We interviewed Ramsay Evans, 23, a vintage collector and enthusiast from London.
1. Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am a Surveyor working in London, originally from Worcestershire. I have a passion for classic cars, jazz and collecting & restoring old and unusual antique & vintage items.
2. How did you first get involved in buying retro and vintage items?
My mum has always been a collector, and we used to go to car boot sales regularly when I was growing up – so I guess that’s where it originally came from. Also, whenever we used to visit my grandparents in Stoke-on-Trent, Grandma would always give me £5, and there was an amazing old junk shop up the road from her that I always used to go to spend my money at. The best £5 purchase I ever made there was a c. 1960’s hanging chair made from cane which I’ve seen sell for up to £900!
3. What are your favourite items you have bought?
I guess the hanging chair is pretty special, but I like items with a real history. I managed to pick up the old cinema reel cabinet and projector-lens cabinet that used to be in my local art-deco cinema – they are old and rusty but beautiful and bring back memories of going to the cinema as a child. I also have the back end of a VW beetle hanging on my wall that I picked up at an agricultural auction for the grand total of £3. For my £3 I got the boot and parts of the rear wings with the lights still in. I’ve adapted and re-wired the lights so they plug in to the mains and give a soft red glow through the brake lights.
4. How would someone describe your style?
I’ve heard “Eclectic” and “Random” used before, and a lot of people don’t get it. I think the context in which the items sit enable people to distinguish between something of style and value and junk. Unfortunately I do not live in a warehouse loft apartment, and so the items don’t quite look at home in a pokey flat in Wimbledon. My ‘style’ runs deeper than furniture and collectables too, as I am well-known for driving around in unusual old cars and boats, which goes well with my passion for old interesting items.
5. Where do you search for these kind of items? Do you have a favourite place?
I have a favourite shop yes, I can’t say where it is because I don’t want everyone knowing about it, but it’s known locally as “Clive’s”, because it’s run by (yes you got it) Clive. It used to be a series of old sheds at the back of the market, with leaky roofs and furniture filling every nook and cranny, and Clive has been selling house clearance items there with his wife from there for donkey’s years. I’ve bought everything there from chairs, tools, mirrors and ladders my beautiful 1960’s Claud Butler racing bicycle and even a 1975 MG Midget which I still own and drive! Sadly Clive has had to downsize his premises recently as they have demolished and developed his old shop, but this means his shop is even fuller than ever!
6. If someone was interested in buying retro and vintage items how would you suggest they get involved?
As we all know, prices for vintage & retro items have rocketed recently. I never pay top prices for my items and ALWAYS barter prices down. Luckily, a lot of the stuff I like is the lower-end stuff that often needs a bit of work to bring it up to standard, so this often goes for a lot less money and dealers are often keen to see certain damaged or lumpy items gone! Sometimes a bit of elbow grease with a bit of wax or varnish saves you a lot of money! It’s important to discover a few lesser-known shops and dealers – you’re more likely to pick up a bargain by regularly going to house clearance / junk shops than by going to specialist vintage & retro shops & dealers. Make friends with the dealers – that’s important! Sometimes when I find something in Clive’s he’ll let me have it for nothing as he’s become a pal and he knows I’ll be back.
7. Do you have any designers or collectors you find inspirational?
I don’t really have any preferred designers – I like quirky stuff and I can’t really afford designer prices. I find some of the more well-known designers / manufacturers vastly over-rated. I’ve never been a huge fan of G-Plan, yet everyone else in the world appears to be!
8. How would you like to use your expertise in this area in the future?
At the moment I am renting, so until I’m on the property ladder it’s very hard to continue collecting. I have so many ideas about how to style my one-day house, but I am unable to realise any of them at the moment. I’d love a blank-canvas house – somewhere old and characterful in which to display what I’ve got, and then potentially sell a few bits off to fund some new purchases. Sadly I don’t think I could ever make a business or career out of my love for old and vintage items as I grow far too attached to things and could never sell them, but I’ll never be able to pass a junk shop without having a browse!