A Little Background Information

If given the choice between digging through an attic full junk, even in the middle of July, even if there are brown recluse spiders (which there usually are where I live) and a wasp's nest, and a weekend at a resort hotel, all expenses paid, I'd pick the attic without question. I'd rather junk than eat. And I've collected all manner of old things ever since I was a kid. Just about everything I own is vintage, mixed in with a few true antiques, some of it family heirlooms, most of it purchased or salvaged from anywhere an inveterate junker might go looking. I love being surrounded by wonderful things from the past. And, for me, this covers a very wide spectrum of objects and materials, made, primarily, prior to 1960.

In 1991, when my son was 2 years old, and I needed a way to make money at home, I came up with the idea to write The Treasure Hunter’s Guide to Historic Middle Tennessee and South Central Kentucky Antiques, Flea Markets, Junk Stores & More, which includes some of the interesting history of this area, old diners and restaruants, bed and breakfasts and state park lodges, and some collecting tips, too. I wrote and published five editions of this book, and sold about 20,000 copies. Considering its regional nature, it got great reviews in the national antiques trade papers, and you can still purchase it through Amazon. The current edition (the one Amazon is selling) came out in 1995, and some of the listings are just a wee bit out of date, but it still offers plenty of useful information. (If you'd like a copy, e-mail me; I'll make you such a deal.)

Having this book on the market led to my being asked to appear on a variety of local television programs, which led to my doing a regular segment on WSMV-TV called Antiques 4-miles on the Channel 4-news. Every Wednesday, for over a year, on live TV, I discussed various aspects of looking for and living with antiques and collectibles. I quickly discovered, though, that the topics my audience seemed most interested in were those having to do with cleaning, fixing up, and taking good care of their old things.

Consulting an expert

Contact the American Institute for Conservation in Washington D.C. (202-452-9545) and they will provide you with a list of conservators and restoration experts (in whatever field you're interested in) that are the closest to you (which is likely to mean the same region of the country). They also have several excellent brochures you should be sure to ask for.

My favorite book on properly caring for, displaying, storing, and shipping art and antiques (but no specific how-to's except for dusting) is Caring For Your Collections by The National Committee to Save America's Cultural Collections. This book is probably at your library (if not, it should be; get them to order a copy) and can also be found at many bookstores (the same thing applies: if they don't stock it, they should).

I wasn’t exactly what you’d call an expert on many of the topics I covered. Actually, I had a lot of the same questions the viewers did, and I'd done my share of damage over my years of collecting due to the same lack of information. I began doing a great deal of research, and quite a bit of what I found was either contradictory, or lacked detail, or required supplies that couldn't be found.

During the course of my research, many of the books I ran into recommended you consult a conservator or other expert for the purpose of any kind of cleaning or restoration work done to any antique or collectible. But, the problem is, there just aren't enough of these experts to go around, and there are a whole lot of old things that just aren't worth going to that kind of expense. And then I've also found suggestions that you do some really dumb things (offered by highly respected experts), such as putting books into a microwave oven to get rid of the smell of mildew, which not only dries out the paper and glue, but can also potentially set the book on fire!

I’ve spent the past several years gathering up and trying out every bit of information I can find on how to clean, restore, refinish, repair, display, preserve, and store antiques, collectibles, and anything else you own that warrants gentle tending. I decided to open Maude's Junk Store to give myself the opportunity to share some of this overflow of information I was collecting.

And share I did do, while at the same time discovering the practicality of my suggestions. Unfortunately, my customers often got far more than they bargained for. Saturated with how-tos, they would, more often than not, stagger back to their vehicles, looking like deer in head lights, and empty handed. I also gave a number of classes and lectures, which taught me a lot about what people were interested in learning.

A few months after the shop opened, I was invited to do four segments for Decorating With Style. on HGTV. I decided to take advantage of this opportunity to reach a lot more people by creating a Web site. I started out charging a very small fee to answer people's questions (which sometimes took me days to research), but this didn't appeal to many people. Lately, I've just been collecting questions, and answering as many as I can.

I closed my shop a few years ago, I decided the first think I wanted to write about was the one that I'd had the hardest time finding information on. I'm a vintage lamp and shade collector, but rarely are the old shades still in useable condition (although the frames are often just fine). And when I went looking for instructions on how lampshades are made, there were virtually none available, and nothing with any detail. I knew there were millions more wonderful, shadeless old lamps in this world like the 100 or so I had in my basement, along side a stack of perfectly useable lampshade frames. So, I decided to learn how it was done, and when I discovered how easy it was, I decided to write a book about it. While taking good care of old things remains my primary focus, I've been working on Maude's Lampshade Crafter's Handbook for the past few years. I sailed quickly

Maude Gold Kiser

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