29 November 2018

Diane Harby: Love and Antique Lace

Exquisite antique lace, period embroidery and linen, coats, veils, scarfs and stoles are all part of Diane Harby's internationally recognised collection...

Something Old...A Model in Antique Lace

Her busy store is visited by designers and couturiers, art and fashion students, collectors, traders and of course -brides to be!

Antique lace and linen is an incomparable material for luxury clothes and interiors that brings real history and craftsmanship to any design.
We went to her shop on the lower ground floor to find out more...

Diane please tell us how did you come into such a particular and specialised area in the antiques trade?

I have now been trading for as long as I can remember. But it didn’t start this way. Early on in my career, I was a buyer for a big London store. I worked in the corner of Woodstock Street, and I used to collect Art Deco pieces, clothing as well as ceramics. I managed to create a little corner in the shop where I exhibited my own findings and started selling. The shop was next door to Phillips Auction House. Lots of antiques people passed by, and I had antiques dealers customers. My boyfriend at the time gave me the idea to get a place and start selling as I had accumulated a large stock. So at first, I was trading from St. Christopher’s Place, but fairly quickly I moved into Grays.http://www.graysantiques.com/index.php

Given your background in fashion how did you move into lace and linen pieces?

I did certificates in fashion and worked in stores, but I also used to go around the markets. The same as everybody in this business. Of course, now I have done it for so long that I have my own suppliers and people come to me. As a very young person, I always wanted to have my own antique's shop. And somehow, one day I got given a large box of lace. I sold some pieces. Through handling it the whole thing really interested me, and I became more involved. I can now restore and treat pieces. But I only do it for my own stock as I am very busy.

Next to you I see a space with needles and bobbing for mending-do you do any embroidery yourself? 

I can repair really well. It is fragile stock and I have to do what is necessary to keep the pieces in good condition and wearable. It is very important that people can use the pieces they buy. And I can date pieces very well because I understand psychically how they are made. I understand their authenticity from my experience of handling lace for forty years. I know what is handmade, old or new, adapted or worn by people.

Please explain to us some of your magnificent pieces, what do they consist of, and do you have a aesthetic style or technique that is your personal favourite?

Normandy lace is very popular because it is very fine and because of the particular way it is put together. It is like a patchwork. It is very recognisable. On the other hand, Irish crochet is very wearable and it is known for being sturdy. And you can dress it up, or dress it down which makes it a practical choice. A lot of lace is extremely delicate. I have some divine Italian lace and some best quality Brussels lace that needs to be kept in a box at the back of the shop away from light.

Personally, I love Apenzell lace. It has so much character and individuality. But my absolute favourite is this Edwardian French coat. The lace is full of mystique and it can be worn in many diverse ways to create a different image, from almost casual to super formal.

Feast your eyes on a small selection of Diane's beautiful pieces, now available at Grays...

Black Net Scarf, c.1900-1920

Tape lace c.1900-1910

Embroidered net, c.1920-1930

Brussels lace, c.1900-1910

Irish crochet collar, c.1900-1920

Maltese silk scarf, c.1910-1920

Interviewed Friday 16 November 2018 by Titika Malkogeorgou

9 November 2018

Tabunov Antiques: 'If you do inherit a Faberge - well then it is difficult not to like it!'

Alexander Tabunov of Tabunov Antiques been trading at Grays since 2015. He specializes in Russian art and antiques, Faberge pieces, icons, bronzes, enamel, silver and porcelain. We have come to his shop to find out more about him and his incredible collection of unique objects...

Alexander Tabunov in his shop: Unit 124, Lower Ground, Grays

Alexander, please tell us about how did it all start for you?

I started as a market trader in St. James’ selling Soviet memorabilia, but then I moved into antiques like porcelain figures, bronze statues, and silver enamel. I changed direction when the market slowed down in Russia and I received an order to buy a painting from Belarus.

My boss at work wanted a Social Realism painting depicting workers, especially miners. I had no idea how to go about it. But, casually walking down the street, when I was back in Minsk for holidays, I met a painter whose father was a member of the Artists’ Union of the USSR. He took me to his personal studio, and later to other artists’ studios, which I really enjoyed. I was surrounded by about five hundred paintings and chatted about art. I chose two paintings that I most liked to bring back to London.

I wanted to give one of the paintings as a gift but my boss insisted that he wanted to pay for it. After that, I kept getting commissions. I participated in Russian art exhibitions, in 2007 and 2008, in London. I was selling Soviet art, while at the same time I was getting commissions for antiques. So I started looking around, going to auctions, visiting places and learning about the antiques trade.

What made you come to London in the first place?

I came to London from Belarus to study business management. While I was still a student, I started supplying Soviet Russian souvenirs to English customers. Now, I sell Russian art and antiques to Russians and English, and other collectors from all over the world. Sometimes, pieces I had sold to collectors’ years ago, I am now buying back.

Russian antique objects are still a novelty in this country. But there are also very rare in Russia and the prices are high as they are becoming more and more desirable.

How do you feel in this environment given your business background?

I love it so much, it’s my favourite thing in life. I think about it all the time. Everyday my mind is around beautiful objects and how to source them for my clients.

You cover a very diverse area of interest in terms of materials, techniques and style. How do you know what to buy?

I buy what I like. And if I like something it is not difficult to sell it. Otherwise, it might sell accidentally. But if you don’t like something yourself, you don’t show it to customers. You keep it hidden in the corner. In the first place, you need to believe in what you sell. I’ve got a few mistakes to show you. When you buy and sell you learn very quickly. It is expensive to make mistakes. You learn from collections books, auction houses catalogues, and of course you learn from other dealers.

How would you describe your clientele?

They could be anyone. English people like decorative pieces and they love the enamel pieces. But my most expensive items go to Russian collectors and dealers. Usually, I have regulars who come back. Prices also matter. There’s waves of interest. Families from Russia have settled in England, France and the U.S. and they still have precious items to sell, or they might want to add to their collection.

Do people who inherit necessarily like the items or do tastes change among different generations?

Well, it depends on what you inherit. If you inherit a Faberge, it is difficult not to like it.! Because of the artistic quality, the splendid colours, such elaborate and intricate technique. They are exceptionally high quality pieces in every way.

 Interviewed 25 October by Titika Malkogeorgou

Vera Asedovskya 'Conversation', 2004. Oil on Canvas.

Faberge Silver Mounted Ceramic Vase

Antique Russian Silver Gilded and Enamel Key Case, c.1908

Faberge Silver-Gilt Enamel Case
Nigerian 'Ife' Style Bronze Head

Boris Shcherbakov, 'Autumn in Tarkhany' 1984, Oil on Canvas

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