The Klaber family began collecting in the heydays of the 1960s, when good 18th-century porcelain was plentiful and it was easy for them to create an interesting collection very quickly. Betty’s husband, Imre, provided the early inspiration for the collection. He was an adviser and always available to provide hands-on assistance over the years.
It was with her younger daughter, Pamela, who was just finishing her schooling and had enjoyed collecting and learning with her parents, that Betty decided to refine their collection and sell some of their pieces.
In 1969, they exhibited at a well-respected antiques fair in Dorking. Enjoying more than moderate success, they decided to establish a mother/ daughter partnership: Klaber & Klaber. They became members of The BADA in 1972.
A stall in Portobello Road quickly followed as their outlet, and soon a more permanent address was sought in the form of a share of a shop in Richmond.
They then moved on into central London and the Kensington hypermarket before finally securing their own tiny shop in Hans Road, Knightsbridge, by the side of Harrods. After eight years they relocated to a spacious two-storey shop just off Kensington Church Street.
During these formative years, they exhibited at many different antique fairs all over the UK, building both their customer base and their reputation. These included those at the Bath Assembly Rooms; Cheltenham; Chelsea Town Hall; the Royal Academy of Arts; and finally they were invited to exhibit at what had always been their dream: the prestigious Grosvenor House Antiques Fair.
With eager anticipation in 1973, Klaber & Klaber spent time planning their first Grosvenor House fair. However, this was the year of the chambermaids’ strike, held the week before the fair was due to open and resulting in the event being cancelled.
With special stock purchased for the fair and much time spent on the detailed planning of their stand, this was a huge blow. An alternative plan had to be found quickly.
Personal invitations were printed and they invited customers to their shop in Knightsbridge, which was greatly appreciated by visitors who had also been disappointed that the fair had been cancelled at such short notice.
Betty was soon invited to join the ceramics vetting committee at the Grosvenor House fair, later becoming the chairman, a post she held for many years. She enjoyed a reputation as a great authority on European porcelain and earned respect among her peers for her breadth of knowledge.
Klaber & Klaber also invested much time in preparing a number of well-researched scholarly exhibitions in their shops, mostly accompanied by detailed catalogues.
RAF pilot husband
Betty was born in Manchester in 1924 to a family of cap manufacturers. When she was 18, the family moved to London during the Blitz. It was shortly thereafter that she met Hungarian RAF pilot, Imre, her future husband. During the war years, Betty worked at the Ministry of Information, with Laurie Lee and Cecil Day Lewis.
She had a great appreciation of all the arts; music and especially opera. She was a very accomplished pianist herself and a talented painter.
Betty was a woman who loved life; she had a real sense of adventure and travelled widely with her husband and Pamela. Wherever they went, they would always enjoy hunting for ceramics.
Betty and her husband were members of many of the ceramic societies, including: the English Ceramic Circle, the Northern Ceramic Circle. Betty was also a founding member of the French Porcelain Society.
Well into her late 80s, and after Imre died, Betty continued to travel, often alone. Several times a year she visited her older daughter Susan, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren who were now living in the US.
She was an early subscriber to Antiques Trades Gazette, and enjoyed reading her copy each week to the very last. Her quest for knowledge and her passion for ceramics continued, undimmed, throughout her lifetime.
Hers was a great example of a life of joy, knowledge and generosity, and she remained charming to everyone right to the end of her wonderful 95 years.
Yvette Conn (LifeBook) and family