Warwickshire China - Chinasearch & My Vintage Party
PUBLISHED: 17:07 23 March 2010 | UPDATED: 16:56 20 February 2013
Vintage has been the big fashion story over the past year but in the world of china it's always big news. We visit two Warwickshire companies who are in the business of china.
Even in these fast-moving times there is a place for fine china. It still tops most couples wedding lists. Afternoon tea wouldnt be the same without it. And from the stateliest banquet to dinner a deux there is simply no replacement.
China is not for sitting in a cupboard gathering dust, it should be used every day, says David Ward, who , last September, bought Kenilworth-based Chinasearch, Europes biggest china matching and replacement service.
China has been part of Davids life for over 25 years. He was a director of china giants Royal Worcester and Spode, and with his extensive knowledge of the industry was ideally placed to take on his new role. David nods to the warehouse aisles choc-a-bloc with Wedgewood, Minton and many more; in fact, over 200 manufacturers and more than 6,000 patterns can be found amongst its stock of half-a-million pieces of dainty breakables. With many discontinued lines and unique items chances are whether youre looking to replace a delicate cup from your grandmothers tea service or want to augment your Marks & Spencer dinner set, Chinasearch will have what youre seeking; and if its not on the shelves, the knowledgeable staff will do their best to track it down.
The business was started 22 years ago from the kitchen table of friends Helen Rush and Jacquie Wigley who shared a passion for porcelain and antiques. Its a one-stop-shop for ceramics. You can buy replacement, discontinued and second-hand items and now also new lines including from manufacturers Portmeirion, Spode and Royal Doulton.
A self-confessed china addict, where it was once just a job David admits china got into his blood. It is something that you become passionate about and it is just a beautiful product to work with.
Sourcing products from international collectibles fairs and auctions, David can spot the major manufacturers in a sea of china and also draws on the wealth of knowledge from his team of local in-house experts. His wife Sue, a botanical artist, is adding her artistic eye to the family business and David hopes each of his four children will follow suit eventually.
The UK china manufacturing industry has suffered major changes and downturn in recent years, not least the recent closure of the world-renowned Royal Worcester porcelain factory, but by contrast the products retain a timeless quality with vintage items experiencing a revival in popularity.
You might inherit china from elderly relatives, which you dont want and we buy it off you because other people do want it. Weve got customers going back 20 years who still come to us and are upgrading and adding more pieces to their sets or if they get fed up with it even buy a new one, says David.
While much of Chinasearchs business is conducted via the internet or phone, customers are welcome to trawl the aisles of the vast warehouse and clearance shop.
What goes around comes around when it comes to china fashions says David. Typically the older designs might have been quite floral and decorative and then weve then been through the era of the narrow band designs. My personal favourite is the blue on white Blue Colonel bone china set from Spode and is what we use at home. But I also like very many other patterns. I just love china; you have to pick it up and feel it, its very tactile. At the moment there is a great demand for vintage floral china again, which is proving really popular.
Spotting this resurgence in popularity of vintage china, fledgling Warwickshire businesswoman Laura Dew set up her business My Vintage Party in July 2009, hiring out vintage crockery for afternoon tea parties, weddings, birthdays and even funeral wakes.
I came up with the idea when planning my own wedding last February, says the entrepreneurial 25-year-old. We had a vintage-type theme running through the wedding day, so I was looking to hire bird cages and vintage cake stands and at the time couldnt find anyone who offered such a service.
Ive never been a modern girl and into the latest home fashions; Ive always loved anything old and liked going through my grandparents home admiring their little treasures and thats where this vintage idea stemmed from.
Trawling local auctions, charity shops, car boot sales and the internet, Laura has built up enough floral vintage crockery to cater for a quintessential afternoon tea party for up to 200 and insists on only using pieces manufactured in England. She also sells her homemade vintage cake stands and tea cup candles online, while she and her husband re-furbished a quaint bijou 1960s Thompson caravan in kind of Cath Kidston shabby chic, which is available for hire for parties, photo shoots or media events.
The recession has definitely helped the popularity of vintage china with people being thriftier and picking up tea sets from charity shops, and there is a lot in the press at the moment inspiring people to go down the vintage tea party route, says Laura. I love afternoon tea, you cant beat it. We are all in such a rush usually that sitting down for tea and cake makes a nice treat and a change from the norm.
Having recently joined forces with Leamington Spa-based The Urban Bakery, a boutique bakery cooking up dainty cupcakes and cookies Laura says: We can offer the people of Warwickshire the complete traditional afternoon tea. Well be Warwickshires finest tea ladies, if you like!
My Vintage Party can be contacted on 02476 365303 or 07941 416086; www.myvintageparty.co.uk
Chinasearch can be contacted
on 01926 512402; www.chinasearch.co.uk