I had long desired to plug into the Wine Country estate sale underground, to scrounge through treasures in their original homes, so when a friend forwarded an invitation for this weekend’s sale at Petaluma artist Pat Smoot’s hilltop home managed by Jane Parker Estate Sales, you bet I set my alarm clock.
Apparently, a few other estate sale fans did too.
By the time I arrived Friday morning at 10:15 about 30 people had already been in and out scoring some of the nicest mid-century Danish furniture I had glimpsed in a while.
While standing in line I learned a few things: estate sales admit only a few people at one time and allow additional folks in only as others leave – like kids in a candy store. The line by the front door expanded to about 20 people quickly after I arrived with an average waiting time of about 15 to 20 minutes. Some people who had already purchased large items were returning with their cars. They slinked up to the front door to knock like they were trying to get into a speakeasy.
And then came.
Smoot's Westside hilltop home sits on La Cresta, a very narrow road, and everyone had parked by hook or by crook. What if there was a fire or a medical emergency? First one meter maid arrived and took stock. Then a second meter maid turned up to confer with her colleague, followed by a police cruiser.
But this being Petaluma, something really unusual happened. Friendly traffic enforcement officers told the crowd that they needed to move their cars down the hill to regular curb parking and suggested that everyone look around and come back to the line in the same place. Or else they’d have to start towing.
I never saw people move so fast! Or blow kisses at ticket issuers for the warning.
I suspected this sale might feel a little competitive and that proved true. The last thing you should talk about in line is what you’re looking for or what you’d be willing to pay for it if you found it. This was especially true at the Smoot sale since the caliber of the offerings was so high.
Considered one of the premier artists residing in California, Smoot has had numerous one-person and group shows at Maxwell Galleries and the Society of Western Artists in San Francisco, The American Artists Professional League in New York and the Triton Museum of Arts in Santa Clara and other venues.
She is unique in that she loved to travel to paint and visited over 80 countries during her lifetime. Although born in San Francisco with a maternal lineage back to General Francisco Castro, (the commandant of the Presidio in the 1920’s), she grew up on a farm near Olema and graduated from Tomales High School. She received a degree in fine arts from the University of California Berkeley and died on Jan. 11 after a long illness. She was 85.
So you can imagine – her home, which she inherited from her mother – is packed from floor to rafters with her own work and her collection of travel artifacts, and sculptures, and household items including vintage dolls, and the contents of her kitchen, right down to ‘jewelry soup,’ sorted and bagged and laid out for shoppers.
The sale runs Saturday from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Smoot's home at 19 La Cresta Dr. Just park legally.
My only new friend from the line was the adorable retired San Francisco jeweler Don Dilelio who drove down from Santa Rosa to poke around.
“I go to a lot of the Jane Parker sales. She always does a good job. If she’s running it, you know there are some interesting things,” said Dilelio.
From the pre-sale e-mail, which included numerous photos of Smoot’s extensive personal collections, I had my heart set on three pieces: a barrel chair, a metal wall sculpture and a vintage banner. I only scored one: the somewhat moldy red, white and blue “Welcome to Petaluma” sign that includes a large egg basket image.
Who knows what I’ll do with it (or how I'll clean it!) and please don’t tell my husband.
I also managed to scoop up some loose vintage jewelry including a “fruit salad” necklace, a few small technical watercolors of vintage residential interiors, a tiny white Steiff mouse that I’ll add to my Christmas ornaments and a very dog-eared black and white photo of a Jack Russell dog named “Porky.”
The reverse side of the terrier photograph includes the pencil note of a driven artist: “Taken with my Ansco with Verichrome film at 1/100 of a second at f 16.”
My late step-mom, an oil paint artist too, used to always say, “…Just because you love it, doesn’t mean you have to buy it,” and so I put blinkers on to ignore the large oil canvases. And yet, I couldn’t turn my back on one item I saw hanging from a tiny nail just inside Pat Smoot’s bedroom door.
For eight dollars I walked off with what I felt was the quintessential Smoot artifact – a used painter’s palette.
Too bad she didn’t sign it, but maybe that’s beside the point.
The Pat Smoot estate sale runs Saturday 9am-3pm and Sunday 10am-2pm at 19 La Cresta Dr. in Petaluma.