Welcome to Cynthia Shaver Asian Art Newsletter October 2016,
Last month, September, was a busy month, primarily with office appointments that were four or five hours, rather than the one hour time frame I am used to.
I have attached my monthly column from The Ark Newspaper regarding one of these experiences. Please enjoy.
Notes From An Appraiser October 2016
Lena (the names have been changed) emailed me months in advance of our office appointment stating clearly how she got my name three years earlier, and that she was clearing the Asian textiles out of her recently deceased 77 year old mother’s home. After emails and queries, I established that her goal was to get rid of all the textiles, most from Indonesia, collected at the source over 40 years ago. Lena wrote her mother’s house was barely accessible by mountain goat, had been a repository of her mother’s ‘treasures’ and had not seen the light of day for 30 years.
Lena lived in Thailand, was staying in Marin County for two months and wanted to accomplish cleaning her mother’s home. She had found local, tech savy, independent individuals that photographed all her inventory with title, inventory number and then folded, sorted and packed the lot in bags and placed them in her car. Lena and young Bertha arrived with more inventory than I can possibly accurately explain. It took fifteen minutes for two people to bring all property inside from her car.
There were probably four large garbage bags, three or four extra large rolling suitcases, and an a dozen large tote bags. Susie, my assistant, was here to help. We opened everything outside on the deck and closed the doors to inside. We agreed to throw cloth away that had obvious cocoons or mildew. Started at noon and finished six hours later. Saw and inspected over 1000 textiles, from handkerchief size to double bed size. The sorting included different quality groups.
I asked to see what she considered the most valuable textiles first, and wanted to establish a rhythm between the four of us working together to maximize the available time. The most valuable property deserves the most time. Always a good place to start, can finish quickly with material of lower quality and little value.
Some textiles were high-end decorator fabrics, such as lengths from Thailand’s Jim Thompson from the 1960’s, silk that would certainly be of interest to a business making one-of-a-kind draperies or pillows, maybe 10 pieces total. I suggested some people in the interior design business to contact for that material. Bertha took notes on laptop, had inventory spreadsheet, with photos and numbers, added my talking points, maybe techniques, origin, age and certainly a fair market value estimate onto a tag. Inside an envelope I found two lovely Coptic textiles, so I gave Bertha the name of a Persian antiquities dealer. Susie helped unpack and open all the bags and textiles, and then fold and repack. My job description was to identify and value, discuss where to go next to sell. Bertha was ready to try online auction sites and I gave her the names of possible venues.
Before the appointment, I thought about how I could help her dispose of her property, I knew the market was very limited for Asian textiles. The top international dealer of Indonesian material was in town, so I emailed him the night before and asked if he would be available late the following afternoon. He was, so throughout the inspection I selected maybe 6-10 textiles, out of the more than 1000, from handkerchief size to double bed size I felt were of superior quality.
At the end of the day, when Lena, Bertha and dealer were together, business was conducted. I knew it looked easy for both Lena and Bertha, but the dealer is in town maybe a total of 4 months a year. Remember I always say the strength of an appraiser is their network. After almost forty years in the Asian art field, my network is deep. I have gained the trust of dealers not to waste their time when sending someone their way with material to see or suggesting they stop by. That has taken years of communication to establish. In the end, we all benefit.