James Lees

General Valuer/Furniture Expert

My parents dealt in a small way within the Fine Art & Antiques world, and I tagged along with them as a youngster. This experience gave me a taste for items sold at auction, a taste that never left. I learned about the “Why” - why something was designed and constructed the way it was - during my early working life, which was in conservation of furniture and wooden artifacts.

I love learning and believe that is a key factor in me working within the auction world. I am fascinated by social history, and the research aspect is really what I enjoy.

I am interested in the craftsmanship that went into the construction and overall production of the items we sell at auction. The skills employed when making the exquisite items we auction, is in decline and sometimes can be lost forever to history. The auction world allows me a precious glimpse into the past… it is a bit like “Time Team”, but without the shovels.

The works of René Lalique have always been of interest... The craft and skill in producing works of art in glass form is wonderful to behold.  Perfume bottles, vases, clocks, statues, lighting, tableware and car mascots were among his many creations.

It was wonderful to hear of Dawsons’ connection with the René Lalique car mascot collection which is currently housed at the National Car Museum in Beaulieu. Our Chairman sharing the same passion in these incredible works of art, that were put to a purpose that both beguiled and amused. 

The most favourite item I have handled in my career to date, is not the most expensive item I have ever sold, but it was by far the most rewarding. It was a Gillows of Lancaster library desk, commissioned by a 19th century industrialist for his country estate.

I discovered an unbroken trail, from: letters of enquiry, to the draughtsman’s drawings, to the cabinet makers notes, to its entry into the Gillows’ daybook archive - held in Queen Mary and Westfield library (London). The desk sold at auction for £110,000, making it one of the most expensive items of Gillows furniture to have been sold at auction - at that point - a record that stood for several years.

The aspect I find most rewarding is the interaction I have with people on a daily basis. Collectors, Dealers, and private customers alike all have a story to tell (quite often an interesting one) relating to an item or two within our auction. This wide range of information never fails to enhance, improve on, or add to my own growing knowledge base.

My work is my passion, and if money were no object, I would surround myself with simple vernacular furniture from each region of production across the UK.

Dawsons Auctions Expert - James Lees

James Lees

General Valuer/Decorative Arts Expert

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