made from recylcled 45 record players or boxes and bejeweled by Max I. Million at Gold Million Rrecords.Max grew up in Spring Lake, N.J., and, yes, her real name is Max I. Million, which is one reason she thinks her father is so cool. Irving Million was a career Army man, a reconnaissance photographer in World War II who set up one of the earliest mobile photo labs in the Pacific theater. Her mother was a model and a legal secretary.

Max got a degree in architecture and fashion design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York and decided one day in 1992 to come into Philadelphia to check out a graduate program at Drexel University.

She stopped in at Harold's store to buy a Steely Dan cassette tape to smooth the ride home. "And the rest," says Harold, not even attempting originality, "is history."

They were married two years later. Max helped him run the store, and when their lease expired, they decided to move and stop selling space-gobbling magazines, DVDs and CDs.

Max I. Million works in her studio at Gold Million Rrecords. Instead, they remodeled the new store back into the past, turning what had been a traditional gift shop for decades into a place where hip and nostalgia meet - and perhaps even form a seamless web.

They removed the drop ceilings to reveal the original tin, pulled up the carpets to bare the hardwood floors, and stripped the drywall from the brick walls. Out front sit two replicas of the RCA Victor trademark terrier, Nipper. Zebra-pattern rugs bring the black-and-white color scheme inside.

Wooden boxes covered with recylced record album covers and bejeweled by Max I. Million at Gold Million Rrecords. In addition to LPs - some newly minted, as vinyl makes a comeback of sorts - the couple sell memorabilia unrelated to their own product line. "It's not just the music, it's the lifestyle," Max says.

Although Harold facetiously refers to the company as Gold Million International, even their online sales are mostly national. Most of the buyers are what Max describes as "baby boomers looking back."

There have been some notable exceptions, though.

Clocks made from recylced record album covers and bejeweled by Max I. Million at Gold Million Rrecords. A woman from Nashville, Kathleen Cash-Tittle, recently bought a Rocky Horror Picture Show tissue box. Harold asked her if she was related to Johnny Cash. Turned out, she was his daughter, "and she ended up buying every Johnny Cash thing we had in our line - 13 pieces."

Max takes photos of almost everything she makes, so she can duplicate what sells out. And the couple are always looking for suggestions about new objects to make.

Sometimes, however, they let tradition speak for itself.

Recently, an estate sale yielded some turn-of-the-century Edison cylinders, perhaps the oldest form of recording known. What about converting them into new art objects?

"No," Max says firmly. "These, we'll leave alone."

Clocks made from recycled record albums and bejeweled by Max I. Million at Gold Million Rrecords.

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