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Friday, September 16, 2005

Stout collection of teapots comes to N.C.

SPARTA, N.C. - In May, a 51-foot tractor-trailer snaked through the mountains of Allegheny County and deposited at a warehouse here 1,600 boxes containing more than 4,000 teapots.
And that's only the half of it.
The Sparta Teapot Museum is under way, with the nationally-known collection of millionaire lawyer Sonny Kamm moving from California to North Carolina, perhaps as many as 10,000 items, including one almost 6 feet tall. Museum backers have bought land downtown, hired an architect and are raising money.
Backers think the teapot museum, about seven miles from the Blue Ridge Parkway, will ring cash registers with an estimated 61,000 visitors a year.
"This is an opportunity for the arts to lead the revitalization," Halsey said.
Curator Mary Douglas works at a computer entering each piece - teapots by famous artists and more humble items - wondering just how many pieces Kamm has.
"There's no way to know until it's all counted," Douglas said. "We need to start a betting pool."
From his Los Angeles home, Kamm kept up with North Carolina's teapot tempest. He sees a silver lining: teaching people about the museum.
Kamm has always wanted his collection to go to a small town and be a focus for economic development.
Kamm is a populist collector, as likely to buy work at a flea market as at Christie's auction house.
The collection he and his wife, Gloria, have was amassed over 25 years.
The collection includes a teapot in the shape of a V8 engine and others with portraits of Elvis and Marilyn Monroe and one made of folded $5 bills.
The Kamms still are collecting, sending about 10 pieces per month directly to the Sparta warehouse.
"It's overwhelming," curator Mary Douglas said.
Halsey said the collection has not been appraised but has been valued at $5 million.
Kamm wants crowds in Sparta, too.
"We want them to laugh, talk to the people they're with," he said.
"we don't want a serious mausoleum-type museum. We have to appeal to a wide variety of people who travel the Blue Ridge Parkway, all the way from hunters to grandmas."
By Richard Maschal
Full article here


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