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By Marilyn Gould



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By Marilyn Gould

I am often asked two questions (usually by antiques dealers): One, are these craftsmen and the shows that feature them competing with or diminishing antiques shows; and two, why do more people flock to these shows than to antiques shows? And the unarticulated question is, are they hurting the antiques business?

I greatly admire the work of these contemporary artisans, I like them personally and admire their knowledge of how things were made 200 or so years ago. We should all appreciate that they are keeping alive the traditions of the past. Many of them are creating objects that will be valued 200 years from now as much as we love the things made 200 years ago.

They do not really compete with antiques, however, nor do they take business away from antiques dealers. Smart buyers know the difference and can buy both for different reasons and different uses.

Knowledgeable collectors buy antiques because they value the workmanship, the history it represents, the patina of time and the provenance. But even connoisseurs may choose to live with both. Those with the bent of a curator will be concerned about wear and tear on valuable and sometimes fragile antiques. They may choose some contemporary work that blends with antiques, but can take the stress of active households. It is smart to protect the investment in fine antiques.

For instance, Don Carpentier’s great pottery can be used while the expensive pieces are protected on the shelves. Greg Shooner’s redware (while not food safe because of a lead glaze just like in the Eighteenth Century) can be out and handled in a way that you would not want to treat the very expensive Norwalk redware. But a collector knows the difference, can appreciate both and knows the advantages of each.

I enjoy listening to the furniture makers admire and look at each other’s work and enthusiastically talk about their techniques and tools. They truly understand the pieces, study the past assiduously and become connoisseurs in their own way.

It is true that the attendance at crafts shows is greater than antiques shows and that bothers me, too. I would just love to have the thousands who crowd the field house in November also be there to see the antiques in December and next March. And that audience ought to be going to antiques shows also, learning more about the past and developing a great eye for objects.

My guess is that many in the crafts show crowds may be intimidated by antiques shows and antiques dealers. They may be afraid of not knowing enough to buy wisely, of making costly mistakes. Maybe antiques dealers should be more willing to work with, teach and develop them into serious, confident buyers. Youthful buyers may start out with contemporary work, but may grow to appreciate the “antique” also.

Yes, I believe that contemporary work can live compatibly with antiques –– they certainly do in our eclectic household. And I think that both can be good investments for the future.

Even the most dedicated antiques dealers and collectors are finding that the Wilton Historical Society Celebration of American Craftsmanship is a great place to do their Christmas shopping –– so much more interesting than malls or catalogs.

So do not be shy –– come visit on November 16-17 at the Wilton High School Field House on Route 7. Join those hundreds and hundreds of people in line at 8 am, or come between 10 am to 5 pm on Saturday or Sunday. But remember, these craftsmen (both men and women of course) can only make so much with their own two hands. They cannot go out and buy more when their booths start to look bare!

Incidentally, several antiques dealers are also artists. Don Noyes from Ohio is a carver and painter of bird trees in the Pennsylvania tradition. Helen Howard from eastern Connecticut creates charming watercolors in the manner of Joseph Davis or Jacob Maentel. And of course, there is Warren Kimble, the most successful of them all.

Comments are open. Be civil.

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