April 30, 2009

As a child, Lunette Dearen received what she thought were child-size dishes, however she later learned they actually were antique butter pats with a popular English Tea Leaf pattern, and they became the first items in Dearen's now massive collection of Tea Leaf Ironstone China and its variants.

"It wasn't until the 1960s when I was with a group of ladies, and I saw the tea leaf pattern on a platter that I realized what those butter pats were," she said. "I bought that platter and it really started my collection."

Now Dearen, who lives in Middletown, is an avid collector and has even seen her husband of 54 years embrace the hobby. Being Kentucky natives, they also collect the Tobacco Leaf pattern of Tea Leaf Ironstone.

Dearen is always on the lookout for opportunities to learn more about her hobby.

In 2003, Kentucky Cooperative Extension offices in Jefferson, Shelby, Henry, Oldham, Bullitt and Trimble began hosting two, eight-week antique workshops each year to teach their clients about antiques. Dearen has attended since the beginning and has only missed a few times.

The workshops meet one day each week for eight weeks, and participants may bring one item for appraisal each of the first seven weeks. Well-known Kentucky antique appraiser and owner of the Curio Cabinet in Versailles, Ron Wells leads a discussion on different types of antiques each week and appraises items that participants bring.

He's a quick appraiser and usually is able to talk in detail about each piece he evaluates. The eighth week of every workshop is known as the "Antique Road Show," similar in style to the television show of a similar name. Each of the 30 participants bring four items. At the most recent road show, Wells discussed and appraised more than 100 items in less than two hours. It was easy to tell when he was about to reveal a highly appraised item because he would precede his valuation with "I'll just throw this away for you on my way out the door." The comment was followed by laughter and then amazed "oohs and ahs" as Wells revealed his appraisal.

Jefferson County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences Valerie Holland coordinates the workshops. She said she remembers winning glass items at carnivals in her youth and now knows they are worth something. She said that although the workshops stir up feelings of nostalgia, they go way beyond that for many participants.

"Some participants are antique dealers, some are avid collectors," she said. "Still, there are some people who come because someone left them a house full of stuff that they don't know what to do with. If they don't know what they have value-wise, they could easily get taken in an estate auction."

Dearen said the workshops have been a great learning experience for her.

"Just seeing other people's items is a learning experience too," she said. "I've been doing antiquing for the past 25 years. The workshops have made me more aware now as I shop. Before, I might have walked right by something valuable; now I notice it."

She said, most weeks, groups of participants leave the workshop and go to a nearby antique shop together while the material is still fresh in their minds.

"Most of all, I'm really trying to inventory the items I have for my four children," Dearen said. "I want them to know what not to sell in a yard sale."

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Writer: Aimee Nielson, 859-257-7707

UK College of Agriculture, through its land-grant mission, reaches across the commonwealth with teaching, research and extension to enhance the lives of Kentuckians.

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