Mark Hill signing his new book on modern Czech Glass

On February 26th 2017, I launched my latest book, Sklo: Czech Glass Design From The 1950s-70s. It is a revised and considerably enlarged version of my bestseller Hi Sklo Lo Sklo: Postwar Czech Glass Design from Masterpiece to Mass-Produced, which I published in 2008 and which sold out two years later. I was delighted to be asked to launch it at the Cambridge Glass Fair, the premier fair for vintage, antique and contemporary glass in the UK. As ever, the fair didn’t disappoint, with hundreds of visitors queuing at my stand across the day to buy a copy of what had apparently become a much-anticipated release. The fair also didn’t disappoint in terms of the truly vast selection of glass available for sale. It really is “three hundred years of collectable glass in one day”, as the organisers state – there’s something for everyone. I managed to buy a few superb pieces for stock and a few little treats for myself, despite shelf space being so very limited! The day was made even more special as my …

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Ten years ago today, the first retrospective exhibition of West German ceramics of the 1960s & 70s, featuring the Graham Cooley Collection, closed at the King’s Lynn Arts Centre. Over 500 ceramics were included, and over 3,500 people came to visit. It was accompanied by a catalogue of the same title, written by me, of which three editions, totalling several thousand copies, have now sold out. Together they launched ‘Fat Lava’ into the world. As well as bringing these ceramics together for the first time, the exhibition and book also revealed factory and designer names, ranges – and the sheer variety available out there. Since then, the term has gone on to become commonplace in the retro, vintage, collectables and antiques world. No vintage or 20thC design shop in the Western world worth its salt hasn’t handled at least a few, or has some in stock, and there are dozens of specialist dealers – and many thousands of collectors. Fat Lava has been featured in prestigious interior design magazines from Elle Decor to World of Interiors, and pieces …

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Millers Collectables Price Guide 2016

Now in it’s 27th year, the all new edition of the Miller’s Collectables Handbook & Price Guide is hot off the presses, having been published this week. I say all new, because every edition is entirely new – over 4,000 completely different collectables hand-selected by Judith and I are featured in glorious technicolour in this 432-page book. This means that every edition builds to create a unique library of collectables from across the world. Each and every item is accompanied by a price guide, a full description and often extra information, expert opinion, and tricks of the trade to help you become a canny buyer and seller. Features such as ‘Judith Picks‘, ‘Mark Picks‘, ‘A Closer Look At…‘ and ‘Miller’s Compares‘ enable you to learn more about why one object can fetch ten times the price of a (seemingly) similar one. Forthermore, hundreds of footnotes draw more of the veil back, giving easy to understand and practical tips on buying, selling – and spotting a bargain. All the collectables featured are taken from verified dealers, auctioneers and …

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Last year, I was delighted to be asked to contribute to South Korea’s bestselling travel guide to London. Just published by Wisdom House, British Classic is a beautiful and weighty tome packed with lavish, specially commissioned photographs showing London at its best. It’s a book that will tempt and tantalise before you travel, as well as being an essential companion on holiday. Written by Nari Park, chapters include ‘Royal Heritage’, ‘Afternoon Tea’, ‘Green Spaces’, ‘Antiques & Vintage’, ‘Pubs’, ‘Sports’ and ‘Behind Classic Icons’ and show many of the different facets of British life in our capital city. I think you can guess which chapter I contributed to! Each chapter begins with an interview with a specialist in that area where they reveal their ‘secret’ tips for shopping or visiting sights, their personal thoughts on the area, and their opinion on the state of that particular area right now. Apart from the obvious destinations, I was able to mention a number of my favourite haunts, including Grays Antiques, Alfies Antiques, Portobello …

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“Mid-century modern. Give me a break. It’s soooo last year” A largely incorrect phrase I hear disturbingly often. So you wouldn’t think yet another book should be published on the subject. Well, think again. Mid-century modern maven Catriona Gray has teamed up with Octopus Books to produce a unique compilation of original period photographs plundered from the influential House & Garden magazine. Add to that a foreword by the legendary Sir Terence Conran, and you have a book that is sure to delight everyone from interior designers to hardcore design collectors. Rather than present the furniture, furnishings and decorative objects of the day floating against a white background and allied with explanatory text about designers and styles, the colourful photographs in this book allow you to see how these pieces were grouped together in domestic interiors. This is important for a number of reasons. Firstly it allows us to see how the designers and stylists of the day intended pieces to work together. How many vases to display on a shelf? Where were they placed …

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I’m a great believer in supporting self-publishers. After all, I am one myself. So I was delighted when New York-based antiques journalist Amy Gale contacted me offering a copy of her new book, ‘Shows, Shops & Auctions‘. Gale is a prolific American writer, researcher and journalist who has written columns and articles for many notable antiques and interiors publications including the Maine Antique Digest, Antiques & Fine Art, Antiques & Collecting Magazine, Antiques + Auction and Antique Week. Her book is effectively a compilation of selected columns and articles from some of these, bolstered with new hitherto unpublished articles. I think I’d like to meet Amy. She sounds like a canny, clever and communicative type, as well as one who has experienced many more areas of the antiques world than most people. I bet she has a great many more tales than she packs into this nicely sized book. But, on the whole, what she writes isn’t very cheery or positive. I’d advise anyone who is thinking of going into the antiques business to read this book and …

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On my recent trip to Dublin to talk at the Irish Antiques Dealer’s annual fair, I picked up an interesting book on the €1 vintage book stand at the Dublin Flea Market. Called ‘Antique Dealer: An Autobiography‘ and written by R.P. Way, it was published by Michael Joseph in 1956. I thought anyone who was old and experienced enough to write an autobiography then must have begun dealing around a century ago. And sure enough, I was right. Reginald Way was the son of John Philip Way, a Bristol-based antiques dealer, and was born in 1893. He began working in his father’s business in 1910 and saw it change dramatically over the next four decades with the arrival of the motor car (and how that changed browsing and shopping habits), two world wars and economic depressions. It’s a fascinating tale that’s written in a lively manner as if Mr Way was recounting it, pipe in hand, while sitting in a leather wing armchair in front of you. I can’t find out how long after 1956 he …

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A few months ago, I published a post about some exciting new Italian ceramics by the mysterious ‘Flower Painter’ that I had found. You can read the post by clicking here. As they sadly didn’t reveal the identity of the designer or factory, but just tantalised with more clues, I set the challenge of finding out more. A number of you very kindly got back to me with different names found on similar ceramics in your collections. These included ‘Milvia’ and ‘Simo’, the latter found by George from Virginia, USA on a vase. I’m usually very suspicious about names signed in the image on Italian ceramics, mainly as they were usually simply put there to add value, making the vase look ‘artist-signed’. The most notable examples of this were made in San Marino. Although I can’t find anything more out about Simo (yet?), Milvia ‘has legs’. A little light research shows that the name also appears on a range of tea towels produced in 1973 for a homewares company called Zucchi …

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One of the great pleasures in life is browsing a secondhand bookshop. That joy of coming across a book that you didn’t even know existed, and that raises a smile or piques an interest can’t be matched. The experience can’t be replicated with eBooks either. One of my favourite places to browse is Judd Books, on Marchmont St in Bloomsbury, London, as it is always packed-to the gunnels with fascinating titles new and old. Last time I was there I picked up a copy of Tanya Harrod’s landmark book on 20thC crafts in Britain, and this time I found a curious little book from 1948 called Homes Sweet Homes by Osbert Lancaster. Apart from the jaunty cover, anything written by someone called Osbert has got to be read, hasn’t it? First published by John Murray in 1939, it covers 34 different styles of interior design throughout history, from Norman to Functional via Tudor, Early Victorian, Greenery Yallery, Edwardian, and Cultured Cottage. Each style is detailed with a few humourous, often acerbic, paragraphs of text and a simple …

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It’s pretty typical for really rather good things to appear and come in just after I’ve printed a book on them. And, typically, those pieces answer a question that I hadn’t been able to solve before printing the book. In this instance it concerned Alla Moda, my new book on Italian mid-century pottery. My keen-eyed friend Kevin Graham, of Fat Lava and Pottery & Glass Forum fame, spotted this vase on etsy and told me about it. I’ve very rarely spent £29 faster! The American seller knew that it was by Fratelli Fanciullacci from the label on the base, which has a prominent ‘FF’ logo. As readers of Alla Moda will know, the company is really rather important, and the yellow painted marks are usually another indicator of a Fanciullacci piece. But what interested me was the rest of the label, as it helps to answer what the numbers painted on the base may mean. ‘Art.’ must be article, so the shape of the object. ‘Cm.’ …

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Just because something is rare, it doesn’t have to be expensive. High values come from a mercurial combination of condition, age, rarity and the ever-present law of supply and demand. So I was delighted to stumble across this curvaceous Dartington storage jar for £22 at last week’s National Glass Fair in Birmingham. It was designed in 1967 by Frank Thrower, co-founder and sole designer at Dartington Glass until his untimely death in 1987. It’s shown in the very first, hand-drawn catalogue, and is numbered FT18. Dartington numbers were applied to shapes consecutively, which helps to date them to a period or, in the early years, often a year. Frank was inspired by Scandinavian glass of the 1950s & 60s, but also took some inspiration from 18th and 19th century glass and other, highly diverse forms and themes. Part of his brilliance lay in knowing what the market wanted, what it would pay, and taking all these inspirations and combining them with a quirky British twist. But not everything worked or proved popular, and it’s often …

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The Portland vase is one of the most famous pieces of glass in the world, and is also amongst the oldest, finest and most celebrated. Made in ancient Rome around AD5-25, it can now be seen in the British Museum, having previously been in many prestigious collections. Collectors who owned it before 1810 include (in reverse order) British aristocrats, an ambassador, a dealer, Italian cardinals, Popes, and an Emperor. It was also famously lent to Josiah Wedgwood, who finally successfully copied it in his famous Jasperware ceramic in 1790, after four years of experimentation. Reproductions or copies in glass are considerably scarcer due to a combination of the material and the complexity and difficulty of the casing and the cutting. It’s hard enough to make the blank successfully, let alone complete the cameo carving with the finesse and detail of the original. Only a handful of glassmasters have taken on the challenge and achieved it successfully since Roman times. These include Philip Pargeter and John Northwood, who completed their £1,000 prize-winning replica by 1876, Benjamin …

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