By Georgie Bright Kunkel
Throughout my years of watching Antiques Road Show I visualized appearing on camera with my precious item being appraised by the expert. Now here I was with my oldest daughter at the convention center where thousands were passing through in lines reminiscent of boarding the hugest plane ever to take off. We joked about taking part in a cattle call and thought it might be appropriate if we mooed while moving slowly back and forth across the waiting room. At last we were beckoned into another huge area where we lined up to visit the appraisal tables. During the hours that we wended our way in line we struck up conversations with people—one pushing a red wagon holding a replica of the sailing vessel U.S.S. Constitution. A couple dressed like clowns were pushing a huge statue of a clown that had seen better days, probably positioned in front of a circus sideshow. Finally we were directed by a volunteer to a line marked Games and Toys. Evidently my miniature hand operated child’s sewing machine from the early 1920’s was considered a miniature toy. It didn’t take but a moment to be told, “There were thousands of these made and since toys owned by girls are better preserved they do not become rare antiques.”
A little discouraged that my first precious belonging was not one of those wildly sought after I lined up with my second selection in front of the Pottery sign. I carefully un-wrapped six pieces created by Polia Pillin including a large round object with fluted top beautifully glazed and decorated with an athletic woman and her prancing horse. I could not give any information about my collection except that that when I was active in the women’s movement my husband, who was not intimidated by my feminism, bought these wonderful ceramic pieces in the seventies as a surprise for me. He thought I would love the glazed images of women depicted with 60’s hair flowing wildly about. The appraiser paused and I thought, “Here we go. I will be told that there are hundreds of these out there and they aren’t priceless” but no. He was impressed that my pottery had been purchased directly from Pillin here in Seattle and asked a volunteer to find a producer to talk with me on camera and I was led into a holding area along with others singled out for special attention: one with a Rookwood silver splashed vase and another with an 1800 era quilt bought at an estate sale for $3 but now worth thousands.
After finally arriving in the Green Room, I signed a form releasing the producers from any liability and reminding me not to expect a tape of my appearance. Then I asked for a copy of the form. I got the reply, “No one has ever asked for a copy before.” I replied, “No one like me has ever gone through your turnstile before.” After waiting some more I was ushered to a seat surrounded by face makeup and was flattered by being told, “Your Love That Red lipstick is just right for you.” I replied that the road show must be a class act because when I appeared on the Oprah Show some years ago I didn’t go to makeup before going on camera. I name dropped Oprah because I wanted to appear worldly wise in front of the ominous cameras soon to be pointed in my direction.
The appraiser sporting a two toned geometrically designed tie approached and primed me for the taping. Before the cameras were pointed at us, he carefully examined my pottery to detect for chips and to assess the value. On camera the appraiser told all about Pillin who was born in Poland and later came to this country to create pottery with her husband, experimenting with a wonderful glaze which has never been replicated since she died in 1992. He had suggested that I ask questions about my pottery that the future audience might want answered. My question was, “How did Pillin prepare and apply her wonderful glazes?” The answer was that she applied color mixed with slip clay and then applied a final glaze. Then came the information that every road show visitor yearns to hear. I found that my pottery collection had appreciated from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
After re-entering the Green Room the people who had watched my interview on the monitor called out to me, “You were great. Your pottery showed up beautifully.” Now I am seeking the 2011 book about Polia Pillin that is now out of print. Wish me luck.
Georgie Bright Kunkel is a freelance writer who can be reached at HYPERLINK "mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org" email@example.com or 206-935-8663. Note: There will be three Seattle Antiques Road Show programs during the 2013 season.