Crafty Stuff

For those of your who are familiar with the excellent Crafts magazine, published by the UK’s national Crafts Council, check out this month’s issue. The eminent curator and 20thC design author and expert Lesley Jackson has written an eight page, fully illustrated preview of the forthcoming ‘Hi Sklo Lo Sklo’ Czech glass exhibition. Offering a wealth of historical and background information, as one would expect from the excellent Jackson, it’s not to be missed as a detailed introduction to the area. If anyone has any doubt that postwar Czech glass design may be ‘the next big thing’, listen to the expert herself – the last lines of the article reads “They were often beautiful objects which, until now, have been largely misunderstood or completely ignored. Cooley and Hill could just trigger off another Velvet Revolution – this time in the collecting sphere.“

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The hammer falls…

Just in case you were wondering, the copy of Hi Sklo Lo Sklo that I was selling for charity on eBay this week sold for twice its retail price – £40. What’s more, it sold to the Rakow Library, part of the world-famous Corning Museum of Glass in New York. Illustrious indeed! Do we think this area is about to explode – with attention from such establishments, yes, we do!

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Budapest III – The Flea Market!

The more perceptive of you will note that I haven’t bought much yet, having only spent the parsimonious sum of £14.75. Well, to be honest, I have been clutching my wallet close and saving myself for the highlight of my trip – a visit to the famed Esceri flea market. Billed as ‘the biggest and best flea market in Central Europe’, even if it isn’t, it’s most certainly worth a visit. If you can get there, that is. It’s not as hard to find as some guide books say, but you do need to be a little intrepid as it’s quite far out of town. When I was there last in December 2005, I was somewhat suffering from the after-effects of the night before. Alas that meant I couldn’t really remember how to get there this time. The first bit is easy. Take the M3 metro to Hatar Utca, the stop before the end of the line – don’t feel the temptation to get off at Esceri Utca, despite the name. It’s when you …

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Budapest II

After enjoying the blazing sun, wonderful warmth and success of the previous day, I was up and out early, being for more. The second stop for anyone visiting the city must be the street called Falk Miksa in the north of the city, and near the Elizabeth bridge. This really is ‘antiques central’ with at least a dozen shops along this pretty tree-lined avenue. It seems to be where real money can be spent, with many shops stocking the national speciality of lustrous ceramics by Zsolnay, based in the town of Pecs. Also worth checking out is the Hungarian version of Art Deco and post war ceramics by the potter Gesu Gorka and his daughter Livia. Most of the Art Deco furniture I saw seemed to be heavy in weight and style, and large in size, meaning it had great visual impact. Furthermore, much like antiques shops in the UK and the US, it’s also worth taking a closer look as some pieces are recent rather than period. However, they’re identified as such and …

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Budapest I

Loathe as I am to leave the comfort of Hill Towers, I do enjoy travelling. Particularly when it allows me to spend time touring the antiques, collectables and junk shops of my destination. Today I find myself in the 30 degree warmth of the Hungarian capital of Budapest, celebrating a friend’s pre-wedding jaunt. While I’ll spare you the details of the revelry that occurred, I will let you know where to go and what to do if you’re ‘tiquin’, as they say across the pond. First stop should be a visit to the network of ‘BAV’ stores that are dotted around the city. Effectively a chain of state-owned pawn brokers, they stock everything from jewellery to furniture, and ceramics to glass. It’s worth bearing in mind that anything over 50 years old needs an official export permit to leave the country, and I’m told that quite a bit of their stock comes from pieces seized by Customs! Although most branches carry a selection of pieces, some specialise in certain items. You can find a full and up-to-date list at

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Bid for charity!

To celebrate both the forthcoming ‘Hi Sklo Lo Sklo’ exhibition and the accompanying catalogue on postwar Czech glass design, I have decided to auction the only spare advance copy of the catalogue on eBay. Having unusually watched quite a bit of TV lately, I’ve been appalled by the situation in Burma, so I have decided to donate all proceeds from the sale of this copy to the Disasters Emergency Committee (www.dec.org.uk). I’ve also made this a ‘private’ auction, so your identity will not be revealed if you decide you really want to know the secrets contained within the covers before everyone else. For starters you’ll learn who really designed Exbor’s stunning range of fish, such as the one shown here. Click here to go to the auction. Bid now and bid high – it’ll benefit more than just you!

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Z

Why, oh why, are people obsessed with adding a ‘z’ to a name to make something seem more fun, cool or zany? Annual accounts cannot and will not be made more fun just because the software package is called ‘Accountz’. When will they learn?!

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Mdina in Hollywood hit TV series

Over the past few days I’ve become a fervent fan of US hit TV series ‘Dexter‘. It’s getting so bad that I watched four back-to-back episodes into the early hours last night, although I’m told my addiction will get far worse as the series develops! Bring it on, I say. When the serial killer with a social conscience is researching just how evil and warped his next victim is, he uses his Apple laptop from the privacy of his home. Imagine my surprise to see that accompanying him on his desk is a large Mdina ‘Fish’ vase. You can see it to the right hand side of our anti-hero in the image shown here. That the set designers have taste is beyond question – his 1950s Miami apartment is very well-appointed yet comfortable – but I think this shows a really impeccable eye.

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No, I haven’t lost my mind, it’s the title of what is perhaps my favourite piece of music by avant garde contemporary classical composer Michael Nyman. I’ve been listening to Nyman’s music since I was 16, when my school friend Simon and I first encountered his work. Thinking back, we must have been odd kids, I guess, when most of our peers were listening to The Cure. I was lucky enough to not only hear this piece of music conducted and played by the man himself, along with his really rather excellent Michal Nyman Band, but also to meet him in person. Much to my surprise, unlike many ‘artists’, he doesn’t shy away from the public or his fans. I was amazed to see him circulating and mingling with the audience both before and after the performance, and during the break. Call me a sad groupie, but the chance was simply too good to miss. I rushed over with my programme, mumbled words of apology and admiration, and he very kindly signed it for me in a truly flamboyant manner …

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Listen and learn?

I really do enjoy talking about the things I love. I just always hope that the people listening to me enjoy it too! Thankfully, that certainly seemed to be the case when I visited the Reigate Antiques Collectors Society in leafy Surrey yesterday evening. Societies are strange animals today. All too often superb events organised by what appears to be a thriving society only attract a very few members on the day, despite the fact that membership numbers are large. I should imagine that the increasingly busy lives we all lead today account for a large part of the reason behind this. I always think this is a shame, as those who don’t attend are sure to miss out. What I found in Reigate was very different, however. Over 70 members turned up to listen to me speak about new markets in 20th century glass. Not only that, but they were charming, enthusiastic, interested and inquisitive – they sure gave me a run for my money! I’m not complaining though. It’s always much better …

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