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Vintage design treasures, by our designers

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    Owen Cameron

Some of us seek out vintage items, and some of us have been drawn to an item only to later learn of its robust history. Either way, here at Initiate we’ve realized that most of us own or collect vintage items, or love a good craft market! We want to share our favourite finds with you, so here are our most-loved finds local to the Ottawa area. 

The evolution of brands

Not surprisingly, a few of us are into vintage or antique items because of their relation to graphic design, like our Creative Director Carolyn. She loves seeing the evolution of brands including the creativity that goes into each generation or iteration of a logo. Specifically, she collects nostalgic advertising pieces where the product still exists today. Her favourite items from her collection are two pop bottles — a Crush bottle circa 1941, and a Sprite bottle from the early 1960’s — that she acquired at Eastern Ontario’s largest outdoor Antique Show in Odessa. 


Collecting nostalgia 

Senior Designer Melanie has a diverse collection of vintage items, and almost couldn’t choose what to showcase! She decided on something that relates to design as well, but in the field of Photography. She has a vintage camera collection accumulated from many places, over many years, and for many reasons. 

“I really like the different designs and shapes of these and how they look displayed. I’ve always loved photography and was glad to have experienced developing my own film and black and white prints. Now that things have gone digital and it’s so easy for anyone to take good photos with their smartphones, the art of old photography is becoming a thing of the past. I have these cameras to remind me of how photography used to be,” adds Melanie.

The nostalgia factor is real! If you are looking for vintage cameras well, we’ve seen some recently at 613Flea here in Ottawa!

Don’t turn your nose up at a grungy looking Lodge cast iron pan – pick it up for a steal, and easily restore it for a perfect pan, every time!

Tip from Michael

We love a good vase

While discussing our items, we realized that many of our favourite items are vintage vases! 

Most notably, our UX Designer Fran has a large collection of swing vases, pictured below. Her favourite is a large yellow-orange vase that she acquired from a lady named Joanne at 613Flea. Almost more interesting than the vases themselves is Fran’s connection to Joanne, whose booth is typically located at Almonte Antiques and Collectables. Based in Quebec herself, Fran has been visiting Joanne at her Almonte booth since the age of 3, where she would buy brooches and costume jewelry, and eventually her pink glass collection. To close the loop, Fran started an Instagram account a few years ago that features her finds, and ultimately led her to the discovery of swing vases. She found her very first, and favourite, swing vase (LE Smith Bittersweet, USA, 1960s) from none other than Joanne! Fran was immediately taken by its size and colour, and she slowly grew her collection to 15-20 vases over the span of two years.

Our second entry in the vase category is from Designer, G, who was first attracted to her vase because of its striking colour and shape, and more specifically, its mid-century modern look. She picked it up at the Great Glebe Garage Sale, and once home, she did a little research and discovered its interesting origins. It is a Scheurich 209-18, in a style often referred to as “fat lava vase” and was made in West Germany, likely in the 60s! Since West Germany only existed as a country from 1949 (after WWII) to 1990 (with the fall of the Berlin Wall), G found this to be a really cool piece of history. 

“This vase just evokes the Cold War, Checkpoint Charlie, and the fabulous design of the 40s, 50s and 60s,” adds G.

Our final in the vase series belongs to me (Christi, Graphic Designer), and is a 1960 glass Holmegaard bud vase. I found it at Verve Moderns (previously Vanier Moderns) many years ago. I have always had a love for mid-century design and have a few different pieces from that era, such as a chrome, leather, and bentwood side chair, also shown in the photo. However, this little vase has grown to be my favourite as it blends seamlessly with almost anything I put it with or on, and it is very practical. Most recently, I have discovered that plant cuttings root very easily in it due to the dark-coloured glass. On summer walks I often collect small leaves, stems, or flowers, and place them in the bud vase.

Something for the wall

Speaking of flowers, Designer Owen is most sentimental about a Goldenrod print that he bought last summer at a queer art market on Arlington Avenue near Bank Street. Owen’s connection to a seemingly simple art print is anything but simple. It is a wonderful example of how we, as people and as designers, choose to buy or display things in our homes. In his words:

“Goldenrods are one of the only plants that grow everywhere I’ve lived. I’ve moved around a lot. Ottawa is both the 1st and 7th city I’ve lived in and I can now confidently say Ottawa is my favourite city. I’m glad to have had the opportunity to experience so many places, but also happy to settle down in such a wonderful city. Goldenrods are one of the only plants that grows everywhere I’ve lived. I chose this print as a reminder of everywhere I’ve been, and the people I’ve met. Even though my friends across the continent feel so far away sometimes, I can just look at the goldenrod on my wall and remember that they too have goldenrod and that the connections we make in our lives last forever even if our time living together is over. The print is now part of a larger wall of art that all has some kind of sentimental meaning to me. I’m so glad I was able to find something that represents the last few years of my life so succinctly to add to my collection.”

Wearing history

In our final category, Designer Ali is understandably passionate about the Ottawa Vintage Clothing Show where she snagged her favourite find — a 70s off-the-shoulder wedding dress that she bought to wear as a summer dress. In addition, she has also found a cocktail dress from the 50s, a ring from the 70s, and belts from the 80s. The event featured an almost unimaginable amount of stalls selling items from the 1920s and onwards. 

“It’s so cool to know that what you buy there is not something others are likely to have. All of the knowledge the vendors have about individual pieces is always really cool.”

Share your favourite vintage or antique find with us on social media!