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Labour & Wait, connoisseurs of hardware

October 9, 2009
by the gentle author

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It all began with this brush. When Rachel Wythe-Moran and Simon Watkins opened Labour & Wait in 2001, this was the first item that arrived in stock  - and you can still buy it there. With natural bristle and a dip-painted wooden handle that fits naturally into the hand, it is the ideal brush for its purpose.

From their shop in Cheshire Street, Rachel and Simon pursue their quest to find the very best of traditional hardware and sell the things you can’t get anywhere else. These brushes which have been steady sellers over the years, were made by a company in Edinburgh that only this year has ended production. L&W bought out the stock and then there will be no more.

And so it is a constant juggling process of finding new suppliers, just as existing manufacturers close down. Recent discoveries have been spotted handkerchiefs in a range of jaunty colours, Brown Betty teapots, Winchcombe bowls and leather school satchels. I had exactly this satchel (below) when I was sent off to prep school one September, and although they ceased manufacture years ago, the original makers have now started producing them all over again for L&W.

Taking its name from the original motto of the Co-operative movement, Labour & Wait has become a phenomenon, with another shop inside Dover Street Market and franchises in Japan. I love the romance of their flawless displays of aesthetic functional artifacts that would not look out of place in a Joseph Beuys vitrine. Always, in this arcane cabinet of delights, I discover either a new curiosity to relish or something familiar I haven’t seen for years.

What a seductive feeling it was to inhale the long-forgotten smell of the new leather of that satchel – I almost expected to open it and discover inside my new pencil case and tin of crayons sandwiched between coloured exercise books and my own homework notebook for the Autumn term.

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