Archive for October, 2013

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Dealer Spotlight: Mark Ardern, 20th Century Decorative Collection

Posted Oct 31st, 2013 by The Old Cinema
 
 
Mark Ardern is a recently retired consultant psychiatrist for whom
collecting has become an all-consuming passion. In fact he goes so far
as to say, with a wry smile, that there is often something very
addictive in the process:  “When you see something you want, the heart takes over the head; sense and logic go out of the window and you just have
to have it” he explains. He now has more time to indulge his hobby and
one senses he makes the most of it.  At first glance, Mark’s cabinet
appears a rather eclectic mix, but  in fact each piece in his collection
of 20th Century decorative items, has been carefully selected for its quality
and design, and for being representative of its era.

 

 

 
Creative
from a young age; Mark describes himself as an ‘arty type’ who was
always fascinated by design and loved drawing.  An only child he grew up
never knowing his grandparents and puts his interest in antiques partly
down to wanting a link to a past that he never knew.  He always enjoyed
poking around in junk shops, buying the odd piece,  but it wasn’t until
the mid-90’s when he visited Vienna that the interest really began: “I
was amazed by the amount of Austrian Art Nouveau pieces available to buy
in the shops there” he recalls. He started collecting German Jugenstil
and English Arts & Crafts and became fascinated with Bauhaus and
Modernism, then Art Deco –  and with how one style led to another: “It
all seemed to fall together like a jigsaw” he says.
 
Mark’s
specialist interest is in Viennese Secessionism (c.1900-1918), a
movement which  rejected academic tradition and conservatism and,
advocated freedom of style and subject across the arts.  It was a period
of prolific activity  and although pieces are now harder to find, Mark
regularly visits Vienna and still finds the odd Secessionist gem; such
as an embellished glass bowl by Johann Oetl Haida  or a silver trinket box by Josef Margold. He also has some interesting Art Nouveau pieces  including  a pair of iridescent green Art Nouveau vases by Joseph Rindskopf & Sons which are typical of the period.
 

For those interested in the mid-late 20C there are many treasures. Scandinavian design is ever-popular, and pieces such as a  Georg Jensen hand mirror or a set of 1950’s silver-gilt  Danish teaspoons
make wonderful gifts.  And the occasional piece of delightful kitsch
can also be found:  A vintage Larry the Lamb porcelain figurine sits
demurely between a Gothic Revival brass lidded urn and a Viennese 1930’s brass pin tray from which a miniature female golfer swings a tiny club.

 
Mark
interest  adds an extra dimension to travel;  “I don’t just go to
places to find stuff but it’s the icing on the cake if I do” he says.
And of course  there is a buzz in finding something when the seller
doesn’t know its worth; although, as he says, it works both ways;  “I
might have bought something which I know is a particular style, but
don’t know a lot about; which for someone else might be a real find. But
that’s how it should be – it’s no fun if everything is at the market
rate and there are no surprises”.
 

 

Mark
admits he prefers buying pieces,  to selling them; “But that’s why I
like having a collection here – someone else sells it for me” he laughs.
He appreciates the network of specialists found within The Old Cinema,
and says the place has a very special charm; “There’s no competition for
this place;  it’s like a tardis – you never know what you are going to
find”.

 

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Dealer Spotlight: Lesley McNamee, Retropolitan

Posted Oct 24th, 2013 by The Old Cinema
 
Lesley McNamee is the founder and owner of Retropolitan –  an online interiors business,  specialising in 20th Century vintage items. Part of her gloriously retro collection can be found at The Old Cinema, and a browse around it throws a whole new light on decorative arts of the 1950’s  to 1970s.  Heavy, angular vases and bowls made of deep blue and dark green Czech glass,  colourfully glazed West German ceramics and a wonderful selection of kitsch items including 1950’s cocktail accessories, and yellow, pressed glass Scottie dog butter dishes, all have their place.  Lesley’s affection for every item in her collection and her in-depth knowledge of her subject, somehow bestows each carefully selected piece with a cool new allure – a world away from swirly patterned carpets and Ritz crackers. 
 

Born into an antiques background; Lesley’s mother was an antiques dealer with an eye for decorative glass, whilst her step-mother had an Art Gallery in Church Street selling 20th Century art and ephemera, so Lesley learned the practicalities of the business from an early age.  She began a career in media but indulged her interest in the decorative arts running weekend stalls in Camden and Portobello. Eventually, she packed in the job, launched a website and started collecting in earnest.  She now juggles her time visiting antiques fair to buy pieces for her collection and running her busy website;  with dashing to and from music festivals in a camper van, with her record label boss husband – for whom she works two days a week.

 
 
The mid-20th Century was an exciting time for European glassware.  The proliferation of factory glass, and the development of techniques from the 1950’s, meant that  highly decorative and colourful pieces, became more affordable.  The Murano Glassworks in Italy, Holmegaard and Kosta in Scandinavia, Val St Lambert in Belgium,  and Whitefriars and Caithness in Britain, all had their own distinctive styles and all made an influential contribution to the international glassware scene.  Talented glass designers in then Czechoslovakia, were also making beautiful pieces, which are only now  being fully appreciated. As Lesley points out: “Glass is a wonderful way of accenting colour in a room, and it’s still possible to pick up decorative pieces for very reasonable prices”. 
 
 
In ceramics, West Germany was one of the biggest players.  Strongly influenced by the design principles of the Bauhaus, and also by the current Pop Art movement, German craftsmen used vibrant colours and striking, bubbled glazes;  leading to the the style being nicknamed Fat Lava. They are not to everyone’s taste. “You either love them or hate them” says Lesley and she points to a splendid,  dark brown vase with a vibrant orange glaze; a popular colour combination in the 60’s. “This is by cheurich from West Germany; they were producing some wonderful ceramics; some of it was quite ugly, but a lot of it was stunning, really exciting, and quite unlike anything else being made at the time.”
 
 
Lesley travels all over Europe searching for interesting pieces.  Her customers value her taste and judgement but also her specialist knowledge, which means she knows the provenance of each piece. She wants her collection to be accessible to everyone and explains: “I enjoy selling to design-conscious customers who want to own something unique, but affordable,  from a bygone age, and which will increase in value.” And indeed, such is Lesley’s sense of style and her enthusiasm for her
collection,  it’s hard to walk away without wanting to own a small piece of it!
 
 
Lesley’s collection can be found online at www.retropolitan.co.uk or at The Old Cinema
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Dealer Spotlight: Antonia Graham

Posted Oct 18th, 2013 by The Old Cinema

Antonia
Graham, co-founder of furniture and interiors emporium, Graham & Green, has always been surrounded by beautiful objects. Her mother was an artist, whilst her grandmother,  who lived in Cairo between the wars, and was part of the smart social set, had an eye for interior design and a knack for doing up houses.  Glamorous and beautifully dressed, she always wore fabulous jewellery, which made a vivid impression on the young Antonia.  Inspired by these early memories, and having handed the running of Graham & Green over to son Jamie, Antonia now has her own collection of contemporary Indian jewellery which she sells privately and to selected shops. Luckily for denizens of W4, a large selection of Antonia’s beautiful pieces can be found at The Old Cinema, where a surprisingly reasonable sum will buy a pair of square-cut, ruby drop earrings, or a pretty peridot ring.

 

 

Pieces are mainly contemporary although antique or vintage pieces may also be discovered amongst the shelves of treasure.  Made mainly in India, and hand-finished by a team of craftsmen,  the collection includes gold-plated  necklaces, earrings and bracelets, studded and hung with twinkling semi-precious stones from all around the world. Pale, blue-grey Labradorite, rose quartz,  amethysts, garnets,  carnelians and rubies; are mounted in gold-plated silver and create an exquisite array of colour. Pieces are surprisingly affordable; as Antonia says, these stones, despite their decorative appeal,  are often less expensive than people might expect.

Antonia works closely with her artistic team and sometimes designs her own pieces which she enjoys doing; “I like the different colours of the stones and  putting them together in unusual combinations”, Antonia says. She has, in  general,  a particular interest in the creative and mechanical process of how items are made and assembled and how different talents and disciplines can be combined to create beautiful and unique pieces; whether they be furniture, textiles, homewares or jewellery. 

 

Behind Antonia’s mild, quietly-spoken manner, lies a steely determination to succeed. This, and a natural creative flair were to stand her in good stead, as she often found herself battling against the odds.   Antonia’s career began working as a translator for cookery writer Elizabeth David, who ran a business selling French crockery and cookware.  David was a exacting employer, but Antonia proved herself to be both resourceful and capable and was soon handling much of the running of the business herself – sourcing culinary items from around the world, arranging deliveries,  and drawing up supplier agreements; skills she was later to find immensely useful.

After some years running  a business selling Mediterranean homeware to the trade, Antonia and her friend, Henrietta Green, founded Graham & Green in the mid-1970’s. Despite the problems  women in the 70s faced trying to launch a business – including landlords  and banks who would only talk to men – determination and perseverance won through.  The pair acquired a shop in Notting Hill and began selling kitchenware and crockery to smart West Londoners.  The business expanded, and a second shop opened opposite; specialising in bathroom and bedroom furnishings imported from India. A select range of luxury clothing followed, and the Graham & Green brand, of affordable exoticism became a great success. Antonia still enjoys regular trips to India where she has a beautiful house in Goa, but her time is her own and she isn’t missing the pace of running a large successful business. It doesn’t stop her from being busy and making plans; “I always thought that once I had more time I might learn to make my own jewellery” she says. And one gets the impression that once Antonia has an idea to do something, it won’t be too long before she does it.