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Colonial Williamsburg quilt catalog sheds light on textile history

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Wednesday, 03 December 2014 14:15
A fortunate child once slept under the bright flowers and birds on this colorful crib quilt by an Indiana maker. In the new Williamsburg catalog, the Tulip Cross pattern work is WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Perfectly timed for holiday giving, the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has published Four Centuries of Quilts, a new catalog of their comprehensive collection of quilted bedcoverings. Textiles have unique conservation issues that limit their display time on gallery walls, so collectors will be delighted to see many of the treasures within Williamsburg’s storage vaults for the first time. Quilts illustrated begin with Indian, English and Continental examples from the 17th and 18th centuries and encompass the more familiar American formal and folk designs from the 19th and 20th century.

Accompanying the publication, a new exhibition – “A Celebration of American Quilts” – will be on view at the DeWitt Wallace Decorative Arts Museum through June 30, 2016. Curators have chosen 12 superb quilts from the permanent collection, drawing examples from across the country – Virginia to Hawaii, New Hampshire to Alabama. Quilts have a utilitarian function, but their decoration became an important outlet for the creativity of the women who designed and stitched them.

Quilts have a strong appeal to collectors because they offer a style for every taste and pocketbook. There are six-figure masterpieces at auction, which will be displayed on a wall as fine art, and colorful quilts sold for a few hundred dollars that can be put right in the master bedroom. Collections often begin with a family quilt in a simple star or wedding ring pattern that spurs the owner to seek out complementary examples. Interested buyers may specialize in quilts from a particular period, region of manufacture, pattern group, or even color scheme. A simple search for “quilts” will bring up examples for sale and recently sold for further study, an excellent way to become acquainted with current prices for antique textiles.

The Williamsburg catalog and exhibition represent years of research on the part of Linda Baumgarten, curator of Textiles and Costumes, and Kimberly Smith Ivey, curator of Textiles and Historic Interiors. In a conversation with Auction Central News, Baumgarten said, “Kim and I have worked together for many years, and we realized early on that we had such important quilts that they needed their own publication. So we worked toward that goal, and then our very generous donors, Mary and Clinton Gilliland through the Turner-Gilliland Family Fund of the Silicon Valley Community Foundation, made it possible.”

She continued, “The goal of the book was to introduce people to the breadth of the Williamsburg collection, hence the title Four Centuries of Quilts. We do have an amazing collection that people aren’t familiar with, and we grouped them by how we think people will be able to best grasp the different concepts. For example, putting the red and white ones together because turkey red – the colorfast red dye – was such an integral part of that fashion for red and white. And we grouped the early quilts from India together to show how they influenced a lot of quilts that came after.”

The curators’ goal was simple: “Readers will see the variety that quilts can have – the incredible variety of techniques and quilting and piecing styles. Part of the Colonial Williamsburg mission is to teach people, and a book like this will teach readers about the past and the women who made these quilts. We’re not necessarily collecting the best of the best – we’re collecting quilts with interesting stories and histories which also happen to be pretty wonderful objects.”

Even at around 350 pages, a single volume cannot chronicle all quilts in this significant collection, but the authors have selected outstanding examples to illustrate various categories. The book’s design and layout – done in house by Shanin Glenn – is visually stimulating and extraordinarily readable. Each chapter offers surprises: a reader who thinks they know everything about Baltimore Album quilts or Amish designs will find never-before-seen examples and new information. Most important are the opening chapters on the formative influences in American quilting, such as the intricate stitching patterns on Indian textiles, the all-white bedcoverings made in France, or the European use of calico fabric. One revelation is a section on the distinctive patterns found in Hawaiian and Polynesian quilts, which includes a vintage photo of two master needleworkers at work in Honolulu. Documentation and dating of the quilts is discussed throughout, and a chapter titled “Meet the Makers” puts faces and biographies with individual creations.

Baumgarten explained how difficult it was to choose 12 quilts for exhibition from the broader collection: “The exhibit is in the American Folk Art Gallery, so we chose first American, then folk art quilts, and then a range of dates and types. There’s a show quilt made with fans and embroidery, a Virginia 1840s example, an African-American quilt from Alabama made by Susana Allen Hunter, a New Hampshire wholecloth wool example, an Amish quilt in a fans design, and an album type with family signatures.”

What kind of quilts appeal most to the curator? “My favorite quilt is usually one I’m working on at the time. Right now, I’m working on Amish quilts and the stitching designs in the Amish quilts. I’m looking through examples to try to trace how often they repeated those same feather quilting designs. That’s new research that I’m just starting, but I’m also keenly interested in the printed quilts because we’re getting ready to put up an exhibit in two years of printed textiles from our collection which will include a few quilts. In fact, one of those beautiful palampores we show in the book will be included in that exhibition.”

The holiday season is a wonderful time to see Colonial Williamsburg decked out for Yuletide festivities. “A World Made Small,” another exhibition focusing on antique miniatures and dollhouses, opens Dec. 5.

For information and events schedules, visit Four Centuries of Quilts ($75) can be ordered by calling 757- 220-7693 or go to and click on Bookstore, where you will also find the 2015 Williamsburg American Quilt Calendar ($18).


A fortunate child once slept under the bright flowers and birds on this colorful crib quilt by an Indiana maker. In the new Williamsburg catalog, the Tulip Cross pattern work is Baltimore Album quilts present the most complex overall designs found on 19th century quilted bedcoverings. A gift of collectors Foster and Muriel McCarl to the Williamburg museums, this circa 1850 example features 16 distinct block patterns including well-known local monuments and the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Image courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Signed by the maker in Bloomfield, Iowa, and dated 1898, this pieced and embroidered cotton quilt commemorating the Spanish-American War is decorated with flags of many nations. The historic textile sold for $9,400 at Cowan’s Auctions in Cincinnati four years ago. Image courtesy Cowan’s Auctions Inc. Collectors often pay a premium for quilts with regional roots. This bold Princess Feather appliqué from Eastern Tennessee brought $1,180 last summer at a Case Auction in Knoxville, Tenn. Image courtesy Case Antiques This vivid silk crazy quilt, circa 1880, is decorated with radiating fans embroidered with flowers. Once in the well-known Margaret Cavigga Collection, the textile achieved a hammer price of $1,600 at Clars Auction Gallery in early 2013. Image courtesy Clars Auction Gallery In 2012, the Neal Auction Company in New Orleans sold this stitched and appliqued quilt made in 1955 by legendary Louisiana folk artist Clementine Hunter (1886-1988) for $10,158. In addition to vignettes of daily life, the panels depict the main house and outbuildings of Melrose Plantation. Image courtesy Neal Auction Co. ‘Four Centuries of Quilts,’ the new catalog of the Colonial Williamsburg collection, devotes a separate chapter to the Mariner’s Compass design, particularly popular from 1825 to 1875.  This neatly pieced example with sixteen panels was made mid-century in New York City by Mary Wright Williams, an immigrant from Ireland. Image courtesy Colonial Williamsburg Dating to the late 19th century, crazy quilts get their name from the irregular fabric sections carefully jigsawed into an overall design. This wool and cotton quilt made in Maine around 1890 is embellished with fancy stitched motifs ranging from farm animals to the Statue of Liberty. Image courtesy Colonial Williamsburg
Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 December 2014 16:50

Hockney biographer publishes illuminating second volume

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Written by ANN LEVIN, Associated Press   
Wednesday, 12 November 2014 11:04
'David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012' by Christopher Simon Sykes. Image courtesy of  Nan A. Talese/Doubleday NEW YORK (AP) – David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012 (Nan A. Talese/Doubleday), by Christopher Simon Sykes

More than halfway through the second volume of his vivid, intimate biography of British artist David Hockney, Christopher Simon Sykes describes the moment in the 1980s when Hockney discovers the creative possibilities of the photocopy machine.

A natural talent who drew from the moment he could pick up a pencil, Hockney falls deeply in love with the density of copier inks – “the most beautiful black I had ever seen on paper,” he says. “It seemed to have no reflection whatsoever, giving it a richness and mystery almost like a void.”

Sykes, who wrote the book with Hockney's cooperation, picks up the story of this astonishing artist in 1975, when the working-class boy from the north of England has already won widespread acclaim for his paintings depicting the bright light, azure skies and swimming pools of his adopted city of Los Angeles.

Even greater success lay ahead, including a major retrospective at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 1988 and a blockbuster show in 2012 at the Royal Academy in London of landscapes he made after moving back to Yorkshire in his late ’60s.

Chapter by chapter, the book unfolds as a series of love affairs, in which the workaholic artist falls madly in love with a new art-making medium – fax machines, Polaroids and iPads, to name a few – puzzles over its problems and potential, masters it and moves on. Always, he returns to painting and drawing.

“If everybody is asleep,” Henry Geldzahler, a former Metropolitan Museum curator, observed, “he draws them sleeping, and if he's alone he draws his luggage lying on the floor. He'll work until he drops.”

Given his prodigious talent, it's instructive to see his reaction to the work of other greats such as Picasso and Vermeer: like that of an awe-struck schoolboy. A Monet exhibition in Chicago “made me look everywhere intensely,” he says. “That little shadow on Michigan Avenue, the light hitting the leaf. I thought: ‘My God, now I've seen that. He's made me see it.’”

Sykes has an engaging style and an enviable ability to write clearly about art – including Hockney's struggle to capture what he once called “our own bodily presence in the world.” But he ought to have given the manuscript another look – to eliminate cliches, repetitive language and the trivial details that bog down otherwise illuminating diary passages he uses to tell the story of this remarkable man.

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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'David Hockney: The Biography, 1975-2012' by Christopher Simon Sykes. Image courtesy of  Nan A. Talese/Doubleday
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 November 2014 12:00

Book explores New York state's pivotal role in Civil War

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Written by Associated Press   
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 09:39
 'An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War' published by SUNY Press. Image courtesy of SUNY Press.

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) – A new Civil War book based on a popular exhibit at the New York State Museum is due out this December.

The book published by SUNY Press is a companion to the exhibit, “An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War.”

The yearlong exhibit opened at the downtown Albany museum in September 2012, telling the story of how New York state provided the most men, money and supplies for the Union war effort. It also highlighted the personal stories of some of the nearly 450,000 New Yorkers who fought for the North.

The exhibit received the Award of Merit from the American Association of State and Local History.

The book was written by three top officials at the museum: chief curator Robert Weible, senior historian Jennifer Lemak and associate exhibition planner Aaron Nobel.

For additional information about the book log on to .

Copyright 2014 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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 'An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War' published by SUNY Press. Image courtesy of SUNY Press.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 October 2014 09:56

Kovels release 47th edition of antiques price guide

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Written by Publisher PR   
Tuesday, 23 September 2014 12:58
‘Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2015,’ Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel, 
Sept. 16, 2014, $27.95, paperback, 652 pages, 2,500 color photographs, ISBN: 978-1-57912-977-4

BEACHWOOD, Ohio – Antiques collectors have turned to the Kovel family for their peerless annual guide since the first edition appeared in 1968. In the past four decades, Americans have become much savvier and collecting has become much more popular. What has remained the same is the anticipation each year around the publication of the new Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2015 by Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel.

The 47th edition of the book includes advice for readers on trends and pricing patterns. The Kovels have added a valuable new section: “Price it Right: How to Set Prices to Sell Your Things,” in which they provide appraisers contact information, explain how to research prices before putting an item on the market, and provide detailed recommendations on navigating the process, including what to keep, when to enlist an expert and what impacts an item’s resale value.

Kovels is the most complete guide on the market, with more than 35,000 new price listings from the past year in over 700 categories and 2,500 new, full-color photographs. The book provides the latest antiques prices – not estimates. With a nationally syndicated newspaper column, newsletter and popular website, they are without a doubt America’s leading popular authorities on collectibles and antiques.

The guide enables any reader to easily find out what their item is and what it’s worth. The book features items sought by collectors from across the spectrum, rather than only the high-priced items found in most guides. The user-friendly book includes an index and cross-references for everything from art pottery, Depression glass and jewelry to furniture, coin-operated machines and sports memorabilia, along with up-to-date information about each category, logos, marks and dates. Also featured are hundreds of expert tips, comments on trends and pricing patterns, and the year’s record prices. All this enables collectors to buy, sell and collect with confidence.

A peek at some of this past year’s fascinating listings:

  • Highest price in the book: $875,000 for a carved figure of Santa Claus made by Samuel A. Robb of New York in 1923.
  • Lowest price in the book: $2 for a celluloid button with a rhinestone canter made for a dress.
  • Largest item in the book: a wooden and marble back bar with four columns, mirrors, and 
cast-iron trim, 150 by 117 inches ($18,000).
  • Smallest item in the book: a micromosaic glass button picturing a building, 3/8 inch ($14).
  • A French Provincial dog’s bed with canopy and curved rails made around 1800, 29 by 24 inches ($1,722).

About the Authors: Terry Kovel is a lifelong collector. She has written more than 100 books on antiques and collectibles and writes a nationally syndicated newspaper column, a subscriber newsletter and an e-newsletter. She lives in Ohio. Kim Kovel, daughter of Terry and Ralph Kovel, grew up in a house filled with antiques and traveled regularly to antique shows and flea markets all over the country. Kim lives in Florida.

‘Kovels’ Antiques & Collectibles Price Guide 2015,’ Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel, 
Sept. 16, 2014, $27.95, paperback, 652 pages, 2,500 color photographs, ISBN: 978-1-57912-977-4
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 September 2014 13:11

In Review: Warman's Costume Jewelry Identification & Price Guide

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Written by Outside Media Source   
Monday, 08 September 2014 16:43
The cover of the new Warman's Costume Jewelry Identification and Price Guide by Pamela Y. Wiggins

ROUND ROCK, Texas – If you’ve never thought of old costume jewelry as a wearable art form with an intriguing past, a new book by author Pamela Y. Wiggins may prove to be an enlightening read. In Warman’s Costume Jewelry, recently released by Krause Publications, Wiggins shares her expert insight and acknowledges that while these pieces were once considered to be “junk jewelry” as widely advertised in the 1930s, made to be worn as a fashion statement for a season or two and then cast aside, that’s no longer true.

“This book is designed to serve a number of audiences with an interest in vintage and collectible jewelry, whether they’re just trying to find out if the goodies in Grandma’s jewelry box should go to a high-end auction house or be donated to the local thrift store. It serves as a tool for dating many pieces as well, whether the owner is contemplating selling them or just wants the satisfaction of knowing a little something about the objects she holds dear,” Wiggins wrote in her introduction.

Warman’s Costume Jewelry exhibits the broad knowledge base Wiggins has amassed buying, selling, and writing about costume jewelry since she first started collecting in the late 1980s thus establishing her as one of the most highly regarded jewelry experts in the country. The book covers jewelry ranging from true antique Victorian-era pieces to those designed by clever contemporary artisans already considered collectible, and includes insights gleaned visiting with and interviewing industry notables such as Kenneth Jay Lane, Pat Ciner Hill, and Lawrence Vrba. Her vast interaction with other jewelry experts and collectors through the organization she co-founded, Costume Jewelry Collectors Int’l (CJCI), is also woven into the text.

“I first learned to love fashion accessories working in upscale stores like Sakowitz and Saks Fifth Avenue. When I discovered a few vintage pieces by the legendary company Miriam Haskell at an estate sale in the late 1980s, I didn’t know anything about them although I did recognize their quality. I began researching 20th century jewelry at that point along with the rich history attached to each item, selling those first pieces and buying more, and never looked back. I feel my passion for collectible jewelry in all its varied forms and my appreciation for its past encapsulates nicely in my latest book,” Wiggins adds.

Photography professional Jay B. Siegel contributed more than 800 images to illustrate the book, which includes a detailed section entirely devoted to identifying and dating pieces using stones, clasps and other components along with identifying unmarked vintage jewelry. Other chapters provide historical context decade by decade demonstrating how popular culture and historical events influenced adornment from the late 19th century through the early 2000s. Major designers and manufacturers are also discussed including notable haute couturiers such as Chanel and Dior, and a section on the fabulous retail lines marketed by Joseff of Hollywood beginning in the 1930s exhibits how the glamour of the company’s movie jewelry was embraced by the masses. Value ranges are included with every piece featured throughout the book.

In addition to collecting, Wiggins also markets vintage and contemporary ladies accessories through her business Chic Antiques by Pamela Wiggins. Constantly researching and evaluating the thousands of pieces she offers to her customers provides hands-on learning she passes on to her readers both in Warman’s Costume Jewelry and her writing for where she serves as the site’s antiques expert.

“I’m so fortunate to be able to incorporate a fascinating hobby into my profession and to share beautiful jewelry with others in a number of ways. Nothing gives me more joy than seeing people take pleasure in their adornment as much as I do, and helping them learn about their treasures through my new book is a longtime goal I’m so excited to have realized,” Wiggins adds.

Wiggins previously penned Buying and Selling Antiques & Collectibles on eBay (Thomson Course Technology) and serves as a contributing editor for Heritage Magazine.

Warman’s Costume Jewelry is available at . It is also offered through and other online booksellers, as well as Barnes & Noble stores throughout the United States.

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The cover of the new Warman's Costume Jewelry Identification and Price Guide by Pamela Y. Wiggins
Last Updated on Monday, 08 September 2014 16:51
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