Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cowboy Down - A Conversation Between Two Professional Thrift Shoppers - Part Nine - "Fourteen Feet Away"

Cowboy Down

A Conversation Between Two Professional Thrift Shopper

Part Nine

"Fourteen Feet Away"

            “Well... we’ve SET-stage pretty well.  Haven’t we.  (with the previous discussion – Part Eight)  Yep.   Soooo... the story...:  WE... ARE AT... a large box store scale thrift store and... she (my wife) meets me at the head of the metal isle (things [rummage is a better word] made of metal for sale) carrying a sprig creamer.  Ok so right there that’s an antique.  First off it’s priced ninety-nine cents ($.99) but, OR of GREATER IMPORTANCE in this discussion is the WHAT it is.  Now I... and her (my wife) don’t ever even discuss that... this is a perfectly formed classic poise English Victorian breakfast table... or tea service... cream pitcher... mold cast of earthenware clay with modest decorative relief cast cartouche within the casting ...and that this little pitcher is, aside from the should-be-there ‘appropriate’ light age toning to the ...clear glazed... cast clay form... in perfect condition with the... classic and modest hand painted in polychrome colors... ‘sprig’ decoration on it with this pleasingly found in its traditional ...understated... embellishment...:  Yep.

            “THAT conversation between us is ‘unnecessary’ for we both already know-what-it-is... well more than I just described it... on to the further ABYSMAL state of this ‘old china’ in... BOTH... the general populace AND the antiquarian populace culture connect of... being... NOT ‘popular in the market’ meaning ‘sprig’ ‘china’ has lost it’s (cash value) collecting allure... mostly because ‘no body’ ‘knows what it is’ ‘anymore’
            “So what and that’s never stopped the antiquarian I 1...  and the ...eye... of my wife either so this... in fact... little gem... without words... is EMBRACED as ‘a good find’ and onto the NEXT antique-on-its-journey (Part Seven ) WE go... with her carefully carrying the little pitcher.  My wife ‘dumps’ (abandons and leaves for I to ‘do’ [search]) this metal isle and goes to the next isle. I... scanning down one side from a poise at the upper center of the opposite side encounter, half way down, visual blockage of my view by a woman poking at something on a shelf.  Beyond her, toward a full fourteen feet to end corner of the isle, a classic ‘big butt blockage’ is in progress with an older ‘let herself go’ (Part Eight) woman physically having rolled her upper torso on to the kiddy seat section of a shopping cart for support... the cart IS holding her ‘up’... with this cart blocking (‘jammed into’) the far corner region of the metal isle shelves.  SOOOO... I am, ah... stymied... in that direction.

            “The first... center-of-isle woman... moves off UP the isle as I scan DOWN the isle.  She vanishes and I... embrace... the... big butt – cart supported – flotilla mass as I rapidly scan the newly opened shelf space on down to... VERY QUICKLY (two seconds)... the blocking flotilla mass... to “NO-YES-NO!” see an ‘it’; a true good rare antique... on an upper shelf... front and center... before (and therefore ‘within’ the blocking flotilla) the FACE of the blocking woman... “SHE’S STARING AT IT?”.  No.
            “In fact no... no, no.  I have, now suddenly, oodles of time (seconds) to, ah... is it really ‘get to it’ (reach out and grab the antiques).  I mean... I KNOW what it is.  I KNOW.  And I am fourteen feet away.  I know that it is priced at ZERO value.  I KNOW. looking at the woman’s butt?  Her cart.  Her pitched upper body upon the cart... NOT MOVING with her dim-wittedly viewing the this far corner of the metal isle BEYOND the end of her wedge-in-the-corner cart... I...
            “Have complete control of myself; she WILL MOVE (come back to life) eventually and I stand in my position.  I stand there... looking at ‘it’; the good antique priced too-too low fourteen feet away ‘over there’ past her ...butt.

            “My wife appears at the other head of the isle; where she’d gone off to.  I, seeing her, drop my vigil upon the antique, acknowledge her and... gesture for her to come.  She does.  ‘Watch this’ I say just as the flotilla breaks position at the corner and I step into her voiding space; space... a void... and I hand... my hand goes out and up and through the space to the shelf to PLUCK it as she (my wife) TOO DOES SEE THIS ‘it’ TOO.”
            “Oh my God.” I hear behind me.  Yes and as I turn her hand takes it (grabs?) to affirm what we already know is an early New England pewter whale oil lamp...:

            “Is it signed?” and the bottom of the lamp is, mid isle, scanned to “YES”
            “Putnam” (James Putnam Malden MA 1835-1850).
            “After these five seconds that includes the notice of the three-ninety-nine ($3.99) price stickers.... we continue looking for ‘more’ ‘antiques’.  And do not find anymore ‘that day’.

            “OK so we as the baron and baroness of thrift store antiques... leave and lunch and the rest of the day and yeah, yeah, yeah because WHAT ELSE went into that ‘find’ beside maneuvering around a... big butt.  YES there was more and so... much more that the word “FIND” is best considered ‘denoted’ or... even... ‘noticed’.  I mean... it WAS just sitting there at the end of... ITS... journey (Part Seven, again) to the thrift store.  WE were the ‘notice given’ it?  Only us?”
            “I would have known.”
            “Yes but you weren’t coming across the parking lot towards us flaunting it.”
            “Yes, yes.... I know that.  You were there.  And your so right about this.  You really did nothing.  THE LAMP was on the journey.  You just happened by.”
            “And noticed it.”
            “And noticed it.”

            “THERE is the whole pivot point.  The store was FULL of shoppers with no one noticing either the sprig ware or the pewter lamp.  Just simply no one knowing.  You would have known.”
            “Easy (both the creamer and the lamp); not a second thought.”
            “But who else?  The salad bar woman? (Part Eight)  SF? (Part Four).  We... really are ... on our own.  I’ll review the lamp; the ANTIQUE heritage of the lamp.  You pop in with anything.”

            “So... I first knew what an American pewter whale oil lamp was, like... in the late sixties.  I know I had (bought and sold) my first Putnam (maker) lamp when I was in high school.  They were, like, sixty-five bucks then.  Tops.  This one is, well... four hundred tops these days.  This is a good one; great condition, great burner.  Anyway... when I say ‘knew what’; that’s the big thing here.  First off... I’ve never STOPPED ‘knowing what’ AND using that knowledge.  Since the sixties.  Same for you, right?”
            “Absolutely.  I’m always ready to go on signed American (pewter).”
            “Did you read a book?”

            “Reference books... well... sort of.  Again, I have some (on pewter and American pewter) and I looked at the pictures.”
            “Never read the book?”
            “Poked at it (the text)?”
            “Ok... leave me alone.”
            “So... like... these lamps you learned about mostly through seeing them and handling them on your antiques show circuit?”
            “That’s fair.  Probably.  That’s where I first probably handled them.”
            “Is it studied them?”
            “Right.  So... your ‘hands on’.  So what’s that actually mean?  It means your, like, a silhouette buyer; you recognize the design form from your self education; you know, generally, that this (a pewter lamp) CAN BE a good signed American maker pewter lamp when you, like, SEE ONE forty feet away.”
            “Forty feet... maybe not.”
            “Want to bet.  I bet you know the form at forty feet.  UP CLOSE... I’ll beat you out on the details.  That’s the commercial details AND the design details.  I know I’ve studied this more that you; actually read the books.  (Plural).  AND have handled... pretty much as many of them (pewter whale oil lamps) as I could.  I DO love the form (the pewter whale oil lighting shape, especially ‘American’).”
            “I would have grabbed it.”

            “Of course.  It’s just that you wouldn’t have a price on it for, like, six WEEKS of ‘research’ that includes, like... asking ME what I ‘think it’s worth’.”
            “WELL... “
            “It’s low rent (behaving like that as a dealer).”
            “Look:  I know in the five seconds EXACTLY where that lamp is in the WHOLE HISTORY of the design form so, like, four hundred; it’s ready to go (is for sale).”
            “Four hundred?  Really?
            “Sure.  What are you gonna do?  Beat me down?”
            “Well... that’s a LITTLE high for me.
            “Yeah but LOOK, Ms. Push Comes to Shove:  I’m, like, I EARNED THAT.  I mean, I’m in a God damn BOX STORE full of people who don’t even know what a DESIGN FORM is let alone what a signed New England pewter whale oil lamp is.  That’s, like... just didn’t HAPPEN.  I get paid for that.  YOU can go find YOUR OWN pewter lamp.  You know:  Have a nice day.”
            “Right, right.  It is fair.  I guess.  I mean:  You bought the books.  And read them.”
            “Like... I bet I’ve spent four hundred just on pewter reference books period (alone).  And while we’re at it; what’s the last museum pewter show you... attended?”
            “Oh come on.”
            “Me?  Brandywine (Chadds Ford , PA).  How about five years ago.  Maybe six.”
            “Yeah....  That too.  It is fair.  You made yourself there (at the thrift store).  It’s not like it just happened .  You aren’t just wandering by.”
            “There we go:  From fourteen feet and butt block:  ALL MINE.”

            “So... how do you book that (use reference books to discern the lamp)?”
            “I didn’t touch a book.”
            “Yeah... but... what books would you?  My books aren’t clear on just lamps.”
            “Right.  I like that.  Have to feel around in design huh.  Like... let’s see... there’s PEWTER design... and LIGHTING... DESIGN... and LAMP design... and WHALE OIL LAMP design... and whale oil.  You know HERE (on the thrift store lamp) that’s actually a camphene burner; a ‘fluid lamp’.  Camphene was early kerosene.  It pushed whale oil out of the way.  They ran out of whales too.  Anyway; that’s, like, DETAILS.  Got to do DESIGN first.  Huh.”
            “So what books?”

            “Well... for pewter, I just skip ‘em all to go to Montgomery (A HISTORY OF AMERICAN PEWTER, Winterthur, NY, 1973).  He was the king of antiques at Yale then.  The book breaks open pewter as a full fledge design form.  He has some lamps in it (pictured).  It’s the best introductive survey to the DESIGN FORM.  If you READ IT.”
            “Your so nice when you help someone.”
            “I told ‘em the truth.  Bring that book with you in your mind... AND ALL of the OTHER pewter books you READ after that... HEY:  Maybe you’ll FIND something.
            “What else (for books).”
            “I...myself, jump right way back to (Arthur H.) Hayward COLONIAL LIGHTING”.  That’s, like, 1927.  But it’s all over the place in (modern) paper back (editions).  Always beat up.  I use a hardcover first (first edition).”
            “Your so....”
            “HEY:  It’s a real book.  That’s actually the improved second (edition).  I’ve used it my whole (antique dealer) life.  Have some quality in your life.  What is yours; beat-up paper, right?”
            “I don’t think I ever even SEEN it in hardcover.”
            “I work with idiots.”
            “So... that book just covers a little on pewter lamps.”

            “Yeah, like, one plate with text.  So what.  The book covers ALL American lighting.  The DESIGN of American lighting.  I mean; I know this (lighting design) totally COLD including being able to tell AMERICAN DESIGN from, like, the rest of the world’s old lighting.  Got to be able to do that THESE DAYS.  Lot of, ah... ‘imports’ in the market.”
            “And at the thrift stores”.
            “Yep.  There’s a lot of crummy old lighting out there for sale.”
            “So... the big plus here is our knowledge of design.  Again.  Design for pewter.  Design for sprig ware.  Design for the stupid little whiskey taster (Part Seven).  Huh?  Bet they (the reader) didn’t even know there IS design for ‘whiskey tasters’.  Ok so...  I’ll say it:  I really like being into (knowing about) different design forms and knowing those design forms really.... really... well.  And...knowing other people don’t.
            “You’ve scalped them at the thrift store before you start.”

            “So let’s get THAT right.  But first, come on:  Do you know what the BEST marked (old) New England pewter whale oil lamp is?  Here you go... FOR FREE:  Marked ‘Brook Farm’ (Montgomery pg. 218) and made by Thoreau”.
            “Well... not actually by Thoreau.  Ephraim Capen (1844-45) at Brook Farm.  New England Transcendentalist pewter really.  Go look it up.  I’ve never found one.  But I will.  Ha, ha.  Ok:   Back to design and thrift stores.... Yeah: bugs you don’t it.  You wouldn’t even know it.  You’d be going ‘what’s this it says ‘Brook Farm’ on the bottom what’s a brook farm?’  Find a pair of those at a thrift store.” (Notice the very short active production date 1844-45; how many did Capen make?  How many did he actually sell? How many, therefore, ‘survive’?  They are rare, particularly a ‘perfect pair’."

1 Do I have to yell at the reader in a footnote to establish ‘sprig ware’?  Is its antiquarian object status THAT vanquished?  OLD New England and MY grandmother and HER grandmother before clutched ‘sprig’ and treasured ‘sprig’ and ‘showed’ sprig as ‘antique china’ and... I grew up that way.  What that understanding was (and is) is that I, the antiquarian, could find the finest Colonial era English earthenware teapot and... wander home with it to proudly display it only to have it silently dismissed as ‘not being as nice as my grandmother’s own (sprig ware) teapot’.  The emphasis is on the word ‘silently’.  Appreciation of ‘sprig ware’ in old New England was and STILL IS... a ‘rock of Gibraltar’...silence.  Therefore... this purloined creamer... although commercially ‘a nothing’ IS, in fact, a DEEP DARK TREASURE from ‘old New England’.  The pure strain of old New England (high Victorian farm property front parlor) eloquence is found in ‘sprig ware’... is what I am saying?  Yes it is.  And what more... could it mean?  It means that ...if here at the thrift store is us finding the sprig ware THAT then LOOK AROUND for MORE ‘antiques’.

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