A Reflection Upon the Ballarat Antique Fair, 2011

March 14, 2011

In Memory of Collecting

The Ballarat Antique Fair is an institution unto itself. This is a fair that has not only endured, but grown with time, one that has become the strongest antique fair in Victoria, due to its size and strength in diversity. Where Park Lane’s (a now closed antique institution in Melbourne) long running Caulfield Racecourse Antique Fair had the best of Australia, the Ballarat Antique Fair feels like its natural successor, having a great mix from around the country in vintage to antique collectables, no matter what shape or size.

Once upon a time, the Ballarat Antique Fair was held in two venues in the main city, with a bus to ferry you in between. This was obviously not the most ideal situation, as for the past several years, the fair has been held in the Badminton Centre just outside of town.

As usual with the fair, the signage was rather poor entering the city. There are four exits into Ballarat and you have to wait until the last one to enter, otherwise you have to navigate the town to get there, so those who don’t know only have small signs to indicate the way, stuck underneath regard road signs. I felt that upon making the right turn in, one sign was rather poorly placed, as the arrows (at a left-right junction) were hidden (you had to turn left), so those new to the fair wouldn’t know where to turn. Nothing horrid, but not the best advertisement for the fair.

As usual, the venue wasn’t well off for air conditioning. The centre is a good size for vendors, but when the weather heats up, the experience can be oppressive. This year, I dressed appropriately in sandals (and rolled up velvet pants) to keep cool, as the temperature was gaining on 30 degrees Celsius. It was a correct move, but a cool change came in later to alleviate the oppressive heat.

Those who read my blog last year heard of it being crowded and rather violent (yours truly found himself being assaulted by senior ladies, including a solid punch to the kidneys and a head-butt that had to be seen to be believed), however this year it was rather a lean crowd, but one to accommodate the venue well. One could walk around, not be pushed aside and generally enjoy the atmosphere. I’ll also recommend the home made jam, preserves and fudge – the definition of heaven.

But this is a jewellery blog and you want to know how it went. I’ll try my best to reflect on that…

I entered and after submitting my door prize, found myself going to the far right hand corner of the fair, where my good friends at Grange Antiques often set up their display and offer me things that I really want to buy. This year, there were two hair bracelets that certainly got my blood racing, but they were a touch on the far side of comfortable in terms of price. More astoundingly were the taxidermy heads (bison, giraffe) that they bought in. I wish I had 12ft ceilings to accommodate such brilliance, but I’ll wait until I can afford a Victorian hunting room first.

I tend to glaze over with most furniture and porcelain unless it really grabs my attention, however, never look over Online Antiques who are one of the best sellers of Art Deco in Australia. The good Lady K is a big fan of Art Deco and I grew up in a family that loves (I’m an anachronistic throwback), so I did have a good look through and the ladies there did not disappoint.

Rather than get caught in details, I will say that Pendulum Antiques, Lanzay Antiques, Le Sande Antiques, Marsteen Antiques and Mudgee Antiques had some real quality in their pieces. Marsteen has a particularly lovely set of brooches with nuggets of gold mined from Ballarat mixed in with the hairwork in brooches and one day I will own them…

So, I passed by two hairwork bracelets, some nice early 19th century brooches (paste/hair/rectangular), a hariwork serpent with emerald eyes (but the hairwork was ruined) that I had to let go. There was a Georgian heart with hair that was cheap and very interesting, but made me think twice, so as with our judicial system, if there’s room for doubt, you must acquit.

Where I ended up conceding defeat was in one stall. The vendors I had met previously (the two gents are from Tasmania), though when I wanted to buy from them at the Avoca Antique Fair, a charming lady occupied their time for over twenty minutes and prevented contact of my credit card to their hand. Thankfully, the same pieces were there and I leapt upon a late 18th century navette brooch. There was another paste/hair/rectangular early 19th century brooch, but I have dozens of them, so I let it go. I did see a blue enamel pinchbeck brooch, but as is the case with much mid 19th century brooches, they can be dinged about and doctored, so this wasn’t as perfect as I’d like.

Next was my love or horology, so I sprung upon some upside-down watches in the back of a cabinet. The size looked right (I have dainty wrists) for a lady and I wanted something in gold. I asked them about it and they bought out one with the most charming face, which reminded me of a watch I used to wear in the last century. It was said to keep brilliant time (and it does), so I didn’t hesitate. Next was the other watch, an early Rolex, once again, with a brilliant face and the most elegant hands. Of course I had to have it. They took out a hairwork fob chain with pearls and garnets in pristine condition and a locket on the end. What’s a Hayden to do except buy these things?

Charming company, great prices and the lack of any pretension = sales in my book, they could almost have put just about anything in front of me then and I would have bought it. So, if you’re in Ulverstone, Tasmania, rattle the cages of the lads at the Leven Antiques Centre at 23 King Edward Street and you won’t be disappointed.

I’ve got to say, it’s days like that which make entities like eBay seem shameful and depressing. Yes, you can get what you like in terms of instant gratification, but interacting with people, discovering treasure within dark cabinets and actually feeling that passion for collecting is in our DNA and thick within the blood that pumps through our veins.

Thank you to everyone who followed my adventures on Twitter (visit the Art of Mourning account here) and I will be heading overseas next month for some time, so if you want to follow me around the world (US first, Europe second), I’ll be giving you updates on all my adventures.

Image Link > View images from the floor of the fair here

Image Link > View images of my odds and ends here

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