The spring edition of the Antiques for Everyone Art, Decorative and Interiors fair at the NEC in Birmingham on April 6-9 is the first of the year and the first of the Birmingham events to run after the launch of AFE London.
The vision was that visitors to the ExCeL London event will be encouraged to make their way to the NEC for the first time. That remains to be seen.
Spring AfE brings a new initiative. Organiser Clarion Events has partnered with the British Institute of Interior Design (BIID), giving its members complementary access to the fair and highlighting the design appropriate pieces interior decorators can find there.
On a ‘Meet the Designers’ page on the AfE website, visitors can get advice from a design expert (see below) to aid them as they shop.
AfE is likely to remain a destination for many collectors: adding a contingent of decorators to its rank of regular visitors would be most welcome.
The fair is a smaller event than it once was, although, featuring more than 200 dealers, is still a feast for the eye.
As has long been the format, exhibitors are organised into two parts. The premium Section One incorporates any objects and no dateline restriction while Section Two features stock dating mostly from pre-1970 with a few exceptions for some subject areas. Prices at the fair cover a broad ‘middle market’ range from £20–20,000.
The fair is an important one for ceramics dealers and collectors and this is reflected in an exhibition mounted by the English Ceramic Circle. The society’s international members have loaned pottery and porcelain made in the British Isles from 1640-1970, including a previously unrecorded vase decorated at Worcester by Samuel Astles c.1820.
At 22in (56cm) high it is thought to be among the largest ever made by the Flight & Barr factory.
Three members of the circle will present specialist talks: Charles Dawson with a lecture titled 250 years at the Worcester Porcelain Factory, James Sewell with Orchid Mania on Ceramics and Jonathan Gray with Wonderful Welsh – Pottery and Porcelain of South Wales. Other speakers include Antiques Roadshow favourites and NEC regulars Judith Miller and Will Farmer.
New to the NEC this month are Grasilver London bringing Georg Jensen jewellery and Scandinavian designer pieces (Grasilver was among the exhibitors at AfE London) plus Honourable Silver Objects, Jeremy Kirk Fine Art and furniture and accessories specialist Ken Marsh.
Decorative arts, glass and lighting dealer Northern Light, Stephen Dymond Antiques, Titus Omega and Jonathan Harris Glass Studio are all returning after a break.
Among the dealers coming back again this year are porcelain specialists such as John Newton Antiques and Drove House Antiques, as well as Hickmet Fine Arts and Hazlehurst Antiques.
Meet the Designers
Visitors to the AfE website can visit the ‘Meet the Designers’ page to get top tips from members of the British Institute of Interior Design. This example comes from Jane Churchill of Jane Churchill Interiors, Pimlico Road.
1. What inspired you to become an interior designer?
I was brought up in a family who were interested in little else. My great aunt Nancy Lancaster was world renowned and her sister, my grandmother, was equally talented.
2. What areas of art and antiques are you interested in and how does this influence you at work?
Eighteenth, 19th and 20th century are the areas I am most interested in as I think that they fit into modern living the easiest.
3. Are there any specific sources, trends and historical eras that you often draw inspiration from?
I am constantly surprised by how much I find on Instagram. I follow many antique and modern furniture designers and take items on approval for projects.
4. There has been a trend towards mixing old with new in the past decade; has this helped you in your advice to clients?
I have always mixed old and new – it gives a more lived-in look.
5. What top tip would you have for those interested in sourcing and adding antiques to their home?
My top tip is scale. How often do you see furniture and mirrors that are too small for the space – be braver.