A curious and unique pair of sand art bottles, handcrafted by Andrew Clemens (1857-1894) of McGregor, Iowa, will be offered for sale in a July 2 auction held by W. Yoder Auction and carried live via ProxiBid. Popularly referred to as the Sweetheart Sandbottles, these rare bottles have surfaced for sale no less
than three times in the last five years – twice in just the last four months.
Clemens lost his hearing and speech at age 5 due to a “brain fever.” As a deaf-mute he earned worldwide acclaim for his ability to “paint” images inside blown glass bottles with nothing more than a set of special tools (including a fish hook) and the patience of a yeoman. He was proud that his specially colored sand came from Iowa’s Pictured Rocks area of Pikes Peak State Park. According to several online articles, Clemens created most of his work from 1880-1886 and is acknowledged as the inventor and possibly the sole practitioner of his art form. Antique Trader featured Clemens’ work in a cover story in February 2008.
It’s estimated that of the hundreds of sand art bottles Clemens made during his regrettably short life (he died at age 37 or 42 depending on which account you read) only about 50 bottles remain. They are highly coveted by American folk art collectors for their ingenuity and beauty. Prices range from about $500 for lesser quality examples to as much as $25,000. Four bottles are on display at the Iowa State Historical Museum in Des
Moines and other bottles are documented on a fan site.
They are referred to as the Sweetheart Sandbottles, at least that’s how auctioneer Wes Cowan described them when he sold the pair for $24,500 (not including buyer’s premium) in February 2005. The commissioned bottles were made for Helen Wimmler, Milwaukee, and Henry Reinken, Manitowoe, (sic) Wis. (The Wisconsin city of Manitowoc is misspelled.)
Fast forward to Feb. 16, 2010. In a listing that’s since expired from general searches, the sandbottles were offered by a Florida seller on eBay. By all accounts the listing shows the bottles were claimed after five bids for $19,000. The listing is for the same Wimmler and Reinken bottles, “the only ‘mated pair’ of Clemens sand bottle art.”
For whatever reason, the wonderful Sweetheart
Sandbottles are back on the market and represent one more opportunity for collectors to own a piece of peculiar folk art. The bottles are shown on Yoder’s auction website along with three other rare examples included in the firm’s July 2 auction. One of the three examples depicts an American eagle above a banner reading “M.W. Cole,” another shows a paddle wheel boat and the third depicts a floral bouquet in an urn.
-posted by Eric Bradley