James Pickup

Sworders’ Fur­ni­ture and Sil­ver Spe­cial­ist and Head of The An­niver­sary Sale

Homes and Antiques Magazine - - ANTIQUES NOW -

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.

Good Prepa­ra­tion

‘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.’

Nitty Gritty

‘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.’

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