I have a confession to make: I hoard things, mostly very small things that I’ve found in junk shops or on the beach. I have a tiny antique key compulsion (ones with twiddly bits and curlicues are the most alluring) and don’t even get me started on the seaglass. A newish one for me is late nineteenth/early twentieth century handmade mother of pearl buttons from baby or dolls’ clothes. If they have carved patterns then I’m finished. There may well be a twelve step programme for this.
I do have an excuse though. As a jewellery designer stashes of shiny-ish things are allowed. Plus they don’t take up (much) space and some days I can pretend to be a pirate (who has just sacked a galleon for its cargo of teeny weeny buttons). The precious things are all very well squirrelled away in little bags and boxes, but being able to look at them is infinitely better.
A week or two ago I laid out my treasure. Each tiny item is the result of scouring car boot sales and trawling through junk shops, piles of beach pebbles or (hyperventilating slightly here) gem shows. I love guessing at the previous lives of my little antique objects. I think that the skeleton keys may have been used to open nineteenth century writing slopes, tea caddies or jewellery boxes. Some of the carved buttons are miniscule and a small amount of research showed that they were highly prized (as they are now) and were used only for the most exquisite handmade baby and dolls’ clothes. My smallish stash of 1920s freshwater pearls came from a very badly broken but obviously well-loved necklace that I stumbled on in an antique shop. It was beyond repair but I knew I could make the pearls wearable again. My table was covered in little items – it reminded me of a Victorian collection – like the contents of a very small cabinet of curiosities.
I liked the idea of a a series of wearable small collections – groups of carefully chosen tiny items most of whom have had at least one former life, in some cases over 100 years ago. I set to work to cluster the treasures together into the makings of necklaces. It was a soothing, satisfying process. The first pieces from my Small Collections range are now in my Etsy shop. They echo the most precious contents of Granny’s button tin and the small treasures you may have hidden away in a box as a child.