After being oblivious to antiques while growing up, I’d been working for a decade or so when I spotted a small, crude needlepoint sampler at a show in New England. Its message, meticulously stitched in 1788 by Lucy Heald, read: “Hear you may se my work in course when lye mouldering in the dust.” And there I was, seeing the fruit of her labor two centuries earlier — misspellings, maudlin sentiment, and all.
I was hooked. Not just on samplers, but on most things old, beautiful and made by hand. I treasure the objects themselves, but I also love to conjure up the stories and memories behind a silversmith meticulously chasing a serving bowl, a cabinetmaker carefully carving a finial, a glassblower gently shaping a fragile vessel.
For years, I helped tell stories as a newspaper writer and editor. Then, just as serendipitously as I stumbled upon samplers, I discovered the field of personal property appraising. It was the perfect fit because it allows the telling of stories behind everything from furniture to books – how the pieces were made, when, and maybe by whom, and what they’ve meant to those who’ve owned them.
I respect those stories and know they’re intrinsic to the attachment we all feel to stuff – valuable or not.
I am an accredited member of the Chicago-based International Society of Appraisers. I’ve completed the basic courses on appraising methodology, valuation theory and ethics, and an advanced course on antiques and household contents. To get more hands-on knowledge, I’ve taken a silversmithing workshop, a glassblowing and collection seminar, numerous textile symposia, and was a volunteer in the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Architecture and Design. I earned a certificate in museology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, and have helped stage numerous art shows and exhibitions. That’s in addition to my undergraduate and graduate degrees in journalism and my many years at newspapers across the country.
My collection of samplers continues to grow, as does my interest and knowledge in the wide world of all things collectible. I’d be happy to help you learn the stories behind your valuables. Give me a call or find the contact form, fill it out and send it to me. I’ll get right back to you.
–Kay Manning, ISA AM
Examples of needlepoint samplers: