“It was approachable and fun, just a beautiful show,” stated co-manager Karen DiSaia in the days following the second annual running of The Fairfield County Show, Fine Art & Antiques, conducted over the weekend of December 1–2. “There was an incredible variation of materials presented by the dealers with everything ranging from Eighteenth Century English to Midcentury Modern furniture and Old Masters paintings to contemporary,” she said, “I liked it, it felt really good.”
The crowd certainly liked it too, as witnessed by a host of sales on opening morning noted all around the floor and overall positive postshow reports from many of the dealers.
While sales were spotty, and attendance was not what was the Bittel-DiSaia management team had hoped for, there was not a single person in attendance that did not come away from the show tossing accolades around. “Terrific,” “Great looking” and “Wonderful selection” were just some of the comments heard; others were directed at management, with everyone impressed with the effort that managers Karen and Ralph DiSaia and Diana Bittel put forth.
Taking place at the spacious SoNo Field House, the exhibits filled the vast sports complex. A crowd began forming more than an hour prior to the opening of the event, and as management prepared to open the show to the public, the line filled a corridor and overflowed out of the lobby out toward the street. The familiar face of Demarest, N.J., collector/dealer Terri Tushingham was once again first in line (Terri managed to be at the front of the line for virtually all of the Vermont shows this past fall), and she wasted no time once Ralph DiSaia waved the green flag as she briskly led the anxious crowd onto the floor.
The first stop for many of the shoppers was the booth of Tom and Beverly Longacre, Marlborough, N.H. Shoppers were lined up four-deep to pick from the assortment of Christmas ornaments and feather trees for which Bev is so widely known. “I have to bring a helper with me,” commented the dealer, who spends her time chatting with customers and wrapping up selections while her helper remains busy writing up invoices. Tom’s selection of Americana was attracting buyers as well, although the display area that his selection of furniture and folk art occupies in their booth has been significantly reduced as Beverly’s Christmas area continues to grow.
Several other dealers displayed holiday ornaments as well, including Mad River Antiques, North Granby, Conn., where early sales included a wide variety of holiday materials ranging from an early hand painted under-the-Christmas-tree mat to ornaments and a neat little fence. The dealers also displayed a stellar selection of stoneware, including a large, 6-gallon crock with spread-winged eagle with a banner in its talons that read “Union for Ever.” A Paul Cushman crock was displayed along with several Bennington jugs with cobalt bird decoration. “You never see these,” commented dealer Steve German in regard to a rare large, straight sided redware crock in orange glaze with dark splotches that had been made locally at the Norwalk Pottery.
Also attracting a large crowd around their ornament-laden Christmas tree were George Allen and Gordon Wyckoff of Raccoon Creek Antiques, Oley, Penn. The dealers spent quite a bit of time seated at a large farm table in the center of their booth writing sales slips in the moments after the show opened. Other highlights in their booth included a rare Pennsylvania bracket base blanket chest with a folky compote of fruit painted on the front that was displayed alongside of a diminutive country corner cupboard with canted sides and unusual star and moon paint decoration on the blind door.
One item that was attracting a huge amount of interest from shoppers was a wonderful set of chicken, rooster and chick German candy containers that the dealers had attractively mounted to a board to protect their frail feet. “I’ve never seen another set,” stated Wyckoff.
“I had a very good show,” stated Rochester, N.Y., dealer Don Olson, who listed numerous sales throughout the weekend. “I was fortunate to be able to put the right pieces, on the right day, in front of the right eyes. It resulted in sales for me and a ton of attention paid to items that didn’t sell at the show, but who knows, there could be some callbacks in the works.”
Olson sold an important “portrait that got the show off to a good start.” From the Prior School and thought to be by William Kennedy, the folky painting depicted a young lad in a green dress. A child’s vest in bright red, perhaps Eighteenth Century, was another quick seller from the booth, as was a well-executed painted wood country tall case clock face decorated with a home with brick red sides and roof and flanked with groups of stylized pine trees on either side.
One item that attracted a huge amount of interest from Olson’s stand was an early Nineteenth Century tavern sign in the form of a bicorn hat. Found at the extreme end of Lake Ontario, the dealer reasoned that the shape of the sign indicated that the innkeeper was either a member of the New York militia, or was sympathetic to their cause. “This sign was surely witness to a lot of War of 1812 action,” he said.
Thomasville, Penn., dealer Betty Berdan, stated that the Fairfield show “was very good for us.” Doing business as Newsom & Berdan Antiques, she rattled off a long laundry list of merchandise that was sold, including a colorful game board by Frank Finney. “It was very colorful and fun in red and green. He didn’t do many of these.” Among her other sales was a paint decorated blanket chest, a table, a set of chairs, lots of smalls and a group of four carved and painted birds also by Finney. “We have also had a follow-up call on some of Frank’s other carvings,” she said. A Pennsylvania stepback cupboard with upper glazed doors above a pie shelf had a bank of triple drawers over two blind lower doors. In a great old red finish, the cupboard was another of Berdan’s sales that was made late Sunday afternoon.
A stellar assortment of art was offered at Cooley Gallery, including works that spanned the eras from the classical work of Walter Launt Palmer titled “Sundown, Walpole, New Hampshire” with the luscious pink and blue hued landscape snow scene to the contemporary work of Tom Yost whose arresting and colorful cloud scenes captivated buyers. “It was a terrific looking show,” commented the Old Lyme, Conn., dealer Jeff Cooley, “I was appreciative of the fact that they permitted the inclusion of contemporary art.” Cooley commented that one painting had been sold and that another, one of Yost’s cloud scenes, was being placed on approval in a New York apartment in the days following the show.
“That was from Sandy’s collection,” stated Richard “Smitty” Axtell in regard to a wonderful cast and painted plaster Santa’s head. “You never buy a Santa that isn’t happy,” said the dealer pointing to the jovial-faced Claus with rosy cheeks, sparkling eyes and wispy beard. Sandy, the late wife of Smitty, had collected Christmas things for many years. Another item from her collection was a hooked rug that hung nearby, depicting a folky standing Santa, and another rug that depicted a couple riding in a horse-drawn sleigh with what appeared to be wrapped presents in their laps.
While Sandy was known for her Christmas collection, Smitty is known for his excellent selection of Americana, highlighted this year by a large tavern sign dated 1829 from the Eastern Inn. Other standouts in the booth included a 1-gallon stoneware jug that was entirely covered in vibrant cobalt, a large burl bowl and a massive tole six-tube candle mold.
A large hooked rug was a quick seller at Jewett-Berdan Antiques, Newcastle, Maine. “We brought some fresh merchandise at reasonable prices,” stated Tom Jewett, “and that is why I think we did well.” Other items sold included “a couple of game boards, a salmon painted Windsor chair, a pair of side chairs attributed to Dunlap, a folk art quilt, some country smalls, signs and a great barber pole.” The item attracting the most attention was a life-size bronze seated pig that was posed gazing up at its owner. Wearing a collar, this was no ordinary pig, as the expression on its face and cocked ears attested. Displayed under a fantastic large-sized wedding-anniversary tole umbrella, the little piggy that Jewett-Berdan took to market went home with a happy new owner.
“Want to see something extremely rare?” queried East Sandwich, Mass., dealer Henry Callan. The dealer walked over to his extensive selection of porcelains and pulled an unusual piece of Rose Medallion from the mix. “It’s a pedestal for a punch bowl,” commented the dealer, who went on to explain that it could support up to four different sized bowls, two on one side, or when inverted, one of two bowls on the other. While many a Rose Medallion punch bowl can be found in the marketplace, this was one of the only examples of a pedestal that the dealer had ever seen.
A large sheet metal running horse weathervane in original gray dappled paint was a quick seller at Hanauer & Seidman Antiques, Colchester, Conn. It was last seen exiting the show under the arm of an obviously pleased buyer. A good selection of stoneware was offered here as well, with an unusual small churn with open-ear handles and decorated with an impressed flower presumed to have been made by Fenton in Boston. Another marked Boston jar was impressed with an eagle on cannon stamp, and nearby was a very unusual Goodwin and Webster, Hartford, stoneware jug with strong Germanic form and unusual double handles.
Judith and James Milne, New York City, presented a colorful booth filled with weathervanes, windmill weights in old, vibrant paint, hooked rugs and assorted folk art. A rooster theme was prevalent in the booth, with three rooster weathervanes lining the rear wall, including a large Rochester rooster on one side, a three-dimensional Cushing-style rooster on the other and a small game cock on a bench in the center. A brightly colored Pennsylvania appliqué quilt with a central panel featuring a rooster hung in the middle.
It was not all smalls that were attracting interest in the stand, however, as a large built-in shelving unit, often termed a “buttery cupboard,” retained the original red paint and filled an entire wall of the booth. The massive unit featured a cupboard on one end with a pair of blind upper doors over a single lower door, a bank of four-drawers was next to that and below a large section of shelving units. Judy Milne commented that it sold right away and was one of three pieces of furniture sold at the show. A nice tavern table and a chest of drawers also moved from the stand.
Robert Lloyd, New York City, appeared at the show with a diversified selection of materials. Along with his standard fare of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century American and English silver, the dealer filled the walls of his stand with original oil on canvas advertising proofs for Guinness Beer advertising campaigns. Stunning examples, complete with pencil notations for changes and tweaks to be made before the pieces could go to the printer, the dealer displayed several series of campaigns that included the “Strength” series, an “Across the Nation” series and a “Zookeepers” series.
Often comical in nature, one painting from the “Zookeepers” series depicted a shocked zookeeper discovering a happy kangaroo with a bottle of the black lager in his pouch. The “Across the Nation” series featured a trip of colorful toucans flying in formation, Guinness drafts atop their elongated beaks, past subjects such as Monument Valley, the Statue of Liberty, Mount Rushmore and the Golden Gate Bridge. Despite the distractions, silver enthusiasts were seen looking over a pair of George III period candlesticks by London maker John Carter II, circa 1774.
Sales were recorded at Cheryl Scott, Hillsborough, N.H., where a large pair of leather turtles defied their slow natured reputation as they moved quickly from the dealer’s stand. “Actually tortoises,” according to the dealer, the larger of the two measured almost a yard long and not quite a couple feet tall. Scott was pleased with sales, noting that a group of interior decorators had passed through the show and had snapped up several items, including a large laminated maple butcher block from her booth.
Although they were unable to ultimately track the buyer down, management gleefully reported fielding a phone call from a trucking service that was sent to the show to pick up items in at least ten different booths that had been purchased by one shopper.
“The crowd was still not of the size that we would like to see,” stated DiSaia a few days after the show had closed. “But,” she reasoned, “this area was hit very hard by the hurricane and a lot of people in this area are still trying to get their lives back together.” On an even more positive note, “The crowd was continuous,” stated the manager, “people kept flowing in all day on Saturday, and although we don’t have the final numbers yet, I think we had an equal number on Sunday.” DiSaia was also pleased with the quality of those in attendance at the show. “The people that came were very interested and engaging. They were definitely looking… and a lot of them made purchases,” she said.
The show is already in the process of being fine-tuned for its 2013 appearance.