Published: August 8, 2000
PITTSFIELD, MASS. AND LAMBERTVILLE, N.J. – This past spring, a Craftsman truck snaked up a driveway to a remote hilltop home in California – its last stop on a cross-country trip begun a week earlier in Pittsfield. Its mission was to pick up some particularly choice furniture consignments for Craftsman’s next sale.
At the driveway’s crest, though, the driver found more than a home. There sat a David Rago vehicle, wrapping up its own cross-country trek begun a week earlier in Lambertville, N.J., its mission being to pick up some particularly choice art pottery consignments for Rago’s next sale.
As Craftsman co-founder Jerry Cohen noted, “Well, it certainly did seem a bit inefficient, so we [Cohen and Craftsman co-founder John Fontaine] decided maybe we should talk with David and see what we might work out.”
What was worked out, via merger, went a bit beyond inefficiencies. What has emerged may come to dominate the national Arts and Crafts auction scene.
Though today a familiar name to many, Craftsman did not exist at all a scant four years ago. And indeed might never have, save for a serendipitous meeting between Fontaine, a Massachusetts auctioneer and Cohen, a Connecticut Arts and Crafts dealer.
Fontaine called his first auction at the age of 12, and has built his business in the three decades since. He is co-author of a recently published Handel Lamps Book. His Pittsfield gallery has emerged in recent years as a significant source for period lighting, with numerous record prices for Handel and Pairpoint lamps set there.
Cohen has been a respected figure on the Arts and Crafts scene for nearly three decades. A collection-builder keen on education and a regular exhibitor at the prestigious annual Grove Park Inn conference, he has quietly built a business from his Putnam, Conn. retreat.
Most important, as far as the merger was concerned, was that his own successful national-level auction service – headquartered in Lambertville – had set more ceramic price records than all other services combined.
Significantly, too, Rago, like Cohen, has been a “collector encourager” from the beginning. Some 16 years ago, his auction service was launched on a platform quite similar to Craftsman’s.
An unabashed advocate for the Arts and Crafts ethos, he has been a major spokesman for a value system which not only lauds fine individual hand work – that of the artist/craftsman – but suggests an entire lifestyle based on honesty and simplicity.
Rago’s wife, Suzanne Perrault, adds still another dimension of expertise to the venture. Ranking among the top art tile dealers in the country, Suzanne has also been an appraiser on the Antiques Road Show and manages the Perrault/Rago Gallery, located near the auction facility in Lambertville.
The “new” Craftsman will mount six sales each year, three high end “dazzler” events to be held at the Rago facility in Lambertville, three middle and entry level sales to be held at the spacious John Fontaine Gallery in Pittsfield, Craftsman’s traditional “home.”
David Rago will call the action in Lambertville, John Fontaine in Pittsfield, with both – along with Jerry – likely on hand at all events to help out. The service’s premiere sale will be Saturday, September 17 in Lambertville. In addition to the frequent regular sale schedule, other new collector and service-oriented plans and programs are already in the works, these made possible by the collapsing of the two organizations into one.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm