It’s Tuesday, and the hottest day of the year so far brings day one of set up at this year’s AFE. We did the fair for the first time last summer in what is usually a quiet time of year for us booksellers, so we are back for another go. Set-up is two days long (including vetting), which makes for a relaxed atmosphere and the opportunity to move things around the stand until you find their place (no, it’s not just me!), and to take time out to wander the venue as other stands take shape.
The frenzy of set-up at a bookfairs often means that you don’t get the opportunity to really look around for fear of missing a bargain in the next booth, so to be the only bookseller here means I can saunter rather than sprint and in doing so a number of things catch my eye.
Top of the list are a couple of children’s toy push carts dating from the 1920s, in entirely original condition, with great paintwork and all the nicks and chips you’d expect from nearly a century of service. They are fabulous, to be found on the stand of Chester based Mike Melody Antiques.
Next up on the stand of Andrew Muir is this Louis Wain ceramic. Years ago I used to collect all things Louis Wain and had several of these futurist / deco ceramic characters; cats, dogs… a pig! but never this handsome fella.
On a similar Marmite-ceramics note, our neighbours at Signed and Designed have an impressive selection of Martin Brothers Grotesque Birds. I’ve always liked these, for similar reasons to Louis Wain’s cat paintings; it’s the character the artists manage to put into the faces. Each one is different, but all have a terrific sense of mischief.
For the wall, my pick would be this proof linocut “Progress, Road In a Mining Town” by lesser known Grosvenor school artist Ursula Fookes. Although she was exhibited during 1929 – 1931, her works were unknown to members of her family until after her death when a cache of prints, paintings and drawings were discovered in a locked room.
The selection of furniture on offer is vast and hugely impressive, not least for the logistics and assembly involved- note the fully operational garden fountain and 7ft carved oak corpus Jesus Christ.
The variety of dealers and stock at this fair makes for a very different vibe to the bookfairs we usually exhibit at. The [relatively] high number of potential customers coming through the doors brings an opportunity to take what we do to a new audience, to inspire new collectors. I know that walking around the fair for the last two days I’ve found numerous items I never knew I wanted!
Our stand is now set up, the vetters are vetting and tomorrow morning at 10am the fair opens to members of the public.