Of course it had to be a chequered flag – a stylish and perfectly suitable opening to the Antiques Roadshow at Brooklands motoring and aviation museum in sunny Surrey today. As soon as it was dramatically swept down, thousands of visitors, excitedly clutching their antiques and collectables, made their way to the tables of waiting specialists. It simply could not have been a better day, with the sun in the sky and smiles on faces. Of course, some smiles were even wider as people left! I was manning my usual post on the many Miscellaneous tables alongside Hilary Kay, Paul Atterbury, Judith Miller, Jon Baddeley, Katherine Higgins and Max Donnelly. Although I didn’t manage to film anything this time around, I saw some mighty fine pieces ranging from pop memorabilia, to Clarice Cliff ceramics, to an 18thC scarifier (look it up!) – and even a mummified cat!

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Just one more thing…

…before we move on from Fat Lava. Many collectors choose one shape, and then try to find as many different glazes as they can on the same shape. In the past year, Graham Cooley has found 136 different glaze treatments on the popular Scheurich 401 jug vase – he and independent filmmaker Nigel Edwards of Inhouse TV have just produced a unique 2 minute video showcasing this collection within a collection. You can see it below – well done Nigel & Graham!

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Fat Lava II Exhibition

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, …

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Fat Lava II is here

It’s finally here! The second, revised and expanded edition of Fat Lava has finally arrived! After a couple of glitches, a long lorry drew up outside today to deliver a palette of boxes. The moment it did this, the clouds opened and the rain poured down. With no trolley, each and every box had to unloaded by hand – thankfully the delivery driver was patient! On the other hand, he had his warm and dry cab, while I soaked myself to the bone. Come an’ get ’em! If you’d like copy, visit our shop to place your order and pay now. The first edition sold out in just over 18 months, so don’t miss out! I’m now all set for the opening of the second Fat Lava exhibition at Mid20C in Reading, Berkshire, on Saturday, and the month of online events that follow it. For more information, check out www.fat-lava.org. I hope to see you there!

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Journey’s End…

…and I inadvertently saved the best for last. Before I travel anywhere, I always spend an evening trawling the web for places to visit. This time I found a new gallery, Gallery 567 on Benczur Utca, which I hadn’t come across before and looked right up my street. Open by appointment only, it’s well worth waiting for and I really can’t recommend a visit enough. The owner, Peter Langh, is the perfect combination of charm, knowledge and experience. And as we know, collecting is a disease (albeit a nice one!), and Peter has it bad! He started collecting seven years ago and has built what has to be the best collection of postwar Hungarian ceramics, glass and furniture in the country, which is augmented by examples from Czechoslovakia, Poland and other old Eastern Bloc countries. Backing this up is a huge reference library, and Peter sure knows his stuff. I spent nearly three hours browsing thought his vast basement emporium, even purchasing a piece or two that I …

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Back in Budapest

Spurred on by yesterday’s success, I went once more into the sun to find more bargains in Budapest. I spent quite some time doing this in Summer last year, and you can read about my experiences by clicking here. One of my first targets today was the chain of state-owned ‘BAV‘ stores that sell secondhand, retro and antique goods. The branch on Frankel Leó Utca in Buda is particularly good and always worth a visit, selling everything from the 1800s onwards. Here’s a view of the interior to give you some idea of the variety available. The cabinets in the middle of the picture made me smile, as they were packed with modern Czech glass. Not a place to barter, I noticed prices had risen markedly since the last time I was here. Still, it was great to browse around and see what others were buying, even if I couldn’t find anything I simply had to have. In Pest, the branch on Bécsi Utca is always worth as visit, as is the …

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Hard Trading

This bank holiday weekend, I find myself in Budapest, where it’s very warm (32 degrees) and very muggy. A quick lunch after touching down left me ready to hit the shops. First stop was Kiraly Utca, where I had been into a truly superb (and also truly tiny) shop specialising in 20th century ceramics and glass last time I was here. Having chatted with the owner then, he told me he had over 3,000 pieces at home and changed his stock regularly. You can imagine my disappointment when I found his shop had been replaced by a building site! Asking around, it seemed he had gone away late last year, and nobody knew where.

My face didn’t stay long for long – wandering back towards my hotel, I spotted this rather sizeable treasure in a shop that sold everything from bicycles to computers and ceramics. The heavily smoking shopkeeper told me the price was 50 euros, or roughly 15,000 Hungarian Forints. Keen not to appear too keen, I browsed some other interesting pieces before asking the price again – 80 …

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René Roubicek Photograph

Browsing around my favourite hunting ground, Past Caring in Islington, with a TV film crew today, I stumbled upon this incredible photograph. Although it might not look like much, the rather strange piece of glass the young man is looking at is a postwar Czech masterpiece. Simply titled ‘Object’, it was designed in 1960 by legendary designer Rene Roubicek, and made by Josef Rozinek at the Borské Sklo factory in Novy Bor. it was first exhibited at the Milan Triennale in 1960, and went on to become an icon of the revolution in Czech glass design that occurred after the war. Photographs of such items are not at all common, and this looks to have been professionally shot, taking into account the dramatic angle, viewer’s expression, and the reflections in the cabinet’s glass front. Totally unmarked, its origins are a mystery, although it may have been a press photo for the Milan exhibition. If you can shed any light on it, and who shot it, please let me know.

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Fat Lava in Canada

On my many visits to Canada, I’ve always been delighted by the enormous level of interest in West German ceramics of the 1960s & 70s. The country was a major export market for makers such as Bay, Scheurich and ES Keramik, and Fat Lava has become a firm favourite amongst collectors there. My good friends Conrad Biernacki and Brian Musselwhite of the Royal Ontario Museum are fans, as is dealer Holly Gnaedinger of the wonderful ‘Twice Found‘ in the trendy Mirvish Village district of Toronto. Although a busy schedule meant I never got to meet him after having spoken a few times, I heard great things about another dealer by the name of Marten Augsten. Naturally I was delighted to see that the Canadian ‘National Post’ newspaper had recently covered his gallery, aptly named the Rogue Gallery. Click here to read the article, from where this image is used with thanks. While I’m on the subject of Fat Lava, it’s only a few weeks until the ‘Fat Lava II’ extravaganza launches. Kicking off on 30th May with …

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World Record Price For Mdina

The Mdina Glass ‘Crizzle Stone’ signed by Michael Harris – rightly dubbed the Holy Grail for many Mdina collectors – being offered by Artius Glass on behalf of a collector has sold. And it stormed home, selling for a staggering £3,400! Representing the apex of collecting, less than a dozen are currently known to collectors, with only one of those being signed by Michael. This example was in the most desirable green and ochre colourway, with a nice, clear signature on its base. Developed from the iconic ‘Fish’, this treasure was brought to light after the vendor saw an episode of the BBC Antiques Roadshow, where my colleague Andy McConnell valued an unsiged example in brown and ochre at £1,000-1,500. Whoever the buyer is, they have my sincere congratulations – it’s a cracker!

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Founded by the indomitable Pat Hier in 1991, the National Glass Fair rapidly grew to become a firm favourite fixture on the calendar of any glass collector worth their salt (or sand). When Pat retired last year, the event was unsurprisingly taken over by glass fair supremo Oxbridge Fairs, run by my good friends Paul Bishop and Christina Glover. Best known for founding the immensely popular Cambridge Glass Fair, they both weaved their magic once again at the latest event held yesterday at the National Motorcycle Museum near the N.E.C. in Birmingham. Divided across three rooms, one could literally progress from Roman glass in the first to studio glass produced last year in the third. That is, once you got there – the fair was packed! Although I was still firmly in the land of nod, I was told that the early morning queue to get in stretched around the block. Even when I did arrive, there was a lively thrum of activity, with the odd crowning sound of cheery laughter. Us glass …

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