Photography by Jessica Turner.
Majolica pottery, a glazed pottery popular in Europe in the late 1800s, was one of the first items Sandy Gaston collected when she started antiquing. Over decades, she’s learned more about it, including from the owner of an antique mall she once visited in Tennessee.
“He said, ‘Well I’m going to tell you the only thing you’re ever going to need to know about that,’” Gaston remembers. “And I said, ‘OK, what is that?’ And he said, ‘You look on the bottom of that, and if it says estrogen, you buy it.’” He had confused “estrogen” for “Etruscan,” a desirable kind of majolica.
“Believe me,” Gaston responded, “if I ever find one that has that on the bottom, I will buy it.”
Gaston hasn’t always sold antiques. The oldest of nine children, she grew up on a cotton farm in Delta County, Texas. She wanted to live in every country in the world for six months, learn the language and then decide which place she liked best. But in her town, there were two businesses offering employment: a cafe and a five-and-dime store.
“My dad said, ‘No, you’re not ever going to be a waitress, and you’re not ever going to work in a dime store. You can do better,’” she says.
Delaying college, she moved to Dallas at 17 and lived in Casa View with her aunt and uncle, a display manager at Neiman Marcus. Gaston found a job at Pacific National insurance company, then worked for 10 years in the engineering department at Western Union before attending and graduating from Richland College in one of the first classes.
“I wanted to do it to see if I could do it,” she says.
She hasn’t traveled to every country in the world, but she has been to some. In the ’70s, Gaston went abroad with some members of a study group. On a boat filled with people and goats, they sailed from England to Belfast, where they were searched by soldiers. They woke up one morning to the news that the hotel they left the previous day had been bombed.
After college, she stayed in Dallas. Wanting to stop renting, she decided to get a real estate license and buy a home.
She worked for an agent named Bedee Luby (of the Luby’s cafeteria family) in an office behind the Pink Wall and found a house in Preston Hollow, even though it “was kind of like the boonies.”
“I’m actually stuck in a rut, is what I am,” Gaston says. “I’m still in the same house after all this time.” She did have a second home in Santa Fe for 14 years, however, and bought a plane to make the trip to and from Dallas quicker.
At one point, she had 34 agents who worked for her. Decorating models in each condo or townhome complex they were trying to sell sparked her interest in antiques.
Much has changed since she bought her house in 1973, when her neighbors were “scandalized” by her son and his motorized scooter. Since then, she has antiqued in many countries and almost every state in the U.S. She was one of the first people to rent a space at Forestwood Antique Mall, where she has sold a Civil War-era leather trunk to Don Henley’s wife. Gaston, who didn’t know how to use a telephone when she first moved to Dallas, now sells on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist, in addition to the two booths she has at Forestwood, one of which is right by the front door. She sells chairs, lawyer’s bookcases and other furniture, but not much majolica.
“They say buy what you love,” she says. “Because then if you don’t sell it, you may still have it for a while.”
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