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Which department store originated the concept of selling artistic home furnishings?

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Arts & Crafts:
From William Morris to Frank Lloyd Wright

by Arnold Schwartzman

The author focuses on a British craftsmen, such as William Morris and Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who turned their backs on the mass production of the Industrial Revolution to form a ‘Round Table’ in order to establish a means of returning to hand-crafted products.

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How Was It Made? Block Printing William Morris Wallpaper

This video recreates the painstaking reproduction of a William Morris wallpaper design from 1875, a process that can take up to 4 weeks, using 30 different blocks and 15 separate colors.

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Argyle Chair
Charles Rennie Macintosh

Thirst For Antique Knowledge Draws Sell-out Crowd to Smithsonian Seminar
by Bob Brooke


It was over 100 degrees on the Mall in Washington, DC. on Saturday, August 3. The humidity had climbed to near 100 percent. But three stories underground in the cool comfort of the Smithsonian Institution’s S. Dillon Ripley Center, 70 devoted antique fans sought refuge from the intense heat by participating in a six-hour seminar, Collecting Affordable Antiques and Fine Art, given by AntiqueWeek feature writer Bob Brooke as part of the Smithsonian Associates Program.

The Smithsonian Associates offers a variety of educational programs and study tours that open the doors to the Smithsonian's world of opportunity. Topics, offered by the leaders of contemporary thought, range from the latest discoveries in astrophysics to the delights of regional cuisine. Established over 30 years ago as the membership, cultural, and educational arm of the Smithsonian Institution, The Smithsonian Associates is recognized as the world's largest and most esteemed museum-based continuing education and study tour program.

Seminar presentation.

Brooke began the program with a computerized presentation which showed participants the difference between antiques and collectibles. He then went on to discuss where to buy antiques, including comments on buying from dealers, at shows and at auctions.

Participants seemed to be particularly interested in how dealers determined prices for antiques, as well as what determines value. When asked what makes a good buy, Brooke said "what pleases the collector’s eye and is affordable."

Affordability was the theme of the seminar, and it was most likely the word "affordable" which brought a relatively young–average age 35-40–audience to it. Participants seemed anxious to know how they could begin collecting without spending a small fortune.

Two folding cameras from Bob Brooke's collection.Brooke stressed the importance of being an educated collector, learning as much as possible about a particular type of antique or collectible. He discussed various ways to learn about antiques, including visiting historic restorations and museums, reading books and periodicals like AntiqueWeek. He then discussed how to assemble, display and protect a collection.

The seminar continued with a discussion of furniture. Beginning with Victorian furniture, his specialty, he discussed the many styles, especially emphasizing the "revivals." He said that because there’s no such thing as a single Victorian style, identification of Victorian pieces is more complicated.

Brooke stressed how high-end examples carry the elements of style for a particular period, but that mass-produced pieces are more affordable. He also discussed various designers and retailers such as Herter Brothers of New York.

Brooke noticed that participants were particularly influenced by the Antiques Roadshow–at least 85 percent of them watch it regularly. His goal in conducting this seminar was to dispel some of the myths of the show.

The third session of the seminar dealt with decorative accessories from the Victorian to the Atomic Age, including a discussion of potter and porcelain. Brooke showed participants how the Industrial Revolution and the emergence of a middle-class market in the 19th century, as well as new materials and manufacturing techniques in the 20th century, affected design. By showing examples of dinnerware, utensils, glassware and art pottery, he was able to give the audience a good introduction into this wide-ranging and sometimes complicated area of antique collecting.

The seminar’s last session offered a brief overview of collecting 19th and early 20th-century art, including paintings done "in the school or style of" a particular artist, engravings and etchings such as those of Currier and Ives, sculptures like those of John Rogers, and photographs of Wallace Nutting.

Throughout the day, Brooke emphasized value in his discussions. As a collector, Brooke related his personal experiences in buying and selling antiques.

Bob Brooke has been writing about antiques for the past 17 years and has collected a variety of items for the last 30. This antiques Web site, The Antiques Almanac, is fast becoming one of the leading antiques information sites on the Internet. Besides AntiqueWeek, he articles also appear on various antique Web sites. He also contributes articles on antiques and collectibles to HowMuchisItWorth.com

Brooke is available to conduct this seminar or variations of it or others on separate antique topics. Contact him by E-mail. Ask about All About Antiques, a four-session course for antiques lovers.

Learn more about the Smithsonian Associates Program.

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How to Recognize and Refinish Antiques for Pleasure and Profit

Book: How to Recognizing and Refinishing Antiques for Pleasure and Profit
Have you ever bought an antique or collectible that was less than perfect and needed some TLC? Bob's new book offers tips and step-by- step instructions for simple maintenance and restoration of common antiques.

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