Tapping Into an Untapped Resource

It feels good to be right now and then.

I have always said that one of our greatest sources of information are our Arts and Crafts antiques dealers. Every one of them is an expert in their particular field, whether it be lighting, metalware, English Arts and Crafts, rustic furnishings, jewelry, Stickley furniture or Newcomb pottery. And when they are all brought together, as they are at the annual summer Twin Cities and Oak Park shows and at the Grove Park Inn each February, we collectors should take advantage of a rare opportunity.

Each of their booths at these shows is like a small (or not so small) Arts and Crafts exhibition, ranging from commonplace, inexpensive examples perfect for the beginning collector to the rare masterworks that most of us only see in exhibition catalogs and coffee table books. And unlike museum exhibitions in which we are dependent on the catalog to hopefully help us distinguish one example from the other, antiques shows provide us with a living expert standing there ready to point out those subtle differences between two seemingly identical pieces with dramatic differences in value.

And antiques dealers love to share their information and their passion. More often than not, they not only sell what they are knowledgeable about, they also live with it in their own homes.

Sometimes, too, antiques dealers go the extra mile for us, just as Gus Bostrom has done this month. Gus is knowledgeable about Arts and Crafts, but he is passionate when it comes to San Francisco metalware, especially the people, the personalities and the stories behind each piece he finds. Indicative of his passion, Gus has mounted an exhibition in his Berkeley, CA gallery entitled Bay Area Copper, 1900-1950: Dirk van Erp & His Influence. The exhibit runs from November 3 – 25, so if you are within driving distance, don’t miss this great opportunity.

But Gus went not one extra mile, but two. Not only has he mounted an impressive exhibition of Arts and Crafts metalware from the San Francisco area, he has written an even more impressive book by the same name. This full-size, 118-page, color book is lavishly illustrated and was designed, printed, and published entirely at Gus’ expense. No publisher involved, no grant money solicited, no advertisements sold to offset the cost. Gus simply wrote the check and waited for the books to arrive.

That’s passion. That’s dedication.

Passion for those obscure California coppersmiths, many on the verge of forever being forgotten.

Dedication to you and me, collectors and enthusiasts who still love the stories, the insight, the information that enables us to enjoy the pieces we collect — and those we don’t necessarily collect — even more than we already do.

At a time when traditional book publishers are becoming even more reluctant to take a chance on a niche book, we depend that much more on antiques dealers who continue to set up at shows and who, like Gus Bostrom, are willing to take a serious financial risk in publishing their information for our benefit.

Gus is not the first to do so, and we have learned from previous experience that these gems are only printed in small quantities, and quickly become treasured additions to our bookshelves. Don Marek wrote books on Grand Rapids art metal and Grand Rapids furniture; Jordon-Volpe Gallery did the same for Harvey Ellis; Gallery 532 and Pat Bartinique on Charles Limbert; Isak Lindenauer on August Tiesselinck; and Thomas Maher on Robert Jarvie.

It has become harder to find some of these limited edition books than it is to find examples of the antiques they each wrote about.

The only way we can encourage antiques dealers and collectors to share their knowledge in print with us is to buy their books. And this is not like making a donation. You get a quality reference book in return, one that will benefit you in more ways than you will expect.

Just as important, you help to insure that information does not slip away with time, and that interest in the Arts and Crafts movement — and in the real people who made it happen a century ago — never fades away.

In the end, we all win.

Until next Monday,

Have a great week!


To read more about Bay Area Copper, 1900-1950: Dirk van Erp and His Influence, both the exhibit and the book, simply click on this link.


You can read a more extensive review of this book in the Collector’s Guide section on our Home Page.

Top Photo: Dirk van Erp and his cigar.