Published: September 21, 2021
Reviews and photos by Madelia Hickman Ring, W.A. Demers and Greg Smith
BRIMFIELD & STURBRIDGE, MASS. – Buyers came out in force for the final installment of the Brimfield Antiques Shows September 6-11. The weather was temperamental on some days, but that did nothing to deter the devoted followers who trek north, east, south and west for this thrice-annual pilgrimage. The mantra for this edition seemed to be “back to work,” now that more people are vaccinated against Covid-19 and comfortable with outdoor events. The tents were tall, the traffic down Palmer Road was slow and everything was right again in the world.
83rd Annual Textiles, Vintage Fashions Show & Sale
It was, to be sure, a smaller show than Linda Zukas typically fields at the Host Hotel in Sturbridge, with nearly 40 exhibitors sitting out her 83rd annual edition because of either the Delta variant or other personal commitments, but the 66 exhibitors who showed up on Monday, September 6, brought fashion and flair in abundance.
“The gate was as large as any other traditional September gate without the Covid, which led to a great show for most exhibitors being that there were fewer booths for them to buy from, increasing the take for all. A few of the regular buyers, the Europeans, Japanese, etc., were missing due to Covid, – I viewed this as a chance for the exhibitors to cultivate new buyers for the same kind of stock that the international visitors usually snap up at the beginning of the show. At the end of the day, there were no sad faces.
“I am proud that there is still a good size core group of exhibitors that have done all 31 years of shows, 81 shows. The young people in our show bring a fresh and creative perspective to our trade. This show has served as a portal for young people getting started in the business to watch, be mentored, guided, learn from the veterans of the show, their years of accumulated knowledge, and sometimes copy the longtime exhibitors, before moving on or staying.”
Front and center, and just inside the front door of the show, was the booth of Cora Ginsburg, LLC, which was manned by both owner/director, Titi Halle, and her colleague, Martina D’Amato. From the time the door opened, the booth was crowded with people interested in seeing the historic costumes and textiles from the Seventeenth Century forward.
“We did make a few sales to new clients which was great, as well as a few old clients,” D’Amato said. “We sold a mix of Nineteenth Century costume and textiles as well as some Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century flat textiles, but the antique costume was definitely the bigger draw. What we sell is a bit more specialized, I think, as most of our antique costume is collectible rather than wearable, so I think our customer base is different from some of the other sellers at Sturbridge. All in all, the show was a success!”
Adjacent to Cora Ginsburg, Barry C. Webber of Marlborough Cottage is starting to downsize the collection he’s amassed and fronted his booth with a stunning black silk 1920s dress with orange and hot-pink beadwork that he had received years ago as a gift from a friend.
Wonderland’s owner, Beth McElhiney, specializes in antique and vintage pieces from the 1840s to about 1980. At the end of her booth was an 1830s or 1840s walking dress that she thought was one of the earliest pieces in the show. She was doing the show for the first time and afterwards said she met lots of new people to add to the client lists she has for her Etsy stores.
Amanda Hale is the creative director for Sweet Dahlia Vintage and was also selling at the show, though she’s attended and shopped there for years. Specializing in prints from the 1930s-50s, she also buys from later eras for younger customers. Her Cincinnati, Ohio, firm hires as interns fashion design students from the University of Cincinnati.
“This is a bit of an experiment for us,” Jane Thompson said. She and her husband, David, are regular exhibitors at shows around the country but this was the first time the South Dennis, Mass., dealers were doing the textile show. Among the stand-out works in their booth was a group of five rolls of early block-printed wallpaper that dated to between 1790 and 1820 that had been found in Dutchess County, N.Y.
After the show, David reported he “had some good sales, including an early free-blown glass whale oil lamp, a redware crock, an 1840s quilt with a wonderful variety of early fabrics, a Shaker weaver’s chair (to a lovely, young couple, newly married who are textile scholars), a nice assortment of books related to textiles, and other items. We thought the attendance was excellent. Linda Zukas did a great job!”
High-end vintage accessories are the focus of Moore Vintage, which was recently started by Keesean Moore in South Philadelphia. He was also making his debut at the Sturbridge textile show and said he was having a great time.
Shannon Dalton, Funky Fashions, has been doing the show for more than 15 years and reported it was a great event. “There seemed to be lots of new people who came through too, which was nice to see. It seemed that menswear and 1940s-50s womenswear were still sought-after.”
New York City dealer, Marilyn Hitchcock, had several furs for sale and noted that “funky” pieces were more popular among buyers than more traditional pieces, particularly among younger buyers who are “great for sizing, because the sizes are tiny.”
“The show was a success despite the concerns over Covid,” said Janet Maluk, whose business, The Store with No Walls, offered a broad selection of vintage clothing, jewelry and accessories. The Hackensack, N.J., dealer noted that her best-selling items were jewelry, designer labels and silk dresses and that she made sales to both new and existing clients. A showstopper, and the only thing in her booth that was not for sale, was a vintage circa 1968 Pierre Cardin black minidress with stacked metal frontispiece that is like one in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.
For early quilts, it would be hard to beat the selection with Jane Lury, of Labors of Love Quilts.
Hanging high over the booth was an early Nineteenth Century broderie perse quilt of printed English chintz fabric that depicted floral baskets encircled by a border of palmetto trees and exotic birds. Lury said it had been found in Pennsylvania but had most likely been made by a wealthy woman along the East Coast of the United States.
Vintage jewelry was not in short supply with Fred Pidge, the owner of LockBox Finds, in Parma, Ohio. As the name suggests, he goes to auction and buys lockboxes, then sells the contents. Among the showstoppers in his booth were vintage couture accessories and two 1920s platinum bracelets that were some of his lockbox finds.
Litchfield, Conn., vintage fashion dealer, Karen Redinger, was busy writing up sales when we came through but followed up with us by email after the show. “I thought the Sturbridge Textile show was good with strong sales. I sold a variety of items across the board with strong sales in Chinese textiles, quilts, vintage millinery and ethnic embroidery and textiles. The Europeans couldn’t travel due to Covid, but the American traffic was strong, and dealers came from all over. Designers were present, too, looking for inspiration. Some dealers commented it was a strong show and felt encouraged for the business. I spoke with a costume house for movies, and they said they can’t keep up with the demand due to Netflix, Apple TV and other cable networks doing series.”
Redinger was not the only vendor who saw brisk business from costume houses.
“A movie rental business from Canada cleaned us out of 1930s hats,” said Steven Porterfield of The Cat’s Meow. The Midlands, Texas, dealer had the largest booth on the floor and said that Victorian clothing sold incredibly well, as did fashions from the 1920s-30s. He noticed quite a few people were looking for anything with lamé fabric or bias cuts. Costume jewelry was also a strong seller, noting he sold “masses of Miriam Haskell jewelry, as well as gaudy earrings from the 1980s.”
New England Motel
New England Motel field promoter/owner John Doldoorian could not have been more ebullient when we reached him after the show. “It was absolutely one of the best September shows we’ve had in 20 years. The crowds were fabulous, people were spending, and our dealers were extremely happy.” He noted that not only had all of the exhibitors who were new to his field committed to selling next May, but that show is already 90 percent booked, too. “It was a throwback to years ago; Brimfield is well and continuing to prosper,” he said in closing.
Mel and Ed Maldonado of Mel and Ed’s Reupholstery are in prime gate-adjacent position on the central aisle at New England Motel. The Jefferson, Md., dealers use unique and recycled fabrics to custom upholster vintage furniture and have been showing at Brimfield for 12 years, all three annual editions. During the Covid-19 closures, they kept busy with online sales, and Ed was busy upholstering a pair of horns when we walked through the field.
Across the aisle from the Maldonados was Roy Zito, whose driftwood pieces are among the more unique items on the field. Zito gets cypress tree roots from swamps in Georgia and Florida and makes the tapered hollow forms into planters, platters, furniture and more.
Jeff Wilson, Carolina Vintage Home, Columbia, S.C., is next to the field’s office, a spot he has occupied for 14 years. “It’s my spot,” he joked. About half of his booth was mahogany, the rest was painted; all of it was vintage that he had refinished. “Mahogany is coming back,” he said.
Diane and Glen Turner have Wilson beat, having shown on the New England Motel field for 38 years. “We’re probably one of the last remaining dealers,” Diane said. The Woonsocket, R.I., dealers specialize in a broad range of collectibles, from Barbie to Disney to Christmas.
Abbieland Antiques’ large booth fronts the main road through Brimfield and is a great spot for shoppers to browse while they are waiting for the gate to open. Danny Tytenicz typically brings a broad assortment of Asian cloisonne vessels, lamps, frames and small furniture. He was particularly pleased with a large cast bronze French fountain he had found at an estate in Providence, R.I.
Kirsch Antiques occupied two adjacent booths, with one devoted almost exclusively to Don Kirsch’s custom-made lighting creations. Kirsch got into the hobby by accident six years ago when he bought a grinder lamp at auction that did not work properly. In the process of fixing it, he realized he could make just about anything into a lamp, so he does – from household and kitchen implements to musical instruments and model vehicles.
The majority of items for sale at Brimfield are modestly priced, a few thousand at most. New York City dealer Richard Davis had a Japanese Meiji period Kano school six-panel screen that took up the entire wall of his booth; he was asking $8,500 for. He had acquired the late Nineteenth Century piece several years ago, but this was the first time he was offering it. It featured pheasants beside a stream on its original brocade backing and pine frame.
After the show opened, Heart-O-The-Mart owner Pam Moriarty, celebrating their 39th year at Brimfield, said setup went very smoothly and everyone was happy and glad to be back. Her husband, Don, was also upbeat when we reached out after the show closed.
“The show was excellent! The gate was higher than it was in July and sales were very good; traffic was really strong all week, and the retail crowd who comes on the weekend was very, very busy.”
Is Brimfield on your bucket list? Tim Doyle, who lives in Wales, Mass., which for those unfamiliar with the area, is about five miles from Brimfield, has shopped the fields “occasionally,” but he has always wanted to work the show. It came to pass in this edition that he cashed in a week of vacation to work the gate for Heart-O-The-Mart, which opened at 9 am on Wednesday, September 8.
Once the gates were opened, shoppers poured through. Several people were overheard saying that some of the best things on the field were in the large tent at the back of the field, so that was where we headed once the crush had passed. Traffic in the tent was busy and sales were brisk, with several sold tags spotted throughout the tent, including a demilune mahogany table, a cast brass mirror frame and a horse painting by B. Gunnar.
Bruce Emond, Village Braider, Plymouth, Mass., was near the back tent and he had his usual interesting variety. Among stand-out pieces were an Italian Eighteenth or Nineteenth Century walnut chair with embossed leather back that had provenance to an estate in New Bedford, Mass. Emond had also acquired a pair of alabaster lamps from the same estate.
Nancy Toomer, House of Rose Antiques, had two booths, one that prominently displayed Angelo Dounoucos’s 2008 book titled Brimfield, a coffee-table book full of photos taken by Dounoucos over his years at Brimfield. Toomer has helped Dounoucos sell some of his collection and had several copies of the book on hand for shoppers. For those who have recently jumped on the Brimfield bandwagon, it’s a great read.
In our coverage of Linda Zukas’ textile show, we reported that a couple of dealers reported business from costume houses looking for stock for TV shows and movies. Fennick Studio Props, in New York City and Passaic, N.J., has been selling at Brimfield for 20 years and is a go-to for production companies. Ron Fennick rattled off several TV shows who he has sourced props for, including Blue Bloods, all of the Law & Order franchises, and Ball and Prodigal Sons. He said he has a 60,000-square-foot five-floor warehouse to help store all of it.
Valhalla, N.Y. dealer Frederick “Rick” Rock was back at Brimfield after a little hiatus and he had a first timer with him, his granddaughter Kara Kutny. Rock’s pop-up tent was loaded with paintings early in the day but by midday there was more room, suggesting lots of sales.
Jon Felz, RZM Fine Art & Antiques, Pearl River, N.Y., got a lot of interest from shoppers for three gem-like framed Tiffany watercolor drawings of flatware patterns that he had acquired from a Rumsey, N.J., estate sale.
The upcoming Halloween holiday gave many dealers a reason to bring seasonably appropriate vintage and antique collectibles, some of which had a ghoulish theme. Monson, Mass., dealer Colin Draper, Mirkwood Antiques, had a Victorian wicker cooling coffin and an unused (we hope!) cadaver bag neatly packaged; funerary shrouds were deployed as tablecloths. Draper keeps tarantula spiders as pets and considered bringing one to the show; perhaps it was just as well that he left them at home, opting instead for a large stuffed toy tarantula that he perched in the booth’s framing.
One of the sales made within the first hour Hertan’s was open was a neatly framed printed manuscript that included an obituary for George Washington that had been written by John Adams. Blair Jett of Attic Hunters, Ellicott City, Md., had the manuscript, which also included other details about Washington’s passing, funeral and a poem about the late President that was written by “A Young Lady.”
Shoppers were busy throughout the field, but it was sometimes hard to see sold tags given the crush of people. Several were spotted with Nancy Bryer, Log Cabin Country Primitives, South Glastonbury, Conn., who had made numerous sales within an hour of the field opening.
Ryan Piccirillo, Memory Hole Vintage, is hard to miss as he drives a large white bus directly onto the field and sets up, opening the vehicle to shoppers. He had made his first appearance at Brimfield in July and was back, bringing, as he put it, “the vintage, the antique, the creepy and the weird.” He was excited to be back and his bus was mobbed within minutes of the field opening.
Tom Jewett and Butch Berdan, Jewett-Berdan Antiques, Newcastle, Maine, had an interesting painted Odd Fellows halberd that was inscribed “Visit the Sick” on one side, and “Educate the Orphan” on the other. For amusing inscriptions, it had competition in a large painted gameboard/sign that read “24 Hours in a Day / 8 of work, 8 of play / 8 of sleep puts you in / trim for work in the / Morn with vigor & vim.”
Another Butch – this one with the last name McGrath, from Scituate, Mass., – does a lot of shows but says Brimfield “is my favorite.” A few things in his booth were from the Wynkoop family, including a portrait of Augustus Wynkoop as a boy by Joseph Whiting Stock, and a pair of portraits of Wynkoop as a man with his wife. According to McGrath, the original pair of portraits had been duplicated by the artist at the request of one of the family members.
If ever there was a showstopper, an ornate Sicilian painted processional donkey cart made by maestro Domenico Di Mauro (1913-2016) that was on a table in front of the booth of Everything 4 Everyone Antiques & Collectibles of Danbury, N.H. Steve Young said he had found it in a house on Cape Cod and thought these were rare finds in the United States, though more are probably in Sicily. He was asking what seemed like a very reasonable $3,795.
When it comes to advertising, “Automotive is the hot thing,” Cathy Eager said. “It’s money in the bank if you have one.” The Kittery, Maine, dealer had several examples on hand, including Rochester Ford jackets and signs by ESSO, Merchant Tires, Dunlop and Federal Tires. She also pointed out a Route 6 highway sign that was inset with tiger eyes.
More seasonally spooky set-ups were to be found at Hertan’s. New England Vintage had two coffins – one that was small, for a person no taller than 36 inches – that dated to the late Nineteenth Century that had been discovered at a funeral home. Another coffin, this one full-sized, outside the booth adjacent to skeletons in chairs to simulate a funeral home viewing.
As she did in July, Hertan’s owner Klia Ververidis Crisafulli has added a number of events to the five-day show to keep people coming in. Among these is a live on-field auction on Thursday evening, an 80s dance party on Friday evening, and on Saturday, Antiques Roadshow appraiser and Americana expert, Leigh Keno, does a benefit appraisal clinic. The highlight of Keno’s clinic was brought by a relative of Isabella Stewart Gardner who had a work by Alexander Calder that had been in his family. Keno appraised for between $50/80,000.
When we asked Ververidis how she was preparing for the spring edition, she said she was planning to add a two-day “Weekend Warriors” show to the Hertan’s lineup that would be open only on Saturday and Sunday, to cater to those who can’t play hooky during the week to shop Brimfield.
May’s Antique Market
There are two main rubrics governing the Thursday-Saturday field of May’s Antique Market: 1) (as stated on the sign at the entrance), “No Merchandise Out Until 9 am,” a long-held tradition that has both dealers and shoppers scrambling in a mad melee when the gates open the first day; and 2) the market is conducted “rain or shine.”
This last stricture was what had all heads craning at the skies minutes before the show opened on September 9, the few spattering drips of rain teasing in on-again-off-again fashion until about 11 am when the skies opened up in earnest. It had field owner Martha May dipping into her stash of umbrellas left over from the field’s 20th anniversary to hand out to a few fortunate shoppers. But Brimfielders are a hardy bunch, and commerce, made even more brisk by the need to conduct transactions quickly, brought out the usual wads of $20s, $50s and $100s to consummate sweet deals.
For the 44th year of its running, May’s attracted its loyal contingent of exhibitors and patrons. Paul Harris of Brass Lantern Antiques, Groton, Mass., could be seen unloading merchandise from his large truck as he has done three times a year every year for more than 40 years. Pike, N.H., Americana dealer and auctioneer Josh Steenburgh was standing by with a booth stocked with some of his collection of Americana and folk art, and Maryland dealer Fred T. Hall, a specialist in Aesthetic Movement, Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts material, was doing rapid-fire business with folks swarming his booth to ask about four Aesthetic Movement oak doors with etched glass, as well as a tableful of assorted glassware.
“I love Brimfield,” said Hall. “This is my eye, and these are my finds for you to buy. Having done a wide circuit of shows up and down the East Coast and deep into the Midwest, Brimfield is the one show that excites me the most on a great many levels. It is an environment where I can sell a $40 set of Austrian glasses to a young beginning antiques enthusiast and a $4,000 bronze to an advanced sculpture collector.” Regarding this spectrum of sales, Hall further said, “The only things separating those sales is a few decimal points, other than that it is simply an intellectual exchange and pursuit of aesthetics between people enjoying that moment and the beauty of the object in hand. This is what drives my passion for unusual, perhaps curated, items.”
“Friday and Saturday were stellar in terms of weather,” said Martha May, “and dealers were doing amazing business between 9 and 11:30 am on Thursday, while some held off until Friday.” Overall, May observed that dealers did well. “Those who elected to come were very glad they did,” she said.
Trends? May said she is noticing that with the aging of the old guard, there is a new crop of younger dealers who become very knowledgeable and passionate for vintage and Midcentury Modern material. “There were three young women from Iowa who deal in vintage clothing who called me at the last minute to see if they could get the space they had in July,” said May. “I had already given that space to a September dealer, but they nevertheless did very well.”
Brimfield Auction Acres
BRIMFIELD, MASS.- Brimfield Auction Acres show promoter Kate Corriveau said dealer participation in the September edition was up 15 percent from where it was in 2019, before the pandemic cancelled the shows for an entire year in 2020.
As the last show to open during a week that often sees dealers hopping from one field to the next, she was especially happy that about 80 percent of her dealers were selling at her field for the first time, saving their merch for the loyal throng of buyers that line up on Friday morning.
All of the dealers on Friday were graced with sunshine and excellent weather, something that can’t be said for some of the other shows throughout the week. The rain did not affect the show at all, its high elevation and gentle slope a natural impediment to standing water and mud.
Dealers and buyers seemed to be in fine spirits at the show, which by and large felt routine and normal. In other times those words might sound like a pejorative, but they were just what the doctor ordered in September. Whereas the May edition of this show was novel – indeed it was the only Brimfield show to open in May – and the July shows felt like we were back to school, September felt like your standard Brimfield experience, as if the dust had settled and we were back on the grind.
Dealers brought all kinds of fare to the show, including Americana, Asian porcelain, industrial goods, advertising, glass and pottery, fine and decorative arts, photographs and more. There seemed to be an influx of vintage fashion dealers this year.
The Corriveaus have introduced a pop-up show on Tuesday that they said is gaining traction. The one-day show is $150 to set up at, including the permit, and only $100 if the dealer commits to the premier Friday/Saturday show. “Unpack it, sell it, carry on,” is how they describe it.
“I think this show is going to be amazing. Buyers will come either way, but we got great weather.”
They did get great weather, and the buyers did attend.
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