It's a familiar story: when I was just setting off that morning to wander on my own, I saw this big set of Minton dinner plates from the 1920s, with those tiny hand-painted "jewels" that you find on fine china from that era. I knew my husband would like them. I made mental note and quickly forgot it... but I still found them again, hours later, as we made our way to the car together — a small miracle since I lose all sense of direction at Brimfield. There are hundreds of dealers covering acres of grassy fields, so I only rarely can retrace my path through the maze of tents and booths. Sure enough, my husband loved the plates and wanted them. But I said no... they were expensive, though not overpriced. Plus, we already have dozens of dinner plates, antique and otherwise, and we are out of storage space. No way would 11 plates would fit in our kitchen or anywhere else. And, besides, we rarely have people over for dinner, and when we do, it's usually a couple at most. So we walked away — but not before having a nice talk with the dealer and getting the name of his shop in New Hampshire.
On the way out of town, I was already kicking myself for not buying them. My husband really liked them, and he's fussy. You only live once. I like to encourage his interest in antiques. So the next day, I called the shop in New Hampshire and later in the week, the dealer called me back. He still had the plates and could deliver them to us on his way to Virginia. (He lives there although his shop is in New Hampshire; I hope he enjoys driving.) So now we have 11 (more) gorgeous plates. And they live in a box on the floor in my husband's office.
I also bought a few other things. These wall calendars from the 1920s have a different recipe for each day (click on the photos to enlarge, as always):
"365 Answers to the Daily Question: What Shall We Have for Dessert?"
Someone likes tassels, so I keep the books in a safe place.
I've always wanted a creel, partly because I enjoy fishing and never go anymore. Seeing a creel around the house would remind me of happy fishing days with my late, great cousin Ed, a passionate outdoorsman and hunter. Old creels are often absurdly expensive. I saw a dealer who specialized in them; his creels were all marked in the hundreds. So, when I saw a likely one stuffed with an oddly attractive mess of fake flowers and fruits, just outside a tent with reasonably priced items, I was intrigued... and then I walked away. I have nowhere to put a creel, a completely useless object. (The fish we used to catch were so big and plentiful they'd never fit in a creel. We had a big cooler.)
But, once again, I miraculously spotted the creel on our way back to the car, after abandoning the plates. It had no price tag:
I decided to dust off my Egyptian-souk-level bargaining techniques.
"How much is this thing?" I politely demanded. (Note that I did not say "creel," which might make it seem more expensive.)
The dealer stared. "That? Oh. That's Sue's. And she's sick. She's very sick, so she's not around... I have no idea what she wants for it."
He was at a loss. I noticed another creel, tagged for $60. In a voice of great curatorial authority, I said helpfully: "Well, this one here is sixty dollars, and so that one must be less. This is a much better one. You can see how it's very finely woven. Really nicely made and it looks much older, too. Nice.... So this one is not nearly as good..."
I know absolutely nothing about creels.
The dealer and I suddenly noticed his wife, sitting in the deep, dim corner of their tent. She'd been watching our exchange alertly. He said, "This is Sue's, isn't it? How much do you think she wants for it?"
She said, "It's mine! Do you want the flowers?"
I squinted down my nose at them. "Sure. Okay. How much would that be?"
As she thought, I heard her husband saying, as if to himself: "Yeah, this other one is much more finely woven."
She said: "Twenty?"
That was so much less than I expected that I was too shocked to bargain.
I like my creel, stuffed with plastic flowers and fruit. It sits on the highest chest in the house, an old Japanese tansu, where it looks completely out of place, especially with the other objects corralled up there, away from kitten paws and jaws. Our art-glass vases are there, along with an Egyptian obelisk, a fat Chinese sauce jug full of dried hydrangea, a canvas print of Paris, and a hammered silver bowl full of seashells. In short, it looks like a table at Brimfield.
Can't wait to go back in July.