The Stonington Antiques Show
STONINGTON, CONN. – The village of Stonington may have only 900 residents but its quaint sidestreets of Eighteenth and early Nineteenth Century homes and its stunning seaside views draw plenty of history-loving visitors and part-time inhabitants throughout the year. This, and the fact that there are 15 antiques shops plus the Orkney & Yost Antiques Center in town, means that business is brisker than anyone might suppose.
Those who are lucky enough to discover Stonington are fiercely protective of the town. The fact that its populace is close-knit benefits the Stonington Antiques Show, which saw good attendance at its preview opening on Friday evening, October 6.
There was lively music by a popular jazz trio and tempting morsels from local eateries. Over the weekend, two well known Stonington residents, Alexandra Stoddard and Fred Giampietro, donated their time and talent. Stoddard lectured on her specialty, the art of living well. Giampietro performed appraisals and an introduced shoppers to his online auction service, eHammer.
“When you consider that rent is less than $500 for a papered 10-by-16 foot walled booth, a gorgeous and well-attended preview, and two days of good attendance in a beautiful seaside village, it’s not surprising that this show is popular among exhibitors,” said Neil Orkney, a Stonington dealer who is both an exhibitor and consultant to the fair.
Founded by the late Russell Carrell, the Stonington show has boasted many well-known Americana dealers as exhibitors over the years, and has changed dates several times. Manager Trish McElroy took over the fair a dozen years ago.
This year, McElroy and a committee headed by Carole Enfield and Cathy Lathrop launched a drive to increase attendance. They chose a new fall date, Columbus Day weekend; brought in corporate sponsors; and beefed up ancillary programming. “This was the first year that we have papered the booths. Colored paper really made a difference,” said McElroy.
The scheduling conflicts that resulted from the date change forced some exhibitors to resign, but allowed McElroy to freshen the display by adding some new faces. Newcomers to this year’s show included Hastings House, which had been an early exhibitor in the fair, Eve Stone Antiques, Brian Cullity, Fred Giampietro, Milady’s Mercantile, Roger Tunis Fine Art, Fiske and Freeman, Ludwig/Giustiani, Bob Carrabs Antiques, Carol Wojtkun, and Kemble’s Antiques.
The organizers’ efforts paid off. “The gate was the biggest we’ve ever had, and the show made more money than ever before. We sold over 350 advance tickets for opening night and most of the ticket holders came,” said Orkney.
Attendance peaked on Friday evening and again on Sunday, dropping on Saturday afternoon when many were outdoors enjoying the beautiful fall weather. Some even caught a glimpse of Barbra Streisand, who frequently visits some of the shops in town. The diva is rumored to spend time on nearby Block Island.
Selling seemed to favor some of the local dealers, who have well-established clientele in the area. “It’s the best show I’ve done here,” said Neil Orkney, who sold a $2,000 piece of Chinese Export porcelain just after the show closed on Sunday. Orkney & Yost’s other transactions included an Eighteenth Century French writing table and a Thonet folio stand.
Bill Clarke of Boathouse Antiques in Stonington sold nautical rdf_Descriptions to several clients, plus a painting of historical interest to the Lighthouse Museum.
From nearby Preston, Conn., Carol Wojtkun sold an Eighteenth Century tiger maple tall chest, a candlestand, and a one-drawer table as well as several pieces of Chinese Export porcelain. Kemble’s Antiques of Norwich, Ohio sold a highboy before the show opened.
Exhibitors set up in two large rooms, on a stage and in the entryway of the modern community center. The Stonington Antiques Show began as a showcase for New England furniture and appropriate accessories, and its emphasis on Americana lingers.
Fresh from the Hartford Fall Antiques Show, Kemble’s filled its front-and-center booth with a chest-on-chest with grain-painted surface, two hutch tables, weathervanes, a set of bowback Windsors, a Concord tall clock by Levi Hutchins and a silk embroidery by Lucy R. Park.
Another Hartford dealer, Brian Cullity, mingled Connecticut ceramics – including three rare Norwalk redware plates and a glass creamer; a card table attributed to John Shaw of Annapolis, circa 1790, $2,400; and nautical fare.
Fiske and Freeman’s galley booth was perfect for furniture, which the Belmont, Vt. dealers brought in quantity. For sale was a country Chippendale corner chair, a tilt-top tea table, a Pembroke table with reeded legs and a circa 1765 dressing table, priced $9,950. On the wall, silhouettes started at $125.
A Nineteenth Century folk painting of a horse hung over a jelly cupboard loaded with tole decorated tin at Lewis Scranton Antiques. The Killingworth, Conn. dealer, one of the show’s first dealers, also brought redware, a pastel theorem of fruit, silhouettes, a portrait of a woman attributed to Ashiel Powers, and a tiger maple tavern table on button feet.
Fred Giampietro put folk sculpture, sculptural furniture, and graphic art together in a playful way. Anchoring his booth was, well, an anchor. A nod to Stonington’s marine culture, the huge wire topiary shaped like an anchor was $2,800. Giampietro also offered a Christmas calligraphy, $1,350; a wire bench inset with tile; $1,950; and a giant pigeon’s head. Several others are known, including one in the collection of Antiques and The Arts Weekly. The folk sculptures once ornamented an inn.
It was a treat to see Milon Barnes of Hastings House. The Essex, Conn. dealer and his partner, Phil McNemur, combined Asian and Continental furniture, architectural fragments, screens and sculpture. “We’ve brought a superb collection of Chinese furniture,” Barnes noted. “Young people, especially, love it. It works well in both traditional and contemporary settings. And it’s a great value for the price.” A Chinese elm wood chest was $4,800.
At Donna Kmetz, shoppers received a tutorial in regional painting. The Douglas, Mass. dealer featured the work of two artists associated with the Blackstone River Valley, between Worcester, Mass., and Providence, R.I. “You can think of these five paintings as a grouping,” explained Kmetz, pointing to “Spring Blossoms,” an oil on canvas by Charles Gordon Harris, $2,800; two works by Bernard Corey, each $1,850; and two by Michael Graves, Corey’s painting companion.
The fine quality rugs and carpets at Oriental Rugs, Ltd., added color and style to the show. Owner Karen Di Saia featured a Kurdish piece, 3 feet by 5 feet 8 inches, of circa 1880; a beautiful Quashgai of circa 1900; and an exceptional Kazak of circa 1900.
Two dealers in garden antiques and architectural elements, Debra Queen of South Dartmouth, Mass., and Robin Jenkins of Bristol, R.I., shared a booth. They set up in the entryway with an interesting assortment of rustic and formal furniture, planters, saddle stones, and mirrors. A set of six paint-decorated Pennsylvania Windsors was $7,650; a pair of circa 1940 garden urns was $750.
Trish McElroy, who lives in Exeter, N.H., stays busy with six shows a year. In addition to Stonington, her calendar includes the Guilford Antiques Show in March, the Marion Antiques Show in August, and the Charlestown Navy Yard Antiques Show. This year, she added the Canterbury Shaker Village Antiques Show in August. Next year, she will assume management of the Greenwich D.A.R. Antiques Show. For her first event in Fairfield County, McElroy is planning to replace the preview party with a collectors’ evening designed to attract and educate a younger audience.
“I was reasonably pleased, but we are still trying to decide what to do next year,” McElroy said after the Stonington Antiques Show’s close. “The date change to Columbus Day weekend caused us to loose some local buyers. It’s important that we have them, and that we have younger collectors,” said the manager, who is polling exhibitors on their preferences.