Friday, 19 March 2010

Exciting New Ceramics & Glass Fair in London

I love a good fair, especially those run by Specialist Glass Fairs. The dynamic duo behind the rapidly expanding portfolio are delighted to announce an all-new fair to be held at Dulwich College in South London on Sunday 28th March. To be held in the beautiful and aptly Modernist style Christison Hall from 10.30am until 4pm, the fair sees the addition of ceramics dealers to the usual stable of fabulous glass dealers. Visitors will be able to browse all types of decorative and collectable glass and ceramics from across the centuries; from Powell to Poole, Moorcroft to Murray and faience to Fat Lava.
Specialists in 18th century drinking glasses, stylish and hotly desirable Scandinavian and Italian pieces, antique continental glass such as Gallé and Lalique, and British art glass will exhibit alongside trusted quality ceramics experts and contemporary glass and ceramics makers. Amongst them, these two stunning pieces will be displayed. The first is a rare 1960s Poole Pottery 'Tree of Life' charger by Tony Morris, available from Mark Hitchings, and the second is an Arts and Crafts candelabra in 'Straw Opal' glass by James Powell and Sons, c1890, which will be available from Nigel Benson.
I'll also be there signing a full range of my books and the new edition of the Miller's Collectables Price Guide and Handbook 2010-2011, together with a limited quantity of the book that accompanies my new BBC2 TV series, 'Cracking Antiques'. For more information, check out the fair's website at Make a note in your diary, and I hope to see you there!

They're still out there...., I mean. Too often do I hear the moan that 'There's no point looking, everything that can be found has been found...' Not true! Last month my glass collector friend Bob discovered this gem in his local charity shop in South London. Designed by Frank Thrower in 1967, and numbered 'FT23', it was part of the first range offered by the now world-famous Dartington Glass. Produced in the company's characteristic early Kingfisher' blue, Flame red, Midnight grey, and colourless glass, it was expensive at the time and did not sell well. Compared to smaller Dartington, few were sold before it was withdrawn in 1970. Examples are rare today, particularly in colours. I think it would cost from £200-300 from a specialist dealer - so the couple of pounds hawk-eyed Bob paid could really pay off!

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Are books dead...?

I work for a publishing company, and also publish my own books. I'm also a big believer in the internet as a way forward for publishing. Will it replace books, magazines and newspapers, as many say it will? I don't think so, but it'll be an important part of how we work in the future. Publishing doesn't just mean books, but audio, video and web-based content too - publishing will integrate the many forms of media available to us in the future. This short video was produced by DK, a company I used to consult for. I think it's brilliant. If you have two minutes to spare, I'd urge you to check it out. Click here to view it.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

To the circus!

With a bit of Polish blood flowing through my veins, I've always been fond of decorative arts produced in the former Eastern Block. Amongst my favourite areas are postwar avant garde Czechoslovakian and Polish film and event posters. Over the past two decades, those from the former country have become widely popular and highly desirable meaning the best pieces can cost a pretty penny - or thousands of them! Polish posters can offer better value for money. For example, Wiktor Gorka's iconic 'Kabaret' poster is often considered amongst the best, but originals can still be found for around £500-600.
There are many artists to consider, most of them mouthfuls, from Franciszek Starowieyski to Lucjan Jagodzinski. I'm particularly fond of Waldemar Swierzy, and his name was brought to my mind again recently after I stumbled across this handsome design by him in a country antique shop. The circus (or 'Cyrk' in Polish) was a popular form of entertainment in Poland right up to the fall of the Iron Curtain, and numerous artists produced posters to market the event from 1962 onwards.
Styles and inspirations were diverse, and there's something here for everyone within this smorgasbord of avant garde design. An award-winning designer, Swierzy produced a large number of different designs across his career. I think his star is still to rise, but the market is still young and defining itself. The poster I saw is considered by some to be very rare and was priced at just under £200 (attractively framed), but examples have sold for over double that, undoubtedly due to its appealing and decorative nature that has a strong whiff of the Art Nouveau about it. Flicking through a Christie's catalogue today and seeing an Edward McKnight Kauffer newspaper poster valued at £20,000-30,000 made me feel that the mileage still to go with these posters is rather extensive. It's long term rather than short term. But if you like the look and sound of this area, you can read more here and here.

Dexter Loves Mdina

Regular readers of my blog will know I'm rather fond of spotting retro and antique pieces in TV series and films. After watching Tom Ford's beautiful, visually stunning and relaxing 'A Single Man', I had felt spoilt already this weekend. Poirot (lovely as it is) is too easy, so it's the less obvious ones that prove more of an enjoyable challenge. Like me, my German friends Marc & Maiken of Utopia 2000 are fans of US hit TV series Dexter. I'd already spotted the late 1970s-80s Mdina 'Earthtones' Fish vase that the anti-hero lead has on his desk, but for those who missed it, here's another shot from the latest series.

Monday, 15 March 2010

An Evening With The Chorleywood Bookshop

Last Friday Judith Miller and I were invited out to the heart of 'Metroland' to visit the charming town of Chorleywood. The owners of the independent Chorleywood Bookshop, Sheryl and Morag, asked us to speak at an evening event in the local hall, followed by a book-signing and an 'Antiques Roadshow' style valuation.
After perusing their marvellous bookshop on the smart parade over a cup of tea, we were ready. And we needed that cup of tea! When we pulled up outside the hall, well over 100 people had arrived and were patiently queuing, clutching bags full of treasures acquired or inherited, but most certainly cherished.
Judith kicked off the event with a talk that crossed Continents and history from 16thC Chinese porcelain to Lalique (and Lalique-alike) glass to treen snuffboxes. I then followed up with a talk that examined the effect of fashion on the market - both in terms of historic changes and changes today that affect desirability, and so values. Both of us brought pieces from our own collections with us, with me bringing some Fat Lava, transfer-printed blue & white ceramics, 'Flow Blue' ceramics, and postwar Czech pressed glass. I ended by introducing my new TV series, Cracking Antiques, and commenting on how the wheel is turning once again and traditional, 'brown' furniture is becoming sought after once again after a few decades in the doldrums.
Then it was into the audience to see what they had brought in - and they didn't disappoint! A truly wonderful, varied selection awaited us from mid-19thC was dolls to Chinese ceramics, a pocket watch or two and a superb micromosaic of St Peters that had to be worth over £1,500-2,000! A marvellous evening was had by all, and Judith and I finally left at gone 10pm to wend our way back to London. Thank you, Sheryl and Morag!

Sunday, 7 March 2010

Country Weekend

Combined with my busy role at Miller's, the build-up to Cracking Antiques (my new BBC2 TV series due to air from 7th April) has meant that there's precious little time for a break right now. A short holiday was cancelled and replaced with a relaxing overnight break at the wonderful 'Ashdown Park' country house hotel in Sussex this weekend.
The drive there revealed Standen was nearby. For those of you who don't know, Standen was the country house of the wealthy Beale family. Built in the early 1890s, it was designed by Philip Webb, a close friend of William Morris. As you'd expect, it's an Arts & Crafts showcase, from the vases on the mantelpiece, to the mantelpiece itself, and the room that the mantelpiece is part of. Indicative of so many core themes of the Arts & Crafts movement, it's exactly the sort of country house I'd love to live in. Set serenely in picturesque rolling hills which it doesn't dominate, it's quirky, comfortable and built on a human scale. A home rather than a house.
My love for this style movement was instantly rekindled as I wandered around rooms bedecked with original William Morris wallpaper, furnished with comfy-looking period furniture, and embellished with tapestries, embroideries, ceramics, and glass of the period. In 2008, a truly eye-wateringly beautiful bedspread was returned to the Beale's bedroom. Said to have been embroidered by May, William Morris' daughter, the superb condition and vibrant colours have remained as it spent most of the last century hidden and forgotten in a chest. So dazzling was it that I forgot to take a photograph, but I rather liked the cheery motto on this firescreen.
Downstairs, my eyes were instantly drawn to a very modern set of wall lights. The form and 'straw-opal' colour of the glass fittings instantly suggested Powell & Sons, but the overall design and embossed copper backs were more intriguing. It transpired that they were designed specifically for the house by Webb, and made by that modernising marvel in metalware of the period, W.A.S. Benson. The stylised flower on each panel was different, and I was told that the gentle, warming light they give is magical at night. A bright and breezy walk around the grounds in that type of clear, blue skied Spring day that England does so well finished off a perfect weekend and left me refreshed for the week ahead.