With tongue firmly in cheek (we think), Satirist and Antique Collector Michael ‘Atters’ Attree casts his wry eye over the world of Antiques Fairs - collecting and dealing - giving us an insight into his singularly unconventional, whimsical and occasionally naughty view of the subject.
Please note that all views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and not necessarily those of the organisation and its management.
From millennia, “Dominus” Atte Ree, relic diabolist and Lord of the Manor begot a perverse legacy; “All Attree's as yet unborn must crave antiquities, objet de arte and Wade Whimsies on a pitiful budget.”
Thus I, “Atters” Attree, prostrate my dark affliction, expertise and ongoing cash flow problems at your disposal.
WTF! aka; Whata Terrific Find!
If your sartorial needs are simple and met via high street budget shops or the cast-offs of siblings, then the egoless triumph is yours. However, to limit such queries as “does your mammy dress you?” you may wish to consider other more visually rewarding outlets. Here I recommend vintage clothes stalls found within the larger antique fairs. The benefits of dressing vintage are legion. Primarily (not Primarkily) because there is little chance you will turn up to that swanky event (the queue for free coffee at Waitrose), looking like everyone else from some pedestrian catalogue. The antiques fair stallholder will have busily sourced an array of eclectic toggery to cater for the most eccentric of tastes – be it the tweedy look of Terry Thomas at the races or the suave look of Ali Bongo at the boudoir. Indeed, their keen expertise can prove vital to the vintage virgin who may need urgent tout ensemble advice. Here, one is able to openly banter and haggle too, free from the confines of set pricing, common within other purpose-built “vintage” establishments. Such larger thrift arcades and hipster boutiques are all well and good, however, most items there are ever inching closer in blandness and price to their soulless high street counterparts. I am forever underwhelmed by their teasing “not for sale” props and spaghetti sprawl of lumberjack shirts, jeans and woolly hats, all as vintage as a pack of Cathedral City cheese; while (hovering above) it seems customary to dangle an American airman’s 1950s fleece jacket (with an altitudinous price tag). So, I was pleasingly overwhelmed to meet Jack (a most dapper and civil young stallholder) manning his opulent IACF vintage apparel stall (wittily brand named ‘Hip Replacement’). Mainly trading as a dealer online this was his first ever Alexander Palace stall pitch in London and it was proving a great success. Jack has an eye for the rare and unusual and so do I, so I set to burrowing through his rails like a demented mole-rat. Somehow my monochromatic vision spotted these understated strides (pictured below);
Yes, yes... I know... WRONG boots, WRONG jacket but frankly I couldn’t WAIT to keep my 60s psychedelic jollies on.
I’d been dearly yearning for a pair of late 60s psychedelic trousers for years. Alas, buying online for me always results in an ill-fitting and inconvenient return to sender. Having tried these on first, their look and fit were exactly on the nose (probably not the best of imagery to conjure here). All the same the tactile relief design and modish ‘bottleneck’ bottoms period style, along with their unworn condition, made these a ‘must have’ purchase. Its razor sharp “mach II by Arrow” label also stated it was USA made. My online research dates them as circa 1969-1971. Already a steal at twenty-five pounds I was expecting little movement in Jack’s pants; however, his sincere generosity in seeing my joy proved me titanically wrong (see film clip below).
I am also happy to report that since sporting them I’ve only been asked “does your granny dress you?” once so far.
The Unscrupulous Vendor’s Polari
The Antiques Trade very much has its own patois, and it's always valuable to know a bit of it, in order to avoid embarrassing oneself.
Vernacular: “Wot iz it? It’s called a chaaair love… Wot you sit on. Tell yer wot, that’s ah lovely bit’ah honest country rustic that-un… That can be a pony love - as it’s you. Really, if you can’t buy from me, you can’t buy from anyone! I tell yer, I’m only getting me money back on that. But then I never counted on dealing wiv such ah pretty lady eh? Ha-ha!”
Translation: It’s called plyyyywoooood madam. Please inspect it more closely - so I may look down your cleavage.
The Atters Ruse: Every Shroud Has a Silver Lining
It is but a sad inevitability that Mort himself shall one-day stroke dear auntie’s cheek and whisper… “Have a little lie in.” Disconcerting for the individual, but where antiques are concerned, topping news for the rest of us. Undoubtedly having already “massaged” their will, one must now focus on those few coveted keepsakes. After all, who wants some grabby interloper creaming off her best stuff? So, prior to your loved ones gentle passing, (say... just before the ‘death-rattle’ stage) reap the rewards of her favouritism. Humour can be a wonderful tool here, so pop the ‘fun’ in funeral by jollying things up a bit. Why not charm your terminal with a splendid ‘going away’ present? The Victorians were famous for their black “mourning” jewellery. Beautiful lockets and brooches were carved from vogue materials of the day such as Whitby jet and Bog Oak (an ancient wood, naturally stained black). The diseased platted hair would then be arranged lovingly behind its bevelled glass.
Pictured: A 19th Century brooch fashioned from ornate pinchbeck metal and black enamel containing an enchanting platted lock of hair from a dead person.
With this in mind, snip off a bit while she’s kipping. And remember, brownie points may be had here; with a good clump one could bang out gifts for everyone! Try to buy a locket or brooch made from contemporary Victorian jet substitutes; vulcanite (a mouldable green/black sulphurous compound) and gutta-percha (similar looking to vulcanite but a plant compound) are easier to find at antique fairs and half the price of jet (at this stage she’ll never notice the difference). Oh, and keep the receipt; you’ll be taking it back soon. But act quickly – you’ll want that gift ready and wrapped in time for her hearty goodbye. Honestly… She will love it! While the gentle gathered to witness her gargles of gratitude, nip downstairs to reserve those keepsakes. I find “aged” backdated labels with “Left to Atters” work remarkably well. And that Art Nouveau Tiffany lamp... That was strictly on loan and yours in the first place! While you’re at it, swap her rare Staffordshire figure for some grotty repro. Just be sure to fain your horror when everyone else notices its ghastly paintwork and faked glaze crackling. Yes, cynical as it may seem, once Auntie’s eyes are balancing pennies, it’ll be “Tally-Ho!” from the rest of them. So get in there quick. You’ll be branded a grave robber but damn it all, the celebrated archaeologist Sir Mortimer Wheeler made a living of it… and he was blooming knighted!
Antiques Fair Joke (BADA Unapproved)
Customer (holding a Japanese relic): “Samurai?”
Trader (rubbing an eye): “No, no... A loose eyelash.”
ATTERS ANTIQUES: We Are NEVER Closed...
Michael “Atters” Attree is a veteran satirist writer, television producer/director and actor with a penchant for antiques, the supernatural and all things British.
More of Atters via: www.atters.com
and Antiques, vintage objet d’art & sartorial delights by AttersAntiques
The next Antiques & Collectors Fairs are:
Ardingly International - Tues 23rd - Wed 24th April
Runway at Newark - Mon 29th April & Mon 20th May
Alexandra Palace - Sun 19th May
Newark - Thurs 30th & Fri 31st May