Collecting Mania is Catching
Calaveras Enterprise Column 03/16/04

Antoinette May 209 286-1320

ALL THAT GLITTERS By Antoinette May Herndon

The addiction generally starts small. Maybe it’s just a little thing like a fondness for small china dogs. Maybe it was triggered by a childhood gift—a pipe stand, perhaps, anchored by a bull dog.

Slowly, insidiously the passion grows until it includes crystal beagles from Bavaria, Limoge poodles from France, 1930s celluloid Dobermans, and plastic pups from cracker jack boxes. Before long there are more than 300 of them.

Sooner or later a collector has to face up to it. He or she is hooked. He or she has the passion. After that, it gets pretty clear, buy a bigger house—a much bigger house—or start selling off a few treasures.

You’ve just read the case history of Mokelumne Hill resident, Art Novotny. First the bigger house, then a career as an independent antique dealer that’s lasted more than forty years.

One can quickly tell that Novotny, a gentle, elegant man with a shock of silver hair, loves his work. “I see a beautiful carved bedstead or a Tiffiny lamp at an auction or estate sale and bring it home. Soon that lovely old piece is part of my life--until I find the perfect home for it.”

Calaveras County is an antique mecca for good reasons, he believes. “It’s all right here,” he says. “Sometimes locals don’t know what they have, but Bay Area dealers do. They come here, pay our prices, then raise the ante back home.

“People come looking for Gold Rush country ambience. After a good lunch, maybe a night at an historic inn like the Leger, they wonder into some little shop and find the real Mother Lode. Maybe they find old mining tools—pans, lanterns, ore cars. Perhaps Victorian tables, china or glassware. Original 49er treasures are rare but do exist. “

Novotny believes Calaveras County’s greatest advantage is its diversity. “If antique prospectors don’t find their dream commode in one shop, there are others sprinkled along Highway 49. Unlike super markets or gas stations, antique stores are full of excitement and variety.”

Lately Novonoty has been mentoring the newest kid on the antique block, Kathy Olson. Olson’s inviting shop, Keskydee, offers not only a beguiling variety of upscale antiques handed down by pioneer families, but work by local artists including Marion Waldon’s renderings of historic buildings. In a cozy relaxed atmosphere visitors can look through home accessory catalogs and literally

hundreds of fabric samples. Sitting before a crackling fire, they can discuss their decorating problems with on-sight designer Ashley Canty.

The Canty and Olson are repatriates. Having grown up in Mokelumne Hill, they set off to seek their fortunes in the Bay Area but eventually returned home to start thriving businesses.

Kathy Olson is particularly excited to be the only Calaveras County business selected to be part of the Third Annual Artists Tour. The event will be held April 10. She’s currently scouring the county looking for artists to exhibit in her antique shop at 8317 Main St.

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PARTYLINE: Everyone’s talking about the up and coming Fourth Annual Black and White Ball to be held March 27 at the Town Hall. Music from the 40s, 50s, 60s, pretty dresses, handsome men. I wouldn’t miss it, would you?

ALSO: if you’re feeling mad, sad or bad because you missed Poets Night at the Leger, you can start feeling glad. The next one will be held at 7:30 p.m., April 5. Bring your poetry.