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Too close for comfort

ATTENTION
ATTENTION

It escaped my attention somewhat.

Now there’s a leading statement if ever there was one. “What? something vitally important escaped your attention? What was it? do tell” OR…”what? your attention escaped?” Even with some cleverly managed punctuation, actually its both. My attention certainly did escape for a while, last seen roaming the Sussex countryside, and in doing so, several things escaped my attention. A sort of online ouroboros concentration loop.

Its all to do with a particularly nasty case of sciatica. I’m not angling for sympathy here, after nearly 4 weeks I’m over the worst and have finally been able to stop dosing myself up on various combos of painkillers. But it was the aforementioned painkillers which did for my attention.

It seems that during this period (which we shall call my “high” period) we bought lots of lovely antiques, did a few fairs, sold a few lovely antiques and woah hang on…only three weeks until we hit our first stand fitted fair of the year!!! (This is what escaped my attention while my attention was otherwise distracted) but I haven’t broken any clocks yet, or slopped French Polish on the carpet (don’t tell business partner) or even stood on any valuable Victorian ceramics.

Not long now
Not long now

It also seems that over a pint or two of scotch whiskey, we agreed to do a few more stand fitted fairs this year than planned AND ramp up our smaller fairs. We need to move house for myriad and complicated reasons and we’re not going to do it on our current “salary” (for anyone who still thinks self-employment is an easy option, you could not be more wrong)

So in my usual, rather round-a-bout way I have used this entire soliloquy to tell you, the wonderful buying public that to give us some chance of respite and comfort from these too close fairs, we’re having to close our Etsy store on the 10th April.

Defintite. For good. Finito. Nada. Enchilada.

Bye-bye baby
Bye-bye baby

Its sad for us because we invested a lot financially, emotionally and physically into it but we simply do not have the time to keep it curated.

There will be more items listed on this site from time to time, which can be purchased directly so worth keeping eyes peeled and ears pinned to the internet AND in the meantime, you lucky, lucky people you can get 10% off anything still listed on Etsy with the checkout code CLOSE10

Our social media will be changing too with more fun and fewer links (I’m so distracted I nearly wrote LESS links there) so you are still welcome to join us and keep up to date with our fair diaries, information, how to’s and other snippets of antique goodness.

Clever punctuation?
Clever punctuation?

If on your travels you spot my attention span, please bring it to a fair or follow one of the links below where a generous rewar………oh look, a butterfly.

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Lens, Roamings, countrymen

Mists of time, or time of mists?
Mists of time, or time of mists?

In the dim and distant past (cue swirling mists of time, tumbleweeds and the shcraaaape, shcraaaape of the Tardis),  about six months ago, those of you who check in regularly may remember my camera lens was involved in a vacuum cleaner hit-and-run incident.

NO?

Well it was. The poor thing suffered major internal injuries and despite some instant remedial care, macro surgery and a weekend visit to the NHS (yes, apparently doctors DO work on Saturdays) slipped on to the great photoshop in the sky. Unlike a person or a dog though it was replaced almost immediately. Since when, other commitments have meant said replacement has sat gathering dust. This week it has finally seen action.

As part of our re-brand a whole new batch of photos was needed. This, was how I whiled away yesterday while Business Partner went a-galivanting to learn all there is to know about underwater archaeology. The lens, you’ll be pleased to know, is excellent. Such definition and clarity even on a macro setting. Things which should sparkle, do. Things

Country Carnelian
Country Carnelian

which should have detail, do. Things which shouldn’t be blurry, aren’t.

This has all happened after a long process getting my all singing, all dancing beast of an Office Management System up and running. Thousands of items of stock have been found, lost, and found again – roaming in herds through the rooms of the house, bleating for the simple comforts of two weeks ago and their comforting dusty corners. (Some are still AWOL but we’ll get the gamekeeper to sort them out next week) but after the mass culling of our online stock, much of which has not survived, we are nearly ready to relaunch.

The aim is to give our online store (Etsy) more of a “country house” feel, though achieving this affair may take a little time. The place was run down for sure, crumbling architecture, tatty furniture and some quite frankly questionable jewellery and ornaments but we are working on bringing it up to National Trust standards. Etsy is a village which may not suit country living all the time, it has become urbanised and swollen but we hope to provide a bijou oasis in a sea of kitsch.

I can hear you wondering if I am going anywhere with this. In all honesty not really, I just wanted to drop in, say hello and reassure all our antique and vintage” countrymen” out there that we will be up and running again soon. New logo, new brand and (eventually) new stock. There are still more photos to be taken, still more dusty relics to be rounded up and still more wellies to be worn but we’re on the road. This site will also be getting a make-over, though quite when I’m not sure.

Oh yes, there may be some complications. We are in fact changing our name. Easy enough on Etsy but not so here (wordpress), or other social media sites, so we’ll keep them the same but make sure its the same theme so no-one gets confused (I am already) so here are the  social media links…if you fancy. Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

Keep an eye out though, apparently I promised something about an Instagram account???

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A long story, made short and then lengthened again

flatback
Flatback to the drawing board

How time flies…and other such bon mots of clicheville. I hadn’t realised it had been over a month since my last post but it has, it seems, and as the minutes, hours, days and weeks headed south for the winter, so my attention was turned to other things.

Anyone in business will understand that if something isn’t working it needs changing. Cue some hefty decision making and sacrifices on our part to try and head in a more profitable direction. Our main aim (that’s business partner and myself) is to be able to find ourselves a bigger place to live. We currently occupy a shoebox. One where the architect’s aim was to capitalise on the ground space available rather than the living conditions. There is a slight similarity with Victorian living for us: cramped conditions and too many ornaments, though thankfully we do have running water and an inside toilet.

We’re not after a jet set lifestyle (though a holiday would be nice), or loose cars and fast women; there are no ambitions towards rock n’ roll hedonism just a second bathroom, a kitchen with more than a metre of worktop space and a workshop for me so I don’t have to sand furniture outside in the rain.

The first part of realising this ambition began in November with our “Posh Fair”. Our relative success has spurred us on and we have now booked for four more this year. We have revamped our stock: collecting together beautiful objets d’art, fabulous jewellery and rare collectables (ouchies for the bank account). To clear out some of the bits n bobs which have been hanging around for so long they are, quite frankly, starting to hurt our eyes with their lingering, mouldering presence, we are also operating as wholesalers – let someone else deal with all the Staffordshire flatbacks, broken snuff boxes and bright copper kettles ( really not one of my favourite things).

This is a sweeping change. In one corner – top quality antiques, jewellery and fine art and in the other, old bits of brass, diamante and poorly executed daubs. Really? who can tell the difference I hear you ask. Well the discerning collector for a start. One who won’t quibble over price, who will expect to pay what an object is worth and who think the E in Ebay stands for evil.

I actually do, even after a week of cell blindness
I actually do, even after a week of cell blindness

As part of this business partner and I have decided to clear out our Etsy store by having a bit of a sale. Most of the stock will be removed and the shop will retail only the best quality (we may even move to Ruby Lane) Its hard work as there is a lot of sorting involved but we’re closing next  Monday for a complete revamp. So yes there is only one week to grab a bargain with a 25% discount.

All this, plus building the ultimate in office management suites (it should have been done in MS Access but quite frankly that sent shivers down my spine so I’ve ended up creating a rather magnificent, if I do say so, beast in Excel), has torn me away from the interwebs – a rent, I must confess , which has not been so difficult to bear.

So please, forgive our absence for a wee while longer. We will be back with a new name, new branding, new stock and of course our world beating Office Management Suite…if I ever get it finished. Now where did I leave that macro?

Follow us on social media: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more on these exciting developments as they happen.

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ch-ch-chaaaanges!

Mallorca (though this may not be May)
Mallorca (though this may not be May)

Well hello folks and here’s wishing you a great start to the week ahead. We’re back…yes! We’ve dipped our toes into the ocean of high end anti-queues and the waters were warm and balmy – despite howling winds and drizzling rain. Think Mallorca in May, think mulled wine, think soup on a cold winter’s day. What a pleasure to be in lush surroundings, with knowledgeable buyers (mostly), beautiful and genuine antiques (also mostly) and the Pay-Pal card reader almost melting (On Saturday mostly).

I have to admit that both I and business partner were a tad apprehensive about our stock and our chances but this soon faded to be replaced with a glow of contentment. It was not an easy ride by any stretch of the imagination: we worked bloomin’ hard in the weeks leading up to this fair, pulling in some fourteen hour days and there was a great deal of stress and anxiety on both our parts but we feel we have proved a point or two.

Not everything needs to, or should be sold at car-boot prices. There is still a thriving market for quality, beautiful artifacts. Our stock stands better against fine art than pyrex and plastic (largely what we are up against online). Our usual fairs really have become little more than flea markets full of junk. Not that there isn’t a place for that but against that backdrop (and the same applies online) it gets harder to sell good quality pieces without being beaten down financially and emotionally. (see Video Killed the Antiques Dealer  for possible reasons why)

Also coming soon
Also coming soon

So after today, which largely involves a lot of faffing with spreadsheets, re activating our Etsy store and finding a place for our paintings etc we will be taking a day off for a leisurely pub lunch and, armed with a laptop, a year planner and rising self confidence, a peruse through our options. Watch this space for news but there will be some big things coming including an online sale in December and another relaunch for Touchstone Vintage in the new year.

Oh and its my birthday on Saturday so I shall be expecting lots of presents! Please send them C/O Touchstone Vintage. Thank you.

Keep up to date by giving us a thumbs up (or a heart) in cyberspace: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

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You label me, I’ll label you

The tax man cometh
The tax man cometh

Greetings fellow antique enthusiasts and vintage doyens. I have to report some singularly high stress levels not realised since my glory days in youth offending (I mean I worked in youth social care – I was not a young offender). A different kind of stress than that though: who knew that the powers that be, crushed beetles and tiny bits of paper on string could invoke such panic!

The week got off to a fairly bad start with an “admin” day. this largely involved filing three…yes THREE tax returns for her majesty’s revenue and customs (they collect the revenue and their custom is to make life as difficult as possible). Now this isn’t the forum for political rants; but seriously the UK government needs to sort its act out. They are now forcing us to BUY software in order to file a tax return online. One suspects our honoured (sic) chancellor may have shares in these software companies. Upshot being that we have thrown eco-friendly and expediency to the wind and filed a paper form – LATE!

Anyway, the whole affair near drove poor business partner to tears so I suggested she start tagging and labeling all our goodies for the posh fair which is now less than a week away. This she has duly undertaken with nary a moan or whimper: more a sort of death rattle of frustration and tedium. Meanwhile I have ruined two perfectly good tables with substandard proprietary French Polish – I shall be boiling my own beetles from now on. The labeling and pricing continues apace but not fast enough for either of our tastes and there is still a mountain to climb as the days tick-tock-tick-tock away.

All about the money, money, money
All about the money, money, money

Having said all this however, the week has not been entirely unsuccessful. The list of jobs, though still substantial, is shrinking and the world of online retail appears to have woken from a five month hibernation despite dwindling items and caretaking of our Etsy store. Be aware that the shop may fall foul of changing circumstances in the new year so all the vintage goodies we have on offer are basically on a last chance to by option for the next two months. Preparing for posh fair has relieved me of my online SEO and copy tagging duties to some extent and that has proved something of a blessing despite all the paper tags still needing to be written.

Well far be it from me to assign undue labels (a firm believer in live and let live) but HMRC are over priced, over valued and pointless. French polish is best if it comes from France, and price tags are probably best left to Jessie J. I’m off to try and rectify the polish issue,  console business partner as she attempts to write Birmingham 1903 on yet another impossibly small treasury tag, and destabilise the UK tax system.

Find out how I get on by giving us a thumbs up (or a heart) in cyberspace: Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest

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Doing some busy-work

Not quite this bad...Yet!
Not quite this bad…Yet!

It’s all got a bit out of hand!

So much to do, so little time to do it and the house is piling up with an eclectic mix of goodies which we hope some people will pay some money for. And that, in a nutshell, is the crux of this weird and wonderful life of antiquity. Everything one undertakes is based purely on hope.

With less than three full weeks before we jump into the fine arts end of the market with little to support us but a PayPal card reader and some hastily printed business cards, we are a little flustered but we do think we are well on our way to some small victories. Research indicates that one or two of the pieces we have bought have some SERIOUS fine art collectability – notably a 19th century bronze cherub with cornucopia style single stem vase by Rousseau (a Belgian Sculptor) and a fine art monochrome study by Herbert Sidney who, despite his unassuming name, seems to fetch quite a packet at art auctions.

My French polishing arm is well and truly lubricated too and business partner is threading beads like they are going out of fashion – which, given the number of necklaces we have, we sincerely hope is not the case. In the meantime of course we still have what we call our “BOG fairs” (bloody ‘orrible garbage) and an Etsy store to run; something is on the way to giving. With less and less time to spend online, our Etsy shop will gradually be diminishing in size over the next week as we take items off for Avisford Park. As a by product we have been running a “last chance to buy” promotional thread on Twitter

This campaign has to all intents and purposes been very successful and we have sold some of our Avisford Park stock; can anyone else see the flaw in this otherwise perfect plan?

So, as we prepare for another day doing busy-work and delving into artifacts from a time when jazz ruled the airwaves and before they decided to put cancer in cigarettes (and that might give some idea of the level of cleaning some items need), a time of elegance and hand crafted design – pre plastic and pre formica – here are a few pieces which will be coming offline very soon. Come and join us on Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more as it happens

 

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Antiques takeaway

Looks posh - is...a four star venue for five star antiques. GULP
Looks posh – is…a four star venue for five star antiques. GULP

The more perceptive of you, or at least those who read “So many pies...” will recall that I talked about putting things back once they had been away; I also mentioned that we have a lot of pies in which to dip our grubby, dust stained fingers. Well the pies just got a whole lot bigger.

Business partner and I received an email inviting us to take part in what can only be classed as a posh antiques fair – Galloway Fairs at Avisford Park near Arundel in West Sussex. We are talking the other end of the spectrum from our usual rickety tables in draughty community centres and sports halls…This is a three day event in a Hilton hotel no less, with gold lettering above our booth and hob-nobbing with TV stars and the generally well-to-do. The human being in me thinks we shouldn’t be pandering to the gentry (believe me in this game the feudal system is alive and kicking) but the pauper in me says lets make lots of money.

This is not so much a pie as a five-bird roast with twenty-seven vegetables, a starter,  fish course, FULL dessert trolley and lemon sorbet between courses – all served in French with full access to a very generous wine cellar. A bit nerve racking as its a jump in the ocean for us (not that we don’t have quality stock, its just that we’ve never tried anything on this scale before).

Anyway at this fair, only the best will do so we will be leaving behind the battered brass and curvy copper, abandoning the broken boxes and crusty curios and as some of our fine arts and collectibules are in our Etsy store, we are sadly soon to be taking them off the interwebs and packing them into carefully lined crates.

The bonus is that some of our “affordable” pieces will get a chance to shine in the meantime and we are really gearing up for Christmas now. Just take a sneaky-peeky at the pics below and you’ll see what I mean. Give us a tickle on our Google+ page, Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest  for more as it is listed and watch this space as business partner loses her hair with stress and I paint myself into a shellac’d corner…

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Weekends shouldn’t be that tough

Sometimes, just sometimes, things don’t go the way they were planned. The weekend just gone being no exception. We’re not sure what it was – maybe the last day of our Indian summer, maybe just a quiet time of year, who knows but one of the toughest antique fairs for a long time. It’s a long day, with plenty of heavy lifting and not much of a chance to sit down and seemingly, despite A LOT of talking, few customers with a full wallet.

Oh well, we did sell some beautiful things so it was worth it but boy did we appreciate a glass of wine and an episode of Poirot last night (thoroughly recommended if you love Art Deco and superb characterisations). The day was topped off when I very bravely (not) faced down the biggest and shiniest, most evil looking 8-legged monstrosity I have ever seen. Perched on the gap between the wall and my wardrobe (slash stock cupboard) bold as brass and with 8 beady eyes fixed on me, waiting for me to drop off so it could sink its ten foot fangs into my neck and drag me back to its lair!!!

OK, so maybe I’m exaggerating but it was not a pleasant end to an exhausting weekend and rather than evict the blighter I only chased it further into the cupboard; made putting the stock away this morning a little terrifying to say the least (and before you say anything, ANYONE would have raised a shiver at the sheer Mephistophelean glint from this thing)

Still we soldier on and despite swearing to have a day of R&R, a few things needed to be relisted in store so that’s what I did. No links here but they are all available to peruse from our home page, or you can view them on our Google+ business page. Just for you though – yes you – a few piccies. It’s mostly top end stuff so maybe on the pricey side but we do offer payment plans – all it takes is a little helloooo

Join us elsewhere online for more as it happens (no more spiders though)

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Happy Birthday Touchstone Vintage

It’s our 1st birthday. Well, not our actual birthday – we’ve been in business for over 20 years – and the name Touchstone Vintage is a little over a year old, BUT it’s our Etsy birthday. We opened our Etsy store one year ago today. An insignificant date really (unless its your birthday too) but we launched with no sales, fewer than 10 items and nothing more than a pocket full of dreams.

One of the first listings on Etsy.
One of the first listings on Etsy.

As with the first year of any business whether online or brick and mortar, the first year (so they say) is always a struggle. “Teething problems” is not the phrase. Learning to negotiate myriad terms and conditions, set up payment options, find stock: list, list, list. Photograph, describe, correct errors, deal with customers – some of whom are a joy to chat with, others for whom manners are a concept which only relate to someone else.

Then of course there’s Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Never an easy bunch who don’t seem to want to make being in business an easy task. But…once these little pitfalls have been circumvented for the first time, they are never quite as onerous. So for our first birthday I would rather reflect on the sheer joy of hearing my phone make the “cha-ching” noise when someone purchases our vintage treasures. The cheering feedback from someone who is “Wearing it RIGHT NOW” and the friends we have made along the way.

It may have its problems but Etsy is a community, the focus on teams and forums has helped lead us not entirely blindly through the year and come out with a wealth of sales which exceeded our expectations. And for the year ahead?

Bigger, brighter, bolder

Well we have some great plans. Some larger heavier items, more focus on art and antiquities and a bigger, brighter, bolder store. We aim to move house this year, mainly so my office/workroom is not in my bedroom, but also so we can increase our stock to give you – the antique hungry public – a wider choice of beautiful objets d’art and vintage jewellery.

There’s no call to action in this piece except to ask you to join us as we step into our second, exciting year. We are sure there will be something you just can’t live without, a great gift for a family member or friend and a little bit of history along the way. Follow our blog through WordPress or via E-mail and join us on Twitter, Facebook, G+ and Pinterest for all the latest.

I’m off to blow out a candle and sup on something cold and sparkly. Maybe next year we’ll have a party to which you, yes you, will assuredly receive an invitation.

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Got the Time or Touching Clock

Tick tock, tick tock, DONG!

Tick tock, tick tock
Tick tock, tick tock

This is the sound which pervades our existence at Touchstone Towers. You should see the place (though that’s not strictly an invitation to afternoon tea) we have piles of jewellery, silver, copper, brass, wood…well I’m sure you get the picture, but one thing we are definitely not short of is clocks.

I have an obsession and every buying trip starts with the phrase “No more clocks” but inevitably I return home laden with at least one grubby looking antique timepiece. Last week while we were out selling at a fair, I was presented with an offer not to be refused. An 1879 Japy Frere Brass clock.

Tatty, with bits falling off and a movement so gummed up it was like the Wriggly’s factory (please note other proprietary chewing sweets are available) but under the age tattered ugly duckling was a graceful swan waiting to get out.

A bit grubby

Taking this beast apart was no problem, cleaning it – no problem. Putting it back together, sadly a couple of the Victorian pins had had enough quite frankly and with a faint ping breathed their last. Now I’m quite happy to service and clean a movement but lathing and soldering very fine parts is just a bit beyond my eyesight’s (and my finger’s) capability.

But please don’t panic (if you were). After an exhaustive search (and skilfully hanging up on a quote of an extortionate nature) I have sourced some parts. Not cheap but worth it. The Japy Frere will unfurl its wings.

If this seems a longwinded story for very little point I am sorry; there is a point…two. One is the time and delicate energy which has to go into cleaning and servicing (not to mention the money, disappointment and frustration). The other is that we now have so many clocks it’s time to think about moving them on.

The clock market is a tough market, the general public have little appreciation for mechanical clocks, the time that goes into getting them working again or the reason for their value.

Beauty in engineering

There is a beauty in the engineering of a clock and this is why they can fetch what seems to be inordinate sums of money. When a customer last week saw a clock on sale for less than £100 he was slightly aghast that he was paying over £200 to have his version cleaned. Servicing costs can far out-weigh the value of the item BUT can, once completed, increase said value.

As is evident from my experience with the Japy Frere, there is a huge investment for any clockist in sorting out these behemoths of time and this is why both clocks and repairs can be a lot of cash. Worth it though. A good clock in good order will last – after all many have lasted over 150 years now. And while simply changing a battery is a simple, convenient option it has none of the charm or fulfilment of winding an 8 day clock and setting it free to ride the waves of time.

So I am busily trying to finish servicing all the clocks I have in the queue with an aim to adding a sort of catalogue up there. Just up there in the menu bar. These clocks won’t be available through normal channels (Etsy) because I just don’t trust the post. They will be appointment clocks. A phone call and some investigation over postage or buyer collects (then and only then will you get your invitation to afternoon tea)

One of the some we have on Etsy
One of the some we have on Etsy

I hope you will watch this space for more news on our clock catalogue. In the meantime we have some smaller examples in our Etsy store which may be of interest and for now I have a clock to piece back together.

www.etsy.com/uk/shop/TouchstoneVintage

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