Sometimes You Need to Treat Yourself…and Splurge!

Attending estate sale after estate sale, looking for a great bargain on some collectible or vintage item, my partner Dan and I often find something that just takes one of us by complete surprise. We not only have that “wow where did that come from?” experience but also have the “urge to splurge” and just buy that hidden treasure for ourselves. Though our taste in collectibles varies, that unanticipated desire just to purchase “a little something unique” for ourselves does not.

So, let me share with you some “just gotta have it” vintage goods that we have acquired, not for resale, but for ourselves.

One afternoon scoping out metal products tucked away in an old barn at a country estate sale, Dan found this endearing black schnauzer doorstop. Always having had a penchant for cast-iron doorstops — many populate our home — Dan was intrigued by this little seven-inch-high pup, as it had one of its hind legs up, peeing. Delighted by the rarity and incredible detail of the schnauzer doorstop, and long-time lover of dogs, Dan just had to have it for himself. Today, and to no surprise, our black schnauzer doorstop keeps the door to our lower-level bathroom open.

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Peeing Black Schnauzer Cast-Iron Doorstop

A couple of years back, at Milwaukee’s annual Indian Summer powwow, I found myself examining a handmade Cherokee medicine/dance stick. Stunning in its beauty, elegant in its artistry, potent in its energy — and yet these phrases paled to describe the original ceremonial item that I held in my hands, which honored the teachings of Old Man Coyote and its prey Sister Deer and was previously used in traditional dance.

Though this vintage medicine stick showed some signs of wear, primarily and logically on the leather wrapped in the center of the stick where the user would hold it during dance and ritual, this dynamic, handmade piece was superbly constructed. The central part was wood and had a 3.25-inch strap of leather wrapped around it. The leather was held in place with brass-colored tabs nailed into the wood. The lower portion was composed of a deer’s leg with coyote fur wrapped around the connection of the leg to the stick. The top portion was composed of a four-point antler upon which a complete coyote skull and remnants of its fur rested.

Always fascinated by the lessons of our tribal trickster, this ceremonial stick “spoke” to me, and so I purchase it without second thought. When not in use during ceremonial dance, the stick hangs in our family room.

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Vintage Cherokee Coyote & Deer Medicine/Dance Stick

At another time at the Indian Summer powwow, I couldn’t keep my eyes off of a watercolor entitled The Sacred Circle painted by Oneida artist Dawn Dark Mountain. The artist is well known for her controlled style of using watercolor that mimics and is often mistaken for airbrush. Applying this style to traditional Native American images and subjects of her own Woodland culture has resulted in a peculiar mystical quality that is often referred to by the Art World as “magic realism.” I guess the magic of the piece enthralled me and, on impulse, I just had to bring it home.

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“The Sacred Circle” by Dawn Dark Mountain

As you can see, it’s not only fun to splurge now and then, but it’s also good to relish those unexpected items that we come upon and bring us joy. So, come on, folks — today is National Splurge Day I’ve been told by friends. Take a moment to check out all the great products we offer through Dogbotz Boneyard, and splurge and treat yourself to something fun and unanticipated.

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

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Collect What You Love

So, there I was chatting with my friend Melanie, who runs a local no-kill animal rescue center, and sipping coffee in her office. Melanie had invited me to swing by the rescue center as she was curious as to whether Dogbotz Boneyard could make a charitable gift of product for the center’s silent auction at its upcoming annual fundraising gala, Furry Friendships. While discussing whether certain 19th-century chromolithographs of dogs and cats might attract the event-goers and whether nature-themed games might appeal to their children or grandchildren, Melanie turned to me and asked, “Patrick, however do you know what antique or vintage items to collect and buy?”

“For myself personally, or for the business?” I inquired.

“Either,” responded Melanie.

I was about to say, I just do, when it dawned on me that such a response could seem dismissive to Melanie. “My inherent sense of what piece to acquire today is actually based on 40-plus years of experience,” I told Melanie. “When I first started, I was relatively clueless.” So, I shared with her these basic guidelines that I had learned as a collector and seller of vintage goods.

1.) Collect what you love. For example, my dual heritage exposed me at an early age to the beauty of art glass, ceramics, paintings and sculptures (my French mom’s gift to me) as well as the marvels of tribal artifacts such as Native American baskets, beadwork and quillwork, clothing and jewelry (my Ojibwa dad’s influence). Such family treasures — heirlooms, if you will — were proudly displayed around our home, so I came to appreciate, value and cherish them. And, as a teenager, I began looking for small, affordable pieces that I could collect to add to our family’s treasure trove.

In addition, as part of our creative pastime, my older brother Michael and I loved to create science-fiction games based on then-popular films and television shows. So, in 1966, when I was ten years old, we created our first board game based on Fantastic Voyage, in which we had little submarines floating inside a human body to repair a variety physiological problems. In later years, this creative urge influenced both Michael and I to join the game company TSR, Inc., which manufactured the roleplaying game Dungeons & Dragons. From there, fascinated with game mechanics and the stunning graphics used in games, I began collecting card and board games from different decades and nations.

My love of fine art, tribal artifacts, and games continues to influence my acquisition of antiques and collectibles to this vary day. But what I love is different from what my partner Dan loves to collect, which includes as Shaker baskets, early 20th-century earthenware jugs and crocks, and Depression-era workmen’s tools. Hence, we have quite a variety of vintage items available on Dogbotz Boneyard.

 

2.) Research what you aim to collect. As I was setting up my first apartment with my  college buddy Frank, he noted that I had some “funky” glass items. Yup, I did: a Paden City pony, a Murano snail figurine, a Kanawha amberina elephant, and even a St. Clair perfume bottle. Having been a fine arts major in college, Frank was fascinated as to how I had acquired such unique objets d’art.

Well, the St. Clair perfume bottle had been given to me by my French grandmother prior to her death in 1973. Since I had brought it along to my college dorm room as a memento of home, I told Frank that I decided to see if the perfume bottle had any value other than sentimental. So, one Saturday afternoon, I visited an antique shop about ten miles away from the college and met a distinguished gentleman with white hair and beard named Joseph, the proprietor of the antique store. His establishment contained a vast array of fascinating vintage goods all decoratively displayed throughout the shop. Joseph asked me how he could help me and so I showed him the St. Clair perfume bottle.

I wanted to know whether the bottle was authentic and if it had any value. Joseph carefully examined the bottle, informing me that it was indeed an original St. Clair piece and showing me the characteristics of what constituted a genuine piece of St. Clair glass. As to it value, it was worth about $45, but that was 1975.

Joseph looked at me curiously and asked me if I was a collector of art glass. I said no, though I was fascinated by the color and shape of my grandmother’s perfume bottle and wanted to learn more. Joseph then led me to any area of his store that had what seemed like innumerable art glass pieces. He showed me the technical and stylistic differences between the Murano studio artists and those of Tiffany, between Paden City and Kanawha art glass.

I was bitten then and there by the art glass collector’s bug, and I would visit Joseph and his shop numerous times throughout my college years, learning and researching what I could about art glass. He taught me how to identify the genuine thing from a repro or knock-off. His knowledge of antiques and how to research them for authenticity and value was phenomenal, and his willingness to share that knowledge would prove invaluable to me in the years to come.

To this day, I always tap into the knowledge Joseph shared with me and also research a piece before I acquire it.

 

3.) Check for condition issues. This is a critical point: always review the condition of a vintage or collectible item prior to purchasing it, especially if you ever plan to resell it or, if it has great value, leave it in your estate trust for your heirs. That small hairline crack in a 1930s Hausser-Elastolin composition toy tiger may not affect the overall value of the toy; however, a crack in a Murano glass turtle figurine may decrease its value appreciably. Condition issues — and even the year of production — will impact the value (and the purchase price) of an item. How much so will be dependent on the type of item being valued or sold.

As I am a longtime collector of antique and vintage games — and, on rare, even contemporary ones — I’d like to warn other game collectors to be sure that all game components are present. These elements can include cards, board, dice, player pawns, set of instructions and the box. If any component is missing, ask yourself whether you can either find that original piece or replace it. This issue will matter if you ever plan to resell the game, as a missing component will affect value.

Also, check the box. For many games and toys, the original box in which the game came is missing or has damage such as compression, split edges, or shelf wear. If you plan to collect the game, you may not care; however, if you plan ever resell it, such conditions issues may affect the value at time of the sale. So, just remember to check for all condition issues.

 

4.) At time of purchase, learn to become comfortable negotiating the price. Haggling over the price of antique, vintage or collectible item is a time-honored tradition in this field. A vendor may want to sell that Hattie Carnegie rhinestone ladybug brooch for $100, but if you’ve taken the time to research the overall value of Hattie Carnegie costume jewelry (which can be quickly done, if needs be, on your cell phone by seeking a comparable item on Etsy or eBay) and if you have examined the condition of the piece in question, you may determine that the piece warrants a lower value. At which point, know the highest price you’re willing to pay (say, $85) and start your negotiations at a lower yet reasonable point (say, $65). Then, let the haggling begin, but do not exceed your top price.

Be aware, especially at flea markets, that items are sometimes sold by unknowledgeable vendors who are just out to get the highest price they can. If they haven’t adequately researched an item’s value, they can deceive themselves. For example, the $100 Hattie Carnegie brooch mentioned above might actually be worth $175, but the vendor doesn’t know that. In this instance, haggling over the price of the brooch may not be worth your time and effort. Just pay the asked-for price.

 

“Wow! Just those four simple steps!” Melanie exclaimed.

“Well, that’s just the basics. You learn the fine art of collecting as you experience the process,” I stated.

Nevertheless, remember these fundamental guidelines if you plan to become a collector, and then go out and have some fun collecting what you love.

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com

The Challenge

Over the past 40 years of my life, I have purchased and collected more than 500 pieces of art. This collection includes drawings, paintings, sculptures, fiber art pieces, posters, photographs, tribal animal fetishes, lithographs, chromolithographs, serigraphs and more. It embraces a diversity of styles: Impressionism and Postimpressionism, Expressionism, Realism, Minimalism, Symbolism, Abstract Art, Op, Pop and Psychedelic Art as well as Folk, Tribal and Outsider Art. My taste in art is, quite obviously, varied.

About a month ago, my curator friend Mary, who’s very familiar with my collection, made the following observation. “Patrick, you have such a large collection of artwork. Have you ever thought of displaying part of your collection publicly beyond your online shop Dogbotz Boneyard?”

Wow! I thought to myself. “There’s so much, Mary, I wouldn’t know where to begin.”

“Ok, I can appreciate that,” Mary responded. “So, let’s limit the parameters. If I said to you, select three pieces of art from, say, five different artists, what would you select? And why?”

Yup, that certainly simplifies things, I mumbled to myself. Fifteen pieces out of more than 500! “Let me think about it, Mary. I’m not an art historian or critic, so I’m not sure my selections would have much meaning to folks other than me.”

“You don’t need to be a historian or critic. But, other people — collectors and not — are always intrigued as to what others see in the art they acquire, whether they hold the same opinion or perspective,” Mary said.

So, I agreed to Mary’s challenge and after several weeks, I had made my decisions. Please note that I value and cherish all the artists and their works that I’ve collect throughout the years, but the five artists I’ve chosen hold a very special place in my heart because their works speak to the essence of my own mortal journey. Also, please know that the artists below are listed alphabetically by last name to avoid any artificial ranking system.

Philip Gladstone

Intensely intimate is the first phrase that comes to mind when I contemplate the artwork of Maine artist Philip Gladstone. Whether it’s a man and his dog sitting or leaning on the edge of bathtub (Brady’s Bath), or a naked young man seated on the floor with a teddy bear beside him, both connected by a ball of yarn (Love Me), or a bare-chested young man leaning on a rooftop air-conditioning unit while another gentleman works in an adjacent rooftop office (Dusk), I feel as if I’ve entered, in a voyeuristic way, a very private moment in the lives of each of these individuals. My mind is intrigued by each scene, wanting to know more about each subject, whereas my spirit at a very intuitive level understands wholeheartedly the story being told.

Philip Gladstone’s paintings have been compared to Caravaggio, Pablo Picasso and Diego Rivera, to name a few stylistic influences. I perceive those qualities in many of his works, but in the end, for me, it’s all about the underlying stories, many of which have erotic tension and undertones. And I find that quite compelling, especially in a world titillated by the pornographic yet oblivious to the sensual.

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Brady’s Bath

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Dusk

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Love Me

Kathleen Kills Thunder

Of all the artists whose works I’ve collected, I have purchased the most pieces from Kathleen Kills Thunder. Coming from a Native American heritage, I immediately relate to the themes, subjects, and symbolism of her paintings. Though I also have many of her beadwork and jewelry pieces, I find Kathleen Kills Thunder’s paintings to be ideal icons for reflection and meditation. I admire her works because of the manner in which she blends a bright color palette, which, in part, reflects her Spanish heritage, and her imaginative use of Native American subjects, from the creatures of Earth Mother (Queenie and Babies) to tribal craftswomen, from war ponies (The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle) to medicine men (Peyote Man). Her compositions are brilliant with color, fluid with geometric shapes and natural forms, and profoundly reflective of the human experience and its inherent truths. Her paintings speak with the ancient language of the spirit world made modern by the abstract techniques of waking dreams.

Of the fifteen art pieces that I have chosen to honor my friend Mary’s request (and for this blog), three paintings are particularly dear to my spirit. The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle is the first of them. Here’s why.

I have worked in various capacities for twenty-plus years now in the nonprofit charitable world. I have been a dental clinic office manager of an AIDS/HIV center in Milwaukee, where I saw folks battling the harsh realities of a life-threatening illness while struggling to move away from being treated as pariahs into a place of acceptance and love. I have been a director of fundraising and marketing for a senior center in northern Illinois, where I have seen our elders struggle to maintain independence, dignity, and self-respect while faced with the illnesses that come with old age and the depression that emerges as they see their circles of spouses and friends dwindle before their very eyes. I have also worked at a hospice in Illinois, where I often witnessed the final journeys of people, from 6-month-old infants to young mothers afflicted with cancer to the elderly, who struggled with and finally embraced the process of letting go.

At a very subliminal level, the two horses of The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle struggling to remain alive reminds me of the sometimes difficult challenges we face throughout our own journeys, and that the ramifications of truth haunt me, in a healthy way, to the very marrow of my bones. That may not have been her intent in creating this piece of artwork, but I am still thankful that Kathleen Kills Thunder had the inclination to paint it anyway.

Peyote Man

Peyote Man

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Queenie and Babies

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The Warrior Horses’ Last Battle

David Silva

Nine months ago, the name David Silva would have meant nothing to me. Had it not been for Jason, another of my art collector friends, the name would still remain a mystery to me to this very day. Knowing that I enjoy Pop art, Jason recommended that I peruse the charcoal and colored pencil works of contemporary Brazilian Pop artist David Silva at a well-known online website, and so I did. I was delighted by what I saw and thus acquired several David Silva drawings.

I greatly appreciate the artwork of David Silva because of the diverse subjects he portrays through his Pop art images and the emotional content emanating therefrom. Sometimes he presents the viewer with a subtle mystery; other times, with playful and erotic vibrations; and yet in other works, with the haunting reality of loss and grief. Be it Batman and Superman in amorous embrace (Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman — I wonder what the folks at D.C. Comics would have to say), a sailor getting ready to depart on his next cruise (In the Navy — very Village People, for sure), or a young child’s hand reaching for the dog tags of a deceased soldier-father (For Whom the Bells Tolls), the artist reveals his joy, his compassion, and his humanity.

For those unfamiliar with Pop art, it is an art style that uses aspects of the larger or mass culture, such as advertising, comic books, TV cartoon characters and other mundane cultural images or objects to emphasize the more banal or “kitschy” qualities of the culture it inherently mocks. Irony is the most popular expression used by Pop artists. Among David Silva’s work, the Pop art element of irony makes sense for such drawings as In the Navy or Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman. But what about his other drawing, For Whom the Bells Tolls?

With great sadness, I must admit that, in this war-beleaguered age in which we live, a scene focusing on the demise of a soldier has become all too familiar, all too casual, and to which we have become all too desensitized. Ironic, perhaps; Pop, disquietingly so. But, I believe that, in For Whom the Bells Tolls, David Silva depicts a shockingly profound sense of grief that we must admit, embrace and then manifest its inherent lesson so we can attain a world peace that transcends political and religious diatribes, the unrelenting need for greed, and the blinding desire for revenge. For Whom the Bells Tolls is the second piece of the fifteen I’ve selected that touches my soul in a most insightful way.

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For Whom the Bell Tolls

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In the Navy

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Unspoken Love Affair between Superman and Batman

Judy Thorley

Several years ago, I decided to turn my collector’s eye north to my neighbors in Canada. I found some truly gifted artists throughout that country creating some spectacular pieces of art. One of my personal favorites is Judy Thorley, a signature member of the Toronto Watercolour Society. Although Judy Thorley originally began painting in transparent watercolor, she presently explores mixed media with acrylics, collage and photo transfer. She enjoys working on distressed surfaces with multiple layers, and she is inspired by many things, both natural and manmade, from decaying old walls covered with peeling posters to the latest fashion magazines.

To me, Judy Thorley’s works have an Art Nouveau quality, wherein she establishes a unique balance of the natural with the manmade or manufactured (Pandora), the architectural with the figurative (Chained), and the established with the innovative (Chivalry). Her use of multiple layers of colorful elements, distressed surfaces, and uneven textures evokes scenes that portray mythical subjects or images that harken back to another era (which is true of the three pieces selected).

Judy Thorley is one of the few artists whose works that I collect for which I do not prefer one of her pieces over another. All have great merit, and I enjoy taking the time to just “inhale,” if you will, the essence of each one.

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Chained

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Chivalry

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Pandora

Roger Wedegis

I just can’t help myself! I am a longtime, avid dog-lover, especially of Labrador Retrievers, who I’ve always humorously called “the drinking buddies” of dogs. So, when I discovered the artwork of Roger Wedegis, himself a self-acclaimed lover of Labs, I was immediately taken with his canine compositions. I am deeply touched by Roger Wedegis’s paintings because of his capacity to capture the playful nature (In the Hibiscus), the loyal companionship (I’m Ready), and even the ineffable spiritual dimension of community (Spirits in the Night) that these four-legged creatures share with us, their human cousins. Whether portrayed in a natural or urban setting, the artist’s subjects gently remind me of why dogs have for millennia been our best friends and most devoted guardians.

Spirits in the Night is the third painting of the fifteen pieces I selected that I find especially endearing. Are the three Labrador Retrievers looking at Grandmother Moon real dogs or are they the spirits intimated in the title of the painting? In the end, does it really matter? For me, no, as the genuine heart-felt message I discover is to take the time to remember and honor those canine companions who show or have shown me the awe of unconditional love and to reflect that vibration back, like the light of the Moon, to all life.

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I’m Ready

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In the Hibiscus

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Spirits in the Night

So, there you have it: my response to my friend Mary’s art challenge! But, again remember that I genuinely admire all the artwork I’ve collected over the years, which I hope to share in future blogs.

All the best,

Patrick Price,
Proprietor,
Dogbotz Boneyard, LLC
www.dogbotz.com