Building up a knowledge of shapes and colours can really reap rewards. It's why I have my book collection split between two places, within easy reach of either my sofa or my bed. Nothing beats leafing through a book as you relax to firmly imprint images, makers and designers on your brain. Repeated viewing really helps to make sure that when you see something, your brain's card system is reliable enough to ensure that you can correctly identify it. All that 'work' at home in the wee hours was put to good use today when, wandering around London's hip 'n happening Spitalfields market, I stumbled across a rather appealing large spherical amber glass vase. Understandably given the form and colour, the seller thought it was by Holmegaard, and designed by Per Lutken. I knew differently. It was, in fact, a lesser known design by Frank Thrower for Dartington Glass in 1978, and work on my latest book had revealed that it was really rather rare. It was only produced for only six months from 1978-79. Of course, I couldn't reach for my wallet quick enough - out came the readies, and the vase went home with me. Its value - well, I'm not sure right now, so ask me after June when the Dartington Glass book I have just finished is out. But I'd think at least £120 would be fair, and it may even go for more. Not bad for 2 minutes of buying and maybe 20 minutes of leisurely reading!
It's something that we can all do, and it is as enjoyable as it is educational. It also goes to show the importance of books. Yes, we can all look on the net to find out what someone thinks something is, and how much they think it is worth, but are they right? At least you know that if it is in a book, it's more likely to be right as considerable research and effort will have gone into preparing a book, which costs a lot of money to produce and can't be changed once it has been printed. How many people put such work into their eBay descriptions? Very few, I'd think. Of course, I'm bound to say this, doing what I do, but it really is true. When I used to work for auction houses, books, catalogues and period advertisements were always some of the least valuable lots - the auctioneer always pointed this out to the room, and you know who always bought the stuff? The best and most successful dealers and collectors.
I know Summer is nearly upon us and long, dark and cold evenings to curl up on the sofa are over, but why not pack a book along with your picnic for the park? It will undoubtedly make you wiser in the long term than an extra bottle of wine or beer will!