Avonlea Antique Mall

Get An Art Appraisal

Art. Today, let’s talk about art.

I’m not a stickler for what you put on your walls. You can turn a tangible piece of memory, like a ticket, a postcard or child’s design into art. But what is art without a frame? It can be as simple or ornate as you like. Make it or buy it, but show off your art.

At the end of the day, any item can be meaningful and provide color and richness to your decor.

In another life I taught Humanities courses, and for years I badgered my students to appreciate art. You don’t have to like everything, but you should appreciate an artist’s efforts. Find pieces that evoke a feeling in you: calmness, joy, excitement, or even despair. Just feel something when you look at an artistic expression.

All of which leads me to day’s topic: getting your art appraised. If you ever have the chance, jump on it. It’s a hoot.

Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery sponsored its annual Art Appraisal Day. Henry Flood Robert Jr., former art museum director at Jacksonville Museum of Modern Art, conducted the informal sessions, in that Henry didn’t provide certificates of authenticity.

Avonlea Antiques and Art Gallery
Art Appraiser Henry Flood Robert, Jr. and Assistant Georgie Kerr, left. Photo by Avonlea Antiques and Art Gallery

One bewildered shopper stopped at the table. In a loud, excited voice he asked, “Is this the Antiques Roadshow?”

Now, I’m sure I don’t own any artwork valued over a few hundred dollars, but I’d never had my art appraised. Our carefully selected artwork is important to us. We have collected for years, as we travel, as we share new experiences, or as I receive artistic gifts from my sister. So are appraisals really necessary?

I wanted Henry to look at unusual art that we picked up at estate sales. Pieces we could sell so that others enjoy the power of art.

Avonlea’s appraisal rules were simple enough:

  • no more than 3 pieces per person — together, David and I could bring 6 pieces
  • $5 per piece — that’s fantastic!
  • Henry would impart info, so I took copious notes

King Tut Painting on Papyrus

I thought our best bet for a sensational find would be the large African King Tut painting on papyrus, pictured above. One of my son’s discoveries, its woody smell wafted through the air as we unrolled it. An indecipherable artist’s name appeared in the left corner.

Henry dispelled my hopes for something unique. He thought it probably came from the Treasures of Tutankhamun Exhibit that toured the U.S. between 1976 and 1979. The country went mad for King Tut. I, myself, flew to New Orleans, the closest location to me, and viewed the exhibit at the New Orleans Museum of Art. I remember a long line of people standing outside the museum in the cold drizzle, which gave way to astonishing golden riches inside. I experienced a one-in-a-lifetime moment.

Henry advised us to flatten the papyrus — put it under heavy books for thirty days or more — and get it framed. As is, he estimates its worth around $125. The tightrope walk here is money, as always. I already took Tut to a frame shop and was quoted $500 from scratch. But, If I provide my own frame, glass and mat with dimensions that don’t perfectly fit the piece — which I can do — it will be $95. It might make the piece pop, but there’s not a lot of room for profit.

Stone Lithograph

I showed him Trilobite, by another artist with an unreadable name. A trilobite is a fossil group of extinct marine invertebrate animals. What do you see when you look at the painting? I see birds on a wire, with a few feathers fluttering from above. I definitely don’t see extinct sea life. The dark colors, however, create a somber mood.

Trilobite’s artist created it using stone lithography, a technique where the artist draws an image directly on a flat limestone or piece of marble using a waxy/oily crayon. The next step involves water and oil and placing the paper over everything. Repeat, color by color.


This print is # 25 of a run of 25. Even though this was the last lithograph printed in the run, it was a short run. That’s good. The lines are crisp and overall condition excellent. Touch up the frame, Henry advised, and find of dictionary of lithographers’ chop marks. How easy will that be? In a gallery he would expect to see a price between $150 and $250.

Paul Geissler
Hofkirche, Luzerne, Switzerland. Professor Herr Paul Geissler, Artist

The unexpected and delightful discovery came with three etchings that Michael, my son, snatched up at an estate sale several months ago. He plans to keep the Hofkirche, Luzerne and sell the other two. One look and Henry got excited. It turns out that they are original. One is dated 1921. Professor Paul Geissler (1881-1965) used copperplate to make the engravings on archival paper. He signed the plate, which means every copy shows that exact signature. Ours are unique because the artist also wrote his name and descriptions in pencil.

Paul Geissler
Farmhouse in Nüremburg, Germany. Professor Herr Paul Geissler, Artist

Henry speculated that Geissler exuded confidence because his name appears twice. Small wonder. A quick search revealed that Geissler received commissions from the German Empress and a Russian Grand Duke. He possesses impressive credentials.

Paul Geissler
Farmhouse in Nüremburg, Germany. Professor Herr Paul Geissler, Artist.

Estimated price for each etching, as is: between $400 and $600. Imagine them framed. Imagine the expense.

Paul Geissler
Tower in Rothenburg on the Tauber River, Bavaria, Germany. Professor Herr Paul Geissler, Artist.

Get them framed in Old Master’s frames, Henry advised. He’s talking about these kinds of frames — and they aren’t inexpensive. Does anyone have suggestions how how I can create the effect?

Gilt Frames


Henry couldn’t help us with our final piece. It’s a watercolor of a seated Japanese man. On the back of the frame was a handwritten label Tosa Mitsunobu, founder of the Tosa School of Japanese Painting back in the 13th century. Before you get too excited, none of us believed this piece displayed that kind of age.

Watercolor Japanese Man

Two areas of foxing, which are those age-related brown spots, appear on the face. More worrisome are tiny holes in the rice paper. Henry advised getting them fixed by a paper conservator. I’d need to find an expert in Japanese paper, which isn’t going to happen in Jacksonville.

Think! Wait . . . I have one credit left with Value My Stuff, meaning I’ve prepaid for one more item to be evaluated by this online company. I’ve used them before and been pleased with the results. Henry advised me to take the image out of the frame, take at least 10 photos that emphasize the holes and the foxing and send it on to the experts at Value My Stuff.

The event was a smashing success. Henry needs to come back more than once a year. Customers who didn’t know of the Art Appraisal Day asked: Will he be back tomorrow? Does this happen every weekend? If I run home now and get a picture, will he still have time to do it? No, no, no.

He was quite popular. I, for one, will suggest that Henry’s Art Appraisal Day become a regular event for the mall. Although David and I did not expect, nor receive, any momentous surprises with our art, a few people received startling good news. More importantly, we all had a jolly good time. Come back, Henry. Very soon.

Ann Marie and David
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Designing a Mid-Century Modern Room

Another month, another booth. After just two months in our beautiful aubergine space David and I realized we desperately needed more room. Lucky for us a more spacious booth became available unexpectedly.

The additional room created all sorts of possibilities, so this month we decided to try something different. We designed a mid-century room, on display through September, at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery.

We had the furniture picked out, but we needed a little help selecting the paint. We wanted something retro yet modern, bold but without being kitschy. Thankfully Suszi Kerr, the owner of Avonlea, offered up her expertise. As you can see, Sherwin Williams’ Daredevil Orange looks terrific as an accent wall.

With the booth painted, we started filling it up. Almost all of the furniture in this room was manufactured in the 1950s by Reed Furniture Mfrs, Designers of White Craft, Miami, FL.

Let’s start with the lounge chair and foot stool. Large snaps hold the padding in place, a necessity because the padding is so heavy. Think I’m exaggerating? Do you remember when your dental hygienist placed the lead vest across your chest before X-rays? The foot stool padding is like that. The lounge chair padding is far weightier.

Reed Furniture White Craft

The matching all-in-one table lamp even offers space for magazines. A teak cabinet, made in Denmark in the 1960s, stands to the right of the chair.

We have a window in our booth and I’m scrambling for a treatment. But that’s a project for another day. Let’s just focus on to the sofas and side chair.

Reed Furniture Designers of White Craft

Check out the square pillows sewn from the same fabric as the lounge chair.

Reed Furniture Designed by White Craft

And the matching coffee table with woven strips of bamboo under glass:
Reed Furniture Designers of White Craft

Suszi helped with our wall art configurations. She’s amazing. David and Michael struggled to keep up with their hammers and nails. I’ve never seen pictures go up so quickly.

We integrated our eclectic artwork. A Thai temple rubbing rubs shoulders with panels made in Holland. African masks mingle with Asian art. We even hung reproductions of Pompeii mosaics underneath a contemporary aqua 3-D image.

Wall Gallery

Wall Gallery

Michael acquired this tension lamp with green glass pagoda globes. When they’re lit, they emit a yellow-green glow.

Wall Gallery

The bar, stools, and matching wall mirror stop people in their tracks. Even though I brought fall decorations, by the end of the day I only managed to hang one Halloween banner.

1950s Bar, Stools Wall Mirror
One month. That’s how long this design stays in this space. We’ve had two exhausting days but the customers’ comments made us laugh. There’s the common motif that the room looks so cozy . . . but what time will cocktails be served?

In October Iris Abbey hopes to move to an even larger space, where we will merge our styles of Mid-Century Modern with painted furniture and antiques. I think we’re up to the challenge.

MCM furniture

Thanks for your visit. We love your comments.

Ann Marie and David

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A Year in an Antique Mall: Lessons Learned

Next month marks our first anniversary at Avonlea Antiques and Design Gallery. We struggled with the decision to move into Avonlea because we are newbies in this business. The longer we waited, however, the more furniture kept piling up in our home. We needed to take action. Our pieces needed visibility, and we wanted to be able to walk through our house.

Avonlea not only is the largest antiques and interiors mall in northeast Florida, but it’s in the process of creating a unique online store for its vendors. That all sounded very attractive and, I’ve got to say, we’re quite pleased with our decision.

Here’s our space today — we’ve just upgraded to a larger booth.

Iris Abbey June 2015

A year ago we moved into a very small space because we wanted to evaluate our decision in the most economical way possible. Our booth measured 9′ x 5′ and didn’t offer much room to turn around.

Our First Booth

Color: Our first space came with neutral gray walls. Our excitement about moving in blinded us to an important element: color. Gray turned out to be a poor choice since our gray painted pieces blended into the wall. It looked like a big, boring yawn.

Layering: We added a bamboo rug, a bushy, holiday poinsettia and began acquiring small items to sell. That’s another lesson learned: one can’t get by selling only furniture. Smalls are essential. By December our space looked fuller and we laid out a Shop Small welcome mat to greet holiday shoppers.

Iris Abbey Christmas Booth

Size: Unfortunately, most people bypassed our booth without really seeing it. Very few people actually walked into our small space. A big factor was our neighbor across the street — she displayed two rooms crammed with amazing things. Her rooms served as a magnet that caused shoppers’ heads to snap their attention to her displays and completely ignore ours.  Our neighbor offered us advice early on: get out of that small space and into a larger one so people will take us seriously.

Color Revisited: Since we weren’t completely sold on the idea of a larger booth we decided to spice things up with a new coat of paint. Good-bye gray walls and hello Aubergine. I loved how vibrant and regal it looked. The Saturday after we painted, a customer almost bought that huge mirror. He didn’t, but we were encouraged that the aubergine made our merchandise  pop.

Iris Abbey Booth March 2015

We barely had a chance to test out our newly painted booth because a bigger space became available. Our son Michael helped talk us into the new space to display pieces from his ever growing Mid-Century Modern collection.

Space Revisited: Not only is the new space larger (10′ x 10′) but it’s across from a row of windows. Natural light floods in. Of course, we needed another can of Aubergine paint. I wasn’t giving up that gorgeous color. This time the mall staff painted our walls, no mean feat since the previous color (a hideous yellow) somehow managed to bleed through even after two coats of Aubergine.

We assigned Michael a wall for his pieces and he decided to feature this gorgeous china cabinet.

MCM China Cabinet Iris Abbey

In this next photo the cabinet doors are open. I’m very grateful for the extra storage space.
The chair in front of the cabinet is sturdy, Mid-Century Modern and — surprise — it folds up. To the right you can just see a hint of one of a pair of our Hollywood Regency chairs.

MCM China Cabinet

Michael’s Mid-Century Modern teak cabinet — made in Denmark — is topped off by a period lamp with a lucite base. It’s a great combination.

MCM Danish Cabinet

While we’re on this tour, let’s look around. The back wall features a magnificent mirror flanked by artwork. Those lamps are made from genuine mortar and pestles and would be perfect for a young scientist’s room.

Mirror and Artwork Iris Abbey

We have images from the ruins of Pompeii, a deer’s skull and antlers, an antique painted mirror, a designer’s lamp, and a unique Lady of the House print by Andrew Wyeth. In 1992 the Andrew Wyeth exhibit came to town and I required all my students at Jacksonville University to view his works and write papers. Lady of the House was only printed for that 1992 exhibit, so it’s rare.

Iris Abbey Booth

On the other wall stands our gold and silver dresser, which I love. Mighty Leo the Lion, atop it,  gives visitors a friendly roar.

Booth 76 Iris Abbey

The gray serpentine chest offers a perch for this authentic Osceola turkey, which stands next to a beautiful oval framed photo of a early 1900 family.

Iris Abbey

Here’s a better shot of the Serpentine Chest:

Iris Abbey

A breezy coastal table with hand-painted swans sits front and center in our booth.

Iris Abbey

Just beyond the coastal table stands the hand painted antique desk and chair.

Iris Abbey Desk

Online Presence: It’s essential to market merchandise online. Right now we’re only using Craigslist. Michael posts photos and blurbs on our Avonlea pieces along with ones we have at home (because they don’t yet fit in our booth). Avonlea’s next step is their online store, which should happen any day. We’re hoping that really takes off.

Thanks for visiting! Be sure and leave a comment — we love them.

Ann Marie and David


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A New Tent, Antique Autos, and Cooler Stereos

My best friend from college, Barbara, now lives in England. Happily, she has an excellent phone plan and we talk often. She recently told me about Car Boot Shows. Basically, sellers drive to a designated location, lift their boot (car trunk) and begin negotiating with buyers. Here’s a link to prove it’s a thing.

I’d like to think that Avonlea Antique Mall’s British owners want to bring a bit of Merry Old England to Florida with their parking lot sales. We joined in the fun for their Spring Sale. First, though, we bought a new tent from R.E.I.— you must have a tent in Florida.

Avonlea Parking Lot Sale Spring 2015


The event was low-key, perhaps because you are limited by the size of your trunk, and it only ran from 8 ’til 2. Mall vendors and the general public could pay a modest fee for two parking spaces. Cars, vans, SUVs, and pickup trucks started lining up at 6 a.m. to be processed once 7 a.m. rolled around. Some people had mall inventory that they were ready to part with; others offered general merchandise, like refinished bicycles, stereo speakers, and knick-knacks.

Several men talked to David about his rehabbed vintage Raleigh 3-speed bikes.



Our new pet bed / end table generated a lot of chatter and a couple of married lawyers were soooooo close to buying it, but no deal. We did, however, sell several small items.

End Table / Pet BedDavid and I ran quick, separate excursions into the mall to look at a larger, soon-to-be-available space. We’ll be shifting from our tiny 5′ x 9′ space into a larger one — a spacious 10′ x 10. Of course, we just painted our small booth aubergine a few weeks ago.

We have enough inventory for this move and we want to include our son Michael in the business. He has acquired some astonishing Mid-Century Modern pieces. I’ll tell you about our transition in a later post.

One week after the Parking Lot Sale, Avonlea hosted its Antique and Classic Car Show. Car enthusiasts came out to play.


David and Michael displayed their amazing Cooler Stereos. They take a basic cooler, but instead of ice and beer, put stereo speakers inside. Sealed Lead Acid Batteries provide the power. The coolers are water resistant, so you can take these babies to the beach, camping, picnics, campfires — anywhere outdoors — because they’re durable.

Stereo Made From Cooler

How’s this for Karma? Michael began playing music as the Avonlea team set up at 6 a.m. The DJ’s arrival quashed Michael’s show and he turned his Cooler Stereo off, as requested. A few hours into the event, a driving rain swept through, sending everybody scrambling.

Michael fired up his orange cooler out in the downpour and played on. Of course, that drew men over. They gazed appreciatively as they got soaked and the music kept blasting. I guess marine, waterproof components rock on during downpours or long tubing excursions floating along Florida’s springs.

He got an order for a large cooler.  Avonlea may create a display area in the mall. I didn’t attend but showed my support by buying raffle tickets. I WON! Here’s my prize: a Cheltenham Picnic Rug (100% lambswool) in a Satchel. How great is that?

Picnic Rug and Satchel by Twillmill

Thanks for visiting with us. Stop by again.

Ann Marie and David


Painting Our Booth Aubergine

When we moved into our small booth at Avonlea Antique Mall last July, the walls were a freshly painted light gray, a perfectly lovely color. Unfortunately, we didn’t select it. The excitement of having our first space had us floating above such trivial details as paint options.

A neutral color can work beautifully, but in this case it was unimpressive. To make matters worse, we  displayed some pieces painted in Annie Sloan’s Paris Grey.

This was our shop at Christmas. The not-for-sale poinsettia plant provided the biggest burst of color.

Christmas at Iris Abbey 2

It took to a while to accept the inevitable: we needed to change the color of our booth.

After kicking around several ideas, we turned to a seasoned pro. Suzi, one of Avonlea’s delightful owners, studied our booth and proclaimed, “Aubergine.” That settled it. David and I headed to Lowe’s for paint.

We coordinated our project with Avonlea’s photographers. Their job is to take photos for the new online store that’s coming soon. While they whisked our furniture to their photography studio, we moved into the space with our paintbrushes and rollers.

We started disassembling the booth in the late afternoon for minimum inconvenience of customers and other vendors. We worked hard and fast, despite this photo showing me sitting down on the job.

Painting a vendor's booth

At the end of a very long evening, we pushed our pieces into the booth, went home and collapsed. As much as we wanted to finish up, our bodies and the store were unwilling to accommodate. Too bad, really, but we would have been there until midnight or later.

I’m excited about a new addition that will enhance our booth’s new look: the gigantic mirror on the right. Made in Italy, it measures 55″ x 37″ and needs a large wall space to display its gorgeousness. Lucky for us, we have the perfect place for it in our space.

Painted Booth end of day

Homer wrote of “rosy-fingered dawn” in The Odyssey. For me, dawn came early and used her rosy fingers to slap me in the face. Getting out of bed was taxing because my body hurt and I wanted to sleep. But we pressed on.

David and I work well as a team. We’ve hung many, many pictures over the years and I know when to measure, when to hand him a hammer or drill, when to lift the frame for him to hang.

By the way, check out our new mirror, now front and center in the new snazzy space. Things are already looking up. Before we could even hang the mirror, a customer strolled by and took a photo of it to send it to her husband. Fingers crossed for a sale!

Booth with David

Here’s the almost-finished space. The Aubergine color is much more dramatic. With the Palladio mirror as a centerpiece, this feels like an entirely different space.

Aubergine paint in vendor's booth

These Before and After photos show the difference:

We are delighted with the Aubergine. It makes our space look like a designer’s showroom. One man stopped at our booth and asked, “What color is that?”

“Aubergine,” I said.

“Plum,” he corrected me.

Men. Whatever you call it, the color is rich, intense and beautiful.

Thanks so much for visiting us. Hope to see you next time.

Ann Marie and David






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A Circus Poster To Frame

Circus Poster and Carved Lion

It’s a circus poster! What child doesn’t love the colors and promised excitement of the circus? This artwork would look great in a child’s room. And Leo, my heavy, handsome lion, is ready to stand guard.

Let me back up, though. I visited an estate sale at the home of an adult circus enthusiast. Circus plates, figurines, even vinyl records–this house had it all. I bought the poster, selecting it from many, because it looked visually arresting but more importantly it was the one I could afford.

This poster features Madame Olympia Desvall, a German-born equestrian. A New York Times article from 1907 described Madame as a “graceful rider with a troup [sic] of well-trained dogs.” Her Barnum & Bailey act included horses, ponies, and birds, all of which followed her around the ring, performing various tricks. Look at those dogs somersaulting and spinning in wheels. One horse has wings. Just how high can he soar?

But Madame and menagerie needed a frame, which David produced after scouting out a few sales. Plain oak with a band of white linen. Nothing special to see here. In fact, the whole thing is rather a yawn.

Circus Poster in Wood Frame

I painted it with ASCP Old Ochre and used Arles on the linen band but haven’t added wax yet in this photo:

Circus Poster with Painted Frame

It still wasn’t where it needed to be, so I added Clear Wax followed by Dark Wax to warm it up and give it some age. It’s hard to see the wax on the left side of the photo below because light washes it out. A mat and glass came next, secured at a new local frame shop. I love how the complete package turned out. The frame and mat are neutral enough to draw the eye to the vivid  circus colors.

Circus Poster with Matte and Frame

We carried the artwork into our booth at Avonlea Antique Mall and positioned the mighty Leo next to it. I really hope they can be sold as a set. Leo’s body color matches the linen stripe on the frame. Good luck, Madame, wherever your new adventures lead you. Take Leo with you.

Circus Poster with Carved Lion 2Ann Marie and David

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