This month’s edition of BBC Homes & antiques magazine contains a fantastic article on elegant vintage barware. As ever, the specially commissioned photography is fabulous, and the text is filled with facts and, as one would expect with this subject, fun. The majority of the article covers the vintage cocktail shaker, something I hold close to my heart, as well as shake in my hands. It’s a glamourous subject that isn’t often covered, so this issue makes and excellent buy. Read on for articles about vintage handbags by Judith Miller, ski posters by Katherine Higgins, and coverage of the Antiques Roadshow at Abbotsford in the Scottish Borders.

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Abstract Soviet-style vase

Very early one cold, windy and rainy morning this Autumn, I found this vase at a fair in the South of England. Against the grey day, it did rather stand out. I automatically presumed it was postwar Italian from fifty paces, so honed in to have a closer look. Whilst it looked like the type of thing produced in Soviet Russia during the 1920s & 30s, upon closer inspection the quality and style of decoration didn’t quite match up. Perhaps it was some commercially oriented ‘rip-off’, produced in a factory in another Eastern bloc country like Poland any time from the 60s onwards? Or maybe it was the work of some small ceramics company somewhere, made in the past couple of decades by someone who was inspired by a book on Soviet ceramics? The mark on the base, a basic dash of the brush, meant nothing and was almost applied so that it was at least ‘marked’. Having never seen one before, and as I rather liked its colourful …

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Fat Lava on TV

Tipped off by a good friend who knows how I like to spot things I’m interested in on TV, I watched a couple of episodes of the very amusing new BBC Two comedy ‘Miranda’ last night. And sure enough, the Fat Lava vases I was promised were there. The series details the haphazard and hilarious life of Miranda, a 34 year old singleton who runs a joke and junk shop in leafy Surrey. And it’s not just her shop that’s filled with vintage gems – all the sets, including the restaurant next door, are bag up-to-date with a very contemporary mix of antique, vintage, retro and modern.

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…said the lady behind the desk of the antiques centre I was in as I plonked it in front of the till. Perhaps she was right. It wasn’t a shape I immediately recognised, and it had a cut and polished scooped rim that I’d usually associate with Scandinavian makers. Still, even if it was a piece of Orrefors or something, £10 didn’t seem bad at all. There was something about the colour though, I could swear it was Whitefriars. After handing over my crisp tenner, I drove home mulling it over. Did I really need another vase, especially one that I only ‘quite’ liked? Also, I don’t collect Whitefriars anyway, even if I am right about the colour and the characteristic nicely polished concave pontil mark. Books are an invaluable thing. Within seconds of flipping through Lesley Jackson’s excellent tome, I found it. I was right. It doesn’t look much, especially if you prefer something more jazzy and colourful. Designed in 1957 by Geoffrey Baxter, it represents both the popularity of Scandinavian glass at the time, and the …

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Friends Doing Well – II

Back in January, I was delighted to come across my friend and old Sotheby’s colleague Sara Covelli and her new business Covelli Tennant. This week another one of my old friends and erstwhile colleagues at Sotheby’s, James Bridges of Martel Maides in Guernsey, hit the news. Undertaking a house contents valuation for a Channel Islands family, James found three Chinese famille rose porcelain bowls; a pair of the bowl above, and the single one below. Their six-character marks identified them as being from the Yongzheng period (1723-35) and these marks did indeed represent the period these bowls were made in. This gourd and bat pattern (above) is extremely rare, and represents a long, rich and happy life. A single bowl bearing the design sold at Christie’s in 2006 for over $700,000. Understandably, James and Martel Maides had high hopes for this pair! Catalogued by consultant expert Julian Thompson, and with an estimate ‘On Request’, they sold at a stunning £1.02 million. The single bowl (above), …

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