The September edition of the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival, held over the Labor Day weekend, September 3,4, had a 25 percent increase over attendance from the September event of 2010 according to Festival owner Kay and Bill Puchstein. Early buyer registration was up 33 percent and the weather was seasonably nice with highs in upper 80's and no rain. Earlier in the week everyone was watching hurricane Irene as it was heading toward Florida before making a turn to the north. The show stayed busy and crowded all weekend.
One of the first items to leave the show early Saturday morning by way of an Early Buyer admission was a 1923 Gibson guitar in its original case priced at $2500. The name on the guitar was "The Gibson". It had the Indian rosewood finger board that has stirred controversy recently in the classic American guitar market.
Early holiday items are always a favorite at the Festival beginning in September. Monica Laethem from Boca Raton, Fl, offered a turn of the century Bellsnickles and reported selling a red and white ceramic Santa Claus, a paint decorated little sleigh and many other expensive small holiday items. One of the earliest pieces of furniture to ever come through the West Palm Beach show was a large blanket chest from the early 1700's. The heavily carved show stopper was in the booth of Gerald Snyder of Stuart Fl. Made of oak with an old, old finish it had an English provenance. Len Bartkowiak, Ft Myers, Fl offered a one of a kind Japanese carving that took your breath away. Carved out of bone and ivory, this 36 inch by 36 inch masterpiece from the 1950s had never been out of its original shipping crate.
One of the most interesting and highly specialized booths at the West Palm Beach Antiques Festival is operated by Elizabeth Bartholomew. Bartholomew, originally from Florida, had a vintage clothing business in Texas and a fine jewelry operation in the Caribbean before moving back to Florida. In her third year at the Festival she specializes in antique and vintage clothing with a tight focus on Japanese textiles.
Her favorite items are examples of the kimono, the full length robe that is the traditional Japanese garment for women and men, always wrapped with the left over the right and secured at the waist by a sash known as an obi which is tied in the back. At one time the use of the kimono was so ubiquitous that the name itself means “clothing” or “thing to wear.”
Aside from the traditional full length silk kimono, Bartholomew has fine examples of the haori, the shorter hip or thigh length robes originally worn only by men but now universally used as an overgarment and the yukata, the common cotton kimono traditionally seen as summer dress. But the top of the line is the uchikake, the formal wedding kimono which is heavily embroidered and worn outside the regular kimono as an overcoat with no obi. The uchikake is woven of the finest silk and hand painted, made of a single bolt of cloth. The most striking thing seen in the booth is a full length uchikake on a tall stand.
Bartholomew also has examples of the hitoe, the unlined silk kimonos also used as summer garments, and like all of her examples they are all hand sewn. Many examples are made of shiboroi, fine silk that has been hand tied and hand died, resulting in a pucker texture and some even have the traditional monsuki or family crest on the back panel.
Bartholomew exhibits over 500 items in her booth and besides Japanese textiles she has an assortment of pottery, glass, sterling silver and fine jewelry. Items in her booth range in price from $25 to $1,000 or more for a custom order kimono but she notes that the supply of finer vintage kimonos is drying up and even now shipment takes two months. Don’t wait too long.
The remaining Summer show date will be October 1-2 with a full day of setup for dealers on Friday 8:00AM to 7:00PM. The Puchsteins have lowered dealers’ booth rent for the Summer Season over the normal show fee. The popular “Early Buyers Admission” feature will be continued in the summer starting at 9:00AM on Saturday before the regular Show opening time of 10:00AM. Summer Show Early Buyers admission has been reduced to $10 and is good for both days of the Show. Adult daily admission $7.00, seniors $6.00 with a 1$ discount coupon for adult admission available on the website. Anyone under 16 is admitted free. There is no charge for parking at the Fairgrounds.
The West Palm Beach Antiques Festival (WPBAF.com) is held at the South Florida Fairgrounds located off Southern Boulevard in West Palm Beach, FL, 1.5 miles west of the Florida Turnpike and 1 mile east of 441/SR7.