House + Home Q+A

Trish Headley, owner, Nufangle Fine Antiques & Whimsy

Updated: 2013-07-07T01:54:43Z

By ALICE THORSON

The Kansas City Star

In 2010, three years after moving to Kansas City from Memphis, Texas native Trish Headley opened Nufangle Fine Antiques & Whimsy at 1707 W. 45th St.

“I wanted the shop to be ‘not your grandmother’s antiques,’” Headley said. “I wanted it to have a sense of humor and be a place where you see things that are unexpected.”

Nufangle is fun. Where else could you encounter a cathedral geode on the floor beside a 17th-century Spanish refectory table as a stuffed zebra head looks on from above?

“I like mixing formal pieces with informal pieces,” Headley said. “Younger people aren’t as into antiques. That’s one of the reasons to have the unexpected.”

How did you get into this business?

My mom used to buy and sell antiques. I come by it naturally. All of our family vacations were plotted around shops and shows. Since I was 6 years old, I’ve read thousands and thousands of tags.

I’m a former financial trader. It’s kind of the same thing; it’s just trading tangible objects rather than fleeting numbers on a screen. It’s the best job in the world. I shop for a living and sit and stare at things I really love all day.

How would you describe what people can find here?

I have diverse taste. Eclectic is my middle name. I’ve been exposed to the field for so long, I’ve come to appreciate many genres. I like things that are unique. But the one-of-a-kind objects don’t stay long. People who are collectors come often.

Where do you find things?

I buy all over. I travel a lot and have connections in the South. I’m going to France in July.

That head is an African sickness helmet that would be put on to drain an ailment. It’s from the 20th century and is made of wood with real hair. I bought it locally. I also have a dance costume from Guatemala.

Tell me about some of your specialties.

I have a lot of devotional art, like this 18th-century Spanish Colonial painting of St. Apollonia. She’s got a tooth and pincers in her hand; she’s sometimes known as the patron saint of dentists. She was a virgin and was asked to renounce Christ. She refused so they pulled all her teeth out. My great-grandmother from Croatia was named Apollonia.

And this figure of Christ with a cross?

It’s called the Black Nazarene. The figure is carved wood and the garment is cloth. The hair is made of palm fiber. The Black Nazarene is a profound image in the Philippines. The story goes that a Christ figure was sent from Mexico, and the ship caught on fire. The statue survived, but it was black when it arrived. Annually, millions turn out to see it.

You also carry furniture.

I really like American classic furniture. From 1810 to 1840, American cabinetmakers produced some fine pieces like this pier table, also called a petticoat table. It has a marble top and mahogany veneer with the original gilt stenciling and bronze mounts.

The 17th-century walnut refectory table was probably in a monastery. It’s Spanish.

I sell a lot of stuff to designers — furniture, French mirrors, French and Italian chandeliers, but I don’t like it to look too formal.

Not everything here is man-made.

I like organic things — tortoise shells, huge crystal points, natural coral. That’s a geode cathedral on the floor.

And you have quite a menagerie here.

I like odd taxidermy. It needs to have soul. I look for perfect things, deaccessioned from natural history museums. In Victorian times, taxidermy was how people learned about the natural world. Right now I have this 2-foot-high penguin and a vintage zebra head. Also this African yellow hornbill, which looks kind of like an emaciated turkey.

The Victorian parrot in the glass dome came with a photograph dated June 25, 1890. It shows the former owner’s grandmother and aunt with the bird. They loved it and had it stuffed, which was pretty common back then.

This carved wood dolphin is from Belgium. In the mid-20th century, the Belgians had more dolphinariums than any place in the world. That one stood outside.

In the back, I have a little painting of a poodle. It’s not for sale. I stood in line at an estate sale in Independence to get it, because I have a standard poodle. Her name’s Tallulah.

Tell me about the carousel horse in the window.

It was made by Charles Dare, one of the earliest carousel horse-makers in America, in the 1860s, and it’s all original. He always used marbles for eyes. Back then, the horses were hung by chains and would swing outwards from the centrifugal force. Can you imagine putting a child on that? I found it at a farm sale. It had been in a barn all those years.

I like folk art, and I sell a lot of it. I have a watchmaker’s trade sign, and this Gothic-inspired cathedral church was made to be a birdhouse.

And this odd figure in the case?

It’s a wheat witch and was shown at the Chicago World’s Fair in 1933. It’s made completely of wheat. Its a tremendous piece of folk art. I’m trying to find documentation on it.

To reach Alice Thorson, call 816-234-4783 or send email to athorson@kcstar.com.

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