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It is both amazing and impressive to learn the wide range of peoples’ special interests. This is certainly true of collecting. Collections range from art to wine to engraved British fox hunting buttons. Whatever their interests, collectors seem to share a common characteristic: real passion. Beyond that, they tend to collect more than one thing. Years ago, I met a French artist who not only had a personal art collection but also collected coins, stamps, artists’ letters and signatures, rugs and antiquities.
New Orleans is full of rich culture, so collectors can easily buy and sell through local auction houses, galleries, estate sales or extensive offerings on Magazine and Royal streets, among others. In our high tech world, eBay, Craigslist and links to auctions all over the world provide efficient ways to add to collections.
Liz and Terry Creel, Paul Leaman and Bob Edmundson and Kathleen Parke share their collections and their zeal for collecting with us. We all have a little “collector” inside us, so embrace your passion and see what happens.
Bob Edmundson & Kathleen Parke
Bob Edmundson and Kathleen Parke embrace life and all it has to offer. They epitomize warm hospitality and enjoy good friends, food, drink and music. Their home is inviting and chock-full of collectible pieces with great stories.
Bob attended St. Albans and had an art teacher, “Fuzzy” Stambaugh, who made a lasting impression on him. “Fuzzy” would allow his students to bring in “pre-approved” records – ranging from classical to James Brown – to play while they worked on art projecs. He also took students to the Howard Theatre in Washington, D.C. to hear such greats as the Four Tops, the Temptations, Smokey Robinson, Otis Redding and other famous Motown groups.
One of Bob’s unique collections is a large set of prints of political cartoons drawn for the New Orleans States-Item by John Churchill Chase, a personal friend of Bob’s dad. Chase is also the author of the well-known book, Frenchmen, Desire, Good Children. The prints used to hang in the family’s study on Dauphine Street. After Bob’s dad passed away, the prints were stored in his mom’s attic, but due to a leak after Hurricane Katrina they were damaged and each had to be restored, re-matted and reframed.
The timeless relevance of the cartoons’ themes is striking. For instance, one is titled “The Crisis Abroad. Alas, to this Vicor” sketched in 1955. Another timeless cartoon shows an animated person on a treadmill with the caption: “More Revenue, More Spending;” somehow because of “more spending,” the revenue cannot catch up, thus Louisiana Taxpayers never get to break even.
Bob doesn’t necessarily consider himself a collector, but more an appreciator of nice things. His mother was the collector, and over the years has shared her treasures with Bob. These treasures include Clementine Hunter paintings, a beautiful silk from Europe and two Cambodian etchings. One of his mother’s more interesting pieces is an extremely large painting commissioned in the 1930s by Paul Ninas, a New Orleans artist, that hung behind the bar in the grand salon of the S.S. Del Norte, a swanky passenger ship from New Orleans to Buenos Aires that first sailed in the late ’40s. Other Paul Ninas murals hang in the Sazerac Bar at the Roosevelt Hotel. Another exquisite piece is Emperor Napoleon’s medal cabinet – yes, a cabinet made specifically to hold medals.
The Clementine Hunter pictures hold a special place in their hearts. Kathleen and Bob’s second date was a dinner party at his house with his best friends. Of course, Kathleen knew she was being vetted, but then she noticed Bob’s Clementine Hunter pictures. Loving southern folk art, Kathleen quickly concluded that this guy was interesting and worth getting to know. Well, clearly they both passed the test, since Kathleen and Bob are tying the knot this fall.
One of Kathleen’s newest pieces is a painting by Joseph Bradley that Bob jokingly deems an impulse buy – it took Kathleen over a year to make the decision. Underneath the picture is a cabinet that was Kathleen and Bob’s first furniture purchase together. We will all enjoy watching this wonderful couple merge their love for life and art.
What a treat to visit with Paul Leaman, viewing and learning about his modern art collection. When I asked Paul if he had any pieces missing to complete his collection, he responds quite quickly. “Oh, I have no idea. When I travel, I shop and thus collect. I don’t know what I want until I see it.” Paul travels extensively, and a feature of his travels is shopping for art. In fac, Paul’s collection currently comes from 10 countries and 15 states. But like many good New Orleanians, he has also supported numerous local artists including Ida Kohlmeyer, Shirley Rabe Masinter, Douglas Bourgeois, Dick Johnson (a former Loyola English Professor), Richard Johnson (a University of New Orleans Art Professor) and Jim Richard. His purchase of one of the Young Leadership Council’s fish sculptures aided a major fundraising program.
Paul started collecting 55 years ago while in the Virgin Islands and has never stopped. Initially he collected 19th century Louisiana pieces and small Fabergé items. Then about 40 years ago, he met Ralston Crawford, who’s famous for his jazz pieces, in New York City. Paul bought one of Ralston’s abstract oil paintings from the defunct Bienville Gallery and donated it to the New Orleans Museum of Art.
Part of the thrill of collecting for Paul is meeting the artists. He says with a laugh that “some of his paintings were still wet when he bought them.”
It is clear Paul has a story about each piece and buys those items that “speak to him.” For instance, he attended a fundraiser in New York City and “won” a Sue Williams painting at auction. A few years later, superstar Elton John attended the fundraiser, bid and “won” a Sue Williams painting. So Paul and Elton enjoy the same artist – both in pretty good company!
One of Paul’s whimsical pieces is a set of luggage by British artist Julian Opie. In the next room is a piece of art that’s a set of luggage. The luggage is symbolic of Paul’s extensive travels.
Another dimension of Paul’s artistic appreciation is his love for silver, including owning New Orleans Silversmiths in the French Quarter. He purchased the business in 1966 from a family which had owned it since ’38. Traveling several times a year to England, Paul works with numerous dealers to provide high-quality silver as well as jewelry for the shop’s patrons. Paul has learned a great deal from studying silver and includes unique pieces such as antique corkscrews and cocktail shakers in the shop’s popular offerings.
Liz & Terry Creel
Liz and Terry Creel are busy people. He is an emergency physician and she runs the historic Parkview Guest House as a side business while they raise four sons. Still, they find time to collect items in several interesting areas: antique plantation beds; antique clocks; and old Mardi Gras ephemera, including invitations, bulletins and krewe favors. When you visit Parkview Guest House you’ll not only enjoy the beauty of St. Charles Avenue adjacent to Audubon Park, but also the unique setting of the historic house.
The journey begins with beautiful Gothic, Dutch and French gilt clocks. On every trip abroad, the Creels try to enhance their clock collection. While most of their clocks are bought in perfect working condition, there are a few notable exceptions, which have required patience and a bit of good luck to restore. They scour local auction houses, internet sites and even antique markets abroad. They are also members of the National Watch and Clock Association, which enables them to stay abreast of trends in horological collecting.
There are many great stories about their clock adventures, but two are particularly special. Terry bought a large collection many years ago, but let one unique clock slip through his hands when he agreed to sell it to another collector. He regretted his decision but was unable to convince the buyer to sell it back to him. One Christmas Liz called the owner and explained that Terry really missed the clock. The Christmas spirit kicked in the generous collector agreed to the sale, and Liz was able to surprise Terry with it.
One memorable repair story involves an antique Sevres clock that had belonged to Liz’s great-grandparents. Tragically, it was badly damaged in a house fire and left in a storage area for more than 20 years. When the clock was discovered, it had vines growing through it and was charred beyond recognition. Terry had the clock restored, and miraculously the porcelain plaques and gilt were still intact, but the clock mechanism was irreparable. For years the clock sat on the mantel, pristine on the outside but unable to keep time. Then by a stroke of good luck, a clockmaker friend found the correct French mechanism at a clock show. Today Liz enjoys childhood memories as her great-grandparents’ clock is ticking perfectly!
Of the 10 or so antique plantation beds in their collection two stand out: a triple arched mahogany full tester bed by McKracken with matching washstand and armoire, and a half tester bed by French cabinet maker Prudent Mallard.
The downstairs of the Guest House features historic Mardi Gras bulletins as well as various favors ranging from historic to contemporary items. The Creels have been collecting Mardi Gras items for 25 years. It started with a gift to Terry from Liz’s mother – he was immediately intrigued by the invitation’s beauty. Over the years, sources have included garage sales, eBay and Neal Auction Company and New Orleans Auction Galleries. Along their collecting journey, the Creels became friends with a lady in New York City who had inherited her aunt’s Mardi Gras collection. Over time, the Creels have purchased more than 25 items from her.
Books by Arthur Hardy and Henri Schindler have been a great source of information along their collecting journey, as has the Historic New Orleans Collection. Arthur in particular has been the source for the majority of the antique bulletins in their Park View collection.
The Creels collect things they’re passionate about; some items are rare and valuable, others they hold dear for their associated memories. They enjoy sharing Park View with visitors to our city and educating them about the history of Carnival, New Orleans Victorian furniture and the pleasures of spending an afternoon sipping wine on the front porch as the streetcars roll slowly by.