"Earth’s distant orb appeared the smallest light that twinkles in the heaven; whilst round the chariot’s way innumerable systems rolled and countless spheres diffused an ever-varying glory. It was a sight of wonder: some were hornèd like the crescent moon; some shed a mild and silver beam like Hesperus o'er the western sea; some dashed athwart with trains of flame, like worlds to death and ruin driven; some shone like suns, and as the chariot passed, eclipsed all other light." From "Queen Mab" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1813)

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Vintage And Handmade

The lovely Mrs Kitsch had another vintage and handmade fair at Chipping Sodbury Town Hall this Saturday and obviously I attended in my capacity as driver and chief hauler of stock. To those new to the wonderful world of vintage and handmade, or V&H as I shall call it here, let me explain.
Vintage isn’t just antique, it has to be lovely and charming and more often than not very, very kitsch; ornaments, pictures, china, toys, books, clothes and fabric, a lot of fabric. It’s often items that you or your family used to have, or that remind you of things you had, as a child. Sometimes it’s that particular thing you used to look at with envious eyes; the toy in the toyshop; the little china dog on your Nan’s mantelpiece; the doll your next door neighbour had that your Mum wouldn’t get you (obviously, in my case the “doll” was Major Matt Mason’s arch enemy Scorpio but you don’t see Major Matt Mason or any of his colleague or indeed his arch enemy at V&H fairs unfortunately); so, it can be stuff you always wanted when you were younger but you never got. By its very nature vintage takes you back, quite often its items from the 1950’s, ‘60's and ‘70’s but people of our age now have to come to terms with the fact that vintage can sometimes mean things from the 1980's too, which comes as a bit of a shock at first. Anyway, that’s vintage but what about handmade?

You’ve probably seen those shops full of lovely things, nice little knick-knacks that you’d love to have but often can’t find an excuse to buy for yourself. So sometimes you and I, I’m not immune, venture into these shops looking for gifts for someone else. Sometimes end up buying a thing that you like, but not necessarily a thing that the giftee would like, so in effect it’s like buying a thing for yourself and keeping it at your friends house, which is fair enough as don’t friends sometimes do exactly the same? I think you’ll find they do. Well, the handmade side of V&H includes a lot of those kinds of items, often extremely well made and quite beautiful. They can range from simple craft items to works of art in their own right. There are a lot of talented women, and it is mostly women, out there doing really superb work.

The world of V&H combines the best of both of the above; lovingly selected vintage items sold alongside beautifully made things, all on the same table. If there is one word that sums up V&H for me it would be nice. Nice is something of an underrated concept. I like nice; a nice cup of tea; a nice cuddle; a nice time; yes, I like nice and V&H is nice; nice people with nice things for sale.
Mrs Kitsch (that's her lovely table above) and I used to do a lot of craft fairs, which I think is a very different scene to V&H. I’ve now attended a number of V&H fairs and often see something I would love to have or maybe I spot something that is particularly beautiful. Whereas, I’ve been to a lot of craft fairs where I haven’t seen one single item that interests me, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that V&H is like a craft fair, they are not the same.

As I said, it’s mostly women that do V&H and they’re also different to the craft crowd. Some of them are just a little a bit dotty it has to be said but frankly that’s not an unattractive quality in my book. Their wardrobe is also much better than the craft lot; lovely vintage dresses or things made from vintage fabric as opposed to the aged hippy look. This goes for the women that attend the fairs as much as the women who take part in them.
And because everything on everyone’s tables is so lovely (a fine example above being the pin cushions that Mrs Kitsch makes using tiny vintage ornaments), they all end up spending money on each other’s stalls, coming away from each fair with new things for the home, or materials for the next art project, or just something to sell on their own table next time. It’s recycling taken to a whole different level.

I love going to these events. I have to be very strong and not buy up loads of stuff myself, but you also meet such lovely people. One woman who had a table next to us was called Claire, she lives in Kent and she knows Billy Childish! Her son is best friends with his son. Apparently, Billy Childish does wear those World War 1 clothes most of the time. Brilliant. Then we sold this fantastic old jigsaw puzzle to a woman who works at the American Museum in Bath, a place Mrs Kitsch and I love to visit, so we chattered to her for a bit too. You might even see our jigsaw puzzle (a brilliant 1950’s map of North America with Canada highlighted in “empire red”) at the museum at some point in the future. How brilliant is that? Very, is the answer.
I’m not sure anyone makes much of a living from V&H fairs, even on a good day no one is going to get rich. Even doing a lot of fairs and having other outlets, like Etsy, especially in today’s economic climate. But then so many worthwhile things don’t make much or even any money, at least that’s my experience. And the V&H fairs are worthwhile, not just for the obviously pleasure that most of the participants get out of it, but also for the many people who attend them and purchase that something special, something you simply can’t get in a shop in the high street and certainly not in a shopping mall. They’re also an outlet and showcase for some very talented artists and creative types. So three good old fashioned cheers for the vintage and handmade fair.

Recommended blogs to find out more about V&H: vintageandhandmade.blogspot.com and kitschandcurious.blogspot.com


  1. I was going to say that this is a very “nice” entry today Gary, but I think it is better than nice. For me, it’s lovely.

    First of all you have both eloquently and amusingly described Vintage very well. I had always assumed it just meant “old” but I know realise that a lot of the things I like are actually Vintage. ( although it is a bit depressing to realise that Vintage can be more recent than one would like it to be……..).

    Your comment about buying something you like yourself and keeping it at a friends house bought a wry smile to my face……you weren’t referring to the personalised calendar we gave you at Christmas, were you ? I really liked that and would have kept it here, but we’re not called Gary and Elaine.

    Looking at the photo’s of Mrs Kitch’s stall I spotted something that very definitely took me back to my childhood ( would that make it ultra –vintage ? ). Comic Annuals. I used to read “June & School Friend” every week, and at Christmas would always be lucky enough to find both the June Annual and the School Friend Annual in my sack. ( they wouldn’t fit in the stocking, and being an only child I used to do rather well at that time of year.. ). I can’t see the year on the photo but would be interested to know which one it is….I might have read that one. I don’t have them anymore but I do have about 5 or 6 Diana Annuals from about the same time, all but one still in excellent condition. I think they would be late 60’s up to early 70’s. Nice.

    So once again you have bought a smile to my face Mr Kitch. I’m so glad you are writing this blog - you've made an old girl very happy.

    Lots of love,

    Your old Auntie. ( but not as old as your uncle !! )

  2. ooopps. Just realised I've been spelling Kitsch wrong. Sorry. x x

  3. You have put it so well.. brilliant! Mrs Dotty Washerwoman

  4. ....I obviously talk too much.


  5. You have hit the vintage nail on the head there Mr Kitsch! Super blog post - very, very nice!


  6. PS....we should get you onto publicity!!


  7. Mrs Cottage took the words right out of my mouth... You would make a perfect PR for us..!!!??

    You have managed to very successfully encapsulate the V & H in your witty and interesting review..

    Thank you!!!


  8. I just write it as I see it. Happy to help with PR. Get in touch.