Monday, 30 March 2009

Hit the North...

...and hit the shops! As promised, I'm going to share some of my shopping from my trip up North. Largest item first - a chest of drawers.

So is it just me that comes back from a holiday with furniture? I know, I probably could have bought the same drawers somewhere nearer, but I saw them and loved them. They're sort of embossed silver with black. I love the shape! (And I'm rather pleased with the way the photo makes the bedroom look deceptively serene!)

As if coming back with furniture wasn't enough, I also came back with more luggage! This fabulous, doll-patterned suitcase was from Primark. The branch in Manchester was huge, much larger than ours. I've never seen luggage in there before.

My excuse is that it's very practical - it has wheels and a handle, so I might use it for taking stuff to fairs.

Needless to say, I got a few tasteful little things from Blackpool, including this extraordinary 'Giddy Kipper', made of rock!

I think I may have mentioned buying something magnificent from a vintage stall in Manchester. What could be more impressive than a giant, lustre-glazed ceramic squirrel ornament??

There was lots more - photos in my Flickr photostream!

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Blackpool Rocks

As part of our short sojourn 'Up North', we went for a day to Blackpool, as I hadn't been there since I was a teenager, and Mr Kitsch had never been there. Strange really, as we both love tacky British Seasidey-ness.

My first impression was "Weston-super-Mare on steroids", but that was before we experienced Blackpool Tower. I love being in high places, so the tower itself was great. They even had the dramatically-named "Walk of Faith", which was about four feet square of glass floor! (The one in the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth is rather more impressive.)

There's lots to see in Blackpool Tower - "The Jurassic Walk", with some jerkily-moving dinosaurs, the Charlie Caroli Exhibition (remember all those Bank Holiday Circuses on TV when we were little?), and various other amusements. But my favourite place of all was the Tower Ballroom. We just walked through an unmarked door and found ourselves in the balcony of this stunning palace of dance.

There was a Sunday afternoon tea dance going on, with some very impressive dancers. There was no 'getting up and having a go'. This was a serious business, and everyone there was step perfect. The most amazing thing I saw was an elderly couple, in their seventies, I'd say, who got up to do the rumba. I know very little about ballroom dancing, and this was not the fast dance I was expecting, but quite slow and sensual, with lots of balanced poses. To see this couple entwine themselves so beautifully around each other, and hold graceful, elegant poses, was a surprisingly moving experience. I wish I knew how to dance like that - I'm working on Mr Kitsch, but he's very reluctant!

We had fish and chips, walked along the prom in a freezing gale, put 2p pieces in the cascade machines, failed to pick up a cuddly toy with a crane, and all those other seaside pleasures!! The other great highlight was seeing a demonstration of rock-making. (I've put photos on Flickr!) Brilliant!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Mad For It

Just got back from a short break/ long weekend in Manchester. Well, we were staying in Salford Quays actually, and caught the tram in to Manchester (quite exciting in itself, for us tramless Southerners!). What a fab weekend!! Manchester is vintage shopping heaven. Perhaps not for the country cottage end of shabby chic, but wonderful for the mid-century-modern-cum-kitsch end of the spectrum, which is right up my street.

I came home with more than twice as much luggage as I went away with, thanks to some marvellous, irresistible finds. I'll share them with you, when I've had a chance to take some photos. Suffice to say, that we bought something magnificent from this stall in Afflecks Palace. Be honest - any stall that has a stuffed ocelot wearing beads and sunglasses has to be pretty good!

I didn't expect it, but I found I was a bit self-conscious that every time we opened our mouths it was obvious we were 'soft southerners'. I think it was because I'd recently read Stuart Maconie's 'Pies and Prejudice', about the North of England, a very funny book which does emphasise a lot of the differences between North and South. But of course, it wasn't a problem, everyone was friendly, apart from a guy in comic shop, and they are trained to be unfriendly all over the world (e.g. Comic Shop Guy in 'The Simpsons').

Salford Quays is like a lot of the dock redevelopment here in Bristol - a bit soulless, with bland hotels and office blocks. One exception was The Lowry - an arts centre in a spectacular modern building. However, when we went there it was raining so hard, we got soaked in the five minute walk from our hotel and rushed indoors without taking any photos. So I'll have to show you a sunny picture of a swan instead!

I enjoyed looking at the collection of Lowry paintings, which is more varied than his 'matchstalk men' reputation suggests.

We also managed to fit in a trip to Blackpool - I'll save that for my next post!

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Playing shop

Every now and again I think I'd like to have a shop. I see a nice little empty shop (there are so many of them now), and think to myself how I could make it into a fabulous little boutique. I would just sell 'lovely things'. And lots of lovely people would come and spend lots of lovely money.

OK, OK, I realise as a business plan, that's not the most hard-nosed proposal to put in front of the bank manager. It's nothing more than a sweet little pipe dream at the moment, and I've no idea if I'd ever really want to make it into anything concrete.

But I realised recently that, over the years, I've spent a fair bit of time selling my wares to unsuspecting strangers. I've done craft fairs, flea markets, comic & toy fairs, car boot sales, markets and sold to shops. Now it's Ebay and Etsy. Sometimes vintage (we used to just call it 'secondhand' when I started!), sometimes craft. So I suppose I've been doing 'Vintage and Handmade' in different guises for a long time, on and off.

One of the most miserable occupations on earth is to sit behind a table at a craft fair and sell nothing. I've been there and it's horrible. The tumbleweed blows through the unnaturally quiet church hall, and eventually an elderly couple in anoraks wander in. They walk past two stalls and then have to leave again through the sheer embarrassment of being the only punters in place. They probably came for the line dancing class, anyway, and just got the wrong day. Oh yes, I've been there...

But I forget that kind of selling horror when I start to look at shops. Perhaps I shouldn't. Perhaps I should remind myself of all that boredom waiting for customers. At least you avoid that with online shops and selling. But you have to keep taking things to the post office, which is a different kind of hell.

Oh well, for better or worse, I'm going to keep on with my 'virtual' shop-keeping. I'm planning a bit of a change to my online offerings, but in the mean time I've been adding lots of sweet and kitsch items to my Etsy shop.

I've been adding lots most days this month, and have managed to get 75 items still in the shop - this is the highest I've reached so far. I'm aiming for over 100, but I don't mind if I don't make it - it means these little treasures are selling!
UPDATE 15/3: The single dollies shown above have all gone, but I will be listing some more this week.
And somewhat in the mode of shop-keeper/curator, I've managed to get another Etsy treasury. Only this time I went a bit silly and went for the theme of 'Googly Eyes'. It'll never make the Etsy front page, I know, but it made me smile. (And on that subject, am I the only one who gets a bit bored of all those tasteful items in muted shades on the Etsy front page?)

Monday, 9 March 2009

Art, fleas and shopping

Went to a flea market yesterday (Sunday), and ended up getting a lot of cheap china, and various other lovely vintage stuff.

Between us, Mr Kitsch and I bought a menagerie of little china animals. I got some lovely old cotton reels (I don't know what I'll do with them, but they were only 20p each, so I couldn't leave them...) We also got some old Brooke Bond card catalogues. If you're as old as me, you'll remember the cards that came in packets of tea. I got the British Costume one in the picture below, because I used to have it as a child, and I could remember every picture. Mr Kitsch got Dinosaurs and Space and all the boys' stuff.

The booklet of felt toys is very charming - I think I might have a go at making some. And on the plate in the middle is a dolly's teaset that was only a pound for the whole lot. Brilliant! I think all the stallholders were having a bad day, as they were all offering to drop their prices, and a lot of the prices had gone down compared to the last time we were there. I suppose it's a symptom of the credit crunch.

On Saturday we went to Spike island, an art gallery and creative facility in Bristol. I'm ashamed to admit this was the first time I'd ever been there, despite it having been open for a number of years. (It's just in a slightly out-of-the-way place.) We went primarily to see the exhibition 'Crossroads' by David Blandy, inspired by the legend of the blues guitarist Robert Johnson. I liked it a lot. I don't always like video installations - but this was more watchable than most.

And from art to commerce... A bit more shopping to look at. I'm hooked on Clinique skin products (I'm a martyr to my sensitive skin, darling!) but I only buy it when I can get a bargain. In John Lewis last week, there was this lovely bonus bag of goodies and 10% off. Bargain!

Oh, and somehow I also managed to buy myself a pair of shiny green shoes. I'm not sure how it happened...

Tuesday, 3 March 2009

Some fun!

I decided last week that Mr Kitsch and I needed a bit more fun and niceness in our lives. As you may have gathered from my earlier post, we were in the doldrums, mojos gone AWOL, and feeling Very Sorry For Ourselves (in an Eeyore voice).
So our first impulse buy of fun was on a trip to Waitrose, where we bought some ridiculously expensive cakes. I know it's silly, but ever since these beautiful, colourful French macaroons started appearing in glossy magazines, I have been lusting after them. I was kinda hoping to go to Ladurée patisserie in Paris, but Waitrose in Bristol will have to do. I got the box of mini macaroons, Mr Kitsch got the exquisite petits fours. (They were a new range by some celebrity chef whose name I can't remember.) Yum yum!

I also got this dolly from the charity shop last week, for no other reason than she made me smile. Hasn't she got the cheekiest face?

We'd been invited to a family party in Cardiff on Friday, and I was dithering about it all week. Would my back be bad after a car journey? Should I stay at home? Eventually I decided that even if I was in a bit of pain, it was better to get out and have some fun. I took a lot of ibuprofen and we stayed overnight with Mr Kitsch's relatives and had a day out in Cardiff on Saturday. It was great to have extra time with Mr K.'s family, browse the shops, and then have dinner with Mr K's cousin in Pontypool on the way home.

I especially enjoyed meeting a lovely guinea pig called Robinson, with whom I bonded very closely. It was only when she wee'd on my lap that I reluctantly put her back in her cage. Can you get Tena Lady for guinea pigs, I wonder?

So we're slowly putting a bit more colour back into our lives after a dreary time. Yay!