The Cotswolds Art and Antique Dealers’ Association is currently celebrating its 40th anniversary, and looking forward to CADA Art & Antique Fair at Blenheim Palace from February 21 to 24. We caught up with the Chair of CADA, Alex Puddy and Director of the CADA Fair, Catherine Hunt.
Alex Puddy of Architectural Heritage
Architectural Heritage specialises in Fine Antique Garden Ornament and Statuary, Modern British Sculpture and Architectural Interiors.
Did you always want to be an antiques dealer?
As the son of an antiques dealer it was hard to avoid, we had furniture on rotation, mostly the kitchen table and chairs! I do, though, remember consciously choosing this life aged 22. After a stand at the Cheltenham Antiques Market, dealing in pictures, a dabbling on the Portobello Road alongside working on and off in the family firm I had an opportunity to rent a beautiful but remote house in the middle of a wood – this I knew would set my path to join and, as I now do, run Architectural Heritage
Did you study to become an antiques dealer?
My academic credentials are slim: An A level in Art and The History of Art. However, I had an inspirational teacher who brought the Renaissance to life. Later in my working life to have met and worked with Dr Charles Avery, the author of one of the standard texts on sculpture is something I just could not have imagined when studying.
What would you suggest to someone wanting to start collecting Sculpture and what are your ‘top tips’ for building a collection?
It is often said “buy what you like” so there is your starting point, it can be at any price but usually it is just too much for you to afford at the time – so set a budget and be prepared!
Once you have established what sculpture you find interesting you will, like a play list on Spotify, find other works and related artists that connect through the period, a style or sometimes via their artistic associations. These links will help to broaden your “connected” collection. In time, you may change direction and you can always sell some works to fund another avenue of interest as your knowledge grows. Most collections start with one piece and many of the collectors I know still have it!
What do you love about the Cotswolds and working in the Cotswolds?
I am looking out of my office window on a bright, crisp autumn afternoon – I’ll take the dogs for a walk after work in the rolling open countryside just outside the door – the birds are tweeting, the air is clear and there is no traffic other than an occasional tractor – what could be better than that?
What would you do if you weren’t an antiques/art dealer?
Three words to describe you?
He does try
Book you are currently reading?
A short History of Tractors in Ukrainian by Marina Lewycka – very funny!
Catherine Hunt specialises in pre-1750 Chinese ceramics ranging from the Song dynasty through the Yuan and Ming Dynasties into The Early Qing and Chinese Textiles from the 18th and 19th Century, especially Mandarin Rank Badges. This is her 21st year of dealing so a real coming of age.
How did you become an antiques dealer?
I became an antiques dealer having gone to Oxford University to read History. I then taught for a while and was the Assistant Secretary at the Badminton Three Day event before following my love of Chinese Antiques. Growing up, both my grandmother and my mother understood both English and Chinese porcelain, so in many ways I had learnt by osmosis as both houses were full of ceramics.
What would you suggest to someone wanting to start a collection?
I would advise anyone now wanting to form a collection of Chinese Antiques to follow your heart and to only collect what you like and not what you think is the clever thing to do. Buy the best that you can afford and even if damaged. A collection that reflects you is far more appealing and satisfying and ultimately more saleable. You need an empathy with your collection. Look and listen to respected dealers and buy from the specialists in their area. Never be afraid to ask anything, even if you think it shows you as naïve as you won’t be the first or last to ask that question.
What do you love about the Cotswolds?
I love living in the Cotswolds as a dog walker and ex-horsewoman as the countryside is amazing and with plenty to see and do there is never a quiet moment. Cheltenham is home to so many events from horse racing to literary and jazz festivals, music and food festivals – what is not to love?
What would you do if you weren’t an antiques dealer?
If I wasn’t an antique dealer I would probably be a researcher but I certainly would not have so many friends and colleagues as I do now and definitely not nearly so many laughs
What book are you currently reading?
As a historian I hardly ever read historical novels but at the moment I am re-reading Catherine by Anya Seaton as historically it is pretty accurate and I am named after Catherine Swynford.