It’s amazing sometimes to think how we form attachments to inanimate objects when we are children. Everybody knows about the cartoon character and his raggedly old blanket. Maybe that’s why antiques are so popular. They let you connect with the lives of other people in distant times. By looking at, smelling, and touching what they touched, looked at and smelled, you get a sense of what it must have been like, especially if it’s an old family heirloom that has been passed on from generation to generation.
I like watching some of the antique shows on TV like “Antiques Roadshow” and “Bargain Hunters” on the BBC. The premise of the shows is about making a profit off of an old piece of furniture or a lamp, but I feel that for a lot of the people who bring their family artifacts in, it’s more of a vindication of how valuable they think that the item is. The old saying that “one’s man trash is another man’s treasure” certainly rings true. Remember that famous scene in the movie “Citizen Kane?” where the character, based on the millionaire William Randolph Hearst, lay dying and his last word was “Rosebud.” “Rose bud,” it turns out was the name of a sled he had when he was a child. All his wealth and fame and notoriety and that was the last thing that he remembered. I still remember a few of my childhood treasures that I still have. One was a rubber dog named “Bloodwurst.” Bloodwurst was a Bloodhound, hence the name. My grandfather, who was a butcher, named him for me. He was a little rubber dog that made a squeaking sound when you squeezed him. I can’t tell you how many times I rescued him from the trashcan after he became torn and tattered.
Another artifact that I still have from when I was a child was a handmade quilt that my grandmother made. The quilt kept me warm on these cold winter nights when I was growing up. My grandmother would warm it by placing it on the radiator so it would be toasty warm at bedtime. I keep it in the closet and sometimes even today I take it out to wrap up with on a frosty morning. It comforts me in more ways than to just keep me physically warm.
And quilting is an art that has maintained its popularity in this industrial age. According to Quilter’s Magazine, in 2006 some 27 million Americans are making quilts. That’s some 17 percent of all American households. All the more reason to combine quilts with a love of antiques by attending “Quilts in the Material World: Selections From the Winterthur Collection” at the St. Louis Art Museum, through May 26th. The exhibition features quilts from 1700 through 1850. The exhibition features some historic quilts from Missouri and shows how the craft evolved from a pastime for the wealthy to a commonplace hobby for the middle classes. For more information you can call the museum at 314-721-0072.