Joe Berry - Joseph Berry Interiors
You’ve hit the ground running. You seem to know who you are and where you want to be, and it looks like you’re not going to let anything stop you! Are you happy with how it’s going so far?
On the contrary, the business and my taste is constantly evolving, unlike many of my contemporaries, I didn’t have a passion from an early age, it simply manifested itself several years ago when I moved into my first flat, I wanted the place to be an extension of my character rather than a modern ‘MDF’ space. I have found this business is a balance of constant elation and deflation. Having moved quickly from a part time dealer to full time, the business has grown and I should be content, but my personality constantly wants more and to move onward and upward which can be tiring, as there is very little time to consolidate and reflect.
You say the business is a balance of constant elation and deflation, tell me about some of your highs and lows so far.
Every dealer knows that the good times fly and periods of slower sales no matter how long, feel like an age. The Decorative Fair has been transformative over the past year, I have done all three fairs now and each one has been more successful than the last, which is reassuring. True lows have been few and far between, but I have struggled in the last few months with a drop in sales, despite a strong fair in Battersea. Speaking to dealers, many are finding the environment challenging at the moment, but even in my relatively short career in antiques I have quickly learnt that it is cyclical, challenging and rebellious in nature - some weeks go without a sale only to culminate in a vast amount soon after. It is not a job for someone that cannot handle stress, I have trained myself to trust my instincts and my eye rather than panic and change what I buy.
Standing at Battersea seems like a huge risk for someone new to the business, relatively unknown. I get the impression you’re ‘all in’ and not prepared to wait around for things to happen. Is it a matter of ‘go big or go home’?
Every dealer will have their own unique and individual ambitions for their career and therefore inevitably their lifestyle. All levels of the trade play a hugely important role in the industry which allow it to thrive in what are challenging times, I realised quite quickly that it isn’t possible to ‘burst’ onto the scene in the antiques world, rather you slowly seep in and establish your brand and look. I find that refreshing, in an age of upstarts, disrupters and quick changes, the antiques industry is built on key tenets that remain unchanged, such as trust, reputation, relationships and talent.
I hope to balance being able to be accessible to as many people as possible, whilst finding the pieces that are truly rare and unusual. Battersea is knackering, but hugely rewarding, it brings a vast array of eccentric clients and dealers to its door. The trade is full of characters and Battersea brings out the best of them it seems.
The last few times I’ve come over to see you guys, I’ve either dragged you out of bed, or you’ve been nursing a hangover... does all work and no play make Joe a dull dealer?
You haven’t visited in a while! I would contest the hangovers but inevitably it is a career that doesn’t have conventional hours, I wake up at 7am and immediately check my auction alerts; I’m often working late into the night doing photography, uploading pieces to the website or answering emails. To push the brand forward in some challenging times I have realised that you need to be fully committed. Amazing pieces do not walk through the door; I spend my life devouring the physical or digital world to find a very select number of pieces to sell.
Mixing contemporary artwork, antique furniture and Taxidermy works really well and has given you a unique look, but if you had to specialise in one area, what would it be?
The pieces I work with transcend a huge range of ages, I am lucky enough to work with some hugely talented contemporary artists which I contrast with the antiques that I source, being relatively young and naive allows me to experiment, discover and get excited about the ever extending collection of antiques that I deal in. It was always a more traditional route to find a niche and deal solely in a certain period, however as I am constantly discovering new periods and nuances in the trade, I couldn’t possibly limit myself to one area.
I must confess I have a small obsession with lay figures that I will collect over my lifetime in an ever-expanding collection; I find it curious how inanimate objects can exude such character.