Welcome to the next installment of our staff/vendor interview series. Today we would like to introduce you to one of our newer staff members and vendors, Daniel Schmidt. Daniel has a keen eye, a scholarly knowledge of antiques and a love of the organic. Here is our interview with Daniel where he discusses his first childhood collection, his favorite item in his space and what keeps him collecting.
Daniel, can you tell our readers how long you’ve been at Uncommon Objects, and what it was that sparked your interest in antiques?
I started working at Uncommon about a year and half ago and I’ve been a dealer for about eight or nine months. I think my interest in art history drove me towards antiques. I went to graduate school for art history and have worked behind the scenes in museums so I’ve spent much of my life surrounded by old objects.
It’s a given that most of the staff and vendors at Uncommon Objects are collectors. Do you actively collect anything? Were you a collector as a child? Do you remember your first collection?
I collect far too much. My first collection was of bones collected from road kill or from the beach. I was probably five or six when I first threw a carcass on a fire ant pile to clean it so I could get a nice skull. Now I still collect skulls as well as Renaissance prints, coral, and shells that have been used for producing mother of pearl buttons, amongst many other things.
Your space at Uncommon Objects has such a thoughtful flow to it. Can you give us some insight into how you curate your space and what goes through your mind as you’re out finding objects? Is there a particular item that is your “holy grail” or a special piece that got away?
Thank you first of all. My goal is for my space to be as close to a 16th/17th century cabinet of curiosity as possible and I try to stay fairly true to what was prized and collected then, hence a focus on natural objects – big shells, coral, skulls, taxidermy, etc. I don’t personally collect taxidermy or human bones so I keep all of that in my space. I’m also very interested in the history of animal and plant taxonomy so anything involved with that – 16th century natural history engravings, old medical charts, etc – I absolutely love. I have countless holy grails. I’ve managed to obtain a few of them like my sawfish bill and Jacob ram skulls. A few I’ll probably eventually get like a nice big coco de mer, truly antique coconut shell or ostrich shell goblets, and taxidermy stingrays. Probably my number one holy grail item that I’ll almost definitely never obtain would be a Mixtec skull – a 16th/17th century Mexican ceremonial skull that was encrusted with turquoise, obsidian and shell. I worked with one hands-on a few years ago at a museum I was at but there are very few in private hands and they are exceedingly expensive. The best though are the unexpectedly amazing items that you don’t even know exist like the taxidermy ostrich feet I recently acquired.
You were asked to pick your favorite item in your space. Can you tell us about it and why it’s so special?
My favorite item would be my sawfish bill. It’s just such a classic piece to be included in a cabinet of curiosities. You’d be hard pressed to find an engraving of a 17th century cabinet that didn’t include at least one. They’re beautiful and bizarre and increasingly hard to find.
Thanks Daniel and thanks to everyone for reading!
Le Petit Phantom