The Collectors: Roman and Maz Piekarski, Tabley (UK).
The Collection: Black Forest Cuckoo clocks.
Obsessionistas went to interview Roman and Maz and to document some of their amazing collection at Cuckooland in Tabley, Cheshire (UK).
The story behind the collection...
We have been collecting Cuckoo clocks for 40 years now. We have about 700 clocks, if you include all the spares clocks too. They are unique, each one is individual and handmade… pure cottage industry. No one person made a Cuckoo clock, you have a carver, a movement maker, the person who makes the hands, the bellows, the cabinet-maker. There are lots of different people that create a Cuckoo clock, although it’s the retailer that sells the clock that (finally) gets the name.
We repair the clocks and try and restore them and keep them running, but at the end of the day everyone is unique because they are handmade, and everyone is interesting. Our job can be quite a challenge as a lot of people can go in and create a lot of problems for us by taking away original bellows and original parts and we’ve got to try and recreate it as it should have been. We’ve repaired clocks for people in Australia, America... even the Black Forest. Most people (in the clock business) know about us.
We came to the Nether Tabley Old School in 1989 to repair and exhibit our clocks here. It was built in 1856, which was smack bang at the start of our collection; when many were made. Also in the house across the road, which is the only other building around here, Mrs Molesworth wrote the famous Cuckoo clock book in 1865. We have now the world’s largest collection just across the road from where she lived, and we didn’t know anything about that before we came here!
We could pick out many clocks as our favorite find. Take this one for example… often the picture tells the story, there’s a story within the clock about a man going hunting, he’s obviously getting up very early, he’s been hunting, he’s tired, he’s got his rabbit in his game bag. As he’s having a nap under a tree a cheeky fox comes along and takes his prey! It must have happened to somebody, it’s just a fantastic piece of carving, and it’s made from just one piece of walnut too.
Many years ago we used to ‘chase’ the clocks, but now we don’t. We keep saying we’re not buying anymore unless it’s really special. We’re officially full now!
Ultimately, we don’t know what’s missing from the collection as nobody knows what the clockmakers made. Each one is unique. Our collection is like a jigsaw puzzle, as every time we put a piece in there’s another piece missing, so it will never be complete. We’ll never ever be able to say we have the finest collection in the world because we don’t know what’s out there. In the early days they weren’t catalogued. They started to catalogue the clocks from about the 1870’s.
Collecting is like a disease and when you find one I suppose it’s like a drug, it does actually give us a bit of pleasure, not for long though. The biggest ‘problem’ we find is the hunt and when you get it in your hot little hands and bring it in here, then you 'loose' it, because it’s within the collection then. But every one is special to us and every one is unique. The first one we found was in 1971. We started when we were 15, after being ‘thrown out’ of school... and it’s now a way of life. We think we are still the only two professional people in the world of antique Cuckoo clocks. This is a way of life for us. We don’t think our collection is out of control but yes we would consider ourselves to be obsessed. We’ll you’ve go to be haven’t you, you don’t do it else.
Other things we also collect are clock maker’s tools, oh and motorbike ‘combinations’... we have three BSA motorbikes with sidecars. Over the years we must have owned about 25 old British motorbikes.
To see Roman and Maz's wonderful timepieces in action, a professionally produced DVD is available for £10 (a short extract is also featured on their website).
A selection of clocks and other Black Forest souvenirs are also available from their shop.
More info on Roman and Maz’s Cuckooland is available on their website .
All images © Graham Powell (of Obsessionistas).