Journal

04 December 2015

LOOKING FORWARD

Events and exhibitions somehow dictate the pattern of our professional lives and the New York Winter Antiques Show is one of only two shows that we participate in outside our building in Battersea. Since the summer we have been selecting the works we plan to exhibit there in January, photographing, conserving and cataloguing them.  This week we have finalised the documentation, the consignment has been collected and is now being prepared for shipment. Our catalogue has gone to press. Experience tells us that this means Christmas is near, as our minds concentrate on the shop again for a while.

We re-stocked and styled yesterday and brought in two lovely Christmas Trees from our garden today, (the same two that we had in the shop window last year and which have flourished and grown since then for another month in the limelight), the fire is lit before 10.00am every day, as our “Signature” scented candles gutter away quietly and the Quaker longcase clock ticks peacefully and strikes on the hour, it is a pleasure to be here.

There is currently much speculation about the future marketing of art and antiques, with discussions around the costs and merits of retail premises, art fairs, the internet and exhibitions.

Before settling down to update this journal, we have had three visitors today. One who brought some interesting pieces to show and offer us, a client who came to look at a particular piece he had discovered on our website and the third who came just to see what was new. Between them they were here for four hours. It has made for a busy day, juggling their visits with a list of unfinished jobs, but these days are what everybody here works for.

We select, source, and conserve old things, pieces that we believe have significant qualities, interest or merit, in order to display, share and discuss them with people who drop by and find a space unlike any other. A place where they can look at, handle and chat about what they see, what they like and don’t like, what they cherish and what they collect and dream about finding. We learn from them and hopefully they from us. That is why we’re open and why we believe in the future of shops and galleries.
 

12 November 2015

A CLOSER LOOK AT A BRANCH AND SIX PLANKS

ONE BRANCH, a good eye and a naturally inventive instinct, are the elements that led to the creation of this unique sweeping brush.

Swedish and dating from the later-1800s, it is an inspired example from the colourful history of Swedish design.

No extraneous ornament, no fuss, just the vision to identify the form of a natural branch and translate it into a functional object.

Works of folk art were often born of necessity, yet fashioned with such sensitivity and ingenuity that they appeal to generation after generation and outlive their owners and creators by centuries.

Unique by definition, practical and still functioning perfectly, well over a hundred years after it was made………. and it makes you smile. I think most designers would be happy with that!

 

SIX PLANKS, a top, a bottom and four sides, that’s all it takes to make a chest, so what makes it special?

This ancient example was made in Northern Sweden from fine, hard, slow-grown alpine pine.

It is hard to date accurately, but it certainly dates back to the 1600’s, which we know from the form, materials and construction.

It is fashioned from massive well-seasoned, riven planks, averaging close to 3cms thick.

No cut joints, dovetails or adhesives were used in its construction. The base and all four sides are simply overlapped and fixed with large square wooden pegs and re-enforced by the original metal brackets towards the top.

The large hand forged metal strap hinges, corner brackets, small drop ring handles, triangular escutcheon, internal lock and key, are all original.

The surface is dry, raw, untouched, almost like driftwood and there are enticing remnants of the original paint, now worn and faded with age, which has developed a wonderful almost contemporary abstract appeal.

The sides are slightly tapered, with the base being wider than the top, which in conjunction with the robust construction and the “in use” wear is evidence enough to suggest that it was made to serve as a bench seat as well as a storage chest.

Internally, it is fitted with a candle box on the left hand side and a taper till on the right hand side, and that is that.

Swedish design is recognised for its spare economic lines, its sensitive minimal qualities and an understated elegance, from the Baroque period through the Gustavian era and right up to the Mid-Twentieth Century Modernism. Pieces of this nature are from the roots of that tradition, which can really be traced back to the Vikings.

This is a powerful object, almost monolithic in appeal, yet of comparatively small scale. The materials themselves are magnetic and temptingly tactile, the natural raw timber with its traces of paint now softly worn, but left to age gracefully with no “improvements” or interference throughout multiple generations. The functional hand wrought metalwork draws the eye and is integral to the design, due to its scale, colour and exact positioning. These are the qualities that make it special and lend it a natural, albeit inanimate, charisma.

A model of simplicity that lives on as an heirloom, some 400 years after the maker selected his timber and created it with rudimentary tools, patience and talent.

The next chapter in their journey will be to travel to New York City, to be exhibited at the Winter Antiques Show in January 2016. So life goes on.


 

20 October 2015

World of Interiors, November 2015

The current issue of the World of Interiors, probably the world’s most respected and influential Interior Design related publication, contains a ten page feature on a Charles II period London house that we at Riviére Interiors were commissioned to renovate and re-decorate.

This was a wonderful commission, as the house itself was still in a largely original state, certainly in “rescuable condition” and the clients were keen to respect its original features and qualities and to get it back to something like it was meant to be. We took paint samples from various places in the house to learn what colours and paints had been used over the years and where possible we sourced genuine re-claimed materials and largely furnished the house with period furniture and objects.

We uncovered original features and details and filled in gaps where necessary. We also played with the layout of the garden and working with historic design principles, laid it out as it may originally have been, with a courtyard nearest the house, a pleasure garden, kitchen garden and a rose/scented garden and small pavilion furthest away from the back of the house. We researched what trees and shrubs may have been available in late C17th England and where possible used mature examples of these, certainly for the “structure” of the landscape.

But the real joy was the enthusiasm and confidence we enjoyed from our clients. They made a long process fun to be a part of, whilst concurrently living in the house for over three years with the noise, dust, materials and chaos of builder’s and decorators all around them.

They are collectors in the real, passionate, old fashioned way. Enchanted, interested and seduced by both beauty and history. They have a wide range of interests and do not have eyes for only one period or medium, so the house reflects them.

Ultimately it is always people that matter most. Those who create and those who recognise creative talent, both the art of their time and from the past.

It is because of such people, over the history of mankind, that we can all continue to enjoy and be inspired by the magic of the works they treasured, cared for and left behind them.

 

 

 

02 October 2015

AUTUMN

Watery sun, colourful crispy leaves, log fires and the new RYA Catalogue.

We have taken delivery of the first load of logs into the shop, the leaves are beginning to scatter and blow on the pavement and our next Catalogue #43 has gone to press.

All this means that Autumn is here and in spite of the wonderful Indian Summer, all our thoughts and plans begin to turn back indoors, towards our homes.

Our Catalogues make great Autumnal fireside reading, and are full of pictures. We recommend enjoying them slowly, with a good glass of wine or old malt whisky.

Please email us if you would like to receive the forthcoming E-Catalogue, due towards the end of October.

24 September 2015

GENUINE INDIVIDUALITY

Early Windsor Chairs have a timeless appeal.

There is something about the unique individuality of early, "one off", primitive examples that appeals to scholars, collectors and designers alike, to the extent that they have really become the icons of the British vernacular furniture tradition. The history of the name "Windsor Chair" is uncertain and for our purposes somewhat irrelevant.  What we want to consider is what it defines and what makes an example special.

Primarily “Windsor” is now the established term used to describe chairs and stools that are constructed by socketing turned legs, splats and spindles into a solid plank seat. It is that simple.

"Windsor" does not signify a specific regional origin.
Early chairs generally finish in a “comb” or shaped cresting rail rather than the later curved bentwood upper bows. However many do have bentwood arm-bows, as well as hewn single piece arms and are also constructed from either two or three pieces of timber joined together to fashion arm bows of various sizes and forms, most typically from the West Country of England.

So what do we look for, what are the magical qualities that lend these chairs such aesthetic charisma?  Primarily it is about design.
Does a chair have individuality, something that separates it from the ordinary? For example a particularly well-defined and deeply saddled seat; an interesting outline to the superstructure or cresting rail, generous arms, or interesting arm rest supports, unusual shape and good height to the legs, great scale and proportions, well figured timbers or original paint surface, evidence of use and wear, these are the qualities we look for. Since they are so simply constructed, it is amazing to witness the variety of shapes and details that exist and how they share a powerful sculptural quality.

The definition of their form is simply described by the series of finely turned spindles, framed at the bottom by a single plank and at the top by a shaped single rail, this simplicity is what makes them so economical in design terms and timelessly complimentary to almost all interior spaces.

The best ones have a kind of personality about them, a genuine individuality and understated presence. Like people, we don’t all like the same ones, but we all tend to respect the most attractive, honourable and dignified.

 

 

 

18 September 2015

COPPER IS KING.

Why are some weathervanes so much cooler, sculptural and ultimately more valuable than others?

Full bodied examples are invariably more powerful that the flat silhouettes.

Zinc and galvanised metal examples are more common in the French and American traditions and are invariably later works, which can have extraordinary appeal and great surface.

Ferrous metal examples were usually originally painted or gilded, but again due to the nature of the material they gradually oxidise, rust, lose the painted or gilt decoration and form a new entirely fortuitous surface, which can be both interesting and attractive, particularly when placed out of context and juxtaposed with clean lined modern materials or wall finishes.

But copper is the king. Copper is soft and workable, so great full bodied shapes could be readily fashioned and beaten out to create broad full bodied forms and etched with detail.

Better still when exposed to the elements it creates an exciting Verdigris patina, probably the most attractive and desirable of all natural finishes on original works of early exterior Folk Art.

Nature never re-creates the same colour, finish or patina. Each example is different. Some wildly green or blue in tone, some with patches, some with blotches, some with runs, dribbles, stains or streaks.

It is simply the wonderful, haphazard, abstract nature of the surface and the honest primitive forms that make the best examples desirable and now so sought after by many collectors of contemporary art.

They always say that the world of fashion and taste goes round and round in cycles, just like weathervanes.

 

 

 

11 September 2015

A CLOSER LOOK

BRUSH CHAIR BOX

"Something about Aged Paint on Old Wood”

Colour brightens our lives, individually we are attracted to and have preferences for some colours over others and accept that generally life would be very dull without colour.

To some degree this feeling and sensitivity to colour is at the heart of the creation of what is now categorised as “Folk Art”.

We know that paint has long been used to protect wood from the elements, on houses, boats, waggons and carts, signs, furniture, utilitarian and domestic implements.

Using paint in any circumstance offers an opportunity for creativity. The selection and combination of colours, method of application and design. So over the years, working artisans have left their individual mark on many things which still represent their individuality and vision.

It needs to be recognised that in the past the availability and cost of painting materials inevitably influenced the choices and range of colours and finishes available, but even allowing for these constraints some great artworks and objects survive, which are now celebrated for their inherent artistic integrity and visual strength.

But there is another vital ingredient that needs to be considered, which is the qualities that develop to the painted surface with age and use.

Paint hardens with age, (particularly oil and casein bound paints), and the surface softens to a smooth silky surface with regular handling and wear; or develops a crusty texture when left exposed to the elements, variable temperatures and humidity.

Colour also fades over time, as the natural pigments become absorbed into medium and binders and are exposed to daylight, cleaning and handling. Paint colours also become less consistent and even.

There is something about aged paint on wood. Something satisfying about the subtlety of colours, the areas where the paint is worn so thin that the timber grain peaks through and where nature has conspired to create a blend of colours and surfaces that could not have been envisaged when the paint was bright, fresh and new.

When you see and feel a genuine old, untouched, original paint surface it is always unique and seems to tell a story.

We are attracted to and fascinated by such silent, unspoken stories and we spend much of our time looking for the pieces that tell them.

Stories of different times and places. Personal, occasionally intimate stories, that have not been heard for many years.

 

 

03 September 2015

“A CLOSER LOOK”

What’s the Score?

Matching Set of Six Queen Anne Period Dining Chairs.

When people visit us here in Battersea, they frequently like to touch and handle the pieces we have on exhibition, but also enjoy discussing the pieces that attract them.

I find myself in much the same position when in independent wine shops, where I love to chat and learn from specialist merchants who know the vineyards and wine makers. I enjoy their knowledge and understanding of the “terroir”, the climate of the vintages and its effect on the flavour or body of the wine, the grape varieties and blends. I learn more about the wine from them than I ever could just from a label and it often greatly increases the pleasure when tasting or drinking it.

There is a similarity in the art and antiques world, for example I used never to listen to the audio tapes at museum shows and exhibitions, but now find that there can be parts of the narrative that enhance my experience and help me see or understand or look at works in a new or different way.

A long standing client and regular visitor to our shop, recently suggested that it would be interesting to read our comments about the pieces we have, in much the same way as we would chat about them here, so we have decided to start posting some notes, here on our online Journal, under the heading “A Closer Look” and plan to do it regularly if the initiative generally meets with your interest. So any feedback will be gratefully received.

Last week we looked at a Georgian period vernacular table and so I thought it appropriate to now look at some early chairs.

Many early furniture enthusiasts have a real soft spot for chairs and I think this is possibly because unique individual characteristics are often most evident in them. Chairs and stools probably have the hardest life and get the most wear of all the furniture forms. They are handled, moved, dragged, tilted and lent back on in a way that case and occasional furniture has not normally been subjected to. This tough life can lend great surface, patina and sculptural individuality to them, but also inevitably genuine old chairs may bear scars and bruises, some will also have suffered structural damage, so they warrant a closer look, as originality and condition are significant qualities to consider when looking at all vernacular furniture.

The things to look out for particularly are a loss of height or subsequently built up/restored feet; loose joints to joined frame constructed chairs; loose spindles or socketed arm or upper bow joints in Windsor style chairs; damaged or replaced stretchers and shrinkage splits to solid seats. Once a chair has loosened it tends to rapidly deteriorate and the subsequent necessity for restoration becomes more involved and complicated.

So with this in mind, it is easy to understand how unusual and exciting it is to find a genuine matching set of chairs that are now just over 300 years old, still in original and strong functional condition!

The design of these chairs is a kind of hybrid combining elements of the late C17th William and Mary style, as seen in the turned leg joined frames, “Braganza” feet , framed and panelled seats and the more elegant Queen Anne period details of the classical baluster splats and double domed crest rails. However the most immediately noticeable feature are the wonderfully bold, turned central stretchers, which with their horizontal three dimensional form are compatible with and complimentary to the flat graphically strong silhouettes of the vertical baluster splats above. The chairs are constructed from excellent quality oak and there would have been considerable wastage when turning these stretchers, to allow for their generous scale. Framed panelled seats are also a fine quality feature in C18th provincial chair making, and were introduced to allow shrinkage of the plank seats. The panels being set within the frame and never glued, pegged, nailed or fixed, allowing it to move freely without splitting.

Therefore we know that these chairs are fine examples, both from their style , material and construction, but what really makes them special is being a complete matching set, their originality, and most importantly their colour and surface. These qualities are much sought after in all aspects of vernacular furniture and folk art. Great surface, both texture and colour are hard to define. It can be raw, bleached and weathered; crusty and rough with old remnants of historic paint or richly burnished, deeply patinated and “nutty”, but it has to be real, un-interfered with and irresistibly tactile. We all somehow naturally recognize great surfaces when we see them and these chairs boast a wonderful “skin”, with the deep slightly red tone to the ancient oak timber, the surface well softened by years of handling and enhanced by historic oil and wax finishes, which have built up a lustrous polished surface.

Another visitor to the shop likes me to try and score items we have on a scale of 1-10, also much like wine writers do sometimes. This can be a testing process as we try only to source special or unusual examples and vernacular pieces tend to be unique, yet my analysis has to be reasoned, informed and comparative. So I have to go back to the reasons the piece excited me enough to buy it and then think back as to when and where I have seen vaguely comparable examples and how their features and qualities compare. Then I realised of course that subliminally I do the same thing every time I look at pieces and if the invisible score is high enough then we try and buy the piece in question.

I believe that the qualities that need to be considered to arrive at an overall score are as follows; Material/Medium, Period, Quality, Look, Scale, Style, Condition, Rarity, Character, Originality, Colour and Surface. It is hard to bless something with a perfect 10/10 and I’ve often wondered how expert figure skating and diving judges are occasionally brave enough to do so, particularly when some of the elements they are scoring are so subjective. I am also an optimist and always hope that somewhere sometime we will find something we consider better than anything we’ve seen before. But in the meantime and back to this set of chairs, I believe they meet the highest standard in the categories I mention above, but in order to leave the pleasure of one day discovering an even better original set, I’d theoretically score them at 9.9/10.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

20 August 2015

Simply an Old Table

Sometimes the simplest forms and most economic lines lend a confident understated presence to a piece of vernacular furniture. We recently discovered this unusually refined and seemingly simple farmhouse dining table and were immediately taken with its form and details.

The three plank cleated top is unusually fine and thin, which in combination with the generous overhang at each end creates a sense of elegance not normally associated with such a sturdy working piece.

The classic joined frame, with pegged mortice and tenon detailing, is created with a slightly inset frieze rail, which creates exciting touches of light and shadow in each corner. The rectangular “H” stretchers and square section legs, also lend a subtle sophistication to the design and the end stretchers mirror the frieze rail by being inset by the same distance.

There is something satisfying about the scale and relationship between the upright rectangular stretchers and the robust, geometric, almost architectural square legs, which is enhanced by the height at which the stretchers are joined to the legs, giving it a "leggy coltish" feel.

Each joint is pegged, including the stretchers, the long joints with a double peg and the shorter ones with a single peg. It is these details of construction and design that define the quality of a piece and separate the best from the ordinary.

Then there is the scale. This is a generous and elegant six seater, yet looks tidy and of diminutive proportions, due to the well drawn design. It can stand comfortably in a small space and would still be functional to prepare food on, to dine at and at other times or in different circumstances, would make a unique and stylish writing desk. It is also bold and confident enough to command attention and be comfortable in a large open space.

It is created entirely from solid English oak which has developed a characteristically individual surface. The top has a slightly paler honey coloured surface, due to years of assiduous cleaning, scrubbing and being washed with daylight. Whilst the frame and stretchers are slightly warmer, more richly patinated and nutty in colour, as they have acquired a surface skin from smoke, steam, handling and polishing over generations. These qualities are hard to imitate, they are individual and unique.

Sometimes it can be rewarding to look at things a little more closely, to identify the elements that make them interesting, unusual or somehow special and satisfying. After all this is simply an old table, but do you see how cool it is now?

30 July 2015

Well it has been a hectic and rewarding summer.

Firstly our building and renovation project here in Battersea is finally complete. We have added an extension to the rear of the building at first floor level, completely renovated the old shell of the building and modernised all electrics, lighting and heating. We designed and built a new shop front and have finally hung up our RYA trade sign on the old wrought iron bracket. We are all safely back in the office and the shop is open again Monday – Friday 9.30am – 5.30pm. For the time being we are not re-opening on Saturdays, because after nearly 25 years Odette has finally retired and we are waiting until after the summer holidays before recruiting a re-placement “Saturday person”.

Jen also left us shortly before building work started, as her husband was posted to Switzerland and they and their two boys moved over there. We loved having her back again and all miss having her around. We will also be looking to recruit someone to replace her in the early autumn..

We have had an exciting couple of months and are pleased to have received several awards during the summer of 2015.

Firstly Robert won the Antiques Young Guns Founders Award for his role as “the most outstanding and ongoing contribution”, as Mentor of the Year, to the young, dedicated and talented Swedish Furniture specialist Daniel Larsson. The Antiques Young Guns movement has proved a popular and effective initiative and during 2015 expanded its reach to the United States, where they are also planning a mentoring programme as for the nominated winners of their first annual awards. Robert meantime is continuing his association with Daniel and will be working with him again at the Malmo Fair at the end of August, where in respect of his growing international reputation Daniel has been elected onto the Advisory Board.

At the beginning of July, House and Garden Magazine published their internationally respected 2015 List of the Top 100 Interior Designers Robert and Josyane are listed as a New Entry for their “sought after” design consultancy Riviere Interiors. Having previously been listed by the Financial Times, it is always exciting to be recognized by design industry insiders and journalists for our interior design work. Design is inevitably somewhat subjective and also subject to the vagaries of fashion, so it is pleasing to continue to attract recognition and some critical acclaim for our work.

We also enjoyed showing for the sixth consecutive year at Masterpiece London, we have exhibited at Masterpiece since its inception and have enjoyed watching it grow into the country’s most significant and stylish Art and Antiques Fair. This year we enjoyed even more visitors and sales than in the preceding years, as well as winning the Masterpiece Highlight Award for works of Vernacular and Folk Art, for the remarkable large blue painted, primitive Base Lute that was exhibited at the front of our stand.

For their 7th July “The Country Home” sale, Christie’s at South Kensington featured Robert as part of their “Tastemaker” initiative. Robert was interviewed and photographed in the illustrated catalogue which also included some “Get The Look” images. The auction included several works of naïve and folk art, alongside some vernacular furniture, treen and metalwork, so it was an appropriate publication for us to be involved with. The internet is making the art and antiques market place ever more accessible and we believe there is a valid place for both auctioneers and dealers to exist happily side by side. There are many enthusiastic and knowledgeable people working within our the industry and it seems that a spirit of co-operation can only be a benefit to all. Mark Stephen and Simon Green of Christies South Kensington are both well known to us and regularly vet with Robert and Josyane at leading antiques fairs in specialist disciplines including folk and naïve art, vernacular and painted furniture, treen and base metal wares and we consider them friends as well as valued colleagues. As independent dealers, we are though privileged to be able to individually select the pieces we handle and represent.

Robert is also honoured to have been elected Vice Chairman of the British Antiques Dealers Association. This venerable body of the industry’s leading dealerships, is nearly 100 years old and is currently Chaired by the energetic Chairman Michael Cohen of Cohen and Cohen the leading Chinese Export ceramics specialists. Michael is ambitious to modernise, restructure, and make the association more relevant to the 21st Century art and antiques market. BADA have already introduced some exciting new initiatives and are already working on plans and ideas to expand and update the association. Robert is delighted to be involved in helping to realise this vision.

Finally and just the day after Masterpiece closed, Robert and Josyane flew off to the Rockies in Wyoming, where they enjoyed the untamed mountains, plains, rivers and prairies, spent glorious days fly fishing for wild trout and enjoying the landscape from horseback, whilst also benefitting from the lack of WiFi and mobile phone connections. It is a place and lifestyle that helps us to put things into perspective and blow out some cobwebs.

We hope that you our friends and clients will also be able to enjoy some precious rest and recreation somewhere away from your normal daily lives, to recharge and feel excitingly alive.

 

 

02 June 2015

Masterpiece London, in just a few years, has established itself as the pre-eminent Art, Antiques and Design Fair in the UK.
We have participated since its inception in 2010 and have enjoyed seeing it grow its international reputation for showcasing some of the most interesting, unusual and spectacular art available on the world market.
Unlike old fashioned and traditional antique shows, Masterpiece has no boundaries in terms of dateline, material/medium or scale, it simply sets out to celebrate excellence.

Originally we felt that there was something a little awkward about the name of the event, but it has somehow just become synonymous with the show and its brand, so our vernacular pieces seem less vulnerable to being categorised as masterpieces and rather are able to breathe and be celebrated for the inherent qualities of their originality, surface and design.

We believe it is a wonderful forum to present and exhibit the finest and most exciting works of Folk, Naïve and Vernacular Art and for them to be shown alongside significant pieces by some of the great names from the history of art and spectacular examples of contemporary art and design.
So each year we try to source special pieces for Masterpiece and hopefully things that are fresh to the market.

This year we have been privileged to acquire works from three British private collections, including this iconic pair of continuous arm West Country “Yealmpton” Windsor armchairs, from a Cornish Private Collection. They are of classic form and closely similar to a documentary example found in the Gatehouse, Lanhydrock House, Bodmin, Cornwall, (illustrated and described in Bernard D Cotton, “The English Regional Chair, ACC 1990, page 276, Figure SW46).They date to c.1815 – 30 and both retain much historic painted surface. Cotton states “This design is described within the American tradition as the ‘continuous arm Windsor’, since the arms and back and back are made from a single cleft segment of wood, bent to form an attractive flowing line, resulting in a style of great elegance.” They are a rare vernacular type, apparently only created in the West Country and particularly in and around the village of Yealmpton, Devon. 

These two armchairs are the finest examples of their type that we know of and certainly that we have had the privilege of handling. They benefit from fine sinuous lines and deeply saddled seats, have great integrity and originality and remarkable colour and surface.

We have kept them aside to exhibit at Masterpiece London 2015.

 

 

08 April 2015

The Catalogue for our forthcoming Exhibition of Folk Art is now being printed and will be sent out in a couple of weeks.

We are coming into a busy period as we think about moving back into our renovated gallery at the end of April, to install and curate the 2015 Folk Art Exhibition, whilst concurrently preparing for Masterpiece London.

We have some rare and extraordinary works included in the Exhibition and others already put aside for Masterpiece London, many of which are entirely fresh to the market, with direct Provenance to remarkable Private Collections.

It is really rewarding and a privilege to handle pieces from these connoisseur collections, pieces that have been individually, passionately and rigorously selected and which have not been on the market for a generation or more.

Almost all the pieces from these private sources are special in some way and have great qualities. Several can fairly be described as “best” examples in their field.

Please sign up on our mailing list here, to receive news and updates, or for a copy of our forthcoming exhibition E-catalogue.

 

 

31 March 2015

Wind and Rain on our Journey.

There’s always something. Today it’s the wind, rain last week, and always the dovetailing of trades to work successfully side by side. However, all being well we are still aiming to re-open at the beginning of May and to be able to curate this year’s Exhibition in the re-modelled shop.

We are doing major structural and remedial work to the building, putting in a new shop front, modernising the services, re-doing the tired roofs and constructing a first floor level extension to the maisonette above. Even whilst updating the showroom lighting, we are very keen to retain the original atmosphere and style of the shop itself. The hand painted fireplace and distemper walls in the middle room, the original floor boards and terracotta tiles, the paint decorated and textured render in the back showroom and in the new window display area, I even plan to hand paint the Tree Design, (which I originally created for the British Interior Design Exhibition in 1991 and also had in the window for several years during the 90’s), of which we found traces of when stripping out. It is all very exciting.

We have missed the shop. Normally, we all enjoy our time working in our little Design Studio we have round the corner. It is a perfect place to come and do research, write catalogue captions, use the “library” and internet, we even have a sofa here, but it is not normally as crowded as it is currently, the phone didn’t used to ring so much and the shop was round the corner with its familiar filing system, log fire and coffee machine.

The reason we felt that now was the time to invest in the shop is because we have noticed and enjoyed people increasingly coming to visit us, to look at things in the flesh, touch and even smell them. It is the part of the art and antiques business that we have always enjoyed the most ourselves, the discovery, handling and chatting about the qualities of great old things.
It is also true, that like most “lifestyle” businesses, we are now conducting a remarkable percentage of our business online, using images and words alone.

Indeed we have been amazed at how many enquiries and sales we have received and made working from the Studio, in our current “shop-less” situation, but still we long to get back and start afresh in our long established shop/gallery space. Back where we enjoy the comforting habit of the rituals of opening and closing, chatting with our visitors, neighbours and window cleaner, enjoying our pieces displayed in balanced compositions around us, effectively lit and commanding their own space, with the luxury of being able to scoot off to the Studio for some peaceful and creative time and on buying trips!

So as this year’s Exhibition approaches, (and we can only simply remain hopeful that the shop will be ready in time), we continue with our planning. The draft of the Exhibition Catalogue was put to bed this morning, so it is now on its way to the printers, as our thoughts wander on to Masterpiece London and the next stage in our annual cycle.

All is the same, but somehow very different......just as it should be on any good journey I suppose.

24 March 2015

The A, B, (and multiple) C’s of mentoring.

It sounded so simple, just meet a young professional antique dealer, share a couple of days work, chat together, see if there is any advice you can give and maybe help them on their way. It looked like an opportunity to put a little something back and maybe help avoid some of the hazards put in the way of all young dealers.

The problem is that we are Antiques Dealers. We are independent, creative, restlessly demanding of ourselves and always aiming high. So once I’d agreed to do it, I wanted to do it well. But I didn’t know how.

I made an outline plan and draft agenda, before meeting my mentee. The first steps had been to investigate D Larsson Interior & Antik. Who were this young couple? What were their ambitions? What were their achievements, qualities and style and what opportunities were open to them? What nature of clientele were they hoping to attract ? Also what may they be lacking that could threaten their future success or impede them from achieving their goals or realising their vision?

You can get a good idea about dealers from the way they present themselves, their stock and their business and can discover a lot between the lines. We are in a visual industry and accustomed to judging pieces from images and dealers from the way they present their things. So I had built up an idea about them, before I made the connection. The story of that first encounter was written in my previous Journal entry of 3rd Sept 2014, entitled “LUCK, CHANCE, HAPPENSTANCE and ....INFORMATION”.

Now we are several months further into our association and as I suspected, the mentoring exercise has been at least as positive for me, as I hope it may have been for Daniel and Cristina.

Antique Dealers do not usually have the attributes common to management consultants, accountants, serial entrepreneurs or internet whizzes. Generally they are not really natural business people at all and few enter the trade with money or financial success as their primary concern or ultimate goal. It is a curious psychology that makes up a successful antique dealer and the component parts are usually a blend of passion, instinct, energy, creativity, an obstinate determination and the desire to make it alone, by backing their own judgement.

So Daniel and I were two of the original guinea pigs in the AYG initiative and we have plotted our own course. Recently this has grown to include our wives, (both also our respective business partners and integral to our businesses). As I mentioned before, the development and fruits of our association must remain private between us, but a few things have emerged that I would like to share and I hope may be useful to future mentors and mentees.

After days of non-stop and frank conversation, (bordering on what a successful antiques dealer colleague once described to me as “analysis paralysis”), we have established the A, B,(and multiple C’s) of mentoring and in so doing have managed to identify where there are faults and opportunities in our businesses. So instead of the story of our recent trip to Sweden, I thought I would simply share the core elements we identified as being beneficial to establishing and maintaining a small specialised antiques business in a confused and challenging market. Frankly these principles are as important to us, (after close to forty years trading), as they are to Daniel and Cristina in the formative years of growing D Larsson Interior & Antik.

There is no way round the absolute need for knowledge, this is the tool for which there is no substitute. Eye is subjective and impossible to analyse, but never to be underestimated. Vision is the unique idea you have that separates you from the rest, how you imagine marketing old things, to lend them new life, enhance their character and make them relevant to the contemporary world.

However during the course of our mentoring exercise, as we considered plans and ambitions for Daniel and Cristina’s business, I realised that there are so many other significant elements to consider, some practical, some aesthetic and some simply related to the desire to succeed, all of which need a degree of attention. So I started an alphabet of trigger words and noticed that the “C” words were looking dominant. A for : Accounts, Appetite, Attitude, Attention to detail; B for Branding, Buying the Best (you can find), Budget; C for Clients, Contacts, Cash Flow, Capital, Confidence, Cost Cutting,Collectors, Communication, Co-operation and Commitment.

Of course this is just a word game, but it helped to focus my mind on so much that we take for granted on the one hand and don’t consider on the other. Almost by definition, the most successful small antiques businesses are unique. They have their own character and individual style and are, however inconspicuously, somehow “Branded”.

So the closer we can get to putting all these aforementioned beans in a row, the better chance we stand of success and of establishing a place for ourselves in the market and creating our own “Brand”. Inevitably, if I continued down the alphabet I would include other important trigger words like Documentation, Exhibitions, Fairs, Focus, International, Internet, Integrity, Look, Margin, Marketing, Photography, Premises, Presentation, Promotions, Provenance, Research, Restoration, Service. Sourcing, Specialisation,  Unique, Websites, Vetting, and ending with the delightful “Zero Rated”.

As my time working and being in contact with Daniel has passed, I realize how many of these things need our regular attention and how many opportunities he and his generation are more naturally equipped and positioned to benefit from. We have discussed how the industry is changing and growing more competitive, yet simultaneously offering broader scope for expansion.

This is not a revolutionary blueprint for mentoring, but establishing a basic structure and identifying the goals of the young dealer, whilst occasionally referring to the alphabetic list, seems like a good place to start and then just watch them go.......... Daniel and Cristina are building the foundations of what I believe promises to be increasing success.

23 March 2015

The renovation work on the shop is well underway, at the time of writing the ground floor has no front and the large back gallery has no roof, well I suppose that is progress in some kind of way!

Ilse is now married and has returned to work today, so things at our temporary Studio “office” at least, are back to normal, except that now we need to address her as “Mrs” and no longer as “Ms”. We and you have missed her as our “virtual” presence has been conspicuously quiet and she will shortly be uploading fresh items to our online “Collections” again.

It is curious and reassuring how the dealer’s life carries on, even in uncommon circumstances, such as the business being homeless.

We are currently working on the catalogue for our forthcoming Folk Art Exhibition, whilst still sourcing and preparing for Masterpiece London.

We have been fortunate to acquire some remarkable pieces from exclusive Private Collections over the years and have recently sourced some genuinely fine pieces of country and vernacular furniture from an English Collection which have not been on the market for many years. Some of these will be included in our forthcoming Exhibition and others will be exhibited at Masterpiece for the first time in a generation or more. At a time when it is hard to find genuine interesting pieces, with style and integrity it is exciting to be offered such special pieces, fresh to the market.

We illustrate two unusually stylish upholstered wing armchairs, which also come with a private provenance, directly from the The Derek and Sally Green Collection; an extraordinary almost theatrical William & Mary Style example. and a Queen Anne Style example, upholstered in antique Verdure tapestry,

Josyane and I have just returned from a four day trip to Sweden, where we met up with Daniel and Cristina Larsson, (of D Larsson Antik & Interior) and travelled around Southern Sweden together on Friday and Saturday. Daniel is a member of the exciting new movement which harnesses and promotes younger professional members of the art and antiques industry, the Antiques Young Guns. For their annual awards in 2014 they introduced a mentoring scheme for a few selected winning members, of which Daniel was one. I was nominated as his mentor and we have shared both time and ideas together. This is a new initiative, that I believe will benefit both Mentors and Mentees and ultimately even the Antiques trade itself, when approached with the right balance of energy, ambition and fun, I will write more on this in due course.

Right now I will get back to writing catalogue captions and thinking about how to continue to run a business without a shop...... hopefully for only for a few more weeks..

20 February 2015

These images show the front and back of our gallery at the end of the first week’s work.

So much has been stripped out of the building, that virtually all that remains is the original skeleton of the building. As it should be.

Some little areas show interesting archival evidence of the various colours and finishes that we have had over the years and bring back fond memories.

We have also uncovered decorative remnants from long before our time, (the building once housed a small commercial laundry, with the family living above), all part of the history and fabric of the place.

The new shop front is being constructed off site and the structural work is now starting, in preparation for its installation.

New windows to the upper floors go in next week, exact replicas of the originals, in proper hardwood timber. Lovely!

Then the functional bits, a boiler and central heating for the first time in the building’s history and new electrics throughout, exciting.

We spent most of January in New York and the last two weeks clearing out of 68 BBR and making final preparations for the works, but now we are up and running again, making plans, sourcing and preparing for our Folk Art Exhibition and for Masterpiece London.

We are now all settled in our Design Studio nearby. The mail, deliveries and telephone have been successfully diverted and we have already made some successful bids, sourced some interesting pieces and made a few sales. Life carries on.

Running a design project for ourselves, for the first time in 27 years feels strange, but we are enjoying it and are looking forward to seeing it develop.

Now we look forward to the weekend, time for a short rest, aahh ....... apart from those telephone bids tomorrow.......

05 February 2015

New York was as New York is in Winter.

Bright lights burning late into the night; low slung squashed yellow taxis; general hustle & bustle; huge highly polished fire engines horns blaring; street food vendors wrapped up like Eskimos offering unidentifiable fare; industrial scale snow ploughs with chained wheels leaving scars in their wake and excited pillars of steam climbing from the streets suggesting that Manhattan was built on a volcano. It is a curious, unique and highly charged city.

Then there was also the warning of the most severe blizzard to hit the city, which never really came, yet took its toll on visitor numbers at the show, but only for a day. There was some snow and it was seasonally chilly, luckily without too much of that bitter numbing wind that whistles between the blocks and along the avenues. 

Yet interest, business and demand were encouragingly strong at the 2015 Winter Show, with significant sales being made all around the floor, right from the start, with Early Americana, Primitive and Folk Art being among the most popular offerings.

We enjoyed our visit again and have become accustomed to starting our year off in NYC and it is a privilege to exhibit at the Winter Show. 

Now work begins for real back here in Battersea.

Saturday is the last day of business in the shop as we have known it.
Josyane and I started our life together here, we lived in the apartment above the shop for twelve years and our first born son lived here until his brother was born two years later and we moved to live in Wandsworth.

We built our business here, made friends, met clients, and the little flat featured in the World of Interiors magazine in the mid 80s. Such memories help make us feel somehow attached to the building and the neighbourhood.

But now is the time for change. We need to do some renovation work to the property and feel that now is the right time to invest in the future.
So we close temporarily, whilst we create a new shop front, update and develop the showroom and flat and start a new chapter.

We plan to re-open in May when we will host our Folk Art Exhibition in the new space, which we hope will retain the same spirit and atmosphere, whilst being simultaneously welcoming and inspiring.

Our contact with all of you, will, for the time being anyway, largely be here, right here online, where we will keep you updated with our news, progress and recent acquisitions, as we look forward to the next chapter.......

15 January 2015

After thirty seven years consistent trading from our building here in Battersea, we are temporarily closing, to carry out major renovation and development work, and will be closing the doors after business hours on Saturday 7th February 2015.

We plan to re-open the gallery at the beginning of May and to celebrate the new space at the Preview of our Annual Exhibition of Folk Art 7th May.

So once we return from Exhibiting in New York, we will be sorting through a professional lifetime's worth of stock, reference materials, fixings and clutter, before we all move over to run the office from our Design Studio nearby.

During the works, we plan to increasingly use our Website and Social Media to keep you all informed of our new acquisitions, movements and progress.

This is an exciting moment in our story and we look forward to exploring the extraordinary potential and possibilities of running a “virtual business” during the building project.

Our website and internet presence have played an increasingly significant part in our development and we will now have a little more time to concentrate on them.

At the same time, we have noticed increased traffic and business at the Gallery during 2014, partly due to the Tate Britain’s first National Exhibition of British Folk Art and also possibly because of the rapid development of the Battersea Design District and the new Royal College of Art Dyson and Woo buildings in our immediate neighbourhood.

However, we also feel a genuine change in the air, we have noted a growing interest in the works we show, particularly from a younger generation, and believe that it is the right time to invest in the future and create an environment that will continue to be inspiring to visit.

Watch this space............

09 January 2015

We are finalising plans for our exhibition at the Winter Antiques Show and fly to New York City at the end of next week.

This will be our fifteenth consecutive year at this prestigious show and we are excited to be participating again.

America’s oldest and most respected Antiques Show is held in the Seventh Regiment Armory on Park Avenue and showcases leading specialist American and International dealerships.

It is an inspiring way to start our year and we look forward to installing our collection of recent acquisitions.

We hope to see many of our friends and clients again this year and to introduce ourselves to those of you we have not yet met.  

Gallery Tour