Monday, 31 July 2006

Designs on Scandinavia

This weekend saw the Banker and I taking shameless advantage of the cheap flight fad and enjoying a short weekend break in Stockholm. As ever, was looking forward to trawling around the design shops and antiques and collectables centres in the capital of one of the countries that has contributed the most to 20th century design.
Well, disappointment isn't the right word by any means, but it was a little surprising to find so few. Maybe I was looking in the wrong place. Sodermalm (and particularly the area known as 'SOFA', Stockholm's equivalent of NYC's and London Soho) seemed the best pace to start. Two! It yielded only two! One very smart, very savvy shop, Wigerdal,
and one that looked like some Medieval peddler's shop filled to the gunnels with all manner of junk and also great designs from Rostrand, Gustavsberg and others. Closer inspection in both clearly demonstrated that unlike other places I have been lucky enough to visit, buying the goods at source is NOT much cheaper! Most of the pieces I saw were roughly the same price as they are in London, or on dealers' websites. A far cry from Copenhagen where Holmegaard glass (even if ever so very slightly flawed) can be found for a fraction of its price here. A good example was this Naebvase (left), an iconic form designed by Per Lutken in 1951. Prices usually range from around £30-50 upwards, but I picked one up, with a slight flaw, for £5 in Copenhagen. Despite the similar prices, I was tempted by a few, but thought better of it. The key contender was an Alsterfors cased glass vase designed by Per Olaf Strom in about 1968. I've always liked the bright sky blue on opaque white, and the mechanical almost 'cog' like design. I also think this sort of glass in massively under-appreciated, a view I apparently share with some glassmakers. Nice souvenir, sure, but at £30 hardly the bargain of the decade! It's still there, as far as I know, along with some more tiresome and common West German vases by Scheurich. I guess the Banker got off lightly this time...poor thing, dragged around boring shops filed with old stuff. Mind you he is far from being a heathen and does appreciate 20thC design. Lucky me.
A few nights out clubbing with the uber-fashionable residents of Stockholm (I had to buy a new shirt not to look out of place!) and a pleasant hangover-blasting long walk around the idyllic and sun-soaked island of Djurgarden later and my senses and equilibrium were restored. Fantastic city, fabulous (and fabulously dressed!) people - I'd certainly recommend a visit, but don't hope to stock up on Scandi design classics as you'd be better off seeing someone like my friend Richard Wallis
here in the UK!

Thursday, 27 July 2006

Fat Lava Exhibition

As you will have seen from other parts of my website, the Fat Lava Exhibition was opened at the King's Lynn Art Centre in Norfolk, England on July 15th. Since its launch unprecedented numbers of visitors have attended, each emitting a shocked gasp as they enter the vibrant ceramic filled gallery. Okay, I may be biased - but I really can't recommend this exhibition enough. If you're into this type of thing, not only is it the first time that these ceramics from this period have EVER been exhibited in public before, but with over 580 examples on display there truly is something for everyone. Just make sure you get there before August 12th, when it closes. If you don't believe me, then check out the photograph below, and the others here.
The reason for today's visit?
An interview for BBC radio, who wanted to cover it for a breakfast time show tomorrow morning. I always find that the success of these sorts of things depend so much on the questions that are asked. Thankfully, this time the interviewer was both experienced and good fun, as well as being completely bowled over by the display. The BBC aren't the only members of the global media interested - someone from SKY TV attended the launch and interviewed me, the owner of the collection and the manager of the centre. Fat Lava goes global? Sure does!

Sunday, 23 July 2006

eBay Shipping Costs

Don't you just hate it when someone is clearly over-charging for postage and packing? Sure, I know that it takes precious time to pack, and uses up materials that costs money (have you seen the price of bubblewrap and strong envelopes these days?!) but when something is small AND light in weight and apparently costs the equivalent of £12 to send, when you know it would cost less than half that, it's kinda annoying. But what can you do? Query it and risk the wrath of the vendor, or else refuse to pay it and get a negative feedback? Solutions on a postcard, please!

Thursday, 20 July 2006

Studio Pottery

Is it just me or does anyone else think that most British studio pottery is both enormously under-priced and under-appreciated? Okay, Troika may have gone stratospheric and is only just about reaching a plateau, but there are a whole host of other names whose prices are still too low in my opinion. I'm thinking Briglin, many of the Isle of Wight studio potteries (compare them to Rye!) and particularly Tremaen (below).

Wednesday, 19 July 2006

Ardingly Antiques & Collectors' Fair

Today was spent wandering around the sun-soaked fields of the massive Ardingly Antiques & Collectors' Fair in Sussex, organised by DMG. With a 36 degree heat, the fields where the fair is held might have been arid, but the selection on offer certainly was far from dry. It reminded me what a superb hunting ground these DMG fairs still are, despite what you might hear from the 'doom merchants'. However, as with everything, you only get back what you put in. I always find that it pays to wander around the entire event, from the more upmarket, specialist dealers in the vast barns to the outerlying areas where traders display their wares on blankets and fold-up tables on the grass. Okay, you may need a pint of water and a good gin and tonic afterwards to recover from the 3 hour walk in such a heat, but take my word that it's worthwhile.
So what did I find? A rather large and handsome 1950s Bay Keramik vase designed by the notable Bodo Mans for £10 and an U-Keramik foamy lava vase shown in my Fat Lava catalogue
for the princely sum of £5 - on special offer too! Just goes to show that there are bargains still to be had, with both arguably being worth around 5 times the amount I paid. I also bought a Bernard Rooke vase. Much as I always tend to fall in love with objects after owning them for five minutes (well, seconds, if the truth were known!), I bought this one to sell. I wonder how it will do on eBay? Always a risk, but we'll see.
And what did I learn? As ever - a hell of a lot! It was great to see old friends and make some new ones, but even better to get to see and handle some superb objects. I also bumped into an ex-colleague of mine from Sotheby's who was involved in filming as an expert for the BBC's Bargain Hunt series, which made the day extra-special for me as we haven't seen each other for over 5 years.
My friend Judith was speaking at the event and the passion that dealers have for their objects was reflected in the audience. Despite the sweltering temperatures in the marquee, the attendance was extremely strong and people were friendly, receptive and inquisitive. A quick book signing with Judith and chats with collectors followed - all good fun - and I was soon packing my new found treasures into my car for the drive back to London. Now, who mentioned gin and tonic...?!