Take a peek inside Birmingham’s very own old curiosity shop
Lily Ridding and Jase Wynn own one of the most idiosyncratic shops we’ve ever come across. A Mecca for the curious, Ridding & Wynn defies description. It’s part antique shop, part furniture store, part taxidermist, part folk art gallery, part apothecary and part collectibles showcase – to name just some of the store’s various specialisms.
Nestled in the heart of the Custard Factory, one of Birmingham’s longstanding creative hubs packed with independent stores, eateries and watering holes, Ridding & Wynn has become a much loved fixture in Digbeth and a one-stop shop when you’re in search of the unexpected. We sat down with Lily to hear what motivated her and Jase to curate their diverse tastes in an antiques-meets-collectibles store, how they go about sourcing their curios, and why the ‘mystery’ of antiques fires them up.
What inspired you to set up the business?
“We set up the business about five years ago because we couldn’t find anywhere to go in the midlands where we could buy anything that was collectible or unique. I’ve always collected stuff, I have a bit of an eye for things that are colourful, textured, bright. Which is pretty much the opposite to most antique dealers. Jase is a keen collector too, so it just kind of made sense.
Ridding & Wynn’s stock is fascinating. You sell everything from apothecary items to taxidermy. Why do all these objects fascinate you?
We only ever buy things that we like. That’s all there is to it. If we like something, we buy it – there’s no grand plan.
How did the business get started, then?
We started in a really, really small unit with a handful of stuff. We opened up thinking ‘what are we doing?’. We had a collection of homewares that were new and a few collectibles or vintage bits all jumbled together. Within four months of being there, we realised the space was too small. So, we moved to a place three times the size and carried on mixing new with old, and it grew that way. Then, the business changed again during the pandemic – we realised we were mainly selling our vintage furniture and antiques. Now, we don’t buy any new stock, we just specialise in old things.
Why did the Custard Factory feel like the right place for your store?
Digbeth is Birmingham’s creative quarter. We felt that it would be the one part of the city where if we opened up, people might get it. I also own a bar in this part of town, called Sobremesa, which means ‘at the table’ in Spanish. It’s really a reflection of the shop – everything in the bar is for sale.
Where do you source your stock?
Anywhere and everywhere.
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever got your hands on?
I went to Goa in India around 20 years ago. I met a rag and bone man who owned a horse and cart. It was piled with all sorts – pieces he’d pick up as he travelled about. There were two really beautiful framed pictures hiding in there and if I remember rightly, I paid 75 pence for both of them. They’re still hanging in my house today. One must have been taken in a photography studio and shows two young guys driving a cardboard car. The other is of a very young couple who’ve just been married.
They remind you of a very happy place and time?
Yes, I think that’s the point with everything we collect. If I go anywhere in the world, I will still always have to bring something back that reminds me of the place. There’s always something about antiques having past lives that intrigues me too. Who were those people? If you find a chair, who sat on it, who did it belong to before? I like the mystery about that.