18 March 2013

Fake Tahitian Princes, Lunch at Christies & What Not To Do At Auctions

New on the website - a good selection of vintage
Japanese kimono silks & Indian sari silks.
This piece is Japanese shibori silk, c1940.
Every dot was tied by hand before the
fabric was dyed.

It’s a happy day when we try something new in the shop and it turns out to be successful.  Finally I finished cataloguing the vintage Japanese Kimono and Indian Sari silks and put them in the shop, and there hasn’t been a day since when we haven’t sold textiles.  This week I have also put a selection onto the website, so we’ll see how a wider audience responds to them.

We have also commenced the excavation of the garage, to find stock from previous trips that for some reason hasn’t yet made it into the shop, and wow we’re finding great things!  This week I’ve put a couple of really old French shop bells out – and I can’t tell you how hard these are to come by.  It seems strange because back in the day every shop would have had a bell over the door, but try finding them these days. 
Antique French shop's bell.  Incredibly hard
to find and finally in the shop.  These
ones could also be used as servants'
bells in large homes.

Every time I’ve seen antique French shop bells for sale in the past I’ve always arrived second and so missed out, but a few trips ago I was the first person to spot a couple of them as they came out at the Montsoreau Puce, so hurrah success at last!  But then they’ve sat in the garage ever since, for reasons that escape me (except for chronic disorganisation, but I know you aren’t so rude as to mention that).  But anyway they’re out now, with plenty more good things to come.

Calypso just loves wrapping herself up in
towels, and the wetter they are the better.
This week we had a chap visit the shop who used to work at Christies in London.  He immediately zeroed in on my Arts & Crafts pewter candlesticks, and knew exactly what he was looking at without reading the description tag.  Arts & Crafts design is seriously hard to come by in Australia, and so many people don’t recognize it, but I very much like the style.  And chatting with him reminded me that we have a lovely Arts & Crafts oak table in storage, which I will trot out quite soon because it will look very stylish in the shop’s front window. 
She knows she's not supposed to pull down
towels and burrow into them,
so when detected a quick retreat is in order.
The Christies man had met Captain Hatcher, the person who salvaged the Chinese shipwreck Tek Sing, from which I have a few pieces in the shop.  He told me that Christies once had an important - read: fabulously rich - client who they wanted to impress, so they invited him to lunch in the Christies Directors’ Board Room and served it entirely on pieces salvaged from the Tek Sing.  He said it looked suitably impressive, but washing up afterwards was tedious because it took a cast of thousands to carefully clean each piece, with the sinks thickly lined with towels and threats of instant death to anyone who damaged a piece.  I will photograph our Tek Sing pieces over the next week (and our other Ca Mau Cargo shipwreck pieces), with a view to putting them on the Antiquities page of the website soon.  And in the meantime, if you're seriously, fabulously, gobsmackingly rich and like to buy nice old things, just let Christies know and they'll put on a fine lunch for you.
But when all else fails, brazen it out and
assure everyone that you're allowed to be there.
I was chatting with another visitor to the shop this week (lots of chatting this week) who had attended an auction in Brisbane which was selling the seized goods from a fraudster who had pretended to be a Tahitian prince.  As you do.  He apparently stole millions of dollars from a Government Department, and spent it all on a lavish lifestyle and what appeared to be the most hideous household goods.  I told her I had seen a short segment about the auction on the television news, and asked if everything was as appalling as it appeared to be on TV.  And yes, apparently it was just as bad as I had thought.  Money does not buy taste, and the auctioneers apparently thought there would be minimal interest because this guy’s stuff was so dang urgly.

New on the website - a rare cover
from La Vie Parisienne.  You normally
only see this image as a reproduction
This one is real, baby.
But guess what happened?  And this is one of the reasons why we don’t do our shopping in England in the summer:  believe it or not, it often rains during the English summer, and that drives people inside.  Including into auction houses.  And people who don’t normally bid at auctions can get entirely carried away in what can be a quite competitive environment, and start bidding silly amounts.  And once that happens all the dealers just go off to have a long lunch somewhere because it means the auction is over for us for the day.  We can’t compete with cashed up tourists who are prepared to spend somewhat more than something is actually worth. 

New on the website - French Art
Deco drop rhinestone necklace
And this is precisely what happened with the fake Tahitian prince’s hideous household effects.  Bidding went through the roof for almost everything, much to the delight of the auctioneers.  I saw a man interviewed on TV who had just spent almost $1000 on something that appeared to be an exceptionally ugly easel, but he didn’t even know what he’d just bought.  Who can afford to spend a thousand bucks on something when they have no idea what it is?  I need to meet that man.
More bus tourists visited again on Friday, but this time we had Caleb lying in wait for them.  He is not as experienced as Calypso in striking an appropriate pose for photographers, but out of the literally dozens of photos taken of him some of them were really lovely.  Yet again it was Speed Shopping for the bus tourists, but they left with a nice selection of items.
New on the website - an original
image from La Vie Parisienne.

And in breaking news, we appear to have organised another play date friend for Caleb.  Poh the Little White SomethingorOther (some sort of terrier, I think) is smaller than Polly the Poodle but more stocky.  She is reportedly a sweet and friendly little mutt, and hopefully she will prove to be a robust wrestling opponent.  She’s coming by next Wednesday for the first meeting.  I’ll take photos if I'm not too busy rescuing the dog.

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