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ANF Blog

WHY MID CENTURY - WHY NOW - EDD THOMAS

We are delighted to welcome Antiques Young Gun Edd Thomas as a regular guest blogger for Antiques News & Fairs. Edd was a finalist in the Antiques Young Gun of the Year 2014 when he was awarded a mentorship with antiques and collectibles and regular Antiques Roadshow expert Marc Allum and one of the sought after showcase spaces at Lorfords Antiques.  As a result of his tenure at Lorfords, Edd is the first Antiques Young Gun to become a permanent exhibitor at this prestigious collective.

Edd says: "I'm interested in the back story of the every day items around us. Most pieces I sell date to between 1850-1950 with a keen interest in influential designers and makers but with wide ranging interests- can be far more eclectic at times.  

Edd in the Clouds started in 2010 from humble beginnings, I currently trade online and have started exhibiting at select fairs through the year. With a lifelong passion for all manner of antiques, the business is far more than just work. I write a monthly column in Antique Collecting magazine taking a sideways but thoughtful look at the state of the modern antiques industry. Therefore do get in touch if you are after something special or just to chew the proverbial fat."   

 

Why Mid-Century, why now?

Two of the most important buzz words in the fashion and collectables industry today are ‘vintage’ and ‘mid-century’. Their combined shadow falls around us and spills over into the cultural dialogue of our everyday lives. From television and music, design and fashion to wallpaper shades, everything it seems deserves a light dusting of the vibrancy and certainty of that golden era.

The cultural archaeologist in me wonders why mid-century (compared to any other time) has become so universally appealing to us today? Is it that we are finally waking up to the genius of our parents and grandparents generation, or are we just temporarily disembarking for more selfish reasons?  The truth perhaps is wrapped in our constant need for both nostalgia and informed reflection.

A need for nostalgia

“Nostalgia is not always about the past” says Svetlana Boym who wrote extensively about the subject, “it can be retrospective but also prospective. Fantasies of the past....have a direct impact on realities of the future”. It seems that what Boym was getting at is that the way we interpret our past often has more to do with our current needs than anything else.  It perhaps explains why today we love the security of collecting vintage items or revelling for example in the mid-century period. They allow us to escape our own turmoil and yet, like poetry or cartoons, answer pertinent questions about our lives and hint at an ideal of the future we hope to embrace.

Why mid-century now?

It's fair to say we can safely dabble in any historical period, and have extolled the virtues of many differing eras in the past. However, for many of us now, the mid-century aesthetic seems to be the most relevant. The post war years saw great change. From the dawning of globalization, of mass consumerism, the seeds of the digital revolution, the inklings of American pop culture and modern economics (to mention a few), these tectonic shifts have grown to become an important part of our personal identity today. The period also marks the final flurry of environmental innocence before the realisation in the late 1960s that our new lifestyles were not enhancing, but quickly destroying the Earth we lived on.  In many ways the post-war era should be seen as the embryonic form of our 21st century world. To those looking to the past for answers, the mid-century becomes a point of 20/20 vision. Further back and things begin to feel a bit fuzzy and unfamiliar, further forward and the closeness becomes uncomfortable.

Curated nostalgia for the mid-century of course remains an important virtue. Guilt free we can relive the excitement of the space race, sense the confidence of scientific and technological progress and also revel in the nutty shapes and colours of alluring industrial design. But are we nostalgic for the real 1950s-60s as well with its class tension, political squabbles, nuclear threats and cold war freeze? Of course not, we’ll leave that to historians. Within the collectables trade we are looking instead for clarity. Pieces that define virtues and ideas we most admire today, and objects that sign-post us amid our own jumbled up and confusing lives. Mid-century admirers therefore swoon over the cutting edge beauty of Gio Ponti,  balance of Ray and Charles Eames or vision of Piero Fornasetti.  Unsurprisingly it is these champions of modernity that have led the salesrooms and seen stratospheric rises in value, while the backward looking revivalist pieces that actually dominated most makers catalogues at the time (such as Beautility, Stag or Lebus) remain largely worthless. Our demands clearly are high but also evolving, to reflect this the trend for mid-century has also not been static.

Growing up

When Vintage first emerged as a recognisable brand a few years ago, the excitement was about revelling in kitsch cultural stereotypes. It was about forgetting the depressing tones of our own austere times and just joining in the fun of bold pencil skirts, retro kitchen cabinets, beehive hair and chauvinistic adverts. During the last few years though, Vintage has grown up. Now the mid-century follower is looking for the subtle sophistication of largely forgotten female fabric designers. They are researching the forward-thinking industrial designers (particularly those from Italy and Scandinavia), and learning how to design and live in a brand-new and fresh ‘mid-century modern’ interior. More and more, our love for the period has been about the recognisable names, something we can relate to in our brand driven world.

Mid-century it seems, still has much it can share with us and is not a spent force yet. As an evolving field there are still many discoveries to be made especially amid the plethora of home-grown but overshadowed designers and artists of the time. Personally I really admire those English designers such as Ernest Race or Sheila Bownas. Their conceptual designs have an atomic witty edge to them compared to the self-confident styling of the big continental luminaries. Combining slim space-age lines with bold splotches of colour this atomic look is one that will surely become even more popular as we begin to properly revisit the excitement of the space race, and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing in a few years time.

The final curtain

Constant nostalgia and reflection are fundamental elements for any healthy society.  Over time the mid-century appeal will naturally fade and new eras will be rediscovered and extolled. But when that happens, it will not be because we have milked the period dry, but because our current needs will have moved on also. Svetlana Boym told us that every era is reinterpreted differently by every other one. Once our current fascination for the mid-20th century finally fades, future collectors will forage for and interpret the post war years very differently to how we choose to see them today.

7 October 2015



Antiques News Blog

WHY MID CENTURY - WHY NOW - EDD THOMAS

We are delighted to welcome Antiques Young Gun Edd Thomas as a regular guest blogger for Antiques News & Fairs. Edd was a finalist in the Antiques Young Gun of the Year 2014 when he was awarded a mentorship with antiques and collectibles and regular Antiques Roadshow expert Marc Allum and one of the sought after showcase spaces at Lorfords Antiques.  As a result of his tenure at Lorfords, Edd is the first Antiques Young Gun to become a permanent exhibitor at this prestigious collective.

Edd says: "I'm interested in the back story of the every day items around us. Most pieces I sell date to between 1850-1950 with a keen interest in influential designers and makers but with wide ranging interests- can be far more eclectic at times.  

Edd in the Clouds started in 2010 from humble beginnings, I currently trade online and have started exhibiting at select fairs through the year. With a lifelong passion for all manner of antiques, the business is far more than just work. I write a monthly column in Antique Collecting magazine taking a sideways but thoughtful look at the state of the modern antiques industry. Therefore do get in touch if you are after something special or just to chew the proverbial fat."   

 

Why Mid-Century, why now?

Two of the most important buzz words in the fashion and collectables industry today are ‘vintage’ and ‘mid-century’. Their combined shadow falls around us and spills over into the cultural dialogue of our everyday lives. From television and music, design and fashion to wallpaper shades, everything it seems deserves a light dusting of the vibrancy and certainty of that golden era.

The cultural archaeologist in me wonders why mid-century (compared to any other time) has become so universally appealing to us today? Is it that we are finally waking up to the genius of our parents and grandparents generation, or are we just temporarily disembarking for more selfish reasons?  The truth perhaps is wrapped in our constant need for both nostalgia and informed reflection.

A need for nostalgia

“Nostalgia is not always about the past” says Svetlana Boym who wrote extensively about the subject, “it can be retrospective but also prospective. Fantasies of the past....have a direct impact on realities of the future”. It seems that what Boym was getting at is that the way we interpret our past often has more to do with our current needs than anything else.  It perhaps explains why today we love the security of collecting vintage items or revelling for example in the mid-century period. They allow us to escape our own turmoil and yet, like poetry or cartoons, answer pertinent questions about our lives and hint at an ideal of the future we hope to embrace.

Why mid-century now?

It's fair to say we can safely dabble in any historical period, and have extolled the virtues of many differing eras in the past. However, for many of us now, the mid-century aesthetic seems to be the most relevant. The post war years saw great change. From the dawning of globalization, of mass consumerism, the seeds of the digital revolution, the inklings of American pop culture and modern economics (to mention a few), these tectonic shifts have grown to become an important part of our personal identity today. The period also marks the final flurry of environmental innocence before the realisation in the late 1960s that our new lifestyles were not enhancing, but quickly destroying the Earth we lived on.  In many ways the post-war era should be seen as the embryonic form of our 21st century world. To those looking to the past for answers, the mid-century becomes a point of 20/20 vision. Further back and things begin to feel a bit fuzzy and unfamiliar, further forward and the closeness becomes uncomfortable.

Curated nostalgia for the mid-century of course remains an important virtue. Guilt free we can relive the excitement of the space race, sense the confidence of scientific and technological progress and also revel in the nutty shapes and colours of alluring industrial design. But are we nostalgic for the real 1950s-60s as well with its class tension, political squabbles, nuclear threats and cold war freeze? Of course not, we’ll leave that to historians. Within the collectables trade we are looking instead for clarity. Pieces that define virtues and ideas we most admire today, and objects that sign-post us amid our own jumbled up and confusing lives. Mid-century admirers therefore swoon over the cutting edge beauty of Gio Ponti,  balance of Ray and Charles Eames or vision of Piero Fornasetti.  Unsurprisingly it is these champions of modernity that have led the salesrooms and seen stratospheric rises in value, while the backward looking revivalist pieces that actually dominated most makers catalogues at the time (such as Beautility, Stag or Lebus) remain largely worthless. Our demands clearly are high but also evolving, to reflect this the trend for mid-century has also not been static.

Growing up

When Vintage first emerged as a recognisable brand a few years ago, the excitement was about revelling in kitsch cultural stereotypes. It was about forgetting the depressing tones of our own austere times and just joining in the fun of bold pencil skirts, retro kitchen cabinets, beehive hair and chauvinistic adverts. During the last few years though, Vintage has grown up. Now the mid-century follower is looking for the subtle sophistication of largely forgotten female fabric designers. They are researching the forward-thinking industrial designers (particularly those from Italy and Scandinavia), and learning how to design and live in a brand-new and fresh ‘mid-century modern’ interior. More and more, our love for the period has been about the recognisable names, something we can relate to in our brand driven world.

Mid-century it seems, still has much it can share with us and is not a spent force yet. As an evolving field there are still many discoveries to be made especially amid the plethora of home-grown but overshadowed designers and artists of the time. Personally I really admire those English designers such as Ernest Race or Sheila Bownas. Their conceptual designs have an atomic witty edge to them compared to the self-confident styling of the big continental luminaries. Combining slim space-age lines with bold splotches of colour this atomic look is one that will surely become even more popular as we begin to properly revisit the excitement of the space race, and commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the first moon landing in a few years time.

The final curtain

Constant nostalgia and reflection are fundamental elements for any healthy society.  Over time the mid-century appeal will naturally fade and new eras will be rediscovered and extolled. But when that happens, it will not be because we have milked the period dry, but because our current needs will have moved on also. Svetlana Boym told us that every era is reinterpreted differently by every other one. Once our current fascination for the mid-20th century finally fades, future collectors will forage for and interpret the post war years very differently to how we choose to see them today.

7 October 2015