Buying things for my characters

I will admit to loving antiques and vintage things generally but when I’m writing about a particular character, I have an urge to find items they may have (or I could make them) use or own.

When I started writing my first abandoned novel, it was set in the 1880s and I bought this duo from the 1850s because I thought my characters would not be very up-to-date and, oh my gosh it is gorgeous!

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1850s Victorian Copper Lustre duo

Then, when I started writing my second abandoned novel, it was set in the 1920s and had a character who had recently married and I bought this trio because I thought it might be something she could have received for a wedding gift. Plus, gorgeous!

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Maruhon Ware hand painted trio

Now I’m writing a character who is living in the 1940s but she is not really a part of society or the world at that time. She is very much stuck in the past and very focused on only two things, neither of which were up-to-date household items. I realised when I went hunting for things she might use that they couldn’t be things of the 1940s or things that were mass produced.

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So much to search through!

I have two favourite antique shops, both very close to home. One is by appointment only but the other is open most of the weekend. Today when I went to the open one (Jem Antiques in Kelmscott) I found a few things I thought might suit my character:

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Rolling pin, fruit growers jar and lolly tin

Rolling pin

The tag on this says c1930s+ which means it is around the era I am writing but the thing that made me choose this rolling pin out of a bin of rolling pins is the handmade-ness of it.

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All the rolling pins! The enamel pots to the left were c1940s but I thought my character would have been very unlikely to have such on trend household items!

It is not one piece of wood. It has handles that are clearly homemade and attached using dowel probably. I think my character would have likely had a repaired rolling pin, not being someone who would buy a new one if the old one broke!

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Close up of the handle

Fruit growers jar

This is cheating a bit because this jar is from South Australia, but I just wrote a scene the other day where my character is making chutney from a glut of tomatoes and she would have had jars somewhat similar to this one. Plus, she lives on a market garden and is kind of a ‘fruit grower’ so it seemed to fit. And I just love a jar with ‘this is the property of’ messages on them.

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Perhaps you can see the ‘this bottle is the property of…’

Pascall Fruit Bonbons tin

This tin is from the 1940s, from Tasmania. There is another character in the novel who leaves WA and goes over east and I just imagine her buying these and sending them back. My character would then have sensibly used the tin to store something or other (just like someone already has, labelling it with ‘packets of stamps’). When I was looking at the tins there was one with an address label still attached and almost readable. I was very tempted to get that one too but managed to resist!

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Note the ‘packet of stamps’ written on the tin.

Perhaps it is just an excuse to have strange, old things in my house so that it sometimes seems a little like a museum (not surprising, given my past work as a curator!), but I do enjoy the way items like these get me thinking more about my characters and the kinds of things they would use or keep. I know many authors create mood boards or folders of things about characters. I guess I just buy antiques and vintage items instead!

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