Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Holidays High Up

We all need a break. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing. Sort of like when you eat too much chocolate! Every morning, I count my blessings and think how lucky I am to be able to work in the world of antiques and collectables that I love so much. However, it refreshes the mind to have just a wee complete break from it all from time to time. So this week, the banker and I have taken ourselves off to the gloriously sunny French Alps, where even I can't find a single antiques or collectables shop centre or fair - and that's really saying something!
The Alps in Summer are a strangely enjoyable place, particularly ski resorts like Arc 1950, our chosen destination. If you want clear and sunny skies, pools and spas pretty much to yourself, and true relaxation away from any form of crowds, then you'll love it. Plenty of country walks up and down the mountains leave the lungs fresh and the body exercised before a hearty evening meal. The height, 1,950 metres above sea level, has also left me feeling slightly more prepared for the forthcoming Summer holiday - but more about that later. I'm off for a glass of sparkling wine in the whirlpool!

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

The Great Collectables Challenge

Last month I was given £200! Of course, there's no such thing as free money, just as much as there's no such thing as a free lunch. I had been asked by BBC Homes & Antiques magazine to spend this princely sum on collectables of the future at the UK's biggest and best antiques and collectables market at Newark, in Nottinghamshire.
What a treat!
Braving queues, crowds and some seasonal sun and heat, the antiques editor, Jan Waldron, a photographer and I scoured the entire showground of some 2,500 dealers to hunt out what I thought would be treasures of the future. It's a hard life...!
Want to know what we found and why I picked it? Then pop into your local newsagent from 6th of August to pick up the latest edition of the magazine, which also includes a special Antiques Roadshow supplement featuring many of my colleagues and friends on the Roadshow. I can guarantee that you'll be in for an informative read as well as some surprises!

Sunday, 20 July 2008

Stepping up to the bar

It seems I can't get away from Czech things this year. Wandering through Shoreditch this weekend, a fantastic new discovery was made. Hidden between the usual cheapo take-away shops and newsagent is a small, anonymous door that leads into a dark and mysterious newspaper covered corridor leading to a stairwell. Curiously following these down takes you into a subterranean world of delights. For, concealed under the building street is a hidden bar, Lounge Bohemia, run by an excellent youthful Czech bartender named Paul and his witty and wicked female side-kick. The clever (and funny) humour isn't the only thing flowing - the drinks are too and are nothing less than fantastic. Much less expensive than many London bars, you'll certainly find something to take your fancy. But be bold, the courageous will be rewarded.
For a taste of the fin de si├Ęcle Parisian boulevardier, I tried an 'absinthe dripper' (the first of which I managed to throw on the floor in my excitement) for the near 19thC price of £2.50. Yum. That's all I'm saying. Paul's marvellous assistant then recommended I try the bizarrely named yet delicious 'Van's The Man', a concoction that also included the 'green fairy'. Yum again. And yum again for good measure - and good measures they were. Before long the evening had turned into the morning, and a damn fine time was had by all.
Even better is the fact that nobody is allowed to stand, so you can have a good conversation without having someone's bum shoved in your face. The retro seating is super comfy, and their policy also means that you don't feel 'crowded out'. Get there early though, as more people than were occupying all the seats were turned away while we were there. For smokers there's even a small private outside area. What more could you ask for? Go - as fast as your be-spatted legs will carry you.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Czech Glass Exhibition

It came around far quicker than expected, but the 12th July saw the launch of the long awaited 'Hi Sklo Lo Sklo exhibition at the King's Lynn Arts Centre, in King's Lynn Norfolk. And what a weekend it was! Arriving late Friday afternoon, I my breath was taken away by the incredibly colourful display of Czech glass from the 1950s -80s. Even though I had seen it all before when the owner, Dr Graham Cooley, and I were researching the subject, it still made me gasp. A final late night dealing with the finer finishing touches turned rapidly into the morning of the opening. An exciting day of lectures and other events, organised by the Glass Association lay ahead... Within 15 minutes, everyone had assembled and judging by the smiles and animated conversation, they were mightily impressed - and quite right too! The empty room (seen here) quickly filled up as dealers, collectors and glass lovers came together to pack in as much as possible before the first talk. Graham took the stage and, as ever, gave a thoroughly educational and entertaining talk about the exhibition and many of the leading designs and designers. Setting out the background - and more - with perfect pitch everyone felt ready for the next lecture, given by the eminent authority Dan Klein. Punctuated with fascinating personal anecdotes that brought the designers to life, Dan walked us through the higher end of the market, examining works by Stanislav Libensky, Jaroslava Brychtova and their notable peers.
Both lunch and dinner in the evening were relaxed and sociable, with conversation (and wine!) flowing easily. The hubbub of excited talk about the day's learning was frequently punctuated with laughter. In these days of the internet ruling so much of the trade, it's easy to forget how good events like these are. Not only can you see the glass firsthand, which is most important, but you can trade stories (and sometimes glass) and learn from each other's experience. Never forget the social side of our hobby as, apart from the glass itself, that's what makes it so magical. If you weren't there, all I can ask is 'Why?' All I can then recommend is that you go - now!
For more pictures of the event click here. The Hi Sklo Lo Sklo exhibition is on show at the King's Lynn Arts Centre, King's Lynn, Norfolk from 13th July - 9th August 2008. Check out for more information. The accompanying catalogue is available here.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Metallic Fantastic!

You know when you keep reading things about an area, and it looks like a 'head of steam' is rapidly building up? I think exactly this is happening with British metalware of the 1950s-70s. Interest in, and prices being paid for, exotic silver and gold pieces by the likes of Stuart Devlin and Gerald Benney have risen steeply over the past year. If you read magazines or newspapers like the Antiques Trade Gazette every week, as I do, then you can hardly fail to notice. And it's not just die-hard collectors either, interior decorators and investors looking for appealing and intrinsically valuable pieces that are typical of the period have also become hooked.
If, like mine, your pockets aren't deep enough to run to a precious metal piece, I'd keep a close eye on stainless steel designs of the same period. Many were designed by the very same designers as the higher end pieces. For example, take this 'Campden' coffee set designed in 1957 by Robert Welch for market leader Old Hall. Arguably a design classic, its clean-lined form shows one of the most important influences of the period - Scandinavian Modernism. It's also incredibly practical, as the wooden handles allow you to pour without getting burnt. And the spouts don't drip or dribble either! Usually selling for around £60-70, I've seen examples go for much less.