A challenge to collect, document and appreciate the items you love most…
I’ve been mulling over this project for a while and I think, with issue one of Pretty Nostalgic magazine well underway, now is a jolly good time to make it happen…
The seed was planted a good five years ago, when chatting to my friend Caroline. We were talking about those items you collect over the years but you love too much to actually use. They’re the things you put to one side for… when you move into your own place, when you get married, when you own your own house, when you have a child etc
My husband and I used to call them “twigs” – the bits and pieces that one day we’d line our nest with. They’re the kitchen things you keep under the bed because they’re too special to be used in a shared house; fabric that’s too delicate to be cut up and turned into something else; random bits and pieces you want to re-use but you worry you don’t have the skills; the trinkets you collect when travelling and that casual shell collecting habit you’ve gone and got yourself into.
Caroline called it her “bottom drawer” – a phrase that originates in the 19th century, and refers to a woman keeping linen and silverware in preparation for her marriage.
Well, the the aim of The Bottom Drawer Project is to gather all of these wonderful things you’ve collected over the years together, document them and appreciate the stories behind them. Then maybe, if you’re ready, actually start using them.
What to do
- Pull out a drawer.
- Gather together the items that mean the most to you (please don’t drop them while doing this!) and arrange them in the drawer.
- Photograph it – ideally, we’d like at least one photo that shows the whole drawer, and then lots of lovely close ups.
- Send in your photos, along with the stories behind each item (by 16 March please).
We’ll then share the very best Bottom Drawer photos in issue one of Pretty Nostalgic, on sale 1 May. And we’ll even send you a surprise trinket to add to your collection if we feature you in the magazine.
To get the ball rolling, here’s mine – photographed this afternoon – along with the stories that make each item special to me. I hope you have as much fun making yours as it I have just had doing mine…
My Bottom Drawer
- Kimono: My brother lived near Tokyo for a while, teaching English. I went to visit him a couple of years ago and, after catching up with him, I jumped on a train and went exploring on my own for two weeks. There isn’t, as far as I can tell, a flourishing vintage scene in Japan – it’s hard to find anything that’s not brand new. I did, however, manage to track down the Toji Temple Flea Market in Kyoto, held on the 21st of each month. I can still remember how fast my heart beat when I saw piles of old kimonos for sale for around £5 each – some stained or torn, but nevertheless, beautiful beyond words. I spent hours rummaging through the stalls. Then twice as much time trying to figure out how to ship everything home. This Kimono reminds me of how confident I felt travelling alone.
- Thing 1 & Thing 2: When my husband proposed to me, he didn’t use a ring like normal boys. He got down on one knee and presented me with a shoebox. Inside were these two beautifully handmade creatures. He said I was to keep them safe until we’re ready to pass them on to our future children. For now, they’re mine.
- A photo of my grandparents: I never met my mum’s mother, but by all accounts she was a warm and loving lady and, apparently, looks a little like me. At the moment, the photo nests amid the chaotic pile of vintage cameras my grandad left us when he passed away. I really should frame it.
- A pair of enamel door knobs: A wedding present from my friend Scott. I love them, but I’m not sure how best to use them. Maybe I should put them on this drawer?
- Shells: I love collecting shells, pebbles and fossils and remembering where I found each one. I have a I cheated slightly with this pile, as I found them this weekend next to an honesty box in Mousehole. But who can resist a bright pink starfish?
- Alice in Wonderland: One of my all time favourite stories. This copy came from a secondhand bookshop in Bristol. After much deliberation, I cut out the middle and our best man presented our wedding rings to us from it.
- Vintage lace: I love collecting it, but I don’t always know what to do with it. Last year, I halved my collection of antique lace and tweed scraps, and asked the Handmade Corset Company to use them to make me a bespoke wedding corset.
- Sari: I lived in Bangalore in India for a while, working for a small newspaper, and I used to spend a lot of time drooling at sari shop windows. Just before I left, I bit the bullet and bought this gorgeous gold embroidered wedding sari. You should have seen the shop assistant’s face when I mentioned I might cut it up to make a bedspread. Seven years later and it’s still in the bottom drawer. One day I’m going to learn how to re-upholster furniture and turn this into a chaise longue. Or, with 9m of it, a whole room full of chairs.
- Vintage cameras: This one was kindly bought for us as a wedding present and I love the shape of it. I’m ashamed to say, I’m better at collecting old cameras than I am at taking photos with them, but all that is going to change…
- Broken watch parts: Another thing I collect without knowing why. Strangely, my grandad used to do this too, although somewhat more obsessively. He used to buy watches and then take them apart and put them back together again. I just snap up broken parts whenever I see them at flea markets. I fancy making some kind of steampunk accessories out of them one day.