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  Young Guns of the Trade 

National Antiques Week 2013 will run a campaign to find the most interesting and endearing story from one of the new generation of antique dealers we have christened 'Young Guns of the Antiques Trade'. In the coming months we will be offering young dealers, auctioneers and fair organisers the opportunity to apply for the chance of being voted Young Gun of the Antiques Trade 2013.

The National Antiques Week campaign will again be supported by a large team of media and antiques trade people including the very stylish author, publisher, BBC presenter and Antiques Roadshow expert Mark Hill, who is himself a Young Gun. Mark will be working behind the scenes with George Johnson of Lady Kentmores Antiques in Callander, Stirlingshire, another perfect example of a Young Gun in the trade, cutting a dash with some serious personal style and dealing in an amazing array of all things collectible and curious, from the macabre to the amusing.

The campaign will run from December 2012 and culminate in what promises to be a lively awards party at The Decorative Antiques and Textiles Fair on 25 April 2013 when the winning entrant and two runners up will receive a package of prizes and the coveted award of Young Gun of the Antiques Trade 2013.

We asked George to talk to a few of the Young Guns he knows to set the scene ahead of the National Antiques Week campaign.

Bob Dylan sang ‘The times are a changin’ in 1964 and this heralded a decade plus of unbelievable changes within the world of pop and politics. Not everybody thought that this was a good thing at the time but on reflection no one can argue about what a great force for good it turned out to be from a social and political point of view.

It seems that the antiques trade is starting to embark on a similar journey. Over the last few years we have lost a lot of the old school dealers and auctioneers and with them the vast wealth and knowledge that they held within. We have wondered who will take the trade on? What will happen to this amazing cache of knowledge built up from generation to generation? Who will be the new Young Guns of our cherished heritage industry which has suffered for a number of years from a negative "old fogies" image? Without a younger generation grabbing the reigns a lot of knowledge and wisdom could be lost forever.

As a Young Gun dealer myself I have been encouraged by the revival of The Burlesque movement in the last couple of years as well as the 1940’s & 50’s scenes which have brought a whole new generation to the door and they are eager to buy items from vintage clothing to furniture. This has had the knock on effect of creating a new breed of younger dealer.

It is not all vintage though - taxidermy is one of those areas that appeals to us Young Guns as it has sparked an interest from an emerging clique of customers who are very different to the usual style of browsers in the average antiques shop. Taxidermy has somehow become very cool and it makes a great interior design statement. Well what can I say? One of the items which I had recently acquired on a private call at a remote Scottish castle was a large stag's head which I mounted on the shop wall and affectionately named Steve. However my friendship with Steve was doomed from the start as he was only on my wall for less than twenty-four hours before a young thirty-something couple who are decorating their first home came in and fell in love with him and took him off without even haggling the price.

The different and the strange sell and most of our so called Young Gun crowd have cottoned on to this fact very quickly. A couple of years ago a loose collective of this young and enterprising demographic including myself formed an unofficial alliance via Twitter - it seems that modern technology works hand in hand with this new demographic.

The group of Twitter Young Gun trailblazers included such people as James Gooch who runs the Über kool Doe and Hope and has many famous clients including Pearl Lowe. Robbie Timms who has brought his family's traditional period English antique furniture business S & S Timms Antiques kicking and screaming into the 21st Century. Another valued member of this group is Chris Oxley of P A Oxley Antique Clocks who also is responsible for bringing some young blood into an established and well respected family firm. Mark Goodger of Hampton Antiques is proving that it’s not just the old guys who are full of knowledge in specialised areas, just try and catch him out on the subject of antique boxes and tea caddies. The final member of this diverse crew is Simon Evans who is bringing a young attitude to the salvage and reclamation industry with his company Glastonbury Reclamation.

I am very lucky to call these people my fellow Young Guns and as it’s been proved numerous times if I ever get stuck identifying an object or would just like a second opinion they are only a Tweet away. I suppose it is a radical concept to find people who you would think are in competition actually supporting and helping each other out but this is exactly what has been happening.

It was the antiques trade guru Gail McLeod editor of Antiques News and Fairs who christened us with the title Young Guns when she observed our interaction and banter on twitter. One of the aims of the Young Guns campaign is to encourage the younger generation to become more involved in the trade whether as collectors or dealers and this idea is part of the mission statement for National Antiques Week hence our decision to give the Young Guns campaign centre stage for National Antiques Week 22-28 April 2013.

One of the great achievements for the ‘Young Guns’ campaign so far has been the weekly Twitter competition @antiquestuesday which works as follows: every week anybody involved in the trade can tweet about why they love it followed by the #ATUE tag and one Tweet is chosen to be Re-Tweeted and that person becomes the weekly champion with their Tweet then Re-Tweeted to the trade by many people including regular Re-Tweets by such great antiques trade figures as Judith Miller and the BBC antiques Roadshow experts Mr Stephen Moore and Mr Mark Hill

When I was asked by Gail to write an article on the Young Guns phenomenon for Antiques News & Fairs this was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down and I set out to put pen to paper. We decided to put out a rallying call via Social Media for the younger members of the trade to contact us hoping to add a few new members to our club but low and behold we were snowed under with interest from an amazing array of dealers from the smartest Mayfair addresses to the coldest frontiers of the open air fairs in the far north of the country, from dealers and auctioneers to fair organisers with a reasonable male/female divide!

It seems that the antiques trade has a very vibrant young sector but because most of these entrepreneurs do not belong to any association or guild they can go relatively unnoticed by the rest of the trade, but things are slowly changing as more and more of them move into the more mainstream areas of the trade which was recently proved by Mark of Hampton Antiques who has now joined The BADA - The British Antique Dealers' Association, and Chris from P A Oxley who is not only a member of WEADA, The West of England Antique Dealers' Association, but has also recently become a member of CADA, The Cotswolds Antique Dealers' Association and Robbie Timms who is a member of both LAPADA, the Association of Art and Antique Dealers and The BADA.

So as you can see exciting times are ahead if this young crowd are anything to go by, so what makes a dealer a Young Gun - it is not just about age! It is also an attitude and the outlook that these dealers have about the trade. When you speak to any of them you cannot fail to feel a huge amount of love and respect for this trade but also a desire to spread the love they have for it.

Chris Oxley explained to me how he got involved in the trade: “Antique clocks and barometers have always been a huge part of my life - I was probably assisting my father in winding my first long case clock at the tender age of 6 months. They always looked so huge when I was young, but they didn’t frighten me. It sounds strange, but they were my friends. They ticked away very happily and reminded me of the hour at night time. Most children read about a Grandfather clock in a book or nursery rhyme, I was fortunate enough to experience them first hand and have enjoyed them ever since.”

Like a lot of dealers he entered the world of antiques through the family business. I was interested in how young this clock loving ‘Young Gun’ actually was when he started dealing: “My first proper memory of buying clocks was probably when I was around ten years old when I used to travel with my parents around the UK (especially Scotland) on buying trips. These trips were very exciting and we met some very interesting people and stayed in some incredible locations. I officially started in the business at the age of sixteen. After three weeks of not getting very far on a pre-planned year off that would involve travelling, but staying at home mostly, my father told me that whilst I was considering where I should go on my ‘big trip’ I should come and work for him. It’s nearly 20 years later and I’m still here. I never went on that travelling the world trip but someday, when I have time, I will.”

When I heard this answer I started to get the feeling that the life of being a dealer was one that Chris could have never have avoided. “Over the years I watched my Dad and listened to what he had to say, (most of the time), and I gained his huge knowledge of British antique clocks and barometers. Especially British long case clocks which is our main speciality. There are so many different styles and forms that I’m still learning today even after 20 years. My Dad used to say ‘there is always the exception the rule’, which of course is very true but you also have to be careful of fakes and modifications that may in fact be improving the clocks value. I have delivered and installed long case clocks to some of the most elaborate and impressive homes in the UK. This part of the business is probably the most rewarding. The customer’s eyes light up when they see the stature of a long case clock in their home for the first time.”

Sadly Chris’s father Michael Oxley passed away in September 2012 but his legacy will carry on with Chris who is hoping to pass the knowledge he learnt from his father onto the next Oxley generation. “If I live as long as my Dad did that will give me another thirty-five years to continue in this incredible world of antiques. Just one year would be enough so another thirty-five would be excellent!”

One of the Young Guns who really suits the title maybe more than others is antique arms and armour dealer and expert Dominic Vincent of I asked him about how he got into the trade: “My father Garth Vincent was in the business for forty years and after a year travelling I came back home to work with him. I was surprised just how engrossed I became in the world of arms and armour during the past five years I have been exhibiting When not exhibiting at antiques fairs across the country and developing my website I have spent a lot of time with my head in a book, developing my knowledge. I feel I have learned a great deal from my father's extensive knowledge which has stood me in good stead for running the business on my own as I have been for the past year since my father passed away suddenly last November.”

I spoke to James Gooch of Doe & Hope who is bringing a bit of much needed showmanship to the trade. I asked James how he got into the trade: “Doe and Hope emerged from a mere mish mash of two attractive words as a start up in 2008 to a growing turnover year on year. After a good education at Bedford School, I left to study a year’s diploma in Media and then a three year degree in BA Film & Video at the University of the Arts London. I see this as giving me a unique perspective on the industry I am now in, all pertaining to the telling of stories. I then worked in television as a runner and researcher for various production companies. After my grandmother died she left me a small legacy but it was just about enough to make me think and I decided to invest it into Doe and Hope. I started the business after talking to a lifelong friend and fellow antiques enthusiast, David Walker. Believe it or not we used to bunk lessons in sixth form to watch BBC Bargain Hunt when it first arrived on TV in 1999 because we had a fascination for antiques but also to witness the outlandish and nonsensical personality of David Dickinson. Theology double lesson? no I think actually BBC2 lunchtime = TV Gold. My wife Jade was also very supportive when starting the business and as such I wrote fictional bios of all three of us on our website. The characters were taken from a board game I used to play when I was small called 'Masterpiece' where one played as a art dealer. People love these descriptions as they are not the usual, "Hi I am James and I have a BA and an intimate knowledge of period oak' etc... Doe and Hope was born out of wanting the antiques industry to become less stuffy but to retain an eccentricity at its heart.”

In my opinion on of the reasons for the success of Doe & Hope is the descriptions on the items that they sell, an object is not merely priced it comes equipped with a full ‘Barnum-esque’ back story.

“The crux of why I love dealing is the narrative and mystery of that narrative behind the object not just the object itself, whether that is a beautiful or ugly patination on a chest of drawers or a crack across a porcelain apothecary jar. Who had these objects and what stories do they want to tell? I think that represents part of the fascination. When I show at a fair I want it to be a complete sensory experience, sight, sound, smell. For me, I think dealing at its very best is dramatic theatre and its art within art, creating a world of times gone by. Essentially I like to think I can coax out and encourage a story from a silent object and let it sing whether it is beautiful or not. It may be macabre or terribly dark but if that's its story then brilliant. We are in one of the greenest industries in the world as we are constantly recycling items and it's a pleasure to be part of re-homing pieces of history. My vision for Doe and Hope is the same as when we started: when someone visits the website or stand I want it to be a place of wonderment, of learning and of visual stimulant containing objects and items you never knew existed alongside art and furniture that you’ve never seen the like of before. I love mixing and matching periods, styles and textures, woods and finishes without rules. Doe and Hope is playful and fun but also mysterious and dark, a place where even the music you hear will be something to enjoy, a full sensory experience, a place where you can buy a gift for a loved one safe in the knowledge that it is a one off and that you won’t be able to find it anywhere else. It is hopefully the place to be kept secret and the place to show off about, and the place to browse without feeling pressured into buying. We don't want to rip people off, we want to share and delight in beauty, imagination and history and if I can make a living from that then I think that is happiness.”

This having fun with antiques is a new phenomenon that I try to do myself I do not believe that renting or buying a space and filling it with objects is enough anymore as people are buy more than just items they are buying a story or even a lifestyle and it is up to us to supply it. The new breed of dealers are much more than mere shopkeepers they are storytellers and magicians turning unloved or forgotten items into amazing artefacts for future generations to love all over again.

Another surprise is that this phenomenon of Young Guns is not confined to the British antiques trade - take Daniel Larsson who is the owner of D.LARSSON Interior & Antikhandel an antique shop and showroom in Helsingborg, Sweden. Daniel specialises in Swedish period Gustavian and provincial furniture. So I asked this Young Gun how on earth he ended up exhibiting on the British fair scene: “It wasn't until a few years ago that I realised that I am good at interior design and one day I discovered the decorative antiques trade and slipped right into it and after a tough time with a partnership that went awry, a broken car, no shop and no money I am now an antiques dealer!“

I asked Daniel if it was an easy journey: “In my short endeavours as an antiques dealer I have already had ups and downs and I think the downs are as important as the ups... As long as you learn by your mistakes it’s OK, I love the trade because it is so diverse and the biggest richness is what you gain doing what you love and by the friendships you develop and not being bossed around, it's rich in quality in life and keeps me feeling creatively satisfied."

It appears to me that the antique trade has a very bright future if the Young Guns have anything to do with it having given the trade a much needed shot in the arm of fun and enthusiasm.



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