Go Nodar grew up in a family that appreciated art and fine crafts, and who were artists themselves. Her father was a furniture-maker, a wood-turner and a sculptor, and her mother was an accomplished artist. It’s natural that Nodar, who at one time taught art, has a fondness for handmade objects. This affinity for well-crafted items led her to build collections that are both beautiful and rare.
Nodar, who wears spectacular earrings and bright green nail polish, lives in a California-style home with light pouring in from all sides, illuminating works by her father, her daughters, and her own paintings. As she enthusiastically takes visitors from room to room, one tours a personal museum that the owner loves to share. There are hand-turned wooden vessels made by Nodar’s father and stained glass, monoprints, and large mixed media wall art made by her daughters. A long wall of cabinets houses a king’s ransom of rare pre-WWII Noritake porcelain.
A visitor stops at a large glass key case displaying 21 vintage purses. Each purse is hand-made, and all are more than 100 years old. The group represents styles and materials used in bespoke purses from the turn of the 20th century, including tiny bags of silver mesh, intricate embroidery, elaborate beadwork, and tooled silver. Nodar demonstrates how cleverly the silk linings were designed, with fitted compartments that once held a woman’s necessities, which might have small spaces for face powder and puff, a mirror, and a dainty handkerchief. The purses are an enticing prelude to the 80 handbags in Nodar’s extensive collection.
Nodar explains how it all began. “Our family spent a lot of time in museums, and there were loads of art books in the house. Our three daughters had all kinds of art supplies at home, and we even built a large workroom for them, so there was plenty of creativity going on. Around 1967, my 10-year-old daughter Susan and I were shopping together for unusual, colorful beads. During our excursions, we noticed antique purses and we both fell in love with them. After that, we began to scour shops and flea markets, and we started buying inexpensive old purses together. We both became collectors, and as the years went by, Susan and I added to each other’s collections.”
Nodar doesn’t know the current value of her trove. “I paid from $6 to $12 for most of my purses. I assume they are worth much more than that, but condition is important and time is the enemy,” she notes. Except for the purses in the display cabinet, Nodar’s collection is carefully stored in closed containers to protect the purses from deterioration.
Nodar’s daughter, Susan Saul, a well-known Atlanta jewelry designer and goldsmith who now works at Aimée Jewelry and Fine Art Gallery, joins her mother as they show the delicate purses to their visitor. “It’s wonderful to see these purses after a long time,” Nodar says, expressing admiration for complex beadwork and clever designs, “and I love the purses with detailed internal compartments.” She takes out a slim “Miser’s Purse” with a hidden slit opening, and a bag with a motif seemingly made from random beads. “They’ll all belong to Susan some day and become part of her collection,” Nodar asserts.
Her daughter adds, “Some of these purses were made from kits that could be purchased for a few dollars. The most popular maker of these kits was Whiting and Davis, and they’re still in business.” The average cost of a kit, which would include thousands of tiny glass or silver beads, a silk or suede lining, decorative or jeweled clasp and finishing materials, was $3, not a small sum in those days. And a great deal of handwork was required to complete the purse. Whiting and Davis sells vintage-style or authentic vintage bags, but Nodar’s are much older. The special-occasion purses in her collection date from the late 1800s to the early 1900s.
Her vintage purses bring back recollections for Nodar. “My favorite memory is of buying a lovely, petite, silver mesh purse from a very senior lady who told me she carried it to her high school prom, which was probably in the early 1900s. She demonstrated how and for what purpose the clever interior was designed. A second favorite memory is from after the earth-shattering 1994 Northridge earthquake, when I lived in California. My contractor repaired our house, and then he presented me with an antique purse, saying he admired my collection. I was traumatized by the earthquake, and very touched by his thoughtfulness.”
Nodar no longer adds to her collection, but she’s never idle. In addition to game nights with youthful friends, this great-grandmother bowls with her two siblings and is doing a lot of writing, intended for her family, including an autobiography: “My Life on Planet Earth, So Far.”
- Treasure Trove
- Chana Shapiro
- : Go Nodar
- Susan Saul
- Noritaki china
- stained glass
- Whiting and Davis
- Aimee Jewelry and Fine Art Gallery
- Northridge earthquake