Ken Stradling MBE was a man who made a lifelong passion for design into a stellar career, shaping the tastes of Bristol as buyer and MD of the Bristol Guild. Rather like like his contemporary, Sir Terence Conran, during his long career in retail, Ken Stradling MBE was an influential advocate, distributor and collector of world-class modern design from Europe and the Nordic regions.
The Ken Stradling Collection abounds in beautifully designed and desirable objects. Some are very valuable items by high-end artists and designers such as Eric Ravilious or Marcel Breuer; others are popular classics that are still very affordable – it’s a wonderfully democratic collection. Ken’s career is fascinating within the context of histories of design and consumption from the post-war through the sixties, seventies and beyond.
Ken was born and raised in Bristol, attending Bristol Grammar School. The school’s headmaster, J.E. Barton, was an authority on art and design and was a huge and remarkable influence on him. Ken’s mother took him to auctions where, as a teenager, his first purchase was a piece of Eltonware, the local art pottery of the earlier 20th century. See the video below to see Ken talking about this item.
Between 1939 and 1948 Ken served in the Army, after which he became Assistant Manager of the Bristol Guild of Applied Arts. In 1958 Ken married Betty Haggar, a painter who taught art at Clifton High School. They began to travel in Europe, Scandanavia and as far as Czechoslovakia buying for the Guild. After Betty’s untimely death in 1964 Ken continued to develop the Guild into an outstanding retail destination for modern craft and design.