We are always being asked that question. I always remember the first picture I bought when I was 8 years old, having saved up my weekly allowance, I spotted a little Bartlett Print in an antiques shop a good 15 minute bus ride away in Wallasey, England (across the river from Liverpool) without telling my mother. O my, she was angry when I proudly showed her my purchase – “how could I waste my money on such a purchase?” and it still hangs today in my office having travelled across the ocean, then by transport truck across the country to Vernon, British Columbia and I still quietly chuckle today – the story, same frame, same glass.
Now that is quite the story for a little kid from a big city. And to this day I still enjoy art. I was privileged to grow up in Liverpool/Wallasey with a Dad who also liked art, more than just liked art for he took me through all the Galleries and Cathedrals as I grew up in England. I saw, smelled, almost touched paintings by the great Masters of this world. An unbelievable education. Yes, we went to all the galleries in England, Scotland and Wales. I saw my first Van Gogh show at age 10. In those days, who would have known that my future would revolve around fine art and the spectacular heritage of antiques from around the world.
Now my wife Marian grew up in Montreal and always remembers enjoying the window of Morgans and Bowrings that sold a lot of wood carvings, lamps of all sizes by artists from the little Quebec town St. Jean-Port-Joli, and of course, they were very expensive. And as time moved along, she saw these being given as gifts to her father and others. Still not to her. As years moved along, she inherited some of these Quebec sculptures, and through the antiques business we came across these sculptures at very affordable prices – and the collecting began. And today we have a very nice collection of these little sculptures, each one individually carved.
Life as changed a little bit in St. Jean-Port-Joli today. Many of the original sculptors have passed. The long time tradition of this little town is still in production of wonderful creation but it is different. A museum is now in place showing off the works of the original artists. This is a worthwhile town for your bucket list to visit. It is on the south shore of the St. Lawrence River on the way to the Maritimes.
Over the years we have collected many things from art by Leroy Jensen who lived in Vernon for a few years, art in general, Maxfield Parrish prints, Seacombe Pottery, Vernon’s Axel Ebring’s pottery, brown Staffordshire transferware plates and platters, Patriotic pottery, oil lamps, Titanic collectibles, furniture of course, weaving shuttles and looms, even bill spikes – no rhyme or reason just things we fancied at that moment, and many others long sold and gone.
Today there are so many resources to help in your search for different items, artists you particularly like, just about anything. It is amazing who we have met over the years doing our roadshows around Western Canada, road shows where people brought to us items they had inherited, had picked up at garage sales (what the heck is this but I have to have it!). Unusual circumstances when they are suddenly in ownership of this thing/whatever and even with the internet, if you don’t know what it is – it is very difficult to use the internet to find more knowledge – the needle in the haystack. We have spent our lives digging through flea markets, antiques shops and shows, auctions, our hundreds of reference books and magazines, looking and learning about the oddest of ‘stuff’.
So today when we do come across something we have never seen before – that’s a ‘wow’ – something for pictures to be taken of for reference down the line. If there is one – there are most probably two and more, next question – Where? What is it? How much is it worth? And for us – that is always the question at the end of the day – How Much Is It Really Worth??!! And then the earnest research begins.
Remember – over three of the same thing becomes a collection!!