Published: May 24, 2016
May Fields Blossom With Eager Shoppers, Prime Antiques
Review & Photos by Tom O’Hara, Greg Smith,
W.A. Demers and Andrea Valluzzo
BRIMFIELD, MASS. — The rarest item at Brimfield’s spring session, May 10–14, may have been a parking space. Whether it was the weather — halcyon after a miserable week prior to the event — pent-up mojo for the season’s first real outdoor treasure hunt or something less fathomable, this season’s opener was jam-packed, both with participating dealers and eager shoppers. Full, Full, Full was the operative word at each individual field parking lot as a parade of not-so-early-birds were diverted to residential side streets off Route 20 where some entrepreneurial homeowners made a killing selling space on their lawns for between $7 and $10 a vehicle. Want to get a quick Pilgrim sandwich for lunch? Fuggedaboutit! Good problems to have, the commerce-minded would say.
We are here to talk about antiques, however. The following pages showcase a small portion of the bounty that awaited Brimfield faithfuls.
May 10 saw the weather, which had been just awful for more than a week, break beautifully for the thousands of shoppers and exhibiting dealers in this small New England village made famous by the antiques market that Gordon Reed started more than 60 years ago.
As the gates to Dealer’s Choice were swung aside by Tom Faxon and his son, many hundreds of anxious shoppers, collectors and dealers walked, jogged and ran past them to their favorite exhibits to have the first look at the fresh collections available. Dealer’s Choice, Faxon’s field, was sold out of spaces that morning so there was a great deal from which to choose.
Off to the side under the trees John and Liz Gould were holding forth with their collection of early frames, selling well. He reported quick sales of some frames, along with furniture from their Yorktown Heights, N.Y., shop and home.
Further down that row, Larson’s Clock Shop, Westminster, Vt., was selling many later clocks, pieces from the Nineteenth Century.
Lancaster, Penn., exhibitor Steve Smoot emptied his van onto the grass to show an excellent Amish- style coverlet, a Nineteenth Century faux grain paint decorated blanket chest and an assortment of 100- to 200-year-old art.
Circling around to the back of the field, under Faxon’s pavilion, Muriel Knutson had her silver all spread out with the help of her two sons. Trading from her Thomaston, Maine, shop, Anchor Farm Antiques, she has been a regular at Dealer’s Choice for many years. On this day, she was too busy selling to visit.
Katie Hallenburg, Summit, N.J., spent a dozen years in London’s Notting Hill neighborhood, where she was able to learn about many small English antiques, especially silhouettes. They have become her specialty, with more than 100 from the last 300 years on display and for sale.
Holly Kahn, Brookline, Mass., was selling small antiques from the first moments of the show. She had one of the most ornate early sterling child’s rattles available, a special piece with English hallmarks.
Across the street at 1 pm, Brimfield Acres North opened with again wonderful response from the huge crowds.
The collections here included that of Larry Shapiro, who had just purchased contents of an estate near his Glastonbury, Conn., home. One of its collections included dozens of early boxes with their original advertising still intact.
The Boat House, Wiscasset, Maine, will be doing this show from Maine for the last time, according to owner Roger Williams. He announced that before the July Brimfield he, family and the business will have moved to North Carolina. His collection for this week included about a dozen pairs of andirons in brass.
S.B. Adams Antiques offered a collection of antique firearms from the firm’s shop in Westport Island, Maine.
Pat Greika, Stafford, Conn., — with daughters and even a granddaughter — was in the usual place at the front of the show with an assortment of small, precious antique handcrafts. Pat found a few pieces of scrimshaw for this show, one looking like a bone pocket knife, another a sewing device.
Lancaster, Mass., exhibitor Matt Trueblood presented a collection of Eighteenth Century New England hardwood furniture, while in the next space, Tom Pirozzoli of Goshen, N.H., offered painted soft wood and country furniture, a great contrast.
A little further back, Bud Hughes, Stratham, N.H., set up a display of 200-year-old Americana, and across the aisle, the Sherwoods of Cambridge, N.Y., offered some that was a bit younger.
“You, in the red shirt, you’re gonna get hit,” admonished one of Brimfield’s finest as the traffic cop tried to herd the growing crowd off the travel lane of Route 20 at the entrance to New England Motel at 6 am. This popular field, the first to open midweek, nearly always attracts a large, enthusiastic crowd of shoppers, and even with two entrances Marie Doldoorian’s family members and staff had their hands full taking money and handing out tickets.
Hard by the show’s main entrance, Linda and Howard Roberts of White Orchid Antiques, Bordentown, N.J., waxed philosophical as the crowd surged past their booth in a stampeding herd. In this spot for almost 20 years, they knew that shoppers would circle back, especially for the opportunity to buy an all-original oak kitchen Hoosier from the 1920s–30s or a striking wall sculpture of copper and brass, signed Silas Seandel, 1974. The New York City-based metal sculptor (b 1937) opened his studio in 1963 and is known for his unique pieces of sculptured furniture and architectural commissions.
Political memorabilia junkies could get their fix down the way at Respectable Collectables, Old Bridge, N.J., where a slew of interesting campaign buttons and other items were on offer. The earliest button here among the dealer’s inventory of 1,000 or more was an 1888 President Benjamin Harrison political campaign lapel example.
After a peripatetic life in various exotic locales, including northern Europe and the Middle East, Jonathan Bancroft and Sandra Daniels were testing Brimfield waters for the first time from Dallas, as Sarah Christine Gallery. Sandra is an expert in Middle Eastern antiquities; indeed, she dug up some of the Turkish copper bowls that she was showing along with a hand painted Swedish bench and Adirondack-style porch roundels from Maine. The commodious bench, dated 1862, came out of a village in Sweden, not a shop, and with colorful floral and tulip decoration and lifttop, it would make a great entry seat with storage.
Doing business under one of New England Motel’s pavilions was James Dolph, who as JSD Antiques, Durham, N.H., always brings fine Asian and European material. Along with a good amount of Wedgwood, Italian pietra dura and Satsuma, he was showing a collection of inros, all period, and tsubas. A standout in his booth was a Wedgwood crimson two-handled Portland vase, circa 1920s.
Later in the morning, another large phalanx of shoppers surged on the field of Heart-O-The Mart.
In a prime spot, Artefact Architectural Antiques, Doylestown, Penn., was set up, showing its stock-in-trade garden and architectural antiques. A fun item was a school marching band drum from the 1940s that was politically incorrect front and back. On the front was a grinning Native American and on the reverse side a rawhide apron could be lifted to reveal a ruse surprise.
A great set of six paint decorated balloon back chairs, circa 1840–60, were on offer by Lebanon County, Penn., dealer Jeffrey Herr Antiques. Primarily a furniture dealer, specializing in Lancaster material, Herr said this was his 96th Brimfield, adding that he now only does the spring show.
In the pavilion in the back of the field, Corey Daniels, Wells, Maine, was showing a collection of 12 panels created by The Gorgeous Mosaic, a project carried out by the classroom art teachers of the world in which students individually draw portraits of the many different types of youngsters there are in their world on small cardboard tiles. The completed tiles are mounted on panels for exhibition.
Asked if he knew any details about a Gibson flattop acoustic guitar in his display, Richard Shevchenko of Rich with Antiques, Haddonfield, N.J., admitted that he was just “a picker” and that he had found the vintage instrument in Philadelphia. A label on the inside indicated that it was an LGO model. The dealer also had a vintage Gibson banjo and a German Hopf violin.
There are five sisters, variously living in Ohio, Minnesota, Connecticut and Massachusetts, who make a beeline at every Brimfield for The Silver Butler, where a wide assortment of antique silver can be found. On this day, one of the sisters, Jill Clark of Cleveland, Ohio, sang the praises and said she and the others have been loyal customers for some 35 years.
Used to be that when one stepped into the shady glade that is Hertan’s before noon on Wednesday, there would be a few people walking around a landscape that was essentially under wraps — owing to the management’s policy of no selling before the ritual bell-ringing at the stroke of noon. That policy has clearly been relaxed, for brisk commerce was already underway at 11:30 am. Some dealers expressed displeasure at this loosening of the rules. Americana dealer Hilary Nolan of Falmouth, Mass., said that he missed the discipline that made for a level buying-and-selling field, acknowledging nonetheless that he had made some good sales.
Thursday morning saw the slow and steady admission of cars, vans and trucks into May’s Market. The weather was temperate and sunny, showing no chance of disappointing the Brimfield mainstay this year. Contrary to their normal unpacking rituals, dealers sat about idly until the 9 am gate opening with empty tables and coffee in their hands. That is because of the show’s signature slogan, “At May’s, everyone’s an early buyer,” which prohibits dealers from unpacking anything until the buyers are on the field. So, as the crowds lined up, the dealers had a chance to relax and embrace the coming waves of hungry buyers with a clear sky overhead and hopeful sales ringing in their ears.
Fred T. Parks, Monkton, Md., offered a selection of Twentieth Century works, including a glass bowl by Josef Hoffmann, Tiffany glass elements and a gilt Ansonia clock. The clock was fully gilded and featured an angel atop with hand painted porcelain plaques on both sides of the clock face. Parks said, “The clock works perfectly, I had it fully restored.”
David Vorst from Antiques on the Square, Schaefferstown, Penn., brought along a selection of Nineteenth Century Pennsylvania blanket chests. The chests all had original paint and were stacked high in his booth. On the table in front of them stood a three-tiered redware still bank that Vorst said he had just picked off the field.
Against a backdrop of Americana, Stephen-Douglas Antiques, Rockingham, Vt., showed off an American pine salt box with original paint. The box had deep green paint with the word “Salt” across the hinged lid. Stephen Corrigan, half of Stephen-Douglas dealer duo, reported solid sales. “How could I not be satisfied?” he asked. “I’ve never seen such a crowd of people in all my life. Brimfield is so encouraging for this business, it was just waves and waves and waves of people in every place.”
Antique Revival, Big Flats, N.Y., brought along a truck full of antique furniture. Sitting toward the back of the booth was an 1820 Hepplewhite drop front desk amid a selection of Pittsburgh lamps with fine shades.
Martha May, the show’s manager, only heard good things back from the field.
“We kept hearing from dealers that some of their winter shows were disappointing. So, as a promoter, you can only hope there is a turnaround, and we gladly had one. It was exciting to have a full field, but we kept hoping people would spend their money, and they did. We had very good weather and our dealers seemed to be very happy.”
Usually the action here is winding down by the end of the week but you did not have to see the long lines of people chomping at the bit Friday morning to get into J&J Promotions, Brimfield’s original antiques field, to know that was not the case here. The long line of cars that began one mile outside town, taking more than a half-hour to navigate, was the first clue. Within an hour of the show’s opening at 8 am, people were toting around their purchases and red sold tickets began appearing on larger items in booths.
Stephen Cirillo of The Paisley Pineapple, Hatfield, Mass., was one of those dealers with a case of the “measles.” Country-style furniture in distressed and good surface were selling well.
A few booths down, Boston dealer Dave Waller, wearing a stylish black tricorn hat, demonstrated to a reporter a hand-operated air pump used by hard hat divers. Sharing a booth with fellow dealers Tim Cunard, Nate Bekemeier, Tim Hanford and Eric Drezwianski, the group had quite an eclectic group of merchandise for sale.
Country furniture was also selling well at Alley Antiques and Collectibles, Pelham, N.H., where a cupboard in nice brown-maroon paint with four shelves had a red sold tag shortly after the field opened.
Also featuring an eclectic booth with a country flair was Doubleday House Antique Gallery, Ballston Spa, N.Y., which offered early country primitives, folk art, art glass, ceramics and more.
La Petite Tresor, Charleston, S.C., was well stocked in garden antiques from a cast iron bench in white paint in a delicate leaf pattern to a pair of urns and a pair of recumbent lions, as well as some funky lighting.
Brimfield will be back July 12–17. For more information, www.brimfieldshow.com.
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