A word from our Editor
My love affair with antiques started when I traveled from my home state of West Virginia to Columbus, Ohio for the first time back in 1993. The itinerary included an OSU football game (against Penn State, who had just jumped ship from what was “The Big East” into “The Big 10”), an old school stay at the Westin Great Southern, and an auction at Garth’s Auctions in Delaware. That drive up Route 23 felt like it would never end, with nothing but cornfields and the occasional stoplight. The owners of Garth’s, Tom and Carolyn Porter, were a perfect hybrid of sophisticated style and gracious hospitality. When they opened the door to their historical barn and house, what I saw was room after room of old, kind of beaten-up painted furniture, fanciful pottery and glass, and lovely watercolor and oil paintings. It was all completely approachable, absolutely charming, and at the same time: old and used.
Old and used. Growing up in the hills of Appalachia on public assistance, all I had ever wanted was new and shiny. I had watched, from the outside, as many of my classmates donned the latest fashions (pin-striped jeans and Nike Cortez, anyone?), while I scrounged through my brothers’ throwaways and the latest drop-off from the Salvation Army or Mustard Seed charities. Our home was filled with whatever my parents had scavenged from dumpsters or the side of the road, and it never occurred to me to consider the form, function, history or style of any of it. All I saw was poverty, and poverty equaled old and dirty and used. The Porters opened my eyes to a world I had never known. A community of people who not only valued objects that were made long ago, but treasured the patina (a word I would grow to love, which basically means something has built-up dirt and grime from years of use and oxidation). Once, when discussing a 19th Century stand with a respected antiques dealer, I smiled to myself when he clapped his hands and said, “Oh look how good and grungy it is!” Suddenly, I found myself more attentive everywhere I went - looking for objects that had previously gone unnoticed by my naively aspirational eye. Even when visiting my parents, I was overcome with the notion that some of the trash with which we had lived might actually be treasure - and much to her delight and mine, I actually found a vintage Fiesta serving bowl in the hodge podge of dishes in my mom’s cupboard. Though it was only worth $30-$40, to my mind, it held a redemption that was invaluable.
That fateful introduction to the Porters and their world led me to work in the art and antiques industry, realizing over $100M in career sales and traveling to such distant places as Beijing, China. After splitting from my former business partner, I stepped away from “the business” (as my peers are prone to call it) for a bit, only venturing back for special projects. But the allure of seeing the treasure in what an untrained eye sees as trash has been too strong to ignore. There is a bit of romance in connecting with an object, learning some of its history (surrendering to the unknown), and helping to steward it on to someone else to be preserved and appreciated - no longer old and used, but historical and significant.
This fall, thanks to what can only be divine intervention, I return to the very barn that first welcomed me into what would become one of my life’s greatest passions. If you are interested, check out my adventures at auctionsatthebarn.com and at my Insta: @auctionsatthebarn. And here’s to having eyes to see and a hopeful heart in everything we do. And here’s hoping that this issue, and those that follow, offer a bit of inspiration, beauty, and well-placed aspiration to your world.
Amelia Jeffers is the Editor-in-Chief of Sophisticated Living Columbus. She is also an auctioneer and appraiser, specializing in fine art, antiques, and bespoke collectibles with over $100M in career sales. For more information, visit ameliajeffers.com.