One of the special pleasures of doing genealogy and family history research is learning more about the pastimes, professions and businesses of one’s relatives. One particularly appealing story is the launch and development of Elizabeth Bradley Antiques. Enjoy our interview with Elizabeth Bradley.
Q: When did you begin to collect antiques and what were your special interest at that time?
A: My husband and I began collecting antiques more than 50 years ago when we were first married. Because we had no money to spend on “frivolities,” we began in a very small way, buying little pieces we liked whenever we could. We had a favorite aunt who had a house decorated in blue and white… very different at that time… which we loved… that probably started our interest in blue and white Canton. We collected every form and shape of Canton for years… it became a kind of “treasure hunt.” The fun of collecting antiques is that you never know where and when you will find a gem.
Q: What drew you to these types of antiques?
A: We bought whenever we found a piece we loved… not for resale value. Gradually we became interested in Oriental antiques of all kinds… some furniture, scrolls, jade, woodblock prints, and whatever else appealed to us. Antique dealers became friends which we always found a plus… they were always ready to share their knowledge with us.
In that way, a lovely antique object appealed to our eyes as well as to our love of learning. Whenever and wherever we traveled, we had a mission: see what new and wonderful antiques were right at our fingertips.
Q: When did you become active in the antique business itself and how did you get started?
A: About 25 years ago, I took a job at the Milwaukee Auction Gallery as an appraiser. I had an opportunity to be exposed to nearly everything in the antique world… Stickley furniture, English and American furniture, Oriental porcelain and pottery, snuff bottles, dolls, tin toys, World War I posters, everything. This experience honed my taste in antiques… I realized the difference between an object of beauty that I wanted to own and one I could appreciate but did not want to live with.
Along the way, an English antique dealer said to me, “You could go into the antique business,” so I decided to do so. I began advertising in a national antiques trade newspaper and doing a few antique shows and the business grew from there. I have loved almost every minute of it!
Q: Today, Elizabeth Bradley Antiques specializes in four categories — Is there a reason for this cluster?
A: I suppose I have to say that I learned early that I am not a born salesperson… I find it difficult to enthusiastically sell items that I don’t love myself. Victorian Staffordshire figures, Chinese Imari and Japanese Imari, Canton and Oriental pottery, and English accessories are all antiques we truly love.
After years of collecting just Oriental antiques, we learned to love the whimsy of Victorian Staffordshire figures and began to collect and sell them. Besides, it gave us an excuse to travel to England twice a year to buy!
> Visit the Elizabeth Bradley Antiques to learn about about the Bradleys and their beautiful antiques.
> Read Part II of this interview, where we will learn more about these different types of antiques.