How an old cupboard front gets re-purposed to become an “antique” queen size bed

 

 

finished headboard

Anyone familiar with antiques knows that there are no old queen size beds.  They just didn’t make them.  People slept differently in those days, partly sitting up; and they must have valued floor space because most century old beds are no wider than a contemporary ¾ size, and are shorter by a couple of inches.

Not that comfortable by contemporary sleeping standards. How many of us have struggled through a night in a friends guest 1840 rope bed, which when you attempt to get in sinks by inches and caves towards the middle because the ropes are loosening. Aesthetically beautiful as the bed may be, it doesn’t make up for a sore back. So what is an antique lover to do if they want to provide a comfortable queen size bed for their guests, but also want that bed to fit in and sympathize with an otherwise antique setting?  Some people will buy a good looking reproduction, some will modify an old bed which lends itself to being enlarged; or in the case of friends and collectors Paul and Cindy Beischlag, they saw the potential for an interesting head and foot board in a set of old cupboard fronts, and went on to design and make their own.

It started when they bought an old cupboard front from me.  A beautiful, circa 1840, series of 6 doors framed in and hinged, saved from a long ago dismantled built in the wall cupboard.  I had bought it years ago thinking I I might build a work table using them as a series of doors to storage underneath.  It never happened, and so many years later Paul and Cindy spotted them at our clear out sale.

as found full-length doors and four cut-off bed posts

They could imagine them running side by side, as is, to make up the front of the headboard. They then came up with a design by studying other old beds, and set about trying to find four posts for the corners. After looking far and wide they found a nice set of four from Port Hope dealer Clay Bensen, with the only problem being that years ago they had been cut off about half way up, and the original tops were lost.  They liked them though and bought them,  and set about trying to find something that could replace the missing top part.  Within a short time they found four old thick table legs at another local dealer and realized that turned upside down and attached they would finish off the posts nicely.  Talk about serendipity.  The only thing they knew that they were never likely to find was a blanket rail, and a turned top rail, so they drew out the designs for these pieces and had them turned from reclaimed timber at C.J’s antiques and restoration near Simcoe Ontario.  They did a wonderful job.

Scott Fletcher getting ready to match up some paint.

Paul and Cindy are lucky enough to have an artistic friend named Scott Fletcher who was willing and happy to work with Paul to create this unique piece as a winter project.  Even better, Scott has a large, fully equipped workshop.  So they went into the shop, and worked on it, and worked on it, on and off for a total of about 100 hours; and what they emerged with after all that time is a unique, sympathetic, and “beautiful in it’s own right” queen size bed.  They did an excellent job.  Here are some photos they kindly provided me with, along with some explanations.

template showing how top board was to be cut out.

table legs had to have the paint stripped so they could be matched up with the posts.

finished foot board showing turned blanket rail

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You can pay anything for anything these days.

here’s a really old picture of me.

It’s 4:30 pm April 20, 2018, and I am declaring it spring.  I just had to run out to my friends place on the edge of town to deliver a painting I had cleaned for them, and when I got out of the car, I thought,  “Hallelujah. at last, it’s spring.  What a long wait it has been for us here in south-west Ontario this year.  But it’s like being beaten over the head with a two by four, it feels so good once it’s over. I point this out to say it took a lot of will power to reject the offer of a beer and sitting on the porch for a spell for me to write this,  but I met a guy at the market last week who pointed out he noticed I was getting a bit irregular in writing every Friday as I was until recently, and he gently encouraged me to get with it.  It doesn’t take much to make me feel guilty apparently.  But what does this have to do with economics you ask.  Well nothing, but the arrival of spring could not go without comment.

What got me to thinking about economics this week is a new pair of blue jeans I bought at Costco.   I buy clothes only when necessary which at my age is rarely.  I’ve got a lot of clothes and not many occasions when I need to dress up,  plus I am not much of a shopper.  Anyway, seventeen bucks.  I got a really nicely made jeans of quality fabric that fit me and look good for less than the price of a coffee and a snack at Starbucks. I also had the occasion that day to be in the Bay and I saw some designer jeans for about $240.  I didn’t like the fancy stitching on the back pockets but I suppose it was there so people knew you hadn’t bought your jeans at Costco for seventeen bucks, and that’s fine with me. I’m not going to diss anybody for wanting to make a statement with their clothes, if that’s what makes you feel better.  It just doesn’t do anything for me.  I also know that if I looked around I could probably find a pair of jeans for $5, but if you want them to last you’re better off to spend a little more.   My point is you can spend $15 or you can spend $245, or more for a pair of men’s jeans. You can pay anything for anything these days

Next example.  We were at our daughter’s house and over breakfast she said to her husband “when you go out to get the groceries I would like you to go to a hardware store and get a new drip coffee maker.” This was the direct result of having to listen to me once more mutter under my breath when I tried to pour myself a cup of coffee and inevitably, no matter how hard you tried, the stupid spout of the carafe was so tiny that you ended up spilling all over the counter.  That, and the fact that it no longer had a lid and she doesn’t like the smell of coffee.  I find this hard to relate to because I love the smell of coffee, but I did agree with her that the spilling thing was a pain in the ass.  Of course it is not in my nature to replace anything that still works so I objected. I would have put up with that stupid carafe until the thing died a natural death.   Also, the fact is that neither of them drink coffee so the coffee maker is just there for us or other coffee drinking guests so is rarely used.  But she showed great determination so I headed out with my son in law, figuring that I would jump in at the last minute and buy the device as a hostess gift. As it turns out he wouldn’t let me do this but I digress. We went first to the local Loblaws for the groceries on our list, and low and behold, there in the middle isle was a very nice little coffee maker on sale for $22.   Amazing.  It has a spout that pours, a lid, a cleanable filter so you don’t have to  buy and dispose the paper filters, and I can tell it makes a much better cup of coffee than the old one.  I think I may have learned something from the experience. Spending $22 to not have to wipe up spilled coffee is a good move.  When I got home and looked at the Canadian Tire catalogue I noticed you can spend anywhere from $12 to about $350 for a drip coffee maker.  You can pay anything, for anything these days.

This seems to be the case for most items these days thanks to diverse world economics, and the modernization of manufacturing, and I think it’s a pretty good thing overall.   The frugal or poor can buy pretty good things for not much money, and the wealthy have an ever increasing selection to choose from.  However, I think it also makes people suspicious of their understanding of the monetary value of things.

This has always been an issue that antique and art dealers have had to deal with.  When you are asking $350 for a  100 year old rocking chair, there is no price in a catalogue to refer to.  There is just your knowledge of antiquity and markets which the buyer either believes in or not.  I believe that a lot of established, knowledgeable dealers do a good and fair job of pricing, but it is also the case with the way the markets are now that you see prices all over the place.  Recently, a painting by a folk artist that I represented for years sold at auction for $870.  I sold that painting in my shop for $495, and I know of other auctions were similar paintings by the same artist have sold for less than $100.

I once overheard a couple of old time dealers haggling over the price of a chair.  “Well I agree that it is a very nice chair in original paint and great condition but why is it priced at $600.” The other guy looked him strait in the face and said “because I paid $5 for it”.  Ha. They both laughed, and the questioning fellow knew that his negotiation technique was failing but you get the point.  You can pay anything, for anything these days. He may have only had to pay $5 but his knowledge of antiques made him realize it was worth much more. I think this is the basic appeal behind the business. It’s a treasure hunt.  That, and a love for the stuff.  You need that too, or you will never be able to make a go of it.

And don’t get me started on how this affects you when you are trying to do a decent job of appraising items for fair market value.  That’s a topic for another day. I’ve gone on long enough. It’s sunny on the porch and I am dying to go out there and have a beer.  I’m not a big beer drinker mind you.  Don’t touch the stuff all winter, and really don’t drink much in the summer, but on the first day of spring, who would deny me?  Happy spring everyone.

Get up, get out, and do something

Listening to Mark Zuckerberg  being raked over the coals about personal information sharing on Facebook has got me thinking about this whole social media thing.  I’m not all that concerned or surprised that they keep track of my buying habits, and along with Microsoft show me endless Portuguese home rentals, now that I have investigated the subject once.  A little creepy at first,  but that’s how they make their money to provide a free service, and what’s the harm. Advertising is advertising and maybe you will see something you like.  It’s another thing to find out that they may be trying to assess, and record my medical history, if that’s true;   and I refuse to give them my phone number in spite of their encouragement that it will make my account “safer”.  I try not to give to much information that could be used to assume my identity and, “everybody’s fear”, drain my bank account, but I am overall (perhaps naively) fairly comfortable with letting people get to know me a bit better online.  What’s the point, otherwise.  I guess it’s like when you are talking to people at a party. You can either try to have an actual conversation, finding out something about the other person, and giving an opinion or something of yourself; or you can blather on about your last vacation or the weather, and essentially say nothing.  Which is the more interesting evening?

I belong to some antique and art groups and amongst the “look what I bought” posts, which, don’t get me wrong, are understandable and fine, I look forward to the occasional post which provides insight, or information, or excitement.  There’s always a few.  Perhaps less and less, or is that just me?

For instance, It was great to look at the photographs of all the beautiful and rare things that turned up at Bowmanville this past Good Friday. But it was a distant second to actually being there, and able to see the show first hand.  And that’s the point that we must not forget.  Life looking at the screen is not actual life. You can’t touch it.  You can’t really experience it’s actual presence.  You are looking at a group of pixels.  There is no actual interaction. It’s not real. It’s just a representation.

O.k. so mobility issues,  transportation problems, busy schedules etc. aside, you can argue that the main reason more and more people sit at home living their life online, rather than getting out and experiencing things first hand, is a basic laziness and disconnect brought on by the endless hours of scanning bits and pieces of entertainment and information; always on the surface, always moving on,  which is the essence of web surfing.

I just drank a cup of coffee from this cup.  As I sat and sipped I thought again of how much pleasure drinking this delicious hot beverage from this cup brings me.  I like the way that the sides of the cup is a complimentary shade and form to the crema.  I like the weight and shape.  I like that it was hand thrown and I can feel the grooves that the potter’s finger’s made while forming it on the wheel.  It’s marked “Woodside Potteries” Made in Canada, which is fine because it means it is made by an artisan and not mass produced, but in the end aside from the aforementioned aesthetics, I like it because it reminds me of the day I bought it.

It was on a beautiful, sunny Sunday in late May last year when while visiting our daughter and her husband in Toronto we noticed an ad in the local paper for a neighborhood yard sale over a series of blocks nearby, just off the Danforth. We knew that in terms of scoring a treasure we were too late by hours as it pushing ten o’clock and the pickers would have been through about eight; but we also knew that there is a nice, little breakfast place that we like on the Danforth that would be a great place to end up at for a late brunch.  Also, when your tastes run to eccentric, as mine do,   something I may like could be passed on by almost everyone.  To be honest,  I didn’t care if I found anything or not.  I just enjoyed being out interacting with friendly strangers with my family on a sunny morning with the promise a big breakfast on the horizon.  Plus, it is good for me to walk, and going up and down streets looking at stuff is a good way to walk without noticing it so much.

We parked and walked a bit and about four places in we encountered an interesting array of stuff brought out from a very eccentric looking house by some pretty bizarre looking people.  I got a little excited when I saw an old typewriter, several old photographs and  then set my eyes on a classic 1940’s waterfall vanity dressing table marked $25.  Hmmm. Well I could theoretically make $100 by going back, getting the car, and ultimately dragging it to our booth at the Waterford Antique Market.  But it needed a bit of work, and it’s really not my thing. Plus it would put me out of sink with the rest of my party, and at this point in my career,  if you can still call it that, I only buy things that I would buy for myself.  Things that interest me, or that I recognize contain an energy of originality.   It was a pretty little vanity at a great price, but I walked on.

Several blocks later, we had a bought a few books and a couple of those plaster fruit that they used to give out at the fairs. I have a soft spot for those.  We once had a large white wall in the kitchen covered with them and it was big fun, but you know, it’s not the type of purchase that you brag to your friends about.   We were approaching the restaurant and there was just one row of houses left  when I noticed this cup on a table in front of a fairly upscale (gentrified) bungalow.  Very nice woman who seemed so trustworthy and fun that my daughter bought a couple of used puzzles from her.  Now that’s trust. Anyway, chat, chat, chat, and then “ I notice you are checking out my coffee mug. Five bucks if you can use it”.  You have to drink coffee out of something and for coffee mugs we look for handmade Canadian pottery so it qualified.  “I’ll take it”.   It was later that it became my favourite. The breakfast that day was delicious.

It has to do with the style and weight and the way it keeps my coffee warm, but my affection has most to do with the memories it brings forth of that day; as Lou Reed would say “ a perfect day”. This is why we must make the effort to get up, get out,  and do something.   Look around.  Interact with your fellow humans.  Have a “perfect day” and perhaps find something to bring home to remember the day by.  You can’t order that from Amazon.

Fond Memories of attending the Aberfoyle Fall Antique Show with my Beau-Frere

It’s a beautiful last day of summer here in Port Dover with sunny skies and a temperature rising to 30 degrees this afternoon; and tomorrow being the first full day of fall promises to be the same.  A perfect day to attend the Aberfoyle Fall Antique show.  The last big out door show of the season.  Aberfoyle, near Guelph Ontario has been going for over 55 years as a Sunday market hosting 100+ quality dealers selling collectibles, folk art, furniture, and more. It is open every Sunday from the end of April to the end of October. Their spring and fall Saturday Special Shows welcome an added 90+ dealers to the market.  It runs from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. and like any  show if you want a swing at the good stuff you’ve got to be there early.

I did the spring and fall shows for years and always looked forward to strong sales, and an opportunity to buy some great items.  As a dealer you could arrive as early as you want, with many arriving the night before and camping over.  Being just a little over an hour’s drive from our place I always preferred the comfort of my own bed, but I would set the alarm at 4 and make sure I was on the field and unloaded by 6 am. This not only to catch the early dealer sales as the sun rises, but also to be there to follow the trucks as they come in.  There’s nothing quite like the thrill of sipping on a coffee in the last moments of darkness before sunrise, and shining your flash light on to a big, tied down load of antiques as it rolls slowly by you on its way to its spot.  If you see something you like you shout out for a price from the dealer who inevitably has his window rolled down in expectation.  “Just picked it in the valley.  She’s right as rain, and it’s yours for $300.”  O.K. it’s sold, and I’ll be by later to pick it up and pay you.  Many pieces were sold this way so you had to be on your toes.

In the year 2000 Jeanine’s brother Gerard, and his wife came to visit us for three weeks in the fall. A retired engineer, Gerard dabbles in buying and selling antiques and has become a dedicated collector of French Dinky toys. When we are in France we go to the shows together and he is basically a jump on board kind of guy, so I asked him if he wanted to get up at four in the morning and go with me to participate in the Aberfoyle fall show.  No question. You bet. So on Friday we loaded the truck, made our lunches and went to bed at nine.  Four a.m. Grab a coffee, get in the truck and we are off.

Gerard pulling off the “little helper” photo trick

Gerard at times can be a serious guy, and generally he is a quiet, intelligent and thoughtful sort, but on a run like this he is a riot.  Light-hearted, mischievous, and a lot of fun.  I always see a bit of Bill Murray in him in spite of the different cultural backgrounds.  He likes to claim that his English is “pretty good” but in fact his English is about like my Spanish, almost nonexistent.   On this morning it didn’t stop him from approaching everyone in his Broken English and applying a hilarious attempt at a sales pitch.  “Yes, look here this beautiful dresser back.  It’s lovely for you, no?  etc.  You get the idea.  Some people would really lighten up and get into it when they realized he was a visiting Frenchman, and some would look helplessly over at me with a “what is going on?” sort of glance.  We were a good team actually.  When things got busy he started to complete sales after asking me if an offer was acceptable.  We had a sort of good cop, bad cop thing happening.  “she’s a nice lady boss, can’t she have it for $100.” He pretended I was the boss and he worked for me. He really fell into the part. The day passed quickly.  When the  afternoon lull came Gerard took off to comb the field for dinky toys.  Although he found several, I think he only found one or two from France and I don’t think he bought either, having better examples at home.

me, at Aberfoyle on that sunny day in 2000

As four in the afternoon rolled around and we loaded up the van to go home, as it is with all the outdoor shows a full, long day in the sun takes it tole, and we were a couple of pretty exhausted campers.  But the thing I remember is that we were happy.  It’s funny how seeing an event through foreign eyes can make it new and exciting again.  It was like that, and it will remain in my memory as a very happy and special day together with my beau-frere.

This hits my consciousness today because I recently had a friend recover a lot of old photographs from a crashed computer and there amongst them were the pictures of Gerard’s last visit here in the year 2000.  Topping that is the fact that he is arriving with his wife next Friday for another three week visit.  It’s too bad it’s one week too late to go the Aberfoyle show together to look for Dinky toys, but I’m sure we’ll have lots of other kinds of fun.

Gerard, ready and willing to serve you.

Changes

I’ve just looked on my Word Press home page and this is my 107th blog entry.   I promised myself 100 entries.  Tiny drum roll please.   I’m enjoying it, so I’ll keep on going.  My goal has been to write something once a week about an aspect of my life spent in the antique trade, and the pursuit of Canadian folk art in particular. Beyond this my intension has been to go beyond the technical, and take a look at a life spent as I suggest “seeking authentic”. What is it in an item that catches me, and keeps me interested? Why do I care?   Actually, I am more interested in the expression of beauty, and the preservation of it, than I am in the industry per se, but I have also made a living from my full time involvement, so the industry part affects me.  Today I’m thinking about that.

We listen to a lot of NPR in this house.  Jeanine tries to clear her agenda every day at three to listen to Terry Gross on Fresh Air.  I’ve become a fan as well.  It’s too much politics these days, but it’s still intelligent radio. On Wednesday in the morning I was listening to a business review as I was doing up the breakfast dishes, and a report came on about changes in the antique business since the introduction of on-line shopping about the year 2000.  The program confirmed that as those of us in the industry know, the antique industry has taken a hard punch, and is now greatly reduced in size.  I think it suggested over-all the industry is down 60%, but I could have that figure muddled, and after spending a half hour searching the NPR site I could not find the interview to check it.  In any case it’s dramatic.  They had a quote from one of the appraisers from the Antiques Road Show on how half of the shops in his home town of Houston, Texas had already closed down, and the others were in trouble.  The thesis suggested that the value of dark furniture, china, pottery, etc. dropped dramatically as these items became more easily available on-line.  Basic consumerism. Why drive around when you can sit at your desk and order exactly what you are looking for?  This situation is essentially true for all retail, and with rising costs for a bricks and mortar location, it just takes a trip through the down town of a small city to see the results of this situation.  We have big box stores on the edges of towns but less and less independent little shops in the core. It’s a shame really for those of us who live to dig around in crowded, interesting spaces, but it is entirely understandable.

They chose the antique industry as an example because it has suffered the double whammy of changing retail structure, and of changing cultural tastes.  There are now more Millennials than there are baby boomers.  It’s a fact, and so far the kids don’t want their grandparents finely made dining room suites, or their knick-knacks.  Nor do they want their Great-Grandparents diamond point armoire or harvest table as difficult as that is to comprehend.  At this point the show tried to be up-beat by suggesting that the day may come when the children of the Millennials will decide they want fine mahogany furniture again instead of Ikea, and the cycle will begin again;  but I doubt it will be as simple as that.  And what dramatic changes would need to take place in the economy for the rents of commercial space in busy markets to drop significantly so that an antique shop could start to open up again.  I’m not looking to bring everybody down here although the program did not make me feel chipper.  I believe that by looking at the reality of the situation, and acknowledging the changes , we might better be able to make the best of it.  There is no question that the industry has diminished, but there is still a lot going on.

Pickers are still dropping furniture off the back of their pick-up trucks at various antique shows. A lot of the  co-ops, on-line sites, and surviving shops continue to do good business.  Facebook groups, and magazines continue to support and bolster the ideas behind collecting, and at the heart of it all, yes, I still believe that many people will potentially come to grow tired of mass consumerism, and will come to “seek authentic” for themselves.  To everything, change, change, change.

O.K. next week I will be back to tell a humorous story about my truck catching fire or some such thing, but this week I really wanted to acknowledge the effect that radio report had on me.  It can’t all be happy face, and I believe in facing these realities head on to understand and move beyond them.  And the one thing I know for certain is that  some unforeseen thing,  or event will come along that will totally change everything.  We have to remain positive to make  that positive change.  We have to keep at it.  Support and encourage, and enjoy what you love.  It’s still the best game in town.

Antiques I love, and why I love them – part 2, a tiny tin fiddle

 A friend and fellow folk art enthusiast came by yesterday, and while we were enjoying a nice cup of coffee the conversation lead to an exchange questioning what is it about certain objects that make us like them more than other objects?   Any conversation about personal aesthetics is at best subjective, and at times downright obscure, but it is better than talking about the weather.  So as an attempt to get down to defining the source of the desire to possess I asked my friend, “Hypothetically, If I were to let you take home one item from our collection that you can see from where you currently sit , What would it be”.  After a pause and some reflection he said, “I would take that tiny fiddle hanging on the wall over there”. This surprised me, because we have a lot of flashier, obviously more expensive items around, but yet I understood, and might likely to have answered in the same way.

It is unclear if this 18” long, 4 string fiddle made from an old herring tin and carved wood was ever meant to be played, but my guess is it was playable when it was made.  When I study it, I imagine that it may have been created as a gift to a child to encourage musicianship, but it is equally possible that it was created as a “gag” instrument to be pulled out for surprise at a strategic moment in a performance.  Maybe the guy or gal just wanted to make something to put on the wall, or to give as a gift.  It’s fun to think about, but in the end you get back to the object. 

I remember finding it under a big pile of junk in Alan Chauvette’s  pickers barn near Victoriaville Quebec back in the early eighties.  Alan was standing nearby writing down what we were buying and the prices.  I held it up and said “how much for this”  Alan glanced up and said “$45”.  “O.K. write it down”.  I don’t think he looked closely, or maybe he doesn’t share my aesthetic because I felt it was a steal.  But then again I have come to realize that things of great esthetic value do not always get recognized monetarily.

Some people, or I would imagine many people would think that even $45 is too much for a rusty old tin can fiddle, but they are different from me.  I love the thing.  I brought it home from Quebec.  I hung it on the wall, and to quote the late, great Charlton Heston, “ to get it, you will have to wrench it out of my cold, dead, hands. “ So what is it?  Obviously, the colour and untouched patina are superb, and the form and hand carved neck and machine heads are beautifully executed in a functional, yet slightly primitive sort of way.  The “F” holes are beautifully cut out, and the construction of tin, wire, and wood is wonderful.  All these elements hit  the pleasure buttons in my  brain, but I think it Is the fact of the herring tin body that puts me over the top.  I looked for a long while half consciously wondering how they got the herrings out of the tin which looks original and undisturbed save for the “F” holes, before I investigated and saw that there is a neat row of nails around the bottom attaching it back to the sides.  Great care was taken to create this.  A real labor of love. I love the way it is, but when I imagine it with it’s bridge intact, and the other three strings, I wonder what type of sound it would have made.  One would assume, tinny.

I found my “sunshine” tractor in a little shop north of London, Ontario a long time ago.  Again it was an item which went straight to my heart, and as I purchased it I knew it was something for me.  Something I would never want to give up.  I’ve bought and sold hundreds of hand-made toys, many more impressive in construction and scale, and yet it is this tractor which continues to sit in a glazed cupboard overlooking my work desk.   I love it’s construction and form and colour, but the element that takes it into my top drawer is the little “sunshine” sign.  I’m not an armchair psychiatrist per say, but it doesn’t take Freud to understand that my love probably has a direct route back to my mother singing me “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine” while I lay sick in bed with the measles at the age of ten.  That song is such a bittersweet tour de force isn’t it?  I get emotional just thinking about it.

 

Lastly, we come to “Old 99” (see 99 painted on the door). To be honest I don’t love it nearly as much as I love the tin fiddle or “Sunshine”, but I do love the fact that someone with welding ability, probably a professional welder, took the time and effort to make his or her child an indestructible toy locomotive, with a space at the back to put an engineer.  Is that an old bullet used to make the smokestack?  I hope not.  The poor kid could blow up.

Collecting Japanese Biscuit Barrels

Are some people born collectors and others not?  I tend to think so.  I love to surround myself with beautiful  objects, and if I was asked to name what I collect I would generalize and say art,  but I am not a collector at heart.  I have never made a conscious decision to collect any one thing in particular, and then motivated myself to seek only that to build a collection.   My wife Jeanine is a true collector.  She’s wired that way. 

When we first started attending auctions, seeking to buy some inexpensive but interesting furnishings for our new home, Jeanine decided to collect enamelware, focusing on blue and white.  Over about a six year period this was her focus.  What drove her to get out early in the morning to go to the yards sales, shops and auctions. In the early 80’s we even planed a one week, two-lane blacktop holiday, where we drove across the Eastern United States looking for unusual blue and white pieces to add to her growing collection.   It was great fun, and exciting when we would encounter something special, and it provided us an excellent excuse for just getting out there and experiencing other places, and people. This was before we had a credit card.  We just took a chunk of money, drove wherever the wind took us in an easterly direction and when we were approximately half through the pile, we turned around and headed back home.  At least that was the concept.  When we hit the half way mark we were getting pretty close to the Eastern Seaboard so we decided to keep going to put a toe in the sea, and then drive directly home.  As it happened we popped into an Antique store on the coast in Maine as our last stop before the retreat,  and met a friendly, and trusting gentleman who had a big sign above his desk “Ask me about my motel”, so I said “o.k. I’ll bite, what about your hotel?” “Well you should stay there.  It’s right on the beach and it’s clean and inexpensive.”  “Sounds great, but we’re almost out of money so we will have to check it out next time.”  “Do you have a cheque?” Well yes, but would you want to accept an out of country cheque?”  “Why not? I can tell you are decent people.”  So we wrote a cheque for a couple more night’s accommodation.  He even tacked on a bit extra for some spending money.  We had a wonderful time there.  I remember it as a golden time, walking along the coast, and enjoying the beach with the then (probably) four year old Cassandra.  Eating clam strips in a little joint down on the beach.  Not a care in the world.  Then we packed up, said our good-byes to our new friend, and drove straight home in a marathon 20 hour drive. 

The natural evolution of collecting is to initially to buy widely, and of various conditions.  As a collection develops and you’ve got all the common stuff it takes longer to come across the rare  things and eventually the space allotted for your collection fills, and then if you are truly motivated to collect, you might move on to find something else interesting, and start the process all over again.

“Belleek” pattern Japanese biscuit barrel

This happened to Jeanine after about six years of collecting the blue and white enamel.  One day she decided that was it, she had enough.  She would sell off the enamelware,  and start again. Her next collection would be ceramic Japanese biscuit barrels. What interested her was that after WW2 the Japanese began to produce the then popular biscuit barrel inexpensively in many different styles, often imitating established pottery forms of Europe, and England along with some of their own culture.  They were not too large and fun to see gathered together in a hanging cupboard. Also, she was aware there were lots of them out there, and they were inexpensive to buy.  She set her objective at collecting 100 barrels of different styles.  It took her 20 years to accomplish this, but when she hit about 135 barrels about the year 2000 that was it.   We now have about twenty of her favourites, and the rest have found new homes.

Donatello pattern. First barrel bought from Marcel Gosselin

Her first buy was from our old friend, the Quebec picker, Marcel Gosselin.  This “Donatello” themed pot which she bought for five dollars.   She went on to usually pay from $25 to $45 for most.  The highest she paid was $145 for an elaborate, larger pot of Chinese design.  That was towards the end of her collecting about 2000. Then as before, one day she made the decision that that was it.  No more biscuit barrels.   We talked about photographing all one hundred pieces before she sold the collection with the idea of releasing a little coffee table book on the subject, but like so many good ideas, it came and went.  Still, we had great fun making the collection, and looking at them for all those years.

Japanese design with rows and rows of tiny faces