An Ambleside Treasure at Auction

Steven Moore, my good friend and Antiques Roadshow colleague called me yesterday. He is Senior Specialist at Newcastle’s Anderson & Garland auction house, and had spotted something in their general auction today that he thought might interest me. And indeed it did – very much. Regular readers of my blog or Collect It magazine will know that I’m rather fond of Cumbria’s Ambleside Pottery, which sold primarily to tourists to the Lake District from the from the 1950s-80s. It was founded by George Cook, who produced all the designs and ran it until he sold it in 1968. His hallmark range was decorated with black and blue matte glazes which were then scratched through to reveal the underlying white clay. This ‘sgrafitto’ technique has been used for centuries, but there’s nothing else traditional about his designs. From Modernist geometric lines to stylised leaf or bud-like designs that echo the work of Stig Lindberg and other Scandinavian Modern ceramicists, his patterns are firmly rooted in the 1950s & 60s. The design …

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You see something new and unusual once, and it sticks in your mind. By the time you see it a third time, you’re thinking that there’s something more going here than a chance encounter. I’ve collected etchings since I was a geeky schoolboy, when I used to visit a couple of dealers in Guildford’s town centre during free periods and lunch hours. As my budget expanded, I was able to leave cheap ready-made frames, mount board and a Stanley knife behind, and have my affordable treasures framed professionally. Over the past two decades my collection has expanded and developed, and now many of my walls are carpeted with etchings from the 19thC onwards, from huge to tiny, portrait to landscape, frilly gilt frame to modernist black frame, from £1 to £30. A few I regret buying a little, but it’s the ones I remember not buying that I regret the most! I’ve always thought that they made a really affordable way of decorating your walls in an individual and unique way – after all, just think what a mass-produced poster …

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I spent yesterday at the excellent Ardingly antiques fair, with my dear friend and Cracking Antiques co-presenter Kathryn Rayward. With the sun in the sky, only a few clouds in site and a small but comfortable sum of money in our pockets, a-hunting we went. And, as ever, Ardingly didn’t disappoint. I was also there to take photographs for an upcoming Cracking Antiques inspired article for the November issue of Collect It magazine, so was on the look out for bargain furniture from Victorian to retro. With Kathryn’s brains to pick, and her experiences to learn from, we had a bumper day. I managed to buy a 1960s Thomas Webb glass vase, designed by Stan Eveson in 1961, within minutes of entering the fair – I thought it was a bargain at £10. It should fetch at least three times that much! During the next two hours, I spent a further £32 (£2 over my day’s budget!) on three more items, but I want to do a little bit of research before I tell …

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Surrey Book Signing at Garsons Farm

On Saturday, it was back down to Surrey for me, as Kathryn and I were invited down to Garsons Farm in Esher, Surrey. We had been asked to open their fantastic annual Food Fair, and sign Cracking Antiques books. Blue skies and blazing sun greeted us – as did a car park packed with cars and peckish visitors. Founded in 1871, Garsons is still run by the same family who founded it and, as well as a beautiful garden centre of truly epic size, it has the largest pick-your-own fruit farm in the country! Here you can see Kathryn and I in the fruit and vegetable shop, with owner Peter Thompson on the left, and fair organiser and manager Nigel Chandler on the right. Garsons is an enormously popular venue at any time of the year, but the food fair is particularly crowded – as we were soon to find out. Warm welcomes were extended, and Nigel kindly took Kathryn and I around the fair to introduce us to the stallholders. It was …

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Hatfield House Antiques Roadshow

Phew – what a busy day! I’ve just got back from today’s Antiques Roadshow at the beautiful Hatfield House in Hertfordshire. For once, the location was within easy striking distance from home, so I was able to come back to relax tonight. However, I’ll miss discussing the exciting treasures everyone unearthed across the day over dinner with my colleagues and friends. Despite the wind being strong and gusty, and the threat of rain, thousands turned up once again and kept us all busy with interesting stories and fabulous or fascinating (and often both!) objects. I managed to film three things today, comprising a collection, a single piece of ceramic, and a very interesting and unique item. What were they? Well, you’ll have to tune in this autumn to see. As ever, I enjoyed every moment of what was a very long day – and the last Roadshow I’m involved in before the Summer break. My next, and final, Roadshow for this series isn’t so close to home though, as it’s in Blair Castle near Pitlochry in …

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I always enjoy visits back home to see my parents – not only because I get the chance to see and catch up with them, but also because I can return to my old antiques ‘stomping ground’. Times have changed, and many of the shops I used to love hunting for treasures in as a teenager have now sadly closed. Today, arguably the most convenient and best place for me to go is the country town of Dorking, nestled under the beautiful South Downs. Head to the antiques hub in West Street, but don’t forget the three or so charity shops dotted around the town! It’s also worth checking out if auctioneers PF Windibank or Crows have an auction or a view on, and the neighbouring Dorking Halls is often host on Sunday to Margaret Browne’s antiques fair. As well as a number of shops specialising in everything from scientific instruments, clocks, antique lighting, and desks, there are a few superb antiques centres that I always look forward to visiting. The first …

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My good collector friends Kath and Eddie, who I first met at the first Fat Lava exhibition organised by Graham Cooley in 2006, are lucky people. But then they also work jolly hard at finding the most amazing pieces and researching them, so they deserve it. I have to admit to turning a rather strong shade of green when I saw Eddie’s latest discovery. You can see it above, and I think you’ll do the same! For those of you who don’t recognise it, it’s a Scheurich ‘Wien’ (Vienna) shape floor vase, designed by A. Seide. Produced both with and without a handle, this example is numbered 428-65. What makes this one both rare and highly desirable is its VAST size! They’re not particularly hard to find in smaller sizes, but huge ones such as this are very rare indeed, meaning few can have been made, and even fewer can have survived domestic accidents such as over-enthusiastic hoovering! It measures a staggering 66cm (42in) in height, and has a girth of 106cm (42in) – here’s …

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I spent last weekend in Paris and, unusually for me, I didn’t intend to spend any of it in collectors fairs or junk or antique shops – even though the vast wonders of Clignancourt were hardly far away. Much as I love my job (which actually makes up most of my life), we all need a break from time to time. One place I did intend on visiting was the fabulous, and little-known, Gustave Moreau Museum in Montmartre. When I studied History of Art & Architecture at university, I wrote my dissertation on this superb late 19thC artist, so spent many a day studying his paintings and the thousands of preparatory drawings displayed in his custom-built gallery and museum. I was keen to revisit it and spend some peaceful and unpressured time reacquainting myself with his work. Gustave Moreau (1826-98) was a French Symbolist artist who, after studying with Francois-Eduard Picot and copying the Renaissance greats in Florence and Rome, focused on painting mythological and biblical stories and characters. His finely detailed, jewel-like works …

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Carnival Glass: A Family Visit

Along with so many more traditional collecting areas, Carnival glass seems to have fallen largely out of fashion over the past decade. This is both a shame, as I think it’s a fascinating and visually impactful area, and a wonderful opportunity as falling demand has led to lower prices, making it much more affordable. Visiting my parents last night, I met some old lovely friends of theirs from New Zealand – Max and Christina. Lively conversation soon turned to collecting, as Christina is both a studio potter and a collector of Carnival glass amongst other areas. Trips abroad for so many of us collectors can turn into shopping trips, baggage constraints considering, and Christina was no different. She visited the excellent Battlesbridge Antiques Centre in Essex, and came back with this frilled dish to add to her collection. I’m usually used to seeing pretty standard marigold dishes, but this was more than that. Made by Fenton in the US, the pattern is known as ‘Ribbon Tie’, sometimes ‘Comet’, and is typically found on dishes and …

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One of the many, many aspects of being lucky enough to participate in the BBC Antiques Roadshow that I enjoy the most is the travelling. Not so much the typically poor service from Virgin trains, or the traffic jams on the M1, but the wonderful locations selected by the production team. This week’s Roadshow was no exception, and had to be one of the best I’ve experienced so far this year. We visited Hutton-In-The-Forest, near Penrith in Cumbria, the ancestral home of Lord & Lady Inglewood, whose family have owned this ever-expanding building since 1605 (and I don’t mean five past four!). Even then, the house had been around for ages, with the protective Pele Tower dating back to around 1350. As well as a friendly, welcoming and delicious barbecue the night before the event, we were lucky enough to be taken around in small groups by Lord Inglewood on a private tour of the house and its many treasures. But it’s not just us who benefit, as it’s got to be better standing in a …

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