Recently, during a fairly casual conversation, someone said they were thinking of getting involved in doing fairs. Oh boy, if I had a pound for everyone who has told me this and asked how to begin, I would be a wealthy woman! (well, OK, a bit richer than I am now). I started to explain that doing fairs and markets is hard work, but at this point their eyes glazed over. Perhaps they had hoped they could just turn up with a few beautiful things, lay them out artistically and take loads of money. If only it could be that simple. And then, I had my lightbulb moment and the theme for my blog was born - just how do you get started and what does it take to run a vintage or antiques business?
Before I go any further, you might be asking "who does she think she is" in terms of my knowledge, experience and background. So, here's an introduction....
I am now in my 50s, but started selling at car boot sales when I was in my teens. My Mum and I had to move house after her divorce and boot sales were just starting in the UK. We used to load up the car with our bits and pieces and sell them for a song. But the behaviour of the dealers used to fascinate me....they knew just what to look for and wasted no time in haggling a price in their own special language - "what's your best on this". From then on, I became a collector of ceramics and all sorts of eclectic bric-a-brac - and the collecting habit became addictive. So, I decided to sell some surplus items at an antique market, with a friend in London. As simple as that. And that was 30 years ago, when antique markets were in their heyday. My first fair was at Hammersmith Palais - we were promised "cash rich punters" but they never came!
As years have gone by, my tastes have changed - but the great thing about having antiques in your home and as your business is you can re-sell and buy something else. The ultimate recycling process! I have never had the money to buy fine antiques, but diligent foraging at boot sales and auctions has led to some great buys, both for my home and to re-sell. I have had pitches at a huge range of fairs amd markets and for some 14 years, a unit within a successful antiques centre. Plus, the odd foray into on-line selling.
I have dabbled in many things - books, old garden items, clothes, ceramics, glass, textiles, kitchenalia, retro 50s gear, French shabby chic. Defining my style is hard, but I would say a blend of the rustic, eccentric and quirky would be a polite way of describing what I tend to sell and collect. It's the kind of style that works with country living, pets, muddy feet, lolling on sofas, not too much dusting (!) and definitely not having any minimalist tendencies. Being somewhat eclectic in my tastes, I have a continual stream of bits and pieces coming through the door - currently, birdcages, dog related ornaments and ephemera, pottery, treen, old kitchen utensils, advertising and typography are all favourites. Some stay put, other items go straight to the unit or a market. Every now and then I "de-clutter" and a few old favourites are moved on to make room for newer finds. It's a constantly evolving process and helps to keep my stock fresh and inviting and my hallway and kitchen table clear. I am the typical collector turned trader and there are a lot of us about.
Next time, I will talk about some of the basic steps to getting started including market research, where and what to sell and what to expect at your first fair or market.