It seems we cannot get enough of these ‘livres de poche’ paperback books published by Flammarion. the series was developed in 1876 with the aim of making knowledge in all fields accessible to all. They were not joking about ‘all fields’: some of the titles are esoteric, but the buff paper covers have faded to such pleasingly subtle shades over the years that even books on obscure areas of engineering have become sought-after decorative objects. While the French dealers don’t understand our obsession with these books, they have certainly noted it and adjusted their prices accordingly, especially for those with coloured covers.
The Decorative Living Fair is a good place to source these French treasures, several dealers often have them, including Weathered and Worn, Nikki Page Antiques. Chloe Antiques and Lois Kirsten.
Those who are lucky enough to live within easy reach of The Old Haberdashery in Ticehurst will understand why the thought of its owner, Sonia Boriczewski, ‘hoarding finds for Eridge’ can set the pulse racing. The shop is always a cheering delight, and I am unable to leave it without acquiring more silks and threads, or vintage books, bottles, buttons and ribbons. A trained and well-travelled textile artist, Sonia has a fabulous eye for colour and texture, and half an hour in the shop can leave you reeling from the beauty of her intricate displays. She always has a good stock of vintage sylko threads, which I have been using for machine embroidery (yes, they do break, but the colours are so lovely it is worth it) and also for some hand embroidery, especially for ‘slow stitching’ and kantha work.
Hoarding for Eridge! Hold that thought….and buy a ticket so you can walk in as soon as we open.
The Decorative Living Fair is good hunting ground for vintage and antique paintings, whether you are looking for a finely painted portrait or seascape, or a charming little canvas, perhaps with a few holes in it.
Dealers who often have good paintings include Paul Drewett and Hellish Designs. Lisa Brown specialises in vintage flower paintings, and most dealers tend to have one or two little canvases propped up among their treasures.
Many years ago I stood for a long time in front of Mantegna’s painting The Adoration of the Magi, transfixed by the delicate blue and white porcelain vessel in which one of the Magi was presenting his gift of gold coins. The cup is Ming porcelain, and in 1490, when Mantegna painted this picture, it was incredibly rare and precious, and so its inclusion in the painting is symbolic.
It is a tiny feature of the painting and yet so exquisitely painted that I have always remembered it. My mother collected blue and white china, and in the way that we daughters like to be different, I have not. And yet, the fresh charm of a blue and white striped jug, or French everyday tableware of the 1930s, or even an Asiatic Pheasant plate worn to the softest blue can be hard to resist. Even white enamel with a crisp edging of navy is appealing – remember the 1990s rage for blue and white ticking and navy-edged enamel ware?
Many of the dealers at the fair will have blue and white ceramics, textiles, or decorative objets such as the collection of books below, so if this is your palette you should find something to add to your scheme or collection.
If you have decided to confine your tableware to the colour white, the Decorative Living Fair offers many opportunities to stock up on practical additions to your cupboards. There is something unfailingly satisfying about the way the light falls on the glaze of white china. Even the humblest little pot or kitchen storage jar glows, like well worn pearls.
The curved shapes of tureens and bowls are particularly appealing. Even lidless tureens can be useful: consider using them as serving dishes for vegetables or salads at parties, or plant bulbs in them or fill them with potted herbs on the kitchen windowsill. Particularly charming are the small paste and potion pots used by chemists for various preparations. If you need an excuse not to resist yet another little pot, you might take inspiration from Edmund de Waal, who creates intriguing and fabulously expensive installations featuring hundreds of his exquisite hand thrown pots.