Creativity Corner Inspirational People

Cavaliero Finn – The Talented Art Curators

January 20, 2014

Don’t you love Twitter? I do! There is something so satisfying about meeting people we follow on Twitter only to discover how much we have in common. I’ve been following Cavaliero Finn for quite some time so was excited to go to one one of their open weekend exhibitions in their home-cum-gallery in South East London just before Christmas.

I loved everything about the house, their approach and styling, their selection of both emerging and internationally recognised artists and designers and foremost meeting the founders of Cavaliero and Finn.

Meet Debra Finn and Juliana Cavaliero.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving

Hugely talented, with an excellent eye for great art and design, I wanted to know so much more about these ladies, so I probed and asked them a few questions!

How did Cavaliero Finn come about? Juliana and I met at Warwick University many moons ago.  It was here that our collective passion for contemporary art and design took hold and grew while we studied art together.

After Warwick Juliana spent ten years working at the high end of the art world with some of the industry’s major players like Joseph Beuys, Ron Mueck and Gerhard Richter at the Anthony d’Offay Gallery and the art consultancy division of Arthur Andersen, an experience that led her to believe that much more could be done to help up-and-coming artists sell their work.  We’d talked about this problem many times over the years.

I had been rather disillusioned in my career in PR for a long time and dreamed of having my own shop selling something I was passionate about and could promote with integrity. I remember coming back from holiday and scribbling initial ideas on the back of a tatty old piece of paper on the plane.

Then in the first few months of 2003 my Mum sadly passed away, Juliana’s gallery closed and I fell pregnant with my first child – it was a rollercoaster of time as you might imagine.  A new challenge was what was needed and one that would suit motherhood – Juliana fell pregnant with her second child that year too. I left my job as board director and Juliana and I set about creating Cavaliero Finn.

We set up the company initially doing a couple of shows a year at Juliana’s house. The premise was simple: to showcase art and design we loved, that was created by talented artists and designer-makers and to showcase it in a way that was inviting, familiar and informal. After spending many years of seeing art exhibited in sterile, white spaces where people spoke in hushed tones, often for fear of not saying the right thing, this was really important for me in particular.

For us it made perfect sense to exhibit our artists and designers work in a home.  After all, this is where the pieces end up and it helps customers envisage how a work might look in their own work or home environment.

After hosting regular exhibitions at our home-cum-gallery in South East London for a number of years, we launched our online shop to give customers access to our products throughout the year.  In the last couple of years we’ve also extended our exhibition programme to include art fairs such as the Affordable Art Fair.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving
Daniel Reynolds – Large Stoneware Vessels

Can you share the good, bad and ugly in having a business partner? Having a business partner is for the most part fab! In my case, having a business partner who’s also a friend means that I get to work with someone I like which is such a bonus, believe me.  Working with someone you’ve known for a long time means that your working relationship is intuitive which is great.

The partnership also works as we both bring different skill sets to the table.  I often have more of a consumer approach to the business and I am more technical than Juliana whereas Juliana’s knowledge of the art world is more in-depth as a result of her background. It just works.

I guess one of the downsides of working with a friend as your business partner for me is that because we work together we actually see each other less socially than we used to but then living three hours away from each other doesn’t help either – my fault as I moved from London to live in South Somerset with my family seven years ago.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving
Vanja Bazduli – Naive Tableware White

What motivates you and how do you find emerging talents? This is a difficult question as we gain inspiration from so many things – from the shows we visit, from the artists and designers we speak to, from magazines and social media, from friends and family…. We are always on the look out for work that has that Cavaliero Finn trade mark.  The work will be original, will have provenance, it will have quiet, aesthetical appeal and it will have been created with passion and skill, moreover, it will be a work of art that will stand the test of time and one that will be cherished by its owner for a very long time.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving
Fliff Carr – Butter Dish

Buying contemporary art and design is not always easy. You make it look seamless. What’s the trick? Thank you. Our advice to anyone embarking on their first few art and design purchases is to do you homework first. By this we mean visit different types of galleries and museums and work out what you like and dislike. No one is expecting you to be able to recount Gombrich’s Story of Art word for word or anything, just go with your gut feel.

Once you feel confident in this you are ready to make your first purchase. This next piece of advice is the most important.  Only buy what you love – it’s you that will have to live with it, so this is imperative.

When you see a piece you want to buy find out a bit about the artist or designer. Ask the gallery about the artist’s background, what inspires them and find out how they arrive at the finished piece. This will help you decide if you really want to make the investment in the piece. If you have fallen in love with an artist’s work it’s a much easier purchase if you know that there’s a chance that the work could increase in value if the artist or designer has done well at college or if they have won accolades. You may also find a personal connection with the story behind the work which will further enhance your enjoyment of the piece.

Once you’ve seen something you love and can afford, buy it, you won’t regret it.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving
Richard Brendon – Warp cup and saucer
Kathy Dalwood – Plaster Busts

You have regular exhibitions at your home-cum-gallery in South East London. That must take much organisation? Over the years we’ve honed the work down. For our first show we spent the afternoon before the private view baking bacon rolls for our guests, something that makes us cry with laughter now. You just don’t need to do that kind of thing. It does take a lot of time and consideration but we know the space so well at this stage that it takes a fraction of the time it used to.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving
Rowena Brown – Stoneware Houses

Having now visited one of your exhibitions I noticed how much I trusted your curation of artists and admired your talent in display. Surely that’s a skill? Why thank you Tina. I guess so, we’ve been doing this for a number of years and it is now just second nature to us but you are right, a good hang, as we call it, is quite an art in itself.  Juliana learnt a lot from her time with Anthony d’Offay who was a great inspiration. He definitely taught her ‘how to hang’ and she shared that with me.  He would leave her to hang a room and then come and comment and change things, he was quite a perfectionist and she learnt to emulate that. Working for a gallery like that you learn a lot. You learn the value of and artists work and how to showcase it to best effect. So when we curate a Cavaliero Finn show careful thought goes into it. We think about what works together tonally, we think about how the variations in height of our pieces affect the way the eye travels around the show. We understand what styles of paintings should go together. We have a good feel for texture and surface and we are always careful not to make the environment look cluttered. Each piece needs its own space, room to breathe. This is especially hard when we exhibit work at art fairs where space is limited but its something we feel we have cracked, after a little trial and error.

Cavaliero Finn
Sam Edkins – Bespoke Anatomically Correct Chair

Would you say people buy art for investment purpose or for passion or both? Most people buy a piece of art or design because it speaks to them in some way.  They like it and want to be able to look at it time and time again, so we’d say for passion. It is then an added bonus if it then becomes an investment. Luckily for many of our customers their passion becomes an investment too.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving
Sam Edkins – Heart Cushion

What would you say is a big runner for 2014? Is there a trend or does it depend on the artists? We don’t really follow trends, we are always on the outlook for work that is fresh and interesting and we just go with what inspires us at the time.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving
Mineheart – Classic Revisited Cushions

What’s next for Cavaliero Finn? We plan to increase the number of shows we do this year and are planning on doing more external shows in interesting spaces.

Our next show will be held over two weekends on May 10th & 11th and May 17th & 18th. We’ve already planned the line up and are very excited about the show already.

We’ll also be making some improvements to our website this year as the online side of the business continues to grow.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving
Daniel Reynolds – Ceramic and Glass Mobile

What are your dreams for Cavaliero Finn in 5 years? I guess we’d like to have a more permanent retail space or perhaps two spaces one in London and one in the South West.

We’d also like to take the brand outside the UK by doing international art fairs but we hope to be doing this within the next five years.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliving

Daniel Reynolds – Handbuilt Stoneware Lamp
Sophie Cook – Selection of Sculptural Ceramic Pieces

Ladies, thank you so much. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed meeting you and felt totally inspired by my visit to your exhibition. I hope to see you real soon and, if time permits, will pop along in May.

Cavaliero Finn - Colourliivng
Alice Mara Swimmer Jugs

I bought a couple of of these swimmer jugs. LOVE!

Cavaliero and Finn are also participating in my #tinasjubilee EPIC giveaway with these cute Alice Mara affordable housing salt & pepper pots. Have you entered yet?

Do you collect Art and Design? Will you share your approach to it?

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  • Reply Jocelyn Casey January 21, 2014 at 3:57 am

    Hello Tina, there are many reasons I love your blog but the one that stands out most to me is the way you give your readers so much to take away. My experience reading your blog is always a deepening of knowledge and I am left asking myself questions I had never done before. Thank you for being who you because you are quite frankly…. AMAZING! Debra and Juliana are wonderful too and I learned a lot from your time with them, thank you for sharing their insights with us. Have a beautiful day my friend. Jocelyn xx

    • Reply tina January 23, 2014 at 12:08 am

      “My experience reading your blog is always a deepening of knowledge and I am left asking myself questions I had never done before.”
      Aww, thank you Jocelyn. What a nice thing to say:-) and thank you for the huge compliment xx

  • Reply Gerard @WalnutGrey January 21, 2014 at 10:59 am

    “We don’t really follow trends…” go girls! That is music to my ears. You’ll maybe remember that I was at one of your shows a while back Debra & Juliana and really enjoyed it. I certainly admire what you’ve both been doing and the way in which you curate your exhibits. It does take much skill, talent and a sense of purpose.

    All the best going forward for 2014!

    And thanks Tina – great interview 🙂 xx

    • Reply tina January 23, 2014 at 12:09 am

      That question posed was really for you:-)

      Glad you had the Cavaliero Finn experience so you know exactly what it’s like.
      “It does take much skill, talent and a sense of purpose.” So true!!

      Pleasure love x

  • Reply debra finn January 21, 2014 at 11:17 am

    Of course we remember Gerard! You were extremely charming and you bought a Mizuyo bowl for your mother, how could we forget! Thanks for your kind comments and have a cracking 2014. xx

  • Reply Nicola January 21, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    Great interview Tina and a great subject choice.

    I have followed Cavaliero Finn for a while too and wanted to see one of their exhibitions and now you have done a wonderfully thorough job for me!

    I’m aware of some of these designers, particularly Fliff Carr, and all the work here shows a really good eye & a beautiful way to display. It is so refreshing to see a strength of personality & not just following the latest trend. Did you see the recent Home section of the Sunday Times advising what is passé now, do journalists think we all change our furniture as often as clothes? The stuff that they say is now passé is the same stuff they recommended in the first place.

    It’s so good to see the provenance and quality shown here, I wish Cavaliero Finn a very successful 2014. Many thanks!

  • Reply debra finn January 21, 2014 at 1:32 pm

    Hi Nicola, thanks for your lovely comments. Have a good 2014 too and hopefully you’ll make it along to our next show in May xx

  • Reply Gudy Herder January 21, 2014 at 10:51 pm

    What a nice discovery, Tina! What I love most about your post is the story telling apart from the nice design pieces you are showing here. Some of them are on my wish list already!
    I envy you for your love of twitter, I have to admit it is the platform I feel less comfortable with and rather prefer the visual ones. You might give me a little master class one day:-) xx

    • Reply tina January 23, 2014 at 12:15 am

      Thank you Gudy. A big compliment to me as I like to think I tell stories on my blog:-)

      Ha. I adore Twitter and took to it like a duck to water. I can see why you would prefer the more visual platforms.
      Happy to give a little class, anytime, just ask:-)) xx

  • Reply Lisa@TheDecorGirl January 22, 2014 at 4:34 am

    Looks like a lovely shop, will have to put it on the London must-see list. They have a nice mix of products, lucky you – too many to fit in a suitcase to bring back to the States. 🙂

    Twitter is fun isn’t it? I have met so many wonderful people in the design and other communities and you are so right, too meet them IRL is even better.

    • Reply tina January 23, 2014 at 12:21 am

      Yes, take a look at their online shop. There’s a really good mixture of very interesting pieces.
      They will send worldwide…

      Ha, just followed you on Twitter:-) Yes, love it. So you did BlogTour Cologne 13.. I remember you guys had fun!
      Of course meeting Twitter peeps IRL is so much better. Hope we’ll meet one day.
      Thank you for stopping by Lisa.

  • Reply Carole Poirot January 22, 2014 at 10:30 am

    “The work will be original, will have provenance, it will have quiet, aesthetical appeal and it will have been created with passion and skill, moreover, it will be a work of art that will stand the test of time and one that will be cherished by its owner for a very long time.” This for me really sums up how I would view buying art. It’s not about how much money it might make in the future, not about showing off, not about shouting “look at me”, but about all the art itself. There are so many great pieces there I can easily see sitting in my home and knowing that they have been chosen by the exhibitor for the right reasons makes them more special.

    As for Twitter, yes, I have met some amazing people through it even if I still find it a little “intimidating” at times – “do I barge into this conversation?” is one of those questions I constantly ask myself… Hohum, I’m sure I’ll figure it out one day 😉

    Fabulous post, as always xo

    • Reply tina January 23, 2014 at 12:26 am

      So right… there were so many pieces I liked. It’s rare to go somewhere and want to buy lots of stuff. It’s Debra and Juliana’s curation that is so appealing. They have a great eye and a wonderful sense of customer service and hospitality!

      Well, you met me:-)) oh, intimidating, why? Oh, yes, the bargeing in… I do it and what’s the worst that can happen? Not much really… it’s all a bit of trial and error and a little risk taking. Twitter folks are really nice and mostly appreciate a bit of banter.

      Why not test the bargeing in with me (when I’m having a conversation on Twitter) You know you are safe with me, so maybe dip your toes into the water:-)

      Merci bien xx

  • Reply Doris January 22, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    A very insightful post Tina. They clearly have a great eye for design and I love it when you provide the back story to how the company got started. I’ve marked down the dates for May to visit one of the shows. Thanks Tina. xD

    • Reply tina January 23, 2014 at 12:27 am

      Thank you Doris.

      I have no doubt you will love the experience. So, it’s you, me and Carole hitting South London in May! Fab… x

  • Reply Igor January 23, 2014 at 11:22 am

    Talented ladies, indeed! I’ve been following their work for quite a while via Twitter and really like their design dedication. Unfortunately I never made it to one of their events in London, but who knows, maybe one day I’ll be in town for one of their events.

    • Reply tina January 31, 2014 at 1:22 am

      So talented and super nice with it!

      Hopefully one day you’ll be here and I will personally escort you:-)

  • Reply debra finn January 23, 2014 at 11:44 am

    Wow! Juliana and I are completely bowled over by everyone’s response to your article Tina. Thank you my lovely and thank you everyone for the wonderful complimentary comments. We would love to see you all in May or at any of our shows and Igor, I have every faith you’ll make it to a show one day, until then you can just keep bringing colour into my life via ur blog. xx

    • Reply tina January 31, 2014 at 1:23 am

      You’re so welcome. It was my absolute pleasure… I’ll definitely come along in May… lots of love xx

  • Reply michaela January 25, 2014 at 5:30 pm

    What a fantastic post about CF – I love what these guys do, they are so talented. very nice photos too Tina – esp the Daniel Renolds mobile picture. Simply stunning! Michaela xx

    • Reply tina January 31, 2014 at 1:24 am

      Thank you Pargy:-)) I also enjoyed your post on them. Glad you enjoyed xx

  • Reply Chi@106 January 26, 2014 at 9:19 pm

    Such a super idea – having exhibitions at home does lend a nice personal touch. I source art by going to art fairs but haven’t been fortunate enough to go to one as thoughtfully put together as this.

    I also love the fact that they choose objects that speak to them personally rather than following trends.

    It’s lovely to meet the people (and hear the stories) behind the products you’ve chosen for your jubilee – keep them coming! 😀 xo

    • Reply tina January 31, 2014 at 1:27 am

      So much more personal. I loved walking into the house, having tea, a chat and being introduced to the various artists and their pieces. It’s so relaxing and I felt an incredible sense of honesty and authenticity… a place I can trust to buy art. I’m a huge fan of curating, well, I do it myself in finding homes. You trust and expert to have found and curated the best from the maze that is out there… invaluable, I say!

      Yes, not sure I would buy any art because it’s trendy, not quite my cup of tea!

      Thanks Chi… over the year I may just do that! x

  • Reply Holly February 10, 2014 at 12:47 pm

    A very special someone gifted me a fabulous Alice Mara Swimmer Jug 😉 Thanks again Tina! I use it very often and that just reminds me I have to share a picture of it in its new home on social media soon!

    Great interview. Very nice to learn more about Cavaliero Finn. Another inspiring story and talent to admire. I wish them much continued success and fun!

    Sadly, I’m not a collector of much so I have no process to share about this. But counting my swimmer milk jug, my special coffee makers and my stelton jug, I could be on my way to collecting designer beverage items… lol.

    Thanks for another fab post!


    • Reply tina February 11, 2014 at 5:22 pm

      Hahaha, that would be me, right??
      Yeah, that would be cool!!!!!

      Well, you’re such a coffee lover, I definitely think your growing collection counts as ‘designer beverage items’… there you go!
      Glad you were inspired xx

  • Reply dulwich festival and artists' open house 2014 colourliving May 19, 2014 at 1:41 pm

    […] My first stop was at the stunning Belair House, where talented Cavaliero Finn were exhibiting their affordable contemporary art and design as one of two shows this year. They regularly hold an Open House at the home-cum-gallery in Herne Hill, SE London. See my post here. […]

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