Thursday, November 24, 2016

‘Kentucky Collectibles’ visits Marion family

Barbara Wheeler of Marion was comfortable shooting inside her shop earlier
this month on East Carlisle Street for the KET series “Kentucky Collectibles.”

What will be a five-minute television segment on KET in January took two days to shoot recently in Marion.

A crew of five was at Wheeler’s Antiques and Backroads Gallery earlier this month where the cable television series “Kentucky Collectibles” spent several hours videotaping and interviewing local furniture maker Mike Wheeler and his enterprising mother, Barbara. The two local residents make and sell all sorts of hand-crafted items from replica furniture to wreaths and other decor. They also have one of the most fascinating antique collections in western Kentucky.

Casey Harris, who produced the part for Kentucky Educational Television’s regular antique series, said she found Wheeler’s operation online and visited Marion to check it out.

“We’re trying really hard to get out to all areas of the state so we were looking down here in western Kentucky. I came down here last summer to scout it out and see what Wheeler’s Antiques was all about. We were looking for an antique shop that specializes in furniture.”

Two cameramen, a sound technician, on-camera host and Harris drove from Lexington to Marion and spent the afternoon shooting what the industry calls B-footage, still shots of inanimate objects, storefront video and some shots around downtown to show the flavor of the community.

“We saw this was a perfect fit because Mike knows so much about furniture and their craft is excellent,” the producer added.

Barbara Wheeler, 85, grew up in Christian County where she met her late husband Floyd "Rip" Wheeler, who was a game warden. They loved buying and restoring old furniture to sell, and through it all her youngest son got the bug, too. She spun her story for the KET cameras.

“I had five children so it was something I could do at home while raising my children,” she told Kentucky Collectibles host Amy Hess during their on-camera interview.

Hess is a Lexington native who was educated at American Academy of Dramatic Arts in California and did some acting on shows like "90210" and "The Heat of the Night." She does the on-air work for the KET program that centers around an antique appraisal fair that was held in August at Northern Kentucky Convention Center. The whole series, which includes about a half-dozen, half-hour shows, tells Kentucky stories through prized items brought in for evaluation at the KET Appraisal Fair.

To round out each show, the program mixes in features from across Kentucky. Those breakout segments are only six or seven minutes long, but as the Wheelers learned, it takes a while to put it together.

Mike Wheeler, 54, says he doesn’t like being in front of the camera, but you’d never tell it from his interview.

“That was nearly perfect,” Hess told him after the shoot. “I hardly had to ask anything, you just answered it all.”

In his interview, Wheeler discussed a number of interesting pieces of furniture one might find in his shop such as a sugar chest and pie safe that were made anywhere from about 1790 to 1860. His favorite, however, is a wine press which he explained was really a liquor cabinet. They’re very rare and fetch thousands of dollars.

“They’re almost like a Big Foot sighting when you find one,” he told KET. “You think it’s just a legend then one shows up.”

Wheeler said the wooden cabinets were probably made by a well-trained craftsman with the last name of Lamb. Wheeler and his family have documented about 30 of the pieces since 1950. The latest one he’s restored has some names scrawled inside of it – Ellie and Effie Boone and Woodall. Through a little research, he’s found that the Boone sisters were children in the 1870s.

KET’s crew was captivated by Wheeler’s stories – some of which he shared on camera and others behind the scenes. They shot tons of footage for the program and some of it will be archived for later use on antique episodes or other KET programming.