Antiques series. Paul Martin examines the philosophy behind Shaker furniture, and Thomas Plant reveals a close family connection with an eccentric 19th century potter.
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For well over a decade now, Flog It! has offered you
the chance to have your antiques and collectables valued
and sold in auction rooms all over the British Isles,
and sometimes for a great deal of money.
And during that time, we have all learned a great deal about the world
of fine art and antiques that we, as a nation, cannot get enough of.
So today, I want to share some of that knowledge with you.
So stand by to hear some more trade secrets.
For me, craftsmanship is the central part
of the appeal of any piece of fine art.
Now, until relatively recently, everything was made
by hand - furniture, porcelain, jewellery.
So today, we are celebrating all the handmade items
that light up the Flog It! valuation days.
a meeting of minds at valuation day...
I absolutely love this wonderful, big pot.
Oh, that makes two of us.
..Caroline is caught out by a talented amateur...
I was very surprised when I was told that these were handmade,
because they are beautifully made.
..a rare pair of handmade treats smashes our estimate...
-Even I am sitting down now.
..and can you guess which of our experts heads back home
to explore great craftsmanship near his birthplace?
Now, I don't suppose for one minute that the unknown maker
of this leather blackjack, which dates to around 1690,
had any idea that today this would be worth around £1,000.
But it is, it is a hardy survivor.
This was meant to be used, abused really, filled up with ale or wine.
And there's the spout. Look, there is the handle.
Pour it away. Look, use it for a few months and chuck it.
It is a relevance that it was made by an amateur.
But is that always the case?
If it is unsigned, go for some nice, early naive work.
I think if you're looking for something that is handmade,
you are looking for a truth and honesty of its design.
You're looking for something of its period.
But also always look for quality.
It could be a carved bit of wood, it could be a carved bit of marble.
And you are actually thinking in your head,
"You couldn't actually get that made
"or even buy the materials for what it would cost to make now by hand."
You'll find quality in all types of handmade items -
in professional pieces, of course, but also an amateur works.
Well, here we are in Lincolnshire,
and what better thing to fly in than these two iconic World War II
planes, which look as if they could be just flying into one
of the dozens of airfields that were around here in the Second World War.
I don't know the models. Can you tell me a bit about them?
Well, I presume this is the... this is the Spitfire.
And then I have been told that it is the Mosquito.
I was very surprised when I was told that these were handmade,
because they are beautifully made.
They really are. And somebody spent an awful long time on them
in his shed. I think it was
Ken's grandfather who made them in his shed.
Well, they have come into the family from my grandad,
who worked in the railway yard at Doncaster.
He was quite a handy sort of chap.
Yes. And he'd make old model planes, cos he had a workshop.
And it got me to... As a boy, used to make model planes.
So you think he made these?
Well, we think so, yeah.
You know, they are very, very indicative of that period.
You could almost see the guy in his shed making them, you know,
watching the planes go overhead.
It's naively made.
And this one, the detail in this.
You can see underneath the work that has gone into it.
He must've been very proud of them.
And they are working models, aren't they?
-The propellers go around.
I could tell they were handmade when I looked more closely at them.
There was no uniformity in them. There were differences.
But they were very, very beautiful things, though.
There is a lot of people that are interested in World War II
memorabilia. There are a lot of people interested in planes.
I think they could get £40 to £60.
And if we put a fixed reserve at £40
-and hope that they fly.
-That's right, yes.
Fingers crossed. Anyway, they are going under the hammer right now.
Let's put it to the test.
£30 bid. Two now. Making it two.
It's two. And five.
Anywhere else, now five. 35? 38? 38 bid, 40 do I see now?
38, going to bed 40 surely.
40. Selling at 40.
£40, it's sold, the hammer has gone down.
£40 was a very, very cheap price for these airplanes. It really was.
It seems such a shame.
Somebody has spent an awful long time making these.
As always, a known maker, a known artist makes all the difference.
To my mind, it doesn't matter who has made them,
it is the fact that they have been lovingly and carefully handcrafted.
Love and care is evident in the work of enthusiastic hobbyists.
-Is it a hobby or a profession?
-No, it's a hobby.
You can't make money at it.
And in pieces designed back
when craft was a more mainstream activity.
So this will fit into sort of a large Victorian house.
It will also fit in to a small cottage.
If you're going to look at one area that is quite interesting, that
has got a lot of different regions to study and can fetch good money -
19th-century American quilts.
Beautiful, handmade social history, but quite valuable.
One such quilt crossed the Atlantic to the Cotswolds,
the home of Arts and Crafts.
Once there, it caught the eye of Charlie Ross.
Well, this quilt came from the United States.
-Right, as indeed you do.
-Yes, as indeed I do.
-I am from Boston.
The quilt is from Pennsylvania.
It was made in about 1880.
It recently hung in an American quilt exhibit back in Georgia.
I liked the quilt. It appealed to me.
And part of me wanted to know more about it.
-The pattern is called 1,000 Pyramids.
-There's probably more than a thousand pyramids.
-But there's a lot. There are only a few that repeat.
So if none repeated, it will be called a charm quilt.
But since there are a few that repeat, it's just called a scrappy quilt.
-Good Lord, we are learning a lot here.
-There you go.
She had a passion for quilts.
She had - although she repeated it rather sort of ashamed,
because she didn't want her husband to know - over 50 quilts.
-We moved into an English house with no closets.
So I'm thinking I'm need to pare back on some of my quilt collection.
-So I brought this along with me.
It's hugely enjoyable to get somebody...
and unusual to get somebody along to Flog It!
that knows considerably more about something than you do yourself.
You might say in my case that is not rare at all.
Just to cut out the pieces to do it would take several days.
And then sewing each one of these by hand,
you're talking several weeks.
-I bought it at an estate sale.
And there was a piece of paper stitched to it loosely, and it said,
"Made by Aunt Meg for my nephew."
A quilt made by me would not be worth anything at all.
A quilt particularly stitched as this was,
that has a splendid charm to it.
I can't imagine that it is worth much less than £100 to £150.
If we estimated it at that, perhaps a reserve of £80?
-That will be fine.
-Would that be satisfactory?
Was it hard to choose one to get rid of first or do you think this
-is your worst one you're selling?
I have another one that is similar to this.
-All right, so you have got a double.
And so I sort of thought, well, if I was going to thin the herd,
-that I would pick one that I already had.
-You're sounding like a proper collector.
Let's hope you get the top end.
-It's going under the hammer now.
-This is it.
203, American patchwork quilt.
1,000 Pyramids pattern.
At 110, who's going on? 120.
-130. At 130 again.
At 130 then against you.
Selling then at 130...
Yes! The hammer has gone down with a boom.
Apart from its value as an object,
if you actually
put down the price per hour, it's a jolly cheap thing.
Yes, a fantastic bargain
and an amazing piece of heritage for the lucky bidder.
Handmade objects do involve hours of great skill and offer
something unique, like this walking cane Mark Stacey spotted in 2010.
We've got here what I think is a piece of fruit wood.
So it's come from like a walnut tree or an apple tree
or something like that, a pear tree
that somebody first of all has carved out and then has started...
Once he's got it down to a particular shape,
he has then started to carve all these little details out.
The quality was exceptional.
I mean, there was so many things going on in this cane.
I mean, I love the fact also, as soon as you've touched it,
you knew there was 150 years of history there,
because the warmth of the wood...
There had been so many greasy paws all over that.
It had added that lovely warmth, the patina, it was wonderful.
I think this is a love token.
Oh, do you?
I think somebody in the 19th century wanted to create something
interesting for a loved one.
This, I think, is absolutely charming.
This little polyagonal design here.
Because in each of these, there is a little leaf
of a different animal.
The one I find that is particularly charming is the squirrel.
We've got these entwined hands there.
And then all the way down here,
they have done a spiral twist with this lovely decoration of hops.
When you are looking at items like this,
they are sometimes very symbolic.
You know, you find hearts, pairs of birds, snakes.
All these are symbolic of love, longevity.
And sometimes, you know, we don't know the meeting, because maybe
they're items carved and they were very specific to that person.
-I'd certainly want to put it in at £100 to £150.
-Yes? Oh, lovely.
I love this next item. And they say you can tell a man's
profession by his walking cane, and this is just absolutely gorgeous.
We know there is an awful lot of collectors out there
for walking canes and that sort of thing.
Big market, very big market.
They will like this. Yes, they will like it a lot.
The wooden cane we are on to now. This is fun.
With me at £300. Against you in the room.
At £300, commission bid.
Are we all out and clear? I sell?
Thank you. £300, excellent.
This is a one-off piece. It was exquisitely carved.
That will appeal to collectors.
Generally, though, anything from this period
with that quality of carving will be desirable.
Symbolism features often in handmade items.
The maker of this cane could have crafted it for a sweetheart,
just as sailors used to spend long periods at sea,
fashioning scrimshaw for their loved ones back on dry land.
You've brought a lovely piece of scrimshaw in here.
What is the story behind this?
I don't know a lot about it.
-It was in the house ever since I was very small.
That's really how it got there. Who brought it? I do not know.
Scrimshaw is quite an interesting art,
because it is quite a naive form of craftsmanship.
But also it is, by definition, quite a refined
and painstaking way of decorating either whales
or walruses' teeth or possibly sometimes bone.
It is thought to have been primarily sailors who would undertake
this form of craft using knives or needles
to scratch away at the surface and to actually make the design up.
Normally, they represent the... Why don't I just turn that over?
The ship that they were serving on.
And there it is, a nice masted galleon there with billowing sails.
I mean, sailors did a lot of different craftsmanship,
from weaving through to quite exquisite embroidery and needlework,
so to extend their ability to engraving is kind of really
not that unusual.
And they spent hours and days and weeks and months at sea.
They had to fill it in some way.
Now, if that ship were traceable
or if it were known as to where that sailed, who might have
sailed on it, that would potentially add value to the piece itself.
The more detailed, the better.
The more skilful the artist, the better.
But if something is either named or indeed dated
and to give it sort of a real root back in history
and a degree of provenance that goes with it is helpful.
I think, date-wise, it is going to be probably mid 19th century.
You can't get much scrimshaw for 100 150, so shall we say 200 to 400?
-Put a reserve on at £200.
-Make that firm?
Thank you for coming in today and bringing it.
-No problem, I enjoyed it.
-We'll see what we can do at the auction.
There we go, a very nice piece of scrimshaw.
And a lot of interest in it.
-At 300. 320. From Australia.
They are an international collectable.
It crosses all sorts of barriers, potentially,
in terms of appreciation.
At 440, net bidder had it. Any more bids from the room?
We sell then to Australia at 440.
It is just a fascinating thing that the word scrimshaw will be picked up
on a word search, and somebody as far away as Australia chased it down
and succeeded in buying it, which is wonderful.
Scrimshaw may be highly collectable, but it is also easily faked,
so do your homework to make sure yours is genuine.
And like ivory, it is controversial.
But it is perfectly legal to buy or sell if it dates
Scrimshaw was generally created by talented amateurs
with time to spare,
as was a wonderfully unusual item that Mark spotted in 2012.
Now, you have brought this charming little object in.
Can you give me a little bit of the history of it?
It has been in the family, so I have lived with it all my life.
It was worked by a relation of my father's.
-Oh, wow. So it has come right through your family.
This type of wool work pictures is remarkably rare these days.
I mean, I loved it because it was so 3-D
and the colours were beautiful on it.
It almost hadn't aged at all.
The nice thing with something like this is you don't have to do
too much research on it, because the main information
-is already there, isn't it?
You've got the name - Mary Ann Lawrence.
And the date - 1837.
-And she was aged 13...
-..when she did this.
Now, you wouldn't get many 13-year-olds today doing such
-lovely handwork, would you?
Condition for this sort of thing is everything.
And this really was in remarkably good condition.
The colours were strong.
I loved those strawberries tumbling out of the bowl,
it was just wonderful. I would have loved it.
What we have got here is something a little bit out of the ordinary.
This 3-D effect.
She has worked this lovely wicker basket in sort of felt, I think.
And then she has hand sewn and handmade these lovely little
strawberries, including the little seeds and the leaves.
And they are tumbling off there. You've got wildflowers.
-And it must have taken hours of work, mustn't it?
The beauty of this is the naivety.
This is a handmade item from a lady of leisure, really,
who had time before television and radio to sit there sewing.
It transported me back to a Jane Austen novel.
In an ideal world, I think, if we want to show that
it's from a private source,
we would want to put an estimate of something like 300 to 500.
-Would you be happy with that?
So we put a fixed reserve of 300?
Hopefully, that will bring in all those buyers.
Jane was so confident about the colourful wool work
that she upped the estimate.
But would the bidders agree?
Going under the hammer right now, my favourite item of the whole
valuation day - the strawberry wool work diorama.
There it is - pretty and unusual thing.
And I bid £410 for it.
Against you all at 410.
All done then at 520?
Finished at 520?
-It's gone at £520.
Well, that's OK, that's OK.
-Hopefully, a museum has bought it.
-Yeah, you never know.
-Yes, that'd be nice.
-It would be, wouldn't it?
This would have gone to a specialist dealer or collector
in that type of folk art.
I would associate that, of course, with a sort of naive painting.
It would look lovely in a room
full of Georgian-period oak furniture.
I agree, and I'd be happy to have it in my home.
Some handmade items can be rough and ready,
but this needn't detract from their appeal.
Hours of work, pride and passion have gone into their making,
so they represent great value.
In some cases, you can pick up an antique piece for less than new.
Handmade textiles are a popular collectable, not surprising,
as they are often the result of great skill.
But be sure to keep them in the best conditions, away from moths
and potentially damaging sunlight.
Scrimshaw is highly sought after,
but if it is suspiciously cheap, it is probably fake.
Good authentic pieces command great prices.
In 2012, this cane, dating back two centuries,
sold at auction for a whopping £46,000.
The owner had stored it on top of a cupboard for 60 years.
So what else is worth considering?
I think one of the most important things is to keep your eyes open
for antiques of the future.
Now, if you know a local maker producing quality items
that you think will stand the test of time, then why not invest?
At the end of the day, if it doesn't go up in value, at least you
have bought something that you love and it has put a smile on your face.
It's going to make you feel good, and that is what it is all about.
Here at the American Museum in Bath is one of the best collections
of original Shaker furniture in the world.
The Shakers were a religious community in 18th-century America.
They believed in order, simplicity, sharing and no clutter.
And their furniture became symbolic of their faith.
Shaker designs sprang from a religious philosophy
that rejected the values of the world at large,
a world that was deliberately set apart from everyday American
life during the late 18th and early 19th century.
And this is what I am talking about - the simplest
and purest of furniture you will ever find, and it is so practical.
Every time I look at Shaker furniture, it always makes me smile.
Life is so simple when you declutter.
And the Shaker belief was all about sharing things.
You couldn't have clutter, else you would never find anything.
Because they had to share their tools, their utensils,
their blankets, absolutely anything.
And when you look at the furniture, you'll never see
a piece of Shaker furniture that has been identified by its maker.
You see, they didn't want to know, they didn't want single
ownership of that either.
Mixture of words were used,
all highly coloured and polished as well.
This is a cherry wood top. They loved fruit woods
but also hardwoods - actually some maples - and lots of softwoods.
You will find softwoods always in the pine carcass.
It is sort of a lightweight, cheap wood.
It is a bit like a soapbox, really, but no-one looks at the inside.
But just looking at the simple banks of drawers,
there is absolutely no ornamentation.
There is no need for decoration.
It sort of takes the eye off of what the whole thing was supposed
to be about in the first place.
This is very humble.
But when you take a closer look at this chest of drawers,
you think, "Hang on, look at the overhang on the top."
I've never seen an English or European
chest of drawers like this, with such generous overhangs.
You see, now, this also doubles up as a counter, as a tabletop.
Very functional, very practical.
And somebody has been using this as a worktop,
because can you see all these draw knife marks?
There is an indication of an awful lot of work going on here,
which is great, because that is what it was meant to be used for.
And also, it has got a drop-leaf section here,
so you can fold that flap down and move the thing
back against the wall, get it out of the way, declutter again.
Cleanliness was next to godliness here.
# I love Mother... #
The Shakers strove to lead pure and simple lives,
and their furniture reflects this.
This simple and elegant designs were way ahead of their time,
and almost by accident, they became art objects.
# May have his throne
# And the miser, his gold
# The monarch, his palace
# And the princes
# I covet none of this
# For I the gospel call. #
Take a close look at the picture rail,
because you've got these hand-turned pegs which have been
driven into this wood, which has been painted with a blue ground.
But the great thing about this is,
you don't just hang your clothes on it or your tools,
but when you've finished using a piece of furniture
and space is of a premium,
you can pick your piece of furniture up
and you can hang it out of the way.
You see, they were always in the pursuit of perfection,
improving things, moving along. A simple thing like this stove.
OK, it is a very basic wood burner.
Here is the hub of the burner.
But also it has got an extension on the top. As this heats up
all day long, so does that.
So that is going to give off twice as much heat again.
You see, it's genius, isn't it?
And I love this as well - the old rocker.
And this is so typical of a ladder-back chair.
It looks like an English one -
ladder-back here with the rush seat.
But what sets it apart is the fact that it is an American one and
it has got these lovely mushrooms terminating at the top of each leg
where it joins the... I love that. And that is so comfortable,
you just want to hang on to that and caress it.
But this I have to show you, because Shaker furniture hasn't just
influenced furniture designers, but all designers of the 20th century.
If I hold that up, that does look like a bit of Philippe Starck,
doesn't it? Let's face it.
But it is just the simpleness, it's just...
You don't need a lot of weight there -
it's just a functional little side table or candle stand.
Beautifully symmetrical. And again, so pleasing on the eye.
# For I the gospel call
# And a kind, loving mother
# Which is better than them all
# The king may have his throne
# And the miser, his gold
# The monarch, his palace
# And the princes... #
I would love to live my life in a space like this,
because I know I would be on top of everything and, you know,
I'd have more time to read and more time to think
and I'd be a happier person.
That is what Shaker furniture does for you.
# Which is better than them all. #
Thomas Plant is a man who loves to look at all the beautiful
antiques you bring to our valuation days,
but he is also a collector of some rather mutual handmade objects.
These are pilgrim shells.
They're carved mother of pearl with scenes from the Bible.
They are carved in the Holy Land - Palestine or Israel.
As you go on a pilgrimage, you want to bring something back.
And these are souvenirs.
But you can buy these souvenirs now or you could have bought them
in the 19th century, bought them in the 18th century.
The reason why I like them and why I want to collect them is not
that I'm over religious, not that I'm religious at all.
But I find that anything with religion
associated to it
is going to have a deeper sense of thought put into it.
The applied design, the workmanship,
the craftsmanship is going to have that extra bit of love.
We have scenes of the Madonna, Jesus and Joseph,
scenes of St Andrew with his cross and the Last Supper.
The man or woman who has carved these has used many tools.
He has probably used a sharp blade or a small chisel to carve out
the faces of the Last Supper.
Down below, he has used a file to do this beautiful pierced design
and then a smaller tool to do the frieze around the rim.
Now, the substance they are carved out of, mother of pearl,
gives it that certain extra something,
because it makes them shimmer.
Earlier examples are painted as well.
And you can get massive ones with different scenes
from all scenes of the Bible. They are sometimes cased in leather.
But they're like 500 quid.
Each one of these is reasonable at £50 to £80 each.
Everything starts with the patronage of the church
or of a religion.
And I feel that the people who have carved these have devoted time,
effort and quality into them.
And I really enjoy them.
Still to come, James is blown away
by British craftsmanship at its best.
No, no, no, this isn't an everyday scent bottle you have.
Just look at the quality there of these individually
hand-cut flower heads.
And Mark explains his appreciation for one piece
of handmade porcelain.
To me, she appeals because she is a bit more of a one-off.
Many of the great names in British antiques have stayed true
to the art of making things by hand - hand-painted ceramics,
hand-carved stone, handmade furniture.
We see a lot of these items at a Flog It! valuation day.
But the ones that stand out are those with a great name attached.
by the studios, by artists and craftsmen
are more valuable in the market today
because each of these pieces is unique.
Names are better to collect because if you have got
somebody that is popular today rather than an amateur,
the likelihood is it will be collectable in the future.
So rather than an amateur...
It's a brave bet to take a chance on somebody who is an amateur now
getting better in the future,
but I would always say, go for big names.
Most people that have a skill and hand-make objects
are proud enough to put their name to the object.
One thinks perhaps of Robert Thompson - Mouseman -
who put a little mouse on his pieces of furniture.
So, of course, it helps to have a recognised name
to anything that's handmade.
I would suggest you have a look closely at mid-20th-century
There's wonderful handmade pieces
that are just thrown on the potter's wheel.
And here is a brilliant example from 2011 -
studio pottery with a celebrated name.
It certainly got Anita fired up.
I absolutely love
this wonderful big pot.
-Oh, that makes two of us.
-Tell me, where did you get it?
It was a gift from my grandmother when she died
and it was left for me.
It is a big studio pot.
That means that it wasn't factory made or mass-produced -
it was produced in a small studio or workshop.
And every pot that they put out was an individual piece.
It is the studio of Charles Brannam.
Charles Brannam was one of the great potters of the late 19th,
early 20th century.
His father owned a pottery who made in the main utilitarian wares.
Very plain pots, household stuff, very boring stuff.
But Charles was an artistic child
and he persuaded his father to give him studio space.
When we look at the decoration here, we see these almost stylised fish.
They have made this pattern or this image by scraping out the clay
while it was still wet to make the lines which form up the pattern.
And this was very typical of this studio or workshop.
Individual studios would crop up where we had craftsmen
and artists rebelling against the mechanisation of the industrial age
and wanting to get back to the individual,
the skill and the craft of the individual.
And Charles Brannam's studio pottery was one of these,
and thank goodness for them
when we look at what they were making.
What did you like about it?
First of all, as you say, the feel and the colours.
As a child, I don't know, it was just so different.
-As a child, can you remember...?
-Yes, the fish.
And sometimes they would scowl at me.
-This one looks like a glaring fish, doesn't it?
Handmade objects have the life
breathed into them by the artist.
It's his thoughts going on to the object.
And for me, that is the essence
and the pinnacle of good work.
I would've put a value of between £100 and £200.
It is fairly low and fairly wide,
but I think a collector would be prepared to pay £100 for that.
I think it is certainly worth that.
But what did those in the saleroom think?
A lovely, large stoneware vase by Charles Brannam.
I've got two commission bids at 100, starts me straight in.
-Yes, that's good.
Ten will go. At 100. 110. 120.
130. 140. 190. 200.
-240. At £240.
-We'll take that.
At £240 for the last time...
Yes! £240. Somebody out there really wanted that.
Anita knew that the collectors would be interested in that piece
of Brannam pottery.
But does a good name always guarantee success?
Have a look at the vase here.
And here we go - CH Brannam of Barum.
-And he has set up the part of the factory that
was in charge of doing this what we call sgraffito decoration.
I thought the vase was really boldly decorated,
so it really struck me as a strong design, strong colour.
Good strong bit of studio pottery.
I mean, I can sort of see that...
If it's a perfect piece, fetching at sort of between £150
and £250, that sort of level.
But because of the damage, I'm going to say to you...
Can I sort of tuck it at about £80 to £100?
Studio pottery is really driven by makers and designers.
So, did auctioneer Claire Rawle share Will's enthusiasm
for this damaged pot?
This is the Brannam Barum pottery vase,
designed by Frederick Brannam.
I think with Brannam,
you almost expect a bit of damage.
I do collect it myself, and you sort of accept the fact.
Start away here £45.
At 45. Do I see 50 anywhere? At 45 it is, then.
You're sure? 45 with me, then.
No, that has to stay with me, ladies and gentlemen.
No, they were sitting on their hands.
Maybe all the locals have already got enough, I don't know.
A few years ago,
Brannam or Barum pottery was making a lot of money.
It is like a lot of things, it has dropped. And I wasn't sure
that the colour didn't put people off.
It is not a traditional colour for that factory.
What would Claire's advice be for Brannam collectors?
Go for the pieces that with the deeper colours - the deep blues,
the deep purples. This had the right decoration on it.
It had a fish on it, that is very popular.
But I think go for the darker colours.
The Brannam Pottery stopped producing in 2005.
When a factory has closed,
it obviously means they are not producing any more wares,
so in that instance, if there is a finite supply of something,
then of course, they're going to be more valuable than something
they are still making today.
But if Brannam is it your thing, what else is worth your vote?
Artists like Lucy Rie, Hans Coper, Shoji Hamada,
Bernard Leach, of course.
If you just learn those, you won't go far wrong.
Well, with studio pottery, there are some of the big names
that maybe some of the viewers would have heard of,
such as Bernard Leach, of course, everyone has heard of.
Alan Caiger-Smith, again, producing wares that are very collectable.
If you come across any with those stamped on the bottom, snap it up.
Rarity, name and design.
James Lewis was lucky to discover all three on a sunny day
back in 2010.
If you were a lady of some social standing
in the Edwardian period,
this is the sort of bottle that would have adorned
your dressing table, containing the finest French fragrances.
The engraving in this glass is just phenomenal.
It's just beautiful quality.
Stourbridge was at the heart of English glassmaking industry.
It is of wonderful quality.
And it is likely to be by a factory that became
known as Royal Brierley in 1919.
Just look at the quality there of these individually
hand-cut flower heads.
And the stylised leaves.
And the lovely quality of decoration all the way around.
It was wheel-engraved, so... And some of it was acid etch,
but these were engraved and then polished, so the piece would be
held against a grinding wheel and each piece polished out.
The work is fantastic.
Then you go to the cover.
This is known as repousse work, which is embossed
from one side to another.
There is a little button on the front. If we open that...
-It's quite tight.
-There we are.
Now, if you look at the underside,
the underside is the exact opposite of the decoration we see above.
So it has been hammered through rather than cast in a mould.
-Have you noticed the initials there?
-I noticed that, yeah.
-Well, it is WC...
-WC - William Cummins.
Very nice silversmith from the early 20th century.
A piece like that would certainly take a decent period of time.
How quickly would it take? It depends how quick the workman was
and, I guess, whether he was being paid per hour or per piece.
An everyday silver-top scent bottle is worth £40 to £60,
-something like that.
I think is worth three or four times that.
-I think we ought to put 100 to 150 on it.
I think it is very pretty. And do you know?
I would say that if it didn't make that 100, 150, just keep it,
it doesn't matter.
-I'd rather see it not sell.
Than see it sell for less than that.
One of the finest scent bottles that I have ever sold from this period
was by the great jeweller
from the Russian court, Carl Faberge.
Anything by the master Carl Faberge will fetch a premium.
In 2012, this wonderful gold-mounted smoky quartz perfume bottle
went for nearly £30,000.
We didn't expect to reach quite those heady heights, though.
This Stourbridge-style silver-mounted scent bottle.
Lots of interest in this. £100. On my right, at 100.
Anyone going on at £100?
-Quality always sells, doesn't it?
I think £100 was a disappointing result.
Was I just over-optimistic?
Maybe I was just wrong.
Not to worry, James - some you win, some you lose.
At least the bidder got a real bargain.
And at least you didn't have to work as hard as Thomas,
who ended up with a real handful.
What, are you pulling this?
-Are you doing some of the work?
-I'm letting you do it all.
All right, stay here.
This carved Cupid,
sleeping Cupid, I don't think I could have lifted it on my own.
It was that heavy. That's why it came in on the wheels.
It was from a house that was bought,
and it was left in the garden, by the pond.
-Just left there.
-It is what I believe to be carved marble.
The reason why I believe it to be carved marble is just here.
We can see the marble coming through.
And it has been very well weathered.
So this is a hand-carved piece. This is not done by a machine.
It would have been a sculptor chipping away at the marble
with his chisel and his hammer, working extremely hard.
And then, once he has done that, rubbing it down, polishing it.
When it was new, it was probably like the surface of a pearl,
with that shimmer.
Cupid has wings. The bow has been discarded here.
And his quiver of arrows is covered.
So, from an allegorical perspective, I think the story is that Cupid
is sleeping and the abandonment of pleasures in one's life.
-That's sad, isn't it?
-It is sad.
He had had enough of making love, you know, between people.
He was having a rest before he went off on his next quest
and shot his arrows.
So I quite like the story behind it as well.
Carved in, I suppose, 1860, I would say.
Michelangelo carved cupids in marble -
you can see them all around Rome and Florence.
Caravaggio painted them in the 17th century.
So, this is definitely a 19th-century copy of.
It this had come in dirty but perfect...
So, if it had been covered in all this filth,
that would have made it really special.
That would have been really, really hot to trot.
I would've put a couple of thousand on it.
Have you got any idea of value?
As long as it covers the cost of the petrol to get here.
It will do more than cover the petrol.
-I would put a value of £100 to £200.
-Shall we get it to auction? Shall we?
-Let's do it.
-OK, let's go.
I won't ask the porter to carry it. It is the lying marble figure.
But there it is. What about 150 for it?
Yes, 150. 200 now.
And 210. And 20 and 30 perhaps.
At £220. 230 in the room, then.
And I am going to sell it for £230.
A flurry of activity settling on £230. That is a good result.
-It is a brilliant result.
I think, if you are relaxed about an object
and you put it up for sale and you say,
"You know, let's not put a reserve on,
"the gods out there will look after you."
And they did this time.
Handmade ceramics is a popular collecting field.
One of the best-known of the Arts and Crafts ceramicists
was William De Morgan,
who drew his design inspirations from times gone by.
One of his many devoted admirers was David Barby.
These are absolutely superb examples
of a major potter of the 19th
and early 20th century -
William De Morgan.
Like David, Anita is also a big fan.
William De Morgan was one of the most important potters
in the Arts and Crafts movement.
He was a close associate of William Morris
and the other pre-Raphaelites.
They're important because not only were they William De Morgan,
but they are both different in technique of decoration.
This one is a rich, ruby lustre.
Gorgeous example of his early works.
This is more in the Persian palette -
so we have got these rich turquoises, purples and greens.
Both subject matters are galleons.
He made various wares.
He made a wonderful chargers. He made wonderful pots.
But he is perhaps best known for the tiles that he made.
And these tiles were used to decorate our houses,
our fireplaces, to make wonderful, big panoramic scenes on.
So he was a man of great importance.
William De Morgan established three small potteries,
producing similar wares, not just tiles, but also vases,
large chargers, which were for the decoration of fairly wealthy homes.
And it covers a period of Arts and Crafts
right through to the earlier part of 20th century.
The most important thing about these tiles
is the wonderful hand decoration.
And that really is what makes them superb.
The depiction of the subjects, the way that the material was handled.
All of these things make these tiles really quite superb.
I thought they were the best of what I have got, actually.
The colouring and the detail on them,
just seem to stand out against whatever else I've got.
These are absolutely stunning.
We were taken away from the mass production,
the machine made into the craftsmen
and the artist who was hand decorating
each of these tiles, and, boy, can you tell the difference.
The price I think they should realise at auction
is £350 to £500, hopefully more.
This is billed as the big one, THE big one -
two William De Morgan tiles brought in by Pat.
And you have got your granddaughter, Charlotte, here. Lovely name.
Charlotte, you might witness a bit of history here.
We might see these tiles really take off big-time,
that's what I'm hoping.
We put a valuation of around about £350 to £500 -
sort of tempting them in, wasn't it?
I had a confession or I HAVE a confession, Paul.
I put a price on those that I'd like to have bought them at.
But they are going to fetch a lot of money
because they are absolutely superb.
When you think in terms of art pottery from the 19th century,
-the name that comes to your mind immediately is...
-William De Morgan.
William De Morgan, followed by Martin Brothers and so on.
But William De Morgan is up there.
Let's hope we can get you four figures.
This is it, they're going under the hammer now.
This got as much if not most interest in the sale today.
The two framed William De Morgan square pottery tiles
in black frames.
1,800, Margaret, phone.
1,900 in the room.
£2,000, Margaret's phone.
-Look, there's someone.
-I'm going to need to sit down!
These tiles are rare.
And these were two examples,
two wonderful examples
of different periods in De Morgan's potting.
At 2,500. Tell him to get his trousers on, for heaven's sake.
-In the room, the bid.
-2,600. At 2,600.
2,650. He has had time. All done.
-That is incredible. £2,600.
Even I'M sitting down now.
These tiles commanded a wonderful prize at auction
and deserved every single penny.
Wow, five times the top end of the estimate -
what a wonderful Flog It! moment.
And I'm sure it was the condition of Pat's tiles that sent them
through the roof.
Now, if you don't have any William De Morgan tiles hiding
away at home, what else should you be keeping an eye out for
when it comes to handcrafted items?
Studio pottery is a good bet,
but check with your auction house to see what is hot and what is not.
Remember these names - Brannam, Elton Ware,
Bernard Leach, Lucy Rie, Hans Coper and Alan Caiger-Smith.
Pieces by a factory that closed are limited, making them more desirable.
Beautiful handmade pieces which demonstrate huge
amounts of skill can be snapped up for relatively little money.
So keep your eyes peeled when you're out and about.
-Quality always sells.
A big name like William De Morgan
is a clear winner, but be alert for work by his
Arts and Crafts contemporaries, William Morris, Voysey,
Ernest Gimson and CR Ashbee.
And go with your gut feeling.
If you like it, buy it.
In the late 19th century, a group of people formed a movement later
to be known as the Arts and Crafts movement, which championed
traditional skills and methods to make beautiful handcrafted things.
Almost at the same time,
a chap called Edmund Elton discovered a passion
for pottery just down the road from where Thomas Plant grew up.
Here we are at Tickenham Church.
This is the church where I was baptised.
I may have cried all the way through the service, but my godmother,
Julia Elton, was here to comfort me.
Julia Elton has played a huge part in my life.
Her great grandfather, Sir Edmund Elton,
was the Baronet of Clevedon Court and a potter.
The pottery was called Elton Ware.
Little did I know it at my christening,
I was surrounded by all this stuff, the Elton pillars,
the Elton candlesticks, and it has become a huge passion in my life.
Sir Edmund and his assistants handmade thousands of pots,
vases, jugs, whatever you can imagine.
The great thing is, they were all unique because they were handmade,
thus making them terribly collectable today.
I am off to catch up with Julia, my godmother,
and also see lots more of Sir Edmund's work.
HE RINGS BELL
Julia, tell me, where does Edmund fit into the family tree
-and where do you come?
-Well, I am his great granddaughter.
He was the eighth baronet, and, interestingly, his father,
also an Edmund, who was a bit of a black sheep,
actually was a very good painter.
Behind me in this room are hung two very nice oil paintings
that he did in Italy.
So the father must have passed down his artistic flair to his son.
I think very much so,
because the Eltons generally are not known for their artistic talents.
We have three pots here on the table. Which is the earliest piece?
The earliest piece is this rather crude piece here.
He began just fiddling about with clay and then the glazes, and he used
to put the pots in the kitchen oven when the cooking had been done.
You can see, crude as it is, that it has got
the beginnings of what became so distinctive.
You have got a piece down here which is an extraordinary piece.
-Can we have a look at that?
Where did he get his ideas for these shapes?
Well, they were influenced by the Japanese.
I mean, this is a very extraordinary piece
and it is rather Japanese, I think.
You have got this mythical beast here with horns, teeth,
but also the mouth of a fish and then the scales of a serpent.
Yes, and then back to the fish tail at the end.
From these lovely colours, glazes and extraordinary shapes,
we have this fabulous gold.
In about 1902, he begins to think about metallic glazes.
He is, in fact, as you see with this, putting these slabs of metal.
Do you think this is almost like an iron glaze on here,
-to give it this gilt?
-Well, it is allegedly gold and platinum.
-Gold and platinum?
-He didn't scrimp, did he?
-He didn't scrimp.
-He didn't scrimp on this.
And then, in about 1909, he starts doing what they call crackle,
-which is wholly metallic glazes.
-So this is all gold?
-This is all gold.
Do you think he charged the correct amount for these parts?
No, I shouldn't think so for a minute.
I don't think he was really interested in money.
Certainly, the reason there is such a lot in north Somerset
is that Sir Edmund himself gave it away to everybody.
What happened to the pottery and the legacy? What was left?
Well, mountains of pots.
Finally, my grandfather took down the kiln and broke up the pottery yard.
All Sir Edmund wanted to do, as far as I can see, is to be a potter,
and he completely took his eye off the estate.
And in 1919, he sold off £73,000 worth of the estate in their money.
We have always said in the family,
it is the most expensive pottery that has ever been made.
It is said, if you dig around you can find shards of Elton pottery.
Certainly here you have got a bit of the green glaze with the terracotta.
It is brilliant that you can actually find shards of broken bits
of pottery, mistakes, still in the path here just digging it up.
Absolutely fascinating after all these years.
The sheer volume of Elton Ware produced
and all the different pieces and styles means
prices vary from £30-£250.
But whatever it costs, you can be sure you're getting
an original from an eccentric whose life's work was potting.
Edmund Elton, the baronet who had lots of money
to indulge his passion, to really enjoy potting.
He enjoyed potting so much he made some great errors
but also made some great glazes.
It was so interesting to see the start of British art pottery,
and he paved the way.
There is something about handcrafted items, each one of them is unique.
They have their own personality which gives them extra appeal,
as Mark Stacey appreciates.
This, to me, is a very interesting figure.
We have all seen Royal Doulton and Royal Worcester
and Coalport porcelain figures which are mass produced.
This intrigued me because this is handmade.
And it is signed underneath, Maggie Padgett.
I don't know very much about Maggie Padgett, but I bought it
because it just looks very interesting.
It is very well modelled. You can see instantly this is handmade.
I mean, the hair is individually done, it is not machine done.
You haven't got 100 of these coming towards you
as you are splattering the paint on.
All these are painted by hand,
the hands are modelled individually here and placed
on the long evening gloves that are modelled to look like that.
The face I think is... There's something sort of naive about it.
To me, that is what gives it its charm.
When you look underneath, you can see it is not all finished,
like a mass-produced figure would be.
You can see where the potter has moved the clay around.
I find that really rather charming.
There is now a collecting field for some of these studio potters
from the '20s,
'30s, up to the '50s, because they are becoming identifiable
and they are becoming more collectable because they are limited.
You know, there aren't going to be 500 of these figures,
or 10,000 of these figures.
Each one also is going to be slightly different
because it is handmade.
But I think, to me she appeals,
because she is a bit more of a one-off.
If you are a regular viewer,
you will know how much I adore the handmade.
I have even had a go myself a few times.
It's becoming something.
Pick a little bit up like that and you just start to twist.
It is nice and bendy, isn't it?
I'm actually feeling quite nervous.
And I am always delighted to see your wonderful handmade pieces
at our valuation days.
I can feel my heart beat - it's really racing right now.
I didn't want to put this down.
You know when you feel something and it touches your soul?
You can caress wood, you can love wood, it tells a story.
-You're spot on there, aren't you?
-Yes, that was good, wasn't it?
Some of them can fetch great prices.
Lovely study of The Heavenly Stairs, c1880.
-That is going to give someone so much pleasure.
And whether they are by a talented amateur...
..or professionals at the top of their game,
I hope you keep them coming in.
That is it for today's show.
I hope we have given you some useful pointers and some food for thought.
So if you're hungry for more, join us next time on Trade Secrets.
This episode is dedicated to handmade antiques and collectables. Presenter Paul Martin examines the philosophy behind Shaker furniture, and the Flog It! team offers up collecting tips. Thomas Plant reveals a close family connection with an eccentric 19th century potter.