Photography By CHICHI UBIÑA
The Collective and Fairfield County LOOK present the curators at The Collective. The Collective is a group of exceptional dealers of both vintage and antique finds. Visit their 13,000 sq.ft space located at 50 John Street in the antiques district of Stamford, CT. Just south of I-95.
Name: Carolyn Denholm
Company Name: Global Collection Asia
Where are you from? I’m from La Jolla, California, but grew up overseas in Hong Kong and have lived in various places. I was an expat kid who has now raised three expat kids (10 years in Singapore), funny how life works, isn’t it? Now, I commute between Greenwich and Singapore every two to three months.
Describe your personal style: I’ve always stayed true to classic, old-world style in my dress. Both my mother and my grandmother were very stylish and elegant, always perfectly put together. I’m a little more sporty, so will often be caught out in yoga pants with a simple top, Shanghai Tang scarf, and a Burberry coat to hide it all — thank you winter!
When did you start collecting? You mean when did I start shopping? My parents have exquisite taste, we traveled a lot. As a teenager, I learned what to look for in each country. My mother has a great eye for the finer things—be it fabrics (silks from Thailand, cottons from Egypt), gem stones and jewelry, or hand-painted high end lacquer pieces (Burma, Laos); and my father knows antiques (Tang horses from China, shipwreck treasures from the South China Sea and collectible items from Africa). I also have lived in Europe and Australia, so collecting and curating is endless and I’m always learning. I recently calculated that out of 193 recognized countries in the United Nations, I have visited 167 (some countless times), so I still have several countries to see and treasures to collect.
What might we find at your booth in The Collective? An eclectic mix of items that hopefully will appeal to different people and all price points. I have a set of two contemporary French collage prints in lucite from Paris; an Asian Dragon Bi disc on a stand from Shanghai; several items from small villages in Bali (with proceeds going back to the villagers); a pair of American antique Ogee mirrors; a beautiful bone inlay desk from India, an antique Asian Armoire, a rare pair of matching polished petrified wood stools…and gorgeous carved jade silk tassels to finish off any piece of furniture.
Have your life experiences affected how and what you collect? Absolutely. I love to buy pieces that tell a story. That to me is what makes an item special. Many people do not have the time or inclination to travel halfway around the world in search of something different; because the world is so small now, many times I’ve found similar items in New York City that I had trekked days or weeks in Nepal, Bhutan, or Tibet to find, which can be disheartening. I am almost always on the move, so I try to buy the things I love the most in each country. What I really enjoy is searching for commissioned items clients have specifically requested. Yes, I take requests! Just give me an idea of what specifics you might be looking for (origin, size, color, budget), and I will send photos while on the road.
If you won the lottery, how would you go about enhancing your collection? I would travel longer and further and change the focus of my business to giving back 100 percent of the proceeds to those small villages and people in need, while searching for exquisite pieces. In many countries, even small changes make a difference, so I am happy to help where I can, even now. In terms of reaching a more design-oriented audience, I’m now starting to take old world pieces and antiques like the Bi discs and antique statues and place them on a contemporary base, in lucite, or glass. I like the juxtaposition of mixing the old and the new and bringing a new flair to each piece, making it stand alone like a piece of art or a sculpture.
What are the pros and cons in your business that people don’t realize? It’s a business of passion and personal taste, and you better be in it because you love what you’re doing. It takes time to curate and collect. Just because you love something doesn’t mean everyone will love it—be humble and buy smart.
Name a character in fiction or reality who would feel most at home with your personal style/collection? Interesting. Perhaps someone like Katherine Hepburn – someone with great style, loved to travel the world, and made no apologies for who she was. Inspiration might come from someone such as David Rockefeller, who spent his life traveling, collecting, curating, and now has directed the majority of his wealth to philanthropy. That to me is a life well-lived.