Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 28 Autumn 2011 Contents 202 INSITE AUTUMN 2011
How did you become a restore r? When I left scho ol
in so uth Lo ndon in 1959, I did an a pprenticeship with
a Fren ch polisher. That ’s w hat I trained at an d was
doing for a long time. The company also restored
an tiques, so I gain ed an interest a nd learn t wo odwork
an d other skills needed for resto ration .
What is French polishing? The applicatio n of
shellac by hand, using a rubber (cotton wadding
wrapped in white cotto n cloth). Shellac co mes fro m
the lac beetle and these days you only find it in India.
What are some of the processes you use in the
restoration of antiques? The most impor tan t thing
with antiques is the finish – if it’s don e wro ng, yo u can
halve its val ue. Everything is do ne by hand. Even the
glue is the old tradition al glue used hun dreds of years
ago. It is still the best woodwo rking glue.
Ever y process in resto ratio n is traditio na l with
how it was made 200 or 300 years ago. I don’t use
any modern finishing materials.
What is the biggest skill needed? The skill is in
experien ce. A nd you have to have a good eye to
know when something is right. I can look at a piece
of furniture and know it’s wrong and know exactly
antique condition. That’s the knowledge you
acquire. It becomes instinc t.
Do you have a specialty? To work as a restorer you
n eed to be a specialist in all aspects of restoration .
There used to be French polishers, cabinetmakers,
wo odcar vers, tu rn ers – a ll separate trades. No w you
have to have all the skills. I went to Korea in 1977 to
learn the a rt of orien tal lacqu er.
What sort of pieces do you restore? Anything
fro m items as small as pill boxes a nd tea caddies
through to large furniture.
What are the hardest items to restore?
Co mplicated pieces that have intricate inlay
that needs replacing. It is very difficult and
Any tips for people doing their own restorations?
People phone all the time asking what they should
do. B ut it’s impossible to give advice without seeing
it. Gen era lly, people bring things in . If it’s a simple
job, like gluing on a leg or putting on some wax,
then they ca n do it themselves, but u sually it’s
so mething they can’t do themselves.
What do you love about antiques? The warmth
they give off. These things were once brand new
items – the brass was shiny an d the wood highly
polished. Over 200 or 300 years the colour fades,
the brass changes – that gives off a warmth.
Favourite piece? A Queen Anne burr walnut
bookcase in the Victoria a nd Alber t Museu m (in
London), which I think I fell in love with in the mid
70s. It was superb an d always sticks in my mi nd.
Now, after seeing so much – good, bad and ugly
– there’s very little that stirs me these days.
Leslie Fa rra r, Frema ntle, 040 9 112 987.
One of less than a handful of
expert antiques restorers in
Perth, this professional shares
his love and expertise of what
he says is a dying trade
FROM LEFT Commode, Sotheby’s , London ($5.36m); English
punch bowl, Bonhams, London ($60,809); table from Russia’s
Winter Palace, Bonhams, London ($1.47m).
Our roundup of the biggest sales
at auction around the globe
• Striking, circular table o rigin ally placed in the
Golden D rawing Roo m i n the Winter Palace, the
main residen ce of the Ru ssian Imperial fa mily
in St Petersburg. Fetched £916,000 ($A1.47m).
Where Bon hams, Lo n do n , D ecember. Care factor
Histo rical significance refl ecting the legendar y
o pulen ce of the Russian Empire. The table
en compasses a n intricate design an d a range
of mate rials from co ral to ony x a nd turqu oise.
• Sophisticated marqu etry co mmo de c17 70. Fetched
£3.35m (A$5.36m). Where Sotheby’s, Lo n do n,
December. Care factor S et a n ew a uction high
for English fu rn itu re, su rpassi ng the previou s
high of £2.4m (A$3.84m) paid fo r a parcel-gilt
pado uk wood Chippen dale cabinet at Christie’s
King Street two yea rs ago.
• English glass pu n ch bowl and cover c1685.
Fetched £38,0 00 (A$60,809). Where Bonhams,
Lon don , Jan u ar y. Care factor From the collection
of antiquarian Albert Hartshorne, best known
fo r his grou n d-brea king reference book Old
English Glasses, published in 1898.
• Vezzi po rcelain o ctago na l teapot an d cover
(c1 7 2 5). Fetched US$80,000 (A$80,750).
Where Skinner, Boston, January. Care factor The
Vezzi factor y ma de porcelai n fo r on ly seven years.
“Over two hundred years the colour fades, the
brass changes, and that gives off warmth”
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