From a very young age, Shrewsbury-born Sam Handbury-Madin had a fascination with finding and collecting things. He's now turned the fascination into a business and has recently launched his venture as the quirkily named 'It's a Nomad Life'. Sam says "from a small boy I was always coming home with things I'd found. I had drawers stuffed full of old coins, bottles, fossils, mineral specimens, animal bones, you name it I probably had a collection of it!"
32 year old Sam was always interested in history and, undoubtedly this is connected with his family history as Sam's father was a history teacher before becoming an antiques dealer and Sam's great grandfather was also a collector. Sam said "I guess my passion for travel and wandering around the globe stems from my great grandfather, who I never met but it must certainly be in the blood! He was quite a traveller in the late 19th and early 20th century. He spent time in Africa and the Far East, mainly in India and he also visited Australia".
"Dad used to bring interesting things home all the time", said Sam. "I remember I was first entranced by some Australian aboriginal items he brought back: spears and clubs, some flaked stone stools, boomerangs etc., think I must have been 8 or 9. I knew from an early age that I was interested in ethnography and other cultures from around the world and wanted to start collecting objects. I used to love the Oceanic (Pacific) art Dad used to bring home, like masks from Papua New Guinea, beaded necklaces with metal adornments, cooking pots and textiles."
With many precious items locked away in display cabinets, Sam was allowed to 'play' with the tribal art items his father had brought back "these were always out, so I could look at and dream about where these wonderful items had come from and who had owned them before me"
After leaving school, Sam was accepted onto an Archaeology Degree course at the University of Bristol. Sam continued "archaeology was the perfect combination of history and learning and of course, going out in to the field to look for artifacts was something I'd always enjoyed doing".
During a university dig in Somerset in 2000 Sam uncovered the hearthstone of the long house they were excavating. Sam said "finding the hearth stone was a key discovery as we were able to radio carbon date the charcoal on the stone to around the late 14th century AD. It was an amazing feeling".
After graduating from Bristol in 2002, Sam stayed on in the area and volunteered at the Bristol City Museum. "I used to love being down in the vaults full of cabinets of curious items, from ethnographic weapons to ancient Egyptian sarcophagi. It was just breathtaking being among such incredible items".
Sam then moved to London where he undertook a work placement at Bonhams Fine Art Auctioneers in the Tribal Art and Antiquities Department. Sam said "it was a yearlong placement and I enjoyed it greatly. I loved doing the cataloguing of the items that were going to be sold – I also helped in the sale room on sale days and loved the buzz of the auction room. Most of the other time was spent researching objects so I used the skills I gained in my degree. I also met some very interesting characters and some very 'colourful' antique dealers".
An interesting period then came for Sam, as he lived in the Caribbean for a few years where he worked in an art gallery and he also volunteered at the Anguilla Museum, where he catalogued finds and cleaned and restored items. "I've found some amazing things, like a large collection of ancient pottery I dug up in my garden when I lived there, dating back to circa 1200 AD. I donated this to the local museum along with numerous axe heads and arrow heads and a very fine Arawak carved conch shell pendant I had found".
Being passionate about travelling and collecting, Sam's favourite places are North and South America. "I am very interested in the ancient cultures of South America and the Caribbean, especially the ancient Inca people of Peru and the Taino people of the Caribbean. I also am fascinated by Native American cultures and in particular the cultures of North West Coast of Canada such as the Haida and Tlingit people where I have spent time". Sam continued "I have always wanted to travel to the pacific islands (Oceanic art is probably my single favourite area of collecting) – so this would be my ultimate trip with stops off in Australia and New Zealand to see friends and to learn about the Maori and Aboriginal cultures".
After almost ten years of working for other people, Sam decided to bite the bullet and go into business alone. "I just decided that I wanted to start my own business after working for others for the past ten years. I've been very fortunate to work in the art and antiques industry in some amazing places such as the Caribbean and Canada, and doing work that I've always been so passionate about".
Sam has amassed a large collection of eclectic and interesting items for the business "I've been building my collection up over the years so I've got plenty to sell!"
Sam's business, 'It's a Nomad Life' is initially an online emporium bringing customers a collection of globally inspired affordable goods, ranging from the ancient Neolithic period right up to the 1980's, items are sourced responsibly and with respect. By using his experiences and expertise, Sam is able to source quality interesting items from all over the world.