Monday, 31 August 2015

How to research vintage collectables, jewellery, bags and books

 For me, one of the most enjoying and satisfying parts of owning a vintage shop is the hunt for items, and subsequently finding out all about them. I love learning, and it's fascinating starting off with no knowledge of an object, to finding out about when it was made, how it was made, who might have worn it, and what you can do with it next….

Perhaps you have a lovely old vintage bag, or interesting collectible you’d like to find out more about. Sometimes just Googling the name of something isn’t enough so I have put together this little guide of suggestions and ideas of places to look when you need to know more.

Antiques shops and dealers:

I recently found a beautiful and unusual handbag which I just couldn’t find any information about anywhere. In the end I took a photo of it to show the owner of the local antiques store, and he was able to tell me more about the style and date of the bag, as well as an estimation of price. It helps that I’ve been frequenting that antique shop for a few years and chat with the owner (who used to work on Antiques Roadshow- Score!) But, people who work in antiques shops are some of the friendliest people I’ve met and are usually really enthusiastic, helpful and keen to share their knowledge, so don’t be intimidated to ask!

Friends and family:

Perhaps you have friends or family who remember vintage fashion items the first time round, or used to own something similar. Whether it’s your auntie, granddad or mum…you might have a expert with a treasure trove of information just around the corner without even knowing it!

Ebay, Etsy and other auction sites:

By all means have a scoot around Etsy and Ebay to get some more information about items and their ages. Just remember prices can vary greatly so do take any numbers you see with a pinch of salt.

There are also other vintage and auction sites such as Ruby Lane and Ebid which are always worth a look. Don’t forget as well the international versions of Ebay, such as and etc if you don’t find what you’re looking for on the UK one!

Finally, there are specialist auction houses for all sorts of themes such as vintage fashion and vintage sport- check these out if your item is too niche for Ebay!

Specialist sites, societies and publications:

Whenever I have a pack of Vintage playing cards I want to find out more about, I head straight over to World of playing cards. Specialist sites such as this are great for dating particular items, researching their history and background and picking up little hints and tips. WOPC has a handy little chart which teaches you how to identify the age of Goodall’s playing cards by looking at the Ace. A handy little tip which helps narrow down the date of a deck of cards!

I was recently given a Schiffer guide to Vintage handbags as a birthday present, which has been an invaluable resource for learning more about the history of handbags as well as valuing and putting a date to various styles of handbag.

Books are usually easier to identify as there is usually a date of publication which helps narrow it down, however some very old books don’t have this! Specialist sites such as Abe books are a great resource for finding out more.

The object itself:

Finally, examine the object itself in your hands! Does is look, or smell old? Is there a label which says where it’s made? Does it seem well made? Vintage British items such as bags from 1970 ish or earlier were often made in England from good quality materials such as leather. If you have a bag which is made of sturdy leather that has stood the test of time and has a little ‘made in England’ label, you know its true vintage. Sounds obvious I know, but don’t overlook using common sense!

Of course, vintage items from other countries are made in different countries! Vintage Italian leather bags were often made in Italy, and I come across interesting vintage bits and pieces that were made in France, USA and other countries. Rule of thumb though is if it feels flimsy and says ‘made in China’ you know it’s probably not vintage!

Overall, go with your instincts, have fun and don’t be afraid of asking for help….

Here is a list of useful websites, which I’ll add to as I think of more….

Useful websites: or

Friday, 21 August 2015

Alexandra Vintage and Reading Vintage Fair

Well hello's been a while, hasn't it?

July was such a stressful month, and I'm glad it's over to be honest. August has been way better, but seems to be going so quickly, I can't believe it's almost September already.....

I just wanted to share a couple of things which have happened lately with Isobello Vintage. Despite having a fairly major wobble and thinking 'should I be doing this, is this even working?' etc etc the Etsy shop is still thriving and I've just been plugging away at it, finding lots of more stock and adding more items. Last night I thought maybe I should just pack it in, and then woke up to find I had an order from a customer in Australia for 4 items, so thought I must be doing something right. It's difficult when you start doubting yourself, but I've realised you just have to push on and keep doing what you enjoy.

Recently I joined Alexandra Vintage as a vintage buyer. This means I'll be offering some of my vintage finds on her website alongside my Etsy shop.
Alexandra has her Alexandra Vintage HQ at Jacksons Corner, where I have my art studio with Jelly and that's how we met.
The website is and I've already added some stock to the accesories and jewellery sections. I also have a buyer profile, whichhas a bit more information:
Keep checking back on the AV website as I'll be adding more in the weeks and months to come.

This Sunday 23rd Aug you can find me at the Reading Vintage Fair, which is at the Purple Turtle on Gun street in Reading town centre. It's open 12-5 pm, and I have all sort of lovely things to offer, including £1 and £5 rummage boxes, bags books and accesories.

Their facebook page is here:

I also joined instagram and am really enjoying it. I post every day and my profile name is IsobelloVintage if you fancy taking a look!

Finally, heres a photo I took at CAST in Helston last time I was in Cornwall

There's light at the end of the tunnel....

Is it too cheesy to say this? Probably but meh, I'm going to anyway : )

(and, in case you're wondering the photo at the top is a picture of my great grandad from the family photo album. He seems to have that expression in most of the photos from throughout his life, must be his camera face...!)

Friday, 3 July 2015

Open for Art and Make Reading makers market

I'm excited to announce that I'll be having a stall at the Open for Art 2015 Make Reading makers market tomorrow at Jacksons Corner in Reading from 10-6!
Open for Art kicks off today, with all sorts of events, trails, guided walks and of course loads of great art in unexpected places!

You can find out more on the Jelly website here:

Hope to see you there : )

Saturday, 13 June 2015

Whiteknights Studio Trail 2015

Today I took some time out with my mum to explore the Whiteknights Studio Trail, which included the Fine art summer show at Reading Uni.
First stop was the Earley gate campus for the Fine Art show. We had a good wander round, and got lost a couple of times when we ended up in the Chemistry and Agricultural department looking at noticeboards about bees! Here are a couple of my favourite pieces, and a photo I took for my lights photo series in one of the buildings:

Fiona Jeffery 'Studio'

Window detail (not an artwork in the exhibition, just noticed by me!)

Joshua Bilton, detail from 'zuhause im Keller'

From there we went on to explore other parts of the trail (which included stumbling on a street party and stopping for some tea and cake!) Here are some interesting bits and pieces I noticed along the way......

Magical looking summerhouse in the garden of the Jewellery maker Cathy Newell Price.....

 ...who had these beautiful floor tiles outside her front door!

 Ornamental metalwork on the walls of Redlands School, where several of the artists were exhibiting.

Old signage on the brickwork of one of the houses near the school.

Colourful handmade Formica mini chest of drawers made by Kate and Anna, at Avebury Square (there are so many reasons why I want one of these!!)

Along with upholstery made from retro fabrics by Kate Powell, one half of Kate and Anna (and another Jelly member!)

I also bought this lovely book of photographs of the Newtown area of Reading prior to its redevelopement in the 70's, published by Two Rivers Press (which, incidentally came with a free Huntley and Palmers alphabetical biscuit win!)
I also picked up a couple of lovely hand bound sketchbooks from the talented printmaker artist and bookbinder, Sam Knight along with this pretty purple greetings card.
Oh, and of course, I grabbed a few business cards, and the Reading Uni fine art show booklet!

I'd really recommend the Whiteknights studio trail, as there's so much to see- we only saw a fraction of the artists on the map, and it was such an inspiring afternoon.
If you want to go though, you'd better get your skates on, as it's only open again tomorrow 11-6!

Here are the websites of the artists mentioned if you want to find out more-

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

New studio at Jelly....

 There's always something fun going on at Jelly!

Something exciting happened recently!

Last week I moved into my new space in a shared studio at Jelly Arts in Reading. It's in the old Jacksons Corner department store, which is such an iconic and intriguing building that it deserves a blog post all of its own (which I will do soon.....)

Its such a lovely space to spend time in because although its right in the centre of Reading, its like a little haven of calm and creativity, and theres always something interesting going on.
It's coming up to 3 years since I've had a proper studio space, and I'd gotten used to the following vague routine *spread out art stuff on bed, make some art. clear bed to go to sleep* so its really useful having a separate space to go to, and is good to mix with other artists again. I've already started doing a lino cut, which is something I've been wanting to do for ages, and am coming up with various new ideas for my work too.

I applied there fairly recently, so it was an unexpected surprise that things have happened so quickly! I didn't even know that there was a space available, and thought I was putting my name down for the waiting list. I did the application when I was feeling poorly, and  thought it would be better to be honest and just show what I've been doing recently and what I'm interested in right now (even though that's loads of different things!) rather than a kind of idealized version of what my practice was like 2 years ago, or a glossed over version of what I wish it was.
I got feedback that my application got picked partly because of the variety in my work, so I found that feedback really positive and am really looking forward to spending more time at Jelly.
You can find out more over on the Jelly website:

Here is a picture of my space...

and this was the first studio tunnock!

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Vintage ephemera collage packs





I'm excited to share a new little project I've been working on, which is these vintage ephemera collage packs!

I make handmade collage cards which I sell at art markets, and at Jam records in Falmouth and Howl coffee house in Penryn. People have been telling me that the cards have inspired them to start creating their own collages, so I decided to start putting together colour themed vintage ephemera packs. For me part of the fun of making the cards is finding and collecting the paper ephemera, so it's good to share this so that other people can get creative too!
You can find them in the collage kits + ephemera section at the Isobello Vintage Etsy shop:

I'll be adding more packs and paper ephemera soon, so do check back. At the moment I'm offering free shipping for all new customers, but only until the 10th June, so be quick!

Thursday, 30 April 2015

Fish and Fleece Kickstarter campaign

Over the past few weeks I have been busy working away at a new project, which I can now share with you because it's live on Kickstarter....(exciting times!)

 Chunky hand knitted wool scarves and illustrated fish brooches. Choose from fish, or fleece..or both!

 I would be very happy if you could take a look at my campaign and pledge for whatever you fancy if you can, or pass the link on to anyone you know who might be interested.
I have a range of rewards from £5 for a limited edition thankyou postcard, right up to £150 for a one off original fish illustration. Rewards include different sizes of scarves, and different combinations of fish brooches and scarves. You can also choose your scarf colour from my lovely list of wool colours. I'm aiming to have the scarves sent out by July, but the fish brooches should be ready much sooner than this.

To summarise what it's about, here is the first paragraph from my proposal!

 I've been busy building up a little vintage shop called Isobello Vintage over on Etsy where I sell British antiques, books and jewellery to people looking for curious gifts. I LOVE doing this...but consider myself first and foremost an artist, and miss making things!
At the moment I've been making bespoke hand knitted chunky wool scarves to commission, for people who like their knits to be made with patience and care right here in England. I love the tactile, calming process of knitting, and the fact that I'm engaging in a craft that's been around for thousand of years.
Alongside this, I've also been experimenting with creating illustrated jewellery by making these little fish brooches, for people who love quirky adornments for cardigans.....
So that's what we're going to focus on!

I'm hoping to raise enough funds to buy loads of wool to knit lots of new scarves for people ready for Autumn, and find people who like the idea of combining fish illustrations with jewellery! I really love knitting, and would like to use the Kickstarter campaign to find people to knit for and develop this side of my work.
The fish brooches have been really popular at art markets, and I would like to use this opportunity to see if I can get a few more out into the wider world, as well as develop the design and making process and packaging.

I've been designing new hand lettered packaging inspired by old fashioned fishmongers shops for the fish brooches.....

I'm envisioning the finished design can scanned in and shrunk down to scale, and be printed onto little cards. I can then pin the fish brooches to the space in the centre of the cards (which is inspired by tiles in fishmongers) and they're ready to go.

Hope you've enjoyed reading this blog post!