Published: September 26, 2023
Review & Photos by W.A. Demers
MADISON, CONN. — Madison Green once again became a nexus for antiques, vintage merchandise and artisan crafts on September 16 as the newly revamped Vintage, Antiques, Art and Made in CT show got underway at 9 am. The one-day show comes on the heels of Brimfield week, and the truism about New England weather was palpable. Slightly overcast in the morning, the day turned out to be comfortable for dealers and shoppers, who just days before had sweltered under a wilting heat dome. Shoppers were able to calmly enter and pay at one of two entrances and enjoy a park-like stroll past vendor spaces, mostly lining the tree-shaded main path, although the open spots were just as pleasantly warm as one would expect on a mid-September day.
The “Made in Connecticut” category was introduced to feature locally sourced crafts and goods. About 35 dealers from throughout the Northeast were signed up to participate in the show, although there were some no-shows, resulting in some empty areas on the green. Still, there were unique finds, furniture, garden decor, linens, housewares, quilts, wicker, toys, jewelry, primitives, tools, nautical items and more to be found.
A familiar face at these smaller outdoor shows is Steve Balser, a retired high school history teacher and antiques dealer from Norwalk, Conn. He was the show manager this year for the Lockwood-Mathews Mansion Museum Old-Fashioned Flea Market in late August and one of the featured dealers in a new show, managed by his wife, Treasures in a Church Yard, in June. It was not long after this show opened that he made his first sale. It was an early map of New York City, certainly pre-1880, he observed, because it did not show the Brooklyn Bridge. He had found it at a yard sale and paid a small amount for it, which he was able to more than double on this day. Another recent find among his display of antique furniture and early items of a primarily scientific bent was an artist’s proof by American painter and illustrator Frederick Remington (1861-1909) of “The Quarrel,” 1912.
An interesting addition to the mix of dealers and crafters at the show were Michael and Sarah Purdy, former New York City dwellers who are now living in Madison. Michael said he signed up for the show to “test the waters” for his collection of Mexican retablos, some of which he had lined up on a table. Described as one of the major artistic expressions of Nineteenth Century popular Mexican Catholicism, the retablo is an image of a saint or holy person painted on tin, its name meaning “behind the table” (altar). Mostly, though, retablos were for personal devotion, usually adorning a home altar. Michael Purdy said he’s been collecting retablos for more than 30 years — on buying trips to Mexico, at auction and on eBay. He also collects folk and Outsider art and had some three-dimensional pieces by Rev. Howard Finster (1916-2001), the self-taught artist and Baptist minister from Georgia.
Over the past 15 years of this show, shoppers would encounter Darien, Conn., dealer Gil Rodriguez, who does business as Gilann Books. This time, in addition to his trademark selections of early printing, private press, children’s books, history and literature, he brought some items outside his usual wheelhouse. One was a seascape by Nathaniel Benchley (1915-1981), who worked as a freelance writer and painter and was the father of actor Robert Benchley. The others were some antique Japanese folding fans, just two out of his collection of 50 or so, delicate because they’re from about 1890 but with colorful hand-painted illustrations when fanned out.
Among the Made in CT participants, returning this year, were Gary McPhee and Doreen Baldwin of Middletown, Conn., whose business, Someday Seaglass, appropriately for a shoreline show turns bits of found seaglass into whimsical forms such as mini palm trees, dragonflies, hearts, snowmen, pendants and more.
Also in a crafting vein was Nicole Danis of Stonington, Conn. Sitting at an impromptu work table, she was demonstrating how she makes her “power rocks,” which are created by pouring a cement into rock-shaped molds. After they’ve hardened, she paints them black or another color and then applies with high-end paints, one-by-one, the myriad acrylic colored and gold dots that make up her designs. She said she is drawn to the symbology of trees of life and geometric forms and is totally self-taught.
Audra Totino of Wallingford, Conn., is a mother to three youngsters — three years, four years and 19 months — and finds much inspiration from them in her business, Motherhood Creations. One was a tray she had made using resin and a variety of leaves the children had found near their home. She uses her self-taught skill with resin art (trial and error, she explained) to offer a variety of crafts with seasonal, natural and kid-oriented themes.
On the opposite side of the park, Rooster River Antiques from Fairfield, Conn., was doing a brisk business as shoppers perused antiques like an iron umbrella stand with removable porcelain tray, a vintage scrubbed-top table, a vintage Hubley horse doorstop and an antique two-drawer table with ram’s-head backsplash. Also on offer with its stand was a vintage solid brass and enameled tray hand made in India, featuring the Star of Lakshimi, goddess of love, prosperity, joy, fortune and wealth.
Overseeing it all from a table set up at the show’s main entrance was Dawn Jackson, executive director of the Madison Chamber of Commerce. “It was a beautiful day and we had more than 500 people join us on the Madison Green,” she said. “We had some vendors who said it was one of the best events they’ve had post-Covid. It was a steady crowd throughout the day, and the exhibitors sold a lot of wonderful things.”
Providing a musical soundtrack for the first half of the day was a four-member ukulele club group that performed standards from the American songbook. “The live music being played all day was a beautiful touch,” Jackson added.
“We had everything from antiques to homemade cottage bakers featuring their specialty baked goods to crafters who were showing their talents as well as antiques dealers who may have been doing their last show of the season. It made for a really beautiful blend, which is inspiration for us to look at for next year’s shows, how to create areas that feature special markets on the green to provide a variety while keeping true to our history of being the arts and antiques, a now crafts, expo.”
Proceeds of the show go to support the chamber in its efforts to support local business initiatives. The dates for 2024 are May and September.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm