Antique? Old? Reclaimed?
"If it doesn’t look new we’ll call it an antique”. That could certainly be true of shops and warehouses in India. Odd really because you’re not allowed to take antiques out of the country without a license. But if it’s “antique” it’s seen to be worth more. So what’s going on? It’s certainly the case that if you show interest in something it will be described as antique even though it plainly isn’t.
How old are these objects like the Lion Headed Man in our collection?
An antique is defined as being over 100 years old. We don’t sell Indian antiques. But some of these items are old. And some aren’t. Some are a mixture of old and new. Upcycling seems to be the modern word for reusing something old and neglected. Revaluing it, reappraising it, maybe cleaning it up and repairing some damage, maybe incorporating it in something newer that hopefully matches.
So you get the chance to enjoy something a second time round. This carved door lintel is a great example of up cycling. The old Ganesh statue in the middle has had a newly carved lintel built around it so once again it can sit over your doorway and bring good fortune to your house.
Is it wrong to take something old out of the country? Old can mean anything from 5 to 50 years or more. I don’t think so. There’s a legitimate trade in old things the original owner doesn’t want any more. Just like in the vintage shops in the UK. Sometimes we think it’s a pity that people in India want to build modern houses without all the old carvings (for example) that we loved in their old homes. But maybe that’s a rather patronising attitude.
And sometimes when they build a new house the lovely old carvings find their way to the “antique” trader down in the town. These beautiful wooden vessels were once used as water containers but as they get old they become less watertight and no longer "fit for purpose”! But they make wonderful decorative objects for us to appreciate – so they have a second life!
In parallel to that there’s a healthy trade in new carvings, which fetch a higher price, and usually look better, if they’re rubbed smooth and darkened to look older. And there’s a skill in making a new carved lintel around an older piece of carving that would be a bit lost on it’s own. I think we should encourage people using their skills as woodcarvers. These carved wooden mirrors are new but nonetheless no less delightful for being so.
In addition there are some pieces on our website that we’ve had for almost 40 years – and they were old when we bought them.
We have very few handmade items in our Western homes, a paradox because we love the handmade. Handmade times like these are individual, like us, I suspect that's why we like them. And when we handle them we do so in the knowledge that others have done so and we feel a connection with others. A universal connection of appreciation for the handmade.