Since Graham Cooley and I launched the first ‘Fat Lava’ exhibition and bookalogue in 2006, West German pottery has gone global. We certainly weren’t the first to appreciate this quirky and often much-maligned pottery from the 1960s & 70s, but the combined event crystalised the market, which has grown and grown like Flopsy since then. One of the strongest forces behind this growth is Kevin Graham, who runs the Pottery & Glass Forum, and is the author and publisher of a number of invaluable specialist books on the area. He’s teamed up with retro dealer and collector Emiel Monnink of Retrominded to launch a fantastic exhibition in Amsterdam. Of course, there’ll be plenty of the mass-produced Fat Lava designs that so many of us know and love on display. However, as the title ‘More Than Fat Lava’ suggests, there more to it than that, as a huge array of German studio pottery from the same period will also be exhibited. This is the first time that these two facets of 20thC ceramic …

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Earlier this year, I was delighted to be invited to write for an exciting new magazine called ‘Antiques, Retro & Collectables‘. Especially as the roster of writers included talented specialists I worked with on Collect It! magazine, which had very sadly ceased publication a few months earlier. The opportunity of working with the much-loved and respected Eric Knowles, Tracy Martin, Sue Brewer, and Kathy Martin was too much to resist, and I jumped at the chance. There are two major differences between ARC magazine (as it has become known) and other antiques and collectables magazines – it’s online and it’s FREE to read. Each issue can be opened and read on screen using the latest in technology, or else you can download and print it out if you prefer to curl up on a comfy chair to enjoy it. But the technical whizzes behind it are working on that angle too – in a few months time, you’ll be able to download it to your iPad, iPhone or Kindle to …

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Salvo Architectural Salvage Fair

If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll no doubt have seen that I’m involved in the renovation of a late Georgian house in London right now. Although we’re not at the stage where we’re putting it back together yet, if I was I know where I’d be going for architectural features such as cornices, fireplaces, or radiators. Or else something quite unique, like a bright yellow remote-controlled mine disposal submarine, perhaps. I’d go to the biggest architectural salvage fair in the world – Salvo. Held every year in the beautiful deer park of Knebworth House in Hertfordshire, over 70 of the best dealers in salvaged architectural materials and antiques, garden antiques, and bygones gather for a weekend of super sales. It’s practical, affordable, and offers the best selection you’ll find anywhere in the country. And it’s green too – my friend Nigel at Antiques Are Green is also a fan, encouraging us to “invest in the future by recycling the past“. Very Cracking Antiques! Two particular pieces jump out at this year’s fair, which …

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A Design Surprise in Uruguay

Uruguay. It’s hardly a place where you’d expect to find much modern design, mid-century or otherwise. Or so I thought in my naïvety. My thoughts of a Cuba-like state of elegant disrepair were blown apart pretty much as soon as we landed. A swish and well-designed airport at Punta Del Este, and an even swisher taxi ride to our hotel past some of the most glamourous architect-designed houses that I’ve ever seen in one place changed that. And it didn’t stop there. We passed over staying in Punta Del Este itself, as it looked far too much like one of those southern Spanish seaside resorts with hotel towers built right up to the seafront. Instead, we were booked into the ‘last room available’ in the much smaller La Barra. It might have been the last room available, but luck was behind us. Casa Zinc (above) is owned by one of the country’s top interior designers Aaron Hojman, and it shows. Just click on the link to see for yourself. His photography is …

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Even though Buenos Aires is well known for its amazing Art Deco antique shops, I was a little surprised to stumble across this teapot nestled amongst ceramics and glass on one stand. French Art Deco is plentiful, but British Art Deco is slightly harder to find there. At first glance, it looked like an Susie Cooper ‘Kestrel’ shape teapot, from the 1930s-60s, decorated with the early 1930s ‘Wedding Ring’ pattern. The knop on the lid and the lip of the spout seemed right. But, hang on a minute, the colours look wrong, and it just doesn’t seem ‘right’. Picking it up confirmed my suspicions – it was also much lighter in weight than I’d have expected. Turning it over revealed why – it wasn’t a piece of Susie Cooper at all. Rather than the usual printed mark, there was a small red printed circular mark reading ‘FABRICADO A MANO JAPON’. Most ceramics made in Japan for export from the 1930s-60s are made from a lightweight, delicate bisque, so that accounted for the weight. Japanese makers also pillaged British and European …

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Taking advantage of the two long holiday weekends, the banker and I decided to blow some of our carefully amassed air miles and seek out some sun by flying to Buenos Aires and Uruguay for a Spring break. We first visited this amazing city three years ago, after hiking the Inca Trail for four days. You can read about my experiences by clicking here and here. This time we were there purely for rest and relaxation. The chance to visit a city for a second time is wonderful, as you don’t have the pressure to run around like a headless chicken to make sure you see everything people have told you about. First up on our agenda was a gentle wander around the ‘antiques district’ of historic San Telmo. Last time, I was staggered by the fantastic quality and array of Art Deco objects on offer – and their prices! Bargain hunting this was not. Although the best in Art Deco, and Art Nouveau, was still …

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Working with antiques, vintage and retro, it’s all too easy to forget the artists, artisans and crafts people of today. Their work will become the antiques of tomorrow, and there’s no better time to learn about their work than now – because one can find out about their journey, inspirations and techniques as they happen, direct from the proverbial horse’s mouth. All-important stuff. The Crafts Council’s annual ‘Collect’ fair, previously held at the V&A, and now at the Saatchi Gallery, is perhaps the best event in London to peruse the wonderful array of artworks in ceramic, glass, jewellery and more. I was lucky enough to be invited to the opening this year by Jasper Dowding, an innovative and progressive glass designer and maker who I first met last year at the Ajeto Glassworks in Novy Bor, in the Czech Republic. After talking with him across an evening, I became a huge fan of his work, which combines traditional high quality Czech cutting and making techniques with a strong contemporary …

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The popular seaside town of Brighton is well known as being both funky and fashionable, with a strong retro and vintage trend. It’s packed with a variety of great shops from Snooper’s Paradise, The North Laine Antiques & Flea Market, and In My Room in the North Laines, to Brighton Flea Market and InRETROspect in Kemptown. And these are only a few of my favourite places to track down a bargain – there’re plenty more to discover! There are also a couple of fairs, the best known having moved from the station car park to the marina. BUT – surprisingly, there’s never been a dedicated vintage, retro and 20thC design fair…until now… My friend, the innovative and progressive Chris Marks, has just founded Umbrella Fairs which holds its first fantastic ‘Brighton Retro Fair’ on Saturday May 14th at the Brighton & Hove City College on Pelham Street. Dozens of the best vintage and retro dealers from across the country will gather here, right in the heart of the trendy North Laines, from …

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