Sunday, 28 February 2010

Cambridge Glass Fair

Yesterday saw a nerve-shredding drive up the M11 to the 14th Cambridge Glass Fair at Chilford Hall. As ever, it was well worth it. I was one of many hundreds who braved the torrential rain and flocked to the event to buy the best in glass from 18thC drinking glasses to 21stC contemporary studio glass.
My collecting habits are somewhat obscure right now, but I was delighted to buy this piece of Czech glass from Italian glass supremo Massimo Marino. For those of you who don't recognise it, it's from the 'Flora' range, designed by Frantisek Koudelka and made at the Prachen Glassworks. This range is featured in a 1974 edition of Czechoslovak Glass Review, which describes it as lending a "refreshing touch to every modern home". It was inspired by Koudelka's 1973 'Karneval' range, which has similar decoration, and also by antique coloured glass from the Harrachov glassworks.
At 35cm (13.75in) high, it's the largest one I've ever seen but friends' responses were muted, with one even describing it as 'arty farty'! I'll leave you to make your own mind up, but I'm a fan of the abstract design, the shape that harks back to Czech Art Nouveau forms, and the high quality.
On my way around the huge fair, I also enjoyed chatting with dealer friends including Alison Snelgrove, Peter Elliott, Danny Walker, Ron & Ann Wheeler, Tracy Opie and Andrew Lineham.
I also spotted a lady buying this beautifully modern bull. Judging by the colour, I think it was made by Zeleznybrod Sklo in Czechoslovakia and, although I can't find a direct reference, I think it was most probably designed by Miroslav Janku. Of great quality, I think she did well at £60.
Paul & Christina Bishop run the most successful and enjoyable glass fairs in the UK - I really can't recommend visiting one enough. Click here to visit their website to see when a fair near you will be on. Next up on the agenda is the Ceramics & Glass Fair at the historic Dulwich College in South London on March 28th. If you do come, do pop over and say 'hello', as I'll be selling my own books as well as a range of Miller's books at the event.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Woman's Hour

Yesterday I was honoured to be asked onto BBC Radio 4's 'Woman's Hour', to speak about Jessie Tait and her 1950s-70s designs for Midwinter.
I was accompanying Professor Cheryl Buckley, who had been lucky enough to meet Tait herself during her research into the role of woman designers in the ceramics industry. If you want to listen to what we discussed, led by presenter Jane Garvey, you can do so by clicking here.

It's Out!

The all-new 2010-11 edition of Miller's Collectables Price Guide by Judith Miller and I is OUT NOW in all good bookshops. Priced at £19.99, there are even more full colour images and information than ever before. With thousands of collectables shown from advertising to ceramics, to glass and toys, there's truly something for everyone. Here're the first copies, spotted in Foyle's in London.
If you can't make it to a bookshop, order your copy direct, and save £8 on the cover price, by clicking here.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

BBC Antiques Roadshows I will be attending...

I am delighted to attend the following BBC Antiques Roadshows as a specialist on either the Miscellaneous or Collectables tables - please do dig out your treasures, come along, and say hello! Doors open at 9.30am (although queues start earlier!), and Roadshows run until 4.30pm - providing you're in the queue by 4pm, you'll be able to see a specialist.

Thursday 29th April - Victoria Hall, Saltaire, near Shipley, West Yorkshire
Friday 14th May - Beverley Minster, East Riding of Yorkshire
Thursday 3rd June - Brighton College, East Sussex
Thursday 10th June - St Fagans, Natural History Museum, near Cardiff
Thursday 1st July - Hutton-in-the-Forest, near Penrith, Cumbria
Thursday 15th July - Hatfield House, Hertfordshire
Thursday 9th September - Blair Castle, near Pitlochry, Scotland
Wednesday 29th September - Colechester Town Hall, Colchester, Essex

Saturday, 13 February 2010

BBC's Cracking Antiques is announced

Cracking Antiques is on a myth-busting mission to prove that people can add style and glamour to any type of home by investing in second-hand, vintage and antique furnishings – without breaking the bank.

The prime-time series, coming to BBC Two from April 7th at 8.30pm is presented by interior designer Kathryn Rayward and antiques expert Mark Hill.

Kathryn and Mark want to take the pain and shame out of buying old. From town houses to terraced houses, 18th-century French Rococo to shabby chic, they want to show that antiques and vintage furnishings can help create a stylish, fashionable home and are often the better buy.

Cracking Antiques shows that spending wisely on second-hand objects can be a cheaper and unique alternative to much of what the High Street has to offer, and in comparison, antiques are well-made and built to last so are also a much more environmentally sound investment.

The nation loves nothing more than trawling for trinkets and treasures at the thousands of antiques fairs, car boot sales and auction houses up and down the country, and as a result the British antiques industry is highly lucrative. But are people buying the right items, at the right price?

Mark Hill says: "Unique investments in quality and craftsmanship that will last a lifetime, prices that have never been more affordable, and individual statement pieces that will make a house your home, tell a story, and shout out your true personality. Antiques need to be taken off their pedestal and we should allow them to become exuberant and enjoyable parts of our lives."

Kathryn Rayward says: "Buying antiques is recycling at its most glamorous! Purchasing second-hand goods means we're not cutting down trees and damaging the planet. Embracing unloved family heirlooms or giving a quick lick of paint to a cheap and cheerful junk shop find can create a beautiful and utterly unique home."

Throughout the series, Kathryn offers interior design ideas and practical suggestions on how to customise and revamp the tired and the distressed to transform them into glamorous and modern pieces. Meanwhile Mark is on hand with his top tips and helpful advice on the items to buy now, that could go up in value in the future.

From furniture to light fittings, curtains to crockery, Cracking Antiques provides the all-important guide to furnishing a home with classic pieces, how to bag a bargain and how to buy an investment piece for the future.

BBC Commissioning Editor, Jo Ball, says: "Mark and Kathryn are great talents and I hope they will make the world of antiques accessible to everyone."

Cracking Antiques is a Silver River production. The executive producer at Silver River is Dan Adamson and the series producer at Silver River is Donna McLaughlin.

The 6x30-minute series will be broadcast on BBC Two, from 7th April at 8.30pm.

Image of Mark Hill & Kathryn Rayward courtesy of the BBC and Silver River Productions, and text courtesy of BBC Press Office, the original is here.

A comprehensive book will be published to tie-in with the series, priced at £18.99, click here to find out more. Image of cover courtesy of Mitchell Beazley.

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Beware Online!

It's easy to think that you can trust what you find online. However, always bear in mind that the information you read there may well be misleading, or just plain wrong. Never has the familiar auction term 'caveat emptor', or 'buyer beware', been more applicable.
The internet is open to everyone to post information - and also their opinions and beliefs, regardless of what they're founded on. It goes without saying that some people are more knowledgeable and reliable than others.
As an example, I spotted this vase on eBay last night. Described by the seller as being Murano glass, it has a 1960-70s foil label on the base to prove it. But that's wrong. It is, in fact, a 1980s Isle of Wight Studio Glass Azurene range small Lollipop vase, in the hard-to-find 'Azure' colour. As to how the Murano label got there is anyone's guess.
I'm certainly not saying that the vendor (who has thousands of positive feedback ratings) intends to mislead or deceive but it's not what it the label says it is! The interesting thing is that if it was catalogued correctly, the seller would almost certainly sell it, even if he didn't quite reach his £150 + P&P asking price.

Monday, 8 February 2010

Priceless Antiques Roadshow II

The excellent and highly enjoyable Priceless Antiques Roadshow continues its second series on BBC2 at 6.30pm. If you've missed any, catch up online on iPlayer. If you missed the episode I was in and mentioned below, here's what I bought for the ceramics challenge. I was delighted with my find, and feel pretty comfortable in saying that the £11 I paid was a real bargain.
Last Monday my friend and Roadshow colleague Andy McConnell appeared on the show in a spot I really enjoyed. Regular viewers will love Andy's fascinating glass valuations, and his passion for glass is clear. Although he's a renowned expert in the field, he had never actually made any glass himself, despite having watched it being made many times before. So he visited Isle of Wight Studio Glass to work under one of Britain's most skilled and experienced master glassmakers, and a friend of mine, Timothy Harris. The results are educational, informative and quite frankly sometimes hilarious. I really think he did a great job, with incredible results, so click here to see how he got on.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Umbrella Stand Estimated to Fetch Half A Million!

Just imagine walking home on a wet and windswept evening balancing an umbrella and your bag precariously as you try to shelter from the elements. You just want to get home, shove the umbrella in its stand, make a warm cup of tea and dry out.
Just imagine if that neglected 'umbrella stand' turned out to be an 18th century Imperial Chinese vase valued at up to half a million pounds!
Exactly this happened to a couple who recently invited auctioneer Guy Schwinge of Hy Duke & Sons in Dorchester to their home for a routine valuation. Just imagine their shock! Schwinge believes that the vase was almost certainly made for the Emperor Qianlong around 1740, and it may also have been owned at one time by Florence Nightingale.
Given to the couple as a gift around 50 years ago, it is sadly damaged as one would expect after a few wet, wintry evenings of being irritated. Had it not been damaged, it may have fetched up to £1million.
The vase comes up for auction on Thursday 11th February - I wonder what it will fetch? Fresh to market, fine quality and rare Chinese porcelain has been soaring in the auction rooms lately, with literally millions of pounds exchanging hands. Only last year, my old colleague and friend James Bridges of auctioneers Martel Maides found two ignored bowls in a house on the Channel Islands which went back home for a total of nearly £1.2million. One to watch for sure.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Priceless Antiques Roadshow

The second series of Priceless Antiques Roadshow, the BBC's fantastic spin-off show from world-famous Antiques Roadshow reached its fifth episode this evening, with another twenty to come. Perfect tea-time viewing, the show looks deeper into the Roadshow, one of Britain's best-loved TV programmes, and with a 32 year heritage.
You'll learn more about the experts and their personal passions and favourite fields of expertise, glimpse behind the scenes at Roadshows across the country, take a look back through the archives at some of the best and most fascinating finds and the stories behind them, and also see special features unique to the series.
I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in one of these, and one of the spots we filmed aired this evening. 'Expert Eye' takes three specialists, Katherine Higgins, Steven Moore and I, and pits us against each other to buy an antique or a collectable from three different subject areas against a set, and realistic, budget. First up tonight was ceramics, with each of us being given the task of finding something we believed to be a good, bargain buy for a maximum of £30. I visited the Shepton Mallet Flea Market, Katherine went to Alfie's Antiques Market, and Steven was at the Lincolnshire Antiques & Home Show. Tune into iPlayer to find out what each of us bought and how how we got on.
The two remaining 'Expert Eye' spots yet to come cover furniture, and whatever we individually believed to be 'useful'. I'm delighted to say that I came in well under budget for all of my finds, each of which I'd have been more than happy to buy myself and display or use at home. After you've seen it, I hope you'll agree with us - it all goes to show that there really are so many fantastic bargains out there if you look.