It wasn't long ago that we could scour the flea markets and multi-dealer antique malls of Wisconsin and Georgia and come back with truckloads of Haeger, Rookwood and Redwing, even Roseville pottery, all for a song. We'd wrap our finds and cart them back to our little country store in the mountains of Upstate New York where we'd sell them at a normal retail based mark-up. We were never into book value pricing or arm-and-leg price hikes. The pottery would fly off the shelves. We'd keep a piece here and there for ourselves watching our own collection grow beyond the fireplace mantle and begin its spread onto the tops of dressers and into the open nooks of built-in bookcases. For me there may have been a personal connection. My father was from Dundee, Illinois, the home of Haeger Potteries. Started more than a hundred forties years ago as a brickyard it came to prominence after the great Chicago fire when rebuilding began and the material of choice was something a little less flammable than wood. Some time around the turn of the century the Haegers turned their efforts and their clay toward the production of ceramics. I can remember on family visits back to Dundee my Mother dragging me to the seconds shop at the Haeger Studios where she'd pick up a couple of vases, always matte white. We had a huge horizontal mirror in our living room with a glass shelf. My Mom displayed her vases filled with ivy and a questionable figure of a black man with a white turban and white flowing pants, a gold chain and arm bracelet attached to a ferocious looking black panther standing center stage on the glass shelf. My Mom actually had quit a flair for design.
Here are some pieces from our collection that we're particularly proud of:
Madison's story has not been quit the same. I'm going to ignore our stint at a local antique mall. They warned us about putting valuable items out, not storing them behind lock and key. We lost several valuable pieces of Roseville pottery by not adhering to their warning. Undeterred we've continued to believe that in Madison we're not supposed to have to lock our doors or hide our valuables. Our retail business has been tough to get off the ground. A lot of people have tried to convince us to do something with some more obvious signage to point a bigger finger at our store. We are on a bike path with a fair amount of bike riders passing by. I couldn't bear to do a sandwich board or a flashing neon sign so I concocted a tableau of vintage flags, a contemporary side table and the open/closed sign we had used at our store in New York. I placed my tableaux curbside in the hopes of drawing some attention to the store. It was a sign our daughter had packed up when we left New York. It was her idea to use it here in Madison, her good luck charm for the store. Saturday in the middle of the day while I was working on some construction drawings in the back room someone came by and snatched the sign. I don't think it looked like trash. I don't think the bike riding population are a particularly nefarious breed but I'd like to think that whoever took it thought it was something set out as a freebee. I hope they'll see this and think about their karma and return the sign. Here's hoping Madison proves to be what I know it really is.
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