I spent this past weekend wishing I was in southern California at Clinky Mayhem, the hobby gathering to disperse Karen Grimm's extensive china collection. My sister and I had planned to attend, but unfortunately, real life intruded for us both, and we weren't able to make the trip. Many attendees have posted videos and photos of the event, so it almost feels like we were there. Luckily for us, a friend of ours sweetly offered to be our proxy buyer, so a few pieces of Karen's vast china collection will be winging their way home to us soon.
By all accounts, everyone had a wonderful time and found treasures to bring home. I have also thoroughly enjoyed the stories that collectors have shared about Karen and why they sought out certain models from her collection. Some reminded them of fond times with their friend, some were longtime grails, and some were unexpected love at first sight.
One of the most poignant conversations that has come up with the dispersal of Karen's collection and others around the country lately is that we are only temporary caretakers for the models in our collections. They will outlive us all and someday will be passed on to new caretakers. With that in mind, I very much enjoy hearing and reading the stories that come with our models---where they were found or purchased, the serendipitous events that brought a collector to the right place at the right time, or stories of cherished gifts from family or friends.
My own china collection was seeded by gifts from my grandmother from her collection when I was just a little girl. Every time I visited, I would help Grandma feed and brush her real horses, and then sometimes we'd stop in Grandpa's office in the barn on our way back to the house to admire the china horses in a case on the wall. I got to pick out a new horse every summer at the end of our visit. This Hagen-Renaker rose grey Small Amir is one of my favorites. I chose him when I was in middle school and leasing a wonderful grey Arabian gelding named Ahab at the barn where I took riding lessons. Ahab was a fleabitten-grey by the time I knew him, but he must have been a rose grey as a youngster, so I was smitten. Interestingly (horrifyingly?), my aunt used to play with the HRs as a kid, so most of them have multiple repairs, but miraculously, Amir somehow survived intact.
In the years after Amir joined my herd, I had always intended to find the rest of his family, but HR buying opportunities were infrequent for me. And my collection goals for a long time were pretty plastic-oriented, too, so it was not until the last ten years or so that I became more serious about finding a matching Zara, Zilla, and Fez.
I don't generally have a lot of disposable income, so I'm pretty particular about the models I buy, and especially so when it comes to Hagen-Renakers. I tend to hold out for models that have nice shading and coloration combined with crisp detail. Very often, I pass up multiple examples of HRs I want while I wait for just the right one to come along. Eventually, the right Small Fez appeared, and he turned out to be an excellent match for my Amir.
The seller was a "picker" just like the guys on TV, and because he was astonished by how much the horses sold for, he told my parents the rather harrowing story of how he came to find them. He and his partner were going through an old barn that was packed to the rafters with decades worth of stuff. It was so full that they literally had to climb over boxes to get at various things they wanted. He described hearing stuff crunching in said boxes as they crawled across them. Eek!
Because the barn was so full, the two men took to throwing boxes of stuff they wanted out of a window from one guy to the other and into the back of a pick-up truck. A box full of china horses including the Zara and Zilla was one of those boxes. After tossing it out of the window and putting it in the truck, they changed their minds. Back it went through the window into the barn.
And then they changed their minds again, so the box made a third trip airborne through the window! Miraculously, all of the horses, wrapped in nothing more than newspaper, survived this less than careful treatment. Zara and Zilla turned out to be the only interesting pieces in the box, and after decades in a barn and some wild handling, they are safe with me for the foreseeable future. I can hardly wait to get all four of my rose grey small Arabians out for a group photo!
And someday, when they are passed on to a new home, I hope that their stories might be remembered. They are survivors!