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Slideshow: Antiques show a stage for the expensive, eccentric

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Sandie Fowler of Antique Articles in Dunstable surveys her collection of late 19th and early 20th century tiles. Fowler and her business partner, Wendy Harvey, were among scores of vendors showing off their collectibles at the 3rd Annual Antiques at Elm Bank. Click photo to view slideshhow.

The clock is a paradox: enormous, standing at least eight feet tall, yet delicate, its deep wood adorned by hand-painted filigrees and flowers; European in its structure, yet Asian in much of its design. It is labeled, rather modestly, an “early English tall clock,” made by William Kipling in London around 1740, and housed by an ornate Japanese case. At $12,500, it was one of the finest — and most expensive — items displayed at the third annual Antiques at Elm Bank Estate show in Wellesley.

The two-day event featured 85 antiques vendors, whose wares ranged from jewelry to furniture, silverware to timeless timepieces, like the tall clock shown by Hills Antique Clock Shop of Holliston.

“We restored this one to how it would have looked in 1740,” said Richard Hills, the shop’s owner. “And that one at the back,” he added, indicating a large wall clock, beautiful on its own merit but austere compared to the Kipling, “we believe came from a railway station in Newton Highlands.”

The oak-framed Seth Thomas piece, made between 1879 and 1896, bears the label “NEWTON HIGHLANDS 1904,” painted gold on the glass covering the clock’s pendulum

Hills confessed the show was his first ever, revealing a newcomer status that put him in the minority among tentfulls of seasoned sellers.

There were Kim Kassner and Jim McElroy of Orleans, owners of The Brewster Shop Antiques. The retired couple smiled as they admitted their business’ name is slightly misleading — there is, in fact, no shop. They simply set up shop at shows like this one all over the region.

“This is what we do,” McElroy said, standing beside a 19th century cabinet that came from West End Dairies in Bridport, England and still advertises eggs at 3 pence per dozen. “We keep all the stuff in our house and probably come to three or four shows a month.”

Sandie Fowler and Wendy Harvey, owners of Antique Articles in Dunstable, are similarly well-traveled, attending 20 to 30 shows per year, by their estimation. The women specialize in late 19th and early 20th century tiles, mostly 6-by-6-inch squares of art that one would be ashamed to lay on a floor.

Their prized piece is much larger, however: a roughly 12-by-18-inch tile depicting two robed children, one holding a badminton racket, the other playing some sort of woodwind instrument. The panel, surrounded by a gilded frame, was designed by W.S. Coleman and made by Minton China Works around 1880.

“It’s an extraordinary piece,” Fowler said. “The size alone makes it rare. We’re not sure if the frame is original, but that’s how it would have been displayed — hung on a wall.”

It would take $3,800 for Fowler and Harvey to part with it.

While some vendors clearly take special pride in particular items, Harold Tither III, co-owner of Harold Tither III & Robert Sears in Somers, Conn., looked like a father told to name his favorite child when asked to identify the most significant piece among his extensive collection of 19th and 20th century silverware.

“All of them,” Tither said, unable to fulfill the request.

There seemed to be more browsing than buying at Elm Bank (aren’t antiques for looking, anyway?) but Stephen Tassone of Newton was one patron willing to open his checkbook for a couple good finds, even if they only fit the open-ended category of “pretty things.”

“It doesn’t have to be anything incredibly rare or valuable,” Tassone said, holding a blue-and-white pot, while his wife paid for a pitcher. “We just enjoy coming to these shows. We go to a few different ones. It’s fun.”

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Written by callumborchers

October 3, 2010 at 5:05 pm

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