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  Written by
  Sharla A. Stewart

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The collecting mania


Collective efforts
In the kitschen

The best thing about their collection of 500 ceramic cow creamers, say Barry Skovgaard, JD'80, and Marc Wolinsky, JD'80, is that it isn't-technically-theirs. "We get all the satisfaction of collecting without the burden of owning, cleaning, holding, and storing the things," claims Skovgaard, straight-faced, even though one-third of the herd (a sugar-and-creamer subcollection) sits in his Manhattan office and another third grazes in the apartment he shares with Wolinsky. The collection, they insist, belongs to Wolinsky's sister, Toni, who keeps the rest in her Haworth, New Jersey, home.

PHOTO:  And the cow jumped over...Barry Skovgaard (left) and Marc Wolinsky.

The first creamer, purchased at a yard sale in the mid-1980s, was a gag gift for Toni. By the end of the 1980s, the couple threw her a "Night of the 100th Cow" party. When she completed her Ph.D. in 1989, they spared no expense: her Tiffany & Co. creamer, she says, is "very classy" and the one she would grab if disaster struck. Skovgaard, meanwhile, is partial to "Toni's" subcollection of souvenir cows. Branded on their haunches are images of Dollywood, Lake George, Niagara Falls.

Barbara Siegel, AB'69, is also partial to Niagara kitsch. The Falls silently roar on 11 of the 200 hand-painted decorative lustre-ware plates from the 1930s and 1940s mounted in her Tribeca loft kitchen. There are nut plates and platters, floral designs and geometric patterns, and of course, quirky souvenir plates with stylized and impressionistic scenes from Yellowstone, the Egyptian pyramids, and Little America, Wyoming. "My collection is based on the eccentricities of the plates," says Siegel, a found-object artist and teacher whose accumulation of salt-and-pepper shakers from the same era vies for her affection. "I collect intuitively," she continues-and frugally. She never pays more than $25 for a plate. "And that's very high."

PHOTO:  As if Barbara Siegel doesn't have enough on her plate as a teacher and an artist - she also has a habit to keep up.  Above right:  A yellow-stoned hot pad from the kitchen of Elizabeth Huttner.

Half a continent away in Iowa City, Iowa, another frugal kitchen kitsch collector, Elizabeth Stege Huttner, AM'76, has assembled 40 embossed aluminum hot pads for $18 apiece or less. Souvenirs from world's fairs, international expositions, national parks, and tourist sites, nearly all of Huttner's hot pads were manufactured by Sayford Co. of Brooklyn or C. A. Brewer & Sons of Chicago. Her collecting urge was sparked by memories of her grandmother's hot pads. "I had always thought they were so much more interesting than the cotton-loop pot holders that my sisters and I churned out and the rest of the family dutifully used."

Huttner is quick to distinguish herself from more avid collectors like her husband (see "Collected Works," p. 29), though she admits there was a plate that got away. "A fantastic hot pad from a Houston oil exposition. Unfortunately, the Texas connection made the bidding too rich for me. But I still hope to find one some day."

  OCTOBER 2001

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