Antiques dealers desiring some hands-on experience working with knowledgeable professionals in the UK got a blissful few days of immersion recently. The Antiques Diva & Co., Europe and Asia’s largest antiques touring and sourcing company, hosted their annual antiques shopping tour in England. The educational retreat was led by CEO Toma Clark Haines and co-hosted by Gail McLeod, publisher and editor of Antiques News & Fairs.
The two made quite the dynamic duo for leading the four-day retreat at the historic Hemswell Court – a former Royal Air Force Bomber Command turned award-winning hotel and event venue – in beautiful rural Lincolnshire. (Hemswell Court Hotel was the former Officer’s Mess for RAF Hemswell, and Hemswell Antique Centres was the former Bomber Command Base RAF Hemswell.)
Out and About Highlights
The first full day of the retreat, attendees were off to Nottingham for the first dealer visit, taking in the historic Sherwood Forest along the way.
They were then whisked off to a secret destination to not only source accessories but to learn from Gail and Toma the art of selling antiques. With hosts boasting 35+ years experience selling to the American trade, attendees followed the route to market: selling from fairs, online, and by-appointment atelier, as well as various online sales platforms and why to use them.
The highlight of this exclusive visit was learning from a master the art and psychology of retail merchandising and staging, including a photography studio visit to gain an understanding of how to set up such a space and process.
No antiques retreat would be complete without actual antiquing, and this one included three opportunities to experience the excitement of the hunt at England’s world-famous fairs.
Bright and early Monday morning, it was the Lincoln Antiques & Home Fair. This long-standing one-day showground event has shopping arcades, antiques under canvas and an indoor area hosting dealers from the UK and Europe.
Tuesday saw early bird access for attendees to the Hemswell Antiques Centre – the largest antiques center in Europe, with a vast array of dealers specializing in everything from period antiques to vintage fun finds and everything in between.
Thursday, it was off to the world-famous Newark Antiques Show, Europe’s largest antiques fair, where one can find everything from country house furniture to art de la table.
A highly recommended local carrier was on hand to collect goods dealers purchased at any of these locations, for delivery to a preferred shipper. (Tours with The Antiques Diva & Co. include the service of facilitating the shipping of sourced antiques, whether an entire container or with groupage.)
Networking and learning from experts played a big part in the retreat. In addition to scheduled workshops, several opportunities to meet local notables of the industry were built into the schedule, beginning with the Welcome to England breakfast on Sunday which included:
Will Thomas, managing director of IACF the organisers of over thirty premium antiques fairs in the UK each year, and manager of Love Antiques, Europe’s fastest-growing antiques marketplace.
Robert Miller, CEO of Hemswell Antiques Center. Just a few miles from the historic Cathedral City of Lincoln, Hemswell Antique Centres is the ideal venue for an enjoyable day out offering a wonderful mix of antiques and collectibles from bygone times in an historic setting.
Richard Burgoin, CEO of Arthur Swallow Fairs, a long-standing one-day showground event with avenues, shopping arcades and an indoor area hosting dealers from the UK and Europe.
Other “business dining” opportunities included:
Dinner with James Gooch of Doe & Hope. A British antiques celebrity, James appears on BBC TV’s The Bidding Room. Mr. Gooch spoke about staging, styling, and brand identity. His unique approach to staging has attracted the attention of top US trade buyers, as well as the plum assignment of providing pieces for the set of the hit series Game of Thrones.
Lunch and shopping with Mark Hill, author, lecturer, and 20th century design expert. Mr. Hill is the leading specialist dealer in postwar Czechoslovakian glass. An expert on the BBC Antiques Roadshow, he has also co-presented four primetime TV shows on antiques, collecting and interiors.
Cocktails with John Hansord of Hansord Antiques. Mr. Hansord presented “Classical Antiques – A Lesson in Quality and Craftsmanship,” teaching how to distinguish between the various periods of antiques and the evolution of design throughout the centuries, including how trends and societal trends have influenced design.
Workshops drew on the knowledge of a number of well-known industry experts and trend-setters.
Technology and Logistics with Margaret Schwartz, founder of Modern Antiquarian. The inside track on technology and logistics in the antiques trade.
Tools for Antiques Dealers streamed with Kelli Ellis. An international interior designer and the VP Global Industry Relations for Ronati, Kelli has featured on numerous design shows including HGTV, The Design Network, TCL and Bravo. Ronati is a technology platform dedicated to the success of art and antiques dealers worldwide, and Kelli presented their newest tools built for antiques dealers.
Exponential Growth – How It Can Happen with Amanda and Scott Herring of La Petite Maison Antiques. How social media launched their business and how Amanda overcame her fear of social media to build a compelling online brand based on creativity and authenticity.
Developing relationships with interior designers. Toma hosted a focus group via Zoom with American interior designers, brainstorming ways to develop relationships with designers and better understand the sales strategies needed for working with the design trade. Participating designers included Robert Passal, Michael Mitchell, Mary Douglas Drysdale.
Stories in Stories
Scratch the surface of an antiques dealer and you will invariably find an antiques lover, and likely a bit of a history buff. Appreciation of unique items – those with their own stories – often goes hand in hand with an appreciation for the eras from which those stories sprang.
Lincolnshire lent itself well, therefore, to a fitting closing day before departure, whether that departure was for a return to business – newly inspired and armed – or an onward shopping tour with The Antiques Diva & Co.
Attendees had the option of visiting Doddington Hall – a family-owned and run Elizabethan manor house full of fascinating stories, as well as furniture, porcelain, textiles, paintings and ceramics accumulated over the last 400 years.
Another option was a visit to the Lincoln Cathedral, which has dominated the Lincoln skyline for almost one thousand years and is the only place in the world where one can find original copies of both the 1215 Magna Carta and the 1217 Charter of the Forest.
All that came after a celebratory final dinner hosted by John Hansord at his fabulous farm estate and showrooms in Lincoln City. Corks were popped at the Hansord Antiques home where the theme of the evening was “Made in Lincolnshire.” Lincolnshire is a celebrated agricultural farming area of England, and fabulous local fare was featured, sampled by candlelight in front a of roaring log fire. Guests were toured through the marvelous showrooms, where English and Colonial antiques and accessories are displayed so as to provide insight into how these pieces were used in the 18th and 19th century.
The close of the evening saw a presentation of certificates of achievement for those completing the retreat.
Truly a memorable and educational time was had by all, and we anticipate next year’s iteration, planned for 30 October to 6 November 2024.