From 4,679 miles away, it’s clear that Christopher Wilson-Tate’s adores textiles.That’s the distance between Dallas, home of Moda, and London, where Christopher buys and sells quilts through his shop, the Antique Textiles Company. Though the difference in time zones precluded a phone interview, his heartfelt feelings are evident even in email. Soon Moda fans will have a chance to share his enthusiasm as he introduces his first line, Regency Blues, at Quilt Market next month.
Christopher’s appreciation for textiles started early. “I do not sew or quilt and didn’t grow up with textiles, but from an early age my eye was always drawn to designs and colour everywhere, whether in nature, plants, architecture, art, etc.,” he says. Christopher purchased and sold his first quilt from a flea market when he was not quite 16 years old in his hometown of Tyneside/Newcastle upon Tyne in the northeast of England. Over the last 38 years he’s sold around 15,000 quilts and his private collection numbers around 700: he bought 300 of them in the north of England when he was between the ages of 18 and 25. “I have examples of just about every type of quilt, including many stunning examples of 18th and 19th century quilts,” he says, adding that some will be featured in an upcoming book.
Christopher’s quilt adventures started as a way to make a few pounds—he’d buy quilts and resell them to local antique dealers. When he started spotting those same quilts in magazines such as House and Garden, he realized they were being resold in London. So at age “17 and 10 months,” he loaded up his car and drove to London, where he’d made appointments with those same magazines. When he was not quite 19 he opened his first shop in Newcastle upon Tyne. To keep it full of the quilts, shawls, linens, and antique furniture his customers wanted, he drove 6,000 to 8,000 miles monthly, visiting farmhouses, shops, flea markets, and other locales to find them. Once a week he also drove to London—a 600-mile round trip—to sell textiles. “It was hard work, but I loved it,” he says. He kept the shop until he was 34, when he went to work for a property management company. A couple of years later, he opened his own company and then nine years ago he opened the Antique Textiles Company in Hampstead, London.
Technology has changed the business—Christopher now finds sellers and buyers through Facebook—but the thrill of acquiring quilts has not. He describes the “almost religious experience” of meeting a seller recently whose words affected him so deeply that he was moved to tears. He also remembers driving down a farm track as night fell to a large farmhouse where he met a family who opened an old oak chest. “Just one amazing late 18th-century quilt and 19th century patchwork and embroidered quilt after another came out of that chest,” he says. “I was shocked and nearly tearful, but in a nice way.” Christopher takes pride in always paying a fair price to sellers and this was no exception. He kept four of those quilts for his own collection.
Another constant in the business are the relationships he’s made through his work. “The joy of meeting so many nice people keeps me excited about this work,” he says. “Plus all the opportunities that have happened in this past year Moda—after meeting Cheryl and Lissa in London, I knew instantly they were the kind of people I wanted to work with. I have a huge archive of antique quilts and fabrics, which will hopefully lead to many successful fabric ranges in the coming years. It’s very exciting.”
And very exciting for those of us who will get to create with the beautiful fabrics of Regency Blues! You can learn more about Christoper and the Antique Textiles Company by visiting his Facebook page.