I am not sure if I started off as a collector, a hoarder or an archivist. Or if each of these things is the same thing. I would save theatre programmes, cinema tickets, little objects used by family members, and postcards from art galleries I had visited. Each item went into a box containing similar items. And then into a large cupboard. This went on for many years. Late into my twenties I began to run out of space and realised I needed to cut back.
I decided to take some of the items to a local car boot (French – brocante, USA – flea market). To my surprise the items sold and I made a little bit of money. I did this a few times. While I was at the car boot fairs, I spotted something much more interesting than the things I was selling on my table. I could root through other peoples’ stuff (their own personal archives) and find items from the past. Items similar to things I had seen on childhood visits to the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery as well as the Science Museum. Victorian pen nibs, Anglepoise lamps, Imperial typewriters, enamel badges and vintage cameras. Each of these items was well constructed and told a small part of the story of British manufacturing. They smelt of the past too.
I began to collect and sell these items, under the name The Arqivist. I named it so because the items were sourced from other peoples’ “archives” and collected together to create a new archive of 18th and 19th-century British design items. I sold the items at antique and vintage fairs around the South-East of England, including Spitalfields Market and The Hackney Flea Market in London. I also showcased the items on Instagram enabling me to reach a wider audience and started an e-commerce website at the end of 2017. This was a labour of love but made much easier by the site provider Squarespace. There have been several iterations of the website since then and I am still not sure that I have yet got it right.
While I was selling a variety of items, even though they could be labelled as small functional design objects, I was never sure exactly how to group or describe what I was selling. And perhaps these products, although beautiful, got lost in a sea of mid-century modern design that can be found at fairs across the country, on Instagram and beyond. I decided it was time to specialise and distinguish my product offering. It was also a good opportunity to rebrand as well. I will talk in more detail about the rebranding in my next blog.