A real work of Art: Masterpiece

I’ve just returned from the first Masterpiece fair, housed in a purpose-built temporary building at the old Chelsea Barracks site in London. And what a super experience. Somewhat replacing the now defunct Grosvenor House fair, Masterpiece showcases the very best in art and antiques from top dealers across the world. As well as being rather dazzled by the fabulous pieces in the beautiful displays, I didn’t need to worry for my wallet as this was a fair where I knew temptation could never get the better of me! Despite this, I was surprised to see a few pieces priced in the low thousand and, although I don’t have any thousands, I know there are many who do. And seemingly lots of them turned up, from Mick Jagger and Giorgio Armani to thousands of lesser mortals like us. Early reports of trading were highly positive, perhaps proving that people are putting their money into fine things to enjoy for years, instead of the bank. With muted cheers and groans about today’s England vs Germany football match …

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Fagins Antiques Centre in Devon

When Kathryn and I were filming for Cracking Antiques, had we had homeowners in the area we’d love have to have found a place like this. If you’re in the area, Fagins Antiques in Hele, near Cullompton, is well worth a visit. Spread over three barns and 45,000 square feet, you’ll find a truly incredible selection of thousands of pieces of antique furniture that’s surely without equal in Devon. A 20 minute drive from the antiques hotspot of Honiton, you’ll find more than enough to help you to redecorate your home in the ‘Cracking Antiques’ way. From single chairs for under £30 to Victorian mahogany bookcases at over £300, paintings, mirrors, and even a stuffed labrador (!), there’s something here for everyone no matter how quirky or mainstream you are. You’ll find garden furniture outside, and go downstairs to find an astonishing amount of architectural fittings from doors to radiators to wall panelling. A side room also contains the fine fitted furniture of a old chemist’s shop, and there are a couple of racks …

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Talking to members of our lovely audience after Judith and my talk and valuation evening with the Torbay Bookshop, one couple told me about a treasure of theirs called the KlokHeta. Having had to admit that I had never heard of it, I asked if they could send me a photograph. And I’m so glad I did – what a wonderful thing! The shape and colours are quintessentially Art Deco, with their strong geometric angles, stepped motifs and dramatically contrasting black and red typical of the Jazz Age. It’s also interesting from a social point of view. With small room sizes in new unheated apartments, space was at a premium. This marvellous creation combined a clock with a heater in a recognisable ‘grandfather clock’ body and, most importantly, took up a minimum of floor space. I wouldn’t like to use the heating part in a home with children, but for me it’s the visual appearance that has the most appeal. It’d look stunning in an Art Deco or even a modern themed room. I’d easily …

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This evening Judith and I became veritable seaside artistes with an ‘Evening of Antiques’ at The Palace Theatre in Paignton. The event was organised by one of the UK’s leading and most successful independent book stores, The Torbay Bookshop, in association with Miller’s. We were hosted by the booksellers, the innovative and progressive Matthew & Sarah Clarke, to speak to an audience of over 70 about our experiences with, and careers in, antiques. This was followed with a valuation event, where Judith and I spoke about and valued antiques and collectables brought in by members of the audience. Facts (and laughs!) were a plenty, and the entire event lasted an enjoyable three hours. Judith spoke about her background in antiques crossing some three decades of experiences, and I spoke about how and why changing fashions and tastes are key factors affecting the values for antiques and collectables. Amongst the items brought in for us to appraise were a truly exceptional 1930s Goldscheider face mask by Lorenzl valued at around £2,000, an …

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Leaving Shepton Mallet behind us this morning, Judith Miller and I decided to drop in on Honiton on our way down to Torbay on the final part of our roadtrip. Honiton is legendary for antiques shops, with more than 20 occupying the high street in its heyday. When I worked at Bonhams the auctioneers, I was always terribly excited when the van from the regional office based there arrived at Lots Road, as it always contained exciting treasures to be examined, catalogued and sold. Things have changed a bit now, and we were told that the local council isn’t supporting the unique independent businesses that made Honiton what it was. As such, many had very sadly turned into dull chain stores making the high street look like any other up and down the country. Nevertheless, some brave traders have carried on the tradition, and it was a delight to browse packed arcades and antiques centres such as the Fountain Antiques Centre, Merchant House Antiques, Pilgrim Antiques, The Grove …

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It’s not all about antiques…

This morning was spent in a leisurely manner – much needed after yesterday’s mammoth, but highly enjoyable, Antiques Roadshow in St Fagans! Although I’m out of the office, work never ceases to follow me around the country, so a few hours were also spent catching up on Miller’s emails. My long car journey with Judith Miller from London to Cardiff on Wednesday had revealed that we were both enormous Gavin & Stacey fans, so we couldn’t possibly leave the Cardiff area without a visit to the legendary Barry Island! We simply had to see ‘what’s occurin’The sunny seaside resort was central to the series, so Judith and I made sure we saw every part that featured, from Nessa’s amusement arcade (above) to Marco’s Café, and the arcade where the hilarious and touching series ended. We even indulged in fish and chips under the arcade looking out over the beautiful bay. Well, that was until we got attacked by a flock of hungry seagulls and had to move indoors! I had …

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St Fagans Antiques Roadshow in Wales

After speeding back from the Lincoln Homes & Antiques Fair last night, and cleaning my two exciting purchases, I packed up my suitcase ready for a bit of an ‘antiques roadtrip’ with Judith Miller. First up on the agenda was the next Antiques Roadshow at the picturesque National History Museum in St Fagans, near Cardiff in Wales. Opened in 1948, the museum is open-air, and contains a number of original Welsh country buildings that have been rebuilt amidst the beautiful gardens of the manor house. Celebrating Welsh vernacular architecture, you’ll find everything from an 18thC tollhouse, to two watermills, a bakery, a working forge, and even a fully consecrated Medieval church. I only wish that I had had more time to appreciate them, as the queue of visitors was vast when we arrived at 8am this morning, and didn’t let up for the rest of the day. Still, everyone got to show their treasures to a specialist and, even better, the rain held off all day! My day started off particularly well, …

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The Lincoln Homes & Antiques Fair

I first went to the wonderful Lincoln Homes & Antiques Fair last year when Kathryn and I were filming Cracking Antiques for the BBC. I was so taken with it, and the enormous variety on offer, that our runner Simon had quite a task keeping me under control! Although I loved shopping with the Barkers and then the Couplands, I also wanted to shop for myself…I was quite sure that the sparkly thing I could see at the stand at the end was a gem waiting for me to discover… So I was delighted to find a window in my schedule to visit under my own steam today, and even more delighted to accompany Victor, my art expert and collector friend from New York, who was over for a visit. Annoyingly, the weather was somewhat ‘British’, and the train journey up was spent looking at rain clouds pouring their contents down on the countryside below. Sure enough, when I made it to the event, it was awash. Not at all good for dealers, or …

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Tatton Park & Brighton Antiques Roadshows

Phew – what a hot one! I’ve just got back from the Brighton Antiques Roadshow, where the blazing sun was as continuous – and welcomed – as the thousands who turned up today. This was my second outdoor event, the first having been Tatton Park last week. I always enjoy these more than indoor events when the weather’s as jolly as this, but I do feel slightly sorry for those in the queue. I always make sure my table is stocked with enough cold water and two chairs to give at least a little respite after standing for so long. I was on the Collectables table at Tatton Park, and the Miscellaneous tables today, so I’ve seen an enormous range of pieces from Victorian ceramics to snuff boxes to treen, silverplate, and even Pokemon cards! I did manage to film one piece today and, unusually for me, it was furniture. My lips are sealed – tune in to see what it was! One special collection sticks out in my mind however. Today, I was lucky enough to be brought a …

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