Etsy – it’s not all about the pots and pans

As we didn’t purchase our gite until the beginning of June, we were here for over six months until our attention turned to its readiness for guests. For a large part of that time France was largely locked down, so whilst our focus then was on our new Etsy shop, sourcing stock was made more difficult for obvious reasons… very little was open! Very few flea markets were happening plus shops and brocantes were rarely available. As the months went by more and more was opening up and those fantastically French vide greniers and vide maisons were soon calling. But, stock was indeed purchased in those early months and by the middle of February French Curios Cave was open. For the last three months the choice and opportunity has been everywhere, and stock I purchased six months ago I wouldn’t buy now. But that’s all about the learning. Of the many joys I have from running an Etsy shop perhaps the best is the learning process; about how to build a successful shop, but even more discovering the detail and history of the stock I am selling. In the UK mechanical watches and travel cases and trunks were my thing. In France confit pots and copper pans are my new passion.

My teenage years coincided with the early 80s, an era that I have always thought was culturally lacking. As a 16-year old and first able to buy things for myself I always looked to the past for my music, my clothes and for any accompanying accessories and furnishings. Stylistically and sartorially I loved the 1950s and 60s. Things just looked cool. Wham and Duran Duran did nothing for me but Simon & Garfunkel and The Beatles most definitely did. I’ve always loved antique shops, second-hand clothes shops, charity shops and auctions. High street fast fashion and the ‘pile it high and sell it cheap’ policy for retailers has never been my thing. Unique, rare, characterful and well made things have always taken my eye, and whilst quality usually comes at a price, that price is often not just affordable but cheaper than you’ll find on the high street if you know where to look. Finding a rare gem at a bargain price has always been a buzz for me, and now we’re here in France nothing has changed.

The history of café culture in France has been of interest to me ever since Paul Weller embraced French café cool with The Style Council. Many of my first Etsy purchases were glass and drinkware, Ricard carafes and Pernod pitchers. I thought what would British (I soon learned that most of my customers would be from the USA) customers want from France that they can’t get in the UK? French café cool stuff! I wasn’t wrong, but a shop with no variety wasn’t what I had in mind. Plus, there’s little money to be made in a carafe, and soon my attention was drawn to enamelware, and more recently stoneware and copperware. I am certain my knowledge and taste will continue to expand, but at the moment I’m a sucker for a gently rusty enamel water pitcher, a beautifully scarred confit pot or a piece of antique copper cookware. Often, a little or even sometimes a lot of rust or patina enhances the look of a vintage or antique item, and that certainly goes for mid-century French enamelware. Coffee and teapots, pitchers and jugs, casseroles and bain maries, pails, pots and irrigators… not only do they look great and can be used for their original purpose, but they offer a multitude of inventive options for storage or display; indoor or outdoor planters being the most obvious.

A small selection of our enamelware for sale on Etsy

I love items that show scars through decades of abundant use, items that have lived a full life and look the better for it. I also love handmade and unique pieces, one-offs so you’ll never see another one the same. Confit pots, with their chips, drips and imperfections tick all of those boxes perfectly. For centuries, beautifully glazed jars, jugs, pots and bowls were used to preserve everything from oils and jams, to duck and geese. They were used to collect milk for making cream and cheese as well as for rinsing, washing and serving water and wine in the fields or the home. Confit is a classic French recipe where pieces of duck are slowly cooked for hours in its own fat until tender. ‘Confire’ in French means to preserve, and cooks would typically bury the pot in the ground with the top covered. The cool earth would help preserve the meat until it was used. This method of cooking and preserving has been around for centuries… so originally there was little opportunity to stick it in the fridge or freezer!

Here’s some of our unique French stoneware for sale on Etsy

French copper pans have also been around for centuries and such is their reputation in the culinary world, those in usable condition have become highly desirable items. Initially the appeal to me was through their decades of use, their look and feel and the quality of design and workmanship. Copper pans distribute heat quickly and evenly, and lose it quickly too; qualities that appeal to skilled chefs. I am no expert, but again, I am learning. As with stoneware, there’s a huge range of vintage and antique copperware that not only looks fantastic, but also serves many uses beyond the original purpose. Planters, pails, pots and pans plus all manner of kitchen and homeware is available on our shopping expeditions. Regularly we are faced with the question when we return home… shall we leave the item as is, or shall we bring out the copper polish? We make a judgement call on each item, as some look better clean and shiny whilst others look more desirable showing their scars and imperfections gained through usage.

A selection of our Etsy copperware…

As the months and years progress I’m looking forward to my knowledge expanding. I hope to become more familiar with rare curios and other French collectables that at the moment catch my eye, but a lack of knowledge stops me from reaching into my wallet. Etsy, as with any shop is not just about the stock. Presentation is vital, and we are blessed with a beautiful terrace as our studio for photography. Perhaps most important of all is being able to offer a consistently high level of customer service. Decades spent in all types of retail has taught me all I need to know, so there’s little learning needed beyond getting to grips with the unreliability of the La Poste website and the endless stream of customs forms, paperwork and admin. Etsy has just launched a ‘Star Seller’ feature, given to shops that ‘set a shining example for providing a great customer experience, with a history of 5-star reviews, on-time dispatch, and quick replies.’ I must be doing okay as French Curios Cave is displaying the Star Seller badge with a touch of pride. If you’ve not visited our Etsy shop yet which beyond the enamel, copper and stoneware is full of vintage and antique French curios and collectables, please come on in, make yourselves at home, take a look around…

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