Thursday - 23 October 2014

Glass dealer, fish farmer and builder? Perfectly normal...

13 May 2013Written by Anna Brady

Maybe I’m biased, but I find it hard to think of a more diverse, passionate, interesting and occasionally downright bonkers bunch of people than antiques dealers.

Despite little experience with the trade beforehand, since moving home to Cothay Manor a few years ago to help her parents establish antiques fairs at the medieval Somerset house, Charlie Campbell has been won over by the eccentric, passionate nature of those in the business.

Charlie, along with her ex-Army husband Jamie and her parents, Alastair and Mary-Anne Robb, is about to open the seventh Cothay Manor Fine Art, Decorative and Antiques Fair  from May 24-26 at Greenham, near Wellington.

A few weeks ago, Charlie emailed to tell me about an encounter with one of the exhibitors in the run-up to the fair: "Guy Brigden (of The Design Shrine), one of life's rarities, turned up on my door, dressed in his high-vis jacket, fairly unshaven and dirty and looked as though he had just stepped off a building site.

"In actual fact, it turned out that he had. While talking to me, in true builder-cum-antiques dealer style he pulled out a wad of cash to pay for the stand that he is taking at the fair. It was 5 o'clock and I was anxious to finish the work day and start the 'being mother and having to cook children's tea' day, but I found that I couldn't get away. This was because he was beginning to draw me in."

Glass Trader

Guy told Charlie that his love of iridescent glass, in which he trades, started when he caught a perch on a childhood fishing trip with his uncle and was fascinated by the fish's iridescent scales, which he thought looked like glass in the water.

At 25, he bought his first piece of glass and, now 45, he is a qualified fish farmer, builder, collector and dealer in Art Nouveau glass. 

Now 40 herself, Charlie says she has found her own passion - the house, grounds, antiques fairs and other events that make "this beautiful old place work for itself".

She's also inspired by her mother, who is a keen collector, some-time antique dealer and full-time gardener, who she says is "the most energetic 70-something I know" and lives by the motto 'Thrifty till Fifty, Spend till the End'. "If that doesn't spur you on I don't know what will...!" says Charlie.

As you may have guessed, the Cothay events are low-key, family-run events, and the next has 32 exhibitors, many of them local West Country names and with a bias towards oak, folk and country pieces, some of whom have been here since the first event in 2010.

But there are also four first-timers - Country Oak Antiques  (Yorkshire), Red Fox (Dorset) with antique and modern hand-knitted rugs and hand-made furniture, S.A.S. Antiques (Somerset) with a mix of antiques, paintings, glass and textiles and Susan Rafferty, a Somerset dealer in vintage furs.

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