Discovering Small Treasures

Beautiful buttons being packaged up for the shop.
Beautiful buttons being packaged up for the shop.

I enjoy participating in the antique and collectibles auctions. It was fun furnishing the Convent with quality and distinctive furniture and items of interest as well as finding lovely fittings for the shop which suited the heritage building.

A handwritten note accompanying some of our acquired beads. Possibly written in the 70s.
A handwritten note accompanying some of our acquired beads. Possibly written in the 70s.

Now G and I are searching out interesting items for the shop. We particularly love finding vintage buttons and other trims which also go hand-in-hand with personally knitted items.

The stunning red glass bugle beads - heavy and you can hear the glass clink!
The stunning red glass bugle beads – heavy and you can hear the glass clink!

This week I was pouring through a mixed box of buttons I had picked up at a recent auction and was delighted to find a hand-written note in a plastic bag mixed with a few different beads. It was exciting to discover that the bag appeared to contain, amongst other things, a note explaining that the red bugle beads had been used in the 1800s to decorate the bodice of gowns and belonged to the note-writer’s husband’s great grandmother’s dress. The great grandmother would have been 150 at the time the note was written and the note was written on a page from a 1976 diary. I’m pretty sure these beads will never make it into the shop for sale and we’re already planning something special in lace to do justice to them.

The amber crystals accompanying the bugle beads.
The amber crystals accompanying the bugle beads.

Additionally the writer pointed out that the amber crystals in the bag appeared to be part of a necklace. Anyway, the little bag contained delightful treasures, but none so much as the handwritten note itself.

Other pretties in this treasure trove plastic bag.
Other pretties in this treasure trove plastic bag.

In the meantime, we are having a great time packaging up the various buttons for the shop and imagining some of the garments that might suit these individual buttons and do them justice.

A selection of our vintage buttons.
A selection of our vintage buttons.

A Day at the Auctions – well, Online

An unexpected bargain - an old iron kerosine stand makes a wonderful stand for a candle in the Cloisters.
An unexpected bargain – an old iron kerosine lamp stand makes a wonderful stand for a candle in the Cloisters.

Over the weekend, one of the major quality auction houses, Vickers and Hoad, held a massive auction of the contents from an historic old homestead in Maitland in the Hunter Valley.

It was obviously sad for the family to see their old home go as well as all the contents and I believe the family had been there for many generations. This also meant that quality old items would be on sale with the downside being that the sale would attract heaps of buyers (which also usually means inflated prices).

A rather splendid bird's eye maple frame for a large engraving of Mary of Scotland Mourning, complete with a priest and Bishop.
A rather splendid bird’s eye maple frame for a large engraving of Mary of Scotland Mourning, complete with a priest and Bishop now at home in the dining room.

The auction houses are well organised for online bidders, with the catalogues going online a few days before, complete with photos, descriptions and usually a price guide. Since being in the country, I’ve been using absentee bid forms and often felt I’ve just missed out on many items, so am now venturing into the world of live online bidding, which is a great system, watching the auction live and having screen facilities tracking the bids and letting you enter your own bid and confirming if it’s the highest. But it also can be dangerous if you don’t hold to a strong discipline.

A sweet little antique oak hall table.
A sweet little antique oak hall table.

Armed with my list of “interesting” lots, I spent a long day (yes, it takes up a lot of the day if you sit through the whole auction) for a slow paced auction (only slow because of the number of bidders – in the room, absentee and online). It was a bumper day in terms of high sales for the owners and auctioneers, but also a rewarding one for me as I managed to gain some gems.

A very rustic French provincial antique walnut side table.
A very rustic French provincial antique walnut side table.

I limited myself to smaller items that would fit in the car as courier costs are prohibitive. That being said, I missed out on many but ended up with a successful day. One of the aspects of antique auctions I enjoy is learning more. I’m not too bad on styles, periods, some of the manufacturers but there are always more levels of detail. This auction I learnt about bird’s eye maple, that provides a rather splendid frame surrounding a large engraving now hanging in the dining room. I also discovered reverse glass painting which happens to be the style used in a small painting featuring nuns.

Other purchases included:

  • an small antique oak hall table
  • a small rustic French provincial walnut side table
  • a very rustic painted timber bird cage
  • two gorgeous old copper pots for outside
  • a character-filled iron kerosine lamp stand which looks right at home on the back verandah
A small brass spark screen for the fireplace under restoration.
A small brass spark screen for the fireplace under restoration.

All in all, a great day which meant a very long day following as I made my way to Maitland and back to collect my items. The exercise was badly marred by my first kangaroo kill. So far I must have avoided 20 or 30 roos on the road and prided myself of taking care. Unfortunately I was not so lucky this time and didn’t have a chance to miss the poor kangaroo. No damage to the car, but lots of tears and guilt which took some of the shine off the auction results.

One of two splendid copper pots.
One of two splendid copper pots.
A very rustic old painted bird cage which has taken up residence in the garden.
A very rustic old painted bird cage which has taken up residence in the garden.

Auction Adventures Part II

A Persian Bidjar carpet with Medallion and Pendants according to the auction description and certificate.
A Persian Bidjar carpet with Medallion and Pendants according to the auction description and certificate.

Today I spent the day at Lawsons endeavouring to pick up a few more items. From the online catalogue I was particularly interested in chests of drawers, wardrobes and rugs. I haven’t been to a mid week auction before and it appeared to attract mainly dealers with a smattering of private buyers.

The internet must make a big difference to the auction houses as they can now publish the catalogue (with photos) online prior and take a significant amount of absentee, online and phone bids from people who can’t make the auction. It’s good to see the care taken to place these bids as a standard part of the procedure and the prompt follow up. It makes me feel comfortable in placing online/absentee bids.

There was a huge variation in bidding – many items were passed in, a few real bargains – I kicked myself over a Victorian mahogany chiffonier that went for $200. It’s hard to assess size on the internet and some of the chests of drawers were too big, some in poor condition, but the one I loved was unfortunately also loved by others. I didn’t get a bid in as it quickly went for more than double the estimate, which made it quite expensive. The wardrobes were all far too big for my needs.

My arts and crafts mirror with hanging hooks - an informal addition for the back entrance.
My arts and crafts mirror with hanging hooks – an informal addition for the back entrance.

This auction had quite a few Persian rugs on which I am no expert, but know I need rugs and this style will suit the Convent. There were two I really liked but both went for much more than the estimates. However I was really pleased with the one I bought for $425 which came with a valuation/insurance certificate of $2,250 . It’s in excellent condition and could go in a number of rooms. It’s also a good size.

Another purchase was an arts and crafts period oak framed mirror with hanging hooks that will be perfectly at home at the back entrance, that I snapped up early at $70 to the auctioneer’s comment that it may well have been the bargain of the day. The other was a beautiful late Georgian mahogany bowfronted mirror with drawers. This would look wonderful sitting on a chest of drawers – I just need to be able to buy one!

Mahogany mirror with drawers. I now just need the chest of drawers for it to sit on.
Mahogany mirror with drawers. I now just need the chest of drawers for it to sit on.

Auction Adventures

Scrunchy and welcoming. Sure to see much more "living in" over the next years.
Scrunchy and welcoming. Sure to see much more “living in” over the next years.

As I mentioned previously, I’m having a short break from the Convent as the floors get sanded, polished and carpeted. I’m using this time to tidy up the Sydney home to get it on the market, as well as attend some auctions to find suitable items for the Convent.

Auctions are a great way of getting quality pieces at much lower than in the shops. I love antiques (or at least vintage) pieces but the antique and collectable shop prices are often prohibitive.  I follow a number of Sydney auction houses that have regular auctions. Usually around Thursday they send an email with a link to their online catalogue of sales for the weekend. The catalogue usually lists, with a picture, each item, sometimes with an approximate anticipated price range. The auctions themselves are usually held in their auction rooms on Saturday and Sunday with viewings of the items on Friday or just before the auction. You can leave an absentee bid (either at the auction house or online) if you can’t attend. I’ve been doing the occasionally during the year with some success but I’m very cautious if I have only seen the item online.

This weekend I went to viewings on Friday at Vickers and Hoad and John Williams and attended a site auction with Lawsons, with more success than usual. I’m also keen to start furnishing the Convent and I don’t have a great deal of items here.

Treated bottom cushion compared to untreated top one. It makes a big difference.
Treated bottom cushion compared to untreated top one. It makes a big difference.

I was thrilled with this lounge which was exactly what I was after. It is scrunchy, comfortable and generously proportioned. Whilst looking much loved, I was also pleased with how well it came up after a bit of TLC. After some quick internet research, it seems that lathering with moisturiser soap (Dove) and buffing with a dry cloth (just like washing a saddle with saddle soap) was the best approach and it’s made a huge difference. Eventually this lounge will be destined for the Chapel but in the shorter term is likely to go in the lounge room instead of the old cane furniture which was always planned for the outside porches.

Photo taken onsite at the auction venue but it is a graceful lovely bed.
Photo taken onsite at the auction venue but it is a graceful lovely bed.

One of the other big successes was a nineteenth century French brass and iron half tester bed which should look stunning on one of the guest bedrooms. Getting a mattress with it was a bonus. I’m now thinking of an interim furniture delivery to Kandos asap.

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An unanticipated success.
An unanticipated success.

A large building such as the Convent lends itself to having a few more whimsical ornaments. This week a few beauties came my way. These two little cherubs on marble bases plus the larger work of entwined cherubs on a base.

The other success was a small but pretty one – a berry spoon and sifter to support the produce from the berry bed.

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