Tallinn Russian Market / Soviet Union pin badges


I’ve recently returned from some eye opening adventuring around Estonia and Finland for summer, so much so my head is a bit congested with all the shiny things I saw.  I’ll start with Tallinn in Estonia; my good friend Jaana hails from there so I’ve always been intrigued about seeing her on her home turf, especially after sipping the supreme Estonian vodka she often smuggles back.

This building was my home for the week.  It had a rickety and austere Soviet era lift that slammed shut then made noises that sounded like they came from the Futuristic Zone in the Crystal Maze as it whisked me high speed to the fourth floor.  By the end of the week I’d grown very fond of it’s cantankerous ways.


Tallinn has a beautifully preserved medieval centre which is worth a visit to see some of the buildings but, for me, lacked anything genuine anymore in terms of having many Estonian residents or a semblance of normal working life – it’s simply a gilded land for tourists.  After a day there I didn’t go back, and instead spent my time exploring the diverse Russian neighbourhoods, traditional wooden housing, vibrant creative spaces, and industrial landscapes reminiscent of Tarkovsky’s Stalker (which was filmed in part in Tallinn).

One brilliant place to get a flavour of the past, as well as the present mix of people who populate the city is the Russian Market (Baalti Jaama), just behind the train station.  I spent hours here rooting through the Soviet memorabilia stalls and junk shop outlets, meeting and photographing some stiking local ladies and sampling some of the technicolour cabbage salad offerings.


 The antique shops there were brimming with enough oddball Soviet toys and artifacts to keep me short on breath for a while, but my favourite finds were these metal pin badges boasting some super psychedelic designs.  After standing in a store for a good stint carefully selecting these ones to take home, I found later that other outlets I came to at the market were selling hundreds more, all with different designs, at which point I had a tiny meltdown and resigned myself to just sticking with the ones I’d chosen.  I’m definitely flying back here and snapping up the lot when I have my lotto win, and I will employ elves to tile my bedroom with them.

 For now, here are the few I chose, in no particular order as I think they work best in a random fashion.  They look to date to the 1970’s, but who knows with Soviet design, their aesthetic was often out of sync with the rest of the world so these could be more recent:


 I also found these energetic Soviet posters in the corner of one second hand outlet, photographed at weird angles as I was sardined against military uniforms. There were lots more but I chose to cease photographing when I caught the Russian owner shooting me a seething look, oops



This chic dame was called Zoya, I was thrilled to meet her and get her photo since something else I enjoy is photographing people over 60 with a sense of individuality and flair (more of my pics are here)


More to come soon anyway – I started interviewing people on the trip and met Estonian artist Jurri Arrak well known for his beautiful and insane 1970’s swamp ladies illustrations, animations, paintings and more; will post the full story shortly!



1930’s boat brooch

I love this 1930’s brooch I found a while back made from very early plastic – I would also love a cruise on this serene pale pink sailboat


I found this in an indoor fleamarket in Arundel, a pretty and very quintessentially English town in West Sussex brimming with tea rooms and enjoyable tweeness.  A few of went on an expedition for my birthday and had a superb day exploring old churches, rummaging in bookshops, trying some of the excellent rustic fodder at The Swan and ending the night with bargain whiskies before jumping on the last train home – much recommended day out from London.81660006Arundel also has this utterly majestic castle – although a walk around it after dark for some reason suddenly gave me the jitters, my overactive imagination made me convinced I was going to see a hooded monk lunge at me from the darkness so I scarpered back to the glow of the high street.  It looks like a fabulous place to visit in daylight hours though (if you can stretch to the killer £20 entry fee)

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1920’s German Silent Film-making book

 I came across this wonderful original film tome from the 1920’s on a recent trip to Berlin


I spotted it nestling at a Kreuzberg fleamarket and was drawn in by it’s cover, finely crafted using delicately cut out paper


With hand drawn ink patterns and letters too

There was no date but some useful fellow had written this inside – 18.2.23

Film Fimmel roughly translates as ‘Film Infatuation,’ so I was intrigued as to what some of the chapters were about.  Because my German only stretches to ordering kaffee und kuchen, I had to take to Google translate with some of these, with limited results – this section below reads as ‘Mysterious Characters,’ which still doesn’t tell me much, although this flat capped ruffian is already a winner

Since it was printed in the silent film era, I’m guessing the rest are probably directions of how best to execute certain types of scene.  I could only translate snippets of the rest, but I think it’s actually quite fun to get lost trying to decipher the weird and amusing goings on.



Since some of the pages were slightly coming away which gets those book collector creatures all ruffled.  I got it for just 5 euros which I felt triumphant about since it’s obviously a unique item with an unmistakable connection to the visual hallmarks of what was a hugely influential era.

The cover made me think straight away of the jagged edges, sharp angles seen in lots of German Expressionist films of the time, but especially The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari which I’ve mentioned in previous posts.  I recently watched it with some excellent visual fiends Jo who also blogs about vintage treasures she finds in grubby lorries, and Jaana, Estonian refugee and clever book designer and we were infatuated with the striking sets and spiky shapes and the superb sense of menace and expertly crafted creepiness throughout.  Made in 1920, it would have been around at the same time as the book’s publication.


I was in Berlin to create an installation with artist Rachael Macarthur.  Thanks to Das Gift for hosting us, a super bar and gallery space in Neukolln with a Scottish slant.  Here are a few pics of what we created:

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1940’s Funghi Book covers

I came across this cheeky duo at the market I run recently and was so charmed by the bold, pop graphics and supreme colour scheme I had to manhandle a customer who’d already bought them and ask if I could grab a few pictures (albeit dreary iPhone ones that don’t do them justice)

 They were both printed in 1945, one of my favourite eras for lively and exciting surface design, but due to the psychedelic subject matter they somehow wouldn’t look out of place amongst the tripped out fabrics of the late 60’s / early 70’s.



 The colours on the cover above made me think of a palette that swelled in popularity across graphics, textiles and ceramics just a few years on in the 1950’s.  This handsome mid century ceramics set by German company Schlossberg used an almost identical colour scheme.



I would love an entire kaftan printed with these marvellous mushrooms, even if this would put me at risk of purchasing a bongo drum at a later date.

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1930’s Portugese Maths Book


One of my favourite recent finds – fantastic magentas on this pretty charming 1930’s illustrated times tables pamphlet.  Found in a junk shop in Porto, Portugal – (if you like this, also worth looking at my other post from there of Vintage Portugese Book Covers)

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Vintage French Illustration

normandyI found this illustrated paper folder at a rural antique shop in Normandy a while back – I think Le Cygne Noir was a grooming product and am guessing this is from the 1940’s perhaps

I loved the print quality up close, although the swan does start to look a bit sly at this proximity…


Bountiful hay bales, slumberous hamlets, handsome thatches, ancient antique shops and brocantes, Normandy bewitched me with it’s idyllic chocolate box charm.

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Happily, there was also a reassuring selection of guesthouses adhering to aggressive floral policies

I was also a bit enchanted by this incredibly quaint fairytale style house overlooking the sea in St Valery En Caux, the lettering on the sign, flowers and overall style are all typically Art Nouveau so date it to the early 1900’s.  I think I’d like to retire here to watch the ocean from that top window whilst surrounded by a supreme selection of cheeses.


All of these pictures were taken on film on my favourite £2.50 1990’s camera.  I’ve noticed it has a curious trick of cloaking nearly every image with a nostalgic wistful haze that somehow tempts you to remember that moment in time as a gilded, glittering sea of euphoria (when in actual fact you had been suffering from severe heartburn after eating a misguided gigantic chocolate croissant followed by a three course lunch…).

I think I am actually totally at ease with this method of sugar coating existence though and believe some form of it is fairly compulsory – so grab one of these lo-fi wonders on eBay and live in your own 70’s Terence Malick film forever.


1950’s winter wrapping paper


Dazzling wrapping paper from the 1950’s with a fantastic palette of acid brights and superb graphics. It also has an enjoyably cheap and crunchy feel to it.  Found at my vintage fair North London Vintage Market

I much prefer this technicolour version of winter.  I’m thinking of moving here shortly to spend my days skating around neon trees with a mysterious man in black until Spring.

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