Wednesday, September 11, 2013

On Dansk ice buckets, butter churns and what I learned from the Kovels

If you are a very serious student of midcentury design, this item needs no introduction. For the uninitiated: It's a teak ice bucket designed by Jens Quistgaard for Dansk around 1950. A solid, heavy, wonderful object that reminds me of Vikings (which I believe was the intention) but also of a bull's head, or maybe a goat's head, or some horned creature (Satan?). In other word, it's more than a mere receptacle for ice, not that I could imagine ever putting actual ice in it.

So if you're a hardcore midcentury person—a completist, like the homeowners featured in the pages of Atomic Ranch magazine—this is also the sort of object that you would pursue single-mindedly, cost be damned, for your Danish modern sideboard. That's not my trip; I don't like to pay top dollar for anything, and I'd rather spend years on a quest than pull the trigger on ebay or etsy or rubylane or firstdibs. My patience was rewarded several months ago when I spied the telltale teak "horns" in the corner of an image in an online preview for a nearby estate sale. Somehow I managed to restrain myself from going to what looked like a promisingly eclectic sale (not an art teacher this time but one of those "world traveler" types) on the first day when there would be no discount. On day 2, I arrived not long after the doors opened (i.e., right after I'd dropped the kids off at school) and made a beeline for the corner where I was pretty sure I'd find the bucket if no one had snapped it up on the first day, and, lo, there it stood, at the discounted price of $30.

When I removed the lid to make sure the inside was that trademark orangey red, I found a note, written on the backside of a page from a 2002 desk calendar. I scanned the note below:

Apparently the previous owner of this ice bucket was, like me, a fan of Flea Market Finds with the Kovels, a great show that aired on HGTV back in the early 2000s and featured the First Couple of Collectibles mixing it up with dealers and collectors at flea markets across the country. Dang, that was good TV! Frank Kovel would sign off every show with words of wisdom to the effect that if you see something and you like it, BUY IT. Cuz if you don't, you'll end up regretting it. Words to live by, even though they might eventually cause some space issues in your house. 

Well, I followed Frank's advice and bought the Dansk ice bucket, which the woman running the estate sale thought was some kind of butter churn (apparently she had not bothered to remove the lid, where she would have found the deceased's helpful note). I also bought the "Black Couroc Bucket with the birds" for five bucks, which I resold in my antique mall stall for $25. Contrary to what the previous owner had hoped, Couroc is definitely collectible but doesn't fetch the big bucks, like Jens Quistgaard for Dansk. But I very much respect the spirit in which that note was written—the thrill of discovery that something you own has a far greater value than you'd imagined, that it's desired by others but you're the one who's got it and you're not selling it. I get that. Which is why her note remains inside my ice bucket, instead of ice.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...