A Most Unusual Prop

Several years ago, when Leigh Ann and I were first dating, my office was in the downstairs of my split-level, 1972 ranch house a few miles outside Asheville. One day, as we were having lunch there together, one of my employees casually came into the kitchen, took her lunch out of the refrigerator, and went back downstairs.

A few minutes later, another assistant came in and did the same.

Leigh Ann looked across the table at me, as if to say, “This has got to change.”

And so, today my office is now a second-floor addition above our detached two-car garage, and my morning commute has been stretched from twelve stair-steps to about fifty feet.

But I can handle that.

And that is where she found me yesterday afternoon, when she came in from her herb and vegetable garden holding aloft, for me to see, her first fully grown cucumber of the season.

Now, as someone who is not naturally attracted to raw vegetables, I could not in all honesty report that I was overly impressed, but her cucumber did remind me of a story, which she then had to stand and endure, as she so often does.

It was nearly twenty years ago, at the annual Arts and Crafts Conference at the Grove Park Inn, located on the side on Sunset Mountain in north Asheville. Back in the early days of the Arts and Crafts Conference, I nearly had to beg people to come and deliver one of the seven seminars I had promised as part of the three-day, weekend package.

The title of one of the Saturday morning seminars that year was “Good, Better, Best: Evaluating American Art Pottery,” and the speaker was David Rago, long before he became a familiar face and voice of authority on the PBS “Antiques Roadshow.” David still did antiques shows back then, including the Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference, and had just begun publishing The Arts and Crafts Quarterly, which eventually evolved into Style: 1900, which later became Style 1900, before it ceased publication in 2013.

The five hundred or so people in the audience that Saturday morning peered curiously at David as he walked from the back of the room toward the podium, not with a notebook of papers in hand, but, instead, with an ordinary, crumpled, brown paper grocery bag, which he casually placed on the table next to the podium.

Think he had our attention?

While we all stared at the crumpled, brown paper bag, David launched into his talk on art pottery, acting as if there was nothing unusual about a brown paper bag sitting next to the podium at an Arts and Crafts seminar.

Now, I was pacing back and forth in the rear of the ballroom next to the carousel slide projector, for in my 28 years and 196 seminars at the Grove Park Inn, no has ever, before or since, brought a crumpled, brown paper bag to the podium.

David soon began providing us with some background on young William Grueby, as well as showing us some of the forms which he and his potters had developed in their Boston pottery. Then, just as he began describing to us the famous green Grueby glazes, he stopped, picked up the crumpled, brown paper bag, and walked down the steps, away from the podium. As he slowly walked down the center aisle, he reached into the bag and began handing out the contents.


Grueby green cucumbers.

And suddenly everyone in the audience knew exactly what David meant by the phrase “inspired by Nature.”

Just ask anyone who was there.

Unforgettable — cucumbers.

Until next Monday,

“If I had more time, I could have written a shorter letter.” – Oscar Wilde


Top: Leigh Ann and her cucumber.

Middle: No, that’s not an actual two-color Grueby vase; this one is of more recent vintage by Ephraim Faience Pottery, but you get the point . . . .