Having worked full time for many years in the NHS and for a local charity, Simon and Ghyslaine are now focussing on their interest in antiques. They have Cabinet No. 11 at Warehouse Antiques, which they keep filled with an eclectic mix of objects. These range from antique silver and ceramics, to collectable corkscrews and pocket-watches, but also include quirky decorative pieces, such as crystal set headphones and vintage hand-carved gourds from South America.
Simon’s main interest is in watches and ephemera, with the emphasis on the military aspect. This includes things like silk maps of the Cold War, as well as an array of documentation including canteen chits and train tickets issued to Allied military personnel, and a 1940s photo album of British military personnel. Simon is also keen on mechanical objects, vintage toys and books. “At any one time,” he says, “our ‘cabinet of curiosities’ might include items as diverse as a clockwork brass roasting mechanism that would have hung beside a Victorian kitchen fire, an antique volume of Milton’s poems and an Edwardian set of Snakes & Ladders.”
Ghyslaine’s interests include ceramics, vintage linen and costume jewellery. Her taste includes the delicate, clean lines of Rosenthal bisque, but she also loves finding out-of-the-ordinary articles, like a large lustre planter in the shape of a frog. “Our passion for antiques and vintage artefacts is really to do with the history of the items themselves. We like to imagine who’s used them; how they’ve been part of someone else’s life. We also appreciate the workmanship and love that’s often gone into making even quite ordinary items.” To illustrate this, she went on to explain that on one occasion, in amongst a box of antique and vintage toys that Simon had bought, they found a whole collection of 1930s items that had obviously been made for a needlework exam. It still had the paper labels with the name and number of the candidate sewn onto some of the pieces. The collection included handmade buttons and examples of stitching and mending, together with numerous pieces to fit a small child. All the clothes were beautifully hand-stitched, with embroidery and exquisite applique that had obviously been designed by the young seamstress. So far, these have not appeared in the cabinet. “Sometimes,” Ghyslaine says, “it feels more important to be a custodian of things that shouldn’t be lost or split up, rather than hard-headed business-people.”
To balance the demands of the job, Simon volunteers at Hospital Radio Lynn and works as an extra on film and TV programmes. Ghyslaine was part of the local Soroptimists for a number of years and currently helps out at a Norfolk auction house one day a week to widen her knowledge of antiques and collectables in general. Their combined interests include writing, cinema and art. The latter has led to a number of purchases which reflect the interests mentioned above and a few pieces are displayed for sale around the building.
Their favourite period is Art Nouveau, together with the Arts & Crafts and Aesthetic Movements which preceded it. They source items from this era with an eye for quality that the discerning collector would appreciate. However, anyone looking for that special gift or just browsing for a holiday souvenir need not despair. Amongst the many items on display in Cabinet No. 11 will be something to suit every purse and pocket. Ghyslaine & Simon restock the cabinet on a weekly basis, so do stop and say hello if you see us while you’re visiting!