Saturday, 30 January 2010

Vibrant Venini Glass

The latest issue of the consistently enjoyable BBC Homes & Antiques magazine is out now, and includes an 'Instant Expert' article I wrote on Venini glass. A truly legendary name from the Italian island of Murano, the company has a global reputation for its fabulous glass. Read about the history of the company, the most prominent designers, the best designs, and learn tips on how to identify and date Venini glass. If you're inspired to buy after reading it, then I can certainly recommend visiting the excellent Cambridge Glass Fair on 28th February.
Elsewhere in this bumper issue, you'll find Judith Miller's regular 'Object Lesson', this time on upholstered chairs, a fascinating article on antique textile restoration with the lovely Penny Brittain, the usual insider tips and valuations from the Antiques Roadshow team, and plenty to inspire you to have a super 'Spring clean' in a few week's time!

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Vintage Filofax & Mulberry II

Well, my last post seems to have caused quite a stir in the Filofax world! I've had rather a large amount of emails from Filofax fans who are, naturally, still using theirs and have pointed out the (many) obvious benefits to me. Perhaps I was a little hasty in saying that the smartphone and PDA 'have completely replaced' the Filofax and its ilk - I should have used the word 'largely', as there is still clearly a sizeable devoted following.
I also ought to point out that I'm the proud owner, and user, of a Mulberry Planner, which accompanies me to many of my meetings and lives in a drawer of my office desk. I also still own my original Filofax, which I would use apart from the fact that I find it too small - the Planner accommodates folded A4 sheets so well. Although I'm a heavy Blackberry user, my working life wouldn't function as smoothly as it does without my 'filofax'.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Vintage Filofax & Mulberry

I had to buy a new Blackberry last weekend, after my previous one died. Standing in the queue to pay, I mulled over how the PDA and smartphone have completely replaced the Filofax. A trusty companion of the Sloane Ranger and Yuppie (remember them?), the fad for these luxury leather small folders has almost completely passed. It's a shame, as they were very practical, acting as catch-all during a week's busy work. Although relegated to a drawer, mine is still perfectly useable. I wonder if they will become collectable in the future, representing, as they do, the fashions of a decade?
If they do, I am sure that brand names, condition and the quality will count towards desirability and value, much as they do for any antique or collectable. Filofax is at the top - like Hoover, the brand came to represent an object. There's a blog for Filofax fans, and you can see someone's amazing private collection here. The 'Winchester' seems to be the one to look out for.
Apart from Filofax itself, I think the big name to watch is Mulberry. Founded in 1971, the company has recently become globally renowned for its handbags, but the company's luxuriously large 'Planners' trounced Filofax, in my opinion, for years. I can see their hallmark brown or black 'Congo' mock-croc leather (shown here in brown) becoming amongst the most sought-after. Costing up to £350 new today, vintage and pre-loved examples are already fetching healthy sums on eBay - is this perhaps the start of something bigger?
Mulberry has always found inspiration in leather bags of the past, and it's perhaps this that makes their products so timeless and of such high quality. When I was a Junior Cataloguer at Bonhams in Chelsea, I would often see founder Roger Saul examining and buying antique luggage at our vintage textile auctions.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Sam Herman & Studio Glass

I was recently quoted on the excellent ABJ Seattle Glass Online blog, talking about Sam Herman, "Arguably [he is] the greatest name in British studio glass - and pretty darned important in the global studio glass movement too. Unfairly in my mind at least, few recognise his incredible vision, abilities and importance. Without him, studio glass techniques would not and could not have spread to the UK and beyond."
I absolutely believe this, and think his star is still rising. His work has, without doubt, enormous potential for the future, marking as it does key points in the development of 20th century
glass and decorative arts. Shown here is a typical 'torso' form made and signed by Herman, dating from the 1980s, and worth £350-450.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Canadian Chalet Glass

Looking around the excellent Glass Message Board last night, I found a post relating to the lesser-known name of Chalet, who made glass in Canada from 1962-75. Two typical pieces are shown here, courtesy of Miller's Online. With its spectacular forms and vibrant colours, Chalet glass is often mistaken for glass made on Murano in Italy. With the recent rediscovery of postwar Czech glass, it has also become confused with the production of Czechoslovakia's Skrdlovice factory.
Well, thanks to a wonderful article on the company and its work, including two original catalogue pages showing shapes, this confusion may end.
The article turns out to be by my friend and fellow collector Conrad Biernacki, who is kind, charming, and extremely generous with his immense intelligence, knowledge, and experience. I first met Conrad a couple of years ago when, as programs manager, he invited me to lecture about Fat Lava at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto. Knowing Conrad, this article will be both well-researched and well-written - you can read it by clicking here.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Miller's Collectables Price Guide 2010-11

I've had a lot of questions and emails lately about when the next edition of the Miller's Collectables Price Guide will be available. We usually publish it in Autumn each year but, partly taking into account the hard year we all had, we took the difficult decision to delay it until the official start of the new 'season' in Spring. As fairs, auctions and flea markets crank up a few gears at this time, it seemed more sensible and right.
So, the answer is that the all-new 2010-2011 edition will be published on March 1st - the rather handsome cover is shown here. The price will be £19.99 and it will be available to pre-order from all good bookshops or from Miller's Online in late February.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

New Year in Amsterdam

After an extremely busy, but very successful and highly enjoyable 2009, I spent the first few days of my Christmas break in a near catatonic state. Fully recovered, new year was quite different however, with a five day trip to celebrate the occasion in Amsterdam.
First stops for any self-respecting art, antiques and collectables fiend have to be the wealth of fabulous museums in the city. All are within easy walking distance of each other. The Rijksmuseum yielded its usual eye-popping highlights, as it is largely closed until later in 2010, but the Stedelijk was sadly completely closed for what looks like an amazing renovation. My personal highlight was the Rembrandt House museum, (above) where I spent a happy four hours surveying their exhibition on 'Rembrandt Reversed'. Here, his famous etching were shown reversed, revealing the design, effects and movement Rembrandt would have seen as he etched the copper plate by hand. Although some of the revelations were truly that, I wasn't convinced by all of it, and wondered if the reversal of the design was one of the reasons why his etchings are so captivating - and this was intended by the master to catch and hold the inquisitive and critical eye.
On to the Museum van Loon, a private palace to the Rococo style, and then the new Hermitage branch based in the city. Another five hours passed by in moments, as we surveyed the magnificence and grandeur of their inaugural exhibition on the Russian court at the turn of the 20th century. It's expensive to visit, but well worth the money as there's something here for anyone who loves brilliant ballgowns, cunning costumes and other fabulous finery. The 'treasures' room, filled with works by Fabergé and his contemporaries, was particularly unforgettable - most notably a solid lapis lazuli ewer embellished with gold and enamel, and the Rococo piano above.
And then antiques and collectables - with Dutch traders much more in evidence at major fairs this past year, I had high hopes. First stop was the famous De Looier antiques centre (left) on Elandsgracht, which is the largest market in the Netherlands. It didn't disappoint, as the stand shown here indicates - and that's just one of some 80 stands and 100 cabinets! Interesting to me was the fact that there was much more that could be classified 'antique' rather than 'modern' since my last visit in 2005. My only real criticism of the place is that it is very hard to navigate. My internal GPS is very good, but I got lost twice! Still, not a bad place to lose oneself in, I guess. With very little Fat Lava seen, look out for Mobach pottery - one to watch for the future?
The 9 streets, indicated by their overhead street lighting, provide many more places to hunt - and the many fashion shops may provide entertainment for a partner less interested in vintage or retro. In particular I'd recommend FiftiesSixties on ReeStraat for retro lamps and vintage toasters (!), the fabulous Brilmuseum of spectacles (even though the shop didn't have any of my favourite shape!), the nameless shop next door that specialises in amazing and often hilarious 1950s-70s kitsch, and Roerende Zaken, with its wide range of sought-after 20thC design. A newly discovered highlight was the 'The Totalitarian Art Gallery', on the Singel canal, with its powerful totalitarian artworks and decorative arts from 1930s-70s Germany, USSR and China. Prices were competitive, and everything was original - a rarity today. As to what is surely the future of bookshops, and indeed publishing in general, check out Mendo on Berenstraat, voted one of the 200 best designed shops in the world.
After all this, good food and drink is needed to recover. Quite apart from the enormously expensive, but also enormously luxurious and entertaining, original Supper Club, we found the French inspired Café George on Leidsegracht to be a lively and delicious mainstay. Thankfully, Amsterdam is small enough to walk easily and quickly between most locations - it's amazing what you can fit in to five days!