Monday, 26 January 2009

Broadfield House Glass Museum to close...?

In mid-January, I heard from a reliable source that the dastardly Dudley Council is proposing to close this museum in Spring next year. For those of you who don't know it, Broadfield is a national treasure and is, to my knowledge, the only museum dedicated to glass in the country. It's also one of the very few public locations where pioneering exhibitions can be mounted. These have opened up new areas of research to us all - decades of invaluable exhibitions have preceded them.
Most of these have relied on Broadfield's extensive library and archive, located at the museum and its sister institution Himley Hall, where many company, designer and maker archives have been carefully preserved and made available to the public.
British glassmakers had a global reputation for excellence in glass making and cutting from the early 19th century onwards. This was based in Stourbridge, where the museum is located. Broadfield not only commemorates the products made, but is also the only museum to record the valuable social and economic history related to the industry. Closing this museum would be like erasing a museum dedicated to the Staffordshire or Ohio potteries.
This industry has now gone, but the museum remains...only if you help. Dudley County Council - you should be disgraced with yourselves for choosing to close the lid on the treasure that history has given you.
If you do one thing today, please give your support by signing our online petition by clicking here. It only takes 2 minutes of your time to save over 200 years of glass history...and much, much more. Don't let Dudley Council take this national treasure away from you.

Candy Says... vintage! The market for vintage clothing has boomed over the past few years, even entering the 'mainstream' with high street stores such as TopShop and TopMan even stocking vintage lines. We've certainly become a lot more 'individual' in our tastes for interior decoration and the way we dress.
One of the best sources I have found over the past few years is the wonderful Dawn at 'Candy Says'. Her great eye and superb attention to detail shines out both on her website, and in the fine pieces she has chosen for her shop in Southend-on-Sea in Essex.
And that's just it - she has carefully chosen the pieces she stocks. Rather than just fill a shop and website with all manner of old rubbish, Dawn only goes for quality and style that shout out a period's fashions. But that doesn't mean her prices are crazy - all her clothes, which range from the 1920s-1980s, are highly affordable. Although she does have some designer names, her real skill is at finding great quality, stylish pieces that are unlabelled and thus inexpensive. I've just finished a photographic shoot with her for the next Miller's Collectables Price Guide, which included this great 1940s dress and matching jacket which just screams the period (think of TV's The Sullivans!), and only costs £150!

Saturday, 24 January 2009

The world's oldest jam tarts

No, not something found under a bed in a students' halls of residence, but ancient Chinese jam tarts, buried as a tribute alongside a nobleman over 1,300 years ago. The decorative tarts (not like the ones shown here, which I have now eaten), are part of a travelling exhibition that opened at Bristol's City Museum & Art Gallery today. After Bristol the exhibition will travel to museums in Coventry, Basingstoke, Sunderland, and then York, before closing in Manchester in 2011. Jessica Harrison Hall, the curator, noted that they were the oldest known surviving pastries in the world. It made me giggle on the tube into work this morning, especially in these times of financial doom and gloom. I wonder what Mr Kipling would think?

Friday, 23 January 2009

Woolies Champers Update

The bottle of champagne I mentioned in my last entry has now finally sold - for £350! Congratulations Steve, I hope that you and your team have a great night out. I wonder if the lucky winner of the auction will be drinking it to toast his success? Good on him, whatever.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Big Bucks For Woolworths Memorabilia!

I've just got back from the BBC where I took part in an interview for BBC Radio 5 Live about the value of the large amount of Woolworths memorabilia that has come onto the market since the sad closure of the chain at the beginning of the year.
The spark that set the market alight was this bottle of champagne. Being sold by Steve Tait, erstwhile manager of the Corby branch, frenzied bidding reached a staggering £400 before the item was re-listed with a slight correction to the description.
The question was - is it worth it? The only answer I can give is that it's impossible to tell right now.
However, this piece has quite a bit going for it, so may have a promising future. Much of the collectable advertising market is driven by nostalgia and big brand names. Who doesn't remember Woolies fondly, and particularly their iconic Pic 'N' Mix? And if a piece shouts out about the company, or is indicative of the time it was produced in, so much the better. It was also part of a very limited run, with only 500 bottles having been produced. When promoted for sale at a mere £5 in 2007, it created a frenzy, with Woolworths' stores being beseiged by thirsty buyers. However, it was primarily a clever marketing stunt, with only a few bottles being allotted to each store.
I'd imagine that most were opened and drunk, making this a rare example indeed. With a combination of a great story, iconic brand, and a fun item to own and display, we may indeed be valuing bottles like this on the Roadshow in decades to come! But the best part of the story is the reason behind the sale - Steve is using the proceeds to take his now redundant staff out for a slap-up meal to remember the old times. Many had worked there all their lives before the chain was closed under a year away from it's 100th anniversary. In these days of wallet tightening and doom and gloom, it's great to hear that someone still has a generous and kind heart. See what it fetches by clicking here.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Friends doing well

It's always nice to find out that friends are doing well, especially those that you have sadly lost touch with. Reading the 'Style' section of the Sunday Times over breakfast this morning, I spotted a large article on my old colleague and friend Sara Covelli.
Sara, and her friend Janie Tennant, have founded Covelli Tennant to use vintage and antique textiles, embroidery and lace to breathe new life into antique furniture. A range of cute and cool cushions, selected pieces of mid-century modern Italian furniture, and framed needlework pictures are also offered. English eccentricity at its best!
The results are beautiful, on-trend, and display impeccable taste and witty individualism - which is just how I remember Sara herself! I worked alongside Sara in the Collectors Departments of both Bonhams and Sotheby's, and then we also worked closely together at in the heady days of the dotcom boom. We sadly lost touch when she moved out of London, so it's great to read that things are going so well for her.
I wish Janie and her all the best, and encourage you to visit their site. Their work covers so many themes that are foremost in many of our minds right now; enjoying our homes when we can't afford to go out as much as we used to, reviving treasures from the past in a totally 'green' way - and, of course, stunning style.

Friday, 16 January 2009


I've just got back from a fruitful day's worth of photography for the next edition of the Miller's Collectables Price Guide. Today I travelled to West London to visit the lovely Lesley of Retropolitan. We spent a fun and interesting day together chatting about favourite items and recent trends in the market.
Of course, it wasn't all play and we kept the task at hand firmly in the front of our minds, and worked through her extensive and varied stock that includes Scandinavian pottery and glass, Whitefriars, Murano glass and West German pottery amongst much, much more.
All of this happened to a backing track of upbeat, funky music from innovative independent record label Jalapeno Records. In my opinion, one of the best I heard was the new, and appropriately named, album 'Antique Soul' by Smoove & Turrell. Look them up and listen, it really is great stuff. And while you're grooving on down, check out Lesley's super stock by clicking here. To meet Lesley and view a special piece first-hand, visit her at the next Mid-Century Modern Fair at Dulwich College, South London on March 29th.

Friday, 2 January 2009

Count the Miller's books...!

Spotted in Vancouver's main branch of Chapters today!

Thursday, 1 January 2009

Discovering Vancouver II

The next day began with a gentle walk around historic Gastown, and down to the harbour. Watching seaplanes take off and land made us curious and, before we knew it, the banker and I had booked ourselves in for a 20 minute airborn tour of the city and nearby mountains with Harbour Air Seaplanes. I'm a great fan of tiny propeller driven planes as flying feels much more exciting, fast and 'real' to me than a lumbering 747.
Taking off and landing were surprisingly smooth, and the views over the cityscape were nothing less than breathtaking. My breath was certainly taken away by the turbulence that shook the plane around as we soared past Grouse Mountain! If you get the chance, this trip really is to be recommended to get a feel for the scope and size of the city and its proximity to the beautiful mountains and inlets that surround it.
Now - onto the antiques and retro stuff! After passing a public display by Dale Chihuly, I found that Gastown has perhaps the best selection of shops offering the best quality and variety of items in the city. Nearly a dozen shops can be found by wandering around the side streets. Metropolitan Home, on 217 West Hastings St (near Cambie St), was my first port of call. The elegant and tasteful gallery, run by the very helpful and friendly Mary Watson, is known for its mid-century modern furniture by key Canadian designers, as well as by more globally recognised names such as Harry Bertoia and Arne Jacobsen. Look out for their accessories too, which range from vases to lamps. Next stop was Wow Interiors, at 350 W.Pender St, which offered similar stock, but with a strong 'Pop' vibe and feel.
But the jewel in the crown, for me at least, was Doda Antiques on 434 Richards St. Run by ex-musician and locally-known personality John Lawrence, this was everything I hoped to find - and more. Rows of shelves and dozens of cabinets greet you as you enter, all crammed with 1950s-70s glass, ceramics, metalwares, lighting, and funky contemporary British Columbian tribal art. I eventually made my way to the back of the shop, where I found perhaps the largest display of Canadian art and studio pottery that I have ever seen.
I was particularly captivated by some finely potted vases by early B.C. potter and German emigrĂ© Otto Wichmann. Little is currently known about him, which is surprising given his superb feeling for form and his mastery of complex crystalline glazes. Ranging from around C$60 - C$150 (£35-85), I simply had to add an example to my collection. Given the high quality of the piece I chose, and its siblings around it, I feel it's only a matter of time before more research is done and this potter takes his place in the collecting world.
I spent a long and happy time chatting with the open and charming Mr Lawrence, who was kind enough to let me handle a great many pieces, most of which had come from his own vast collection. If you get the chance - you must go. With everything from Fat Lava to Bjorn Wiinblad to costume jewellery to Scandinavian, Murano and Czech glass on offer, this store is sure not to disappoint.
With a wide grin on my face, I walked back to our hotel to prepare for New Year's Eve, taking a detour to gather my thoughts about the year that had now nearly passed in the idyllic Dr Sun Yat Sen classical Chinese garden in Chinatown. With Vancouver's extensive coastline and fishing industry, sushi was the No.1 choice for dinner - tonight at Samurai on Davie St - washed down with a lovely crisp Chablis. Before I knew it, we were counting down the final seconds of 2008. Happy new year everyone!