Why the experts love antiques fairs
Alice Roberton talks to the experts about why they love antiques fairs to give you the low down on everything you need to know to get the best out of your next visit
Tim Hogan, owner of Hogantique
How did you get into the antiques business?
Having always had an interest in vintage and antiques, my wife Jules and I started Hogantique in 2019 as a part-time venture. For many years, I was an HGV driver/drayman delivering beer around the country. I took redundancy in 2021 and had the opportunity to put all my energy into the business. I now largely run Hogantique alone as Jules is a successful knitwear designer running her own business – she’s a huge support and loves coming to the fairs with me.
What do you sell?
Like most dealers, I sell what I love. I mainly trade in rustic antiques and deconstructed French and English chairs. I wouldn’t describe myself as a traditional antiques dealer as I don’t have the knowledge or years of experience of my fellow dealers – however, one thing I certainly do have is the passion. I can honestly say that this is the only job I’ve truly enjoyed since leaving school in 1978. If you’d have asked a 16-year-old Tim what he wants to do when he grows up, he certainly wouldn’t have said this! I love how every day is different with each one rarely ending up as originally planned.
What do you love about standing at fairs?
The camaraderie and sense of community within the trade – especially on the fairs circuit – can’t be beaten. We’re not just stallholders, we’re good friends who give each other lots of support. I learn a lot from my fellow dealers and, when I’ve had a bad day, they’re always there to share a drink and a laugh with. I meet so many interesting people and have some wonderful customers.
I’m a huge fan of Salvage Hunters and massively respect the team for their eye and knowledge and could hardly believe it when Rebecca Pritchard spent 15 minutes chatting to me on my stand at Henley Decor Fair. She offered me some really good advice and lots of encouragement. Mary Berry also came to my stand which was, obviously, very exciting.
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What’s your approach to buying and selling antiques?
As a starting point, one has to have a genuine interest and some knowledge of what you’re buying so that you can pass on the excitement and some provenance. I’m quite a stickler for buying pieces that have a cohesive look and sit comfortably with the rest of my stock. This way, the customer recognises my brand and knows what to come to me for. There’s no right or wrong way and many dealers successfully sell more eclectic stock.
I sell at fairs and online, which is how most antiques and vintage dealers sell these days. During November and December, I hope to exhibit at the Giant Shepton Flea Market, Malvern Flea, Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton Racecourse along with a couple of IACF’s events. Find out more at hogantique.com.
Alice's top fair buy
I picked this old chair up in a very tired state – I saw its potential, deciding to play to its rustic strengths and partially deconstruct it. It hasn’t got the comfiest seat, so I use it in my hallway as a place to hang bags, jackets and such. I love to brighten up worn old furniture and objects with a bit of sparkle and this vintage sequinned jacket does the job perfectly – I just love the slightly incongruous contrast.
Pippa Roberts, PR consultant for The Decorative Fair in Battersea
Joining the antiques and art world back in the late 1990s, Pippa Roberts has worked on prestigious events such as Olympia Fine Art & Antiques Fairs, Tribal Art London, the London Antique Rug & Textile Art Fair (LARTA) and London Art Week. The Decorative Fair has its Autumn event coming up on 4th–9th October and Pippa, who handles press relations and many aspects of the marketing and advertising, has her work cut out.
What is the background of the Fair?
Launched in 1985, it moved to Battersea Park in 1997 and was a great success, attracting a mix of public and trade buyers. A second fair was added immediately, and a third in the mid 1990s. It continues to hold three fairs a year: the Autumn Fair in late September/early October, the Winter Fair in January, and the Spring Fair in May.
How important is affordability with an event like this?
In today’s economy, very. One can easily find a nice piece of glassware or a small ceramic work to take home for around £50. For furniture, there is a general ceiling of £25,000 for an exceptional piece, but the majority of sales fall between £1,000 and £5,000. Affordable decorative art of all periods is available.
Any advice for first-time visitors?
Traverse the aisles methodically from left to right until you reach the cafe at the end of the hall. Get a coffee, then repeat the exercise in reverse. You are more likely to see everything if you walk past a stand from both directions. And don’t be afraid to ask questions of the dealers; they are all knowledgeable and friendly.
Given a bottomless budget, who would you shop with at the Fair?
Katharine Pole, as I adore her antique French printed cottons and toile de Jouy, passementerie and fun haberdashery items. I’m also tempted by Anthea AG Antiques, who stocks jewellery designs from the Georgian period to the 1980s.
And do you have any buying tips?
If something makes you really smile, the chances are it will keep doing that, and please you forever. All info can be found at decorativefair.com
Alice's top fair buy
I spotted several decorative metal frames for sale at a summer fair, and was told by the seller (@tapissage) that they would have originally surrounded the face of a grandfather clock. I love their whimsical design with putti holding trailing flowers, and doves kissing. I plan to hang this find on my bedroom wall as a work of art in its own right.
Clare Powell, co-organiser of The Vintage Bazaar Events
Clare Powell has been running events in Frome, Somerset and Devizes, Wiltshire, since 2010 and, like many event organisers – especially those hosting indoor fairs – she had to adapt when the pandemic hit. Faced with the issue of not being able to run safe events during Covid’s height, she quickly turned her hand to running a virtual edit of the hugely popular Bazaar. With the halt of ‘actual’ events threatening the livelihoods of dealers, and a loyal customer base left with fewer opportunities to buy, The ‘Virtual’ Vintage Bazaar was a huge success: ‘Even with our physical events now back up and running, it’s still going strong. And, to our delight, it turns out that to run the two side by side serves everyone very well,’ says Clare.
What was the purpose of the virtual event?
The Virtual Vintage Bazaar came about due to the cancellation of real-life fairs. For a number of our dealers, this was an opportunity to come together virtually under the VB banner and continue to sell. Our buyers were missing the events, too, so it enabled them to keep buying and feel a small sense of normality. The Virtual Vintage Bazaar has enabled buyers from all over the world to access our events which, in turn, has opened up a whole new market to the dealers.
How does it work?
The dealers are introduced on The Vintage Bazaar Insta feed with a link to their account. Buyers follow each link to peruse the wonderful things for sale, and buy directly from the dealer. Goods are then posted from the seller to the buyer. Dealers are on hand to answer questions throughout the day. There are also links to our dealers on the day, via a dedicated website.
Can virtual events capture the atmosphere of actual events?
The online events have been really popular, however nothing can quite replace the feeling of treasure hunting at a real Vintage Bazaar. That said, many of our long-time dealers and customers have cemented friendships whilst doing business online, and are so delighted when they finally meet each other in Frome and Devizes. Our Bazaars, both online and face to face, are a joyful blend of shopping and socialising.
Do you have any advice for first-time Virtual Bazaar shoppers?
It’s actually easier than you think to shop at an Insta fair! My advice would be to check you are following all the dealers involved and turn on notifications for them. Make sure you’re following the hashtag #virtualvintagebazaar so you don’t miss anything. The great thing is that you can shop on the move or from the comfort of your favourite armchair.
What events do you have coming up?
The Virtual Vintage Bazaar will take place on Saturday 27th August, 24th September, 19th November and 10th December. We are also delighted to say that we will be holding The Vintage Bazaar at The Cheese and Grain in Frome on 22nd October. Turn to page 125 for more details on how to shop @thevintagebazaarevents
Alice's top fair buy
I recently picked up a lovely pair of vintage floral curtains, which I plan to use to hide my washing machine in a new laundry area I am having built out of salvaged materials. Whilst I’m waiting for the work to be done, they are doing a fantastic job as a tablecloth on my garden table!
Richard Burgoin of Arthur Swallow Fairs
‘Arthur Swallow Fairs was established in 1995 by my late father Peter Burgoin. My brother Marc and I developed a taste for the ‘trade’ pretty young. We helped with event set-up and learnt a lot about what makes a good fair and, in 2008, we took over the running of the business along with my wife, Anna. With our young children already showing a healthy interest in fairs, it’s throughand-through a family business.
‘Hosting everything from fastpaced one-day markets to relaxed three-day boutique home shows, our focus is aimed at the antique, salvage and vintage market. What’s great is that these fairs, markets and shows are suitable for everyone, from collectors through to home renovators; we firmly believe that antiques are for everyone, so we welcome families and encourage the younger generation to discover the joys of hunting for beautiful old pieces. The environmental and financial benefits of buying ‘preloved’ is huge and we’re seeing more and more people of all ages choosing old over new.
‘Our three-day Decorative Home & Salvage Show 17th–19th June at Beale Park in Berkshire is our newest. Launched three years ago, it takes place in a stunning Thames-side field just outside Pangbourne. With on-site catering and a bar, the atmosphere is always relaxed and a good browse through the 70-plus stands could see you picking up a £1 bargain or making a serious investment. At last year’s show I bought a Victorian oil painting of a handsome bearded chap in the most beautiful gilt frame – our home is full of interesting old pieces, but this is definitely my favourite purchase.
‘After 11 years, I still get excited when we open the gate on the first day – I’ll never tire of watching a queue of happy faces enter in anticipation of falling in love with pieces for their homes and gardens. Our exhibitors, many of whom come down from the north specially to exhibit with us, make a huge effort to save their best stock and set their stands up beautifully. If you buy something large, you can drive on-site to pick it up or the dealer may be able to arrange delivery. Either way, there is always help on hand.’
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David Ashley of David Ashley Antiques
David Ashley turned his hobby into his career three years ago after the company he worked for went into liquidation. It was a chance to turn his passion for antiques into his livelihood, he says: ‘They went bust on the Monday and I was at Sunbury Antiques Market at 6.30am on the Tuesday morning!’ David sells English and Continental antique furniture, an eclectic selection of decorative antique and vintage items, including gardenalia. Having visited fairs most of his life he is now a regular at some of the biggest antiques fairs across the UK.
What unusual antique has recently passed through your hands?
I have always had a thing for interesting chairs. A while back, I managed to get my hands on a pair of George VI coronation chairs, which were lovely to own, but even better to sell. I feel very privileged when pieces like this come my way.
Do you have any good fair stories?
Yes, lots! Early one morning at Henley Decor Fair, I recall waking to a banging noise, but didn’t think anything of it. I finally got up to investigate, only to find that the dealers next to me had managed to lock themselves in the back of their van and had spent two hours phoning and messaging dealers to rescue them. There’s never a dull moment at a fair!
Which are your favourite fairs and why?
Arthur Swallow Fairs’ summer Decorative Home & Salvage Shows are favourites of mine for their beautiful settings and relaxed feel. These three-day events take place in three different locations and are brilliant for both sellers and buyers. Sunbury Antiques Market is one of the country’s longest running ‘proper’ markets, with thousands of interesting pieces. It takes place twice a month. I have fond memories of visiting this fair 40 years ago with my father. And Henley Decor Fair (in May and September) on the banks of the Thames has a real festival vibe. Incredible pieces are presented by some of the best dealers to a backdrop of great food and music.
What fair would you recommend for July?
The Loseley Park Decorative Home & Salvage Show, near Guildford in Surrey, is a fantastic event (15th–17th July). It’s really well established now and attracts some of the best decorative antiques dealers in the business, and the prices are also good. Do you have any fair visiting tips? If you see something that you like and it’s the right price just buy it. If you don’t, someone else will. I’ve missed out on so many pieces in the past by thinking I’d go back, only to find they’ve been sold. This is a gutting feeling I do my best to avoid.
Alice's Top Fair Buy
Last summer, I bagged some excellent pieces for my new home and garden; alongside garden furniture and an aluminium coffee jug/vase, I bought a pair of heavy chippy-paint French shutters for £120 to add architectural interest to my house. With the help of a few hooks, they also do an excellent job of displaying objects.
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Simon Pearson of Chandeliers to Bones
Developing a love of old things in his childhood by exploring derelict mansions and the local bottle dump, Lancashire-born Simon Pearson later discovered that French antiques are what really make him tick. After many years living and working in France, he returned to the UK in 2018 and is now trading at fairs on home turf.
Do many French dealers come over to trade at UK fairs?
Yes, and all of them are very hardworking people who are constantly travelling to buy and sell the best stock they can. Prices are always reasonable, especially considering the costs involved in crossing the Channel. Brexit and the pandemic slowed French antiques coming into the UK for a while, however things are getting back to normal now.
Do you have any good stories?
I’ve had a couple of interesting finds, one being a small 19th-century oil-on-canvas that had been pasted over with 1950s wallpaper. I could see it was a study of a sheep’s head and when I gently removed the paper it revealed the signature of Juliette Peyrol-Bonheur, a very collectable artist. This kind of find makes all the hard work worth it.
Which UK fairs are good for French antiques?
You can find French antiques at most UK fairs, as there are plenty of people like me sourcing in France. The more southerly fairs are good hunting grounds due to being more accessible for the French dealers, with Sunbury Antiques Market at Kempton and Ardingly International Antiques & Collectors Fair being especially good. Kempton is similar to the French trade fairs, with an early start, quick set-up and early finish. Ardingly is a little more relaxed.
Which fairs do you recommend for French antiques this August?
For size and the opportunity to source European antiques, Arthur Swallow Fairs’ Lincoln Antiques & Home Show (10th August) and IACF’s Newark International Antiques & Collectors Fair (11th–12th August) are good to visit. I know a number of French dealers who are already sourcing for both. You’ll find a good selection of Belgian and Dutch dealers there, too.
Do you have any tips for buying French antiques at UK fairs?
Many French dealers don’t have time to clean up their stock and will often sell in an ‘as found’ untouched condition – a tell-tale sign it has come straight from a property clearance or been found in a barn somewhere. A French dealer once told me that it’s better to leave the dust and dirt in situ to show it has been brought fresh to market. So don’t be put off by a bit of dust or dirt as it could be a sign of authenticity.
Alice's Top Fair Buy
I recently bought some items from Simon’s stand at the Ripley Decorative Home & Salvage Show, and a favourite piece was this charming 1950s oil painting of Notre Dame by a Parisian street artist. It cost me £15. I have a thing for religious relics, and this artwork perfectly sets the scene for my growing collection of Lourdes Virgin Mary figures.