It’s that time of year when the summer fetes are in full swing. There are plenty of country fairs, vintage car and traction engine rallies, agricultural shows, garden parties and even the occasional gun dog scurry. And we love them all. Even if the rains pouring down and the wind is reaching gale force, we still manage to turn up but if its hot and sunny, then were out in droves.
All these events have at least one thing in common and that is a sense of history. It’s not just our identification with a bygone age (a simpler life full of craftsmanship, neighbourliness, local produce, home made cakes and plenty of time to stop for a chat) but a real chance to participate in an earlier era, even if its only for an afternoon.
This fascination with history also explains our obsessive need to visit the homes of previous ages: ruined castles, medieval manors and, most popular of all, the grand and stately country houses. These offer the opportunity to see how people (generally the landed gentry or, better still, royalty) once lived and in our dreams still do. Heres the chance to be a little bit nosey and revel in the large size of the bedrooms yet the small size of the beds, the apparent absence of bathrooms and toilets, the requirement of a kitchen to have a fully integrated staff (rather than fully integrated appliances), the flamboyance of the banqueting and ball rooms, the (with)drawing room, the entertaining parlour and the grandeur of the entrance hall.
A bit of snooping also helps us to appreciate the works of art, the furniture, the costumes and the decorative home adornments that generations of owners have assiduously collected. Delving into these collections ranks just about equally with our passion to pay an entrance fee and witness the homes and the gardens of our national and regional dynasties. There seems to be no end to the kind of collections that have been amassed over the years. There are of course paintings and statues, jewels and silverware, fine porcelain and hunting trophies as well as the more esoteric collections of miniatures, stamps, foreign travel memorabilia, butterflies, palms, roses, tapestries, armour, maps, wines and just about anything else that you can imagine.
The link between our grand country estates and their collections may be both obvious and well established but what is often forgotten is that what we see as the great collections of antiques began their lives as modern, contemporary household items. Today, we think of Picasso’s work as modern (even though some works are over a hundred years old) but so were Turners paintings to the first couple of generations of their owners. Indeed, his images of Yorkshire, often painted when he stayed at Farnley Hall near Otley, were considered tremendously avant-garde at the time as can be seen in the claim that he was highly influential over the Impressionists over a hundred years later.
Its hardly surprising that the search is now on for the antiques of the future and a discerning population is already out there scouring art college final degree shows, logging on to ebay and looking for the special editions of iconic works from the twentieth century. Sometimes these can be a little self-conscious and contrived and may prove to be of dubious value. For example, it is rather strange that the West Side Story 50th Birthday revival toured Britain a year late. We’ll have to wait and see if the posters and programmes from the show have any collectable following. Similarly, special edition cars seem to be much the same as their less special brothers and sisters with an extra or two thrown in for good measure.
Far more valuable is the limited and numbered edition classic Lounge Chair designed by Charles & Ray Eames that was produced by Vitra a couple of years ago. Unlike current production pieces, these were made in rosewood like the original manufacture in America and the edition was only 999 pieces worldwide. In a similar vein a special edition Egg chair, designed by Arne Jacobsen for the Royal Hotel, Copenhagen, has been produced to mark its Golden Anniversary. Not only is each chair numbered but the base is uniquely made of bronze, the rear upholstery is in dark brown suede and the front part and seat cushion in brown untreated leather.
Most of the edition was sold in Scandinavia before production even began and of the mere twenty odd chairs that have come to Britain, some have already found their way back to collections in Denmark where they were made. It appears that the value has already risen by as much as fifty per cent which bodes well for anyone starting a collection of chairs and who has chosen to begin with one of these.
We are proud to be showcasing and exhibition of the works of English ceramic designers of the 1960s at The Home. Some of these designers are relatively unknown figures (unlike their work) whilst others achieved fame yet (unlike some designers today) rarely fortune. Their talent is only just being recognised and their work has only just begun to appeal to a wide range of collectors. Bringing together their designs today will not only continue the established tradition of building up a historic collection but may just prove to be a financially rewarding experience. And now is the perfect time to begin!