Review and Photos by W.A. Demers
WETHERSFIELD, CONN. – The 16th annual Wethersfield Antiques Show returned to the Pitkin Community Center on November 19, showcasing 26 antiques and fine art dealers from the Northeast and a wide range of early American and Nineteenth Century items.
Sponsored by Wethersfield Historical Society, the show’s proceeds help to support the organization’s facilities, programs, exhibits and events. For collectors and shoppers, its appearance at the cusp of the year-end holiday season makes it a favorite source for the Americana, folk art, paintings, jewelry, glassware, silver, books and decorative arts smalls that make for a unique gift for loved ones on the shopping list.
Kicking things off on the Friday evening preceding the show’s six-hour run was gala cocktail party with open bar, passed hors d’oeuvres and piano music that gave show patrons and supporters – many from the society – a chance to chat and shop the show early. The event was again superbly managed by Elaine St Onge and an army of volunteers, and the society’s executive director Amy Northrop Wittoff, its curator Kayla Pittman and program coordinator Beth Thompson were all hand on Friday evening to greet visitors to the show.
Dealers were all conveniently set up in one area, the banquet room, with room-setting walled booths making for attractive presentations. “Wethersfield was lively,” said American fine art dealer Donna Kmetz, Douglas, Mass., “and while I did not see many large items going out, it seemed to me that people did holiday shop for smalls. I had nice show, also selling some gift items, which is always fun. It’s a beautiful little show – we could use a few more community shows just like it!”
Lorraine German, one-half of the dealer duo known as Mad River Antiques, North Granby, Conn., was in the proverbial catbird seat with regard to holiday-themed antiques for gift-giving. “Wethersfield turned out to be one of our best shows ever,” she said, and she and husband Steve have been doing it since its second year in 2003. Lorraine said, “I sold a lot Christmas ornaments.”
Not only did she present a couple of feather trees loaded with vintage glass ornaments, but she also created a homey wall decoration by placing greenery, pinecones and ribbons inside a Twentieth Century fishing creel. A 1920s toy wagon by “The Victor” was loaded with great small gift ideas – a 1940s edition of Lotto by Selchow & Righter, a Steiff bear, a Happy Days tin cash register by J. Chein, circa 1910, and a vintage Christmas stocking depicting a child whispering in Santa’s ear. Said Steve, “We also sold a very good candlestand, a piece of stoneware and a sign. It’s one of our favorite shows.”
John Maggs of Jan and John Maggs, Conway, Mass., said, “It’s a little show like those that abounded in New England a decade ago: small, diverse, good quality, reasonably priced and short and sweet. Add to this a supportive and genuinely friendly host staff, and it shouldn’t be surprising that we love this show. It has been consistently profitable for us over the years, and we wish that there were more like it.”
The Maggses reported having good results at the show, selling seven pieces of furniture and a few smalls. “We were also able to buy several things brought to the show by other dealers,” added John. “In the following days, we had two additional significant sales, which made it one of our best Wethersfield shows in recent years. Several of our friends reported positive results, as well.”
One of the highlights in their booth was a carved “tulip” chest or coffer, circa 1680, attributed to Peter Blin, a Seventeenth Century Wethersfield area furniture maker, which offered a local connection. “There is definitely a connection to the Channel Islands,” said John. “We found the piece in England, and it has surely generated discussion.”
“What a wonderful weather day we had for Wethersfield!” enthused Michael Pheffer of Two Sides of a River Antiques, New London, N.H. The dealer had some choice pieces of furniture in his booth, including a Maine Manufacturing Co. “North Pole” oak apartment-sized ice box with original hardware that would be a must-have for any home bar and a Nineteenth Century two-drawer-over-double-doors country sideboard from a Long Island home. Fine art on offer included a nice farm scene with sheep that had been fond in Burlington, Vt., and a coastal scene watercolor by Alice Thayer dated 1898.
“The show turned out to be okay for me,” said Michael. “I actually had a reasonable total; however, I believed the crowds were down and after a short initial run, it remained pretty quiet for the day. Although I did see some smaller furniture selling, I did not sell any furniture. There was interest in pieces, especially the restored ice box, which is always good, but no one ‘pulled the trigger.’ I did sell a nice early primitive portrait, several pieces of stoneware, a great Parcheesi game board and several other country smalls. The show is well run and has a great look.”
Folk art fans were no doubt pleased to see John Bourne’s collection. The Pittsford, Vt., dealer (former teacher) always can be counted on to bring compelling pieces with him, and he outdid himself this time with a bull costume consisting of a papier mache head mask, complete with ring in his nose and a hairy, zippered body suit. “I believe it’s a real piece of folk art,” he explained. “It seems not to be factory made.” As of presstime, he reported that the costume was still available. “Selling for me was not quite as strong as last year,” he said. “Smalls seem to be what is hot.”
Among those new to the show this year was Doug Ramsay, owner of DBR Antiques, of Hadley, Mass., with folk art and Americana. The showstopper in his booth was a fantastic and folky child’s chair from Maine, circa 1820-30, which not only featured a unique, handcrafted design, but on its underside carried a typewritten note contributing exquisite provenance. It read: “This chair was made by William Hallowell Blake about 1835 in the shadow of the Blue Hills where he had moved from historic Blake home in Dorchester. He was a descendant of Lord Humphrey Blake of England and his first American ancestor, William Blake, came to this country in the ‘John & Mary’ before 1642. His brother Robert Hallowell Blake married Miss Gardiner of Gardiner, Maine. The early Blakes who played a large part in the settlement of Dorchester are buried in the Old Granery Burying Ground. This chair was given to Barbara Howorth Gorely on Oct. 23, 1927, by Fanny R. Blake Howorth, who was one of the children for whom it was made.”
The show was “a very nice mix, quality dealers, quality merchandise,” according to the dealer. “I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention the attentive efforts of historical society volunteers. Attendance was packed during preview night, right up until closing, although, typically, buying was not strong. Thankfully, we had a couple of sales during setup. The show was fairly well attended Saturday, despite warm, sunny weather. We made a few sales on Saturday, although no furniture left our booth. Overall, good enough to bring us back next year. I did see some furniture headed for the parking lot on Saturday, although most exhibitor sales seemed confined to smalls.”
Richard Lawrence Greene of Providence, R.I., filled his booth with a selection of fine art in the form of paintings and prints. One was a dynamic panther rendered in watercolor and pen on fabric from the mid-Twentieth Century, nicely framed on archival mat. Another was a pen and ink and watercolor on paper of a half nude female figure in Oriental garb and brandishing a curved sword by Leona Thompson Van Zandt, an under-the-radar illustrator who, according to the dealer, studied and entered into a society marriage in France in the 1920s, then returned to the United States, settling in New York’s Catskills where she illustrated for publications.
Other standouts seen at the show included a pair of Calder pewter porringers and plates shown by Ron Chambers, Higganum, Conn.; a Gorham Medallion teapot, circa 1850 of coin silver in the booth of Sears and Tither, Somers, Conn.; a Nineteenth Century pine stepback cupboard in mustard paint filled with pewter, stoneware and toleware at Stiles House Antiques, Woodbury, Conn.; and a selection of pastoral Connecticut scenes mounted by fine art specialist Kevin Rita from West Hartford, Conn.
For additional information, www.wethersfieldhistory.org or 860-529-7656.