Antiques & Collecting: Woods Davy turns rock into unusual pieces

By Terry and Kim Kovel

When is a pile of rocks considered art? Recently, an unusual table made of glass and “stone” was offered in an Andrew Jones auction in Los Angeles, with an estimated price of $2,500 to $3,500. It didn’t sell, but other related sculptures by the artist, Woods Davy (1949-), have sold from $1,000 to $7,000.

He first collected natural stones and turned them into sculptures without altering the shapes. Then he started making “stones” that look like they came from a riverbed using concrete, metal and glass. He positions them in impossible, strangely balanced shapes, which are held together by concealed steel rods and adhesives.

This table is 22 inches high with a round glass top 42 inches in diameter. Poking through the glass is a rock with its top 28 inches from the floor. He used old natural forms in a new unbalanced way, which is known as postmodernism. That is the name of an unusual period of art developed in the 1950s that fuses past styles with the look of modern magazines, films and other unexpected sources. But is this just a great table? Or is it art?

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Q. I own a set of Dresden figurines purchased in Germany in 1952. Both figures are seated in red chairs. The man is dressed in red pants and a green jacket, the lady in a fancy, poufy white gown trimmed in blue. Markings on the bottom include “handgemalt Dresden Art; Made in Germany.” They both have a green trademark and the word “Frankenthal.” Can you tell me anything about this pair?

A. This mark was used by the F. Wessel Porcelain Manufactory in Frankenthal, Germany. The company was founded by Friedrich Wilhelm Wessel in 1949 and made porcelain figurines, gift items and household goods. The factory closed before 1964. Wessel wasn’t supposed to use “Dresden” as part of his mark because he wasn’t located in Dresden. It was probably an attempt to make his porcelain seem to be the same quality as that made or decorated in Dresden.

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Q. Is a Buddy “L” Steam Shovel worth “real” money? I have an early version with wheels, without the treads that are on some models.

A. Buddy “L” toys were made by the Moline Pressed Steel Company of East Moline, Illinois. The company was founded by Fred Lundahl in 1913 and originally made parts for farm implements, cars and trucks. The company began making toys in 1921. The brand was named after Lundahl’s son, whose nickname was Buddy. He was called Buddy “L” because there was another boy in the neighborhood named Buddy. The Steam Shovel toy was made in several versions, both with and without treads. Lundahl died in 1930 and the company was sold. Buddy “L” toys are collectible.

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Q. I have a unique old knife taken from a German soldier who was killed in Cantigny, France, in 1918 by my relative who was a U.S. Army soldier. It appears to be made from a deer antler, a grenade pin and a file for a blade. I appreciate any information on this as I’ve never seen one like it, and there are no markings that can be seen.

A. This knife is an example of trench art, a form of folk art made by soldiers from metal casings from bullets or pieces of artillery. Soldiers in the First Infantry Division of the United States Army fought in the Battle of Cantigny (May 28-31, 1918). They were the first American troops to fight in World War I and were nicknamed the Black Lions of Cantigny after saving the town from the Germans. Monuments in France and the United States commemorate the battle. The First Division Museum is in Wheaton, Illinois, on land donated by one of the soldiers who fought in the battle, Robert R. McCormick. He was the president of Tribune Company, publisher of the Chicago Tribune. The museum includes items from the First Division’s service in World War I up to the present. There are many collectors of World War I and World War II memorabilia. You might want to donate it to the museum and get tax credit for a charitable donation instead of selling it. There is no way to estimate a value since it is unique.

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TIP: Sniff the photo album you plan to use for old photographs. If it smells, it probably is made of vinyl or some other unsafe material. Don’t use it. It will discolor the photos.

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Terry Kovel and Kim Kovel answer questions sent to the column. By sending a letter with a question and a picture, you give full permission for use in the column or any other Kovel forum. Names, addresses or email addresses will not be published. We cannot guarantee the return of photographs, but if a stamped envelope is included, we will try. The amount of mail makes personal answers or appraisals impossible. Write to Kovels, The Journal, New Ulm, King Features Syndicate, 628 Virginia Dr., Orlando, FL 32803.

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Current prices are recorded from antiques shows, flea markets, sales and auctions throughout the United States. Prices vary in different locations because of local economic conditions.

New Martinsville lamp, flowering vine, opaque mottled pink, chimney shade, brass collar, c. 1904, 8 x 3 inches, $45.

Red Wing Pottery water cooler, No. 8, cobalt blue stripe, metal handles, 17 x 11 inches, $155.

Sextant, brass, ebonized wood, ivory inlay, oak case, Spencer, Browning & Co., 12 inches, $340.

Steuben vase, blue aurene iridescent glass, wide shoulders, tapers down to round base, flared lip, 6 1/2 inches, $520.

Inkwell, silver gilt, crystal, seated women, knight’s helmet, grapevines, repousse, Austria, 1800s, 6 x 7 inches, $780.

Chippendale tilt top table, walnut, molded dish top, urn shaped turned support, tripod cabriole legs, slipper feet, 28 x 34 inches, $940.

Lalique vase, Mossi, frosted, rings of clear droplets, 8 1/2 inches, $975.

Schneider vase, gourd shape, flat mouth, red, blue mottled splotches, signed, France, 17 inches, $1,235.

Gorham tea and coffee set, silver, kettle-on-stand, teapot, coffeepot, sugar and creamer, waste bowl, tray, engraved, recessed corners, $4,375.

Sconce, 4-light, putti holding scrolling branches, flower bud candle cups, gilt bronze, 23 inches, pair, $5,120.

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