Friday, June 17, 2011

For Father’s Day 2011, “Baron’s Atlanta’s Answer To Italy’s Benevenuto Cellini.”

Anybody in Georgia who has a breakable treasure sooner or later finds himself paying a call to Paul H Baron, 951 Peachtree Street.
In the world of restoration, Paul Baron is Atlanta’s present-day answer to Italy’s Benevenuto Cellini. If the cherished object is chipped, nicked, maimed, frayed, faded, rusted or simply has given up the ghost from discouragement, Mr Baron can make it new again. Everything from Doughty birds to iron fountains, from Meissen to fragments of Inca rock ruins, from Imari chop plates to a Yak fat-rendering stove from Mongolia passes through his deft hands as a normal run of business.

With his own specially made glues, cements (guaranteed 120 years), paints, solders, moldings, lacquer, with silks, threads and golden filaments, he takes chips out of crystal, restores antique ceremonial services, reshapes and renews mirrors, reweaves tapestries, brings back old paintings with a matte finish that never checks or blooms, takes cracks out of doll’s heads with an air brush, braises and re-solders silver to mint condition.

Mr Baron’s customers, from two major department stores, once made a path to his backyard garage workshop when his postwar hobby was tinkering with the irreparable. Now his business comes from all over the world, direct from the nation’s principal express service, from international moving van companies, from museums, department stores, jewelers, antique dealers and interior decorators. His services as an appraiser of objects of art are in demand by such companies as Lloyds of London. Indeed, but for a Korean in Washington and a Japanese in Chicago who do mending, his only competition is a woman in Norwalk, Connecticut, who trained in his shop.

“We love nice distant competitors,” he says slyly.

Recently Mr Baron solved the aesthetic impasse between a decorator and his wealthy client who insisted on a television set in his formal French drawing room. Using a Fleetwood chassis, Mr Baron built a set into the chimney above the fireplace and covered its lens with a fine old oil painting. He rigged up a mechanism which moved the painting slowly upward at the flip of a switch, lowering it back gently when the set was no longer in operation.

“I have a field day with this kind of thing.”

Helpers for such a business are almost nonexistent. After trying several European artisans, Mr Baron found his best aides in an untrained man and woman from Rutledge, GA. Now Edna Broughton, her cousin, Ralph Wyatt, and a third woman, Flora Adams, can match any color, grinding it from Japanese lacquer, copy any intricate design, mold porcelain feet, hands, ears to restore crippled statuary – whatever is required. Their employer says they are all marvels of deftness and patience.

The most vital people in the word, Mr Baron says, come to his cluttered shop. The South has more and more collectors every year, some of them with acquisitions valued as high as a million dollars.

The Barons never catch up. “We could close our doors and stay busy for a year. But we don’t want to miss anything.”

…Transcription of an article appearing in The Atlanta Constitution in the early 1960s. It was written by Doris Lockerman. A very long-time reporter and editor, she died recently, on May 6, 2011, aged 101. Her obit is itself worth a read. Undated main photo credited to Paul Robertson.


Sandra Epstein said...

Richard: I remember that article...sort of...but I did know that every museum around here and the East Coast called upon him for restoration. The story of the disappearing TV behind a painting I did not know.

Your dad was so far beyond the times. His knowledge did not come from a book...he was the book. Today there are schools teaching the craft, but I am willing to bet not like he did his work. He died too young...and could have opened a school that taught around the country!!! The metropolitan museum of art would have gladly supported this.

I loved your dad…and mom also. Honey, Uncle Max and Monkey. (I hated the pigeons in the back yard as I am scared of birds flying.) My grandfather…your Uncle Al! He loved to putter around in garages and build stuff…and boy! Do I have some funny stories about him.

Happy Father’s Day. Love to the entire family. Your cuz…Sandra.

Rachel Baron said...

So awesome. I see I come from a long line of crafty guys! Love you & Happy Fathers Day. Xox...Rachel

maradatra said...

And with all the art and ceramics in the world waiting to be repaired, Paul Baron spent his workshop time making a pipe for his son and a guitar for his daughter, all crafted with love. Unforgettable!
-- Happy Father's Day, Richard.
Leigh Lerner