Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Bastille brocante

Gorgeous antique bird cages complete with little porcelain birds

 By definition, a brocante means the sale of used goods whatever its age. It doesn't distinguish between antique dealers with an actual shop and those without and who go around the various brocante fairs organized in the city or outside.  One distinction it does make is that antique dealers sell objects which are at least 50 years old while non-antique dealers can sell those of a more recent vintage.

In my line of work, I frequent brocantes quite often and while there are times when I come away empty handed, there is one brocante where I am sure to find a wealth of objects that are worth carting home with me. I'm talking about the Bastille brocante. Its a huge affair that takes place twice a year in the Place de la Bastille. Over 350 stalls chock full of exquisite and gorgeous objets d'art, furniture, bibelots, jewelry, linens and even paintings.  In this brocante, you have both kinds of sellers, the antique dealers with their gorgeous furniture and paintings and the requisite antique prices and the brocanteurs, let's call them for lack of better word. Though I have to say, that it doesn't stop the brocanteurs from having equally old pieces, just that they also carry a lot of schlock and kitsch.  

There is an awful lot to see and it takes me at least two visits before I can narrow down my focus. (Tip: if ever you find yourself there, you must be sure to ask for some nice stallholders for an invite so that you don't pay the entrance fee twice!)

This time was no exception. Imagine how I felt when I found one stall carrying the most gorgeous fans I've ever seen in my life.

Delicate, airy and made of such materials as marabou feathers...

and lace edged in gold with a mother of pearl base. And these were but two examples!

Someone's collection of late 19th century glass vases.

Early 20th century children's furniture. I love its rustic look and the fact that someone's child once sat here to do lessons.

 I loved this piece. Wonderful Venetian Renaissance cabinet with gold leaf finish. Just beautiful.

 This one wasn't too shabby either...

The most fun I had though was rummaging through one stall's heaps and piles of crafts kits. In the 19th century, stores sold craft kits composed of different beads, needle and thread, buttons and trimmings, all of which could be used to create either a piece of jewelry or artwork.  I loved the idea. DIY kit, 19th style.

 Finally, I found myself a strand of old french glass beads. They're this unusual wine color and when you hold them up in the light, they twinkle and shine with a golden light. Its going to go nicely with some projects I have in mind!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Don't you just love bracelets

I have a particular fondness for Murano beads.  There's something very special about them, maybe its their history or the way the beads are made. Or maybe its the fact that they're from Venice. When I first started, I would look for Murano beads that were in pristine condition. But as I continue to work with them, I've come to realize that there is a kind of beauty in the old beads imperfections. The various nicks and scratches they've acquired over the years add a luster that a brand new bead does not have. Its a badge of honor if you will and proof that they've been around awhile.

These particular beads are handpainted and if I'm not mistaken, there's a bit of gold foil in them.  As I didn't have a lot, I decided to make a bracelet....

A close up view of the focal bead
 And do you remember my 19th century Millefiori necklace? Well, I didn't have a lot left, but there was enough to make this beautiful bracelet.

A better view of the details
 Not bad for a day's work huh?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Vintage find of the week

 Paris with all its flea markets, antique fairs and stores also has its fair share of vintage and thrift shops. There are a number of fancy vintage stores and their museum quality pieces and prices but there are also a good number of fun stores carrying great quantities of "vintage" and second hand clothes. One of the more popular one is Free P Star located in the historic Marais area.  Its one of those places that's filled to the brim with 60s, 70s clothing, shoes, bags and there's no order to the madness. You go in and you risk losing hours in the store if you are into vintage. Jarvis Cocker used to shop there too!  I remember when I first arrived here, how much fun it was to browse through its racks. Back then (and here, I'm talking about just five years ago) they had no anti-shoplifting tags nor alarm system, and there wasn't a big crowd constantly pushing and shoving. I'm afraid its become a bit of a victim of its own success as its now extremely crowded and one can hardly see anything.

This weekend I've discovered that they've opened up two new branches. Eh oui, vintage is big business. I had to stop by of course. Perhaps because its all new or because of the late hour,  I actually had room to browse.  To tell you the truth, I was a bit disappointed because I didn't see anything I liked though there was no shortage of fun 60s psychedelic shifts on their racks. But as I was leaving, I saw this beauty of a handbag hanging on the far back wall. Shiny gold lurex thread with black and bright and orange stripes, how could I resist?

Its in perfect condition and I love how it says made in Japan by hand.  A little check reveals that Walborg company was founded by Hilde Walborg Weinberg in the late 40s in New York.  Original designs from the 40s and 50s were produced in Belgium, Italy and France.   From the late 50s to the 60s, bags, such as mine, were made in Japan.

I certainly can't wait to take it out for a spin!

As always don't forget to check out other lovely vintage finds over at Apron Thrift Girl and Her Library Adventures

The art of presenting one's goods

 One of the things I had to learn, (and learn quickly at that!) for my new line of work is the art of presenting my wares in the best possible way.  I've learned that its not enough to have beautiful things. One must also find the best way of presenting them.  A well dressed stand attracts the going public which is often distracted by all the other stands and once they are with you, they often have very short attention spans.

During the Pop-Up Salon, I tried to make sure every piece had enough space between them....

 And that my necklaces didn't overwhelm each other with their colors...

I love my bracelets but they did have a tendency to move all by themselves...

And these three necklaces are my current favorites. All of them are made primarily from Venitian Millefiori from the 19th century!!  I really lucked out when I found a trove (well, I considered it a trove) of these beads.  And I was extremely gratified when a glass bead connoisseur I met during the trade fair confirmed their provenance!  To jazz them up a little, I mixed in some French glass beads from the 50s. Aren't they just lovely?

And what do you think of the stand?

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Starting over

Its been a busy couple of weeks chez nous.  We were unfortunately the victim of that all too common internet problem of hacked email, so access to the old blog disappeared into the ether.  I was completely stressed but then I realized that starting over gives me the chance to redo the blog layout and hopefully come up with a better design. Hopefully I've achieved that and you like what you see...

So, last we spoke, I was busy preparing for the Salon Court Circuit at the Espace Blanc Manteau over at the Marais.  It was quite an invaluable learning experience for me.  It just proves that experience is the best teacher.

Here are a couple of pictures I took..

I hadn't realized that our neighbor's mannequin was till undressed when I took this shot

Small selection of chain necklaces

Some of my bracelets

Three days could be a long time but I was lucky enough to have shared the stand with some great gals...

Pascale of Super Gino, who makes wonderful children's shirts and dresses from organic cotton..

 and Arina of Les Bijoux d'Ari with her fun collection of jewelry made of Liberty and Japanese fabrics

Next up is the Salon Pop UP this Saturday.. More details coming up on another post!

A sort of Demi Parure

As I work with vintage beads that I source through the different flea markets around Paris, I don't often have enough beads to make more than one piece.  On one hand, this makes each piece special as it is only one but on the other, it frustrates me no end when the beads are especially nice as  I cannot make a bracelet or a pair of earrings to go with the necklace. Case in point is this set that I've just finished.

It all started with some beautiful peach colored faceted glass beads that I found at a small brocante not far from where we live. Actually, it was more like a vide grenier (or garage sale) than brocante as most of the stands were manned by people who just wanted to  be rid of their old things.  I was about to go home when I noticed this lady carefully wrapping up her things. Amongst her old china and dusty records were a pile of jewelry including some loose beads. When I asked about them, she was pretty dismissive, saying they were glass beads from the 50s that belonged to her mother. It had been a necklace but somewhere along the way, it broke and so that was the end of the necklace.  She seemed pretty surprised when I said I would take them.  I came home and washed them and they came out luminous and pretty. I was pleased as punch.

Much later I found some old Murano beads, the kind with gold foil inside. The only problem was there were only three.  Hmmm...I bought them nonetheless because I can't resist Murano beads. It was only when I put the two sets together that I realized that they went quite well together.  Eh voila, a necklace was born!

Why then am I calling this post Demi Parure? A demi-parure is a matching set of jewelry, often a necklace and a pair of earrings.  And while with this set, I don't strictly have a demi-parure, these earrings I've just made seem to go quite perfectly with the necklace!   This set will soon be added in the store!

And now for some other news, I've just managed to add to my sidebar, the link to my online store! Hooray! It took some doing but finally its up!!  The site is in French, so for any who are interested in any of the items but can't figure out how it works, don't hesitate to write me!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Book find

Place de Victoires

Its funny how we get so comfortable in our usual routes and habits that it becomes a bit of a challenge to go outside our comfort zones.  However stepping out of the usual routine often yields great rewards. We took a little walk near the Opera area and we did a bit of exploring in the Gallerie Vivienne.

This Gallerie is but one of the many covered passages in Paris that used to be thriving commercial centers with lots of shops and restaurants. They can be found all over the city and while the number of shops and passersby have declined a bit in recent years, they've retained a certain charm. Its funny to duck into one of the arches and find yourself inside a shady and cool area where one can see traces of the old Paris.

Gallerie Vivienne opened its doors in 1826 and was an immediate success.  It has beautifully decorated arches that let in lots of natural light.  While we were walking we noticed a number of tourists so I suppose that it's having some sort of resurgence.

There is a charming tea salon inside the Gallerie which provides the perfect spot to rest one's feet and partake a cup or two of tea and baked goodies..

But my favorite part was this old bookstore all the way at the far end of the Gallerie. Stacks and stacks of beautiful old books with their yellowing pages and still erect spines.

 They even sold vintage postcards.  Their only concession to modern shoplife is the stack of cheap paperback novels in front of their store.

My find from this wonderful bookstore wasn't so ancient (as far as book lives go..) but I just had to have it. I can never resist old fairy tale books especially when they are illustrated!

 Just look at the illustrations... aren't they beautiful?

I'm been reading them slowly, one at a time, the better to fully savor a tale that begins so memorably with "Once upon a time..."