By Karen Parr-Moody
GasLamp antique dealer Elizabeth Burton loves the masculinity of metal antique objects, especially when paired against something ultra feminine.
"For my birthday yesterday when I was in the mall, I started shopping for myself, and I found a really heavy iron caddy that was very simple and had really clean lines," she says. "I'm going to go home and put some glass vases inside of it and fill it full of peonies -- very soft, feminine, pale pink, white, and bright pink peonies. So that's what I like doing with metal. If I had an iron bed, I would put really feminine linens with it in softer colors."
In Burton's booths -- which are, incidentally, all 50 percent off throughout the month of May -- she includes many items in a variety of metals, whether bronze, brass or iron.
Burton began her love affair with metal 15 or so years ago, when she studied the centuries-old craft of blacksmithing at the Tenland School of Craft in Tenland, North Carolina. She was drawn to the school after noticing that every time she visited a flea market, she would come home solely armed with metal objects.
As a consequence of learning how to blacksmith, she has learned the tell-tale signs of true craftsmanship versus shoddy work. She says, "There are a lot of copies of iron work, and I can tell if they are one of a kind by looking at the welding; I can tell if something's made by an artisan by looking at the welds."
Another consequence of this phase of Burton's life was that she started collecting metal objects with which to make new items, mainly furniture. While she filled a sketchbook full of designs, she never got around to making the final product. So her cases and booths are sprinkled with these metal finds, along with pieces she simply took a shine to, such as this 1940s bronze-on-brass fox from Spain, in the photo above right ($65; Showcase S-104).
"I like the chiseling on him, and I love animals," Burton says. " I have a lot of animals in my cases." She loves to the idea of fitting this fox into a vignette of some kind. "You could poisition him under a vase of flowers, or next to a pot with a plant in it. Or you could put him up on a windowsill because he's really narrow."
Another unusual item in Burton's showcase is this 1960s Turkish copper bowl, left, engraved with the word "Ayasofya" ($25, Showcase S-104). Ayasofya is the mosaic-filled Byzantine Church of the Holy Wisdom, now a museum in Istanbul, Turkey. It is probably Istanbul's most famous landmark, and was built by the emperor Justinian I in the year 537 AD.
"This bowl is a ware that someone might sell on the street there, or a flea market or bazaar," she says. "I kind of zero in on certain items, anything that's unique, one of a kind, made by an artist, and has some age. With metalwork, with copper pieces or pewter, I I'm attracted to a certain patina."
Burton recently had a French bust of a woman with flowers in her hair that was more than 100 years old, which she squirreled away for a particular client. "I'll buy things with specific customers in mind," she says.
Burton has an unusual reason for why she was attracted to these birds on a branch in the photo at right. Hailing from the 1920s, they are fashioned from bronze-covered metal created in the cash cold lost wax method ($60; Showcase S-104). When she found them in a Leipers Fork estate sale, the patina of the metal spoke to her. "It's kind of dull in some places and shiny in others," she says. "It looks like soembody held it. You know how when people hold something it gets shiny from the oil in your hands? It looks like it has been loved."
Since Burton is also a fan of all things Asian, it should be no surprise to find these Japanese geishas, at left, in her booth ($25 each; Showcase S-104). "They're from either the late 1950s or early 1960s," she says. "They're iron and they've been painting gold and the paint is chipping off," she says. "The poses remind me of their dancing or some sort of martial arts. I love those. And I priced them individually because someone might just like one."
Burton found these University of Arkansas razorback bookends, in the photo at right, in a local estate sale. They are from the 1940s and are made of brass ($85. Showcase S-104). They were being used as doorstops by the previous owner. "I just thought they were kind of wild looking, and I know there are certain people who collect things from alma matters," she says. "So someone is going to come in from the University of Arizona and not be able to live without them. Or someone will buy them as a gift for someone. Doesn't everybody need a wild pig?"