When I was young, I felt that it would be ‘a good thing’ to collect something. I couldn’t think of anything I was really interested in so I started picking up bits of rock in the back garden. Looking back, I think that most of them were the same kind of rock – mainly with bits of silica which was shiny, and therefore, interesting. From that last sentence you can deduce that I didn’t get hooked enough on rocks to study them – and where those little stones are now, I have no idea.
Then, I collected pictures of movie stars. Every magazine I bought had adverts for photos of the most important and glamorous stars of the time (this was the mid 1950’s when I would have been between 13 and 15). I had a huge collection of black and white photos of movie stars but, once I had them, they didn’t really hold much interest. I imagine that they were stored in my grandmother’s basement in the pile of other stuff we had to leave behind when we moved to London. The stuff was there, three years later, when we went to visit but, instead of only staying in England for 2 or 3 years, our move was permanent and I never went back after that visit, not even for a holiday. After my grandmother died and her house was sold, I imagine that all my carefully collected dolls, soft toys, and movie star photos as well as Judy’s and Jennie’s toys, ended up in the rubbish.
Looking back at my later teen years, I can’t remember collecting anything. Boys were much more important during those years!
Then, in my 20’s, I had Veronica to look after, a job to find, teacher training to concentrate on and in my 30’s finding a teaching job and finding out how difficult being a working mother was, plus not earning a fortune, stopped me from even thinking about collecting stuff.
Then, in my 50’s I discovered old sewing implements – silk winders, wool winders, thimbles, scissors, tatting shuttles etc. It was around this time that Julian went off to Wales every few months to train to be an upholsterer and when he had finished training, he decided to set up shop as a furniture restorer and upholsterer. We shared the premises we found in West Malling High Street, and I opened an antiques and collectables business in my half of the shop.
We had a great time deciding how to display our items, finding fittings, putting up wall paper and laying down carpets. Julian had one side with a large window looking in at his work in progress and I had the other side where I offered small and large items for sale. That lead to our going to auctions – what a joy!
My first auctions were in the old market in Maidstone. Every Thursday morning there would be a huge number of people looking at an even bigger number of things. On one side were the ‘smalls’, (which I was interested in) and on the other the furniture, where Julian hoped to find a chair or sofa he could reupholster and sell. I bought so many interesting items at those auctions!
There was a huge cardboard box full of wonderful table cloths, doilies etc, mostly from the 1930’s and ‘50’s and, in the bottom was a postcard. It was from a Mr Carley to his family from a holiday visit to, I seem to recall, Bournemouth. One of our friends at the time was called Mike Carley so I showed it to him later. It turned out to be from his uncle to some distant cousins!
Another buy was a blue glass dish with Lalique engraved in tiny letters on the rim underneath. Of course I had heard of Lalique but I had never seen a piece nor even looked up the name. Only one other person at the auction was bidding for it which came with an orange piece of Scottish glass. We went quite high (for me, in those days) and, with commissions, the two pieces of glass cost me £90. I thought I had made a killing – particularly when the other bidder came and asked me to sell her the blue dish. I believed that it was a Lalique and that I would make a good deal more than I paid, so refused. Several weeks later, I offered the dish for sale at an antiques fair. A young man (dealer, I think) came up to me and quietly told me that the dish was definitely not by Lalique and was nowhere near as valuable as the price I was asking. I should have done my homework, ladies and gentlemen, because the ‘signature’ on the bottom of the dish was nothing like the signature on Lalique’s work. I still have that little dish 🙂 and sometimes I take it out of the cupboard, look at it, and blush!
Next time, I’ll add some further photos of stuff and tell you about my drawers full of old linens and my crates full of old plates and ask the question: what can I do with all this stuff?