23 December 2013

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree, Your Baubles All Are History

A dancing cherub on our Victorian pot.
We keep it outside so it has lots of nice
lichen over it.
At the mountain stronghold we have 54 acres of mostly rainforest, but towards the bottom of the mountain there is a nice little grove of pine trees.  I know that technically pine trees are weeds in this area, but they still look nice.  So every year, for some years, we have harvested our own small live Christmas tree.  We have a lovely large Victorian terracotta pot with cherubs dancing around it and some beautiful glass and fabric baubles, so it all looks festive and appropriate to the season. 

But that was before we started living with Bengals. 
Bengals like to climb.  Bengals like to pull things down, play soccer with them and then tear them to pieces.  Tiny little pieces.  In short, Bengals cannot resist the temptation of a fully decorated Christmas tree and what results is a messy disaster.  It never happens when you’re looking – nosiree, when you’re looking everyone is positively angelic.  After the first time they are growled at for investigating this new toy too enthusiastically, they make sure to walk a wide circle around it whenever you’re looking. 
Caleb took a great liking to the Steiff leopard we
brought back from our buying trip.  When he
wasn't dragging it around the house by the
throat, he was cuddling up to it.  But it was not
destined to be his, and it has now gone to a
good home where it won't be mauled.
But you can’t keep looking forever, can you?  Bengals know this.  Eventually you will be worn down.  Eventually you will relax your guard.  Eventually you’ve got to sleep.  And then they strike.  Hard and fast, make your kill, dance triumphantly all over it, and then scatter and try to pin the blame on Klaatu.

Look at this sweet boy - he's no tree shredder.
But Klaatu is a good boy who sleeps at the end of the bed every night, and it takes a whole lot to get him out of his spot.  And anyway, I know who the culprits are, and they’re spotty.  

There is no overt naughty behavior going on, they genuinely seem to think that every single new thing that comes into the house is for their pussycat pleasure.  So what can we do?  We are again in a Christmas Tree Free Zone this year, which is disappointing.  Next year I’m trying again, and hopefully they will have grown up a bit by then.  I live in hope.

Now that's a tree shredder.
Meanwhile, we’re only new at the Peregian Beach Market, but so far it’s working out well.  Our second Sunday was even better than our first outing, and we sold a much wider range of goods.  A number of people also expressed an interest in our new shipment, so things bode well for the 29 December Market.

Quarantine gave us grief, as usual, but in a new development this time they made noises about laboratory testing all the items in our new shipment that could conceivably be used for food preparation.  Testing for what wasn’t clear – 100 year old French germs?  And suddenly Customs was back in the picture, demanding that we tell them what people use our kitchenware for – actual cooking or for decorative purposes.  So could the thousands of people to whom we have sold kitchenware over the past few years please contact us and let us know what you’re using the stuff for?  No, don’t really, but you get the idea about how impossible it was to comply with this instruction.
Here is a close up of one of the six fabulous
French cross-roads crosses that we brought back
from our buying trip.  French angels look very
different to English angels, usually with much
bigger wings and always with good hair.
These were new demands from both Quarantine and Customs that we’d never encountered before so we weren’t exactly sure what their game was.  It was a given that it would involve us paying them vast sums of money, of course. 

But one skillset that Doug and I share is knowing how to create a paper trail that can be used when escalating issues to more senior managers and, dare I say it, the Minister’s Office.  Having worked for two Federal Ministers, I have a good idea of how to compose a very polite slap that is likely to see off lesser bureaucrats.  It must always be very, very polite, but with just a touch of snarl – ever so polite snarling can be surprisingly effective.

So hurrah, suddenly Customs cleared the shipment, Quarantine ditched the laboratory testing idea and now we have most of the goods in our hot little hands.  The rest is awaiting fumigation, and we're not likely to get that for at least another week, customer service standards being what they are.  But we still have plenty to be going on with.

A small selection of new items in our red cabinet
now in Oople.  We did some incredibly good buying,
so we're offering terrific things at around half the
price that we had to charge in our old shop.
So the Christmas period will see us doing a whole heap of waxing and polishing and cleaning, but it means we will have a fabulous vintage French kitchenware stand at the 29 December Peregian Beach Market.  Plus we have put a small cabinet into Oople, the nice little shop a few doors down from our old shop in Eumundi, and that will hold a good selection of nice things.  And so far, so good – we put the cabinet into Oople on Friday and had to restock it already by Saturday.  Over time I might put some French glass out at Peregian Market as well as Oople, but we have lots of stock to choose from and we’re starting with kitchenware at the Market.

This is the park at Peregian Beach on a non-
Market day. When the Market is on, our stand
is just about under the pine tree on the right
Opposite, under the shade cloth, is a skate park
that attracts some quite skilled skaters.
Unlike France, in Australia skate parks tend to
be dominated by dudes on skate boards, rather
than scooters.
So hopefully our third time at Peregian will build on the success of the first two outings.  Last time was seriously hot, so thank goodness for ocean breezes.  And because we’re learning what works better each time, we decided that we’ll need a tarpaulin to provide extra shade for us at the back of our stand.  The marquee covers the stock and keeps the area nice and cool for the customers, but we were seriously baking out the back.  So we’ll fix that next time.

The view up river from our table at our
favourite breakfast café.  The pelicans have
taken to sitting on poles where
they can't be snuck up on.
And you know that an extra-good Sunday at the Market deserves a reward, so on Monday it was back to our favourite breakfast spot along the Noosa River.  The pelicans were still there, but this time they had wised up and their vantage points were unassailable so there was no shoving each other around.  Then it was off to Peregian Beach for a quick stroll.  As Doug says, it’s good to do these things to remind ourselves about why we moved here in the first place.

This is one of a pair of matching French
terracotta stylized pineapple
finials that I wrote about a few
blogs ago.  It dates to about 1840 and
stands almost 40cm tall.
Because we're now selling
wholesale it's $190 - an utter
bargain because that's somewhat
cheaper than reproductions.
Have a lovely Christmas, everyone.  And to all of you who don’t have the fun that ratbag Bengals bring to your lives but do have Christmas trees that are not tattered and strewn around your home, enjoy your tidy homes.  We’ll enjoy our mayhem.



11 December 2013

When was 1590 again?

Some of our Ming Dynasty pottery shards,
from an archaeological dig on the Yangtze River.

On Sunday morning we attended the Eudlo Village Market, and it was worth having to leave home by 4.30am.  Eudlo is a tiny village in the Sunshine Coast hinterland but it has a nice community hall, which had sellers inside and outside was surrounded by Market stands such as ours.

This is one of my favourite pictures that we are
selling in reproduction.  Bagheera did a fine
line in French lingerie.
Yet again, our vintage French pictures sold briskly, but also jewellery and most of the final pieces of the French enamelware from our current stock.  We heard from the customs agent this week and our new stock has been Customs cleared with no problems, which is always the case.  Now we’re waiting for Quarantine to have their annual hissy fit when they see our things, and then we’ll get our hands on our new stuff.  And our new stuff includes a large amount of beautifully coloured French enamel kitchenware, so we’ll be able to considerably perk up the look of our Market stand with some nice things quite soon.

One of the vintage American
Christmas Tree brooches that we'll be
offering at the Peregian Beach Market.
I’ve found it interesting dealing with the wider public who attend the general Markets, which tend to have a bit of everything, rather than antiques-specific Fairs.  The Market-going punters often know little about antiques, so there’s lots of starting from scratch when discussing our pieces with them.  Some of the visitors to our shop didn’t have a great knowledge of things vintage, but mostly our customers had at least some understanding of what they were looking at, and many at least knew the basics.  Some – especially specialist collectors – knew considerably more than me about some of our things.

So anyway, I’ve found myself discussing the fundamentals of antiques with a wide range of people and quite enjoying getting back to basics.  I did struggle with one woman at the Eudlo Market, though, when talking about some Ming Dynasty pottery shard pendants.  I told her they were from the late Ming Dynasty, so they date from around 1590.  What’s 1590? she asked.  The year 1590, I said.  She looked quizzical.  What do you mean, the year 1590? she asked.  Well, we’re now in the year 2013.  But these pieces date from around the year 1590, I explained.  She continued to look at me blankly.  Do you understand? I asked.  Nope. 

Slowly, things are progressing at the house.  Here
are the boys working on the decking for the
breezeway.  That handrail is there to stop us plunging
to our deaths during the build, but will vanish
when it's safe for it to vanish.
Okay, I said, here we are in the year 2013.  If you go backwards in time for a bit over 400 years, you would be in the year 1590.  Yes?  She scrunched up her brow.  But how can you go backwards in time? she asked.  Tempting as it was to launch into a reflection on the nature of time and whether it’s linear or circular, you will be proud of me that I refrained. 
Okay, I said again, trying to stay upbeat, you were born when? - 1980.  Yes, belatedly I realised I was trying to rationalise with a Gen Y.  As a catty aside, I’ll just say that she certainly didn’t look Gen Y.  Another reminder to wear a hat and sunscreen more often.  So, 33 years ago you were born, and 423 years ago this piece of pottery was made.  At last, she had her lightbulb moment.  Yeah, okay she said.  And then she wandered off and didn’t buy one!   Yes, a lot of talking goes into non-sales sometimes, just not normally as challenging as that.

Calypso is desperate to try out the new
decking.  Take me for a walk right now!
Next Sunday (15 Dec) we will take a stand again at the Peregian Beach Markets, the final one before Christmas.  I’ve dug out a few things from the garage that haven’t seen the light of day for some time, so I’ll be able to make the stand look somewhat different from last time.
At this point it looks like the first of our new shipment will be on display at the last Peregian Beach Market of the year (29 Dec).  We are also putting a small display cabinet into Oople, the cute little shop just down the road from our old shop in Eumundi, and I've got some seriously fabo vintage glass that will be offered there.  The enamel kitchenware and the giant Jamie Oliver boards (3 of which already have dibs on them) will be offered only at the markets, I'm thinking.  That's the plan so far, but it depends on what other opportunities present themselves.



03 December 2013

Chillaxing til I'm Glacial

The view from the back of our
stand at the Peregian Beach Market.
We attended the Peregian Beach Market on Sunday, and had great fun.  We had a stand in a newly created extension, nicely located just a few steps behind the sand dunes, so we had a lovely view to the ocean behind us.  It was a blustery day, but we were assured that it was far more windy than usual, and that’s good because we wouldn’t want it any more blowy.  Both of us ended up sunburned – that’s what you get for stupidly spending five and a half hours at the beach without a hat or sunscreen.  Who knew that selling antiques would be so hazardous? 

Our neighbour at the Market neglected to peg down her marquee so after an unexpectedly strong blast of wind her marquee took off like a spinning top and we all leapt to save her and her goods.  In anticipation of disaster we had our marquee double-pegged at all corners, so even though we copped a fair bit of buffeting we remained intact.

We kept the stock selection nice and light
and 'beachy'.
At one point I noticed a group of kite-surfers undertaking spectacular manoeuvers just off the beach directly behind us, diving about like deranged giant butterflies.  I intended to get some photos, but we were kept busy all day and by the time we had a quiet moment there was no sign of them.  So no pretty pictures of kite-surfing for you, but you get to see what we were focused on – our stock.

As usual, the vintage French images were popular.
Lucky I have a lot of them.
It was interesting to see what the High Demand items were, and they turned out to be 1930s golf clubs, and our vintage French magazine images and advertisements.  We didn’t sell a single reproduction image, even though we had some great pictures, but lots and lots of originals. We also sold a small amount of jewellery, although I expect that to increase the closer we come to Christmas;  French copper, and again I expect that to improve given the interest that so many people showed in it and who said they’d be back; vintage fabric and some fly fishing gear.  All in all, we made excellent sales and have rebooked to attend again on 15 December.  I live in the probably forlorn hope that I’ll be able to put out some of our new shipment by then, but more on that below.
These vintage glass fish look beautiful on shelves
when back-lit by sunshine, but the windy
conditions at Peregian Beach means that
shelves won't be happening at our stand.
Surprisingly, I didn’t sell my vintage glass fish, although I thought that a beachside location was a good spot to display them.  But no.  At least, not on this occasion.  They look their best when displayed on shelves with the light streaming through them, but there was no prospect that I could put up shelving with the wind at the Peregian Market.  So off to eBay they shall go, once I have a sufficient selling record with eBay so they will allow me to list multiple items.

Golf clubs were very popular, and we sold a lot. 
Next Market I will offer better quality clubs and
we'll see if they're just as popular as the
cheaper ones.
You’d be amazed at the number of people who tell me that I should sell online, via sites such as eBay, when those people have no idea what is involved.  Now I’ve looked into it, and it turns out that you can only list a very restricted number of items until you have what eBay deems to be a sufficiently good selling record with them.  So to that end I have popped a number of good vintage books onto eBay, at ridiculously low prices specifically to generate the necessary number of initial sales, and thus be granted permission to sell more items.  I have listed them under the user ID chequeredpastantiques, so if you are interested in picking up some good vintage books at a fraction of their normal prices, do have a look.  I’ve already sold five within two days of listing them, which is good news, but they are all worth significantly more than I have listed them for so it’s not surprising.

Vintage fabric sells well.  Usually French linen
is the most requested but at Peregian our
customers liked the vintage Kimono silk best
Once eBay lets me operate as a Proper Grown Up Seller I’ve got heaps of things I’ll offer at discount prices so I can clear some space for the new arrivals.  And the good news on that front is that we have finally received the Pre-Alert Notice from our customs agent, which means our shipment is nearing Australia.  The ship should dock in Brisbane on 6 December, and then comes the annual dance with Customs and Quarantine.  Customs never gives us any grief, and neither should they seeing how I always provide a detailed customs inventory. 

We had a lovely old French chap come by and
tell us all about his experiences as a young
man working in a Parisian restaurant, where
naturally they used old French copper pots and
pans.  He said he would tell all his French
friends that there is no need to travel to Paris
to buy their kitchenware when they can
just come to Peregian instead.
But Quarantine go nuts the moment they see anything made of wood.  I have a pretty good idea of what woodworm damage looks like – you will recall that on the buying trip I declined to buy the first of the Jamie Oliver giant wooden boards I saw because it had woodworm damage.  So I don’t buy items that have evidence of even long-dead woodworms, let alone anything that looks current.  But no matter how smooth and unblemished the wood is, it’s never good enough for Quarantine.  I can only surmise that anything made of wood is automatically ordered for fumigation, rather than Quarantine officials making an actual assessment as they are paid to.  That’s the only explanation I can think of, after my considerable experience dealing with them.  But as Doug says to me every year when we face this exact same issue - Chillax.  You know I can’t readily do that, but I’ll go through the motions of trying.

Now here are two experts at chillaxing.  Look at how
solid Caleb is, compared to Artemis.  But she is still
Top Cat and the one Caleb turns to when he wants
a bit of mothering.
So in the spirit of Chillax and to reward ourselves for having such a good day at our first Peregian Beach Market, we headed off to our favourite Noosa River café for breakfast on Monday.  We always get a table on the verandah directly overlooking the river, and I always order their most excellent Eggs Benedict.  So we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast, watching the sunlight glittering on the water and the pelicans sneaking up on their rivals to push them off the best vantage points. 
You’d think that pelicans would notice a great, lumbering rival clapping its giant beak and flapping its wings as it “sneaks” up behind them, but they all seem oblivious of impending calamity until they’re suddenly jumped on.  Can you imagine a pelican looking a bit squashed and going “Ooooof” and their eyes bulging a little bit as their rival lands heavily on their back?  It was almost like watching cartoon characters.  So after a nice meal and a laugh it was time for a stroll along the foreshore and we were suitably chillaxed.  Until our first encounter with Quarantine, that is.

This is one of the vintage books I've
listed on eBay - The Book of a
Thousand Thrills: All-Star Stories
of Mystery, Crime & Romance.
All my prices on the books start
at $2.99, making them among the
cheapest on eBay.
In a late breaking development, on the basis of our stand at the Peregian Beach Market we have now been invited to take a stand at the Eudlo Market this coming Sunday, 8 December.  Eudlo is in the Sunshine Coast hinterland, so it’s a lovely part of the world, all green and tropical with rolling hills.  On its Facebook page the Eudlo Market looks to have lots of crafts, so not really our thing, but high quality goods and at the upper end of the crafts market, so maybe it will work for us.  Many of our pieces are hand-made, afterall, just 100 years ago.  And anyway, it’s not far from home so we’ll give it a go.  I’ve got plenty of stock that I didn’t have room to put out at the Peregian Beach Market, so we can make our Eudlo stand look completely different.  First report will be made to you, naturally.

This is an aerial view of Eudlo, in the Sunshine Coast hinterland.  It's a little village in a pretty location, so we'll see how it goes at the Market on Sunday.