Review and photos by Tania Kirkman
CHANTILLY, VA. — Whether you are a style conscious buyer for the home, or have a keen eye for fashion, the DC Big Flea was the place to be in early November. Patrons were welcomed back for the final installment of the 2023 season, wrapping up the year with another successful run as one of the favorite antiques shows of the nation’s capital.
The energy was high as the DC Big Flea filled the halls of the Dulles Expo Center on November 4 and 5. With a focus on holiday shopping and home décor, the weekend knocked it out of the park, offering a delightful experience for all in attendance. Bringing together a complimentary mixture of antiques, art, jewelry, fashion, design and collectibles, the event offered a fun and festive atmosphere for everyone.
Show manager and promoter Marthia Sides, of D’Amore Productions, commented that this show included a lot of new vendors, along with many returning favorites. Adding that, in addition to traditional advertising, D’Amore has taken a thoughtful approach on expanding its marketing reach to include more social media outlets and streaming services, such as Spotify and Hulu.
“We’ve been seeing a noticeably younger crowd,” Sides commented. The enhanced approach has already seen success with an influx of younger buyers, families and those within the demographic who are not only in attendance, but also buying. Another important takeaway is that people enjoy the show and look forward to returning.
Comments from dealers also echoed this sentiment, as they too noticed the ingress of a new generation of shoppers. Lara Rudd of Lara Joyce Antiques, Westfield, N.J., reported several sales to a more youthful client base. A 23-year-old bought a Victorian box to house a chess set, and another young lady purchased an antique box to keep her remote controls and phone chargers in.
“It’s a young age for people to start buying these kinds of things,” said Rudd. Other sales were transitional and seemed to catch a bit of variety from different categories: papier mache boxes, tea kettles, miniature paintings, snuff boxes, sewing items and Victoriana were all selling.
Past Pleasures Moderne, Annandale, Va., had a favorable selection of Art Deco and Midcentury Modern décor, lighting, sculpture, pottery, art glass and decorative accessories, as well as vintage Bakelite jewelry and collectibles. Don Selkirk remarked, “Young people come in and are surprisingly knowledgeable.” He elaborated, explaining that there is an interest in learning about the history of an era, how items were crafted, and why certain materials were used, such as the popularity of Bakelite in the 1930s-40s.
The weekend also saw a high demand for wearable style, and dealers answered the call with a niche opportunity for fashion forward individuals. Fun and functionality met couture and designer labels on the showroom floor. Vendors were sprinkled throughout the entirety of the exhibit hall, and each offered a unique aesthetic with one-of-a-kind items in their inventory, and a range of eras to fit every collector’s budget.
One Sweet Thread Vintage Apparel, Sagamore Hills, Ohio, was a first-time exhibitor and had a wonderful time at the show. When asked if she will be returning, Beth Kuhar-Miller had a decisive reply, “Oh yes, I will definitely be back!” Displayed at the front of her booth was a playful 1950s-era dress with an allover print of yellow peanuts, and a matching bolero jacket that was adorned with peanut-shaped buttons. With such a fun and unique pattern, one couldn’t help but smile when walking past the dress on its mannequin.
Sands of Time Vintage, Washington DC, offered a stellar collection of luxury purses, designer handbags and accessories. The stand-out piece from the collection was a limited-edition Louis Vuitton monogrammed jewelry case decorated with an animated panda figure by iconic Japanese artist Takashi Murakami.
Noble Vintage Clothier, Goldvein, Va., was pleased to be back in attendance and offered a choice selection of outerwear, dresses, vintage clothing and accessories. Heather Ramey showed us one of her favorite pieces, a figural beaded belt by designer Mary B. Hetz in the form of a cat. When worn, the animal seems to have wrapped itself around the wearer’s body. Hetz belts are desired by collectors and made in other animal patterns such as horses, dogs, leopards, snakes, birds, fish and other fun wearable critters.
Of course, one cannot attend an event in November without an increased awareness that the holidays are right around the corner — and buyers were there for it! The holiday spirit was in full swing as people were on the hunt for treasures to add to their home for the upcoming season.
CaroLinens in Richmond, Va., had a festive display of holiday linens, vintage ornaments and kitschy housewares. “I’ve had a fantastic show,” Carolyn Gallier said. “The whole weekend has been crazy!” Gallier said that many Christmas items were sold, such as tablecloths, cocktail napkins and ornaments, as well as small decorations and fun accessories for the home.
Annecy Alley Antiques, Woodbridge, Va., offered a sweet collection of vintage Steiff stuffed animals together with antique children’s toys and collectibles. Valerie Daniel said that the weekend’s sales were good, “It’s been a great day with lots of people.” Sales saw Steiff animals selling well, which included eight cats, along with an old German stuffed bear by Clemens and several German miniature Christmas tree holders with angel decoration. Other pieces that received attention were French molds used for baking animal-shaped Easter breads, in redware and yellowware pottery. Shoppers were pleased to see the array of vintage stuffed animals nestled throughout the space. Daniel has been doing the show for 18 years, and this was her first time back since the pandemic. “It was an absolutely pleasing return!”
Modern Times at Chartreuse & Co, Frederick, Md., reported fantastic sales. “I sold 15 art pieces on Saturday, and I am just catching my breath!” Avis Garcia also commented on many shoppers who were there seeking modern interior design pieces for their growing collections, as well.
“People are out and looking for great stuff to set their home up for the holidays. I also had someone purchase two Joan Miró pieces for the grandchildren, to start their process for collecting art.”
Appreciating the relationship she has with clients, Garcia spoke on the importance of in-person events such as this, which keep the human element alive and feeds the connection between buyers and sellers that is often lost through shopping online and not meeting face to face. Upon exiting her booth, a customer arrived to greet Garcia and exclaimed, “This is always my favorite booth!”
Bill and Freddi Brubaker from Cuban Poster Gallery, Washington DC, were happy to be back in attendance, reporting that the weekend was a busy one for them, too. Repeat customers and familiar faces combined perfectly with a fresh audience to make for a memorable show. Carrying both large and expensive pieces, as well as smaller prints for budget-minded shoppers, allows them to cater to a large client base.
Daryl’s Neat Stuff, Chesapeake, Va., offered a visual trip down memory lane and nostalgia for shoppers with a fun and eye-catching display of advertising signs and memorabilia. Customers were overheard saying, “I remember having that!,” as childhood memories were unlocked through old store signs, vintage tins and other items. Customer favorites include a tabletop figure of the Kool-Aid man, which sold on Saturday, a Hires Root Beer enamel sign, a giant pretzel, a large size display figure of Victor Victrola’s Nipper the dog and an oversized 1970s Terminix truck-topper bug figure wearing a top hat and mittens. With a smirking face and side-eye notion, this was a seemingly jovial representation of a bug when considering the purpose of the Terminix product.
Wedgwood & Whimsies and the Wedgwood Society of Washington DC (WSWDC) were in attendance, not only with some great Wedgwood pieces for sale, but also happy to share information about their organization. Led by volunteers and enthusiasts, the Wedgwood Society of Washington DC conducts online and in person meetings, hosts annual get-togethers, features expert-led lectures, in addition to promoting opportunities for members to grow their collections, share information and express their love of the British pottery. In fact, they were preparing for a zoom meeting live from the show! The WSWDC is a 501c3 nonprofit organization, and their online newsletter, The Capital Wedgwoodian, along with other information, is available on their website, www.wedgwooddc.org.
Joseph Hensel of Hensel’s Collectibles, Johnstown, Penn., has perfected the art of upcycling by refurbishing, redesigning and reusing a variety of industrial and architectural objects. Many of his items have come from local Pennsylvania steel mills and factory sites. As an act of preservation, his work allows things to have a new life outside of the factory, and, as is often the case, from being lost to time or even discarded. Highlights from his booth included framed and backlit blueprint drawings, original lamps and light fixtures, architectural salvage elements, a US Steel Corps case element now mounted with a mirror and a pair of standing leg-form lamps with columnar cylinder light “legs” with blueprint designs, mounted to a pair of men’s work shoes.
Patrick Hastings, Pittsburgh, Penn., had a fine display of antique oil paintings and original artworks. Several items of note included a large Italian Old Master of figures reading and playing music, a Nineteenth Century oil painting “Fisher Folk on Shore” by James Vivien de Fleury, and a late Nineteenth Century genre scene of a man and woman playing cards in an interior titled “Beat That” by Alexander Rosell. Always popular, several animal themed works featured “Farmyard Scenes” by George Morland and John Frederick Herring; “Tabby Cat” by Jules Gustave Leroy, “Animals in a Stable” by Edgar Hunt; and dog paintings, “Setters in a Scottish Landscape” by Colin Graeme; and an interior scene depicting a pair of attentive King Charles Spaniels.
Jack Pap Antiques, West Simsbury, Conn., had a pleasant display of antiques, Art Nouveau and Art Deco lighting, sculpture and art pottery. A few highlights included a Whaley floral border table lamp, a Bradley & Hubbard leaf and berry design lamp and a pair of Arts and Crafts bronze candlesticks by Buchhuoltz.
Together in the booth space was Redinger’s Antiques, also of West Simsbury, Conn., whose design aesthetic catered to the fun and festive atmosphere. Offerings included vintage silk scarves, shoe-shaped pincushions, sewing notions and collectibles, vintage Christmas ornaments and tabletop decorations, as well as a selection of vintage new old stock tin lithographed horns and noisemakers.
Joan and Harry Kravets from Somerset Antiques Ltd, Leesburg, Va., offered a choice selection of antique, vintage and estate jewelry. Customers were pleased to see items by sought-after designer Elizabeth Locke, whose pieces have gained a loyal following from collectors. The Kravets offered some of the harder-to-find pieces in their visually pleasing display of Locke’s work.
Neverbird Antiques, Surry, Va., was another returning seller at the DC Big Flea, offering rare and unique documents, ephemera, maps, books, art, coins and antique needlework. Bill Subjack commented that he had several very good sales, with the addition of some items on reserve for museum acquisitions. Prominent pieces included a signed document by John Hancock, a Sixteenth Century oil painting on vellum of Spanish Admiral Fernando Sanchez de Tovar, a Seventeenth Century hand-colored map of Virginia and the Carolinas by Jodocus Hondius and an English “Tree of Life” sampler wrought in 1814, as well as a variety of American Civil War and presidential documents and written records.
The DC Big Flea will be back for the 2024 season, with show dates on January 6-7, March 2-3, July 27-28, September 21-22 and November 2-3. For additional information, or to become an exhibitor, www.thebigfleamarket.com, email email@example.com or 757-430-4735.