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ANF Blog

THE DECORATIVE FAIR - WHAT PEOPLE SAY

On this special celebratory birthday edition of the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, September 2015, a question and answer session with people who were there at the beginning back in 1985 and some who are still there ...

 

SPENCER SWAFFER, Arundel, West Sussex
Often first in the queue of buyers at Battersea opening day.

SS:  Antiques dealers are basically loners who plough their own furrows. What makes Battersea unique is the way it unites a whole band of competitive hunters into a united, amiable bunch of friends for a few days three times a year.  It is that cheerfulness which shines out of Battersea and makes it such a joy to visit. Anywhere that
allows dogs clearly has its heart in the right place.  Being first in the queue of buyers, first out of the traps and into the stands, has always been a closely fought battle. It [the opening day queue] used to be the domain of two of the greatest dealers of the late 20th century, the late Guinevere Weaver, who'd leave her Kings Road store early doors to be first in line, and the late Toby Landey, flying in from New York to buy for her Sentimento store.  They knew they'd find great things. We all knew we'd learn something: a new theme, a new look, a subtle nuance, a way of putting things together, a different finish for a standard bit if furniture, a twist of old fabric to jazz up a chair.  Battersea taught us the values of rust, the brutalist shock of industrial, that bleach isn't just  something to throw down the toilet but a way to transform a dull commode. Battersea rules and under the amiable ownership of the excellent David Juran it has reached new heights encouraging new dealers and attracting the old guard from more stuffy shows.


MARTYN FOWLER OF PUCKHABER DECORATIVE ANTIQUES 
Puckhaber has exhibited for at least 10 years, and I’ve been involved for four. (Runs Puckhaber with his mum Jacqueline Harris.)

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity?

MF:  I believe it’s down to:

- Allowing dogs into the fair!
- Never dropping the ball as far as marketing is concerned
- The fair always looks fantastic as the dealers put huge amounts of effort into making their stands look beautiful
- The fair is run by people who understand the industry
- Battersea Park is a great venue with plenty of parking, which is at a premium in London
- Good food at Megans
- Even if you’re not looking to buy it’s a great day out!

DATF:
What do you enjoy most about the fair?

MF:  Decorating our stand with the best examples of our pieces and then selling it!! But also it’s great to catch up with our friends in the industry.

DATF:  Is there anything you would like to see changed?

MF:  If it isn’t broken then don’t fix it.


ROBERT YOUNG of ROBERT YOUNG ANTIQUES
Exhibited at the first fair in 1985. Currently on the Fair Standards Committee (vetting)

 

DATF:  For how long have you exhibited at the Battersea Decorative fair? / When was your first Fair?

RY: We exhibited at the first fair [in 1985] and then for about another 10 years.

DATF:  How has the fair changed?

RY: I think that the fair has changed remarkably little and it still retains the fundamental, original ethos.  The fair was launched long before the digital age became relevant to the antiques market, at a time when there was still a widespread international appetite for “serious” English antiques. The Harvey’s recognised a gap in the market and an opportunity to showcase more informal continental pieces, along with textiles and decorative items from multiple cultures and to celebrate their inherent decorative qualities.  However, the initiative and principle excited several innovative younger dealers and there was a good representation of genuine original early pieces alongside some things that would not have made the cut at a formal fair. And, more broadly, what changes have you witnessed in the wider art and antiques market?
Over the last 30 years, “antiques” enjoyed a period of huge popular appeal and then gradually fell from fashion, as sophisticated minimalism became the aspirational style. In the second half of the 1990’s, concurrently with architectural and interior design tastes turning towards minimalism, interest in and appreciation of C20th art took off, gradually followed by what became the phenomenon of the contemporary art market. However it has never died and there has been a growth in some sectors of the market, particularly for those businesses that have worked within specialist disciplines and benefit from specialist knowledge.  Now I believe we are witnessing  considerable renaissance in interest and popularity, just as many shops have closed and dealers retired, there is a sense of change in the air and antiques are becoming cool again. This mirrors the trend away from supermarkets, and the explosion of interest in artisanal produce and the qualities of handmade objects. Independent specialists have sprung up in everything from couture, via glass blowing, ceramics, leatherwork, wooden boat building, wine, vegetable dying and basket weaving to independent music publishing, street and farmer’s markets. 

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity? / What is it about the Fair that sets it
apart from others?

RH:  It has always remained “relevant”. It was ahead of the curve when it originally broke some of the “rules” of the traditional antiques market and it has remained flexible and sensitive to the market ever since. It has been reactive to the market place, rather than tried to dictate to it. As much as possible it has been able to provide the buying public with pieces that appeal to them, at a price they can afford. It has always been an approachable, helpful and friendly event… and it has always had a buzz of activity surrounding it.  In this way, it has established a brand, now simply known as “Battersea”, which it may find hard to shake off, even if it changes location anytime in the future! 

DATF:  Well-known buyers: please name any well-known faces, including trade buyers, you have seen/met at the Fair.

RY:  Rose Tarlow, Axel Vervoort, Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Irons

DATF:  Finally, a prediction – what do you think we might see at a Battersea Decorative fair in 2045?

RY:  Mobile phones, parking meters, endless lap tops, Brompton bicycles, spot paintings by Damien Hirst, first generation polished concrete furniture, Moon holiday flight memorabilia, retired working Quiditch sticks, retailer printed plastic bags.


HELEN LINFIELD, OF WAKELIN & LINFIELD
Exhibited at the first Fair. Current Chairman of the DATF Standards Committee.  Has been exhibiting at the Decorative for 30 years, more or less!

DATF:  How has the fair changed?

HL:  Leans far more now towards the 20th century and less towards the "antique". Painted furniture has continued to grow in popularity despite us thinking the fad would pass and here is the place to buy it!

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity? / What is it about the Fair that sets it apart from others?

HL:  The fact that it has moved with the trends and times and the team have targeted the young trendybuyers.

DATF:  What was the best / favourite / most unusual item/s you have exhibited or sold at the Fair?

HL:  A wonderful Devonshire farm house refectory table of massive proportions to a smart London penthouse!

DATF:  What do you enjoy most about the Fair?

HL:  Its laid back approach to everything and the young clientele it manages to attract.

DATF: Is there anything you would like to see changed?

HL:  No. I think you have got it right for today's market

DATF:  What did you do before you became a dealer / how did you get in to the business?

HL:  An interpreter in French and Spanish. / I fell in love with the stuff [antiques] whilst studying in Paris in the 60's.

DATF:  How many years have you been a dealer?

HL:  Over 45 years.

DATF:  Do you have any other strings to your bow? Eg interior design, art, other creative activities, charity involvement, something completely different?

HL:  Crazy about, and play a lot of, Real Tennis and love interior and garden design which I do alongside the antiques business.


ALISON ROELICH, of ON-REFLECTION
Exhibitor for 17 years

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity? / What is it about the Fair that sets it apart from others?

AR:  The decorative element. The fact that pieces are allowed to be exhibited on the basis of their appearance... The excellent and attractive presentation of many stands. The location…. The fact that the fair is seen as stylish and interesting rather than fuddy-duddy and people who care about these things are happy to see and be seen there and probably the fact that the “ladies who lunch” can!

DATF: What was the best / favourite / most unusual item/s you have exhibited or sold at the Fair?

AR:  Not necessarily our best, but one of our more exciting sales was a pair of Venetian mirrors which had a particularly elegant shape, which we had actually bought in pieces... We restored them, sold them at Battersea and they ended up on the front cover of one of the interiors magazines in a photograph of a house in Connecticut, USA. We also once had a large, fantastic carved wood Chinese mirror which we sold after the fair – it was complete with life-size, golden pheasants, magnolia and cherry
blossoms and very unusual.

DATF:  Well-known buyers: please name any well-known faces, including trade buyers, you have seen/met at the Fair.

AR:  I’m going to leave this to some of my colleagues who are much better at this than I am. Suffice to say, we have enjoyed selling to Lords, Ladies, Countesses, a foreign Crown Prince and a Princess or two, the author of Downton Abbey, a Bonham-Carter, Roger Daltrey’s daughter and many more too numerous to mention. Also, when House and Garden magazine publish their 100 top interior designers, it’s very gratifying to see how many of them we know as a result of selling mirrors to
them.

DATF:  What did you do before you became a dealer / how did you get in to the business?

AR:  In my case, I’ve worked mostly in publishing and at home bringing up children, etc., but becoming an antique dealer is the best and most satisfying paid work I’ve ever had.  Alan was in the Royal Navy flying helicopters for 20 years and then British Airways flying passenger jets for another 22 before becoming a full-time antique dealer.

DATF:  How many years have you been a dealer?

AR:  About 17.

DATF:  Do you have any other strings to your bow? Eg interior design, art, other creative activities, charity involvement, something completely different?

AR:  I am a qualified herdsperson (sheep) but am no longer prepared to go out trim muddy, smelly, hooves and deliver lambs in the cold and dark…


SEVILLA HERCOLANI of JACKDAWES ANTIQUES
Exhibitor for 28 years

DATF:  How has the fair changed over time?

SH:  Much larger – more varied material. 

DATF:  And, more broadly, what changes have you witnessed in the wider art and antiques market?

SH:  Much later datelines.

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity? / What is it about the Fair that sets it apart from others?

SH:  Dogs! Relaxed atmosphere and always helpful ‘Harvey Boys’.

DATF:  What was the best / favourite / most unusual (describe any or all of those!) item/s you have exhibited or sold at the Fair?

SH:  Ten panels of C18th chinoiserie screens, sold to a palace on the Grand Canal, Venice.

DATF:  What do you enjoy most about the Fair?

SH:  The friendly atmosphere and seeing friends again, also I can bring Sty (my dog!).

DATF:  What did you do before you became a dealer / how did you get in to the business?

SH:  Model, dress designer, interior decorator.

 

 



Antiques News Blog

THE DECORATIVE FAIR - WHAT PEOPLE SAY

On this special celebratory birthday edition of the Decorative Antiques & Textiles Fair, September 2015, a question and answer session with people who were there at the beginning back in 1985 and some who are still there ...

 

SPENCER SWAFFER, Arundel, West Sussex
Often first in the queue of buyers at Battersea opening day.

SS:  Antiques dealers are basically loners who plough their own furrows. What makes Battersea unique is the way it unites a whole band of competitive hunters into a united, amiable bunch of friends for a few days three times a year.  It is that cheerfulness which shines out of Battersea and makes it such a joy to visit. Anywhere that
allows dogs clearly has its heart in the right place.  Being first in the queue of buyers, first out of the traps and into the stands, has always been a closely fought battle. It [the opening day queue] used to be the domain of two of the greatest dealers of the late 20th century, the late Guinevere Weaver, who'd leave her Kings Road store early doors to be first in line, and the late Toby Landey, flying in from New York to buy for her Sentimento store.  They knew they'd find great things. We all knew we'd learn something: a new theme, a new look, a subtle nuance, a way of putting things together, a different finish for a standard bit if furniture, a twist of old fabric to jazz up a chair.  Battersea taught us the values of rust, the brutalist shock of industrial, that bleach isn't just  something to throw down the toilet but a way to transform a dull commode. Battersea rules and under the amiable ownership of the excellent David Juran it has reached new heights encouraging new dealers and attracting the old guard from more stuffy shows.


MARTYN FOWLER OF PUCKHABER DECORATIVE ANTIQUES 
Puckhaber has exhibited for at least 10 years, and I’ve been involved for four. (Runs Puckhaber with his mum Jacqueline Harris.)

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity?

MF:  I believe it’s down to:

- Allowing dogs into the fair!
- Never dropping the ball as far as marketing is concerned
- The fair always looks fantastic as the dealers put huge amounts of effort into making their stands look beautiful
- The fair is run by people who understand the industry
- Battersea Park is a great venue with plenty of parking, which is at a premium in London
- Good food at Megans
- Even if you’re not looking to buy it’s a great day out!

DATF:
What do you enjoy most about the fair?

MF:  Decorating our stand with the best examples of our pieces and then selling it!! But also it’s great to catch up with our friends in the industry.

DATF:  Is there anything you would like to see changed?

MF:  If it isn’t broken then don’t fix it.


ROBERT YOUNG of ROBERT YOUNG ANTIQUES
Exhibited at the first fair in 1985. Currently on the Fair Standards Committee (vetting)

 

DATF:  For how long have you exhibited at the Battersea Decorative fair? / When was your first Fair?

RY: We exhibited at the first fair [in 1985] and then for about another 10 years.

DATF:  How has the fair changed?

RY: I think that the fair has changed remarkably little and it still retains the fundamental, original ethos.  The fair was launched long before the digital age became relevant to the antiques market, at a time when there was still a widespread international appetite for “serious” English antiques. The Harvey’s recognised a gap in the market and an opportunity to showcase more informal continental pieces, along with textiles and decorative items from multiple cultures and to celebrate their inherent decorative qualities.  However, the initiative and principle excited several innovative younger dealers and there was a good representation of genuine original early pieces alongside some things that would not have made the cut at a formal fair. And, more broadly, what changes have you witnessed in the wider art and antiques market?
Over the last 30 years, “antiques” enjoyed a period of huge popular appeal and then gradually fell from fashion, as sophisticated minimalism became the aspirational style. In the second half of the 1990’s, concurrently with architectural and interior design tastes turning towards minimalism, interest in and appreciation of C20th art took off, gradually followed by what became the phenomenon of the contemporary art market. However it has never died and there has been a growth in some sectors of the market, particularly for those businesses that have worked within specialist disciplines and benefit from specialist knowledge.  Now I believe we are witnessing  considerable renaissance in interest and popularity, just as many shops have closed and dealers retired, there is a sense of change in the air and antiques are becoming cool again. This mirrors the trend away from supermarkets, and the explosion of interest in artisanal produce and the qualities of handmade objects. Independent specialists have sprung up in everything from couture, via glass blowing, ceramics, leatherwork, wooden boat building, wine, vegetable dying and basket weaving to independent music publishing, street and farmer’s markets. 

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity? / What is it about the Fair that sets it
apart from others?

RH:  It has always remained “relevant”. It was ahead of the curve when it originally broke some of the “rules” of the traditional antiques market and it has remained flexible and sensitive to the market ever since. It has been reactive to the market place, rather than tried to dictate to it. As much as possible it has been able to provide the buying public with pieces that appeal to them, at a price they can afford. It has always been an approachable, helpful and friendly event… and it has always had a buzz of activity surrounding it.  In this way, it has established a brand, now simply known as “Battersea”, which it may find hard to shake off, even if it changes location anytime in the future! 

DATF:  Well-known buyers: please name any well-known faces, including trade buyers, you have seen/met at the Fair.

RY:  Rose Tarlow, Axel Vervoort, Dustin Hoffman, Jeremy Irons

DATF:  Finally, a prediction – what do you think we might see at a Battersea Decorative fair in 2045?

RY:  Mobile phones, parking meters, endless lap tops, Brompton bicycles, spot paintings by Damien Hirst, first generation polished concrete furniture, Moon holiday flight memorabilia, retired working Quiditch sticks, retailer printed plastic bags.


HELEN LINFIELD, OF WAKELIN & LINFIELD
Exhibited at the first Fair. Current Chairman of the DATF Standards Committee.  Has been exhibiting at the Decorative for 30 years, more or less!

DATF:  How has the fair changed?

HL:  Leans far more now towards the 20th century and less towards the "antique". Painted furniture has continued to grow in popularity despite us thinking the fad would pass and here is the place to buy it!

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity? / What is it about the Fair that sets it apart from others?

HL:  The fact that it has moved with the trends and times and the team have targeted the young trendybuyers.

DATF:  What was the best / favourite / most unusual item/s you have exhibited or sold at the Fair?

HL:  A wonderful Devonshire farm house refectory table of massive proportions to a smart London penthouse!

DATF:  What do you enjoy most about the Fair?

HL:  Its laid back approach to everything and the young clientele it manages to attract.

DATF: Is there anything you would like to see changed?

HL:  No. I think you have got it right for today's market

DATF:  What did you do before you became a dealer / how did you get in to the business?

HL:  An interpreter in French and Spanish. / I fell in love with the stuff [antiques] whilst studying in Paris in the 60's.

DATF:  How many years have you been a dealer?

HL:  Over 45 years.

DATF:  Do you have any other strings to your bow? Eg interior design, art, other creative activities, charity involvement, something completely different?

HL:  Crazy about, and play a lot of, Real Tennis and love interior and garden design which I do alongside the antiques business.


ALISON ROELICH, of ON-REFLECTION
Exhibitor for 17 years

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity? / What is it about the Fair that sets it apart from others?

AR:  The decorative element. The fact that pieces are allowed to be exhibited on the basis of their appearance... The excellent and attractive presentation of many stands. The location…. The fact that the fair is seen as stylish and interesting rather than fuddy-duddy and people who care about these things are happy to see and be seen there and probably the fact that the “ladies who lunch” can!

DATF: What was the best / favourite / most unusual item/s you have exhibited or sold at the Fair?

AR:  Not necessarily our best, but one of our more exciting sales was a pair of Venetian mirrors which had a particularly elegant shape, which we had actually bought in pieces... We restored them, sold them at Battersea and they ended up on the front cover of one of the interiors magazines in a photograph of a house in Connecticut, USA. We also once had a large, fantastic carved wood Chinese mirror which we sold after the fair – it was complete with life-size, golden pheasants, magnolia and cherry
blossoms and very unusual.

DATF:  Well-known buyers: please name any well-known faces, including trade buyers, you have seen/met at the Fair.

AR:  I’m going to leave this to some of my colleagues who are much better at this than I am. Suffice to say, we have enjoyed selling to Lords, Ladies, Countesses, a foreign Crown Prince and a Princess or two, the author of Downton Abbey, a Bonham-Carter, Roger Daltrey’s daughter and many more too numerous to mention. Also, when House and Garden magazine publish their 100 top interior designers, it’s very gratifying to see how many of them we know as a result of selling mirrors to
them.

DATF:  What did you do before you became a dealer / how did you get in to the business?

AR:  In my case, I’ve worked mostly in publishing and at home bringing up children, etc., but becoming an antique dealer is the best and most satisfying paid work I’ve ever had.  Alan was in the Royal Navy flying helicopters for 20 years and then British Airways flying passenger jets for another 22 before becoming a full-time antique dealer.

DATF:  How many years have you been a dealer?

AR:  About 17.

DATF:  Do you have any other strings to your bow? Eg interior design, art, other creative activities, charity involvement, something completely different?

AR:  I am a qualified herdsperson (sheep) but am no longer prepared to go out trim muddy, smelly, hooves and deliver lambs in the cold and dark…


SEVILLA HERCOLANI of JACKDAWES ANTIQUES
Exhibitor for 28 years

DATF:  How has the fair changed over time?

SH:  Much larger – more varied material. 

DATF:  And, more broadly, what changes have you witnessed in the wider art and antiques market?

SH:  Much later datelines.

DATF:  What do you think has been the key to the fair’s longevity? / What is it about the Fair that sets it apart from others?

SH:  Dogs! Relaxed atmosphere and always helpful ‘Harvey Boys’.

DATF:  What was the best / favourite / most unusual (describe any or all of those!) item/s you have exhibited or sold at the Fair?

SH:  Ten panels of C18th chinoiserie screens, sold to a palace on the Grand Canal, Venice.

DATF:  What do you enjoy most about the Fair?

SH:  The friendly atmosphere and seeing friends again, also I can bring Sty (my dog!).

DATF:  What did you do before you became a dealer / how did you get in to the business?

SH:  Model, dress designer, interior decorator.