Winterview: With Liam Woodgates of Hopkinson Vintage & Antiques

Posted 19th January 2018

In this second seasonal interview, conducted by ASFairs PR person and Reclaim Magazine writer Alice Roberton, you’ll get a window into the life, work and passion of stalwart ASFairs trader Liam Woodgates. This ‘Winterview’ is a wonderfully honest account of why Liam loves what he does and is inspiration enough to follow your heart and do what truly makes you tick.

Liam Woodgates At Ripley Cropped Small

Above: Liam Woodgates (right) pictured with colleague Tom Camp (left)

How did you get into the antiques business?

My first Job was at the tender age of twelve working the gate, and acting as a runner, at my local car boot sale - so I started very young! At the end of each day the dealers would leave things behind and it was my job to collect everything up and skip it. I saw the potential to earn a little extra pocket money from these perfectly good items and would set them aside, and at the end of the day I would load up my wheelbarrow and take everything home, I’d then bring it all back to sell the following week. As it got known by family and neighbours that I was selling things, they began giving me stuff to sell. As my confidence built so did my funds and I started to re-invest more and more. I had caught the bug and it’s never gone away.

What do you sell?

I'm a bit of a jack of all trades and don't specialise in any one thing, largely because I don't have the attention span to concentrate on one area, so I just sell what I love. I am a purist at heart and love provenance and the history of an object and my stock ranges from one pound bargains to things which cost into the thousands. Over the years my taste has changed, but I do like to follow trends; good chairs are very much in fashion right now but have always been a staple for me.

How, and where, do you source your stock?

I like to keep my footprint as green as possible, so I mainly source within the UK market. Owning Hopkinson Vintage and Antiques Centre in Nottingham means that I regularly get inquiries from people looking to sell items as well as inviting me to do private and commercial clearance. I trade at fairs, so I’m always on the lookout to buy too.

What kind of clients do you have?

Quite a diverse client base; the type of buyer is very dependent on where and when we trade. The shop sees a wide variety of customers, from students to the more discerning shopper, and we also have commercial clients for whom we privately source specific items; bars and restaurant fit outs are good business for us and we’ve helped furnish many of Nottingham's independent bars and restaurants.

What are your client’s expectations?

No matter who the client is we always like to offer a service that exceeds their expectations by bringing variety, choice and most importantly value to what they are buying. I think it’s reasonable for a client to expect this from any dealer.

What’s the weirdest, or most wonderful object/item, that you have ever bought or sold?

I'm not sure it would be reader friendly as it’s quite macabre (readers are welcome to contact me if they’d like to find out!). I am a self-confessed fan of macabre items and just the other day I purchased a funeral bier, which we will be converting into a breakfast bar - not to everyone's taste but certainly weird and wonderful. This is just a small list of some of quirky items we currently have in stock: two full-sized camels, a piper Cherokee aeroplane, a full-sized model elephant head, a Rickshaw, a fifteen-foot American football player (not human taxidermy!) and a jungle of sixteen-foot palm trees.

Have you ever found something that you love so much that you can’t sell it?

Almost Everything! I fall in and out of love with things which is the best part of the job. Being a trader is just a way of supporting a habit of being able to buy beautiful things and not feel guilty. My favourite item of the moment, which is in my personal collection, is a cast aluminium cowgirl figure which stands at three-foot tall – it has the original paint worn away just enough to suggest it is a 1920/30's piece designed by Maria Rahmer.

What do you think makes a successful dealer?

Passion foremost. If you don't love it how can you expect anyone else to? All the best traders I know live and breathe the trade, it’s a way of life. If you are looking at it from a financial point of view, then making mistakes and learning from what you buy and sell is crucial. You will never know it all and will never get it right all the time – learning is key.

Do you have any advice to give traders who are new to the industry?

Ask questions, actively buy and sell, take measured risks and buy what you love. Start small and maybe take on a space in an antiques centre -  it’s a low risk way of starting out and getting a feel for the market. What may sell one day won't the next so don't be disheartened, move it on and find something else. Ride the trends. 

What trends are you currently seeing?

Mid-century furniture; brands such as Ercol and G Plan have made a massive comeback and I’ve seen prices sky-rocket. People are buying items that are practical, stylish and compact for the home, but that will last; young people are investing in good, solid, reliable design.

Our next event is Stoneleigh Antiques Market on 22nd January, closely followed by the Lincoln Antiques & Home Show on 29th & 30 January.