Thursday, 13 January 2011

Salvage and destruction

You know how annoying it is when someone buys a vintage dress and cuts the bottom off because 'it's too long'? That's how I feel when people cut up vintage magazines and books. I should be upfront and say this post was inspired by Fleur de Guerre's recent post about her new diary but this is not a criticism of her or people who like the diaries, just me waffling on about my urge to preserve (and possibly showing how OCD I am about printed material!). The diary is a pretty thing and I went to the page selling them… and nearly fell off my chair when I realised that they were made by chopping up period film books! I have about a dozen pre-1970s film books, mostly 1940s and 1950s, and I treasure them. They're increasingly hard to find nowadays. I simply don't get the point of cutting up something that's genuinely vintage to make something with a vintage look, unless the original item is damaged to the point where it's no longer fit for the original purpose. I know it's hardly ripping the Elgin Marbles off the Parthenon, but to me it's the equivalent of cutting up a pair of usable deco fabric curtains or a wearable Horrockses dress to make appliqués.

Which leads on to another thought: is the popularity of vintage likely to result in a 'vintage' that has nothing to do with genuine things from the 20th century? I see a lot of shops' ranges regularly for work, and many have 'vintage' items that bear little or no resemblance to anything that existed in the first half of the 20th century. Sometimes they've simply slapped big roses over everything, sometimes it's a bit of lace. It's reaching the point where someone could furnish an entire house in this 'vintage' without it containing anything, or looking like any home, from between 1920-1960. I'm quite rigid; to me if a thing is the real, historical artefact it's vintage, if it's an actual copy of a vintage item or a vintage-style item clearly done by someone who knows what they're doing to create an accurate-looking item it's reproduction, and the rest is modern, no matter how many roses spatter the surface.

Is the popularity of 'vintage' leading to the destruction of the genuine article? Does it actually matter?

(I now have the urge to go on a book-buying rampage to save more papery treasures!)

4 comments :

  1. I would say that it could be that they are made from badly damaged old books. There is a shop in Oxford called Arcadia that does similar things but they also sell antique books. They only ever use books that are damaged beyond repair to make pictures etc from.

    Having said that if it is the case that they are being made from perfectly good books then the booklover in me rises up in horror too. I can't stand it when people bend covers back or turn the corner of pages over let alone pull a book to pieces.

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  2. Yes, I've decided I'm going to really hope they're made from damaged books. I guess I'm always a little sceptical of upcycling, it always seems to be someone turning something I'd love into something else!

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  3. I didn't realise they were made from vintage books. How sad.

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  4. Hello, Thankyou for visiting my blog. I completely agree with your post. Its a shame people are ripping up old books. I love books and would never pull one to pieces to make something else. I cant believe anyone would cut up vintage clothes??? I think people are using the word 'Vintage' far too much these days, just before Xmas I bought some 'kitsch' decorations online. They were offered as 'Genuine Vintage' and when they arrived they were in a sealed bag with 'Made in China' on the back. I reckon they were manufactured the week before I bought them X

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