Published: October 24, 2017
Linda Zukas of Textile Show Associates in Cape Neddick, Maine, is well known as the founder and director of the twice annual Vintage Fashion & Antique Textiles shows, featuring fabrics, quilts, trimmings, buttons, linens, ethnic textiles and all manner of collectible fashions of every era. Staged at the Host Hotel in Sturbridge, Mass., the popular fairs preface the Brimfield Week markets in May and September. An adventurous spirit and artistic inclinations prompted Zukas to first explore the antiques business nearly four decades ago.
Is it true you worked as a boat captain?
I went to the Florida Keys when I was 19 and worked on a charter boat. At the time, I was the youngest woman to get a captain’s license. I was really a “fair weather” captain, only going out in nice weather. My boat sank and I was rescued by a Cuban fisherman. Between the boat and selling my pottery, which wasn’t very good, I made a living. In those days, you had to hang around the docks, waiting for someone who wanted to charter your boat. I did that for a few years, but got bored and decided to continue my education.
How did your antiques business begin?
While I was going to college, I took $150 of my rent money and bought a trunk full of old linens and textiles. I still needed rent money, so I went to a flea market in Newfane, Vt. I sold enough to cover my rent. I kept going to Newfane and before I knew it, I was a dealer. Like everyone else, I did Brimfield and other shows, eventually opening my first store on Newbury Street in Boston. Rents at the far end of the street were reasonable in those days.
There aren’t many shows like yours, are there?
No, and that’s one reason they do well. It will be our 28th year in 2018. The shows are indoors. I believed that textiles had to be out of the rain and sun, so indoor shows made sense. The first one had about 50 exhibitors. Now there are about 125 exhibitors. The offerings are split between textiles and vintage fashions. The show attracts designers and other fashion industry professionals from New York City and other style capitals. They look for textiles they can use in their businesses. Many of these shoppers just buy swatches. If a fabric predates 1939, its copyright has expired and buyers are able to reproduce the pattern. We’re also seeing a lot of Asian buyers. Ethnic textiles are in demand. The shows have remained successful in part because the buyers and sellers are attuned to trends. Variety makes the shows timely and relevant.
How do you describe yourself professionally?
If you asked me what I’m doing these days, I’d say that I’m an artist. I work in three areas. Since my college days, I’ve been taking black and white photographs. It’s my first love. I traveled to Greece, later spent three weeks in Haiti and have visited several other countries. Children and timeless scenes are my favorite subjects. I get wonderful, ghostly images from infrared photography. I make collages, using ephemera, giving them a timeless or antique effect. I was out of the pottery world for about 20 years, but I’ve been taking classes and studying. I’m finally starting to become satisfied with the quality of my work. I’m partial to raku-type glazes that often produce a primitive look. With raku glazes, you are never sure how something will look when the firing is done. There are always surprises. I’ve started to copy old weathervanes in clay. I’ve done a fish, a rabbit, a seahorse and others.
Where can we see your work?
Actually, nowhere yet. I’m putting together a body of work that I’m satisfied with, and then I hope to arrange a gallery show. I’ve always been reluctant to discuss my artwork. Almost no one knows I’ve been doing it. I’m comfortable with it now. It’s the next chapter in my life. This is the first time I’ve talked about my artistic work. I feel as if I’m just coming out.
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