If you're into Fat Lava, the crazy and unique ceramics produced in West Germany from the 1960s-70s, you simply must take a trip to Reading this month. I've just got back from the grand opening today, and my jaw is still on the floor.
Eminent private collector Graham Cooley and progressive dealer Al Baynham of the mid20c Retro Shop (left) have literally pulled out all the stops to present you with a truly eye-popping and mouth-watering display that leads on perfectly from the ground-breaking first Fat Lava exhibition held in King's Lynn in 2006.
Al has devoted his entire shop to the exhibition, which is divided into two rooms. Everything in the large, light and airy front room is for sale and, given the colourful and crazy shop window display, I'm amazed there's haven't been any minor accidents on the road outside! From floor vase to bud vase, Roth to Scheurich, Bay to Jasba, and prices that range from £15 to £300, there's something here for you whether you're looking to build your collection, or buy a single statement piece. Break free from the boring uniformity of Ikea and high street chains and say something about yourself and your avant garde tastes!
The back room contains an exhibition put together by, and featuring vases from, the vast Graham Cooley Collection of some 2,500 examples (left). Rather than just repeat the success of the first exhibition, Graham has pulled together a new array focusing on recent discoveries and learnings. So, Übelacker Keramik, Jopeko, ES Keramik and Roth are amongst the names that have benefitted from his skilled and experienced eye. You'll also see fantastic forms and great glazes from more widely known names such as Scheurich (the 'Wien' series in particular) Dümler & Breiden, Ruscha and Carstens. Although none of these pieces are for sale, you'll learn plenty to help you as you build your collection.
I attended today to launch the second, revised and expanded edition of my Fat Lava catalogue, and copies flew out of the door like the proverbial 'hot-cakes', usually accompanied by carefully chosen and wrapped vases! Over 60 people attended the opening throughout the day, and Al made everyone feel welcome, offering drinks and snacks. Light-hearted banter was punctuated with laughter, with the sunny terrace outside becoming a hotbed of discussions and exchanges of information.
I was delighted to see Kevin Graham, author of a new encyclopedia on the subject to be published soon, major collector and dealer Martin Rosam, Paul Bishop of the Cambridge Glass Fair, and many other friends and colleagues. Of course, we weren't the only ones having fun. At 11am UK time, three other exhibitions in Australia, Germany and the US opened simultaneously online via www.fat-lava.org. Fat Lava had truly gone global. I've never heard of an online/offline event quite like this before, so a round of applause must go to dealers and collectors Patrick & Petra Folkersma of Outernational for masterminding this innovative event. All four locations remained online throughout the day, and attracted a great many online viewers keen to see the exhibitions and chat to the collectors who built them.
Did I have a favourite? Although it's very hard to choose from the eye-popping array, it would have to be the range of Roth vases shown here. Although little is known about this factory, the designs speak for themselves. Out of all the different designs produced in these incredible two decades, these have caught collectors' attention the most. Prices have risen from under £100 to nearly £300 in a matter of months, with collectors old and new falling over themselves to add a piece to their collections. These rises are partly due to their scarcity - despite their period look and feel, these pieces can't have sold in large numbers at the time, and are not common at all. If I have one regret, it was not buying these in 2006, when I could have had an ovoid vase for £30-50. Now I'd have to part with £150 for the same piece. As my friend Judith Miller says, 'It's the ones you don't buy that you regret'. Don't let that happen to you - hot-foot it to Reading now!
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