Antiques: Pastime to Business, Part II

In Part II of this interview with Elizabeth Bradley, we will learn more about the different types of antiques she collects for her Elizabeth Bradley Antiques.

Q:  Victorian Staffordshire figures are varied and popular. What types of figures do you specialize in?

A:  I especially love the Staffordshire dogs… all breeds… and the animals… sheep, cows, rabbits.  Royal figures as children, from the Victorian era, are popular, too. These are my favorites and seem to appeal to my customers, too.

Q:  What is Imari, and how do Chines and Japanese Imari differ?

A:  At the end of the 17th century, Japanese ceramics became fashionable and were heavily influenced by Korea. They were shipped from a port in Japan called Imari and became known as Imariware. Early Japanese Imari was underglaze blue ceramic with overglaze enamels of cobalt blue, iron red and gilt. Most early Japanese Imari is in museums or private collections.

Rarely did the Chinese copy from the Japanese, but they did copy early Japanese Imari, in the 18th century, turning out a finer porcelain with a much more delicate color palette.  Then, in the mid-19th century, the Japanese began to produce Imari for a larger market, with vibrant blues and reds. This is the Japanese Imari we see and collect today. Later Japanese Imari is far more reasonably priced than Chinese Imari as it is later, more primitive and there is more of it available.

Q:  What is Canton pottery?

A:  Canton pottery was made in China in the 19th century and was often used as ballast for the ships that brought tea to America. It is generally crudely made and can be found in many different forms.  Often it was purchased by early Americans to be used as every-day china as it was very cheap.  There is a “kitchen set” at Mount Vernon.  Over the years, it became more prized and more rare.  Today Canton is a collector’s item.

Q:  What do you look for when selecting pieces, whether Staffordshire or Imari or Canton pottery?

A: First of all, the piece has to be aesthetically pleasing.  Then I look for the best condition and color and general appeal, and of course, reasonableness of price.

Q:  What advice do you give someone who is interested in collecting antique Staffordshire, Imari, or Canton and Oriental pottery?

A:  Buy what you love, first of all. Although antiques generally appreciate in value over the years, if you worry about resale value, then buy stocks and bonds. Most importantly, buy antiques that become part of your life and home. Condition is important but, sometimes, with a really rare piece, condition becomes less important. For example, I have a wonderful Japanese wooden temple guardian figure, missing most of its paint and gilt. It doesn’t matter to me because I will never find another one.

Q:  What is your greatest pleasure in working with these antiques?

A:  I love to look at them… some days, I have one favorite, some days, another. I often say, “I am so pleased that we bought that lovely Chinese Imari urn or a charming Staffordshire dog.”

People often ask how I can bear to sell the things we buy. I have developed a philosophy: some things I buy to keep, some things I specifically buy to sell, and some things pass through our collection. When we are ready, we sell them. It is a fluid collection for us and we never tire of it.

> Visit the Elizabeth Bradley Antiques to learn about about the Bradleys and their beautiful antiques.


> Read Part I of this interview, for a look at how Elizabeth Bradley was introduced to the world and the business of antiques.

Published in: on March 2, 2007 at 2:59 am  Leave a Comment  

Antiques: Pastime to Business


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.



Published in: on March 1, 2007 at 2:37 am  Leave a Comment