James Gooch - Doe & Hope
The one thing that stands out with Doe & Hope, is its distinct and unmistakable identity. It has evolved slightly over the years, and the fine tuning has all paid off. I think you’ve nailed it! Did you set out with a vision in mind, or did it simply stem from your personality?
I don’t think I had a vision in terms of what Doe and Hope was going to be, it happened pretty much organically over time, and like you say it has evolved like all businesses do. I do like a sense of theatre and story telling, and I think my degree in film has given me an angle that other dealers don’t necessarily have in the style and method of how I want to present my stock.
Over the years you have been known to dabble in the macabre and unusual - one of my personal favourites was the 19th Century Vampire slaying kit. Have you ever bought anything that even you thought was a bit too outrageous or grotesque?
I do like dipping into macabre items yes, though you have to be careful not to do too much of them as it does alienate some of your client base and can make it too narrow. The Vampire slaying kit was brilliant and went to the states. It actually got stopped in customs as there was mercury present inside a bottle (believed to kill vampires), so I had to explain to customs what the kit was; suffice to say they couldn’t believe or comprehend what I was saying! I did have a group of trapdoor spider’s nests once, they were collected in 1897 just a couple of years prior to the Battle of Ladysmith. I didn’t realise one of the nests still had its incumbent inside and I did jump when I opened that particular one! The collection went to Paris. There aren’t many things that I find too grotesque, however one is that of preserved elephant feet, which were turned into wastepaper bins and the like. I really think that is disgusting!
A degree in film explains the cinematic style of your photography. How did you go from working in film to dealing in antiques?
I worked in TV for a few years on shows like Big Brother, Fame Academy, etc. I then worked at LoveFilm.com (now Amazon Prime). I quit TV when I realised I wanted to deal, after buying old pieces for our first house in Saffron Walden, and so I took a part time job in an antiques centre to run alongside Doe & Hope which I did for four years.
You said you like a sense of story telling, this is clear in your stock descriptions which are almost like poetry, serenading your clients into falling in love with the item. Just for a laugh, and with your very best Doe & Hope air, can you sell me a tea bag in three or four lines?
The wonderful circular porous sealed tea bag, containing dried plant material tea leaves (Camellia sinensis), the high-graded filter paper preserving the original tea flavouring and aroma, the whole in untouched condition and surviving from the late 19thC. Now that’s a tea bag!