Published: December 7, 2021
Photos & Review by Rick Russack
MARLBOROUGH, MASS. – The Gurley Thanksgiving Sunday show in Marlborough has long been a staple of the New England show schedule. But it, like so many other shows, has been absent due to Covid policies. It was back this year, however, and there were more dealers, about a hundred, and attendance was strong. The oft-repeated comment was “glad this is back.”
Attendees at a Gurley show know they will see a wide selection of Americana, folk art, painted woodenware, country and formal furniture, stoneware, redware, textiles, decoys, etc. This year was a little different. Yes, all the things one knows to expect from a Gurley show were present, but there were strong representations in other areas. There were Sixteenth and Seventeenth Century ceramics in several booths, including Oliver Garland, Ross Levett, John Prunier, Brian Cullity and others. Hollis Brodrick, who hasn’t done the show in several years, included early historical paper. Dennis and Anne Berard, who also haven’t done the show in years, filled a booth with Eighteenth Century English ceramics. Early Asian ceramics were available in several booths. Perhaps one of the biggest surprises was the booth of Rachel and Josh Gurley, which was filled with Midcentury Modern furniture, glassware, sculpture and more. It was the first booth you’d see when entering the building.
The folk art enthusiast would probably have been drawn to the group of three early, well-dressed cloth dolls that were brought by Tom Jewett and Butch Berdan, New Castle, Maine. They named one George Washington. He was priced $650, and one of the others was $750 and the other was $950. On the wall they had a colorful shirred rug on bed-ticking depicting a landscape with a house and what appeared to be a deer. John Sideli, Westport, Mass., had a painted wooden locomotive priced at $850.
Good quality brown furniture is alive and well and was available in several booths. Morgan Macwhinnie, Southampton, N.Y., had a large corner booth full. Benting and Jarvis, Barrington, N.H., had several pieces, as they always do. Jason Hietela, Lancaster, Mass., also filled a large booth along the back wall with almost nothing but brown furniture. He had a group of three highboys; a tiger maple example, which he said was from the area of Gloucester, R.I., circa 1740-60, was priced $8,000.
Several dealers reported strong sales. Jerrilyn Mayhew, Woodsview Antiques, Sandwich, Mass., said that she had a very good show with sales including an Eighteenth Century pegged tavern table with a one-board top and original red-painted base, a Nineteenth Century small hanging cupboard with original red paint, a large cheese basket with original surface, several pieces of early lighting and many early smalls. She also made a comment repeated by other dealers, “We’ve been doing this show for ten years, starting with Nan and now with Rachel and Josh …and we’ve never been disappointed!” Dennis Berard, Dennis and Dad Antiques, echoed the feeling, saying, “The number of dealers doing the show was historic owing to the admiration dealers have for Rachel’s personality and work ethic. It was a great opening crowd, and while we may not be able to buy a new car with our results, buying among dealers doing the show is always a plus for us.” Stephen Score, in his inimitable fashion, summed it up, “Expansive – Energy – Sales! A post-Covid Unshriveling. Glad to be There!”
It was a surprise to see a large booth full of exclusively Midcentury Modern furniture and accessories. Josh and Rachel Gurley, both of whom had been raised with folk art and traditional Americana, had the opportunity to buy an estate of a little-known furniture designer, Leander Poisson, a New Hampshire resident who lived a very simple lifestyle; a firm believer in a self-reliant existence. He built a futuristic cement-and-glass house on a southern slope of a New Hampshire mountain. An inveterate designer and experimenter, he developed a heating system requiring little fuel, grew a solar garden and designed some furniture. Whatever he invented, he did not manufacture, but instead he sold the plans. For example, he sold 35,000 copies of his plan for a solar dehydrator – his device for processing and storing food. He and his wife wrote a book, still available from Amazon, Solar Gardening, about growing vegetables year-round. He also designed the furniture he lived with. He was not a commercial furniture maker and little of his furniture is known.
Rachel Gurley was asked if there were new or younger dealers exhibiting at the show and she named two. The Americana Workshop, Kennebunk, Maine, was one. Two young women, Beth Nowicki and Allie Harris set up the booth for their boss, Cindy Hamilton. It was a first for them, and they later said they “sold an array of items like an early weathervane, duck decoys, wool blankets, vintage holiday pieces and an assortment of other decorative wares.” They also commented, “Every dealer at this show had a specific niche that they represented well and everyone could tell a story to their customer about their items.” The other dealer that Gurley mentioned was Oliver Garland, Falmouth, Mass. Garland’s background and merchandise differ from most of the other exhibitors. He was raised in Great Britain and both of his parents were dealers (or “traders” to use the British term) as were other members of his family and he grew up surrounded by “early stuff.” That meant that Americana was not the only thing he saw growing up, but instead he was exposed to the high-end British antiques shows, galleries and shops. He’s been self-employed in the business since 2010, specializing in folk art and what he terms “curiosities” from the Seventeenth to Nineteenth Centuries, including early paintings, treen, Asian items and ceramics.
After the show, Rachel Gurley said, “We were really happy with the show this year. It was a sold-out floor with an amazing group of dealers and antiques! Sales were brisk. We saw some new faces in the crowd, and we were delighted to see our old friends and customers.” The Gurleys have a full slate of shows coming up with regularly scheduled shows in Boxborough, Mass., Bath, Maine, Dover, N.H., and a show in Scarborough, Maine, in April 2022. For more information, www.gurleyantiqueshows.com, 207-396-4255 or 207-229-0403.
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