Published: August 23, 2022
Review & Photos by Rick Russack
DEERFIELD, N.H. – At 9 am on a hot August 8, Rachel and Josh Gurley opened their show, which had about 75 exhibitors, at the Deerfield fairgrounds. The Gurley family has been conducting this staple of what is now known as New Hampshire Antiques Week for about 30 years. It’s worth repeating the word “hot.” The temperature may or may not have actually reached 100 degrees, but if it didn’t, it didn’t miss by much. The show always has a long line of shoppers waiting for it to open; this year about 450 entered quickly. The Gurleys arranged for that line to be mostly in the shade, a fact appreciated by those waiting, and they distributed water to those asking. They also had a number of chairs, so some who were waiting could sit. Most exhibitors are set up in fairground buildings, while about 20 set up outside. Dealers had been advised to bring fans, and those who brought them used them.
The theme of the show has always been good country Americana and this year was no different. Many, if not most, of the dealers have done other Gurley shows (in Dover, N.H., Bath, Maine, Boxborough, Mass., Marlborough, Mass., or Scarborough, Maine), so Rachel Gurley is confident of the type of merchandise they will be showing. Accordingly, there’s painted woodenware in abundance, painted furniture, hooked rugs, redware, stoneware, treen, early glass, trade signs, etc. That doesn’t mean you won’t find early ceramics, and this year one dealer had a selection of Nineteenth and early Twentieth Century art glass. Several dealers commented on the solid preshow buying and selling.
One of the more unusual items was an early tube radio. Why would we use the word “unusual” when talking about a radio? Because this one was in a very elaborate tramp art case, which had been deliberately made to conceal the radio. It belonged to Linda and Steve Davis, who operate part of the year in Florida and part of the year in New Hampshire. It was priced at $895. Set up outside, they also had a selection of decoys, baskets, early ceramics and some Shaker boxes.
Another particularly unusual piece was a brightly colored folk art bird tree more than 2 feet tall, which, from a distance, appeared to have been chalkware. But chalkware isn’t that large. It was made of carved wood by a self-taught artist named Silvio Zoratti (1896-1992). He was born in Italy, but at the age of nine he moved to Austria where he was apprenticed to a stonemason. He would later serve in World War I and was a prisoner of war, later emigrating to the United States and eventually settling in Ohio, where he worked as a stonemason until retiring in 1961. He made some stone carvings for himself but apparently did not begin working with wood until after he retired. It is believed that he did about 300 wood carvings, most of which were displayed outdoors around his home near Lake Erie. His works, after his death, have been displayed at the American Folk Art Museum.
First-time exhibitors Bob Zordani and Heidi Kellner, Z&K Antiques, Lexington, Va., had two examples of Zoratti’s work in addition to the colorful bird tree, which was priced $1,500. One was a carving of Uncle Sam and the other one, a smaller carving of an eagle, was priced $95. He said they had owned other examples of Zoratti’s work. One of the show’s unusual pieces of stoneware, an inscribed three-handled loving cup, was also in the Z&K booth.
The best measure of a show are the statements exhibitors make a day or two after the show. What did Gurley’s exhibitors have to say? Brett Cabral, Salem, N.H., supplied the following comments, which were echoed by others: “Once again the Gurley family invited their antiques family to join them in a fun-filled and successful day of buying and selling. This is the way the business was way back when. You weathered the elements and purchased and sold merchandise. You can still feel the energy of Nan Gurley riding around, checking in with dealers and searching for a few treasures. She must be proud to look down and see how her family has carried on.
“This show has some of the best pickers in New England selling quality antiques. Who needs A/C when you buy a great object at a reasonable price and hang in the sun, eat flavored ice and get some darn good slices of pie? The sales this year were right on target. Bull’s-eye!”
Chuck Auerbach echoed, saying, “It was a solid, well-run show. The only negative was the heat, otherwise, it was terrific.” Camille Buda added, “Quite simply, it was fantastic! Bought well, sold well and customers were the best. Have done the show since Rachel and Josh took it over and have never been disappointed; this year it exceeded expectations.” Betty Lavallee agreed, “It was a really good show for me, as usual. We all stayed positive in spite of the weather. I feel lucky to have had a relationship with the Gurley family all these years. Good sales, good crowd and a good time.”
A few days after the show, Rachel Gurley said, “The quality of the stuff offset the weather. I know that several of the dealers had five-figure shows – that’s due to the quality. We’ve started opening the show at 9 am instead of 10 am, the way we used to and that helped, weatherwise. People didn’t have to stand in line when it was really hot. We gave out water and we ran a shuttle from the parking area so that folks didn’t have to walk. We had a three-piece ragtime band playing between the two buildings, which was really fun. We almost sold out everything we brought and had to rearrange the booth three times. That’s the kind of problem we like.”
The Gurleys have a number of shows in New Hampshire, Maine and Massachusetts scheduled over the next few months. Check their website www.gurleyantiqueshows.com or call Rachel at 207-396-4255 or Josh, 207-229-0403.
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