LITTLE wonder that London organisers Brian and Anna Haughton have such a soft spot for their annual International Ceramics Fair & Seminar, the 23rd of which will be staged from June 10 to 13 at The Commonwealth Centre in Kensington High Street, London W8.
It was their first ever fair and remains their only British fixture. But although they remain based in London, the Haughtons went on to become New York's top fair organisers and now host four international fixtures each year at Manhattan's Seventh Regiment Armory.
Brian Haughton is himself a noted dealer in 18th and early 19th century English and Continental porcelain and it was back in 1982, while waiting with some fellow dealers for a plane to New York, that he conceived the idea of a specialist ceramics fair combined with a series of erudite lectures by internationally recognised experts.
The fair became an immense success and very influential, attracting serious connoisseurs, especially from the museum fraternity, from all over the world.
In its heyday in the Park Lane Hotel on Piccadilly it had queues forming at 4am and stretching around the block to be in early to see what well over 40 exhibitors had to offer.
But, over time, dealers in Asian works defected to Olympia for sexier presentation and new blood, and just two years ago four key exhibitors from the same part of Kensington left to organise their own exhibitions in their galleries to coincide with the fair.
These factors, combined with a contraction of the top end of the English and European ceramics trade, resulted last year in just 17 exhibitors at the ceramics fair. This year the tally is down to 15, but all noted specialists in European and English ceramics.
However, the Haughtons maintain that, although it is small, this fair is still as good as it gets in its field and insist that even with a mere 15 dealers their fair remains a world-beater. Certainly the exhibitors are among the most highly respected in their field and include Jonathan Horne, Alistair Sampson (who must be the bravest dealer in town since he also has stands at Grosvenor House and Olympia), Bernard Dragesco, Errol Manners, Robyn Robb and William Buck of Steppes Hill Farm Antiques.
Even at its present size, I am assured the fair is still a formidable forum for serious ceramics buffs and this is the fair which spawned the seminars, an idea which so many other organisers have copied, but never with anything like the same degree of success.
The programme of 12 lectures by renowned experts include such subjects as Doccia in the 18th century, James Giles, Welsh pottery and porcelain and the reserve collections of Meissen at the British Museum.
This year's loan exhibition displays a selection from the Lady Ludlow Collection of English porcelain which was recently gifted by the National Art Collectors Fund to the Bowes Museum in Co. Durham.
Admission to the fair is £10 and admission to the first lecture chosen is £20, £12 for subsequent lectures.
Incidentally, from June 3 Brian Haughton Antiques has a selling exhibition Splendour in the Grass: Birds, Beasts and Flowers in European Ceramics in his shop at 3B Burlington Gardens, London W1.
The exhibition, which celebrates the natural world immortalised within porcelain, then transfers to Brian Haughton's stand at the ceramics fair.