Friday, December 9, 2011


My friends Jason and Greg at knew I was writing my second book, this time solely on twentieth-century self-taught Southern artist Helen LaFrance. She was featured in a chapter of my first book, the reference book Outsider Art of the South (published by Schiffer Books, by Kathy Moses). This new book, Helen LaFrance / Folk Art Memories is written with Bruce Shelton, who introduced me to the artist nearly 20 years ago, and has a Foreword by Lee Kogan of the American Folk Art Museum in New York. We expect it to be available after the new year and are taking pre-orders now. NB: Great holiday gift! Jason and Greg suggested I write about writing the book.

Just a little about HELEN  LAFRANCE, a self-taught black artist who was born in 1919 in Western Kentucky. Her specialty is memory paintings of the disappearing lifestyle of the rural South, although she has painted and interpreted religious themes and floral studies, usually in oil on canvas. She has painted since she was a small child, always following her mother's wisdom to "paint what you know." Not limited to two-dimensional media, she is an exceptional quilt maker, Biblical interpreter and wood carver, whose animal sculptures and articulated dolls with handmade textile clothing are delightful. But it is her paintings that most strongly suggest a common human experience. The synthesis of her personal history, folk tradition, artistic invention and expression is what makes her unique and thus important.

LaFrance's work is held in many important private collections and museums (and you'll see some of those in the book) throughout the United States and Europe.

Check out the article on and see what an amazing site THAT is. It is chock full of information, and you can learn so much about the value of antiques and collectibles.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


Whew!! The writing part----the part I like best----is over, and the tedious parts are now but a distant memory. Turned it in to our layout people this morning, and it feels great! This is what the cover looks like. The whole painting wraps around both sides of the book. The right half is what you see when you pick up the book and look at the front. The left half is what you see when you look at the back. As you can see, it is called Helen LaFrance / Folk Art Memories and it will be an 8.5 x 11 hardcover.

Thanks to everyone involved, especially Bruce Shelton who was the driving force behind this book, and of course to Helen LaFrance without whom there would be no book. She is an incredibly talented self taught artist known best for her memory paintings, but she is also an accomplished wood carver, quilter and Biblical interpreter as the book will show. She will be 91 this month and she is still painting. There are roughly 220 images which illustrate the range of her work. I'll keep you posted as we move along.   

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Working on HELEN LAFRANCE book

After a brief and unexpected delay, I'm back on the throttle working on my new book, which is going to be titled
Helen LaFrance
Folk Art Memories.
Bruce Shelton and I are collaborating on the book and things are starting to fall into place. Helen is a self-taught, Southern African American artist best known for her memory paintings, but she is multi-talented and quilted, carved wooden sculptures and dolls, and did a series of visionary Biblical paintings as well. She is featured with a chapter in my book Outsider Art of the South, which is published as Kathy Moses by Schiffer (see above).

Have chosen the painting for the book jacket and working with a great layout person, Gwyn Snider. Waiting on all but a few photographs, need to then number and caption all of them and drop them into place. I'll post the cover design as soon as it's ready. Very psyched!

Thursday, June 23, 2011


I apologize....All has been quiet on the blog front because I've been working on my new book about self-taught Southern artist Helen LaFrance. The book is in collaboration with Bruce Shelton, who introduced me to Helen almost 20 years ago. The book will be entitled (Re)Membrances: the Folk Art of Helen LaFrance, and I'm very psyched!

But I did want to tell you about a fantastic web site and service my friend Peter Clifton has called A 25-year publishing veteran, he really knows what he's doing, especially in the e-marketplace. FiledBy lists every single book that's ever been printed, and you can even go and buy the books there as well. It is the most comprehensive directory of author and contributor sites anywhere. It’s also a place for authors, photographers, illustrators, artists and editors to showcase themselves and their work, a place for readers to search and discover new books and a place for everyone to connect and discuss one of my greatest interests with the exception of art and antiques----books! FiledBy's aim is to help authors market themselves effectively online and they can be found and linked through a single search engine to maximize their web presence.

Readers can use FiledBy to search for authors and their work, access exclusive content posted by registered authors, learn more about favorite authors, leave comments for other readers and authors, rate and review and receive updates when authors post new content or about upcoming events like book signings and such.

Who knew? Evidently lots of people, but now you do too!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Materials for Walking Sticks

I have had a great many requests to tell about the materials used for antique walking sticks since my article "Getting a Handle on Collecting Antique Walking Sticks" appeared on Questions like: Are there different types of ivory and how do you tell the difference? And how do you tell what the material is? Well, it's tough. If you have been handling these items for some time, it's intuitive but it can also still be tough. Stay tuned for a short primer on this subject at a later date. I am glad to do anything I can do to help educate because canes are a great thing to collect, don't take up as much space as some collections, and each one you find is fairly unique.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


As an ex-museum director, I had to know how to handle and preserve the works of art that were in my care…and because it was an historic house museum, sometimes these items got handled by others as well, without the white gloves! Today I’ll be talking a little about the Care of Silver. The most important thing you want to do is keep your silver free of tarnish. A little oxidation is fine, and that means the natural oxide that appears on silver and darkens it and actually helps ornaments it, creating the depth and shadows. You just don’t want tarnish or excessive oxidation.

The first thing I would caution is NEVER dip your silver in those baths you see sold at antiques shows or on late night TV when you can’t sleep, get antsy and feel compelled to whip out your credit card. Instead remove tarnish by first wiping the silver with a liquid polish or soft cream polish like Mr. Metal using a soft cloth. The baby diapers you never threw out are excellent for this purpose.  If you’ve kept up with your silver, polishing gloves work really well for touch-ups. A soft toothbrush works well in the crevices where oxidation has gotten in and contributed more to the design than you want (read TARNISHED it). If you’ve been lazy and the silver is black, you might need to spend a lot of time and elbow grease or eventually send it out to a pro to remove the oxidation. As Nashville silver dealer Bruce Shelton says, “There is no free lunch in the silver cleaning business.”

Some polishes rquire you rinse the silver. This is a good idea if you're cleaning flatware or vessels which hold food. Some polishes, like Mr.Metal, don't require rinsing and allow you to wipe off the residue with another clean cloth. Now that you’ve cleaned and dried your silver, you can display it and wait for the compliments, or store it in Pacific Cloth, airtight drawers and you can use those tarnish strips (3M makes them), charcoal or camphor. Never wrap silver in plastic or collect it with rubber bands, as these will cause chemical reactions you don’t want. If you have flatware and serving pieces and hollow ware that holds food, be sure to remove salt, mayonnaise, mustard and lemon or you will get discoloration. Then polish, polish, polish!

I hope this has short course been instructive in caring for silver. Again, there is no free lunch when you are trying to remove tarnish on silver. Good luck and stop procrastinating. Start polishing! You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I wrote this article on Walking Sticks for, which is a terrific site for learning about antiques and collectibles and assessing their value. It was published today on their web site. I tried to reprint the article here on my blog, but it came up minus the images and when I tried to insert them, I met with no success. I imagine I will figure it out eventually, so instead I'm offering the link and you can go right to the article on I've talked about the history of canes, the different parts of the stick, the materials you might see, and several different types of canes. There are photographs and captions which describe some of the canes you might encounter in your travels. From both a seller's and collector's standpoint, walking sticks are truly fascinating. Each one is unique and a neat piece of history. And of course, please go back to Our Inventory and see if there's anything there that strikes your fancy. Remember, it never hurts to look!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Music You Might Like

A dear friend sent me a beautiful song written by Jeff Tweedy, songwriter, musician and leader of the band Wilco. Titled "You Are Not Alone," Tweedy wrote it for gospel great Mavis Staples, who recorded it in September of 2010. I've attached a link of him playing it acoustically. Please ignore ad for "Royal Pains," which I happen to like periodically.

Being a huge fan of Rhythm and Blues and Soul, it got me thinking of the first time I heard the Staple Singers back in the 1960s, so I hunted down Mavis Staples singing the song with Jeff Tweedy accompanying her. Mavis Staples was part of the Staple Singers, a family gospel group led by her father Roebuck Staples. They performed in the '60s and '70s. This is the one they did that I like best. It's just as contemporary today as it was when they recorded it. It didn't "date." It's timeless.  Hope it brings you a bit of joy and hope as we move through the day and arm us better for the possibility of hits we might take.