STUART PATERSON - IN THE STUDIO
Stuart Paterson is an antique dealer who scours Europe unearthing gems to bring back to the UK. His clients include discerning private buyers wishing to furnish smart houses, as well as designers and commercial clients. Stuart became an antique dealer by accident. Following a career in PR, he took a few months off to travel around France in a campervan, and ended up buying an old wine distillery and some antiques for his home. When he arrived back in the UK someone asked to buy everything in his van, so he had to source more and decided to start doing it professionally. We visited Stuart’s workshop one cold morning and spent hours pouring over his cornucopia of finds while chatting to him and his many visitors.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR STUDIO SPACE
A ground floor studio in Camberwell, South East London, in a hidden 200 metre-long cobbled mews of Victorian workshops. Originally a suitcase factory, brick-built with enormous industrial Crittall windows and shaded by trees from the next-door park, the workshops now house a few dozen artists, designers and makers. It's a great community where everyone helps each other, sharing ideas, problems, solutions, tools. Sometimes it's too good, with more cups of tea and chatting than work. But it's always inspiring, talking with ceramicists, stone masons, wood-carvers, set builders, furniture makers, fabric designers. Sadly, rent rises mean IT people are moving in, a sign of the times. Over the road is the South London Gallery, an inspiring contemporary arts space that serves decent coffee and the best scrambled eggs.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR STYLE?
I'm attracted to the frisson of ugly/beauty, what the French call "jolie-laide". And in the beauty of the ordinary and everyday, as in the Japanese philosophy of wabi sabi. I love imperfections, accidents, repairs.
AS WELL AS SELLING ANTIQUES, YOU ALSO DO LOTS OF OTHER INTERESTING WORK. PLEASE TELL US A BIT ABOUT IT.
Every day seems to be different. Some things come to me, some I have to hunt, some I have to create. The last two years have been bizarre: designing and creating a small Indian temple in Rajasthan then shipping it to England for re-erecting on a private estate; fitting out a Cotswolds pub/restaurant/hotel; styling private homes and photo shoots, and selling from a market stall in East Dulwich on Saturdays.
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE THE OBJECTS YOU SELL?
France mainly, from early morning markets and dealers. I speak the language, at least of antiques, but I wouldn't be able to buy car spare parts.
WHERE IS THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACE THAT YOU HAVE SOURCED SOMETHING TO SELL?
The arctic circle.
DO YOU BUY THINGS TO SELL AND END UP KEEPING THEM?
Often, but then the mortgage payment is due... If something is special I like to live with it for a while before letting it go.
WHO ARE YOUR DESIGN HEROES?
Anonymous folk that make simple, honest, fit-for-purpose objects. Think Welsh naive stick back chairs. Otherwise, Jean-Michel Frank, Margaret Howell, Barbara Hepworth, Tadao Ando.
WHAT INSPIRES YOU?
Creative people. Architecture. Craftsmanship. Found objects. In my teens I spent many weekends visiting Kettle's Yard in Cambridge which encompasses all those things.
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the thrill of the chase, trying to find something remarkable or that a client has asked me to source. I'm at my happiest in a car with a full tank of petrol, a sleeping bag, a return ferry ticket and enough money to buy on the road. My wife Brooke gives me enormous freedom to take off on a whim.
WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO OWN YOUR WORK?
Kate Bush, if I could deliver in person. Sue Skeen, an amazing stylist, bought the only thing I've ever regretted selling, but I know it's now in very good hands.
DO YOU COLLECT ANYTHING?
Lots, including ampersands, snail forks, art books.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE SHOP?
That changes daily, depending what I need. I'm drawn to speciality shops stocking niche products. Mr Gardner, of Gardner's in Spitalfields, sells "market sundries" like brown paper bags.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO EAT OUT?
In London, Peckham Refreshment Rooms. In France, Chez Navarre in Toulouse. And I'm partial to a picnic.
WHAT'S YOUR FAVOURITE THING TO DO AT THE WEEKEND?
Waking up with no plans then jumping in the car. A day at a coastal town with vintage shops and fish and chips is hard to beat. Margate ticks lots of boxes.
DO YOU TRAVEL MUCH?
Depends on my bank balance. Ideally every three weeks to France.
WHERE IS YOUR FAVOURITE PLACE TO TRAVEL TO
France for buying, Stockholm for lifestyle, India to escape winter.
This story was featured in the Guardian earlier this year https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/apr/23/expert-tips-antique-hunting-in-france