Wednesday, 25 February 2009

'Brown' Furniture makes a comeback?

As some of you will know, one of the many hats I wear is that of 'Head of Miller's Online', running the new Miller's website at As part of this exciting and growing free site, we have set up some interesting public polls, one of which asks whether traditional brown furniture is making a comeback.
A total of 71% of voters think it has already, or will very soon. This is made up of 42% of voters who said that it already had, and 29% who said that it will soon. On the negative side, 21% said that it hasn't at all, and a pathetic 8% said that they don't like it.
I'm sure you'll agree that these are interesting results. I just can't help feeling that the majority are right, and speaking to some of my auctioneer friends confirms this. They're seeing tangible results of this opinion in salerooms across the country and, indeed, the globe.
My advice? Get to your nearest local auction room as quickly as your legs will carry you! The bargain prices seen over the past few years won't continue for much longer. I'm delighted that I managed to buy this Georgian-style Edwardian period solid mahogany kneehole desk (above) at auction for £100, including commission, late last year.
It's older than me, it'll certainly outlive me, it's the 'green' thing to do from a recycling perspective, and it represents far better value for money (in so many respects) than some mass-manufactured trash from a Scandinavian chain store...

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

13th Cambridge Glass Fair

It may have been the 13th Cambridge Glass Fair, but the only people who were unlucky were those who didn't visit! But there can't have been many of them, as this fair was amongst the very busiest I have attended - and I've been going since the first.
The queue began to build an hour before the opening, and from the moment the doors opened until they closed, the aisles were crammed with buyers and browsers, with the door even running out of tickets after lunch!
They crossed the country to see some 50+ specialist dealers selling pieces from 'over 200 years of glass' history and, judging by the number of bags seen leaving the hall, they liked what they saw.
Attending these events is always enjoyable for many reasons, one of them being to catch up with friends. James Bassam, 20thC Design specialist at auction house T.W. Gaze & Sons, was one, and he echoed the impression I was rapidly building. Despite the truly awful economic climate, many are turning to, or increasingly, buying art, antiques and collectables. Not only does one's home become more important than ever when we can't afford to go out, but they also make a far interesting and enjoyable form of investment than stocks and shares.
Speaking of friends, I was honoured to have been asked by Kevin Graham, who runs the excellent Pottery & Glass Forum, to join him on his stand. Kevin is a specialist in West German ceramics and is on the verge of publishing an 'encyclopedia' to makers, designs and designers, having researched the area for nearly a decade. Above you'll see me with Kevin (second from right), and major 'Fat Lava' collector Martin Rosam and his partner Karen.
I really can't recommend joining the Pottery & Glass Forum enough. Membership is free, and you'll find an amazing array of fascinating and practical facts and tips for identifcation, as well as being able to participate in the friendly and fun banter.
If you do one thing today, visit, join and browse!

Saturday, 21 February 2009

BBC Antiques Roadshow 2009

This year's dates for the Antiques Roadshow have now been published, and are listed below. Those in bold are the events I will be attending as a specialist on the Miscellaneous or Collectables tables. Dig out your treasures and I hope to see you there!

Thursday 19 March - Lincoln Cathedral, Lincoln
Wednesday 25 March - Hopetoun House, Queensferry, Scotland
Friday 3 April - Blackpool Tower Ballroom, Lancashire
Thursday 23 April - Bath Assembly Rooms, Somerset
Thursday 14 May - Stanway House, Gloucestershire
Thursday 21 May - Burghley House, Stamford, Lincolnshire
Sunday 31 May - Brooklands Museum, Weybridge, Surrey
Tuesday 9 June - Saumarez Park, Guernsey
Friday 12 June - Samarès Manor, Jersey
Thursday 2 July - Abbotsford, Melrose, Roxburghshire
Sunday 12 July - Bletchley Park, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire
Thursday 16 July - Aberglasney Gardens, Carmarthenshire
Thursday 27 August - The Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, Co. Durham
Thursday 3 September - Leeds Town Hall, Leeds, Yorkshire
Thursday 10 September - Somerleyton Hall, Lowestoft, Suffolk
Thursday 17 September - Blists Hill Victorian Town, Ironbridge, Shropshire
Thursday 1 October - Old Royal Naval College, Greenwich, London

Doors open at 9.30am (although queues start earlier!), and Roadshows run until 4.30pm, but providing you're in the queue by 4pm, you'll be able to see a specialist.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Radio Waves

They say radio is growing in popularity, and it's certainly been an increasing part of my life recently, with three interviews in the past two weeks! Up today was BBC radio Cambridgeshire, with another phone-in valuation that also helped promote the excellent Cambridge Glass Fair this Sunday, at Chilford Hall. Here I am in the studio with my trusty companion - my Miller's Collectables Price Guide.
I was lucky to be joined by eminent Lalique and Art Nouveau glass expert and dealer Mike Moir, who makes the perfect accomplice. Along with cheery presenter Sue Dougan, the banter, information and valuations just flowed out. Callers rang in with everything ranging from an Art Deco opalescent vase, which will be brought to the fair for proper appraisal, to a 19thC chemist's carboy bottle, to a 19thC gilded and cut rummer, and a Mary Gregory type bud vase. Values ranged from £30 up to over £500!
If you missed the phone-in, don't miss the event itself. It's undoubtedly one of the best fairs in the country, with an enormously varied range of glass from the 18thC to the 21stC. It's also welcoming, fascinating and hugely enjoyable. I'll be there, and I hope you will be too.

Sunday, 15 February 2009

BBC Radio London

I've just got back from an extremely enjoyable one-and-a-half hour long phone-in valuation for BBC Radio London. Hosted by the lovely Lesley Joseph, I was invited along as a guest with my friend Tracy Martin. Lesley is best known for her character Dorian in hit BBC TV sitcom 'Birds of a Feather' but, unlike her snobbish TV character, her natural, funny and friendly charm just beams out over the airwaves.
The lofts and drawers of London's residents certainly didn't disappoint this morning. Items listeners called in about included a boxed Parker 51 pen and pencil set valued at £50-70, a set of six late 19thC Coalport handpainted cup and saucers valued at around £30 each, an Edison phonograph valued at over £200, and a set of Royal Doulton 'Snowman' figurines that could fetch up to £800!

Friday, 6 February 2009

Alfie's Antiques Market

With things a little tighter for most of us this year, it's great to find a place where we can still feed our addictions without breaking the bank.
That place is certainly Alfie's Antiques Market in north west London, where I have just spent an extremely enjoyable and fruitful two days. Whatever it is that you collect, you're bound to find it here. In fact, I challenge you to browse without being tempted.
The first point of call has to be Beth Adams, on the ground floor, slap-bang in the middle of the Church Street facade. Her panoramic windows are packed with an colourful variety of quality stock from jazzy Art Deco ceramics, to 1930s chintzware and nursery ware, to gorgeous 20thC glass, and more traditional ceramics. Beth's prices are nothing if not reasonable and fair, which explains why her stand is always so busy, with plenty of new treasures to see each time. (Below, from left: Beverley, Mark & Beth)
Next stop has to be her mother, Beverley, who has recently moved into the market from a shop across the road, and has not one, but three, stands! A dizzying array of fantastic late 19thC and early 20thC teacups and saucers is at the centre of her main stand on the top floor, and is surrounded by beautifully displayed (and beautiful) ceramics ranging from blue and white to Moorcroft, Doulton and Deco. Traditional teacups and saucers have become immensely popular again, partly due to the revival of cupcakes (or fairy cakes) which even Posh 'n Becks are rumoured to enjoy! With years of experience behind them, what these two ladies don't know about ceramics between them isn't worth knowing. I'm lucky to be able to count them as friends.
Opposite Beverley's stand upstairs, you'll find Ian Broughton, who runs the eccentric, but very stylish and cool, 'Manic Attic'. Ian specialises in the 1950s, be it a fine lamp base, set of cocktail glasses, or even a tea towel! As you wander around the centre, you can't help but recognise him, as he dresses in 1950s clothing with his hair arranged in a '50s quiff. I found a rather fab '50s vase in his shop, which I bought for an arguably affordable £30 - maybe you can spot it in the image here? It's by Bay Keramik, and I believe the design to be by the notable Bodo Mans. Research will confirm it! As with Beth and Beverley, Ian's prices will always make you happy.
On the way back down the stairs, don't forget to visit Geoffrey Robinson for amazing 20thC glass and ceramics, as well as Wesley for yet more fine quality traditional ceramics, and Victor Caplin for all your bead needs - but more on them next time. Just like I have found, once bitten, you'll be smitten. You're sure to add this to your list of regular haunts!

Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Frantisek Zemek's Glass Designs

Now there's a name you don't hear every day. But it is one that you might hear more of in the future. Frantisek Zemek (1913-60) is arguably one of the lost great names in 20th century glass design, and was key to the development of hot-worked glass in Czechoslovakia.
Starting his career as a glass cutter for the Inwald group, he went on to study at the Zelezny Brod glass school, and then under the renowned Professor Karel Stipl. He worked at the Chrìbska factory in 1949, followed by the Zelezny Brod factory from 1952-57. He was also concurrently the head designer for the Mstisov factory from 1956-59. His early death in a motorcycle accident in 1960 cut off what looked to be a promising career, given his influence in the 1950s.
His most notable designs produced on a large scale were the multi-coloured 'Rhapsody' of 1956 & 60, and the green and blue 'Harmony' of 1959, but he also produced cut designs for Moser, and pressed designs for Hermanova. All were exported across the world. Today, his work is typically mis-attributed to factories on Murano, but things are changing and his contribution is beginning to be recognised.
This particular vase, devised in 1957, is an early example of his designs and was deemed important enough to be included by Josef Raban in his landmark book 'Modern Bohemian Glass', published in 1963. As well as being typical of Zemek's hot-worked designs with its curving, organic form and applied trails, it also hints at machinery with its resemblance to propellers and spun screw threads. For its date, as well as for its country of origin, this design is highly Modern and progressive.
The example shown in Raban's book was made at Mstisov, but this example is more likely to have been made at Zelezny Brod during the 1960s judging by the yellow (Citrine) and brown colouring and the precise form. They're not all that common, and can be found in a range of colours, sizes and variations in proportions. I really rate Zemek as a good buy for the future, and think this early design is well worth looking out for. Expect to pay anything from £5 to £30 right now.
For more information about Zemek's designs, and those of his contemporaries, see Hi Sklo Lo Sklo, published by Mark Hill Publishing.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

Alexandra Palace Collectors' Fair

It's true - one of the greatest antique and collectables events in the South of England has returned. Early last year, long-standing event organiser Pig & Whistle held the last of their immensely popular fairs at historic Alexandra Palace in London. With the venue looking set to become a casino, it was curtains for this fantastic day-long event. Later in the year, Nelson Fairs announced that they had come to an agreement with the owners and the fair would start again. I missed the first two as I was (annoyingly) travelling on business, but made it to the third event, held today.
And I was not disappointed - it's everything it used to be and more! Over 600 dealers pack the main hall, offering everything from furniture to ceramics, glass, advertising memorabilia from Victorian to Vintage - and much, much more. I spent - literally - hours and hours browsing the stands, buying big-time. Although the collecting market has been hit pretty hard by the credit crunch, you couldn't tell today as I jostled with thousands of keen buyers. Check Nelson Fairs' website to find out when the next one is. See you there!