28 October 2011

from past to present

I brought home some cuties and beauties from Les Puces du Canal a few Sundays ago.

Some days, I go there and I don't see anything I want to take home -- and that's okay, because half the fun is in looking (not just at the stuff, but also at the people). On this particular day, however, I kept finding things.

I fell in love with this serving utensil because of its delicate floral etching detail. It has a slightly irregular shape -- it must have had a very specific function. I would love to know what that might have been.

I love vintage tea towels. I spend so much time in the kitchen, often doing the dishes --I figure I might as well use pretty things that make me happy. The linens in these photos came from four different stalls, and were incidentally all 5€ each. I don't ever spend more than 7€ on a tea towel; otherwise I'd hesitate to use it because it's too precious.

Two pieces of cloth caught my eyes at the stall of one of the ladies in the hangar who specializes in laces and linens.

They are both made of several pieces of fabric, patched together to make a larger piece. The MP one is actually quite small, and also very narrow. I have no idea what it may have been used for -- it's too small to be a tea towel, and too long and narrow to be a dinner napkin. The DM one is larger but isn't even a recutangular -- the fabric used in the corner has a slanted edge, and the whole piece looks like an indecisive pentagon. All the sewing is done by hand, with stitches so small that I can barely see them without a magnifying glass.

I keep spreading them out on my lap, looking at them again and again. I look at the stitches and think of the women who saved fabric scraps and patiently repurposed them. I remember how my mother used to mend our socks when the toes got thin -- does anyone do that any more? People talk about recyling as if it's such a cool, new, green thing, but that's how things have been done for hudnreds of hudnreds of years. Mending, fixing, reusing, upcycling. When did we stop repairing things to keep them in use longer?

This little princess of a plate is about 16cm by 12cm. The lady at the stall wanted 10€ for it; I paid 8€. I can't date it but here are some clues: The bottom is all bumpy, so I'm guessing it wasn't factory-produced on an assembly line. The drawing looks like transfer printing and the color hand-painted (but I'm no expert).

There's no indication of where it was made, either. Does it look English, perhaps? 

The dealer I bought these cups from would not negotiate (he's in La Halle -- under the arcade, toward the western end). I almost walked away but eventually indulged because I was smitten with the patina on these cups.

I love the medieval chainmail-looking design on one, and the sweet way the number 64 is carved on the other. I won't use them for drinking. They'll look pretty with miniature cactus plants in them, or cradling our toothbrushes in the bathroom. Maybe I'll use them to hold a small stem of flowers from my backyard -- once I have a backyard again.

Many of the things I buy at Les Puces are indeed French vintage and antiques. Occasionally I ask myself if it's right that I will be taking them out of the country, out of the context of where their being makes most sense. But I'd like to think that they are finding a new, good home with me. I'd also like to think that they appreciate being used by someone who enjoys their function as well as their beauty.

And if I do things right, they will last 30, 50, maybe even 100 more years. They will find new owners who would do the same as I've done, wherever they are. Then they will be passed on, once again, to someone who will take care of them, so it can be shown to the future generatoin that, you know, people didn't used to just throw things away.


Barbara said...

I adore those linen tea towels. We don't see anything like that here. It must be wonderful to discover these beauties at the market.

cocopuff1212 said...

I used to see them at antique markets back in the U.S., but of course they were all imports from France and extremely expensive. Couldn't have used them for everyday kitchen duties.

Anne said...

I mend socks, especially the ones for my son as I love children cloths and after him there are other kids who wear them... And his first year of life I gave German lessons once a week to 3 French people for free. In the end one of them gave me a whole old suitcase full of linen and lots of different glasses. It was very helpful and we used them a lot but I had no idea that the tea towels were so precious.