1 How did you get your start?
My wife, Gill, and I had spent many years visiting antiques shops and auctions and had built up a quite interesting collection of glass. In 1991, we first took a stand in an antiques centre at Coltishall in Norfolk. Two years later the glass dealer who had been there for years died and his widow offered us his stock.
At that point I had been a teacher for 30 years. It was a job I loved and felt was important, but I could see my vision of education did not fit the new training model created by Margaret Thatcher’s government. Buying that dealer’s stock in 1993 led to my decision to resign my headship of a small primary school.
That April, I found myself on the road searching for stock and passing school playgrounds where children were playing and shouting to each other. That first day I wondered if I had done the right thing. I had no idea that 30 years later I would still be working with glass and finding interesting examples I had never seen before.
2 What is your area of focus?
It has always been 18th and 19th century drinking glasses. At the beginning it was English glass but as the years have passed I have realised the importance of and interest in Continental glass. At any show I will always have glass from France, Holland, Germany and Bohemia and, of course, Murano. In addition, I generally have a selection of Roman glass.
3 What events do you have this month?
The Decorative Fair at Battersea (last week) and the Petworth Antiques Fair this week.
4 What is one great discovery you have made?
I have collected books since I was six years old and about seven or eight years ago I was looking at collectors’ books coming up at my local saleroom.
I asked if there were any books on glass in the sale and was presented with the catalogue of the Felix Slade Collection published in 1871. This formed the basis of the British Museum collection and many of the pieces can still be seen when visiting the Victoria and Albert Museum.
I had never seen the book before and found it interesting because it pre-dated all the great volumes produced at the end of the 19th century. It contained no photographs but a number of detailed coloured drawings of glasses from Roman times to the 19th century. Many of them filled the half-folio pages but there were other, smaller pictures, one of which held my attention: a small bottle with a metal top which was enamelled with a bird among flowers and foliage. I recognised this piece because I had sold it about 15 years before.
Needless to say I was determined to buy the book which I did at the sale a few days later. It sits today in my library.
5 What is something you couldn’t do without?
It is not exactly an item but, for me, it is the most important thing I need. I am fortunate that I still have a good memory which is essential for the research I carry out to confirm my opinion about glass I am contemplating buying. People ask me questions all the time and I often have to rely on my memory to produce an answer.
I suppose as time passes this may become more difficult but at the moment I can usually produce an answer or know the route to follow to get it. Long may it continue!
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