I could barely carry the four stone plates back to the car. They were back-breakingly heavy and, as I felt my arm muscles start to burn, I wondered how practical a choice they really were.
Made of solid, porous stone (possibly marble or limestone), they are completely unsuitable for most foods apart from perhaps bread or rice. They are clearly not dishwasher safe. They are too heavy for most shelves. But they look bloody gorgeous…and, as we know, that’s the main thing.
Rustic, weathered and worn – I fell for 19th Century stone plates from India long ago and have been on the look out for an affordable set. I’ve seen them online for £75 each, so I was chuffed to find them for just £10 each at an antiques fair.
‘That’s still quite pricey, when you consider you can’t really eat off them,’ said The Husband the next day, reaching for a ‘normal’ plate for his toast while I faffed about styling pomegranates on my stunning stone finds.
Little does he realise, this is just the beginning. From ancient teak chapatti boards to wooden dough bowls, sari printing blocks (for propping on the mantelpiece or printing homemade wrapping paper) and chai tea trays, my obsession with south-east Asian vintage finds is in full swing.
I’m not alone. Dealers tell me that thanks to the current vogue for pared-back rustic kitchenalia with authentic, beautiful patinas, vintage items shipped in from this corner of the globe sell like hot cakes. Or hot chapattis.
Charlie Gladstone, who runs online vintage emporium Pedlars and sniffs out reclaimed items around the world has recently started to import vintage stock from India. ‘Shipping is costly, so you have to work out your margins quite carefully,’ he tells me. ‘I brought a container over and filled it with industrial spools from a factory in Jaipur (available for £4.50 each) and colourful Indian storage crates (£20 each) which are proving really popular.’
‘Reclaimed chapatti boards always fly off the shelves’, says Andrew Jones, who runs a vintage shop called Hen and Hammock. ‘That’s why they’re so often ‘out of stock’ on our website! This revival ties into the trend for artisanal food – wood-fired pizzas and craft coffee – and an increasing desire for homewares with history that are handmade and not manufactured by some anonymous factory.’
Petersham Nurseries in Richmond, London, is a good place to see the south-east Asian vintage revival in action. It’s pricey (wooden dough bowls are £55) but very pretty, with a boho-chic greenhouse restaurant filled with antique ‘Rama’ paintings, woven ‘tattie’ blinds and antique Indian treasures, thanks to Managing Director Lara Boglione’s time spent in India and her contacts there.
Soon after purchasing my stone plates at an antiques fair, I was delighted to spot the very same plates on sale at Petersham – for £45 each. More than four times what I paid. Hah