Monday, 30 June 2008

Antique blogs - one worth reading

Mouse has read a great antique blog. Although focussed at the higher end of the market there is much of interest here. So give Newel's Antique Blog a read. Mouse is very much of the same mind as the author.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008

Crystalline Glazes - Great buys for the future

Mouse has never concentrated purely on antiques. He has always been keen on modern artists and craft workers. One area he especially admires is ceramics and crystalline glazes. These are stunning he has often been heard to remark. Without doubt one of the past masters of recent times is Theodore Deck. Working for Sevres, directing their output, he produced some marvellous pieces. It is now almost impossible to find his work in this area, at least at any reasonable price.
There are a number of modern exponents of this glaze in the UK. There are an interesting collection of potters in Wales and the West. Firstly, Margaret Shotton based in Bristol. An interesting point about her pieces are the form. She is not inclined to stick to the more normal shapes and this makes some of her pieces especially decorative.
A vase by Margaret ShottonClose up of the glaze

A different approach is used by Mark and Patrizia Walford in Wales. This pottery has produced glazes with remarkably deep colour. They have also produced jewellery.

Mark Walford pottery with very rich colours. In this case only a few crystals. The beauty is in the colour.
A close up of the glaze

Another potter from this part of the world is Avril Farley also producing rich colours. Arguably one of the most interesting of the current potters is Simon Rich based in Narbeth in Pembrokeshire. He has real fun with these glazes and throws remarkably well. He plays games with the existing forms and styles, and this makes his pots rather special. The thing about Simon is the way some of his crystal glazes do not appear like crystal glazes. An intentional deviation.

A Simon Rich vase with an almost plastic look. The white comes from introducing titanium.
A close up of the glaze
Simon Rich was playing with multiple colours. It has a soft silky sheen.
A close up of the glaze

This remarkable Simon Rich pot was inspired by his mother and her love for ceramics of the 20's and 30's. His aim was to reproduce those soft colour glazes with crystalline glazes. This is just outstanding.
Simon Rich soft glaze vase
A close up of the glaze. Unbelievable!

This Simon Rich vase is part of a series where he was playing with the idea of having a waterfall of small crystals behind some large ones. 

The close up of this glaze is almost fractal.

This last pot is a stunner. Very difficult to photograph. A nickel glaze not made since Deck at Sevres or before that the Chinese potters of many centuries ago. Of course Mouse thinks you may know others in this style, he would love to hear about them.

The remarkable thing about all these potters is that none of their pots are expensive. There is more information here, where there are links to other potters working in the field (not all of these links are live). I cannot help but wonder whom will be remembered as greats. "Well, you have got to look at Simon's work, particularly when chasing down unusual metal salts for his glazes. They may not always be traditional but they are always special".

They all come from a long heritage of this type of glaze. This includes masters such as Arthur Wedgwood, Howson Taylor as well as more commercial endeavours such as Fulper in the USA, basins and commercial bowls by Portmeirion. Below is a pair of vases by Arthur Wedgwood, Mouse thinks these are great fun.

A close up of the crystals in the Arthur Wedgwood vase.

And finally a Fulper vase. It is hard to appreciate it but the lower portion of the bowl is a sea of tiny crystals.

A sea of crystals in the vase above

This is just an arbitrary snap shot of a few workers according to Mouse. Mouse has also said that Portmeirion Starfire bowls are his favorite as they are very convenient for holding chocolate ice cream, "Now that's what a good bowl should be used for" he remarks whistfully or is it wishfully! I see his point.

Monday, 26 May 2008

Mousquay versus Banksy: Tate Modern banks on Street and Graffiti Art

Mouse has been on his travels and has not blogged for a bit and I have plenty of questions for him. What is art? A tired question, but still I find myself asking Mouse after a news article. He seemed a bit reluctant to respond, but topping up his glass of port has a marvelous effect. 'Well, it used to be in the eye of the beholder', he laughs, 'or perhaps not'. I wonder how many glasses of port he has had. 'Take Banksy, he muses, 'the work is creative, but Bristol City Council were happy to eliminate his work, after all, do all manifestations of creativity have to be kept in perpetuity? Then we saw a combination of recognition and consultation back in the Summer of 2006 and Bristol keeps a Banksy near the council offices. And no doubt the council will argue it supports street art in general, and with some justification.'

So what is he saying, that art is not only creative and has to be recognised? Mouse takes another sip from his glass, 'The Tate Modern has invited graffiti artists to decorate the exterior walls of the gallery, a listed building no less. But the images are to be washed away in a few months. Perhaps it only has to be recognized for a time, perhaps it is an advertising gimmick, perhaps it is still all in the eye of the beholder', he says winking and goes on, 'perhaps permanence is not important and a gallery is just another museum once an object is lifted out of context.' But this is specially commissioned work, I think I neatly argue. Mouse laughs, and I can tell I've missed the point. 'All you need is to take a digital image, and the work can be recreated...' He glances at his empty glass indicating he would like the state of the glass from a few moments ago recreated. I head for the port but he has wandered off in search of chocolate biscuits.

Monday, 5 May 2008

The Collector is dead, long live the collector. Antiques and Art are a hit.

Mouse has been a tad busy lately, so he has missed a couple of blogs. He is a cheery type. He has been looking to the future quite a lot lately, it is probably the sunshine I think. 'What we need to do', he mumbles through a mouthful of chocolate biscuits and wiping the crumbs from his whiskers, "is to get an integrated concept of art, design and antiques into our psyche... ". Puzzled, I interrupt and ask him what he means. Through slurps of ginger beer he elaborates, "Well, we might have to accept that the dedicated collector is on the way out". I think my worried look spurs him to become a bit more expansive. "Look, it's not a problem, we might be looking at reducing numbers of the monotheistic dedicated collector, but we could be seeing the rise of a new generation of collector."
From left to right, Art Nouveau Copenhagen, Kerry Goodwin design for Cobridge and a L Hjorth figure. Age span 100 years, roughly!

I think I am catching his drift, but I can tell he's not convinced. He continues. "We need to instill a new attitude of integration between the new and the old. Instead of antiques being a niche market, we should be working for them to become a fully integrated part of decoration and design. So a buyer is just as likely to buy a glass from a dealer as say, IKEA. We need to market and advertise ourselves very differently". I puzzle about this for a minute or two, wondering how to set about this. But it's too late, Mouse has wandered into the garden, vizor in hand, off to his favorite deck chair. There'll be no shifting him before the twilight.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Google Analytics - Antique Sales Fall

I’ve told you before that Mouse likes doing maths. A little while ago he noticed on Google Trends that whilst chocolate was performing well antiques were not going so well. Well he got his abacus out and looked at a couple of trends comparatively. Antique furniture he knows has been going down in value so he checked the web searches for this and blogs. This lets you know the volume of traffic in Google searches (right hand axis) per year (bottom axis). Well the message is clear, everyone is blogging. Interesting, says Mouse over my shoulder, I wonder if anyone is listening? He yawns. What about glass, he asks. Is it a good time to buy? He gets me to look at the year on year price change of antique glass versus the search volume. Both are in decline with a 6-8% fall in price year on year (not incl. auction or ebay sales, and for moderately priced UK glass in the range roughly $100 - $1000).

Should I panic, I wonder. Mouse shakes his head sagely, as I thought he remarks. What does Mouse recommend? When the market is down you buy, buy, buy... meanwhile he’s off to his hammock for a well earned snooze.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Oil prices impact on eBay sales from the UK

Mouse has been very concerned over the rising costs of postage from the UK. Just recently the Royal Mail has reviewed its prices. The largest rise has been for packages over 2kg going overseas from the UK. Once a package goes above 2kg – it goes through Parcel Force (which is part of the Royal Mail Group). An International Economy standard 3kg parcel used to cost around £30 to the USA. Now the cost of sending that same parcel is around £50. Of course, Fedex and UPS are even more expensive.

Clearly the Royal Mail is affected by rising oil prices.

Mouse has always found the Royal Mail fast and efficient. But these price changes will make it even more difficult for some US and overseas buyers to get what they want from the UK. Mouse frowns, this will depress some eBay sales and markets for heavier items. Mouse worked this out for one of his eBay sales – a Joanna Wason pottery vase, which weighs in at just under 3kg. If an item is very difficult to come by or it is very desirable, just like the Wason vase or some very fine cheese, then this will be ok, says Mouse. Still some things one cannot put a price on, “Where is my Roquefort order?”, he mumbles and wanders off sniffing the air.

On the right is a treacle Glaze Joanna Wason vase, a rarity but expensive to ship to the US now.

Thursday, 3 April 2008

Antique Trends - is old the new black?

Mouse says old is the new black.
In his most recent visits to fairs he has noticed a trend. Firstly, there seem to be fewer antique dealers around than there once was. Secondly, those that remain are either focused towards niche market areas or more broadly on older traditional antiques, like it was before the boom years. Mouse likes this and believes there is a lot to be said for diversity. Curiosities make good talking points although they are not always going to be kept by the purchaser in the long term. No matter they should be fun.

Of course it is not all about antiques. Non-datelined fairs sell collectibles and art, although even collectibles have seen a down turn. The inclusion of artists and craft workers selling their own goods should not be discouraged says Mouse. He thinks it is good for artists to be exposed to inspirations from the past. He is a big fan of Robert Thompson...

Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Speed and Performance of Excel Office 2008 on the Apple Mac

Mouse likes to be at the leading edge of technology. This goes back to his early days when he used to shoot the breeze with the Bill’s, and the Steve’s over a jam scone and a good hot mug of tea. Recently Mouse started playing with Office 2008 on a PowerPC computer. Mouse uses databases to store information on his collection, but also for elaborate esoteric calculations involving cheese in imaginary space. He spends long periods imagining new types of cheese. Having read of the speed increases ‘08 can provide on Intel, and seeing moans about performance from others, he thought he would take a look. He plotted a simple quadratic, without smoothing, and compared the outputs of Excel 2004 and 2008. He also compared the outputs with Kaleidagraph (a graph package he rather likes).

Well what do you think I ask Mouse, to me, the outputs seem really poor from the new version of Excel. He nods. ‘It is not looking very good,’ comments Mouse, ‘the output is clunky and the package is terribly slow compared to 2004. I like the 2008 versions of PowerPoint and Word, but... I think I’ll stick to Excel 2004 on a PowerPC rather than change for the moment’. His interest soon wanes, he wanders away with a distant look in his eye, ‘imagining cheeses’ no doubt.

Saturday, 22 March 2008

The Antique Mouse Cooks Delia

Mouse has been trying out the latest Delia Smith How to Cheat recipes. Apparently this new book has been dividing people the length and breadth of the country. He recons that people have been cheating all the time, but have not been owning up to it. What a smart idea to get ready cooked mince out of a can! And if it is a good quality can of mince from Waitrose (the Mouse does not go anywhere else to shop than Waitrose) it is even smarter. He does not have time to shop more than once a week, and with such a busy lifestyle, sometimes he likes to make things on different days instead of the ones he originally planned. He thoroughly recommends the Soupe de Possion, but it must be with ‘the works’ – good Gruyere and croutons, a side relish and a little bit of brandy and dressed lobster. Also the crab cakes with the special mayo are wonderful. All that he knows is that the recipes taste delicious (well, he knew they would) and that there is very little washing up, which is a really good thing. He is going to try some chocolate cake later……he says try the recipes then decide! (You know Delia's in Wikipedia).

Sunday, 16 March 2008

Chocolate, Antiques and Collectibles Buying and Selling Trends

Mouse likes maths. Lately he has been studying the trends on the web of his favorite things, antiques, collectibles and chocolate. He has been investigating Google Labs and Google Trends. This lets you know the volume of traffic in Google searches (right hand axis) per year (bottom axis). It is normalised which will allow for the increase in human and mouse users with time. It is not perfect but an interesting guide. He looked over the period from 2004 to the start of 2008.

He was very happy to note that chocolate had not shown any decline, ‘whilst there’s chocolate there’s life’ is one of his favorite sayings. Collectibles has declined a bit but not as much as antiques in general. Is this because fewer people are clicking, or, newer users are not so interested in antiques? Mouse is smart, he thinks a bit of both. A number of his investigations have suggested a roughly 50% decline in activity in a number of traditional areas, even digital photography, his favorite hobby, has fallen. The antiques field is a little worse.
Mouse cannot decide whether he likes a collectible or an antique for Christmas. He notes that fellow mice tend to prefer collectibles for Christmas and antiques in the New Year, chocolate is good anytime. With a thoughtful look he indicates, ‘that too much blogging makes you hungry’, not enough chocolate he murmurs, he’s off now, bye.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Earthquakes and glass

Well, doing this blog for the first time was a bit of a stress for The Antique Mouse, but we got there. He is still finding his feet with this blogging business. In fact he did enjoy being photographed, although he now thinks he should go on a diet and he is not sure whether this was his best side.
One of the Antique Mouse's favourite things is glass, (well obviously when you take a look at him), and he was most perturbed when he felt the earthquake last night. He has a glass collection and has spent most of the day checking it over. At least it all got a good dusting. His favourite piece at the moment is a piece by Stuart glass. It is a relatively modern piece by Iestyn Davies.
When the earthquake came the place rattled and the glass tinkled. All the shelves stayed in place - thankfully. Generally earthquakes and glass don't mix! The Mouse hasn't broken anything since a rather unfortunate accident in 2002, but we won't talk about that! Maybe later.....

Introducing The Antique Mouse

I have been told that blogging is the latest craze. It is trendy, and the Antique Mouse always likes to keep up to date - so he told me he wanted to share his thoughts with you.
Me and the Mouse like to talk with our friends about the latest gizmos that we have tried out, the latest designs and art and lifestyle and in particular what's hot out there.
There are so many questions unanswered - so will normal DVD's work on Blu-Ray DVD machines, where has all the good antique glass gone, and most importantly where has all the good cheese gone?
I have been acquainted with the Antique Mouse for a number of years now. He likes the fine things in life. He is not averse to a glass of port with his cheese. He is very knowledgeable, for a mouse, and knows what he likes.
Today we have been discussing whether Collectibles are 'ibles' or 'ables'. We have agreed it's 'ibles' because it reminds Mouse of nibbles.
I hope that this is not the first and last blog that we are going to do, and that someone out there is going to be interested or get interested.