Tag: Bettianne Sweeney
Antiques at Music Valley had a totally different feel than the Heart of the Country Show. The State Fairgrounds provides ample yet unassuming space for the show. Neither show would be mistaken by visitors for the shows as high-end as the Winter Antiques Show in which “price upon request” in some cases means “price you dare ask”; yet the presentation at the Antiques in Music Valley was more low-key than Heart of Country.
The response from sampled dealers were mostly positive. Jeff from Riverview Antiques, Marietta, Ohio said it was his best show in the recent years. Ted of American Spirit Antiques from Kansas City, Missouri said while no furniture transaction had been made (we talked approximately one hour before the end of the show), overall it had been very good with some paintings and weathervanes sales. (But another dealer told us he had sold many pieces of tiger-maple furniture.) David & Carroll Swope from Canton, Ohio told us that while many items were sold in their booth, those tended to be small items. “It is an OK show for us. But OK is the new norm now,” commented Carroll Swope.
Although the show has great variety, Americana had a strong presence. There are a lot of country-looking furniture, textile, porcelain, silver, and even more weathervanes that one could have imagined. Jeff Baker, an appraiser who attended the appraisal conference also held on Gaylord Opryland Hotel, praised it to be the place to shop. We could not agree with it more.
A group of young ladies were fascinated by a small basket full of picture nails used in Victorian parlors. Most were glass head nails where the head is threaded on a nail or screw. The same dealer also had vintage Christmas decorations and antiques door knobs and curtain tiebacks. Items like these are quite popular with younger generations – they do not change the essence of home décor yet add just a magic touch of age and individuality.
The sale of an antiques rocking horse from Bettiane Sweeney in the Heart of the Country Show prompted me to look at these items with a new-found interest. Antique toys can hardly be used in-situ as they are less likely to pass safety regulations. And that bothered me previously when thinking of stripping off functionality for the sake of decorative purpose only. But I begin to understand the collectors in this field have more reason to enjoy the treasures. How many of the current electronic toys will be preserved in future? These antiques toys serve as an anecdote of our material past when toys are meant for physical interaction with unique forms and designs. Another rocking horse in the show caught my eyes. It was displayed prominently at the end of an aisle. Too bad my cats will only scratch it.
Thomas Rawson from Cedar Rapids, Iowa gave us some information about several shows in the mid-west, including what he termed THE antiques show in Iowa. Regarding a painting attributed to “Fred Strang,” which depicts an urban roof-top scene in the vein of Ashcan school, he told us that of the three paintings that he saw from another dealer, only that one was not signed by the artist. Yet he stiuck to his hunch and bought it for its quality. “That could be New York State or even Pittsburgh, “ he commented on the grayish sky blended with many chimneys, all painted with succinct brush strokes.
Eric saw an antique wine opener with a black cat on the top. Knowing that anything with a blade (regardless how sharp it is) may be confiscated by the TSA staff in the airport, he only asked to take a look out of curiosity. It was surprisingly heavy, made of solid brass. The asking price is $750. “Maybe when I have a bottle of wine that’s worth seven hundred dollars,” Eric commented. “Well, then. You will not open it!” replied by the dealer.
If a $750 wine-opener may sound an astonishing sum, then it shocked us when we went to the café for a brief rest and food. Antiques shoppers tend not to care too much about food offered at the show, especially when the show is at such a sheer size that spans three different buildings. A penny saved is a penny earned, as long as it is not spent in antiques. Yet three dollars and 50 cents for medium-sized soft-drink with no-refill policy made the most horrific dining experience. Eric carried the unfinished cup of root beer in the show, joking “I can’t throw it away, it’s priced like wine.”
Since the show’s beginnings in the early 1980s, the Heart of Country show has been one of the premiere destinations for fans of Americana in the Country. This year dealer Bettianne Sweeney, who promotes her own Americana-themed show the weekend after Thanksgiving in Virginia, was crossing having a booth at the Heart of Country off her “bucket list.” This seemed like a good year to cross it off of mine too.
It can be debated whether the last day is a good time to visit the show. By the time we arrived Saturday morning, the show had been running since the Thursday preview.
If you’ve never been to the Gaylord Opryland Hotel, it is in itself a treat. I had heard this show had it’s heyday some years back, but a conversation with promoter Susan Hunkins and the promoter of a coinciding show, Jon Jenkins spelled out the efforts to revitalize Antiques Week in Nashville. Heading from the airport to Opryland, a line of traffic was encouraging about 30 minutes before the opening, but most of that turned out to be for the National Wild Turkey Federation conference. Walking through the show we would frequently hear the sound of an auctioneer and turkey calls.
That’s not to diminish the crowd at Heart of Country. Word was a lot had sold during the Thursday preview and the floor seemed busy Saturday. Most of the dealers we spoke to were upbeat and there were plenty of sold signs to be spotted.
With little time on the floor, a voice over a loud speaker momentarily gave pause to the sound of the human imitating wild turkey to announce a dealer panel with dealer’s Woody Straub, Bev Norwood and Bruce Rigsby. Less we thought the recession had ended, the panel’s moderator Woody Straub recounted the history of the show adding this was the third such slump in the antiques market in his lifetime. And each time they wondered if it would end. This strained period in the business would be overcome, as before by personal passion for the objects.
Norwood spoke of the regional interest in antiques and of the attachment they have to people. She gave an overview of several objects including a small drawing of lady liberty with an excerpt from the Star Spangled Banner written below, and several objects made to memorialize George Washington after his death. Often these were created by young girls who were taught both to stitch and paint.
Straub gave a short “furniture detective” lesson telling the dozen or so collectors at the event to assume it is fake, then prove otherwise. Moving on to paintings, Straub gave some additional tips on what to look for and then some insight into his personal taste. Holding a naive landscape Straub said “I’m not fond of them as an art dealer, but I do sell them because I am an art dealer.”
There was plenty to look at on the show floor. Entering the show, the first item we spotted was a small painting by George Innes offered by Harrison Galleries. Gordon Harrison Jr. mentioned the painting had come from an estate in Houston. It seems to me to be a rare small-sized late work by the artist.
At the Amon Carter Museum in Fort worth, there is often talk in the galleries about the painter and sculptor Remington showing horses with all four feet off the ground in running mode. Apparently there was some debate about whether or not the animals kept any feet on the ground when running until the photographer Eadweard J. Muybridge showed conclusively horses did raise all four hooves. I was looking at weather vanes at the show and noticed that while most seemed to show all four feet in motion, a few had two feet on the ground.
One of the more unusual items were sections of a switchman’s shack that hobos had carved their assumed names such as Portland Charley and Idaho Jim into. Offered by Ron Christman Art & Antiques, this Hobo Wall was from Waterville, Wisconsin and was disassembled several decades ago. People who collect Americana seem to do so primarily because of the connection it provides with the people. While these hobos may not have thought they were creating art, this certainly qualifies as Americana and makes an unsurpassable central decorative piece that would fit into a modern home or condominium nicely.
Another interesting item that made itself known by it’s singular placement on a table is a Bristol glazed with cobalt blue pottery shelf piece, 1890-1920. Dealer Jane Langol told us these were popular in German families and this piece was particularly sought after because it was in the shape of a lion.
Maine Dealer Bill Kelly had his own rare feline species in his booth–what appeared to be a six-toed cat. The condition seems to be most commonly found in cats along the East Coast of the United States and in South West England. Known as Polydactyl cats, these creatures have been extremely popular as ship’s cats. The prevalence of polydactylism among the cat population correlates with the dates when they first established trade with Boston. Ernest Hemingway was one of the more famous lovers of polydactyl cats, after being first given a six-toed cat by a ship’s captain. So much so that these creatures are now commonly referred to as “Hemingway Cats.” The cat was not for sale.
At the booth of Bev Norwood, a calligraphic drawing of an eagle caught our eyes. The exquisite drawing was emphasized by the artist’s own signature – “With a Pen by C.P. Zaner, Columbus, O. 1891.” Neither Bev nor I could figure out why the letter “h” was missed. Polished, controlled and expressive, the lines that contributes both the shapes and shadings (in the style of roulette engraving) possess such marvelous fluidity that seem to stand against the rest of Americana artworks in her booth. I have never looked at such calligraphic drawings in auctions before, partially because online pictures can hardly do justice to the details which are essential in differentiating the great from the mediocre. But thanks to Bev, we would definitely keep a keen eyes on such objects in future.
As for Bettianne, she seems pleased with her experience at the Heart of Country. While we were there on Saturday she sold two major items and mentioned she’s gotten a good rate on the hotel. In total, she says she took home ten times her booth rent in sales. Most everything she bought specifically for the show didn’t go home with her to Virginia.
If you fly in for next year’s Heart of Country show or any event at the Gaylor Opryland, I should mention something about the shuttle bus. In addition to the antique show and wild turkey event, there was a meeting of the International Society of Appraisers. One of the appraisers addressing the conference flew in on the same plane from Dallas. He took the shuttle from the airport to the hotel at a cost of $40 round-trip. We rented a car and drove there for around $30. Parking was free for Heart of Country, but I heard was $18 for ISA attendees.
Enjoy the video!
I like a good story. Thanksgiving and antiques are a perfect pair for storytelling. Attending Bettianne Sweeney’s 29th Holiday Antiques Show in Williamsburg, VA this past weekend was like going home for Thanksgiving holiday. The familiarity and fondness among the dealers and attendees was evident as they expressed warm praise for each other, and high esteem for their host Bettianne and her family. Many of the participants have been going for years, and others, decades. How gracious Bettianne and all were to have me share their fabulous feast and share their many stories.
There were little stories that would start my imagination to dance. Stories where I would become drawn to participate. When in the Antiques of London booth, I admired a lovely collection of tortoise-shelled cases. Warren Burls, the proprietor, described back in the 18th and 19th century, a lady might have put her calling card or dance card in one of the smaller delicate cases. My mind felt the snugness of a corset tightening at my waist and a hoop skirt floating at my feet, and yet my fingers rubbed shamefully on the business cards I had thrown into my pocket.
In similar fashion, Chris Doscher, owner of Witt’s End Antiques, told tantalizing tales of teatime. He was happy to show off his beautiful collection of 18th and 19th century tea caddies. How easy it was to imagine the “oh so important and fashionable” art of having tea. The detail of the inlay work, intricately pieced together not only on the outside, but also on the inside (some with their original foiling). In my mind, I smelled scones, jam and cream. Suddenly my fancy high-tech coffeepot at home appeared crude in comparison.
How appropriate our conversations of tea were in Williamsburg. Having been our first capital, Williamsburg just seemed to have stateliness about it, much like the antique show itself. Chris had mentioned how he liked coming because of the history in the area and because of the caliber of dealers in the show. Everybody was an expert in their field and much was to be learned from all he explained. I thought just looking around, it was as if we all were coming together to have a fine feast and each dealer’s booth was the epicurean dish brought to the table.
The epicurean expertise couldn’t have been more present with the “hooking” tales of Joe Caputo and Karen Grindle who are the renowned experts behind Caputo & Grindle Antiques. Joe and Karen are rug people; in fact, you might call them “the hooked rug whisperers.” They told me stories of “shirred” and “sheared” and “hooked” and mistaken identity or even weaving to deceive. No matter. Joe knows the end; the rug tells him how it was made. And ultimately, the rug becomes as Joe says, “Art underfoot.”
As at any Thanksgiving table, stories grow in size a bit, and I found myself a seaside spectator at White’s Nautical Antiques. Struck giddy with sea breeze looking at Dave White’s handsome models of ships and boats, nautical art and brass. A three-foot long 1930’s model powerboat lay center stage. The boat had a Chris Craft appeal and a delightful story about the man who built it, sailed it, and then had to swim across the lake to get it back. My childhood delight was answered with “how do you build a tall ship in a bottle?” You build it very carefully, Dave explained, outside the bottle. Talk about a story of engineering.
Among artful stoneware, baskets, and folk art, Mad River Antiques had a little story of intrigue in one of its pieces. Steve German showed me an 1820’s copy of the Seaman Act, signed by Master Henry Barnard and the seamen of the Brig Sea Island. The curious story was all about how sometime earlier the Sea Island sailed to the Bahamas and had brought back yellow fever and infected practically all of Middleton, CT. Another little fascinating oddity for me was that according to this document one of the highest paid jobs on the ship was that of cook at twelve dollars per month. Yet at the same time, Master Barnard’s salary wasn’t listed. Go figure.
Unusually rare books, paper, and letters were some of the fine offerings from Joyce and Bill Subjack, Neverbird Antiques. The simple letter from a confederate soldier writing and asking for fresh tomatoes first caught me. However Bill was indeed a highly skilled storyteller as he read one of President John Tyler’s personal letters and then told me the story of Tyler’s May-December romance and how his mother-in-law didn’t approve of him, how his youthful bride was barely older than his children; I was engrossed. Oh, who doesn’t like to hear family drama at holiday time?!
Janet Fanto had some exquisite rare books. One drooling mouthwatering delight she had was a first edition of Homer’s Iliad translated and signed by Alexander Pope. As a former English major, my little brain just froze in the memory of senior year’s oral comprehensive exams. I’m a breath away from Alexander Pope. Be still my heart. Talk about the guest who came to dinner.
Then there were the very tiny and perfect leather bound Shakespeare books displayed by Baldwin House Antiques, Strasburg, PA. Oh to be inside one of those petite volumes and ride off in my pocket.
Joan Parker, Ingle Nook Antiques, had a set of 1826 hand-painted deck of playing cards mounted and in four frames by suit. I stared at those cards, their dog-eared corners and individualized face cards. Almost two centuries of game playing: winning and losing, joy and heartache, pastime and gambling. I guess I hoped if I stared at them long enough, they might have spoke to me.
I think one of the easiest subject matters to tell stories about is animals. One dealer told me about his dog, Maverick. I thought about the story when I was at Sparrow’s Nest Antiques perusing the varied canine collectibles. I wondered how many of these dog sculptures were fashioned after family companions. If I squinted, I even thought one looked like my Griffy.
I continued my animal pleasures at Mia Hudson Antiques as I marveled at her inkwell collection. She had a complete set of green parrots. I think about the skill it would take to use the inkwell and the companion scrubber. Writing as an art form. Not an email, not a text, not even a phone call. Really, literally dipping one stroke after another. And we think computers are civilized.
Whoever thought antiques are boring and Staffordshire figurines are just cute little cats hasn’t heard about Maria Marten and hasn’t talked to Elinor Penna. Well Elinor is considered “the most recognized collector and dealer in Staffordshire figures.” Let’s face it, heads turn when someone says “murder.” People listen. Elinor was going along and telling me about flat-backed cats, and the William and Marys, but then she pointed out The Red Barn and Maria Marten’s murder. I, and those around me, stopped. Murder always stops traffic. Seems that Maria was supposed to meet her lover, William Corder at the red barn. They were supposed to elope. Instead, Willy killed Maria and buried her in the barn and ran away. Nothing like a good notorious crime to bring out the best in us and have everybody rubbernecking at the Staffordshire. Needless to say, I left Elinor’s booth with more visitors than when I arrived. It was interesting that Elinor pointed out how rare a piece The Red Barn was because such topics were not usually chosen to be depicted as figurines.
As a companion to the selling of antiques, Bettianne also offered an appraisal clinic showcasing The Antique Road Show’s Gordon Converse. The appraisals were by appointment with a per item charge with all proceeds going to charity. Whenever I looked at the appraisal area, Mr. Converse was always busy, and there was always people waiting to see him. It was a compliment to the show to have such a service being used.
When my experience was done, I was full. I had gorged at Bettianne’s Holiday Antiques Show with her family and her friends. My banquet had begun with Missy, Bettianne’s youngest daughter who greeted me at the entrance table. I had missed the grandchildren; they all had to leave to return to college. The feast had continued with meeting the dealers, many of which were in fact dear friends of Beattianne.
All the stories, all the beautiful antiques and collectibles, from all the dealers, from over thirteen states, and England, made me exhausted like turkey’s tryptophan. I arrived a stranger, but I left a friend. So if you like a good story, and admire antiques, come home for Thanksgiving next year to Bettianne Sweeney’s 30th Holiday Antiques Show.
photos by Lana Pennington
“If I had one word for what moved out the doors of the Holiday Inn last weekend it would be mahogany,” said Jay Melrose, partner in The Antique Show, formerly Melrose & Duddy. “We’ll be watching this closely to see if it’s a local phenomenon or the beginnings of a trend.”
Carroll and David Swope of Canton, Ohio were dealers who had the good fortune of selling furniture at the Charlottesville show. There was one less piece, a walnut Pembroke table, to load in the truck Sunday night.
Bettianne Sweeney of Williamsburg, Virginia says she is pleased with three significant sales of furniture at Antiques in Charlottesville. Sweeney went home without a red step-back cupboard, a circa 1790s Queen Anne Chair with a Spanish foot and a blanket chest with original finish.
“I keep hearing that furniture isn’t selling, but I was pleased,” Sweeney says. “I’d say furniture sales are picking up.”
Cilley, who sells furniture almost exclusively, says it bothers him to hear people in the industry refer to it as “brown furniture.” “It’s all individual; it’s hand-made,” Cilley says. “It doesn’t help to lump it all together in a big, brown and bland category.”
Cilley blames the recession for most of the decline in furniture sales, however and agrees sales are picking up.
“People are suffering from frugal-fatigue,” Cilley says. “They want to get out and buy something. We saw that in Charlottesville. They’re sticking their toe back in the market waters.”