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Spitalfields Antiques Market 8

May 13, 2010
by the gentle author

This is Harvey Derriell, a lean and soulful Frenchman of discriminating tastes, and a connoisseur of tribal art from West Africa, with his prized collection of sculptures, textiles and beads, including my own personal favourite, chevron trading beads. “Fourteen years ago, I went to Mali, and I fell in love with the place and the people and I wanted to return. Now I go back four times a year.” revealed Harvey, brimming with delight. I was dismayed to learn that the Golonina bead market is closed but Harvey reassured me that beads are still to be found. “In Bamako, they ask ‘What do you want? Drugs, gold, diamonds, girls, boys or beads?’ “ he explained.

This is Anna Karlin who is moving to New York and selling off all her things before she departs these shores permanently. “I still have a house full!” she admitted with a cheerful shrug, carefree yet shivering in the May sunshine, as she pulled the blanket round her, in unconscious evocation of the woman in Ford Madox Brown’s painting of nineteenth century emigrants The Last of England. Anna is a designer who is moving from Hackney to Manhattan’s fashionable Lower East Side, so once she has disposed of her things here, she can go to the Chelsea Flea Market each Sunday in the West Village and start all over again.

This dignified fellow is Alex McHattie, a book dealer, who has been trading in markets on and off since 1978. “I’ve had jobs in between but I always come back to having a stall,” he confided to me with a gentle smile, acknowledging the intangible magnetism of the market place that everyone here recognises. A quietly cultured man, I have no doubt Alex has read every volume in his fascinatingly varied stock, which he characterised tersely as, “Mainly arts books, illustrated literature, and a few pieces of junk.” – revealing that Alex has mastered both the appealingly droll understatement and the cool learned aura, which distinguish nobility among the second-hand book dealers of London.

This is Elizabeth Bartley who deals in jewellery and old tins.“It’s a good thing to buy things you like and hold onto them for a while before passing them on,” explained this generous-spirited Australian woman, who teaches children with special needs for three days every week. Holding up a sparkly nineteenth century ring with stones in the shape of a heart, she used this to illustrate “the sentiment that is attached to things,” which touches her. Every single thing on Elizabeth’s stall has particular meaning for her personally, especially the commemorative biscuit tins that people treasured once, yet have become disposable items today.

Photographs copyright © Jeremy Freedman

2 Responses leave one →
  1. Madame Morag permalink
    May 13, 2010

    How Loverly, so charming. makes me long for the London.

    Madame Morag of Manhatten

  2. Anne permalink
    May 14, 2010

    Love that painting ‘The last of England’ particularly the glimpse of the tiny child’s hand clutching the mothers’ beneath the blanket . Full of pathos and sentiment.

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