Sworders’ Furniture and Silver Specialist and Head of The Anniversary Sale
James Pickup has been with Sworders for three years and is an auctioneer and valuer working across the Homes & Interiors department. As well as assessing many of the lots consigned to The Anniversary Sale, he is overseeing this special sale and will be one of the auctioneers on the day.
‘We began working on the sale around six months ago and consignments started to come in late last year. Typically for a sale such as this we would expect to gather in 500-800 lots and we’ve earmarked special pieces from our usual intake if they have the right look too. The focus has been on high-quality pieces, ideally the best of their kind and in good, original condition. We cater for a range of tastes so we’re not bound by period – we aim to prove that you can accommodate academically interesting furniture and fantastic works of art alongside contemporary soft furnishings. Quality workmanship and good design never go out of fashion.
‘Once a consignment has been delivered, it’s catalogued and photographed by our team. We have an increasing number of online bidders so we take detailed photographs, from handles to carved decoration. Then it’s put into secure on-site storage – aisles of picture racks and shelves where items are kept until they are ready to be displayed for viewing.’
‘In terms of pulling everything together, pressure starts to mount the closer we get to the catalogue deadline, but we all know our roles, so it’s a case of pulling together as a team and getting the job done! Life in an auction house encapsulates a strange mix of intellectual and physical work, whether it’s asking a colleague for a second opinion when dating an item, or asking them to help with lifting a heavy piece of furniture. You couldn’t do it on your own.
‘Laying out the catalogue is one of the tasks that I enjoy most. Placing complementary lots next to each other on a page helps buyers envisage a look that they can recreate at home. A well-presented catalogue really can add value to an item.
‘Once the catalogue has been signed off there’s time for a last push for marketing and, crucially, to get the sale on view. This involves a lot of hard work and heavy lifting. We try to make our sales as accessible as possible. We want prospective bidders to feel excited about the possibility of owning the lots, so we lay our sales out in room settings to help buyers imagine how pieces might look when they get them home. I work closely with Frank Barnett, our Saleroom Manager, and a team of porters to show the lots off to their best advantage.’
The Big Day
‘Selling on the day is great fun too. It’s where you get to see your hard work pay off. There is a drama to the proceedings and a buzz in the room and maintaining enthusiasm and the pace on the rostrum is key to upholding this. The adrenalin will really kick in if a lot starts to rocket way above estimate.
‘Putting together any auction is an exciting process. To be involved in one that represents a milestone in Sworders’ history adds an extra dimension to that. As to how much of an achievement it proves, I guess we will have to wait for the results.’