Happy New Year - In with the Old!
“He uses his old inkpot and his old brush, but he paints new things.”
translated from a Japanese scroll hanging in my laundry room
It’s a lot easier to start something new than to re-make something old. That’s why there are so many churches…so many new houses…new gizmos…new nations…new beginnings. This blog will tell the story of taking a well-loved 47 year old antique show in Fort Worth, Texas and re-making it into a shining star for the future.
You have to be a pretty good antique show to throw open your doors for 47 years. Dolly Johnson and then her daughter, “JJ” Frambes, nurtured this show as a small, prestigious, high-quality Americana antique show at Will Rogers Memorial Center in Fort Worth, where Dolly’s husband, Rip Johnson, was the General Manager for many years.
Since 1998 I have also served as the staff writer for the magnificent Marburger Farm Antique Show in Round Top, Texas. This month I will write what is probably my 50th Marburger Farm press release, chronicling the cow pasture that became a blockbuster international antique show.
Before 1998 I was a Presbyterian pastor in New York City. While some ministers yearned to start shiny new churches, my passion was to re-develop old churches and to bring them into a new sense of mission and purpose, building on the best of their history and traditions and memories. I was lucky enough to serve two such churches over 19 years, the West-Park Presbyterian Church on the Upper West Side and the Jan Hus Presbyterian Church on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I can tell you a thing or two about antique plumbing, ancient boilers and how to help an old community find new life and end up dancing in the aisles on Easter Sunday.
I first learned about antique show promotion by organizing benefit shows for the church in New York City, with the help of the Stella Show Management Company. The Stella team is, in my view, the best antique show promotion company in the world. Once again, I got lucky.
And now I find myself in the position of owning a 47 year old antique show in the town where I grew up. Or perhaps it owns me.
On this New Year’s Day 2010, there are two wars going on and a recession. There are the threats of terror, swine flu and the soon-looming $5 parking fee at Will Rogers Memorial Center. On top of all that, there are ads in every direction that scream “out with the old and buy something new, new, new.” Yet still, I got lucky.
Why? Because I get to spend my energies in the community of those who buy, sell, live with and love antiques and all things vintage. We are those who would rather re-imagine and re-make the old than lust after the new. We are the lovers and re-purposers of the material culture of the past.
On this Christmas Eve, we had a rare snowstorm in North Texas. In our old farmhouse on the prairie, the Orr-Harters were snowed-in. We could not get to the mall, even if we wanted to. We could not even go to my sister’s party where there was shrimp and tenderloin, which we definitely wanted to.
On Christmas Eve, I sat by the fireplace in the rocker that we bought at a roadside flea market in Maine and carried home in a Honda Civic. I saw the mission settee that the future architect son bought so proudly at an upstate New York auction for $25, theoretically for his tree house. Our 10 year old daughter sat in one of the old chairs around the kitchen table. Tom and I were sitting in those kitchen chairs when we decided to try to conceive this very child.
I got lucky. I have the love of a sweet and healthy family and of friends and dogs who put up with me. And it all happens in a home where antiques are used every day, for both utility and for memory, for practicality and for comfort and joy. What I realized about antiques that Christmas Eve is that the comfort and joy that they bring us are in fact very practical and necessary. We have created a new nest out of old things. This comforts us. Bring on the snow.
Let us hear back from you. How do you love and live with antiques and why?