It’s no exaggeration to say that each of our AYG members has an amazing story to tell. As young professionals thriving in the ever-shifting sands of the modern antiques world, it is their passion and commitment that marks them out as the future leaders and tastemakers of the industry. In this, the first of a series of spotlights onto just a few of our talented members, Edd got the chance to chat to Chloe Wood, a young auctioneer and cataloguer with the Abingdon branch of Mallams Auction House in Oxfordshire.
What lies beneath:
Unlike some of the member profiles on our AYG site, Chloe’s profile is teasingly short. Yet don’t be fooled by its brevity as behind the bright cheery smile that accompanies the words, lies an extremely caring, driven and passionate young lady. Indeed at the tender age of only 21 Chloe has already been working in the auction world for nearly 5 years and as an auctioneer on the rostrum since she was 18. Though she would never shout about it herself, Chloe is therefore one of the youngest female auctioneers (if not possibly the youngest!) in the country. In a role still very much dominated by men, that is no mean feat. “Although I would not call it a handicap as such, as a female auctioneer you do have to learn certain extra skills” explained Chloe when I spoke with her. “For instance, while men naturally have a deeper tone that can carry to the back of a noisy room more easily, as a woman I’ve almost had to re-teach myself how to speak, using my diaphragm differently to achieve the same effect. Believe me when the microphone fails you still need to be heard by the people at the back, you just don’t want to seem like you are shouting at everyone either!”
As a regular spectator and buyer at auctions, I found our conversation fascinating. Not only did Chloe explain some of the hidden science behind her role (and how in her eyes the ability to make someone laugh and relaxed were the best skills any auctioneer could learn), but she also offered a level of insight, maturity and genuine warmth I’d not expected from someone so young. She admitted to me: “When you are on the rostrum and you watch a collector finally win an item they really want, that’s what I love. It’s a different feeling between when a dealer wins and a collector does, with the dealer there is always the element of competition but the collector’s joy is more genuine”.
When I asked who she most admired in the antiques trade today, Chloe gave an answer I also hadn’t expected: “The people I admire most are those colleagues working quietly away to make this an even better industry. In fact I most admire the team around me, especially Henry Cook our chief auctioneer here in Abingdon and feel lucky for all the support I’ve been given”. It was this consistent combination of insight and compassion that makes me sure Chloe will go far in her career.
The incurable collector:
Chloe Wood first got into antiques when her mum gave her some Wade Whimsies at age 6 and has never looked back since. She laughed when I asked if she collected anything. “I’m a collector, a hoarder, I have way too much stuff! Currently I’m concentrating on collecting studio pottery and studio glassware, predominantly by British people like Timothy Harris and if I had to pick my favourite finds, then I’d have to say those items where I remember standing in the rain or hunting down for hours till I came across them”.
Having heard so much in the media about the younger generation turning their backs on antiques I was curious to hear from Chloe about the number of younger collectors and buyers she saw first-hand at Mallams in Abingdon. “Every saleroom is naturally different,” she explained, “but in ours there is probably a 30% younger to 70% older ratio. Obviously it all depends on the sale as for a Jewellery sale it may be more like 40% younger to 60% older, but a furniture sale may only be 20% younger people. Our Oxford saleroom gets a lot of the university students attending, but often they are just there to spectate and be part of the experience.”
We continued to discuss the changes that online bidding has made and Chloe’s ability to spot those infamous sleepers via the level of tension building in the saleroom. But wrapping up our conversation I was left with the feeling that the auction world was in safe hands with Chloe. This was not a young upstart trying to make a quick name for herself by dislodging the status quo around her. Here was a young professional carefully and humbly learning her craft in the manner of our ancient trade guilds. And one thing was for sure……in the future I’d be very happy for Chloe to be the person who sells me my dream object, because at the end of the day, I know she’d enjoy my sense of elation as much as me!