The huge trend for all things vintage may simply be explained by nostalgia. But it’s also tempting to think that the lust for previously loved fashion, home wares or music is also part of a backlash against the throwaway society: the ultimate in recycling.
In Olney, over three hundred dealers – both professionals and hobbyists – sell everything from antique corkscrews to traditional toys, hand carved furniture and gorgeous jewellery. Not that you would know it at first, because many simply have a shelf or a cabinet in four of the four centres in the town.
The Antiques Centre has had the Celebrity Roadtrip programme film at the site, and seen it all when it comes to the things that people collect: bus timetables, coins, watches, cameras, tools and of course, railway memorabilia. And some, admits the manager, they have no idea about! As you are guided around the rooms (over two floors), it is clear that everything from the beautiful to the quirky is on offer and it explains why people travel from miles away in their quest to add to a collection or find a different type of present.
As the knowledgeable staff explain: “these days what we sold fits classifications of antique being over a hundred years old, vintage as over 50 years and ‘retro’ items are those over 30 years. ”
A Love of craftsmanship
My Little Vintage (located on the High Street near Fountain court) is a delightful combination of the old and the new which has embraced the trend for painted furniture. It is a veritable treasure trove, with its scores of traders selling everything from collectable toys, to beautiful furniture and gorgeous handmade items.
Refashioned furniture is finished in chalk paint (the shop is a specialist stockist for Annie Sloan paint) and for those who would like to have a go themselves at revitalising old pieces, holds classes and sells the paints and brushes (see below). Those who collect vintage items often enjoy buying or making handicrafts, and there is a huge range here too; many forthcoming classes to teach felt making and crochet, for example, will feature on our events calendar.
This is all the dream of the owner of My Little Vintage, Julia. For her, the “obsession” started at a the age of eleven when she helped her mum at her market stall or antique fairs. Less interested in fetching coffee, she wanted to learn about the buying and selling going on around her. Now, with her own vintage business, Julia loves “all the quirky items that we sell, embracing the work that goes into creating handmade item and waxing lyrical about the wonder that is Annie Sloan Chalk Paint! I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by like-minded individuals and local artists who all enjoy selling their creations at My Little Vintage.”
For Diana Harris (pictured below), earning a living with her own handmade and vintage shop is also a dream come true. She set up on High Street south four years ago and describes how ‘Afterglow’ came into existence after years spent making things to sell at fairs. She says, “I have always loved making things because it takes you out of yourself. After years spent at a computer, craft allowed me to be visual, use your hands and develop skills.”
She began selling afternoon tea related items – tea cosies, cake stands, tea cups. Diana realised that people love nostalgia because “It evokes the idea of a slower pace of life and time with friends and family.” She spotted her Olney shop when she was at a vintage fair at the church hall across the road.
She adds, “I knew it was right. The dogs stay with me in the day and there’s plenty of room. Space around the shop is rented out to craftspeople and traders and I love spotting talent and seeing the new pieces arrive. But the best part of being here is meeting people every day and seeing their enjoyment of the handmade quality or the different pieces with a story to tell.”
This is all something of a tradition in Olney. Gill Behari from Leo Antiques, remembers a time when there were shops up and down the High Street. The trade has changed enormously since then, but it is very much alive in Olney.
(To find all the featured shops, where hundreds and hundreds of traders exhibit, clicking the section here.)