Published: November 11, 2003
– The fall or “pumpkin” edition of the Kramers’ Heart of Country Show in Nashville is still a smaller event than the longer-running Valentine’s Heart — 110 exhibitors compared to over 200 in the spring. This season of the year is controlled by a complex schedule of fixed shows on the East Coast, while the Opryland Hotel-bound Heart dates may vary by a week or two. But the October show has gained its own strength of sales and distinctive character, as the nucleus of a weekend drawing another 300 dealers to tailgates across Music Valley Parkway.
Familiar faces like Harold Cole, Greg Kramer, and the Deuprees were on hand to buy and sell merchandise with the many collectors and dealers who come from the Great Lakes, Midwest and South for the Heart of Country reunion.
When the fiddler struck up the first strains of “Rocky Top” at the Thursday night preview, there were plenty of bodies galloping down the aisles, but an important presence was missing. For the first time ever, show founder Libby Kramer — Heart’s heart — was not at her beloved show. Stricken with bronchitis, she stayed home in St Louis on doctor’s orders and husband Dick remained with her. Fortunately, the family organization that has grown stronger over the years stepped in to carry on. Familiar faces on the floor included daughter Marianne Kramer Haskins, son-in-law Stephen Hunkins and grandchildren Stephen Jr and Samuel, both show kids from birth.
Dr Dennis Paustenbach has a real day job at his home in California, but has been fascinated since Midwestern college days by pie safes as a regional furniture form. During his research, he has examined and photographed thousands of safes from the heartland, and he returned this fall to share his discoveries with collectors during an illustrated lecture on Friday. The rest of the time, he fielded questions at the exhibit and took yet more pictures around the floor for his book on the subject. One stop was in the booth of Tennessee dealer Mary Jo Case who showed him her home-state example with unique side tins, priced at $7,850. With Paustenbach in residence, exhibitors showed off what they had in stock and turned the Pumpkin Preview Party into Pie Safe Central.
Opening night is still buy first, eat later. Shaker authority Chuck Muller really wanted to talk but rushed off with a “I have to find something to buy.” Displays on the floor are divided into dealers with familiar country classics — the show will never go on without painted furniture and quilts –and exhibitors who offer more unusual folk art and found objects. And both sell.
Brant Mackley of Hummelstown, Penn., carries very high quality Native American material but one of the first things to sell in his booth was a vivid panther hooked rug that would look perfect in Florida with rattan and Roseville. He said, ” The rug sold during the first ten minutes of the show; it’s really exquisitely hooked with a color palette from the 1940s.” A striking find for another collector was a large folk art head with angular features purchased from Hypoint Farm in Barrington, Ill.
Just like last February, a team from Ralph Lauren’s Polo swept through, leaving dealers with the right look studded with sold tags. Transatlantique of Costa Mesa, Calif., was a perfect choice with its vintage luggage and decorative furniture. Happy owner Robert Watson said, “People had been telling us we should contact Ralph Lauren because this is what we specialize in.” Polo also made multiple purchases from Mark Morris of Dayton, Ohio, who commented that they seemed to be buying for their decorating warehouse. They also bought a stack of painted trade signs from Harold Cole of Woodbury, Conn.
“It’s been incredible — sold, sold, sold,” said Rick Ege of St Louis, as he pointed around the booth. “Polo bought half of it and then my regular customers. And I had an amazing setup, the best setup I’ve ever done.” Among the rdf_Descriptions with sold tags were a hooked rug with cats and stars, which had been priced at $1,100, a huge painting of an elk, and a grain painted hat rack.
Beyond the fun stuff, however, nothing sells better at Heart than the basics. Terry Daniel who comes from Newville, Penn., with wife Brenda is a specialist in dry sinks and brought an unbelievable pair of identical twin examples from Lebanon County, Penn., which were priced at $3,800 each. On Saturday, he said, “I sold the sugar chest, a seven-foot cherry table, a chair rail hanging corner cupboard yesterday — I had a really good day, and we’re having a great show.”
Karen and Charley Buckingham from Burleson, Texas, also had a good grasp of their market. She said, “We’ve sold large hooked rugs, one room size, a portrait of young boy from Maryland, an early Eighteenth Century shelving unit, lighting, wall paper boxes, stone fruit and quite a bit of pewter. The show’s been great.” At the center of their display was a New Hampshire architectural cupboard, circa 1790, for $12,500 with cream-colored paint.
New dealers with something completely different were B and D Antiques and Art Pottery of Shepherstown, W.V. Dale Jones said, “I read an article on Heart of Country in an antiques paper and thought, I think this is show we should do — it sounds like a lot of fun.” In addition to a beautiful Rookwood vase decorated in 1892 by Kataro Shirayamadani for $9,500, Jones and partner Robert Shores had filled a New England step back cupboard with a complete set of Roseville cookie jars in every pattern and color the firm made, priced together at $10,690.
Less than four months will pass until the next Heart of Country, which previews on February 5. Libby Kramer promises to be back on the floor with Dick and without the cough. For more information and Adventure Tour itinerary, call 800-862-1090.
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