Reviving Old Habits — and Having Fun

I’ve been doing something lately that I had stopped doing some time ago (besides working out) — going antiquing.

It certainly was not that I had lost my interest in antiques. It was just that I had tired of walking through antique malls filled with broken toys and beat-up board games from the seventies, wobbly chairs from the forties, and foreign reproductions that weren’t labeled honestly.

And I don’t totally blame the dealers or the mall owners. There is a lack of good material out there, although I can hear my best friend Jim, who owns and operates Chatsworth Antiques, a real antiques shop in downtown Asheville, scoffing as he reads this.

“It’s still out there,” he’s saying, “but you just have to be willing to work for it.”

For Jim that means early morning yard sales, being the first in line at local antiques shows and estate sales, taking every Thursday to hit the small town shops, previewing every local auction, and listening politely as someone on the phone describes yet another treadle sewing machine they want to get rid of, patiently waiting for the opportunity to ask if grandma had left them anything else that is for sale.

The result is that Chatsworth’s is a real antiques shop, brimming with everything from original prints and paintings to Oriental jade, English porcelain, sterling silver jewelry, and the occasional pair of Roycroft bookends.

Reminded that such shops do still exist and are fun to rummage through, Leigh Ann and I went to the 65th annual Asheville Antiques Fair knowing two things. First, Jim would have been among the first in the door at ten on Friday morning, and, second, that there would be a scarcity of Arts & Crafts.

I was wrong on one count.

Julie and Don Frazer of The Shed Antiques had taken a chance, bringing a selection of Arts & Crafts furniture to a show that traditionally attracts collectors of Southern furniture, hunting prints, and brass-studded nautical instruments. Their Grand Rapids two-door bookcase had a red sold tag hanging from the pull, a young couple was carefully inspecting a set of four Limbert-like chairs, and Leigh Ann fell in love with a small wooden pyrography bowl with Arts & Crafts poppies etched in the bottom.

And three booths away I bought a goose.

A Canadian goose. An Arts & Crafts Canadian goose that, judging from his condition, had been stuffed decades ago. But “Gus” hadn’t been immortalized in your typical goose-standing-on-the-shore pose. Gus was flying, soaring, wings outstretched to a full 63″ from tip to tip, dark brown feet tucked up under his fanned tail, neck taunt, head turned, eyes bright, looking downward for a safe place to land. He was beautiful, and I knew the moment I saw him that he was coming home with us.

More accurately, as Leigh Ann corrected me, coming to my office with me…..

Which is exactly what I had in mind, for Gus looked just like the goose in “Headed Home,” the Nakajima Kato silk screen that serves as the home page logo for this website.

And we looked like quite the pair, laughing our way through the aisles, out the door, and across the parking lot. I gingerly held Gus aloft over my head as Leigh Ann cleared the way, preventing any damage to his delicate, outstretched feathers. To anyone more than a few feet away, it must have looked like we were releasing a live Canadian goose back to the Carolina sky.

Gus is now safely gliding overhead, looking like he just flew in through the window at one end of the vaulted ceiling in my office, preparing to land on the Stickley library tables that serve as my writing desk in the center of the room.

And he is a daily reminder that antiquing is still fun.

And that the only people who aren’t finding anything are the ones who aren’t looking.

Next Monday: antiquing in Albuquerque and Salt Lake City.

Until then,

Have a great week – and stop at that antiques shop you’ve been meaning to check out.

– Bruce

PS – You can use your cursor to take a closer look at Gus.