FARMINGTON, CONN. – There’s nothing better than a summer show on a beautiful day. Sunshine, newly mown grass, burgers on a grill, antiques al fresco. Estival charms beckon us time and again, eclipsing our memory of summer’s evil twin, that menacing season of searing heat, choking humidity, lightning strikes and lashing rain.
Summer shows are always a gamble. Those who participated in the latest Farmington Antiques Weekend lost the bet, but just this time. They’ll be back at the Polo Grounds on September 2-3. With any luck, the weather will be fine.
Farmington Antiques Weekend got off to a vigorous start on Saturday, June 10, when gates opened for early buying at 7 am. Selling was reportedly strong.
Those who made it early to the show enjoyed everything it has to offer: quality, selection, value, even a French toast breakfast with all the fixings.
Despite Farmington’s large size – nearly 600 exhibitors in all – this show remains a model of efficient management, pleasant and well organized for buyers and sellers alike. For all this, patrons can thank Bob, Abby, Bret and Karen McInnis of Revival Promotions in Grafton, Mass.
The managers were of course helpless to stop the heat and humidity that began climbing on Saturday morning. By 10 am, when Farmington opened for general admission, the mercury was well into the 80s. By late afternoon the temperature was just short of 100 degrees. With more heat the next day, clouds began to gather and thunder showers seemed likely. At 3 pm on Sunday, the heavens split open, drenching dealers and ripping tents from the ground. As reported in June 16 issue of Antiques and The Arts Weekly, injuries were few, fortunately, but damage to merchandise was substantial. It took two days to clean up the field.
Photographs of the show, taken before the deluge, underscore merchandise trends as reflected at Farmington. This is still a prime spot for finding garden furniture, garden structures, and garden accessories. Metal furniture of all vintages remains a staple.
One of the broadest selections was offered by Joni Lima of Damariscotta, Me., and his partner Joseph Spaider of Delray Beach, Fla. They teamed up to offer metal and glass-top patio furniture manufactured by Salterini, Woodard and Molla between 1900 and 1940. For tables in need of restoration, the dealers employ the acid-finish techniques of the original.
Wicker is making a real comeback. There was lots of it at the Polo Grounds this time, including handsome turn-of-the-century sets at Robert Trites and Laura Schoene of Bar Harbor, Me.
With specialists bringing them to leading garden antiques shows and shelter magazines picturing them, garden accessories such as sprinklers, tools and frogs have been appreciating in recent years. One well-stocked source for all of the above was Morrison Antiques. The Waterford, Conn., dealers offered frogs and tools from $20 and up. Sprinklers were $50 and up.
We thought we saw more oak on the field this time, and not just the Mission style made popular by Barbra Streisand and Richard Gere, but classic Golden Oak. Doug Schmitt, a dealer from Lake Ariel, Penn., had two booths full of Victorian and Edwardian pieces. “There’s always demand for a good piece of oak,” says Schmitt. “The challenge is being able to buy and resell a piece at a price that retail customers will accept.” Schmitt, who does meticulous restoration work, offers only rdf_Descriptions in perfect repair.
As prices on early samplers soar, some collectors are turning to pre-printed or paper punch work samplers of the early to mid-Twentieth Century. Offering homespun images and folky homilies, these inexpensive needleworks start at about $25 and up. Two sources at Farmington were Wiswall Antiques of Durham, N.H., and Oval Antiques of Westfield, N.J. Sock dolls were another whimsical rdf_Description found on the field. Roxie Taylor of Simsbury, Conn., had cute monkeys made of stuffed utility socks, $45 each.
Silver’s hot these days, as savvy collectors realize that finely crafted wares are still great values. Spencer Gordon and Mark McHugh, who are well known from their stands at the New York Armory shows, have been taking advantage of the growing interest in the gleaming metal by setting up at some new locations. Internet sales for the Walpole, Mass., dealers are increasing, and they are augmenting their business by traveling further afield to other shows. The dealers are pictured here with a representative silver assortment, ranging from a Georgian coffee urn of 1798 to a Colonial Revival piece from the 1930s.
As summer days heat up, collectors begin thinking of water, and of boats large and small. Paris, Me., dealer John Magoun came with a fleet of canoes and paddles. Emmons & Martin of Essex, Mass., on the other hand, offered pond yachts.
Other sporting rdf_Descriptions of note included old golf clubs, well priced at Oval Antiques. Dealers Bill and Evelyn MacRitchie of Westfield, N.J. are also shown on these pages with their other love, Lionel trains. A good set dating to 1925 was $900. Towers to stand atop model train tracks were $400 and up.
If you haven’t stocked up on vintage hardware, do so before it’s all collected. While larger architectural artifacts are becoming scarce, hardware is still relatively plentiful. A good selection of knobs and other jewelry for cabinets and doors was on hand at Olde Good Things, a firm with locations in Manhattan and Scranton, Penn.
“Country Style” may wax and wane, but you wouldn’t know it at Farmington, still a stronghold for rustic, primitive, and non-urban decor. Ken Silveri of Ambler, Penn., featured an enticing selection of Pennsylvania wares, from painted chairs to jacquard coverlets.
A country piece that was an instant sale was Marie Miller’s cannonball rope bed with a gutsy, shaped headboard. The Dorset, Vt. dealer, a consummate professional, was still fresh as a daisy at Farmington, despite having set up at back-to-back shows over the past few weeks.
Marie and several other exhibitors demonstrate that outdoors doesn’t need to be Spartan. New York City dealer Terry Ross put together a plush stand, one featuring a day bed slipcovered in velvet, plus lots of squishy cushions, soft throws, and overscaled, whitewashed furniture.
In keeping with Ross’s white-on-white allure was Elmwood Antiques of West Hartford, Conn. Their stand of undecorated white ironstone looked as cool and fresh as a cucumber in the wilting heat.
Peter Hunt is not as well known as he should be. The father of a kind of paint decoration that resembles Norwegian rosemaling of the 1940s, Hunt set up shop in Provincetown, Mass. By 1952 he had published his popular guide, Peter Hunt’s How-To-Do-It-Book, which disseminated the Hunt look around the country. Examples of Hunt furniture turn up now and then, most recently at The Brewster Shop Antiques. Kim Kassner, of Brewster, Mass., was offering a brightly painted chair inscribed “Rest and Enjoy,” for $145. Kassner also showed brown transferware in mix and match patterns, perfect for the country table.
More and more exhibitors have their websites up and running, making shopping the Farmington Antiques Weekend a 365-day a year pursuit. Check out Olde Good Things at oldegoodthings.com; Dad’s Follies at dadsfollies.com; and the White Ironstone China Association at ironstonechina.org.