Published: May 22, 2007
Clarion Events hosted 400 dealers at Birmingham’s National Exhibition Center (NEC), April 12‱5, 2007, for the first of its thrice-yearly exhibitions and sales. Called Antiques for Everyone, it is billed as the largest, fully vetted show in Europe, with selections of antiques ranging from the earliest Roman settlements in Great Britain through Victorian and Edwardian periods.
The show, as well-known by the nickname for its location, The NEC, as by its trademarked name, is given great respect for the quality and integrity of the offerings, according to show manager Tiffany Pritchard. “The show is fully vetted by a committee of experts in each of many fields. On the Wednesday before the show opens to the public, the committee members visit every booth and examine each object offered to be sure it is appropriate,” she said. “In addition, each day during the show, some of the committee members will review any new offerings brought in by the dealers to replace sold items.”
The committee rule is that all merchandise must have been made prior to 1914 unless it is an item of exceptional merit, such as fine art, or an object made by some especially well-regarded maker. The procedure is for the committee of experts to sign off on the correctness of items in 40 different categories †from antique lighting to silver and xylophones. Dealers for the show have accepted the policy as one, which helps preserve the show’s integrity for customers.
The décor of the exhibition hall also adds to the ambiance and elegance of this event. While it is an exhibit hall, all the walkways were carpeted for the show, and the booths walled and well lighted. This was especially helpful for the dealers of small antiques and art.
One of the few dealers from the United States, Monica Slater and Michael St John, were offering fine art in great quantity. The periods covered by their collection were many, but the work was generally by listed artists or other high grade work. St John is British, so the couple share their time between the two continents and shop all over for the merchandise.
Another specialist at the show was Cynthia Walmsley. Her collection and inventory was almost entirely composed of antique miniature portraits and silhouettes. She was pointing out that even though her merchandise is popular in the United States, many of the miniature portraits were painted on ivory, which is not allowed into the States without a great deal of political paper work. For that reason her market is primarily in the UK and Europe, where her offerings sell well.
English-made dishes are very popular at this show for many reasons, including that Birmingham is near where much of it was made, and the British collect a great deal of their own porcelain, pottery and paste. John Howard was exhibiting a collection of Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century vessels in one of his display cabinets. Filled with pitchers, cups, tea and coffee pots and mugs, there were more than 100 in just the one showcase.
From the West Midlands, Victoria Berner had one Leeds Feather Edge platter with a Chinese motif infill design. Dating in the vicinity of 1800, the piece was priced at $2,300. Her collection also included several varieties of early blue and white, including Staffordshire transfer ware, Wedgwood and Jasperware. Roger de Ville, Derbyshire, was selling a collection of Staffordshire Bocage figurines and special collection plates.
The English love wood and there was a great deal of it at this show. Wood in furniture, wood in clocks, in barometers and simply small wooden household accessories; there was wood everywhere. The Hayloft and Jane Aspinall were sharing an oversized exhibit area that they filled with furniture, most of which was from the Nineteenth Century.
The Regency period is generally identified as the time from when George III became incompetent in 1810 until Victoria’s ascendancy to the throne in 1837. Furniture of the period modified the earlier Georgian designs by using heavier pieces and components with more bulk, turned legs in larger diameter, broader dimensions on table tops and chairs with larger, upholstered seats.
Much of the furniture on display was from the designers and builders of that time. Dome Antiques was offering a signed walnut desk from a London maker, which they described as a Wellington chest. The London dealer priced the piece at $11,500.
Bedfordshire, just to the north of London, is home for Sue Timms of S&S Timms Antiques. Her collection was also dominated by the Regency period furniture, with some pieces from just before and after it. In both cases, mahogany from the Caribbean was the most prevalent wood used, with walnut the second most popular.
Quayside Antiques, Shrewsbury, was offering several dining room suites from the Nineteenth Century. A Hertfordshire dealer, Peter Howard, was offering Nineteenth Century adaptations of Jacobean and Georgian design.
Wood was also available in objects other than furniture. That’s Nice is the business name for a Warwickshire dealer who had wooden things, including decorative panels, candle boxes, matchboxes, knife boxes, tea boxes and even boxes of very small drawers for separating small things.
Several dealers where offering early engineered objects. Alan Walker from Newbury was offering a large collection of barometers. Time was the story for F.J. and R.D. Story, dealers of long case clocks from Rotherham, in the North, near Yorkshire. There was even a booth filled with canes, but the dealer, Geoffrey Breeze from Bath, had some that were not just wood.
Silver is the other material the British are fascinated with for domestic use. While many dealers were offering silver in plate, Sheffield Plate and sterling, there was also a special exhibit dedicated to the Birmingham silversmiths of past generations. Matthew Boulton, an Eighteenth Century silversmith, was instrumental in creating an assay office in the city by act of Parliament in 1773. In the intervening years it has become the largest assay office in the world, according to the special exhibit in its honor at the show.
Antiques for Everyone is held three times a year at The NEC with the next gathering set for July 26′9. The website for more information is www.antiquesforeveryone.co.uk or call them at 011 44 121 767 2947. Tiffany Pritchard is show manager and there are others on staff who may also assist in arranging a visit.
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