HARWINTON, CONN. — Dealers who set up at the Harwinton Antiques & Design Weekend show always bring a good mix, with merchandise typically ranging from early Americana to vintage items to outstanding folk art. As one dealer put it, “One can find just about anything there.”
This was again the case on June 8–9 for this season’s debut of the show created by Jenkins Management a couple of years ago to take up the reins of its former long-running Farmington Antiques Weekend. The location changed, but the dates remained, namely, the second full weekend in June and Labor Day weekend.
Harwinton’s unique facility, featuring both permanent buildings onsite along with a spacious hilltop meadow, can host up to 200 or so dealers, although for this event, the count was down substantially to about 80 exhibitors, many no doubt spooked by the dire weather warnings. Crowds, too, seemed smaller than in the past two springs, probably for the same reason. Downpours on Friday, the day before the show opened, made the grounds a bit soggy, but the event was blessed with sunshine and comfortable temperatures for its two-day run.
Those who did venture out to take in this show were in for some real treats. A great piece of American folk art was on offer by John Bourne, Pittsford, Vt., in the form of a whirligig by Joe McFall. McFall is a Southern Outsider artist whose whirligigs usually sport trademark red, white and blue propellers. In this instance, however, the propellers resembled watermelon slices complete with seeds. A two-headed figure that was both pilot and gunner turned the plane’s steering mechanism and raised and lowered the gun as the vane/propellers moved, apparently targeting an approaching bogey with a fusillade of watermelon seeds.
“I’ve had this whirligig for quite some time,” said Bourne, who returned home with the piece even though he said it attracted a lot of attention. “I was surprised but not disappointed.” It was its first time out at an antiques show and Bourne mused that he might bring it out again for the upcoming Vermont Dealers Association Antiques Show.
Also getting notice in his booth were a couple of early primitive rocking horses, one of which he sold, dating from about 1880 to the 1920s. The other was English and had been repainted 60 or 70 years ago. A carved wooden bust of a Western Native American, weighing about 35 pounds and measuring about 21 inches tall, was another standout in Bourne’s collection.
American folk art is also the purview of South Hadley, Mass., dealer Victor Weinblatt, whose booth bristled with early signs and striking graphics. Still writing a slip for a major sale a half hour after the show closed on Sunday, Weinblatt recorded among his sales a large circa 1920 Pennsylvania wood bridge sign that warned “Stop Pay Toll”; a long Brooklyn, N.Y., “Ice Cream” sign with a melting ice font and a flat arctic white frozen lake background in blue and white; an arched Ohio “Ride Tickets” sign with a font that soared kinetically along its striped edge and projected half-way out of the carnival’s ticket booth; a “Tourists” sign from a dealer’s private collection.
Also, a figural “Moose Lake” sign with a benevolent, faintly smiling beast announcing its namesake; a Maine “Candy” sign with a large dramatic white border and small, bold text in its center; a circa 1930s diner polychrome menu on paper listing sandwiches in the 10- and 15-cent range; a double-decker bus homemade toy with curved staircase and decoupage children’s stories decoration; a circa 1950 Milford, Penn., polychrome shadow drop lettered “Golf” sign for a driving range; a mid-Nineteenth Century weaver’s skarn; a fourth quarter Nineteenth Century musical instrument keyboard; a small painted stand and some mercury glass.
“We had a very good show, made even better by our modest overhead,” said Weinblatt. “And, even more astounding, for the first time in our 34-year show career, at least half of our sales were to the under-40 demographic.”
At the entrance of the fairgrounds building designed for “Cattle,” the popular purveyors of Mid-century Modern and decorative antiques, Tim Brennan and David Mouilleseaux of Northfield, Conn., established their own design sensibilities, furnishing the corner space with a homey pair of upholstered armchairs, Italian art pottery, Modern lighting, a 1950s carved pine Chippendale table topped by a monumental Asian-style lamp labeled Nardini, four-drawer chest of pine, a nice, crusty old garland board in white paint, large gilt mirror and a marble topped wrought iron bracket shelf, among other items. The dealers said they did “fairly well” from the steady flow of buyers, coupled with reasonable booth rent.
A good selection of fine art by listed artists was on offer by Bill Union, the Worcester, Mass., dealer who does business as Art & Antique Gallery, specializing in Seventeenth through early Twentieth Century paintings. Among his standouts were a ship painting by Eric Sloane, an autumn landscape by William Merritt Post, a West River scene by Aldro Hibbard and a Connecticut River scene by Old Lyme, Conn., artist William Leroy Metcalf.
Jaffe & Thurston, Wawarsing, N.Y., displayed an interesting selection of jazz-scene drawings from the 1960s from a collection of 28 the dealers had initially acquired. Priced reasonably, the conté crayon works with wax finish were done by an unknown African American artist.
Kathy Tarr of the Victorian Rose, Wenham, Mass., sells all different types of porcelain, and has been doing this show a long time and has a mailing list of faithful customers. “A lot of them came and had fun adding to their collection,” she said. “I sell a lot of Shelley. This is porcelain made in England from the 1860s to the 1960s. It is mostly tea-related pieces. Teacups range in price from $35 to $1,500. Teapots are rare and expensive. I was fortunate to sell two at the show.
“I also sold some unusual hand painted Limoges,” she continued. “Limoges plaques are elegant paintings on porcelain. Each one is unique and many were painted by French artists who have become very well known for their work of more than 100 years past. I also sold some pieces that were painted by Esther Miler, a very well known painter in this country.”
Tarr said that she enjoys doing this show. “It’s easy to get in and out, which is always important from a dealer’s standpoint,” she said. “I noticed lots of signs along the road, which meant that management was doing all possible to direct people to the show. The majority of the dealers in our building had a good to excellent show.”
Having the catbird seat in terms of Oriental rugs at the show, Tom Landers of Palisades Trading Co., observed that although attendance was down on Saturday due to the weather, it rebounded rather well on Sunday. “Our sales were down from the previous two shows, but we did sell some small rugs and booked a good number of cleaning and repair jobs. Somewhat ironically, we had two follow-up sales of midsized rugs — Bidjar and Heriz — the day after as a result of the show. Usually we discount the ‘be back’ customer comment, but sometimes it actually is true.”
Early American kitchen antiques and tools were the focus of a display set up by Susan and David Ryan, who live locally in Harwinton. A collection of early egg beaters ranging in dates from the mid-1800s to the 1920s was augmented by a bit of furniture, antique ice skates and food choppers. Sue Ryan said, “We had a good show. Our sales covered many areas, as our booth is very diversified. We had many repeat customers who like our items. Some items we sold included an early chest, Shaker drying rack, majolica plates, game board, garden tools, a rare hanging scale, a mirror, quilt and hat racks, and many smalls — sewing, ivory, silver pencils, plumb bobs, cork screw, kitchenware and tools. There was a fairly steady flow of customers. We will return in the fall.”
A mid-Twentieth Century gouache on board caused showgoers to do a double take at Mad River Antiques, North Granby, Conn. The painting illustrated a gun fight in an Old West saloon, but was done as seen through the eyes of the “bad guy,” according to co-owner Lorraine German. “Reflected in the saloon’s back wall mirror, you see an image of the ‘bad guy’ before he was outdrawn,” said German of the clever trompe l’oeil. A circa 1930s-40s “Telephone” sign with original gold and blue painted surface and a multicolored geometric hooked rug, Twentieth Century, 25 by 46½ inches, were also available from the Germans, along with their usual trademark selection of early American glazed stoneware.
“Harwinton was okay for us,” they said. “We sold across the board; although we had a lot of interest in stoneware, we didn’t sell any. We did sell a very good ship diorama, a couple of signs, a mirror, some souvenir spoons and several other smalls. Although they didn’t sell, the item in our booth that attracted the most interest was a pair of 1960s NYC subway handles from the Brooklyn line — BMT. They really brought a lot of comments and smiles to people.”
Harwinton’s next installment is Labor Day weekend, August 31–September 1. For information, 317-598-0012 or www.farmingtonantiquesweekend.com.