During my childhood as a daughter of WorthPoint® CEO William Seippel, it became apparent that my home differed from the other houses in the neighborhood. While my friends’ houses featured furniture sets from the latest Pottery Barn catalog, my parents adorned our home with curated antique and vintage pieces. I failed to grasp these items’ true significance or value as a child. They merely served as props for my imagination; however, I could not help but notice my parents’ extraordinary care in handling them.
The items in my parent’s home consistently sparked endless hours of conversation with all those who visited, so what made them so unique? I invite you to join me on a journey through my father’s unique Stephen Huneck art collection so you, too, can discover the stories behind many never-before-seen pieces.
A Transformative Encounter
In the late 1980s, my father’s serendipitous encounter with Stephen Huneck transformed my father’s artistic journey and our family’s connection to Huneck’s work. My parents often ventured to Woodstock, Vermont, in the wintertime. During a trip to Woodstock, my dad stumbled upon Huneck’s enchanting shop nestled downtown. The allure of Huneck’s art, with its vibrant palette of early American colors and its whimsical yet avant-garde essence, instantly captivated my father. From that moment, a deep appreciation and friendship blossomed between the two creative souls.
Stephen Huneck was a gifted woodcarver and artist, and his earlier work revolved around the theme of social commentary. It was not until a near-fatal accident that he found a renewed sense of purpose and direction, and his work shifted to encompass themes of dogs as companions, the human-animal connection, and spirituality and love. These themes collectively formed the foundation of Huneck’s vision; my father adored them all.
His vast collection includes tangible items, like woodcut prints and sculptures, and abstract memorabilia, such as his experiences and memories. My father was motivated to build his collection because Huneck’s work sparked an emotional connection and brought him joy.
Huneck’s Iconic Life is a Ball Woodcarving and Unseen Treasures
Stephen Huneck’s art, renowned for its delightful humor, resonates deeply with my dad. Huneck, primarily recognized for his beautiful wood carvings and sculptures featuring his dogs, tastefully infused his creations with wit and whimsy. Among my father’s cherished pieces, one that stands out is Huneck’s iconic Life is a Ball woodcarving. This artwork portrays Huneck’s beloved Labrador retriever Sally gleefully frolicking in the ocean, perceiving the sun as a ball. Radiating playfulness and spontaneity, this woodcarving is a gentle reminder to treasure and relish life’s simple pleasures.
Although many recognize Life is a Ball as one of Huneck’s most renowned pieces, few know that Huneck expanded upon this vision in a book that was never published. In this unpublished work, the artist portrays the gas bubbles appearing from the water, with the caption humorously stating, “Life is a Gas.” Regrettably, the book was deemed too risqué by Huneck’s publisher, resulting in its cancellation. However, my father’s profound connection to Huneck’s art led him to acquire the original crayon artwork for his collection. Remarkably, my father possesses approximately thirty of these unseen and cherished original crayons, a testament to his adoration for Huneck’s work.
Huneck’s Playful Sculptures in My Father’s Home
Another notable facet of Huneck’s artistic production was his sculptures. Hand-carved dogs took center stage among his creations, but Huneck also crafted many sculptures of Sally’s friends from the farm, such as this cow and sheep. Huneck adorned his home with collections of these small, sculptured dogs, using them as charming decorative pieces. In our family, we proudly showcased a selection of these diverse dog sculptures throughout our home and on our front porch.
What I found interesting about my father’s collection of sculptures was the difference in the mediums used. I noticed the outdoor sculptures were bronze, while the interior statues were wooden or resin. Historically, bronze has been the preferred medium for public sculptures because its lower melting point makes it easier to work in intricate details. While Huneck used these for some sculptures, he primarily used resin, a plastic material, to create similarly durable sculptures but lighter and less expensive.
Exploring Huneck’s Artistic Marvels in My Father’s Collection
I greatly admire my father for his unwavering dedication to completing tasks with precision, and this quality is beautifully reflected in his unique collections. Through his persistence and discerning eye for beauty, he curates and organizes items into remarkable arrangements. This approach has enabled him to acquire rare and authentic pieces, such as his Stephen Huneck Rainbow trout furniture set. Initially, my father commissioned Huneck to craft these pieces for his Maine summer home, but they have lived in our family residence in Georgia for as long as I can remember. Each item holds immense significance as Huneck meticulously carved a mold and used it to create these specific designs.
Among my father’s treasured collection, the wooden set crafted by Stephen Huneck holds a special place, but my childhood bed captivates my fascination. While my friends slept on contemporary beds, I was fortunate to rest upon a piece of art handcrafted exclusively for me. Huneck received a commission from my father to create five distinct beds, each reflecting the individuality of my father’s five children. Huneck skillfully blended personal intrigue into every design, infusing his style and motifs. A perfect example of this is the cat portrayed in my bed, which happened to be none other than Huneck’s beloved companion, Bingo.
Determining a specific price for each item is challenging because of their rarity and the lack of pricing history regarding similar pieces; however, each piece is likely worth several thousand dollars.
The Value of Huneck’s Works
It is challenging to price Stephen Huneck’s works because few of his original artworks have been sold in the secondary market. However, it is notable that the pricing is typically affected by the item’s rarity, condition, provenance, and market demand. Utilizing the WorthPoint Price Guide, we can compare the selling prices of two similar listings of Huneck’s Menage a Trois woodcut.
The first listing features a 16 × 20 signed print with documentation of provenance. The woodcut was sold on eBay for $499.00 on August 25, 2014.
In contrast, someone else sold Menage a Trois in a separate listing four years later. This listing also offered a 16 × 20 signed print but was sold for a lower price of $149.99. The price discrepancy could be attributed to factors such as the quality of the listing or fluctuations in market demand. It demonstrates that the resale value of an item is not fixed and can vary depending on various circumstances.
Honoring Stephen Huneck’s Work and Memory
Stephen Huneck’s legacy continues to be honored and cherished as people collect his whimsical and imaginative works. Many individuals and art enthusiasts actively seek out Huneck’s pieces, whether it be his woodcut prints, sculptures, or other creations. Another profound way to celebrate Huneck’s artistic contributions is by visiting the Dog Chapel, a sacred space he created to celebrate the bond between humans and their animals. However you choose to honor his vision, always remember to choose what nourishes your soul and brings you joy; that is the best way.
Sarah Seippel is a freelance writer and finds much of her inspiration in her father’s unique collections. In her free time, she enjoys hunting down the best cup of coffee and pursuing for vintage deals.