You really never know what you’re going to get when you approach the wares of an antique dealer at an outdoor market. My best line of defense is to deliver a sunny hello, good morning or, by day three, some weird introduction/acknowledgement of the person’s presence. Let’s face it, some dealers are crotchety, some are uppity and some are just down right mental but that’s part of the experience. If you buy antiques you know this and embrace the vibes, good and bad.
The vibe at this year’s show was all sorts of fantastic. Maybe it’s just because I’m cooped up with toddlers and preschoolers for 99.9% of my life but I had the pleasure of meeting some of the most engaging and friendly dealers in the three days I spent at Brimfield.
My first day there, I ran across the enormous tent of one of my favorite places to shop when we lived in New Hampshire called, Sage Farm Antiques. I spent a whole lot of money at Sage Farm Antiques as we renovated and furnished our 1860 house in Newfields, New Hampshire. Sage Farm is a market place where multiple dealers host a three day antique show on the first weekend of each month beginning in April and ending in December. I bought my yellow chest of drawers there, added to my ironstone collection, bought a corner cabinet for Joe’s room, mulberry (black transferware) and much, much more. Thankfully, those items slid right into place in our new house.
It was nice to see the dealers from Sage Farm again even though they have no clue who in the hell I am. As usual, I ask dealers if they mind me taking photographs which leads to inquiries like, “Are you a dealer/interior designer/buyer?”
No, I’m a writer and I have a blog…nothing you’d know…
Oh, what’s the name?
Narragansett Number 7? It’s not really…
You’re Narragansett No. 7? I read that blog!
For a moment my face must have registered that lady, you’re so full shit look because she quickly referred to a post and said she found me on a site that lists blogs by state. The next expression on my face was shock and awe. For a nanosecond I felt famous…I was the shit. Then I got over myself, bought some pottery, chatted about the origins of my Sea Bag and promised to give Sage Farm Antiques a shout out on my minutely famous blog. The next Sage Farm market is scheduled for June 3rd – 5th and the theme is Worn Whites. The trip from Boston is an easy one and you can combine it with a trip to Rye Beach and Exeter.
My favorite field this year was J & J. First thing Friday morning my friend Grace and I hit the ground running and, right out of the gate, I spotted a fantastic white powder-coated industrial stool. I made an offer, but it turned out that J Crew had been there just moments earlier and bought it. J Crew and Ralph Lauren were snapping things up all over the place for use in their photo shoots, store displays or, in the case of Pottery Barn, to knock off and mark up 500%. Those chumps were one step ahead me for the entire trip. (Note to self: find out how to make a career out of shopping antique shoes for corporate giants.)
I’ll admit that it took me all of 2.2 seconds to get over the whole stool-thieving incident because, in the first aisle of tents that we walked through, I found an art dealer with antique oil paintings, watercolors and…wait for it…etchings! Here’s the one I bought.
I didn’t want to blow through my budget but I was tempted by one of the oil paintings. I’m pretty sure that the dealers were married. She was lovely, he was cranky and I scored one of my treasures after a good round of haggling and that’s all I care about.
This year I went with a list and vowed to stick to it. One of the items on my list was something large for the top of corner cabinet in our dining room. Of course, the vagueness of ‘something large’ left my options wide open so, when I stumbled upon a dealer with some large baskets I stopped for a look. Admittedly, I know very little about baskets. Baskets have a following and basket people know a good basket when they see one. I saw a big old basket with fantastic wooden handles and a very old, well-done repair on the bottom. I haggled my way down to $45, walked away with that basket and soon found myself being stopped by basket people who oohed and aahed over my find. They gasped at the price I paid and one woman nearly ran for the dealer’s tent when I told her there were a few more. Of course, they could have been secretly laughing at my stupidity but I’m going to stick to the idea that I bought a great basket for an outrageous bargain.
|My basket, on the top of the cabinet|
It was the basket that struck up a conversation in the booth of my favorite dealers in the J & J field. Doug and Diane McElwain of Sport & Spool Antiques were perhaps the kindest and most engaging sellers of the day. I was immediately drawn in to their carefully edited and artfully arranged tent of antique sports equipment. The black and white photographs of football teams from years long-passed, stately trophies and the aged leather of baseball gloves caught my eye amid tents brimming with chaotic tables full of glassware and tchotchkes. I spotted a wool pennant from Duke, then one from Iowa and thought of my husband’s Alma mater. I departed from my list and forayed into an area of antique collecting about which I know nothing.
“Do you have anything from Penn?” Doug paused then his face seemed to brighten as he recalled a piece. “I do, but it’s in the car.”
I waited for him to retrieve the mystery University of Pennsylvania item and, when he returned with the most handsome wool pennant from somewhere around 1912, I was thrilled. It was perfect and easily double the size of the others they had on display. The red and blue colors were vivid and the wool was in remarkably good condition.
Grace very nicely held up (hid behind) the banner while I took a photograph. For $100 the banner was David’s, but he’s always so damn practical. I had the bill in my hand, but couldn’t resist talking to him to gauge his interest. His grandfather, father and Uncle Roger all went to Penn. It’s a family legacy! I know, I know…I’m thoughtful and you didn’t think I had that sappy, sentimental side did you? Well, I do and I wanted him to want that banner. He wanted me to use my budget for me and for the rest of my weekend. He’s way more thoughtful than I am. Selfless even, but that’s why I love him.
|Opium Bottles found during a Massachusetts home renovation. According to the dealer, there were 8,000 bottles found in the walls. Believe It or Not!|
The worst part about the pennant was telling Doug and Diane that I was going to take a pass. I really enjoyed talking with them and learning a bit about their pennants. Doug and Diane, if you’re reading and you didn’t sell that beauty I’m still interested. In fact, I just rose from my desk, walked through three rooms and informed my husband that the banner would have looked fantastic in his study.
The playroom…let’s finish the basement and make the playroom into your study.
So…you want to design a study for me so that we can hang a Penn banner up?
Cushy leather chairs…cigars…the banner…your diplomas and law books…cigars…
We could just make a room in the basement for the kids to play in…
Did I mention cigars?
This is how things work in our house. A simple thing like a beautiful wool University of Pennsylvania banner gives birth to the design of a whole new room. He needs a space of his own and that pennant would have been the icing on his man-cave cake. Alas, I said goodbye to Doug, Diane and the banner and walked away. SIGH.
It was at J & J that I scored a vintage marquee number 7 from Bay City Cargo for $2. Vintage letters are huge right now and Bay City Cargo has a warehouse full of them in Belfast, Maine. As they pointed out, their letters once graced marquees in movie theaters and casinos. I love a random letter or number displayed on a shelf or a single word on an empty wall can become instant, inexpensive and personalized art. Here’s where I placed my 7 along with some of the white American pottery I found.
|No. 7, top right shelf.|
Having walked Brimfield from 8:00 in the morning until 5:00, Grace and I were wiped out. We had just about enough time to get back to our seedy motel, shower and make our dinner reservation at 7:00. I think I was sawing wood by 10:00 and, thanks to the television that I’d never turned off, I had dreams of Angelina Jolie applying mascara to my lashes via infomercial while we ran through dealer tents with Charlie Sheen in hot pursuit. My advice? Never fall asleep with E! on all night.
The next morning I was understandably tired but determined to give the rest of the fields a good look. Despite the fact that I’d completely run out of steam, I was determined to forge ahead to New England Motel and locate the tent of one of my favorite Maine haunts, My Sister’s Garage. I somehow stumbled upon them a few months back as they were opening a new space, which happens to be an entire house, in Windham, Maine. It was there that I found my Terrier burlap pillow and the two chairs that are being put to good use in my kitchen. The ladies of My Sister’s Garage are a talented bunch who re-work garage and estate sale finds into of-the-moment décor. They paint and distress many of their pieces, which range from shabby chic, Maine beach cottage, and Adirondack camp to French provincial and all at very reasonable prices. As far as visual displays go, their shop and their tent at Brimfield are perfection!
Yet again, I was surprised and thrilled to be “recognized” by the Garage Girls. If you are in Southern Maine, they are absolutely worth the trip to Windham. Don’t forget to tell them No. 7 sent you!
As my fatigue and thirst increased, my ‘appropriate filter’ began to shut down. In one tent, we spied lamps made from decapitated baby doll heads and cans ($150). It was that tent where I picked up a disembodied mannequin arm and feigned a hearty nose picking. The dealer wasn’t amused. I snapped this picture of her freaky wares before skedaddling. Her disapproving glare told me it was time to go.
Nearing noon, my back was aching and my feet were filthy because I’d forgotten my sneakers and was forced into flip flops for the weekend. I had begun to become indecisive and flighty, both dangerous traits in the antique world. Trying to keep my wits about me and make it to the end of New England Motel, I walked away from a French apothecary jar with intact labeling noon, my back was aching and my feet were filthy because I’d forgotten my sneakers and was forced into flip flops for the weekend. I had begun to become indecisive and flighty, both dangerous traits in the antique world. Trying to keep my wits about me and make it to the end of New England Motel, I walked away from a French apothecary jar with intact label ($45), then 3 very cool artist renderings that would have added to my collection of nudes and another french bottle. All combined that lot would have been $175. I’m kind of kicking myself over those because I’m all over artist renderings and nudes at the moment.
My last stop was at the tent of Duchess d where I met dealer Debbie Freeman. I was drawn in by the artwork in her tent, a wooden folk art carving of a woman and Debbie’s clean, fresh displays. Debbie had a portfolio filled with artist sketches, some from known artists and some anonymous, that enthralled me. I bought this one for $20 and I’m in love. As Debbie said, it has a Rubenesque quality. It was Debbie that sold me the petrified tree fungus. Don’t judge. It’s full of texture and nature provided an amazing piece of sculpture that resembles a sea shell. It spoke to me and found its home.
I’ve been home for just over 24 hours and, though I’m still exhausted, I’ve scattered my finds in their new home. I spent the day rearranging and relocating things to new rooms. I’ve stood back and, with a critical eye, carefully edited my own shelves. David has hung the fantastic and heavy oak architectural piece that I bought for $50 when the dealer was trying to get rid of his stock before leaving the show. We think it was part of a sideboard at one time.
I’m already planning next year’s visit. Gracie, are you in?
Sport & Spool Antiques, Doug and Diane McElwain, Goldsboro, NC www.sportandspoolantiques.com
Bay City Cargo, 93 Main Street, Belfast, ME www.baycitycargo.com
Sage Farm Antiques, 5 Exeter Road, North Hampton, NH www.sagefarmantiques.com
My Sister’s Garage, 610 Roosevelt Trail, Windham, ME www.mysistersgarage.com
Duchess d, www.duchessd.com