In this month’s header photo taken last week in Cambodia I am sunburnt. I am sweaty and just after this photo was taken I found a mosquito stuck still alive in the sweaty goo of sunblock at my hairline. In spite of all that I still I took to my standard diva pose even though my butt seriously hurt from hiking.
This January before going to Cambodia I was in Las Vegas speaking at the Kitchen and Bath Industry Show. (The flight from Vegas to Siem Reap was h-e-double-hockey-sticks… 10,135 miles and 4 layovers but I digress…) In one of my presentations at KBIS I gave a presentation in the DMM Design Milk / Modenus Talks Lounge called Strike A Pose where I taught attendees how to take a good photo. Everyone has to have a profile photo for their social media – so you might as well look good!
The thing I noticed about this photo is I look tired, but I look happy. More than that, I look content. And I’ve determined content is a better feeling than happy. I had just come out of hiking in the jungle to the top of Kulen Mountain and I had overestimated my ability to go those last 3 kilometers. But here’s the thing: Hiking in a jungle to the top of the most sacred mountain in Asia is like jumping out of an airplane and deciding at the halfway point you want to go back. That description of me on the mountain is how I feel about who and where I am today.
A Few of My Cambodia Photos – click to enlarge
The Business of Antiques
It’s 2020. And this is my first blog post of the new year. I suspect my content manager is about to have a heart attack that I missed blogging in December, January and February. This is the longest I’ve ever gone without blogging. The problem? I want to be intentional about content. And intentional isn’t easy. Several years ago I was on a hamster wheel – trying to blog X times per week for SEO and I reached a point where creating content had sucked all joy out of blogging. I hired someone to help – but I found the blog not representing my vision so last year I made the decision to write once-a-month longer personal blog posts which I’ve loved doing. All was fine and dandy until… I launched my podcast The Business of Antiques and all my energy went into getting it up and running and I dropped the ball on blogging. (I’m sorry readers 🙂 ) And by the way, speaking of the podcast – if you haven’t listened to my episode on Marketing For Antique Dealers you must – its my favorite podcast to date!
One of the hardest things for me is juggling all I do. Business traveling, speaking around the world, mentoring clients and taking them on Antique Buying Tours, managing my Antiques Diva Team of Buying Guides in 16 countries, designing jewelry and furniture, marketing those as well as my main business, dealing with taxes and business administration and finances, and writing my book, as well as the content for my blog and other social media in addition to podcast… it’s a lot. And I don’t do it alone. I couldn’t. I have a fabulous team who helps. But I’m trying to manage it and sometimes I fail.
And like the juggler who keeps adding balls in the air until one ball – if not all of them – drops, I’m also juggling Life. In my personal life I am dealing with trifecta of problems from finalizing The Divorce, to dealing with visa issues and facing a tax audit. Nietzsche says “What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger.” I think that’s what I liked about my photo. I am tired. But I looked strong. Maybe I’ll never be a size 6, that’s not in my linguine all’astice and 3rd glass of prosecco lifestyle, but I like who I am becoming even if dealing with life issues sucks more energy than I care to admit.
What I’ve learned during these times is I Must Keep Calm and Diva On. I’ve also been using this time to clear my mind and reflect. With one decade closing and another one beginning it’s important as Marie Forleo explains, “to look back, celebrate your wins, acknowledge your growth, extract the lessons and set the right goals for the upcoming year.”
It’s a new year. A new decade. And a new Toma. Yes, I’m still your Diva. But maybe I’m Diva2.0, or rather… make that Diva2020. As I look back at 2019 and forward to 2020, I think about what my resolutions are both personally and professionally.
Resolution #1 Be Intentional in Expressing My Authentic Voice
You might have noticed as I change, the tone of this blog is changing. Yes, I’ll always have stilettos and pearls. I’m your Diva afterall. But when I look back at my life journey, I went from being a daughter to a bride to a diva… and from a diva to me.
Resolution #2 Make Time for Wellness
Wellness is not a luxury, but a necessity. I love a good luxury spa hotel, but I’ve learned wellness is not about going to a great resort but about self care every day. My sister and I were talking this weekend and she said “I’m not sure I even know how to do self care.” For me, that means getting enough sleep, drinking enough water, but also imbibing ginger tea and lemon water, going to the gym at least twice a week (my goal is 3 but it doesn’t always happen), cooking healthy dinners when I’m at home. It means learning to Say No To Others and Yes To Me. Going for a walk everyday. Spending time snuggling with my cats. Reading books. Taking time to journal and meditate. In 2019 I formed a lot of healthy habits that have changed my life.
While staying in Cambodia at the 5-star hotel Anantara Angkor Resort in February for my writers’ retreat to work on my book, I went to the spa everyday to sit in the steam room. It was part of my process. If you’re going to write, you need to clear your mind so you can hear your voice. It occured to me, “What if I could do this every day at home? What if I incorporated steaming into my daily schedule?” Mr Steam makes that possible! They manufacture state-of-the-art steam shower systems and steam shower accessories that transform residential steam bathing.
Returning home from KBIS Vegas and Cambodia, I’m in research mode to determine how I can convert my master bath into a Mr Steam steamroom. It’s easier than you would ever think possible – and actually affordable! I’m super excited by this concept that I can steam at home!!! Steaming improves circulation, skin health, loosens stiff joints and helps restore your body after a workout. Plus it reduces stress, opens up the sinuses, and burns calories. Resolution #3 Embrace Technology
At the resort, I would call the Spa and tell them to turn on the steam and I would be there in 30 minutes. But at home, if you have a smart home, you can simply tell your Smart Home to turn on the Steam. One of my sponsors with Design Hounds at KBIS in Las Vegas was Control 4, a provider of automation and networking systems for homes and business offering a personalized and unified smarthome system to automate and control connected devices including lighting, audio, video, climate control, intercom, and security. I am not a technology girl. When I was married, that was my husband’s job. As a single woman it occurred to me, “Who needs a husband when you can have Control 4?” I’m getting wired and stepping into the 21st Century! In the 2020s, I’m making my home a smarthome.
Resolution #4 Finish Decorating My Home in Venice
Getting an apartment in Venice 2 years ago was hands-down the best decision I’ve made in my life. It’s my happy place. But maintaining my business in Berlin, Germany, whilst spending the majority of my time in Venice has meant that over the last 2 years I haven’t gotten everything done that I wanted to in Venice. I felt like my feet were straddling two nations as I hadn’t fully left Germany mentally as much as I wanted to nor fully settled into Venetian life.
In December I finally fully closed up life in Germany. I will go to the States to Martha’s Vineyard for 3 – 4 months this Spring and Summer while I switch my visa status so I can fully start my new life. But for my Venice apartment this means it’s time to get serious. I still need living room lights and art for my living room wall, as well as to finish my kitchen design so that it fully functions the way I want it to.
In Italy, we say “Piano, piano” slowly, slowly, step by step, but I’m ready to put a bit more kick in my step. I’ve been “making do” in my kitchen without if fully finished the way I wanted it.
Having just been to the Kitchen & Bath Industry Show “making do” is no longer an option. In French the expression for window shopping is lécher les vitrines… literally licking the windows. I was licking all the windows at KBIS fantasizing about making my home more my home. Two of the brands that sponsored my KBIS Design Hounds trip caught my attention: Thermador and Nobilia.
After “making do” Thermador’s tagline “Beyond Luxury Appliances” had me at Hello. You can get your design inspiration on here: https://www.thermador.com/us/experience/inspirational-design. They offer seamlessly integrated sleek design perfect for a contemporary lifestyle. And while I may work in antiques, I like contrast. A sleek modern kitchen contrasted with Rococo and Gustavian decor. Afterall, it’s all about the mix. Meanwhile Nobilia’s nod to history impressed me. Nobilia kitchens are known for their modern design, exceptional quality and their extremely good price to value ratio but their origins employ many of the ideals of the Bauhaus movement harmonize the distinction between the fine and applied arts while reuniting creativity and industrial design.
Resolution #5 FOCUS; Where Focus Goes Energy Flows
I’m becoming more intentional about how I spend my time. Every year I set a word of the year. Last year I chose Ready. This year my word is Intentional. I want to be more intentional about living a balanced life, increasing revenue for my business, and organizing my time. If I get more organized, I can focus more on what brings me revenue and when setting my priorities I’ll be able to know exactly where to best spend my time so I have more balance! I don’t see 2020 as a year for going forward, but rather a year for putting the 2010’s to bed.
Resolution #6 Give Myself Permission to Quit
One of the things I’m thinking as I’m in a difficult period personally is “What do I need to eliminate from my life?” I have a lot of goals. What I’ve learned is if you find you’re not progressing on a goal… maybe that goal is not as important as you thought it was. Sometimes we put goals on our list that are not our goals – they could be our husband’s, a friend’s or an employee’s. If you’re not making progress there’s a reason. Time available is certainly one of those reasons, but sometimes it’s that the goal doesn’t matter enough. I want to learn Italian. I also want to go to the gym. I don’t have time for both classes at this moment in my life. I chose the gym because I felt it was better for my mental health. My objective is to be CONTINUALLY reevaluating my business and personal goals and deciding if I want to Quit a Goal, Delay a Goal or Progress on the Goal.
Resolution #7: Consider Compromises and Ask for Help
For me, the last few months as work and life became too much and my blog took the hit. But… did it have to? When I ask myself that question “Is a monthly personal blog really my goal?” My answer is yes. But… why then did I let it slip through the crack? Because of time. One of the best exercises you can do for your business is to make a list of every single task you do. Then highlight those things that REALLY only you can do! You’ll be surprised how much you can ask for help on.
As owner of the company, I set the vision for the brand, and I am the voice of the company. There is no Diva without I in Antiques Diva. I want to write personal blog posts, but… if my goal really is providing consistent content I could have taken my manicured hands off the wheel and asked one of my Diva Guides for help writing a blog while I was working on starting the podcast. By being so focused on what I had to do (that’s ego talking) I missed an opportunity to provide content for you and missed an opportunity to let a member of my team shine. Lesson Learned. Sometimes when focusing on a goal you have to make compromises – and ask for help – to meet your objective.
One of the most important services we offer at The Antiques Diva & Co is our Antique Dealer Training and Mentoring Program where we work with you to help you not only evaluate where your business is currently but help you to get where you want to go. In the program we meet you where you are. It’s customized according to your store and your inventory – but more importantly, according to your strengths and weaknesses. One of the exercises I’d encourage you to do is make a list of your strengths and weaknesses. When you look at the strengths use that list to evaluate where to best spend your time. What are you naturally good at? What are your weaknesses? These are areas of your business where you may need additional training or additional help.
Resolution #8 Look for Help in Alternative Ways
I’ve always had an interest in esoteric subjects but in 2020 I’m taking more of an interest in learning about these topics that interest me. I first began dabbling in crystals by accident. I was designing my jewelry collection The Republic of Toma and met one of the editors from Thai Tatler magazine who commented that my choice of stones was interesting. That my stones told the story of my soul.
I found it a curious comment and inquired what she meant:
“Rubies and Citrines: Power, Success, Passion and Money. You’re starting a new venture designing jewelry and you’ve chosen stones that will guarantee your success. But Rose Quartz means love. You’re looking for love. Either externally or inside yourself. Aquamarine is a stone of courage. Its calming energies reduce stress and quiet the mind. Your mind is very noisy I think.”
Her comment left me frozen. In designing jewelry had I literally put my heart on my sleeve? When I looked at the motifs I designed, snakes, frogs, etc… they were all symbols of transformation. This started me on a journey researching stones and their meanings.
As humans we have intuition. Intuitively we are drawn to things we like. But our intuition leads us to what we like or don’t like, what we need or sometimes what we’re afraid of. I remember once going to the stone quarry in Italy and talking with one of the geologists about stones. I asked if he believed that stones had special powers assuming as a scientist he’d laugh at the notion. Instead he responded, “If your body needs potassium, it craves a banana. Why not Rose Quartz for love?”
While at KBIS, visiting our sponsor Compac: The Surfaces Company – the leading company in high quality decorative surfaces – I thought for the first time about the materials I’m using in my home. I’ve always wanted only real materials – granite, real wood etc, but it occured to me that just as the stones I choose to wear in my jewelry give me additional help with the problems I’m facing so then would the stones I choose in your house have the same effect. This is Holistic living.
Their stall at KBIS was filled with various marbles and quartzes. Looking up their properties, I learned that Marble is a grounding stone. It is the idea of security, strength and stability. It provides for the strength of self control and mastery of our thoughts. It enhances the powers of serenity, which is why it makes for a soothing meditation stone. Meanwhile Quartz is the most powerful healing stone of the mineral kingdom with various quartzes bringing different healing properties.
When you think of seeking help from alternative means, it impacts the entire way you live. I bring fresh flowers and plants into my house because they bring life. I use aromatherapy to enhance my mood. I often use various scents in my diffuser, but only recently did I consider what those scents meant. Here lately as I’ve been choosing Geranium Oil in the diffuser and out of curiosity I looked it up. Guess what? It reduces feelings of stress, anxiety, sadness, fatigue, and tension! Definitely what I need during this difficult life period. And intuitively I knew it. In my bedroom I spritz my bed each more with lavender spray. Not only does it transport me to Provence, but it also has a calming, sedative quality and is known to promote rest and relaxation, helping it to treat anxiety, depression, and insomnia.
Antiques Diva Provence Tours
Speaking of Provence, that reminds me, before I close I want to let you in on a special offer on our Antiques Diva Provence Tours.
Book our 3 day Wholesale Trade Antiques Fair Tour
in the South of France April 6-9, 2020
and we will give you 1 extra day free!
4 days for the price of 3
We will introduce you to one of our favorite antique fairs
La Foire Aux Antiquités et à la Brocante de Barjac.
This is a 750€ savings
Learn more about The Antiques Diva & Co Provence Tours here.
Have a question about our Provence tour? Ask Toma!
Thanks so much for reading, and see you next time. I promise I won’t make you wait 3 months! In the meantime, make sure to catch up on on my podcast, The Business of Antiques.
Toma – The Antiques Diva
Special thanks to my sponsors of the Design Hounds trip to Las Vegas with Modenus and KBIS: Mr Steam, Control 4, Thermador, Nobilia and Compac Surfaces.
On the first day of the Scorpion calendar, I celebrated my birthday. It wasn’t a significant birthday. In fact, it was the type of birthday you don’t typically have a party for. The year didn’t end in a 5 or a Zero. But with the turn of a page on the calendar, I found myself suddenly – as if by surprise – looking at 50 on the horizon. And the sun was low in the sky. In 4 short years, I will celebrate living half a century. I’m actually already planning a bucket list voyage for my 50th across Africa, chartering a small plane in Tanzania with my friend Dee as she turns 60 one month prior to my half centennial; visiting the foothills of Kilimanjaro’s sister mountain, Mount Meru, marveling at the magical tree houses in Tarangire and observing rare wildlife in the Ngorongoro Crater and Serengeti Plains. But first – 46. And Castle Brando – a medieval castle situated on a dolomite lime 1200 foot mountain 1,210 ft overlooking the village of Cison di Valmarino in Northern Italy.
While growing older has never bothered me – this birthday I found myself contemplative. Whenever I need to think, I retreat from the world. These last few years I’ve needed this more than years previous. I go silent on social media. Friends text saying, “Where are you?” In this case, I had checked into the Brandolino family castle in the Treviso Hills to take time at the spa. There is no cure for aging like a variety of anti-aging treatments and a daily elixir of massage, facials and taking the waters. But I did something unique on this trip. I took a trip alone. Just me, myself and I. My room was in a wing of the castle dating to the 5th century. As I checked into my room I looked at the family crest hanging over the bed.
The family crest was riddled on one side – 50% scorpions. And while perhaps not necessarily an ideal image for a peaceful night’s sleep, it made me smile. Serendipity. I had been discussing my horoscope and what the future holds with a new friend the day before at Quadri on the Piazza San Marco in Venice. I had to laugh at the coincidence. I had come here to think about what I want out of life – and how to get it – and my zodiac sign was hanging overhead. As I lay down on the bed with a watchful eye on the Scorpions, hoping one didn’t plop from the painting onto the coverlet beside me, I opened O Magazine.
On the page was an article by Oprah’s resident astrologer Chani Nicholas explaining that Scorpio Season is an invitation to honor the life lived thus far, to reflect and review, to better understand how we got where we are, to determine what to edit, and what to bring into the future.
This past year I’ve taken a more active interest in blogging than I have in recent years – it’s been my mission – to encourage you, my readers and clients, to make sure you are living a life that is satisfying, soulful, and on purpose.
For a couple of years following my separation from my husband, I lost my voice. In fact, during that period I didn’t write my blog at all. A member of my team stepped in to help during this period. I couldn’t do it. The blog – and potentially even the business – would have died if I didn’t ask for help.
Weekly as I struggle with this life/work balance I ask myself 3 questions I learned from money expert Kate Northup:
- Does it need to be done?
- Does it need to be done now?
- Does it need to be done by me?
What I learned is that when running a business – it takes a village.
You can’t do everything yourself. And even if you want to – you shouldn’t.
My company has grown from a one-woman firm to a global empire operating in 16 countries and on 3 continents offering one-on-one customized antique buying tours because I’ve learned to ask for help. Not only would my business not have survived the emotional aftermath of my divorce had I not asked for help – but it also would not have grown had I tried to do it all myself.
I realized early on in running The Antiques Diva & Co that the best way I could serve our clients was by assembling a team of the most connected people in the antique industries. We work with local antique experts in France, Belgium, England, Sweden, Italy, Thailand, Indonesia, America and more to lead our tours as Diva Guides.
And while I’ve been working with local antique tour guides practically since the beginning, I thought I couldn’t afford employees to help at headquarters. For years I thought I had to do everything myself. And that limiting belief meant that I couldn’t grow at a corporate level the way I needed to. And then I realized I could outsource certain things.
My Team Is Your Team
And I’m here to tell you – so can you. Just like the saying goes, Mi Casa es Tu Casa, I’m also offering that my team is your team.
Our Antiques Dealer Training Program doesn’t just offer 1-on-1 coaching on learning to How To Be an Antiques Dealer – we also offer a variety of outsourced marketing services to help you manage and market your antique business. From setting up templates on MailChimp to teaching you how to become an Instagram sensation to offering copywriting services and training in branding or working with you to build your personalized Marketing & PR Plan – we are here with The Business of Antiques to make Antiques Modern, Sexy, Fun and – most importantly – Profitable.
One thing I’ve learned over the last several years is that I have to Be Intentional – both personally as well as professionally. I found myself chatting with a Greek Byzantine History Professor last week after seeing his tattoo – Omnia Causa Fuint. I asked the meaning of those words.
Everything happens for a reason.
What reason do you have today for reading this blog?
Maybe you’ve been dreaming about expanding your business and buying antiques abroad…
Or maybe, you think you’re an old dog and you can’t learn new tricks.
The Business of Antiques
Our Antique Dealer Training Program isn’t just for new dealers. We also mentor established dealers in new approaches to sales and marketing. Every day on our new Instagram page I’m giving TIPS and advise on how to do so.
Yesterday morning I received a phonecall from a well-known established dealer who said, “Okay. Your client set up a booth opposite me at…” (In order to keep his identity secret let’s just say – at a well known antiques market where all the designers shop). He went on to say… “I think I have better inventory than her. I have better prices. But she outsold me. Every interior designer who walked through the hall knew who she was. Let’s talk.”
He was right.
He was being passed by.
And he knew it.
And while this particular client who passed him by is a star pupil – she is bright and is quickly working her way up the foodchain of the antique industry – this antique dealer had 26 years experience on her. And he was aware she would pass him by if he didn’t belly up to the bar and change the way he had been doing things.
Two years ago in a surreal moment, I was asked to speak at the House of Parliament at the LAPADA conference on selling to the American buyer. I started the talk by saying, If you want to compete in today’s market – you have to be willing to change.
These aren’t your Grandmother’s Antiques – or perhaps rather I should say, Successful Antique Dealers are NOT selling antiques the way your Grandmother would have. Perhaps no other person I know lives as intentionally as my client, and dear friend, Steven Favreau of the Favrealous Factory (and his partner Dennis Wyrzkowski – aka Dennis the Monk). Steven is a trailblazer. The Favrealous Factory is a Design Destination in the USA, mixing modern and antiques with pop culture and a flourish that only one man could have created – Steven Favreau. Graffitied walls and disco balls dancing beside a 17th C Flemish Armoire, anyone? Why yes, I think I will! Book your trip to Boston, to experience the place where Magic happens every day.
While the Favreaulous Factory makes antiques modern – it also is worth a mention that if you think Millennials are not buying antiques – it’s time to think again!!! House Beautiful broke the myth on what Millennials really think about buying antiques.
In fact, mixing antiques with modern is in the Zeitgeist. I was thrilled to be quoted extensively in this article in I+D Magazine by Cara Gibbs on Modern Antiquity. The thing I’ve learned both in designing my own furniture collection – and in sourcing antiques – is that true style is timeless. This vein of thought is why I don’t mind aging. While yes, I want to do what I can to prevent more of those tiny crow’s feet from clawing at the corners of my eyes – I do treat my skin well. My #1 Beauty Secret is light-reflecting Yves Saint Laurent Touche Éclat Foundation. And just like I use a trip to the spa and frequent applications of SkinCeuticals (not to mention a stash of the French pharmaceutical phenomenon A313 as my personal pommade), on antiques you can also use lotions and potions. That’s why I created my line of Antiques Care and Restoration Products.
I always joke with clients who expect an antique to be perfect that just as we get wrinkles as we get older, you can’t expect an 18th C chest of drawers to be perfect. Patina on antiques is like the laugh lines I have in the corner of my eyes. In my own home, I have a gorgeous 17th C Spanish Secretaire which I slather with my lavender-scented Antiques Diva Wood Wax. I must confess… the only greater feeling I’ve had than polishing a piece of furniture in my home with my very own line of Antiques Diva Furniture Wax and Serum has been deciding where to place my Antiques Diva Collection Neo-Classical Console I designed for Aidan Gray or wearing my Republic of Toma jewelry.
The Republic of Toma
By the way – Did you know I changed the name of my jewelry line? When we launched the collection, we named it after me – The TCH Collection (The Toma Clark Haines Collection) – but I realized I made a mistake when the first press mentions began rolling in and we were referred to with transposed initials – the THC collection – the component in marijuana! A name change was essential. But what name? My team of content managers said Keep It Simple. Just Toma. You might say Toma Only (for those of you who read my recent blog of this title), but somehow that felt too personal to use only my first name. I wanted my other company to represent me. To be a glimpse into my world. Welcome to The Republic of Toma.
The Business of Antiques Podcast
I was interviewed recently on the Style Matters Podcast by Zandra Zuraw of The Little Yellow Couch. In this interview, I talk more openly perhaps than ever before about my personal journey and my mission in life and business. Speaking of podcasts – perhaps this is the most important thing for today’s blog post…
DRUM ROLL PLEASE
I just launched MY OWN PODCAST – The Business of Antiques!
October was #NationalWomensSmallBusinessMonth and to celebrate and encourage other women and men to become successful entrepreneurs we launched my new podcast, The Business of Antiques Podcast. Episode 1 How to Start an Antique Business is now LIVE!
On my podcast…
- I’ll tell you secrets learned in the field over the last decade – sharing my own personal experiences as well as interviewing some of the top names in the industry.
- We’ll talk to antique dealers and interior designers as well as antique fair coordinators, antique aggregator sites, international shippers and insurance agents.
- If it relates to running an antique business we’ll talk about it.
Is there anything you’d like me to discuss on The Business of Antiques Podcast? Just #AskToma and I’ll try to answer your questions and discuss your interests in a future episode.
But I need your help to get my podcast found:
- Please LIKE and subscribe to The Business of Antiques
- The podcast is available now on Apple Podcast, Google, Stitcher, TuneIn and Spotify
- And follow along on this new journey as we launch The Business of Antiques Instagram and Facebook accounts
As we close I want to say Happy Thanksgiving. I’ll be celebrating with friends in Berlin and doing some online shopping for my Christmas list! Speaking of online shopping – I wanted to offer you a SPECIAL CYBER MONDAY sale!
Cyber Monday Sale
I am offering you a €1000 DISCOUNT ($1,100 USD)
on our €5000 ($5,500 USD)
10-week Antique Dealer Training Program
This is the BIGGEST DISCOUNT we have offered all year and gets you into the program before the new January 2020 €6500 price goes into effect –
Speaking of things to book early… why don’t you plan to join me in Miami for the 2020 Original Miami Beach Antique Show January 4-8, 2020. Email me and #AskToma for details Toma@antiquesdiva.com.
Any other questions? Just #AskToma
Toma, The Antiques Diva
PS. Save the Date: January 19, 2020, is our Annual Antiques Diva Paris Flea Market Brunch.
As I write this month’s blog I’m sitting at Le Deux Magots in Paris waiting as my 16 year old twin nieces explore Saint Germain des Pres and I take a moment to catch up on office work. They are visiting from Oklahoma. We’ve spent the afternoon at the Musee D’Orsay and my nieces spent hours staring at paintings they’d only seen on calendars. Meanwhile I’ve a blog to write. The advantage of my life is I can work from anywhere. Closed – or rather Ferme – signs dot the doors of the smaller shops in the neighborhood. My favorite cheese shop is closed. So is that little jeweler. As is an antique dealer I can’t afford but must “lèche son fenêtre” each time I’m in town. Tout Paris is en vacance.
It’s August, which means the French flee the city in droves for their summer holiday. This tradition – leaving Paris in the summer – has been going on since the Middle Ages when every August the French monarchy drained the moat to clean the moat walls. The stench was so overwhelming it drove Parisians from the city into the surrounding countryside. This started an annual tradition of the Parisians leaving Paris during the month of August.
Whenever I’m in France I hear the word reverberate across the clay pot chimneys on the rooftops like in Fiddler on a Hot Tin Roof.
Like most things in France, the tradition has lasted through the centuries – long after the moat was filled in Parisians continue the tradition. Today the city practically closes down during the first few weeks in August. But we have come to visit Paris as part of our summer vacation. I’ve written time and time again about the young ladies and gents in the 17th to 19th Century who took their Grand European Tour to learn the leading art, culture and traditions of their time. Today I’m taking my twin nieces on a modern day Grand European Tour. When my ex-husband and I chose not to have children I had one condition. “If we are not going to have children,” I told him as a negotiating tactic, “then I want to invest in my nieces and nephews.”
The summer of their 16th birthday we bring my nieces and nephews to Europe. It’s a rite of passage into adulthood and forming a friendship with their Auntie. My friends joke I’m Auntie Mame – Mame is a flamboyant, exuberant woman, who hosts frequent parties with eclectic, bohemian guests. Her nephew Patrick is quickly introduced to his aunt’s free-spirited and eccentric lifestyle. My sister has 6 kids and this summer the last of the nieces – twins – turn 16 at the end of August. And for 1 and a half months we are traveling – I am taking them on a Modern Day Grand European Tour. The rules of Auntie Toma’s house are simple – we can go anywhere, we can do anything but you have to explain to me WHY you want to do it. Give me a logical explanation – articulate yourself, your wants and your dreams – and the sky is the limit. Let’s make those dreams come true. In the meantime, I teach my nieces l’art de vivre – the art of living like a diva.
At home in Venice we went to the Rialto Market and bought fish which I taught them how carve and cook whole, debone and serve with flourish. In Berlin visiting their uncle, my ex, we dined in the dark at the “blind restaurant” where all the waiters and waitresses are blind and the diners eat in darkness. Now we are in Paris… that bastion of civilization. As Hemingway wrote, “If you are lucky enough to live in Paris as a young man then wherever you go for the rest of your life Paris goes with you… afterall Paris is a moveable feast.” I was one of those lucky ones. Living in Paris in my 20’s – my friends joked at the time I was the ultimate BoBo – Bohemian Bourgeois. Living in a 5th floor walk up on the Rue de Seine, taking cooking lessons at Le Ritz Escoffier and spending every franc on antiques found at the brocantes. Those years living in Paris, on the Rue de Seine, shaped me into the lady I became in my personal life – but also gave me the lifeskills and professional contacts to launch my business The Antiques Diva & Co. When I look back at my life in France it reminds of reading Julia Child’s biography and watching her life unfold in Julie & Julia.
One of my nieces – Jazlyn, the redhead – wants to be a chef and while the girls are here this summer we’re on a gastronomic tour of the continent and beyond. Next stop – London. Then Greece. Then it’s back to Italy to take the train throughout the country then up through Austria, stopping in Salzberg before the girls fly back home to Oklahoma. It’s a trip of a lifetime – follow along on Facebook and Instagram @TheAntiquesDiva. This trip will shape them, the way they live their lives, pursue their dreams and their idea of the world.
The Business of Antiques
The role of Auntie comes naturally to me… And in many ways Auntie is the role I play with my clients. Some call it Auntie. Others say Fairy Godmother, making their dreams come true. Bippity Boppity Boo. At The Antiques Diva & Co we offer antique buying tours in 16 countries helping clients source antiques overseas – translating, negotiating and helping clients ship their purchases home – but for years we’ve been unofficially mentoring our clients, helping them not only stock their store, but also giving behind the scenes advice on everything from marketing and branding, to sales strategies, and inventory management tips. When we started the Antiques Dealer Training and Mentoring Program (ADTP) earlier this year it was an instant success. We offer one-on-one customized training as well as workshops. And are currently working on planning our NYC Fall Antiques Dealer Training Workshop in October and another Antiques Delaer Training Workshop with the opportunity to source antiques abroad in Provence in April 2020 – contact me for details!
During these sessions – whether at our workshops or in our one-on-one consulting – we get intimate with our clients, discussing their business in depth. We delve into what they consider their failures and their successes. We point out successes they are not aware of and we give warning flags where danger lies ahead. In workshops we pull out from each client what we consider to be the Key Learning Points that others in the group could learn from their peers. We encourage our co-trainers to disagree with one another as advice is given so the clients get multiple perspectives and advice. In the group sessions we give as much customized advice specific to the clients needs as we can, while the private sessions 10 sessions are devoted entirely to you and your business. We brainstorm, but perhaps the most important thing we do is we hold you – the client – accountable.
Accountability. I have a love/hate relationship with that word.
For the last year I’ve been going to the gym. Faithfully. I have shown up whenever I’m at home in Venice and not traveling for business. (I still stink at working out when I travel). I don’t show up because I have a burning desire to exercise. I show up because I have a date with my trainer. And I don’t want to disappoint him. (Sidenote: if you’re in Venice, Italy and looking for a Personal Trainer I recommend Club Delfino at Zattera). My trainer has been integral to my success in my workout plan. I wouldn’t have done it on my own.
This July I visited the nutritionist at my gym and I told him that I wanted to start a new diet plan – not a diet, quick fix, lose lots of weight immediately kind of plan, but a holistic approach to eating healthy for life. We looked at my current diet. We did all sorts of tests so I knew not only my % of body fat, but how much water I retained and my muscle mass (the good news working in antiques means you have to be pretty muscley and my muscle mass was great). And then, after disecting everything we agreed on, a plan that I think can work for me. When I’m deciding between having dessert or not, having the fish or choosing the lamb, I think about my nutritionsist and the weigh-in I’ll have at the end of the month.
The hardest thing you can do is face the facts. I did not want to know the % of body fat I had. But doing so helped me get real. It helped me understand what my problems were and what I could do about them. It gave me a roadmap for the next year for my health. With your business it’s similar. You need to have a road plan. And sometimes having a 3rd party assess your situation as well as give ideas is the best thing you can do. It’s not easy but it’s a recipe for success. And I like success, which means it’s essential for me to put the right people and tools in my life.
When I started Antiques Diva I didn’t have a business plan. Over the last 5 years I’ve slowly started assembling what I now refer to as the Antiques Diva Bible. But it’s a living bible. The contents change. They are updated. I try to make them as clear as possible so they are not open for misintepretation. And I evaluate: does this really work for me? I challenge my own beliefs about my company. And sometimes I have to make changes – websites need updated and logos changed. Even core values in the company change as the times change. Most of all – the needs of our clients change. And when I give my company regular physicals, we improve as a company.
Is your antiques business healthy? When was the last time you evaluated it? Our Antiques Dealer Training and Mentoring Program reminds me of working with my physical trainers and nutritionist to create a plan for healthy living. With our Antique Dealer Clients,
- we create action plans together
- we create goals and set dates for check ups
- we give encouragement
- we give tough love
We point out what they are doing wrong but tell them how to fix it. In conjunction with the mentoring program we’ve launched a slew of other services – from Marketing Services for Antiques Dealers – to one of the services I’m most excited about… a Digital Marketing Audit for Antique Dealers. Subscribers to our AD&CO Newsletter (subscribe here) received a special discount in the last newsletter — a 500 EURO savings if they booked a Digital Marketing Content Audit for Antiques Dealers service by August 1. For new subscribers to the newsletter we’re extending this offer until September 1, 2018. Don’t know what a Digital Audit is? Or why you need one? Read more in the newsletter.
Whereas you might be reading your Diva news on my blog, did you know that in addition to the normal social media sites Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, that I’m also active on LinkedIn? You can find me @TheAntiquesDiva. An article I wrote last month titled Becoming CEO of My Life – Not Just My Business was wildly popular as I explained not only how I took control of my personal life but also addressed that question, How do you get it all done? If you’ve enjoyed the business tips for antique dealers I’ve shared recently on the blog and in our newsletter, I recommend you follow along on LinkedIn as we share more business advice for antiques dealers there.
As I close, I offer you the advice I offered my nieces just this week:
Find what makes you happy. And do it.
This year blogging has started making me happy again. For several years I struggled with blogging – it felt like an obligation instead of a joy. Which is why I took control this year and changed the way I was blogging. Making the posts more personal, but also blogging less but giving more of myself each time when I do write. This week I had the opportunity to dine on the rooftop of a fabulous apartment in Paris with longterm blog readers Ron & Debi Lily. When you write a blog you wonder, Does anyone read this? Am I writing words and sending them out in to outer space where they will never be seen again? Chatting with Debi she told me, “I bought that book you recommended.” She remembered a few details of my life over the years. And it made me feel so good to know that she was a loyal reader through the years. Maybe it’s because I’m traveling with teenage girls, but I’m thinking of that book, “Are you there god, it’s me Margaret?”
Dear Reader, if you’re out there, drop a line and let me know. I want to know what you want to hear about on the blog. What questions you have? What questions I can answer? I want to know how I can better serve you.
I want to share a few pics from a recent trip to Giverny with my nieces – Monet’s home an hour from Paris. It’s such a great example of following the beat of your own drum. Monet lived during the Victorian times when furniture was dark and heavy. While everyone else was modestly covering their legs, Monet painted his dining room bright yellow. He did it because it made him happy. He didn’t care what others were doing in home fashion – he did what he liked. He did what appealed to him.
Monet became Monet because he was uniquely himself. For my nieces, that’s the best role model I can image. For you as an antiques dealer it should be your mantra. Do what makes you happy! Become your own Monet.
Thanks for being there.
Toma – The Antiques Diva
When I was asked to be the Drummer on a Dragon Boat for the Vogalonga I said yes because it was a Regatta and I liked the sound of the word “Regatta.” When else in my life am I going to compete in a 30km rowing marathon? First, I should point out I wasn’t rowing. Secondly, I should say I was promised that the role of the Drummer was easy, peasy, pumpkin pie. In fact – that MIGHT have been an exaggeration, and while my core muscles may still be aching from 4 ½ hours of balancing myself on the bow of the boat on a seat the size of Bosc Pear in the choppy waters of the Venetian lagoon – it was without a doubt worth it. (Yes – that’s moi in the headdress in the above photo!) Cue the music, “I had the time of my life, and I owe it all to you… (Yes, I’m talking to you, Naomi, the woman who talked me and several other friends into this).
And while at first it simply sounded glamorous to be in a Regatta in Venice – the Vogalonga is one of the most significant rowing races in Italy – it was more than that. I learned several things about myself and on top of that, I had a major mental breakthrough.
The first thing I learned is that riding the waves is a lot like riding a horse. For the first hour on the boat, I was bracing myself. And at a certain point, I realized if I relaxed into the movements of the water – if I gave up control and went with the flow – the entire process was a lot easier. I faced less resistance and simply had to work less. Hmmm… wouldn’t it be amazing if I could apply this lesson outside the boat?
Secondly, for years I have been trying to meditate. And for years I’ve discovered I simply suck at meditating.
But my Eat Pray Love moment happened at a regatta. Elizabeth Gilbert went to Italy to eat. I apparently have decided to try all 3 – Eating, Praying and Loving – in Italy. Gilbert explains,
“Meditation does not come easily to me. My mind wanders relentlessly. I complained about this once to an Indian monk and he laughed and said, it’s a pity you’re the only human being on the planet who has that problem. But I find mental stillness really difficult.”
For me, it is the opposite problem. I welcome the quieting of my brain. I welcome the solitude to stop thinking but within seconds of starting to meditate, I fall into a deep sleep.
Clear your mind. Check.
Listen to your breath. Check.
Wake up an hour later… Check.
Sitting on the bow of the Dragon Boat, perched high above facing my team, I found my mind clearing. My role as the drummer was to be the heartbeat of the team. I was to watch and mimic the Pacers – when their paddle went up, my arm went up; when their paddle dipped into the water, my drum pounded. I was the only one on the boat who could see their movements – and my job was to communicate to the rest of the team the speed with which to row. It is critical that all paddlers are synchronized in order for the boat to move forward easily.
More than that, my job was to motivate and to encourage: helping the team using drills to increase team strength and unity. And in many ways, it reminded me of our Antiques Diva Antiques Dealer Training and Mentoring Mentoring Program where my job is to bring out the best in you – to help you find your stride in your antique business. Susan Shaw, of W Road Collection, explains of the training program,
“The way you work in your Antiques Diva Mentoring Program is exactly like the coxswain – the coach on the water, the leader in the boat making all as one in unison propelling the boat forward. I cannot thank you enough for helping me with the forward motion.”
As we floated through Venice passing some of the most significant locations among the islands – S. Erasmo, S. Francesco del Deserto, Burano, Mezzorbo and Murano – I became mesmerized by the dipping on the Pacer’s oar into the water. If I lost concentration and skipped a beat – the whole boat lost synchronization. So I simply focused. On one thing. The dipping of the paddle into the water.
And in doing so – suddenly I was in the zone. My mind was quiet. As we moved water my mind went numb. I had a physical almost visceral feeling of detachment from time and place. All I could see – all I could think about – was the dipping of the paddle into the sea. As if floating up above the boat, I felt a suspension of gravity that was soothing – achieving complete and utter mindlessness.
During the Vogalonga I learned to meditate.
As an article in Entrepreneur magazine explains: Thought leaders such as Richard Branson, Arianna Huffington and Steve Jobs have all lauded the importance of meditation for the entrepreneur.
“We often feel that we have to turn off the creative and wandering impulses of our brains in order to make things happen. Meditation sharpens focus, improves decision-making and boosts creativity.”
The Business of Antiques
The reality is when you’re running an antiques business, your most valuable asset is your mind. As an Antique Dealer, it’s easy to stay positive when buyers are buying… but what about those economic downturns when none of your inventory is selling? How do you maintain your positive mindset? Meditation helps find happiness – and focus – within, even during rough seas. Meditation also teaches you not to respond. Sometimes the best thing you can do in the Antiques Business is to wait it out – ride the tide until the next economic upturn.
For me, my entrepreneurial spirit inspires me to focus consistently on my vision. The secret to success is simply focusing on the goal and always going in the direction of it. Vision is integral to building a company. However, sometimes we can be so focused on our goals it can have a negative impact on our personal life, our relationships, our health, even our job performance. Learning to achieve a balance in your life actually increases your chances of being successful. Meditation helps find balance.
Basically, meditation puts you in the receiving zone. And as a business owner, finding your zone is one of the most important things you can do.
Years ago, before I had made the final decision to end my marriage, my marriage therapist encouraged me to get regular massages. While I was all about the concept of self-care, I thought it was hogwash that a massage could solve all the problems in my marriage. But by happenstance, I accidentally had 3 massages one month. And at the end of the month, my brain had absolute crystal clarity on some issues I’d been debating. So 3 months later when I was plagued with a business decision, I did something radical. I booked a 2-hour massage. By forgetting about my problem I was able to solve it.
Have you ever forgotten someone’s name and no matter what you do – you can’t remember it? Then you wake in the middle of the night remembering that name? That’s your subconscious at work. When you meditate you’re letting your subconscious do the work for you. Just like when I was sitting on the bow of the boat using all my core muscles to maintain my balance – I found I was better able to balance – then I sank into the sensation. I stopped resisting it and went with the flow. And trust me, lest you think massages have nothing to do with a Regatta… every team member on our boat would disagree. I think all 12 of the paddlers booked massages immediately following the rowing marathon!
I mentioned that Susan Shaw of W Road Collection – one of our clients in our Antiques Diva Training program – compared my role as a Mentor for Antiques Dealers to that of a Coxswain. So what does a Coxswain do?
- The coxswain is the person in charge of a boat, particularly its navigation and steering. The etymology of the word gives a literal meaning of “boat servant.” In our mentoring program, we are serving you. We are assessing where you want to take your antiques business and helping you chart your course for success.
- The coxswain is tasked with motivating the crew as well as steering as straight a course as possible to minimize the distance to the finish line, helping with speed, timing and fluidity. We help you achieve your goals.
- The coxswain is connected to the way the boat feels, what’s working, what needs to be changed. We evaluate your business, your personal strengths and weaknesses and we advise what needs to be changed.
In addition to offering our Antiques Diva Training or Mentoring Program for Antiques Dealers, we also offer a slew of marketing services for Antique Dealers from help setting up business systems to helping set up your newsletter or social media strategy. One of the most important services we are offering for our Antiques Dealer Clients at this moment is our content marketing audit for antique dealers by Catherine Russell, AD&CO Content Manager.
Content Marketing For Antique Dealers
In this month’s blog we’ve run the gamut from a Regatta in Venice to SEO optimization, but remember last month’s blog when I talked briefly about journaling? To close that’s what I’d like to focus on. I said mediation puts you in the receiving mode. The best way to process after meditating is to journal.
As an antique dealer, I’d encourage you to start journaling about your business. Go out and buy yourself a notebook and start writing.
- Describe what your business currently looks like.
- Write what you’re proud of.
- Write what problems you’re currently experiencing in your antiques business.
- What are your goals?
- What would your fantasy business look like?
- Where would you sell?
- How would you sell?
- And how would you adapt your business to fit your desired lifestyle?
- What things do you need to do to change your business to reach your goals?
Most dealers I know have a thin line between their personal life and professional life – in creative businesses those lines always tend to blur. My own life especially. Thus, when I journal, my journal is one part personal, one part professional. If you’re a loyal blog read you’ll have heard me mention that my decision to start The Antiques Diva & Co came out of my “Morning Pages.” Author Julia Cameron of the Artist Way explains Morning Pages are essentially a mind-dump – three pages of longhand, stream of consciousness writing, done first thing in the morning. Sometimes I do “Morning Pages” but most mornings I do my own version of Mel Robbins 5 Second Journal.
In a recent Facebook Live Post with Steven Favreau of the Favreulous Factory I talked about my own morning routine and how I use a journal to focus on the MIT – Most Important Thing to bring me focus and prioritize my day.
Today my Most Important Thing Is You – Sharing with you how you can improve your antique business and how we can help you along the way either through our antiques buying tours or antique dealer mentoring program.
On a personal level, I encourage you to go find what makes you happy. For me, one of the things that make most happy is my cats Fortuny and Fiorella (and their lovely 3 babies!!!) My kittens had kittens!
Toma – The Antiques Diva
If you’ve ever attended one of my lectures at High Point Market or the D&D geared towards interior designers you’ll inevitably have heard me say “The most important tool you can have in your toolbox is a passport.” Mine is battered, covered with baggage tag stickers and filled with page after page of stamps and visas. In my current passport, I have only 10 blank pages remaining. (Note to self: Order Extra Pages). Saint Augustine said, “The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” If that’s the case, then I’ve been living a well-read life.
More and more during these last few years, I’m taking time to stop and smell the proverbial roses. As business travel is a regular part of my life the easiest way to do this is adding days onto each trip to bookend a business trip. This last month has had a heavy focus on travel – with my vacation to China followed by a business trip across the USA to High Point, New York, Boston and London.
Often as an individual I’ve got my eyes set on the horizon looking towards the destination – I sometimes get so busy considering my plan and next steps of action that I forget to celebrate the milestones.
I dream big.
And in order to achieve big things – it’s necessary to dream bigger than everyone else around you.
But life is a journey – not a destination.
As I write, I’m on the train, the Frecciarossa, en route home from Piemonte from Easter weekend with friends. At home on my bedside table is Eckart Tolle’s Power of Now – a reminder to simply enjoy the Great Big Right Now. I’m soaking up the moments – and as a result, I am finding more and more inspiration each day. For design. For writing. But also just for day to day life. I’m cooking more. Being more creative in general. I’ve even pulled out my watercolors which I haven’t played with in years.
Design Inspiration can come from anywhere. Often it’s my travels that inspire me, sometimes it’s an everyday object that I see in a new way, people I meet and places I go that weave themselves into my soul. When my friend Alessandro told me he was moving to China he gave me Andrea di Robilant’s book Autumn in Venice: Ernest Hemingway and his Last Muse. He told me the title was important, “Hemingway because you were an English literature major in uni. Last Autumn because it’s my last autumn before I move. And Venice IS your muse.”
He was right. Moving here has inspired me. Venice is an obvious choice for inspiration – but inspiration can come from the most unexpected places. Those who follow me on Instagram were fascinated when they learned that the leather on my Roccoco-style bench in my Antiques Diva Furniture Collection by Aidan Gray was inspired by the designo leather in my Mercedes SUV.
Last week I was struck with Global Design Inspiration while visiting friends in England at the end of a business trip. The entire world was brought to me in one destination. Ascott House is a palace-like Jacobean black and white timbered cottage that was the creation of Leopold de Rothschild and architect George Devey. It’s a quintessentially English Country House with exquisite English antiques standing alongside Dutch and Flemish masterworks and fine French furniture and art. I nearly ran into a Rodin as I stepped backward in the Billards Room turned Library.
In the library I looked around – the room was beyond cozy – but something felt different. It was more casual than one would have expected a formal library. (The photo above makes the space look much more formal than in real life). When I commented on the unusually light color of the wooden library shelves the docent confessed, “though it’s now a National Trust estate the family still uses the property – and they stripped the wood to make the room more airy.” Bingo! I suddenly realized why I loved the house so much. That was the difference. While it is a museum – it’s still a family home part of the year.
It’s the perfect example of how to live with antiques.
But not just any antiques – Ascott House could be the pictorial definition of the word wanderlust. It’s layered with generation after generation of antiques, textiles and embroideries from the Grand Tour and the Silk Road. The Silk Road was the ancient network of trade routes that connected the East with the West. It meandered along the northern borders of China, India, and Persia and wove through Turkey, Eastern Europe and the Mediterranean Sea. It was important because it helped to generate trade and commerce between a number of different kingdoms and empires but trade was not the only purpose of the Silk Road. Just as on the Grand Tour young men and women learned the most important developments in language, arts, court etiquette, legal and political systems, science and culture, the Silk Road was also about the exchange of ideas.
The more we travel, the more we open our minds.
In a conversation recently with a television producer, I was told that Americans don’t want to see TV shows filmed abroad. “How can you travel the world through antiques if you’re not interested in the travel aspect?” I wondered. It seemed incomprehensible. Was the producer telling me the entire American viewing audience had Xenophobia – the fear of foreign places? I’ve made a career out of making both international antiques and foreign places accessible – I’ve been called the Anthony Bourdain of antiques – that girl who travels the world uncovering lesser-known places and exploring their cultures and antiques – then sharing my #Divascoveries with my followers.
As humans – as humanity – we grow when we’re connected with people and places outside of ourselves. We are all connected. What happens in one part of the world, impacts another. Have you heard of the Butterfly Effect? The theory is based upon an idea if you track the path of a hurricane from its inception, you’d see that it was all caused by a change in air pressure caused from the flap of a butterfly’s wings three weeks prior and halfway across the world. The Silk Roads network of connecting pathways changed history because the people who traveled along part or all of the Silk Road planted their cultures like seeds carried to distant lands.
Bringing your travels home has long been a tradition in interior design. A classic English Country House simply wouldn’t be an English Country House without its global influence – seeds plucked from faraway places and transplanted at home.
Ascott House exemplifies the East Meets West decorating vibe. My favorite room is the living room where you’ll find Ikat silk chapans from Uzbekistan repurposed into Roman Shades. Someone painstakingly de-assembled vintage robes and hand-stitched the fabric together to form patchwork, and then used the patchwork to make the fabric for the blinds. In one corner of the curtain, you can see still see the vague outline of the sleeve of an arm. The whole setting is very Robert Kime – one of my favorite London Interior Designers known for his elaborate use of antique textiles, creating what 1st Dibs calls, “comfortable classically English Rooms that his clients – including Prince Charles – say they never want to leave.”
I found myself thinking about travel, collecting and interior design as I toured Ascott House. What is it that makes us desire to see far away places and to bring a piece of it home? Is it a Napoleonic desire to conquest? A holdover from the caveman days of hunting and gathering? Why do we collect? Is it merely a means to give meaning to our lives – making an emotional connection to a period, place or time? Or does it have deeper meaning?
As Ascott House caused me to contemplate my own travel I thought about how antiquing abroad has influenced me over the years. The Antiques Diva started because I was traveling the world. Some people buy a t-shirt on holiday. I buy antiques as my souvenir because that’s what interests me. The French word souvenir means memories, and for me – that’s what I am doing when I antique abroad. I buy memories.
Traveling and antiques have always been intertwined in my mind. As a child, I remember family dinners when my mother pulled out the antique silver that my grandparents brought over with them on the boat from England to America. This cutlery represented not only my family’s heritage but faraway places that influenced how we lived. I saw antiques as a way to be transported to other times and other places.
While traveling in China last month one of my favorite moments was in Kaifeng, the 11th Century Song dynasty capital. My friend and I had stumbled into an antiques and artisans two-story gallery that was partially abandoned. Antique furniture, fragments and tools were propped against walls, while porcelain and lacquerware filled the shelves. Men gathered at card tables played mahjong near their stalls. One of the things I Iike about antiques is that antiques unite us. When you go antiquing, people with different backgrounds, interests and passions collide. Each person can find something that speaks to their soul. My friend Alessandro is a physicist and etno-mathematician. On a purely surface level, we couldn’t be more different if we tried. I lost track of him while we were browsing the stalls and at a certain point, I rounded the corner and saw him bent over a box smiling from ear to ear. He looked up and showed me what he’d found – an antique abacus, a Chinese counting tool. Ironically, he was the one who bought antiques that day – not me.
Meanwhile while touring this gallery I was introduced to something new. I’d become obsessed with the Chinese traditional painting. In the gallery nearly 2 dozen artists had ateliers and you could watch them dip their brushes into black ink or water-based color pigments, creating patterns on paper or silk using traditional themes, materials and techniques. Watching the artist paint felt like peeking through the window into the soul of the country. Guóhua, as traditional Chinese painting is called, is one of the three pillars of Chinese culture (the others being medicine and opera.) Chinese painters tend to learn their craft by copying earlier masters in order to build their foundation.
To understand the past is to understand the future.
Elizabeth Hammer, Head of Sales of Chinese Classical and Modern Paintings at Christie’s New York explains that “the most prized Chinese traditional paintings are those that reveal the artist’s personality and character. It is believed that an evil person cannot make a fine work of art. To really understand an artist’s works, it helps to learn his or her biography, and about the times in which the artist lived.”
Last year during the Architectural Biennale in Venice I met the team from Chanel who were documenting Coco’s life, travels and inspirations for Chanel’s in-house archives. “We need to see what she saw, be influenced by her influences, to design a brand that stays according to her vision.” Once you’ve traveled, that knowledge of a country, it’s people, traditions and architecture, their decorative arts and their environment, the natural world – the subtle sense of a place – will continue to inform you. Hemingway said, “If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life it stays with you, for Paris is a moveable feast.”
But it’s not just Paris that’s a moveable feast – all your travels – your adventures – are your personal progressive dinner.
For me, while visiting Ascott House my olfactory memory went straight to the Silk Road. Having just been in China last month, my jaw dropped when I walked into Ascott House’s Porcelain Room filled with turquoise and purple-glazed ceramics from the mid to late Ming dynasty (1368-1644) displayed in specially designed bamboo cabinets. The collection was formed by Anthony de Rothschild when he used a buying agent (the 1920’s equivalent of an Antiques Diva Guide) to help him source pieces that suited his tastes.
In the end – that’s what it all comes down to. Taste. Buy what you love. Whether you’re an antique dealer, interior designer, or a private antique buyer – that is the best advice I can give you. Buy what you love. As Elizabeth Hammer of Christie’s explains, “Follow your instinct when collecting and buy something that delights you.”
As I close I challenge you:
Go someplace new. Do something new. Maybe you can’t go to Uzbekistan this week – but you can seek out an Uzbek restaurant. Take yourself on an Artist Date. Last month in New York City we did our first ever Antiques Dealer Training Workshop. Interior designers Justin Shaulis and Robert Passal joined us as guest speakers for a break-out session, advising our attendees on How Antique Dealers Should Work With Interior Designers. While closing, Robert told a personal story of his own career and how he became an interior designer after he read Julia Cameron’s book The Artist Way – a book that also inspired me to launch The Antiques Diva & Co. In her book, Cameron advises each week to take an Artist Date. Make time for yourself – on your own – to do something enchanting. Expose yourself to new places and new ideas. Where will you go on an Artist Date this week?
To Book Your Antiques Diva Tour in 16 Countries
or inquire about our new Training Program for Antique Dealers email email@example.com
Toma – The Antiques Diva
Recently on Facebook, people have been posting their 10 Year Challenge – a photo taken 10 years ago versus today.
A decade ago The Antiques Diva & Co was almost 1 year old. In fact, there was no “& Co” as I was a one-woman firm. I had just finished pitching my book – The Antiques Diva Shopping Guide to Europe – and ultimately the book was rejected. I was so disappointed. And I thought maybe my career as a Diva was going to be short-lived. It was a global recession. No one was going to Europe. No one was buying antiques. And no one was reading books.
I had just started offering buying tours and we had only a handful of clients. Our biggest struggle was buyers at the time simply didn’t know mine was a service they could hire. They didn’t know to Google ‘Antique Buying Tours’ because they didn’t know such tours existed. The way clients would find me was by accident if they Googled ‘antiques in Europe’ and stumbled upon my blog. Every email I got from a new client began with some thing along the lines of “Oh My God – I didn’t know this service existed! I’m so glad I found you!” It was exciting but… there weren’t enough clients finding me randomly online to actually have a real business.
The Antiques Diva & Co was 1 year old and I felt like I was failing.
And then a friend sat me down and he said, “Toma, there is no shame in quitting. You need to accept that this idea is not going to work. Stop wasting your time.” And then he said the stinger words… “It’s not a good idea.” He wasn’t meaning to be an asshole – though
I knew one thing…
He was wrong.
I knew that I simply could see what he couldn’t see.
I could see where The Antiques Diva Brand was going.
He was in the proverbial forest in a place that was dark and scary with bears surrounded by trees which were covered in creepy crawly things. Meanwhile, I was soaring up above, seeing the majestic landscape lush with foliage and the fields and horizon up ahead. The colors were amazing… and My God there was a beautiful sunset up ahead. But… admittedly there was a headwind and I was being pushed back a bit by the wind. I definitely needed to flap my wings a little harder to fight against that gust which was pushing me back – but I was moving forward. I could see what he couldn’t see.
I always can see what others can’t see. That is my super power.
When I was 5 years old I discovered the TV Show Dallas. I wasn’t allowed to watch it but I would sneak a peek from my cracked open bedroom door after dark. I became obsessed with glamour and jewelry – it’s no surprise nearly 40 years later I started my own haute couture jewelry line the TCH Collection. As a child, I would cut paper diamonds and glue them piece by piece to my clothes and wherever I walked, a cloud of paper followed me around like Kate Spades quote “A trail of glitter follows wherever she goes.” My parents would get so frustrated – my dad would lecture, “Toma, stop being such a PigPen,” picturing the cloud of dust that follows the Snoopy character. And when he said this, I would get soo soo mad! “These are paper diamonds!!! 💎Can’t you see what I see!?”
I’ve always been able to see what others could not see. And when I see something so clearly – I fight for it like the world depends upon it. If you believe it – anything is possible. In that moment when Mustache Man said, “This is not a good idea.” I thought, “Game on buddy.”
I had a vision while I was flying up over those trees that I was going to build an empire. I was a
I may not have had many clients, but I knew that I know things other people didn’t know, and I know people who know more than me, and I know that together that we could help those people by giving them access to our contacts and my Diva Lifestyle. When I started the company I thought it was for people like me who merely liked antiques; what I didn’t realize was that I was building a B2B business serving primarily the antiques trade.
After analyzing my client base, I realized that I have 2 very specific demographics:
1. Antique dealers who needed to increase their profit margin and inventory quality and selection – these were people who were already successful, but they were ready to take their business to the next level by buying overseas. And our job was to give them a hand-up on the path they were already heading. I liked these clients and we could fast-track them to success.
2. But the clients I liked most were the 2nd demographic. They were mostly women, and they were starting a new career. They had already been successful in their first career. It was usually something super practical – like a banker or accountant or a lawyer. Or maybe they had given up their career years earlier to stay home with the kids, to raise a family, and they were ready to have something of their own, something that fed their soul, something that represented them. These were the people I could help.
Why I Do What I Do
A couple weeks ago I got a private message on Instagram, it started:
“I’m sure you get 100s of messages and I don’t want to sound like a stalker or a fangirl but I love what you do. You’re amazing. I know you’re very busy, but… I am wondering if I could talk to you? While I’m not currently in the antiques industry, I have a strong interest in it. I’m at a point in my life where I want to do something more. I’ve always had an interest in interior design and I had a shop for a while. I feel I have a natural talent for many things, but none of them generate income. And I’d like to change that. I would like to support myself and not depend on my husband for that. Any advice about getting started in the antiques industry would be appreciated.”
It’s not really just about antiques. I have a fabulous life – super glamorous actually with amazing travel and more champagne than should be legal. Let’s just say being a Diva does have its perks. But… I don’t do it for the 🍾 champagne. I do it because I saw a need for this service to
Over the last 10 years, the business has changed. The team has grown from 1 to around 20 at the moment. We are now in 16 countries and 3 continents. We don’t just offer antique buying tours. We offer a Training and Mentoring Program for Antiques Dealers – a training program to teach new or nearly new
What Would You Ask Me?
Here’s something I want you to think about… is there a question you would ask me if you could? One of my #1 responsibilities in the company is to talk to incoming clients and to help them determine where they should shop, for what and when. I chat all the time with clients about their marketing plans and repeat clients know that they can always call me to bounce ideas off of me; and when I’m out and see things that remind me of a client I send all sorts of tempting texts and ideas.
If you’ve been dreaming about a new career as an antiques dealer – or perhaps simply need to fast-track a career you’ve already started selling antiques – then I would love to schedule a phone call with you to help you make your dreams come true.
Top Interior Design Influencers Who Are Making It Happen
In mid-November, I received an email with urgent in the title. It was from Kimberly Wray of Furniture Lighting and Design Magazine. I gave a giant yelp and my kitten Fortuny – who had been sleeping peacefully on my desk – jumped with a start.
“We are doing an article on the top interior design industry influencers who are making it happen in 2018 and I want to interview you.”
When the article came out Dec 28, 2018, I sighed and felt a little victory. This is me. I am a just a girl from Oklahoma. I didn’t grow up with any money. I think my parents simply struggled to pay the electric bill. Buying luxury furniture wasn’t a consideration and most of our furniture was hand me downs, vintage or secondhand. But my mom had fabulous taste. She knew the importance of angling the chair just the right way, and good lighting, lamps were always on and scattered around the house. She painted her own paintings and arranged bouquets of flowers and she grew the flowers herself or plucked wildflowers out of a field. Food was always readily available and no matter how many strays my dad brought home for dinner (which was a nightly occurrence) she stretched the food and there was always enough to seat one more. We didn’t have a fancy life but we lived well. Life was beautiful.
Antiques Diva Is A Lifestyle
And for me, that’s what it’s always been about… living gracefully. I got into antiques because I feel they add elegance to a home. I like the patina, the sense of history and the story. When you buy antiques you don’t just buy antiques – you buy a story. Antiques help you travel to other places and other times, if only in your mind.
Moving to Venice
Several years ago my husband of 20 years and I separated. To be honest, it was devastating for me. I couldn’t emotionally process it so I threw myself into working too much as a solution. It was good for my company growth but it wasn’t good for me on a personal level. And so I decided to change. I decided to reevaluate what my priorities are.
I needed more balance, less work, and definitely more personal time, which meant I needed to work more efficiently and effectively. I also realized I wasn’t happy living in Berlin. So I thought about all the places in the world I could live and my happy place was Venice.
A few photos from my move down the Grand Canal…
One year ago I loaded up a 40-foot container and my truck drove over the Alps. It took 3 boats, but I arrived at my new home in Venice on a flotilla going down the Grand Canal. My mover Alfredo Rubelli even tied my desk chair to the front of the boat so I could sit on the chair and wave to tourists as we passed them by. It was surreal. But I had arrived.
Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch
Speaking of thinking like a Diva – Aspire Design and Home Magazine just published the best article on me that has ever been written. In The Antiques Diva Guide to Paris Flea Markets. they shared the definition of a Diva:
a woman who exudes great style and personality with confidence and expresses herself without letting others influence who they are.
On January 20, The Antiques Diva & Co held our 6th annual Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch co-hosted by Aspire Magazine and Marché Dauphine. Each year we welcome guests from the international design community during Paris Design Week to a festive brunch at Les Puces before a day of antiques and vintage sourcing and #DesignInspiration. The article was published to promote the party I co-hosted with Marché Dauphine and Aspire Magazine.
Check out our Paris Flea Market Champagne Brunch party pics taken by photographer Joachim Pelletier …
2018 was devoted to Balance. And it was hard work, but I achieved that goal.
My Goal for 2019
2019 is dedicated to re-engaging in a personal level in my company. I believe the company needs more of me – more of my leadership and more of my voice and vision.
And I’m doing that by going back to the basics. My company started because I wrote a blog titled The Antiques Diva. People liked my blog and demanded that I take them on antique shopping tours. Somewhere along the line as I was growing the company, my voice got lost in the day to day madness. So I thought about it and I wondered, Why not go back to where this all started with my voice? This year on the blog I will be blogging less, but the blogs I will write will have more depth and more meaning. And drumroll… where did this company begin? It began because I wanted to write a book – so I’m starting over. I am writing a book. It’s not
Thanks for following along as I share my journey. My word for 2019 is Ready. I’m ready. Ready. And it’s going to be a great year.
Toma Clark Haines
The Antiques Diva