Paul Morris swapped life in an office for bidding wars and he is now highly respected in the world of fine antiques. Our reporter Rosie Swarbrick spoke to the Lancashire Evening Post’s latest columnist - our new antiques expert, Paul Morris.
“One day I’d just had enough and I walked out.”
More than 10 years ago Paul Morris walked away from his comfortable job in insurance and returned home to his wife, two young children and their half-built house determined to make his name in the antique game.
Now Paul is at the top of the trade, frequents top London auction houses like Sotheby’s and deals with treasured goods worth thousands of pounds from his base at Preston Antiques Centre, in New Hall Lane.
But it’s not been an easy ride for Paul.
He said: “It took me a while to make my name, you can’t just walk into a big London auction house and be accepted.
“The other traders test you, they outbid you for fun but over time you gain respect.
“I had to build up my contacts and get to know people but now I save some of my best pieces to be auctioned off in London.”
Paul’s love of antiques was nurtured by his family and despite a brief detour into the financial world the 44-year-old from Ashton-on-Ribble, Preston returned to his first passion.
He said: “I can actually remember going round antique fairs with my grandparents.
“And my uncle used to collect bottles, we’d dig glass bottles up from the garden and that is how I started - collecting bottles aged 12.
“I’m still fascinated by stained glass windows.”
“I set my business up around late 2002, I initially set up in Nelson and I moved to Preston about five years ago.
“I’ve had a life long interest in antiques and I’ve always been interested in art and then one day I just had that light bulb moment and I walked out.
“I’d been working in insurance in Burnley and I’d been considering going into antiques so I just did it.”
Paul studied art at W R Tuson college, which is now Preston’s College and has turned his love of craft into a career.
“I travel the country I’m on the road quite a lot going to Scotland and London.
“I buy antiques from all over and overseas, I buy French furniture quite a lot.
“I’ve considered buying my own Antiques centre but I like the freedom of being on the road, talking to people, going to fairs and the thrill of finding pieces. With the rise of the internet the market is becoming flooded with part time dealers on eBay and people who take it up for a hobby.
“They can sometimes make mistakes with the labelling of products so you have to be careful.
“Fortunately I haven’t been hoodwinked, I check thoroughly. The amount of money involved you can’t gamble on a dodgy picture.
“All self employed people go through a tough period but I enjoy it.”
Paul has two daughters Mia, 14, and Grace, 12, but he does not see either following in his footsteps.
He said: “They are more interested in their horses, they are always out in the fields.
“But as Mia gets older she is asking more questions and becoming more interested.”
Paul specialises in quirky interior design pieces and fine furniture.
He said: “I collect fine furniture, at the moment Chinese pieces are in demand because they are one-off intricately detailed pieces.
“The holy grail for me is the early 1500’s and 1600’s Chinese furniture the intricate design means that the pieces fit together perfectly and allow the wood to breathe.
“But many old Chinese pieces are rare to find in the Western world as they have strict laws on exports.
“One of the favourite pieces I have ever found was a rare late 19th century Shadona.
“It is a beautifully carved Japanese piece but this one had 10 solid silver panels inside it depicting dragons.
“I found it in an engineers workshop. The engineer who was based in London traded parts with a lot of Chinese companies.
“He spotted it in a Chinese antique shop, brought it back to England and his wife didn’t like it.
“So it stayed in his workshop for 18 years, he sent me some pictures and I went down to London to view it.
“I bought it for myself and kept it for 12 months before selling it on for £9,000.”
Paul hasn’t dismissed the idea of a career in television but believes the day-time bargain shows don’t show the real side of antiques.
He said: “Every time I tell someone I’m an antique dealer they ask if I’ve been on television or whether I can price up something they have hidden away in a cupboard or a family heirloom.
“I know a well-known TV dealer quite well and they know the trade but some of them are picked to appear on their personalities.”
But the hardest part of the job for Paul is parting with the goods.
“Most of the time I will keep a piece I fall in love with for about 12 months before selling it on,” he admits. “Sometimes it is hard to find an item and part with it.”
Keep an eye out for more from Paul in future editions of the Lancashire Evening Post, he is going to be one of our special columnists giving tips and tricks from the world of high end antiques.
l For more information or to browse some of Paul’s stock visit: www.paulmorrisantiques.co.uk/