TALENT — A desire to ship a Chinese wedding bed back to the United States two decades ago led to a collection of Asian antiques that now is being liquidated at a showroom here.
Angela Ying Liu Blackwell and her husband, Bruce, discovered they'd have to ship the bed in a container, so they decided to fill it up with other antiques in the early 1990s during one of her visits home. They continued to amass a collection that's stored in Ashland, California and Mississippi.
"We always loved the older stuff. Our house is filled. Everything else we want other people to enjoy," said Angela Blackwell, who was born in Beijing.
Armoires, cabinets, chairs, hat boxes, panels, art, carvings, cooking items and other antiques are displayed at Tree House Oriental Antiques, 111 Talent Ave., former home of Southern Oregon Pottery Supply for 30 years and most recently a studio for sculptor Jack Langford and other artists.
Richly carved panels are part of several Chinese wedding beds on display. The "beds" are small rooms that can be set up within a larger room. They provided privacy for newly married couples who often lived with parents.
Intricate carvings and inlays adorn many objects. Traditional joining methods such as mortise and tenon, and other processes hold together most of the antiques.
"Everything is put together with joints," said John Hauschild, consulting manager. "It's not nails and screws."
Hat boxes are painted with figures from Chinese folk tales or images that have religious significance.
Besides everyday household-use items and furniture, there are more unusual objects:
- A 6-foot-tall Ching Dynasty medicine cabinet used in an apothecary and featuring 48 drawers, each with three compartments.
- An elaborate wheelbarrow that was probably used by a street merchant. It has six holes to hold unknown merchandise with trays and drawers in the rear portion.
- A 19th-century, horse-drawn carriage with canopy and side curtains for privacy. "It would have been for a rich woman wanting to get around," said Hauschild.
The Blackwells have done only limited sales over the years.
They sold at antique shows and fairs, but then took time to raise their children, who now attend the University of Oregon. They have homes in Ashland and Piercy, Calif.
"More people are into Chinese stuff now than 20 years ago," said Blackwell. "A lot of people have learned more about Chinese antiques."
Blackwell estimates that 95 percent of her stock is authentic antiques. Reproductions have worked their way into the market, weakening it somewhat, but she said that most of her items were shipped to the U.S. more than 15 years ago.
Then the Chinese government was allowing antiques from 100 to 400 years old to be exported. Now items more than 100 years old cannot be shipped.
To certify that items for export were not more than 400 years old, a wax seal was affixed by the Chinese Antiquities Bureau, said Blackwell.
"Seals have come off over the years," she said. Still, many items can be found in the shop with seals or spots where they were attached.
Not everyone is concerned about age, said Blackwell.
"They love the style. Some people don't really care if it's old or not," she said. "They just want parts of Chinese culture."
The 4,000-square-foot building holds about 20 percent of the collection, said Hauschild. Prices start at $10 for kitchen items, with armoires and cabinets ranging from $500 to $3,000.
Hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sundays. The shop will be open for Talent's next Friday art and music walk on Dec. 14.