Martin: OK I have jack Wilson on Skype, how’re you doing Jack?
Jack: I’m doing well Marty, yourself?
Martin: Good, thank you, and where are you? You’re in Arizona?
Jack: Prescott Arizona; one of the top retirement locations in the United States.
Martin: Ah, well, that right away makes me think of a lot of goodies that may come in that area.
Jack: That’s Correct.
Martin: Yeah, I think of it this way, in retirement places like Florida, places like that, a lot of people may sell their furniture but a lot of times they’ll bring nice decorative arts with them or art work; in Florida a lot of things end up settling there and I’m sure it must be the same where you’re located.
Jack: more so actually in phoenix than in Prescott. There’s a lot of the antiques shops here but not a lot of what I would classify as genuine antiques; more tourist type stuff.
Martin: Ah. So today we are going to talk mostly about the subject of Ruba Rombic glass which has always fascinated me from the very first time I saw it, now how did you get interested in this subject and start researching and collecting this type of glass? And before you get into that can you explain basically what the glass is, you know I think of it as like the Cubist type form in the Art Deco era but I want you to give a description if you would please.
Jack: Sure, in the mid twenty’s, actually 1926, the Consolidated Glass Company located in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania, 15 miles outside of Pittsburgh, got into the art glass business at the urging of Reuben Haley who had worked at the U.S. Glass Company and had left when the ownership changed and he didn’t like the new owners. So in ’26 he came out with a line of glass called Martele which is basically American Lalique and in ’28 he came out with a line of glass called Catalonian, all Spanish, and ‘28 was Ruba Rombic. Ruba Rombic was very very Deco. There’s a lot of different ideas of where the name came from, but I think it came from number one, Reuben, and number two, rhomboid which is a geometric figure with no parallel planes, and Ruben Haley was actually a sculptor; had worked at some of the silver companies earlier and the way I heard the story he picked a piece of plaster off the factory floor and sculpted the first piece of Ruba Rombic design in the plaster. And I heard that from a guy who worked for him. I also interviewed his son, Ken Haley in Pennsylvania before he died. So it’s very cubistic glass that came out in ’28 and the problem was it was ultramodern, number one, so some people liked it and some people didn’t, and in 1929, in October actually, we had Black Friday which was the great depression so bam the production lifecycle of Ruba Rombic wasn’t very long, and we’ve had varying estimates of how many pieces there are. Bob Aibel of Moderne Gallery of Philadelphia thought it was about 1,500; based on what I know, I think it’s between 2,000 and 3,000. But those are very, very, very small figures when you compare them to something like Lalique where if you go to a major glass show in Miami you’ll probably see 20 or 30 pieces of Lalique you can purchase, and if you see one or two of Ruba Rombic you’d be lucky.
Martin Willis: I’m in New Haven, Connecticut with Fred Giampietro. How you doing, Fred?
Fred Giampietro: Fine, fine. How are you?
Martin: And I apologize it took me a little while to pronounce your name properly. I’ve known your name, and of the pieces you’ve sold, I’ve seen your ads for many, many, many years of handling very fine things, and I’d like to know how you got started. What was your beginnings, and how did you evolve into handling such fine pieces?
Fred: I grew up Cheshire, Connecticut. My parents did not have money. They were very, very middle America, ran a landscaping nursery, and when I went up to school in Florida to study classical music I met Kathy, who – we later got married, so in 1973 I found myself at Stetson University in DeLand, Florida studying classical music, and one of my first dates with Kathy was to an antique shop. Her family always collected. Her father was an artist – is a contemporary artist and they loved antiques and they used to rummage around finding stuff, so first date we go to a place called Carousel Antiques in DeLand, Florida next to the University, and I bought a Shaker Number 7 Rocker. I don’t know what came over me. I just loved the stuff. I loved the idea that shop had everything from Victorian furniture to vintage clothing to old tools to junk, and there was this Shaker Number 7 Rocker and I got –
Martin: So, you know how to – you knew how to spot something fairly decent right off the bat, obviously.
Fred: I didn’t know it was a Shaker. I knew nothing about Shaker or what Shaker was, but I took it home. Took it to some antiques dealer that – who I respected or thought I respected and they told me what I had and –
Martin: Did it have the number 7 in them – one of them?
Fred: It had number 7 on it and it had – I’ll never forget it had a broken rocker and I, promptly, had the rocker replaced, and I took it to the dealer and they said: you did great, except you replaced the rocker, so I learned not to touch anything.
Martin Willis: Hi, everyone. I’m with Richard Wright on Skype in Chicago. How you doing, Richard?
Richard Wright: I’m doing fine. Good morning to you.
Martin: Good morning and thanks for joining us. This is the second time you’ve been on.
Martin: You were all the way back in the beginnings of this podcast and I appreciate your willingness to come back, and today we’re going to stay on a, or mostly on a topic, of mid–century modern, just for our listeners, out there, who have an interest in that, and so I’m going to, just, fire some questions at you. Your company’s been around for a while and you’ve handled – I saw on your website you’ve handled over 20,000 objects, so far.
Richard: That is true.
Martin: And, encompassing, mostly, the 20th and 21st century, basically. Right?
Martin: Yeah. So, as far as mid–century modern – that’s a term you hear all the time, today, and, what does it actually mean and what are the years it encompasses when it comes to furniture and decorative arts?
Richard: So, mid–century modern is generally – there’s not a strict definition of it, but, generally, it falls into the category of post–war design. So it begins in 1945 and it, sort of, runs stylistically to, about, 1960. After 1960 you start to have other influences in design that, sort of, move design in a more radical place. So, real, kind of, heroic mid–century modern is 1945 to 1960.
Martin: So, again, you said that it’s not really strictly defined, because I’ve seen people sell 1970s items and call it mid-century modern. It’s, kind of, stretching it, a little bit, in the 70s.
Richard: Totally. I mean, I think that the concerns of design, the design world, coming out of the war were completely different than the, much more consumer-driven, culture of the 1970s design. There is a absolute stylistic shift that starts to occur, probably strictly, we’d start to see that shift show up in the late 50s – 1958, 1959. I’m using 1960 as a nice, round number, but mid-century modern really is – it is a cohesive style, visually. That style starts to fragment later on in the century.
The following is a podcast transcription.
Hi, everyone, this is Martin Wills and welcome to the Antique Auction Forum for episode number 111 with John Rinaldi on whaling scrimshaw.
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Today we have a great informational show and I hope you enjoy it.
Martin: This podcast is sponsored by WorthPoint. Find out what your antiques are worth at WorthPoint.com. This is Martin Willis and I’m in Kennebunkport, ME with John Rinaldi. How are you doing, John?
John: Good, how are you doing?
Martin: Good. Thanks for meeting with me. We met I think it was in the ‘90s sometime and I saw right away you had a lot of knowledge in scrimshaw and things like that. You’ve been at it for how long?
John: I started in 1972, so quite a while.
Martin: Wow, so you were pretty young then. So how’d you get started in that?
John: When I started living in Kennebunkport I got quite interested in the history of – it’s such a shipbuilding history here in town that I kind of got interested in that. And with that came interest in all the different artifacts that were related to ships and shipping and what not. And it just became something I got very involved with and then I started to buy and sell things and started putting out little catalogs, and I’m still at it.
Martin: Wow. Where did you come from originally?
John: I grew up in Connecticut in a very industrial city in Connecticut called Waterbury.
Martin: How long would you say…you started collecting and selling scrimshaw teeth I think you said?
John: Yeah, I got involved with it right away. It was right about the time Norm Flayderman wrote his book. It was, Scrimshaw and Scrimshanders. And so there was a lot…it really kindled up an interest in scrimshaw and I got interested as a result. And the book was kind of the Bible, and it still kind of is the Bible of the business, although a new one was just produced by the New Bedford Whaling Museum which is wonderful.
And so I just really liked it and loved the history of whaling and what an important industry it was in 19th century America and I got involved and interested not just in the scrimshaw aspect of it, but the implements and tools and items that they used: harpoons and whale guns and just all the different aspects of whaling I found very fascinating.
Martin: I was at an auction I would say 10 or 15 years ago and I believe one of those books went at the auction for quite a bit of money.
Bob: I am doing well; it’s great to be here Martin thank you.
Martin: I was pretty excited when Eric Bradley of Antique Trader gave me her name and I thought it would make the perfect podcast. There is a lot of intrigue when it comes to art theft, and you are on the Colbert Report what was that like?
Bob: He is a great guy, very smart man, he works hard at that show, and it’s a great show.
Martin: Yes and he took it easy on you.
Bob: I think he was actually interested in the subject, is after the taping they told me usually gets up and leaves, but he stayed and asked me some questions. I think he was actually interested in the subject itself. When you first go on you go in the green room, any comes in to visit with you. He said listen I just want you to know that this is all in fun, and please don’t take offense at anything. Then the producers tell you don’t try to tell any jokes, let him do the jokes, no one upping. You don’t want to try to match brains Steve Colbert.
Martin: right off the bat I want to say, most people’s opinions is that art thieves early like Pierce Brosman, Cary Grant in their sort of in a romantic intrigue when it comes to art thief’s. What are art thieves really like?
Martin: I’m on Skype with Rebekah competent, Steiffgal Cambridge, Massachusetts are you doing Rebekah?
Rebekah: it is a pleasure to be speaking with you this evening.
Martin: thank you, and you are the Steiffgal please tell us why you are the Steiffgal?
Rebekah: I am the Steiffgal, because my absolute love and passion is Steiff which is the vintage German brand, button in ear teddy bear, animals and dolls. I’ve been collecting Steiff the vast majority of my life, over 40 years, I blog about Steiff I work for Steiff as a consultant archivist, meaning I travel the country on behalf of the organization and identify and value Steiff products for the company. I also write extensively about Steiff for many media outlets. My Steiff Life is my blog, and truly describes a good part of my life.
Martin: I love talking to people who are enthusiastic about what they do, and I did meet you, first of all have to say 40 years? You mean at birth, I’m surprised that you are even that old.