Last night I was the auctioneer at the sale of these rather unusual looking clocks. From 1971 until the ‘Big Bang’ in 1986, they presided over deals worth billions and billions of pounds, as they hung in the trading room of the London Stock Exchange in Threadneedle Street until the mid-1990s. Just think for a moment about the deals these would have witnessed, from the days of the gentleman banker Siegmund Warburg to the swash-buckling corporate raiding of Lord Hanson. But they’re not just iconic pieces from the decade that brought us red braces and the Yuppie, they’re important from a design perspective as well. Made by renowned Italian company Solari, they were designed by Gino Valle in 1956, and won the prestigious Compasso d’Oro award. Known in a James Bond stylee as ‘CIFRA 5’, they’re also rare examples of a digital display where the numeric flaps move on the horizontal (from side to side), rather than flipping down. After being found by creative director Mark Lawson Bell in a railway arch …

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Over 50,000 View Fat Lava Film On YouTube

The number speaks for itself. The first ever film dedicated to fabulous Fat Lava ceramics has been viewed on YouTube over 55,000 times – and counting! I don’t need to tell you that this is a truly staggering amount that just goes to show how this movement is moving and shaking the world of 20thC decorative arts. It was filmed at the first ever exhibition of West German ceramics from the 1960s-70s, held at the King’s Lynn Arts Centre back in Summer 2006. Lavish panoramas of the exhibition are combined with stunning detail shots and interviews with the owner of the collection, Graham Cooley, a number of dealers, and me. The full version, running to 16 minutes, can be bought on CD by clicking here. Otherwise, you can join the 55,000+ who have enjoyed the short 4 minute version by clicking here, or viewing the video below.

STOP PRESS – YOUR HELP IS REQUIRED! This video could not have been filmed, and neither this landmark exhibition nor the book could have happened, without …

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Calling ALL Czech Glass and Fat Lava fans – your help is needed. And all it will cost you is a few moments of your time. Last week we heard the shocking news that the King’s Lynn Arts Centre is being threatened with closure by the local government. But, if you don’t live in King’s Lynn, why should you care? In short, none of us would have been able to enjoy and benefit from either the exhibitions or books for Fat Lava or Hi Sklo Lo Sklo. Without the incredible support and foresight of Liz Falconbridge and her team, none of these breakthrough events could possibly have occurred. As well as providing an invaluable and irreplaceable venue for the local community from its beautiful buildings, some dating back to the 15thC, the centre has also arguably affected the the world of collecting and the decorative arts globally. If you sell, collect or love Fat Lava or Czech Glass, just think where we would be without the exhibitions or books. If you do …

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The 16th Cambridge Glass Fair

I can’t miss it, and nor should you. I’ve just got back from the Cambridge Glass Fair which was as marvellous as ever on its 16th outing. Held in the picturesque and pastoral Chilford Hall Vineyard, over 200 of the country’s great and good glass dealers gather to offer you over 300 years of collectable glass in one day. If you haven’t been before, check out their website, and click here to watch a YouTube video of a previous event and see what goes on. Although there were slightly fewer visitors than normal, I noticed quality and variety was particularly high this time around. Wandering around the fair tweeting about what I found always makes me look especially closely. Paul Anderson, a relative newcomer compared to some, had some particularly interesting high quality and scarce Czech, Scandinavian and British glass – and all at reasonable prices. I don’t know where he finds it, but he certainly has a superb eye. Mike & Debby Moir’s stand looked as …

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Visiting the LAPADA Antiques Fair

Hot-footing it back from yesterday’s action packed and exhausting – yet highly enjoyable – Antiques Roadshow at Winchester Cathedral, next up on the agenda was a visit to London’s prestigious LAPADA antiques fair in Berkeley Square. Although no nightingales were singing, there was plenty to entertain, tempt and fascinate. I was joined by Judith Miller and our Roadshow colleague and good friend Steven Moore, who is also Senior Specialist at premier regional auction house Anderson & Garland. Exhibitors in the smart pavilion, attended by handsome doormen in top hats and tails, certainly didn’t disappoint. The somewhat dark photo above shows Judith and I in front of  stunning selection of postwar Czech glass at Jeanette Hayhurst’s stand. This must be the first time this glass has been seen at such a prestigious fair, and it just goes to show how far this glass has come in the past few years since the Hi Sklo Lo Sklo exhibition. As one would expect, only the best was available, with pieces by now much-respected names such …

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Antiques Roadshow at Winchester Cathedral

I was instantly transported back to my childhood. And it made me smile. Relatively late in the day at today’s packed Antiques Roadshow, a very kind and friendly couple showed me something they had bought for their children back in the early 1970s – a Corgi Magic Roundabout Playground set. I was never lucky enough to own one of these but, then again, I was rather bemused (perturbed even?) by Zebedee, much as I loved Dougal and Ermintrude. These sets are eye-wateringly rare today. Costing £13, they were expensive at the time and playtime led them to become worn, damaged, or broken up – or all of that. So, condition and completeness are the key criteria for those that survived. In truly superb and complete condition, these sets can fetch anything from £600 upwards – nostalgia is a key driver in so many collecting areas, and never more so than with classic TV or film memorabilia. Although complete and clearly looked after, this set did show signs of play-wear. The box had faded and discoloured …

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There seemed to be quite a lot of these at the excellent Alexandra Palace Antiques Fair today, and prices certainly seem to be on the up. Although £10-15 will still buy you an appealing but more common piece of Scheurich or Bay, the smart money should be put at something a bit more pricey that really shouts ‘Fat Lava’. Something by Roth, Otto, Jopeko, or Ruscha, for example. Expect to pay anything from £40 upwards, although lavishing around £150 will still buy you an excellent example. Still cheap as compared to Doulton or Worcester, say. My new friends Marion and Neil, who I met at the excellent Dulwich Ceramics & Glass Fair earlier in the year, had a selection that was arguably the best in the house. Even though I did buy something small from them, I found my bargain of the day elsewhere. Although ‘Fat Lava’ is the style everyone’s looking for, don’t ignore West German ceramics from the 1950s. I’ve only ever seen the colour-tastic decor shown above on …

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A Broken Pontiff?

In honour of the Pope’s visit to Great Britain this week, I thought I’d post this. Browsing eBay one evening last week, I came across a rather interesting piece of studio glass. The seller had described it correctly up to the point where he or she mentioned the fact that it had a ‘broken pontiff’ mark on the base. Rather than a damaged Benedict XVI, I presume that they meant a broken pontil mark. Shown here on the base of an Italian filigrana vase, this mark is left during the production process when the piece is snapped off a solid iron rod known as a pontil rod. After a piece of glass has been blown and manipulated to the desired size and shape on a blowing iron, the pontil rod is attached to the base of a piece whilst it’s still hot using a blob of molten glass. The blowing iron is then snapped off what will become the top of the piece. This allows the rim, and possibly others parts, to be opened up and finished off. …

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While travelling back down to London from yesterday’s Antiques Roadshow, I was keen to stop off at the Perth Museum & Art Gallery before boarding my plane at Edinburgh. Firstly, I’m helping with an exciting event there next year and wanted to see what it looked like (more about that later!) and, secondly, I knew that there was a superb collection of Monart glass there. Well, I wasn’t disappointed on either front! The grand and imposing building is smartly laid out in a modern and professional manner with everything from furniture to silver and pictures. Friendly, knowledgeable and approachable staff are happy to help. And there was even a superb Andy Warhol exhibition that I couldn’t resist spending time perusing! But back to the Monart glass. Three large cabinets contain excellent examples of this extravagantly decorated glass made from 1922 at Perth’s Moncrieff glassworks. Dynamic colours, speckled and mottled effects, and sparkling aventurine dazzle the eyes, with many of the objects on display being both fine and rare. The exhibition is arranged chronologically, with each of the cabinets …

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Two Norwegian Peg Tankards

Although I didn’t film anything at yesterday’s Blair Castle Antiques Roadshow, I was lucky enough to find a great many fascinating and desirable things to look at. Amongst them were these two wooden lidded tankards, owned by a lovely old lady in a wheelchair. She and her husband had been given them as a wedding present over 50 years ago and, although she loved them, she had no idea what they were or when and where they had been made. I was delighted to be able to tell her that they were ‘peg tankards’, and probably dated from the late 17th or early 18th century. Made in silver or wood, they got their name from a series of pegs fixed into the interior at regular intervals. After being filled with beer, ale or cider, each drinker would drain enough beer to reveal a peg, and then pass the tankard on to their friend – and so on. These two were probably made in Norway in the late 17thC, but these vessels were also produced across Scandinavia and in a number …

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Antiques Roadshow at Blair Castle

Yesterday saw me travel to my penultimate Roadshow – in Pitlochry, Scotland. After a couple of hours worth of delays on Sleazyjet due to a faulty plane, I found myself driving Judith Miller, Lennox Cato and Rupert Maas through the stunning Scottish countryside to the pretty town of Dunkeld. Our hotel (where I’m sitting typing this) was nestled in a picturesque valley but, with only moments to spare before dinner began, we had to rush straight off to Blair Castle, the venue for both our dinner and the Roadshow. We were lucky enough to dine in the ballroom, and were treated to haggis and beef as we sat amidst ancestral portraits, Landseer paintings, and what must have totaled a few hundred stag’s heads! Today saw the Roadshow itself, and the image above shows ‘the calm before the storm’ at 9am this morning, just before the gates opened to let our increasingly long queue in. The picture below shows the event still going strong at 3pm when I managed to sneak off …

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Mid-Century Modern & Mad Men

I absolutely love Mad Men, the American TV show about the life and times of Don Draper and his busy New York advertising executive colleagues during the 1960s. Everything about it, from the opening credits to the suits to the room interiors, screams the mid-century modern and Eames-influenced design of the day. And it’s incredibly accurate and detailed too! It seems I’m not the only one who loves the style of the clothing – the unique look of the series even led Brooks Brothers to release a limited edition ‘Don Draper’ suit late last year, and it sold out almost immediately. High fashion has been forcibly smartening up men over the past few years, and the High Street has been quick to follow. Wives, girlfriends and partners the world over must be delighted! Smart shoes instead sneakers, stylish or statement watches instead of sports watches, and sharply tailored suits instead of t-shirts and jeans, are all in vogue like never before. Not only that, but I think the flawed and masculine Don Draper character …

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