Impact Arts recently interviewed Abi Whittaker, retail assistant at the legendary Hopkinson Vintage, Antiques and Arts Centre to find out all about the wonderful and wacky world of working in such a unique place.

Why do you enjoy working here? 

“I’ve always been attracted to old things, I think most people in the shop have. A lot of us have got arts degrees, so if you’re doing freelance work for example, it’s nice to come here and just be around stuff you love – it’s very inspiring. I’ve got a degree from Nottingham Trent University in Design for Film and Television. So I’ve come to Hopkinson after going to Leeds, London and Liverpool working on productions.

“It’s nice here, because it’s like working on a props stall, which is an environment I’m used to! Working in film you have to move all over the place, but working at Hopkinson and living in Notts is a great base to dip back into Film. We actually do get a lot of film crews in the shop – if you’re doing a period drama you’ve got to have the right props for the time. There’s so much knowledge in that side of things as well. Because we have all the different dealers, they specialise in their different things, so we get the best of the watches or gentleman’s shaving equipment for example!”

What’s your antique or vintage best buy from the store, and what’s your favourite item in the centre at the moment?

“That’s a really hard one. I’ve recently bought an amazing jacket from the top floor, which I had my eye on for ages. The homeware is great in here too. All of the old French enamel stuff I really like. As for my favourite item in at the minute, that’s also really hard! Even today we’ve had three dealers in bringing more stuff, so it’s hard sometimes to know what’s in the shop! I quite like the more individual, interesting things, for example Liam [Hopkinson’s owner] will sometimes get in deep-sea diver helmets.

“We did once have in this diary from around 1914, and it had all the author’s musings in it”

“I love things like that – it’s great when something mad comes in that we can use well in our displays. I can’t think of something exact, but the seller Jonas Cox is really good. The selection of observer books that he has in are wonderful. People love them because of the beautiful illustrations. In fact, all the books are great, because in the olden days, they’d go into so much detail, with hand-drawn illustrations etc. The clothes we have in here are also really good, we have some great dealers for that.”

What’s the most interesting item you’ve ever found? 

“We did once have in this diary from around 1914, and it had all the author’s musings in it. There was one page which had a stamp accidentally stuck in and the person had written next to it, ‘By gum, my stamp!’ using all the old-fashioned language. That’s a whole person’s life, so I like items like that which have a really good story attached to them. You don’t get that very often. There’s a girl who used to come in quite often and she always used to buy photos.

“In our big vat of photos, there were photos from the same girl. So the customer kept coming back to buy them and over time built up this little album of this girl’s old photos. Each week she’d come back and learn a bit more about this person, and you can get that in a place like this.”

What different concessions do you have in store at the moment? 

“We have now in store vintage guitars, a vintage beauty parlour, pop-up vintage photography studio downstairs. These are constantly evolving, for example the new Wonderland Café opened only two months ago, and before that we had a watch shop and repairer upstairs. It depends who walks in the door and if we’ve got space for them, we are an antiques shop but we’re also an arts centre and we rent out the space to that artist to do with it what they will.

“There are a lot of books out there on antiques and vintage and it’s about just being really interested in objects and history”

“I don’t know exactly what we’ve got planned for the future, but probably some of these other small businesses will do packages. It’s quite nice now because we’ve got the vintage beauty parlour and the photography studio, so maybe thinking about doing a makeover alongside the client having their photo taken, and then maybe even lunch as well. With the Wonderland theme of the café downstairs, you can really tie it all in.”

What’s your advice for students wanting to work in antiques or vintage? 

“My advice for those wanting to work in antiques is to get yourself into antique centres and surround yourself in the objects. Depending on what you want, if you’re interested in clothes, then go along to swap shops and even jumble sales. There are a lot of books out there on antiques and vintage and it’s about just being really interested in objects and history. That’s the combination that’s really good for working with antiques.”

Why should students come to Hopkinson? 

“Students should come to Hopkinson as its actually very good value. From being a student myself, I know that you don’t have much that you can spend, but here you’re going to get some great items. If you’re doing any sort of degree, if you have something beautiful in your home I think it helps inspire you. From an arts point of view, and especially with my past working in film and organising props, you get so much from a place like this.

“Even the tags on some items are so revealing as they’re so well-written. In terms of clothes, you can get some bargains! My jacket was only about fifteen quid, and anywhere else they’d be selling it for fifty! It’s also such a great place to buy presents. This past year I’ve got some really good ones, just from working here. Another plus is that Hopkinson is good inspiration for when you’re dressing up to go on your nights out in Ocean. Why not come in here and get a good outfit that no one else will have?”

Can you sum up Hopkinson in three words? 

“Eccentric (you always get crazy people in here), diverse and a friendly and chillaxed vibe.”

Amy Wilcockson

Image credit: Ginny Moore

For more information on Hopkinson, see here.

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