Uncommon Objects – How one dealer is turning ‘commonly found’ into something extraordinary

Sandra Mackintosh Buhalis, proprietor of the East Market Street Antique Shop, began her artistic life as a painter. She discovered she needed a more robust artistic outlet, so she eventually switched to sculpting large, wooden, totemic, elegant forms that bespoke her “longing for a rich and powerful connection with spirit.” Through the ’80s and ’90s, her work was exhibited at Cordier & Ekstrom, a prominent New York City art gallery. Pieces were also placed in the Guggenheim, The Brooklyn Museum the Newark Museum and the Hood Museum at Dartmouth.

 Over the years,  Mackintosh, in addition to sculpting, has also been an inveterate collector of vintage Americana.

“My sources are vast,” she reveals. “Whatever I deemed beautiful became a part of what I collected. And interestingly, I have always been able to attract strange and wonderful artifacts in numbers — perhaps because my passion for them was so great. These amazing things just find their way to me — somehow knowing they will be blessed, cared for and shared.”

Her house eventually became a jumble of  hand-wrought iron hooks, vintage tin cups, carved wooden hearts, hand-turned wooden rolling pins, and other discoveries common and magical that arose from her love of and respect for the imagination and ingenuity of our forebears. Overwhelmed, she sought a way to bring them to life.

“That was the beginning of my path,” she explains, “as a kind of curator, antique and art dealer.” After acquiring gallery-like East Market Street, she began assembling her treasures into one-of-a-kind collections, often utilizing museum mounts to elevate their components into importance, transforming the invisible into the visible.

A single 18th century slave-forged iron “building star” that once held brickwork together, for example, is unassuming on its own. When 20 pairs of these multi-hued “snowflakes” are grouped together however, they make a powerful statement. A set of mounted nautical beckets, rare rope, canvas and macramé handles from old sea captains’ chests, or twinkling railroad, auto, and truck ‘marble’ reflectors are just as impressive.

While Mackintosh claims no favorite items per se, she admits being partial to her collection of early queen bee transport boxes, “such lovely little hand-made boxes with little windows and sliding doors made just for the sake of the queen bee!” She is also passionate about her collection of hand-forged iron flint strikers in a 19th century Hudson River mug case, for their rarity.

Prices for her creative, one-of-a-kind vintage collections are largely determined by the rarity of their components. While one humble, hand-wrought, hand-forged or industrially-made corn husker may cost nearly nothing, tens of them mounted on 19th century tobacco racks command $1,650.

Thirteen painted red sand pail shovels displayed on an 18th century rack with hand-made iron hooks fetches $1,800. Four large, rare railroad reflectors on museum mount bases sell for $2,400. The set of 19th century queen bee boxes, some with their original paint, runs $5,500.

Mackintosh is not inclined to sell anything to anyone who isn’t as passionate about a collection as she is. “My clients, who come from all over the country, are those rare souls who find grace and beauty in ‘useless, wonderful’ things!”

The East Market Street Antique Shop, located 90 miles north of Manhattan is open on Saturdays and Sundays from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Those interested in purchasing collections as decor items can visit the shop at 25 East Market Street, Red Hook, N.Y.,  or East Street Market on V&M.com  or 845-758-9000 or 845-679-9643 or emsa@eastmarketstreetantiques.com. ?

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