Hamilton-based stilt walker, Foxy Lady, velocipede enthusiast, market maven and curio queen Sandra Jensen, 40, chats to Natasha Francois about her obsession with op shopping.
You seem to have quite a few different collections going. Can you give us a rundown of some of these?
I like lots of stuff. At the moment it’s 1940s Fire King (a form of glassware similar to Pyrex) and Celluloid/ivorine that’s taking the lead.
I have been collecting Alice in Wonderland books for over 10 years now so have amassed over 400.
Smaller collections seem to start up each week. Once you have two or more you realise, heck that’s a collection! Love our German pottery as well.
You’re a huge vintage bike fiend too. Can you tell us about this?
Its Mark’s (her fiancée’s) fault. LOL. I’ve had vintage bikes in the past (including an old 1960s postie bike and a 1970s Chinese flying pigeon) and they were such good bikes. Well-made and they lasted.
It wasn’t till I bought some newer “repro” bikes that I realised they just didn’t do it for me. They lack soul.
So I love the older bikes. Rod brakes, upright cycling, being able to load a huge pile of op shop scores into my panniers and off I truck.
My one modern feature though on my 1940s daily ride is a coffee cup holder. Doesn’t stop me spilling coffee but it has a certain charm and slight hint of wankery about it.
How did these collections start?
I just collect what I like. There’s almost a new interest or collection starting each week.
How would you describe your particular aesthetic?
You’ve been dubbed the ‘op shop queen’. How did you earn this title?
LOL. I guess it’s just the fact Hamilton has so many op shops and I “do” them regularly. I know what I’m looking for so can grab a bargain. Plus I’ve been around a while so many people know me and give me deals. Hahaaa!
How long have you been collecting retro and vintage?
I started working in a secondhand book shop at 16. So that’s…ummm maths….24 years now I’ve been collecting vintage in some form or other.
Favourite decade and why?
1940s for sure. I like the utilitarian stuff. If you look closely you’ll see there is still a sense of style that prevailed. Just because they were on rations and had to save, didn’t mean they couldn’t have nice things. But it was made to last. There were less disposable items around.
Mend and make do might sound nana-ish but it’s a great ethic to live by. So much that is made now doesn’t last.
The 1940s stuff is still around, still useable and still nice to look at, especially the clothes. They were so well-tailored.
Does your fascination for collecting vintage extend into your wardrobe and overall appearance?
Most days I’m a jeans and T-shirt girl. I’m a mum and a runner so my daily dress sense is practical and comfy. There’s a hint of unusual there but most of my vintage outfits are for “occasions”. I guess it’s also because I was a performer for so long that when I’m not “working” I like to dress down.
Would you say vintage is a way of life?
Yes. It’s something that definitely becomes ingrained. If I can get something vintage I’d rather do that than buy brand new.
What are some of your favourite places to source bargains and treasure?
Op shops and markets are still the best. I rarely go into “vintage or antique” stores as I am always after a bargain.
What are some of your favourite pieces in your collection and why?
Ooohhhh…eeeekkk. It’s the little things I think. Having two pairs of 1940s original sunglasses and one pair of Edwardian is kind of thrilling. I’ve still got an original 1960s pair I bought at 16. They were my daily sunnies for years.
Is your partner a collector too?
Yeah. We are as bad as each other. Like I said, each week seems to be some new thing to become obsessed with.
What do your kids think of your home decorating style?
My house is very much a curio shop. I can’t do a theme or one era. That would bore the heck out of me. I buy/collect what I like so my house is a shambles of styles and eras.
It’s very much like an old curio shop which I love. The kids are less enthusiastic but they do like op shopping at times. Two of them sleep on 1920s art nouveau beds but they couldn’t care less. Modern stuff still prevails in their lives.
Any pieces you dream of finding? What are they?
Sometimes its finding the things I used to have and got rid of in a moment of madness and only now realising the value.
Who has a collection that you envy?
No one to be honest. I like my stuff 😉
General thoughts on op shopping/ treasure hunting in NZ?
When you go into a shop or market, look at EVERYTHING.I hardly ever go in looking for one particular thing. I even found my partner, Mark at a market!
What do you think of Sandra’s collection and what is your all-time best op shop score? Let me know in the comments!