Guest blog by Polly Williams
There are many things I miss about pre-Covid life, but one regular mass gathering that I pine for in particular is the Chiswick Car Boot sale, which was the inspiration behind one of my recent illustrations.
I was first introduced to the Chiswick Car Boot sale by my partner, a lifelong Chiswickian, and his mother, for whom the monthly pilgrimage to the bric-a-brac mecca was a fond staple of his upbringing. I remember the first time I went: it was a brisk winter morning with the sort of icy chill tempered only by a hot bacon roll and the warmth of a cup of tea. We’d rolled out of bed uncharacteristically early for a Sunday morning. As my partner’s mother had warned: “you have to get there early for the best bargains!”
We paid our small entrance fee to the friendly Chiswick Community School volunteers, and I was immediately enthralled by the impressive array of stalls before me. Just about everything under the sun was on display. I immersed myself in the stalls, seeking out the most obscure and fanciful items I could find. I can’t describe the joy I feel from chancing upon something special, and my excitement at falling in love with an inanimate object that I never knew I needed. I love the thrill of entering into negotiations with unwavering sellers, managing to knock off a few quid here and there while other browsers enviously look on.
A couple of years and many car boots later, our flat has become littered with second hand goods – much to the annoyance of my housemate brother!
Our shared living spaces are a literal trove of my obscure findings: the Danish teak ice bucket, our matching set of Dartington glass corn-on the-cob dishes, the fashionable French antique opera glasses I optimistically bought for a bird-watching trip, the fish-shaped sea-green gluggle jug, the psychedelic painted 60’s butterdish (which, because of a stubborn rancid odour has been repurposed into a bed for cress!), the tiny pewter watering can (which is used to water aforementioned cress!) and an ever-growing collection of mismatched glasses that’s required an entire drinks cabinet — also second-hand — to house it.
My wardrobe, too, has benefited immeasurably from these outings: faux fur coats, cashmere jumpers, a fine felt hat with a glorious feather and a welsh woollen cape are to name but a few of the additions.
But beyond these items, what I love most is that the car boot sale, as well as being a place of transactional exchange, is also a place of exchange of stories, knowledge, ideas and fashion tips. An enquiry into an unknown item can reveal the decades-old habits and norms of our ancestors. It’s a place where even the most casual and mundane conversations can quickly elevate into the realm of the profound, where our hopes, dreams and fears are shared.
The car boot sale holds such a dear place in my heart that I was compelled to draw it. As an illustrator, I am drawn to hives of social interactivity and these scenes form the inspiration for my art. The car boot sale proved fertile ground for one of my pieces. I base my illustrations on my observations, embellishing them with my own surreal and imaginative touches or quirks. Much like the car boot sale itself, you sometimes have to look a little closer to find some of the hidden treasures peppered in my work.
There’s no telling how long it will be before the car boot sale opens its gates again, but I can’t wait for that time. If you, like me, share in this love, then I hope my illustration transports you back to those early morning ventures to the infinite wonder that is the Chiswick Car Boot.
Polly Williams is an illustrator who trained at Leeds Art School and works for companies such as VICE, Elle, Marks & Spencers
Instagram : @Pom_lette