Published: July 4, 2000
WILTON, CONN. – Ringed by craters and mounds of dirt twenty feet high, this year’s Wilton Outdoor Marketplace was part antiques show, part environmental happening. But despite such distractions as new parking lots and altered traffic routes, disoriented shoppers quickly discovered it was the Marketplace they love, and then some.Coping with the construction may have been a headache for manager Marilyn Gould, but she rose to the occasion admirably, adapting to the changes and adding innovations of her own at the June 24-25 show.
This year’s changes will likely be permanent. Bringing in tons of soil, the town is building new playing fields adjacent to the Wilton High School. Gould, in response to the dictates of the land, rotated the show’s original footprint by 90 degrees, added a second entrance on what used to be the last row of booths, and moved a few exhibitors. Visitors entering on either side got the same impression of the Marketplace’s high-powered mix of country furniture and folk art, formal and decorative decor, and myriad specialties. The sophisticated display included 7-foot plywood walls and electric lighting.
“I thought the show looked terrific this year. The dealers did a super job,” said the satisfied manager, two days after the show’s close. She was already onto the next event. In July, Gould mounts her Hancock Shaker Village crafts fair and in August she will oversee the relocation of the Wilton Historical Society’s administrative offices. The 1757 building will be emptied out and, in what may be a first, moved by the State of Connecticut as part of its Route 7 expansion program.
The new layout resulted in wider aisles, improving air circulation among the 196 booths and simplifying set up. With added lots, parking was easier for customers but more difficult for volunteers working in the lots. They used an unprecedented 16 walky-talkies to communicate with one another.
Despite the manager’s best efforts, attendance declined slightly. Steamy weather may have been to blame. Though furniture is plentiful at this queen of outdoor fairs, objects were in greater demand from customers. Pack and carry was the order of the day, as lots of folk art, smalls, framed pieces, and portable garden antiques headed out the door.
Merchandise at the Marketplace is varied. As Manchester, Mass., dealer Susan Stella put it, “Quality is the only common denominator.” Stella’s own approach is to bring a little folk art, a little country furniture, some textiles, and a few pieces of Chinese export porcelain. “We get a very knowledgeable group of buyers here,” she says.
Not long after the Marketplace opened at 8 am on Saturday morning, Mark Moody of Shohola, Penn., had pasted red stickers to a painted tabouret table and a colorful felt rug whose clusters of red flowers were composed of dots of fabric tacked together tightly.
Weathervanes and other folk art classics always seem to sell at Wilton. Ann Arbor, Mich., dealer Denny Tracey was having trouble covering up the bare spots on his wall after he parted with, in rapid succession, a zinc running horse vane, a rooster vane, a sheet-iron horse sign, and a gameboard.
Charles and Barbara Adams sold architectural pieces, a table, a rug, and Maine Indian baskets. The South Yarmouth, Mass. dealers helped appraise the baskets currently on view at the Wilton Historical Society’s Betts-Sturges-Blackmar House. The dealers also lent some of their own.
Wicker, spotted at other outdoor shows this summer, was on the move at Wilton, too. Two commodious Victorian armchairs were escorted off the field by their new owners early Saturday morning. Perfect for the porch was a pair of spool-turned rocking chairs painted apple green, sold by Wenham Cross Antiques of Topsfield, Mass.
Dealer-to-dealer business was strong, both before the Marketplace opened and after. Exhibitor Jeff Bridgman snagged a paint-decorated double-door cupboard made in his home county of York, Penn. He was planning on taking it back home if it didn’t sell for near asking price, $6,500.
Rhinebeck, N.Y. dealer Frank Gaglio also chalked up sales to other professionals. A blue Hepplewhite table went to South Salem, N.Y. dealer John Russell, while a little Masonic frame ended up with Washington, D.C. dealer Guy Bush. Gaglio parted with his favorite piece, a super little dough-box table.
Mixing folk art and country furniture to stunning effect, Mary Sams of Ballyhack Antiques, Cornwall, Conn., offered several superb trade signs and a hooked rug with the intriguing inscription, “Souvenir,” $6,500. A set of Pennsylvania plank chairs with lively, painted decoration was marked $4,800 in the same stand.
Dealers aren’t afraid to bring their best pieces to the Marketplace. For instance, clock specialist Charles Breuel of Glemont, N.Y. offered a rare Pittsfield, Mass. tall clock made by Jordan Post, $18,500. The timepiece combined a country case of cherry with a stylish brass dial. Post apprenticed with Connecticut clockmaker Daniel Burnap before moving to Massachusetts and, later, to Canada.
Known for Eighteenth Century furniture and related accessories, Maine dealers Plummer and Philbrick came to Wilton with a Spanish foot corner chair, $7,500; and a pair of Queen Anne side chairs with yoke backs and vase splats, $7,500. The latter was ex-collection of the late show manager Russell Carrell. Also of note was an unusual wrought iron lighting device for candle or splint, $2,800.
The handsome goods that Brian Cullity brings always combine grace with intelligence. This time the Sagamore, Mass. dealer offered a child’s chest-on-stand. Made in southern New England, the unique casepiece was marked $12,500. Equally charming was a small seaweed picture, $400.
Mary Beth Keene was holding down the fort at Wayne Pratt Antiques while others in her crew were minding the shops in Woodbury, Conn., and Nantucket, Mass. On tap was a Connecticut Queen Anne flattop highboy, circa 1760, $48,000; and a circa 1720-40 tavern table in old blue paint, $16,000.
Gary and Martha Ludlow traveled from Lyndhurst, Ohio with a Hepplewhite bowfront chest of birch, $5,000, and a bannister back side chair, $1,450. Neighbor Charles Haver presented a bannister back chair with double-tombstone crest, $1,500.
Pennsylvania dealer John Sittig showed a late Federal mahogany chest of drawers with shaped skirt. Dating to 1830, the New York piece was $4,800. A pair of framed Scherenschnitte paper cuttings like snowflakes, $1,300, graced the wall above the chest. Made in Shaftsbury, Vt., a painted dome-top box of about 1840 was $1,250 at Kelly and Jenner of Sherman, Conn. “A number of boxes of this type survive, though not a lot is known about the maker,” John Jenner explained.
Michael May and Housley Carr, dealers from Carversville, Penn., retailed a Pennsylvania blanket chest with boldly grained and painted decoration. The country Sheraton piece on high, turned feet was $3,800. Alternately, collectors might have settled on painted chest of drawers offered by Charlton Bradsher of Asheville, N.C., who also displayed a carved and painted tobacconist’s figure, circa 1840, $5,900.
Doug Bradway of Comfort Fish, Springfield, Mass., called attention to an underinvestigated form of folk art, leather-decorated furniture and objects. From a distance these knick-knacks and whimsical pieces of occasional furniture with dark, monochrome surfaces and crimped edges resemble tramp art, and were probably made by the same kinds of gentleman hobbyists early in the Twentieth Century. A leather-edged etagere at Comfort Fish was $945, while a large frame with acorns was marked $895.
Not all furniture was country. A heavily carved console table was a showstopper at Dawn Hill Antiques. Painted a faded red and green, the Italian piece of circa 1780 was $11,500. Better known for American furniture, Doug Jenkins of Natick, Mass., retailed a Northern European burled top center table, $2,600.
There was also Modern decor. Interior designers are finally mixing retro furniture with antiques. In a nod to the eclectic look that is being shown in all the shelter magazines, Praiseworthy Antiques of New York City combined folk art with a pair of chests manufactured by the American Cabinet Company, designer unknown, and an Edward Wormley coffee table of “quilted” maple. “Already prices for pieces by the best mid-century Modern designers are going through the roof,” noted Praiseworthy’s Doug Taylor. Karl Springer chairs of 1963 were $850 for the set. Dating to the 1920s but traditional in style was a set of six handmade side chairs of vivid tiger maple. The chairs were $1,895 at Joy and Palmer Shannon’s, Cape Elizabeth, Me.
Folk art dealer Marna Anderson devoted one wall to a long, two-tiered shelf on she arranged a provocative collection of smalls, among them a primitive carving in bone, an abacus, and a framed tintype photograph. The composition set off a kind of conversation among the objects, much the way a Cornell box of found objects might have. On another wall, a collection of barbed wire, filigreed and rustic at the same time, hung from four-foot wooden strips. Gathered and arranged by a friend of the New Paltz, N.Y. dealer, the sculptural wire was $1,400.
It was just the thing to loosen the purse strings of Wilton shoppers: a set of figural ten pins in old paint. “I buy ten pins whenever I can,” confessed Wilmington, Del. dealer Joyce Windle. “They’re such good sellers.” Windle’s was $210.
Sporting art specialist Stephen O’Brien, Jr. brought a booth full of decoys and models, plus his complete color catalogue, full of goodies like paintings by John Whorf and A. Lassell Ripley, contemporary and antique ducks and shorebirds, and antique fish carvings. The centerpiece of his stand was a carved and painted Atlantic salmon, $16,500, by John Tully and Dhuie Tully. The husband and wife team worked out of Gordon Castle on the River Spey. The plaque, dated 1914, is one of only six American fish they are known to have carved.
Garden antiques were plentiful, as were customers to buy it. Well-known specialist Barbara Israel was seen chatting in the booth of James and Judy Milne, where a pair of cast-iron whippets had recently been spoken for. Jennings & Rohn of Woodbury, Conn. surmounted a cast iron and marble table, $925, with a pair of early Twentieth Century lead statues, $1,900.
Village Braider was off to a busy start, having sold a large French flower cart. The Plymouth, Mass. dealers were asking $3,500 for a magnificent Italian glazed polychrome urn with ram’s handles. The inscribed vessel was made in the village of Triana.
A smattering of twig and other rustic decor turned up around the field, but it was left to Moose America of Rangeley, Me. to promote split-log camp furniture. A pair of twin beds made with Beacon blankets was $950. A nice selection of creels started at $125.
Heavy wool rugs can be off-putting on a hot summer day, but it was a tribute to Tad Runge’s choice inventory that shoppers were drawn to his stand. The Yarmouth, Me. dealer brought an appealing selection of Herizes, making it possible to decorate an entire room, or much of a house, in harmonious colors and patterns.
“The Heriz is one of our very best sellers,” Runge explained. “We stick to examples from the 1920s. The carpets are still available from that date, but the dyes are natural and the patterns are refined.” Ranging from 8 by 10 to about 9 by 12 feet, the carpets run from about $6,000 to $12,000.
When Middletown, Conn. dealer Paul Weld died earlier this year, he left a collection of extraordinary depth and variety. Some of Weld’s things have been quietly coming onto the market, through auction or private sale. New York City dealer Susan Parrish featured quilts from the Weld collection. The American, English and French examples dated to 1820.
At American Whimsey, an Amish nine-patch quilt was $1,900. The Midwestern piece was an attractive medley of colors on a taupe ground. A hooked mat decorated with two lovebirds, standing beak to beak, was $2,200.
“Victorian is very big,” noted Stan Slavin, long known for his interesting selections of bed and table coverings. The New York City textiles dealer has shifted his focus slightly, adding tapestries and paisleys to an inventory that has long included quilts, chenille throws, and cotton floral spreads perfect for country interiors. Amish carriage shawls in neutral colors were a wonderfully understated attraction in this stand.
Art jewelry, a personal interest of Marilyn Gould, is well represented at the Marketplace. Exhibitors with nice selections of rare, antique, or novel adornments include Jon and Jan Maggs and Malcolm Magruder, to name but two.
Known for her extensive selection of Georg Jensen sterling, Janet Drucker of Mount Kisco, N.Y. brought along several Modernist pieces. A bracelet by Nanna Ditzel for Georg Jensen, dated 1960, was $1,200. A sterling and quartz neck collar by Torun, circa 1965, was $780.
Leah Gordon of New York City had unusual archaeological revival jewelry. For sale was a snake bracelet of gold with emerald eyes, and a gold snake necklace, circa 1870, embellished with enamel, pearls, and garnets. The latter was encased in its original fitted box.
Gordon’s other specialty is art pottery. Perfect for the show’s warm, sunny day was a deeply carved Roseville Sunflower vase, $2,300, of 1930, and a pair of Sunflower two-handled vases, $2,275 each.
A dealer from Lewes, England, Stuart Cropper stands out among his colleagues with his charming assortment of interesting, quaint, and amusing rdf_Descriptions. This time it was a collection of darling tea cozies that caught one’s eye. All fashioned as thatched roof cottages, they were worked in needlepoint, felt, or raffia and ranged from $100 to $225 each.
Fine arts included two 1762 Piranesi prints of Castel Gandolfo, $695 and $895, at Carter and Kathryn LaVay of Riverside, Conn. John D. Gould of Yorktown Heights, N.Y., devoted half of his booth to gilded frames, which shoppers could be seen pouring over. And Joyce Ruskin and Lee Hanes recreated an early American interior, complete with gate-leg table, highboy and an anonymous painting of a New Haven, Conn. girl. The 1815 canvas was $8,500 in the Westbrook, Conn. dealers’ booth.
The Wilton Outdoor Antiques Marketplace presents the opportunity to see favorite dealers from around the country, all at the same time. One old new face belonged to Melissa Greene, formerly of John Sideli Antiques, Sheffield, Mass. The Westport, Conn. dealer set up with her new partner, Donald Mays.
Alexis Mihura opened his first shop in Norwalk, Conn. 33 years ago. For years, the owner of Eagle’s Lair Antiques was a fixture of the New York/Connecticut show scene. Six months ago, Mihura up and relocated his business to Sarasota, Fla., where he has a vacation home. It was great to see Alexis back on his home turf in Wilton.
Marilyn Gould returns to Wilton with the DAR Marketplace on Sunday, September 17.
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