Salt Lake City Revisited

I’ve spent most of this past week in Salt Lake City, where I was appearing at a conference on behalf of Minwax during the day and at night catching up with my oldest son Eric, who is finishing work on his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Utah. Eric was born in 1988, the same year that I started the annual Grove Park Inn Arts and Crafts Conference. Many of our exhibitors and attendees watched both Eric and Blake grow up at each conference, from those early years in a stroller to working in the ticket booth during their high school days.

Eric can tell a few stories on his father, such as the times I bribed him with Happy Meals to go with me to auctions and yard sales rather than to Weaver Park where the kids with normal fathers played. I had fully expected him to reject anything Arts and Crafts just because of those early memories, not to mention being on the losing end of more than a few collisions with Morris chairs, box settles, and solid oak bookcases.

And so when I told him I was going to make the rounds of the antiques shops in Salt Lake City last Saturday afternoon, I fully expected him to politely decline.

Instead, he asked if he could come along.

(Which reminded me of a rule I always had in my workshop when Eric and Blake were growing up: If either ever said, “Can I help?” the answer was always, “Yes” — even if it meant the project would then take twice as long.)

So, as soon as the conference closed on Saturday afternoon, Eric and I headed over to Salt Lake City Craftsman, where Riley Booker, the youngest Arts and Crafts antiques furniture dealer in the country, has steadily been building — and educating — a dedicated, loyal clientele and a rock-solid reputation in Salt Lake City and beyond. Riley has a keen eye for great design and key construction details, which was reflected this day in the assortment of Gustav Stickley, Charles Limbert, Lifetime, and L. & J.G. Stickley furniture he had on display. Riley had just returned from a buying trip, and was soon apologizing for how quickly his clients had snapped up his latest truckload of furniture.

On my last trip out to Salt Lake City I had bought a Gustav Stickley music cabinet from Riley, and really didn’t have a need for any more furniture (as if that ever stopped any of us), but on this trip I still was able to find a few smaller items to bring back home — proof of another of my maxims: The only people who don’t find anything are the ones who quit looking.

Our final stop of the day, before dropping into one of Salt Lake City’s popular brewpubs, was Sugarhouse Furniture. I knew I wouldn’t find any antiques there, as this family-owned store features new, high-quality Arts and Crafts furniture, lighting, and accessories, but I have seldom found any store with a finer selection of contemporary art pottery. Eric and I had fun comparing the different decorations, glazes, and forms before picking out a couple of Motawi tiles — a majestic loon and a redheaded woodpecker — to commemorate our day together.

All of which could bring me to any of several different points to make in closing, most of them being quite obvious, but I’ll end with just one: as much fun as it is being an Arts and Crafts collector, its twice as rewarding when you’re out searching with someone special.

Until next Monday,

Embrace the day!