Ben Goodwin on craftsmanship

Ben Goodwin on craftsmanship


I started in the business in 1993 — and it was a complete surprise. I didn’t know I was coming into the family business. After university I went to work for Polaroid on a placement as part of the European Business Masters Course. I was in Paris, which was fantastic.

But I fell out of love with university and academics. I found it disappointing. So rather than coming out of that degree programme and going into a job in finance, I joined Goodwins Antiques. What I like about it is that the more you know the more you make — and I seemed to have a talent for it.

There is no down side to working in a family business — as long as you get on, and we do. You have complete trust: they’re not going to do anything deliberate to sabotage you or the business. That level of trust is amplified in our line of work, because you can go bust in five minutes if you do the wrong thing. Family is also reliable. You can’t drift apart because you get to see your family when you work with them.

In the business I’m stronger on the jewellery side, but it’s not a particular passion of mine. It’s more that I am drawn in by beauty, whether it’s in a building, a piece of glass, a pen or a pebble. It doesn’t matter what it is.

What is nice with the older items we specialise in, no matter when they’re from, is that because they’re hand made rather than created by a machine or stamped out of a mould, each maker has left his mark. They have given something of themselves to whatever it is they were making.

Right now I am loving the David Morris starburst ring we have in the shop. It’s kind of crazy, but it’s hand-made and someone loved it enough to buy it originally. It feels very personal, and it has character. Craftsmanship and humanity in everything is what I love.

Some of my favourite designers include Lalique — but only his opalescent glass, not his jewellery. I have always thought the best of Cartier jewellery, especially pre 1960s, is fantastic. I like its cleanliness, its sharpness. It has a precision as well as romance, and it’s very French. But in the main, I’m not a big brand person.