About Me


Antique orange velvet Wilfred Rabbit 1920s
'Real isn't how you are made,' said the Skin Horse. 'It's a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.'

'Does it hurt?' asked the Rabbit.

'Sometimes,' said the Skin Horse, for he was always truthful. 'When you are Real you don't mind being hurt.'

'Does it happen all at once, like being wound up,' he asked, 'or bit by bit?'

'It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand.'

― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

I was born and grew up in Northern California. The diversity of cultures and proximity to both the sea and the mountains inspired me to think creatively. I first began buying and selling items at flea markets in the 60s and 70s because I liked being there. The spare cash I raised came in handy to buy records and pay my way to rock concerts which teenagers spent most weekends attending. Remember, there was no internet! Music was a great passion. And clothes, and books, always books.

a book from my collection of folklore tales
I did not really have a career, I worked at varied jobs to pay for my mercurial wardrobe and fondness for collecting. In the mid 70s my family moved to San Francisco where we owned a small gift shop which sold cards, antique jewellery and hand made items. As the 70s faded away my love of ancient things and my will to wander brought me to England where I had always wanted to live. I explored Europe and began to see the real lands from which the folklore I had carefully gathered all of my life had come.

Fellow blogger and dear friend Cait O'Connor and I shared
our love of this image, alas we could not credit it.
Should anyone know please comment.
Whatever work that I have done to earn a living always in the background I have continued to buy and sell bits and pieces of the past. I have not enjoyed good health and when persistent illness made me retire from the day job I discovered that I could make a far more enjoyable living doing what I loved best - finding lost and forgotten items and telling their story.  Ancient doors long shut, open and take you to places you could never have guessed possible. 

Ancient door, Wells Cathedral
I believe that items, like houses, can absorb and reflect the people and times, long gone, which they have known. Ordinary objects can become imbued with the power of who has owned them. In our time almost any item can become valuable. The everyday takes on extraordinary proportions when time sprinkles a layer of dust over it. Inanimate objects can have incredible power to move and to enchant us. It's this quality which draws me to old things, people, animals and places. For me history is never dead, it is always open for those who seek to time travel.

Alice's in Portobello Road Market
Becoming real does take time. The patina of age. Scratches and teeth marks left by a beloved pet. The many hands that painted china when new, and chipped and cracked it when old. Fabric worn smooth from the love of a child who cuddled it, now long grown and gone.

Faded and forgotten things which reflect the imperfections and uncertainty of life.

Antiques, or vintage items as they are popularly known now, are full of secrets and surprises. I love the chase to find them and research and coax their story out of them. Some are shy and gentle, slow to wake from their long sleep. Others shout their stories and demand their rightful places. I am a time traveller conveyed by the items which pass through my hands.

a haunting visage
Georgian Minature, Lady unknown
There is a bittersweet side to what I do. Items which come to me are meant for someone else. Dealers are matchmakers, we pair objects to people, it is all a part of their story which goes on and on. We must trust that fate might be kind to the items which pass through us, and let them live a little longer. However much time I spend with them, burning the midnight oil to research and repair, I must finally let them go. Sometimes this is very hard to do, and very occasionally I realise that the person which the item is intended for is me. There are few dealers who do not have collections themselves, and most will have a story to tell of the thing that touched them most which they homed elsewhere. (Or those which got away altogether because we ignored our inner instinct and the tiny voice which called to us from the cardboard box, the back of the shelf or the bottom of the bag. But this is another story for some other day).

The pillbox, so like our Munchkin destined for elsewhere, still with us.

The best moments, which make the work worthwhile, are those in which an item you rescued from obscurity and made shiny again by repair or presentation has either been returned to those who first lost it or found a new loving home. Best of all are the 'coming home' stories.

The beloved family cat Moushkin, painted by Lady Marion Rootes and lost in a house sale. Until I found her.
Often things come to you when you need them most. I have found a few items which turned out to be worth a fair bit and thus allowed me to continue the pursuit. For me my job is not about money. Probably my favourite item of all is a small pastel of a pretty cat which I think found me because she wanted to go home. You can read her story Here:

'Once you are real you can't become unreal again. It lasts for always.'
― Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

One of my favourite television productions is 'Shooting the Past' by Stephen Poliakoff, produced by TalkBack Productions for BBC Two and first shown in 1999. It captured the way that I feel about the past and how it can change our lives today in unexpected and incredibly surprising ways.

From Wikipedia "Shooting the Past delves into a world quite separate from modern life, and demonstrates that the preservation of the past, in order to tell the extraordinary stories of the lives of ordinary people, can be astonishingly powerful and revealing."

Wikipedia Page for Shooting The Past

Mrs Black the shoppe keeping cat

Collections sometimes just happen, I'm not certain they can really be planned. Things come to you when they are supposed to. I've always had a collection of cats, they find us and I rehome them, or as is the way of cats, they remain here with me. We named our business after Mrs Black our brave, loyal and loving feral cat.

You can read her story here:  Mrs Black


10 comments:

  1. It has been a joy to read the story of your life! It is a tale of courage!
    Celeste xx

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  2. Celeste, Thank you so much for your kind words, they mean a lot to me. x

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  3. LeeAnn,
    I enjoyed reading this so very much! I had no idea that you had a blog but what a wonderful one, indeed!! Your story here was fascinating and I learned even more about you!! I am thrilled to have found your site! :)
    Sharon xxx

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    1. Sharon, Thank you! Lovely to see you here. x

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  4. Thank you for sharing this LeeAnn, I enjoyed reading about your past very much. Just wondering about the location of the old wooden door you attached.
    Much love, Paul xx

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    1. Hey Paul, Thank you for taking the time to come here, read and to comment! It is rare that I get friends here, and especially men. The door is from Wells Cathedral, it is so beautiful isn't it?

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  5. Hi LeeAnn. I just found your blog after seeing your comment on Philip Wilkinson's English Buildings blog. I'm so chuffed that I did as I find it really inspiring and have spent a happy Christmas Eve morning reading it...instead of doing the huge amount of jobs that I'd intended to!

    Hope you have a really fab Christmas,
    Eileen Wright. :)

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    1. Eileen, Thank you for visiting here, and what a kind thing to say! I hope that you also had a nice Christmas.

      I love reading Philip Wilkinson's blog, very happy that you located me from there.

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  6. Dear Lee Ann,you sound like a woman after my own heart. Oh for the 60s and 70s! I share so much with you re the past.This was a lovely blog and site to discover,I hope to visit your shop one day! Thank you x

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  7. Dear Antonia, Thank you so much for visiting and for the kind comments. I have followed you on google+, let me know if you are going to visit the shop. best regards x

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