CADA members Susan Harrington-James and Christopher Hamlyn run Mayflower antiques, specialising in Renaissance and Baroque silver, glass, caskets and boxes as well as some metalwork and furniture. They are also featured in CADA’s 40-year anniversary online exhibition.
How did you become an antiques dealer?
Susan Harrington James: my first career was in travel – I was a travel agent for many years and spent many years travelling; my job took me all over the world and I have lived in the US, the UK, France, Kenya and South Africa, to name but a few.
I met Christopher Hamlyn, my business partner, who was an antiques collector of very early pieces and like so many who collected as a hobby he turned into a dealer; with my background and his interest we decided to join forces and create Mayflower Antiques almost 10 years ago. Christopher’s background is law – he practised for many years, and indeed still does.
We haven’t looked back since and work with customers all over the world. The Mayflower set sail in 1620 transporting its passengers to a new life in the United states – all of the items we sell date from around that date or before, hence the name.
What would you suggest to someone wanting to start collecting?
Select the subject or period in history you want to collect, whether it be Renaissance, Queen Anne, Georgian.
Do your research; visit museums and read as much as you can about your subject. Build a relationship with a dealer who specialises in your chosen subject.
Always buy the best you can afford. Some collectors are perfectionists and want the piece to be in pristine condition, but if you are collecting items from the 1600s there will inevitably be some wear and tear.
We tend not to restore very much although occasionally we will find an exceptional piece which we will restore sympathetically.
What book you are currently reading?
Everything I read revolves around the antique world. I am currently reading Verres de la Renaissance by Syvie Lhermite King, a wonderful book all about the origins and influences in Renaissance glass.
Her knowledge of the world of glass is second to none and she has a shop in Paris, which we love to visit when we’re in France.
What would you do if you weren’t an antiques dealer?
I’m so passionate about the Renaissance period that I can’t imagine doing anything else now.
Three words to describe you
Calm, strong, well-travelled