Canadian Contemporary Folk Art Festival -part 2

digby ferry

June 1994. Stephen Outhouse (middle with cap), Mark Robichaud (right), and David Stephens standing with the purser on the Digby ferry – on our way to Paris! We had this shark – a carving by Stephen – mounted to the top of the the truck cab.
I received this photo and note from Nova Scotia artist David Stephens shortly after last weeks post was published. Thanks David for permitting me to post it here. It’s a long drive from Nova Scotia for a one day show. This illustrates the dedication of all involved to this unique folk art event.
In looking over my support material, I came across some interesting definitions of folk art in the initial correspondence from promoter Michael Hennigan.  I include them here to add to the dialogue which we as collectors and enthusiasts continue to have on what constitutes folk art; and what of this art is worthy of study and preservation.
“The working definition of folk art for this show is: “the personal or naive expression of untutored creators”.  You will note that this definition deviates from those presented by folklorists and material culturalists which tend to emphasize context and tradition over aesthetics and individuality.  Rather it adheres to the connoisseurs or Art Historian’s definition with emphasis on form, line, and color.”
“I am trying to avoid ethnically based arts and crafts such as knife making, canoe building, basketry, newly made fish and duck decoys, or any mass produced craft lacking creative inspiration.  For the purposes of this show, Craft involves head and hand, while art involves head, and hand and heart.”
“I am also avoiding highly commercialized or slick assembly line work, or neo-folk art.  Which is defined as work made by self taught artists who get their ideas from seeing folk art elsewhere such as in books or museums. For purposes of the show such art is not folk art, but rather is about folk art.”
“Also, I am avoiding faux naif art, which is defined as art produced in a naif style by fine artists. Finally I am avoiding amateur or so called “Sunday” painting, as difficult as it may occasionally be to distinguish such art from folk art.  Folk Craft is also not allowed.  Folk craft is the folksy, cutesy pie, overly sentimentalized stuff seen at craft shows.”
With the inclusion of contemporary folk art at such distinguished shows as Cabin Fever, coming up February 6 and 7, 2016 in Kingston, Ontario, and the Bowmanville show which every year is on Good Friday, we have an opportunity to compare the work presented there to these definitions. I think that you will find that for the most part these shows rise to these standards.  I wish I could say the same for the field shows, but perhaps they will be inspired to improve as the knowledge of what constitutes folk art is understood by more and more people.   Here’s hoping.
I went through my photos and found a picture of one of the dinosaurs we brought to the show.  Imagine being greeted by two of these 9′ monsters.

9′ dinosaur by Roger Raymond

Thoughts and observations on the 2013 Bowmanville Antique Show

bow13shadThis is a picture of my booth at the 40th Edition of the Bowmanville Antique show. which was held Good Friday, March 29, and Saturday March 30th.  As you can see I went heavy on the folk art and light on furniture.  I love antique furniture, but I just don’t have the back for it anymore. If you want to see a slew of good pictures of the show please follow this link – to Adrian Tinline’s Canadiana Antiques facebook page.  If you are unfamiliar, this also serves to introduce you to this lively and informative forum.  Join, if you will.

This year Bowmanville was, as always a beautiful show, full of exceptional works of antique and folk art, and early handmade Canadian furniture and accessories.  All 24 exhibitors took special care to select and present their. best wares.  Many dealers put aside special pieces all year to present them here for the first time.

The show started humbly in 1973 when picker and collector extraordinaire Rob Lambert decided to invite the best dealers in the field of Canadiana to hold an annual spring show near his home in Bowmanville, Ontario.  In those early days dealers set up their offerings in their rooms at the Flying Dutchman hotel. When the starting bell rang, people would run (quite literally) from room to room to get ahead of their rivals, and purchase the treasures presented.  It was wild and hectic, with occasional  incidents of pushing and near fisticuffs. People were passionate about their collections back then.  It quickly gained the reputation of being “the” Canadiana show and it’s numbers and reputation grew from year to year.

Eventually the show moved to the G.B. Rickard Recreation Complex where it has continued to be held until present day.  For the past several years it has been expertly run  by Bill and Linda Dobson.  They have worked hard to maintain it’s tradition as a high quality, vetted show.  The vetting process is carried out before the show by a group of experts who go from booth to booth checking everything out for authenticity, quality, and accuracy of presentation.  Any repros, rebuilds, or items not meeting the criteria of the show are removed at this time.

I’ve been doing the show for about twenty years.  I’ve always been happy to do it, but I’ve also always fretted about doing well.  It all happens so fast. The bulk of the business is done within the first two hours of the show, People line up well ahead of time.  From time to time people even camp outside the door overnight to be first in line. With so many beautiful items competing for attention, you have to be ready to rumble when they come running through the door at  6 pm. Chances are that by eight o’clock you will have sold the bulk of what you are going to sell. You are on your feet and on your toes  selling, wrapping, and doing the math during those first two hours and then everyone clears out. By  9 pm you are either happy or concerned, but at least there is a good meal waiting for you.  Bill and Linda have always had wine and beer and food ready to bring out as the show closes, and for the last couple of years Mary Jo Field has been producing absolutely fabulous meals that in themselves are good enough reason to book the show.

Although many come to see the show on Saturday the atmosphere is considerably more relaxed. This is fine because  it allows you an opportunity to see the show, and chat with other dealers. Many of who I now see only once a year at this show. These chats often result in a few more sales or swaps.  Then it’s all over at 4, and within a couple of hours you’re packed and on your way home, either feeling great, or not so great, or disappointed.  It’s that kind of show.  Some people will always do well, and some people not so well.

I’d say that for the past couple of years, like everywhere else, sales have been slower, but there are positive signs too,  Prices are noticeably more reasonable, and interesting pieces, priced right do sell. It’s also great to see the show now includes three young dealers, Ben Lennox, Adrian Tinline, and Fairfield’s Antiques.  All had excellent booths, and added to the excitement with their enthusiasm and knowledge.  I also find it encouraging to see more young faces in the crowd, attendance figures are up over last year.

Here’s hoping that the Bowmanville show will continue to be a great place to see and buy the best in early Canadian antiques and folk art  for at least another forty years.

39th Annual Bowmanville show

the dealers circulating just before opening

This past Good Friday, April 6th, it was my pleasure to participate in the 39th annual Bowmanville Antiques and Folk Art show;  the long standing pinnacle of Canadian antique shows for early, collector-quality furniture, accessories, and folk art.  It is held every Good Friday and following Saturday at the G.B. Rickard Recreation Complex in Bowmanville, Ontario. It is a vetted show of 28 invited top dealers and represents the best of what’s out there.

It is always interesting and worthwhile but  to be honest for a dealer it is also always a bit of a wind up.  You work on your booth for weeks, seeking out and saving only the best items to present to the elite of the Canadian collectors who wait eagerly for the six o’clock opening so that they can rush in and nab that special something before a rival gets a chance.  Within two hours of the opening this crowd has either bought enough of your offerings that you are happy, or they have passed you by, and you are aware that you will be there until 9 that evening, and then from ten until four on the Saturday with a greatly diminished chance of anything moving.  I have been doing the show for over 20 years and twas always thus,  but lately with the stalled economy it has become more of a risk.  This year because I sold 11 of 24 drawings from the scrap book of a turn of the century young Niagara Peninsula woman, and a few other items I was alright, but I repacked my big ticket items at the end of the show and I noticed that it was the same for most of my colleagues.  I looked back over my books and although always profitable, the last year I had a gang buster show was 2009.  Fits right in with the general economy doesn’t it, and although Bill Dobson is a terrific guy and promotes and runs the show well, it does not seem to attract many new collectors.  Some feel that having it at every year at Easter which often coincides with Pass Over is an obstacle.  I think that a more important factor is that in recent years many large collections are being offered for auction around the same time of year. This year on May 19th Tim Potter is offering the important collection of Rod and Aggie Brook, and when you go to his site ( and see the quality of what’s being offered you can see why some people were waiting.

It’s a rapidly changing, big ol’ digital world out there, and we live in hope that through exposure and promotion more people will be brought to recognize the authentic and will begin to seek out the beauty of the handmade antique item. Bowmanville is an institution, and you would be hard pressed to find a better show to increase your knowledge and  see beautiful things. Please come out and support it next year, which will be the 40th year.

I am happy to note that this year eight Collectivator dealers participated. They are  Barry Ezrin, Croydon House, Land and Ross, Martin Osler, Pollikers, Portobello Road, Shadfly, and Shaun Markey.  I include pictures here.  Thanks to Ben Lennox for some of the photos, and my sincere apology to Marty Osler  whose booth photo did not turn out. I hope to get a shot from a friend and add it.   In the meantime, I  am including a nice shot of the back of Marty’s head which shows off his trendy new short cropped hair.  Looking good Marty.

Croyden House

Barry Ezrin

Portobello Road / Ben Lennox

Land and Ross

Shaun Markey



The back of Marty Osler’s head. Looking good.