Vintage Finds

One of my obsessions since starting this whole food styling and photography gig has been finding unique table and cookware to use as props. If I were a professional prop stylist, I could “borrow” from stores for shoots and give them credit…but since I’m shooting for my blogs rather than a professional magazine or catalog at this point, that’s not an option. And, since I’m not really making money at this point, I try to do what I can on the cheap. Sales at Crate & Barrel, Sur La Table and Pottery Barn have given me some fantastic pieces for very little cash. Cost Plus and IKEA area also great places for bargain tableware and furnishings. But, what I really love in shots are things that have an authentic history to them… something that really makes them unique and not just everyday. These finds are the ones that I get truly excited about. Like the little 1912 glass Welch’s bottle above. I found it in a little antique store on a trip to Hood Canal with my daughter. It only cost $2, and the glass has a gorgeous purple tinge to it, which works really well in natural light.

About a week ago I was in Chicago and happened upon a little store right around the corner from our hotel that was my dream prop store. It’s called POSH, and it’s packed with all kinds of vintage and vintage inspired tableware. Some things picked up from yard sales and thrift stores, some rescued from old restaurant supply stores basements, all fascinating with their history. Prices are incredibly reasonable as well, so I picked up a few new pieces to add to my ever expanding prop drawer. (BTW – they do have an online store!)

My first find was a whole basket full of 1920s dinnerware. There were tiny saucers for butter, boats for sauces and little pitchers for cream. Among the bunch was this tall pitcher, still only about 3 inches tall. It was the only one of that size and shape and had clearly been through a bit of stress… but that only added to its charm for me.

But, my favorite have to be these two little vintage ice cream dishes. They had four different varieties all made from the same thick clear glass, all of which conjured up images of sitting at an old soda fountain and feasting on a sundae. I just used this dish for my melon sherbet recipe on Cookbook 411, and love the result.

I also picked up one of these Delicious Donuts Daily mugs, although it’s not actually vintage.

I have yet to find a POSH equivalent in Seattle, but I’m definitely on the look out. However, yard sales and book stores here have yielded excellent results as well.

At Bailey-Coy books on Capital Hill in Seattle I picked up this beautifully bound copy of Gourmet Magazine’s cookbook from 1954. Its full of very vintage (and sometimes frightening!) recipes and photos, and is a kick just to look through. But, it also makes a great background prop with it’s rich burgundy color.

Finally, my favorite story of all… my husband was out on a 10 mile run and passed by a yard sale where he caught a glimpse of a cast iron pan. He noted it, and while running back home, stopped in and bought it for me for $3… but he still had about 3 miles to go before he got home and cast iron isn’t exactly light or easy to run with. He stashed it behind a bush on the way back home and we drove and picked it up later. He hadn’t taken a good look at it when he bought it, but it turned out to be a Statue of Liberty cast iron corn bread pan! How cool is that? I’m betting no one else has one of these in their prop box.

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  • Jennifer

    I love the story of the bread pan stashed behind a bush! You’ve got a great man there.

    These photos make me want to scrap my plans for tomorrow and do a thrift store crawl instead.

  • Lisa

    That is indeed a very cool cornbread tin. I like to collect antique hotel silver flatware–it’s fun looking at the names from all over the world and gives me a sense of having virtually travelled to these places. Plus its very photogenic.

  • Lucy Vanel

    I love the plums in the background of your picher. You really know how to create atmosphere with just a small gesture. Beautiful.

  • Helen

    I love the story of the pan! It sure looks a great pan and I don’t think many people would have pans with that impression in them!

  • gilly

    Those are some wonderful finds – I particularly enjoyed reading your husband’s adventures! Vintage items communicate such a strong sense of history and past in photos – it’s like each piece has a story to tell.

  • Kieran

    Well done! Props are so important, even for a novice like me. It’s really a trick to find them…

  • lucette

    I especially like estate sales and auctions, where along with potentially great stuff, you get the sense of a person’s whole life, like reading a novel.
    The ice cream dishes remind me of the Dairy Dell, a loved ice cream place of my childhood.

  • Erielle

    Thanks for the tip about POSH. Next time I am downtown I am going to try to go there. I’m excited!

  • s’kat

    I don’t really have any worthwhile thrift stores OR yard sales in my neck o’ the woods, so I rely heavily on TJ Maxx and the like.

    What a cool husband!

  • crystal

    I’m so excited I found your blog! So far I absolutely love everything I’ve read. I also joined your flickr group and am getting ready to join in on the monthly picture taking. :)

    thanks so much!


  • Jyotsna

    I have found some amazing things in the old city markets and am waiting to use themwhen I start photographing food for my book. Your blog has been has been a great find too.You are now on my front page. Thanks for all the tips on styling and all the gorgeous photos.