Every week I scour antique fairs, vintage markets, car boot sales and remote house clearances to seek out useful, practical, functional kitchenalia and gardenalia for the shop.
My main criteria are always the same. Products have to be practical, usable, of overall good quality and, preferably, attractive too.
Yes, there are sometimes marks, chips, tears, hairline cracks or glued-on bits. But the overall usability and functionality of the implements need to be sound. Age and its patina add to the charm, uniqueness and authenticity of the product, and they are all priced according to how well they have fared over the ages.
The prices we charge are for utilitarian vintage products, not precious antiques. Utensils and ceramics that are used every day are likely to be knocked about and dropped: so our website is not the place for fragile Limoges of the top order, or fine, delicate silverwork or embroidery. Generally, I prefer late Georgian and early Victorian British pieces – how beautiful they are, how hard wearing compared to today's cheap, copy-cat Asian imports!
Every now and then I see a modern piece and it looks attractive, I think my customers might like to use it, so I buy it and put it in the shop. I am always drawn to pale colours, and my favourite colours are primary red and blue, bright green and, of course, every shade of white. Some days I drive endless miles to find products – and my car costs £85 to fill with diesel from empty. This means I have to charge a fair price, for my time and my expenses.
I bring the products home and unwrap them, noting everything down for my accounts. Everything must be cleaned, washed, disinfected, brushed, polished etc. I then photograph, measure and upload all the information in TFB Shop website. It all takes hours and hours and hours. At the end I upload the information onto Facebook and Twitter - we have updated our page! We have also been opening our pop-up shop at weekends – the customers like to have a good rummage, find a bargain and lose themselves in the magic that is vintage kitchenalia.
We do stock new products throughout our website and shop, but the section that gives me the most pleasure, I have to admit, is the one packed with irresistible little treasures from another cook's kitchen or garden, from a long time ago.