DOVER, N.H. — Devin Moisan’s October 8 auction was chock-full of goodies. Lots of interesting jewelry, silver and a very fine assortment of Scheier pottery, along with paintings, furniture and “dishes.”
Edwin and Mary Scheier are well known nationally for their superb studio pottery. But in New Hampshire, especially in the Durham area, their wares are especially sought-after and treasured. This extraordinary couple spent 28 years at the University of New Hampshire, with Edwin teaching pottery and Mary as an artist in residence. Scheier pottery, both the utilitarian and the art pieces, were sold through the League of New Hampshire Craftsman stores across the state, but many local residents purchased beloved pieces directly from Mary and Edwin.
The Currier Gallery of Art hosted an exhibit in 1993 and I was fortunate to attend the artists reception, where I met and spoke with Edwin. A gracious, energetic and enthusiastic man, he was still throwing large pots at the age of 82 and appeared to enjoy every minute he could talk about and create pottery. Mary and Edwin were enjoying life in the Southwest and they lived well into their 90s. The lives and careers of this extraordinary couple are a true testament to longevity being connected to passion and creativity.
Auctioneer Devin Moisan said that half of the Scheier pottery consigned to him is from “away.” However, a vase, signed and dated ‘66 that sold for $10,340 (a record for the auction company) was consigned from a Campton, N.H., resident. This vase, standing 20 inches tall, had a combination of glazes, starting with a volcanic dark brown glaze, then transitioning into a matte finish, then into a stylized, complicated sgraffito decoration. It just hummed with energy. This piece was purchased by noted dealer Joan Brownstein, who is known best for her specialty in American folk portraits and folk art. She has an artist’s eye, not surprisingly because she is an artist, a painter. And she brings that skilled judgment to whatever she acquires, including Scheier pottery.
The most unusual Scheier piece was a fertility sculpture. Standing 24 inches tall, it had a grotto-like interior with a woman’s figure as the focal point. The reverse had incised decoration of two figures embracing. A telephone bidder paid $6,613 for this piece.
Two sgraffito-decorated vases, one measuring 10 inches tall and the other 11 inches tall, illustrated the use of a matte glaze versus a high-gloss glaze and how the different glazes interacted with the stylized images of people used in a repeating pattern as decoration. The robin’s egg blue high-gloss vase brought $5,405 from a phone bidder, underbid by Joan Brownstein. The pale grey blue matte glazed pot was fought over by two phone bidders until one succeeded at $4,140 There were 14 lots of Scheier pottery, and some sold for as little as $150, with most pieces selling in the $200 to $600 range. Devin said that there were three estates involved in putting together this collection. This sale was a good place to start a collection and provided a lesson in what advanced collectors search for in terms of form and decoration.
The auction started with 56 lots of gold and diamond jewelry, and on this Tuesday night, the gentlemen’s accessories ruled. A Patek Philippe 18K gold man’s wristwatch sold for $8,913.There were two attractive men’s 14K gold and diamond rings. One had an approximately 11/3-carat diamond and it fetched $2,300. A few minutes later, the second ring with an approximately 2-carat diamond sold for $4,140 after heated bidding from the audience. Diamonds, not dogs, appear to be a man’s best friend.
Two of the most interesting decorative objects in the sale had once been owned by Alexander R. Peacock, a business associate of Andrew Carnegie. Both men emigrated from Scotland and came to America to make their fortunes, which they did. And both men resided in, at the time, the world’s richest neighborhood, Pittsburgh’s East End. Unlike Carnegie, Andrew Peacock went bankrupt during the Depression and his large collection of artwork was dispersed. A pair of gilt-bronze elephant-form chenets and an Addison T. Millar oil painting titled “A Good Sword” once resided in Peacock’s mansion. Moisan supplied a photograph with the chenets shown decorating the fireplace in the mansion. Both items sold well, as the chenets reached $4,600, and the small oil painting by Millar went to a phone bidder for $3,630.
Illustrating the eclectic nature of Moisan’s auctions, there were two items that elicited strong interest but did not fit in the category of traditional antiques. Enough has been written about the lack of interest in and low prices of traditional midrange Americana. As the saying goes, the heart wants what it wants. A perfect illustration of this was a charming Hood Milk sign, enameled and decorated with the face of a sweet Holstein cow and in very good condition. During the preview, it was closely examined by two gentlemen. It brought $3,910 in the room against several phone bidders. The other lot, a Criterion oak cased music box together with 17 16-inch discs, sold for a very strong $2,300. The case was quite pretty, with an embossed decoration, and it retained what appeared to be original surface.
American folk portraiture was represented by two paintings. A large oil on canvas of three children standing before a staircase sold for $2,990 to a telephone bidder. One child was clutching a large doll, while the eldest child had a yellow bird perched on one finger. A watch and chain intertwined in tiny fingers, joined the eldest and youngest child. It was an unusual composition, and one can only guess at the intended symbolism. A charming miniature watercolor portrait of a young man, 5 by 6 inches, depicting him seated by a window and with an American ship in the distance, was attributed to Isaac Sheffield (1793–1845). It was a very good buy at $690, in spite of some minor condition issues.
After the sale, Moisan discussed the mechanics of putting together an auction every six weeks. Not an easy task but he has been auctioneering full time since May 1996 and has the connections to gather items of interest from New England estates and from folks downsizing as their lives change. And he gets consignments of niche items — such as the Scheier pieces in this sale — from across the United States. As with any successful auction company, more and more of the emphasis is on jewelry, silver, paintings and Twentieth Century decorative arts. Moisan has a reliable and experienced staff who work tirelessly to organize and keep the auction flowing. He is an engaging, seasoned and knowledgeable auctioneer, and he efficiently keeps the pace going while giving each piece its fair due. He takes great pride in his product; that product being fresh-to-the-market items, carefully researched and cataloged. A job well done for both consignor and buyer.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.moisan-inc.com or 800-493-1936.