Ros Badger, founder of Badger’s Velvet Underground

Badger’s Velvet Underground is the very best kind of department store. For a start it’s mobile, popping up in Brixton, Hampstead and the West Country just a few times a year. Secondly, it’s the kind of place you’ll find rare and beautiful things from homewares and ceramics to fashion, beauty and jewellery, all made with love by independent brands. Here we meet Ros, a jewellery-upcycler and the creative magician who pulls it all together:

What led you to set up Badgers Velvet Underground?

I discovered the Department Store in Brixton shortly after it Opened in 2017, it is the HQ of the prolific architectural practice Squire and Partners. The building has an incredible basement which is an event area and it was this space that inspired me to start Badger’s Velvet Underground, (the name comes form my brand name combined with the basement and a ref to being a teenager in the 70s too).

As an independent designer with over 30 years experience I have taken part in lots of fairs and I know a lot of other very talented designer makers. We all constantly need to find new outlets. Fewer and fewer independent stores exist as so many have been pushed off the high street by increasing rent & rates so I decided to take the plunge and start my own selling events. My first out-of-London BVU happens this weekend 1 & 2 November in Batcombe, Somerset.

Can you pick out a few items from the upcoming sale and tell us a little about them and the brand?

As a curated event I love everyone’s work and choosing is like picking your favourite child! However, my buying wish list from this weekend’s Somerset event would be:

A button pot from Miranda Berrow

Chocolates from As Raw As

A lampshade from The Interior Spy

The Sari coat from The Chapell Collection

One of Sophia Langmead’s witty wordy glitter pictures

A Victoria Ogilvy scented candle

A selection of gorgeous Christmas decorations from Frank and Lusia

And rounding it off with Supper at Beaminster’s Brassica Pop Up on Saturday night in the old school next to the village hall in Batcombe. Brassica recently won the Good Food Guide’s Best West Country Restaurant and is popping over the border from Dorset to provide us all with sustenance in the day and to run a Supper club on Saturday night.

How do you go about curating the different brands for a BVU sale? 

For the Somerset event I really wanted it to be mostly West Country based designers and have achieved this by co-curating with an old friend that lives near Bruton. Sarah O’Keefe was the co-founder of Holland Park’s The Cross Shop before she left London and headed west a few years ago. She has a great eye and was able to draw up an initial wish list for us, many of which are taking part. We reached capacity very quickly and already have a waiting list for next year’s event!

My aim is for BVU to grow and evolve via a core group but to also have new designers taking part each time as this keeps it interesting for the buyers. It is important that the visitors  would be tempted by everything, even if they can’t afford it all, although I am also careful to make sure the price range is varied too, so we have everything form soup and chocolates to jewellery and art.

You create contemporary jewellery out of antique pieces. What sort of thing do you look for in an antique? Where do you source your jewels and can you explain the process of making it into something new?

I mainly look for old gold pieces. I started this jewellery journey because I found a collection of 17thC bronze buttons which I bought from an antiquities dealer at Kempton antique market around 10 years ago. They inspired me to have rings made. I am still working my way through that haul, having them set in silver or gold and each piece is unique .

I am not a trained jeweller just a lover of fine things.  As a life long recycler and believer in re-using I have turned my eye to jewellery as it is seems so wasteful for a valuable trinket not to be seen just because the style is out of fashion.

I source everywhere from auctions to antique shops and markets. I am always looking for things even in thrift shops!  I usually have an idea of what I want to do with each piece but I show them to one of two jewellers that I work with and we discuss the best way to update each. I love that everything I have made is completely unique and once it’s gone it’s gone … no two things are the same just similar.

Jewellery has always been recycled however it used to only be luxury of the rich to disemble their rings necklaces tiaras and earrings, breaking them up so they could be distributed among the women of their extended families.  Now we can all have a part of that. So far I only re style pieces, converting one thing to another but there are ‘real jewellers’ who will melt down the gold and reset stones too making something completely new….maybe that’s something I will look at in future!

Why did the Victorians wear eyes on their rings?

It was the Georgians that made the wearing of Lover’s eyes a trend. It was a quiet way of showing affection for someone, a way of flirting by discreetly by having an intimate part of a lover on your own person. There’s a great history of it here.

Can you tell us a little about mourning rings?

Mourning jewellery was a way of commemorating a lost loved one and mourning rings would be inscribed on the inside with dates usually  birth to death.. The tradition of Memento Mori  (Remember that you must die) jewellery goes back many many centuries.  The Victorians were very keen on mourning jewellery and often it would be made by plaiting hair, taken from the deceased, and then embedding it into the top of a ring or brooch, sometimes using a black stone too.  They would also make bracelets by plaiting lengths of hair and attaching them to an elaborate gold clasp. The Victorians made a lot of jewellery from Jet and Whitby Jet (from the east coast of England) was the most valuable. The Jet would be carved and made into brooches or pendants or sometimes carved into links and whole necklaces can be found made from Jet.

What’s your own most precious item of jewellery and why do you treasure it so?

My most treasured piece is a Victorian watch chain that I have had made into 2 bracelets, one has the original bloodstone fob hanging form it and the 2nd kept the original T bar.  It belonged to my husband’s great grandfather.  Converting it into 2 bracelets now means that I wear it all the time and that one day my daughters can inherit one each.

I also wear my grandmother’s wedding ring, it doesn’t have much financial worth but it has huge sentimental value. At the moment I wear a large Georgian Eye ring on my wedding finger too. I had it made from a brooch, it has been on and off my finger for the past 6 months. I love it but it is also for sale! It is probably my most valuable piece which is why I tell myself it is safer for me to wear it than keep it with my other stock. Once it is sold I will find another one although they are getting more and more expensive as they become rarer finds.

Where do you live? 

Herne Hill, SE London. I live close to Dulwich, it is between Brixton and Peckham too, which are now uber cool with their restaurants and night life. I have lived in SE London since 1989 and love the amount of green space we have here. I have the choice off 4 parks within walking distance of my house, Brockwell Park, Belair Park, Dulwich park or Ruskin park where I walk my 2 welsh terrier dogs each day.

Can you tell us about 3 of your favourite things at home?

One would be a huge Georgian mirror that I have above the fireplace and which is quite battered but that’s why I love it. I bought it for £60 at Ardingly antique fair. It was the end of the day and the seller didn’t want to take it back with him so I bagged a bargain. I love glassware too and have some beautiful Holmegaard Gul vases which sit next to an old French wine bottle which was used for communion wine. I saw one on the Antiques Road Show recently which is how I found out what it was…so my taste is rather eclectic. The third would be 2 beautiful large Hugo Guiness floral prints. My husband is a photographer and he swapped 2 photographic images he had taken of the interior of the UN building in New York with Hugo. I love bartering!

You recently ran the first retreat – Bland Badger. Will we be seeing more of these and what was the experience like?

It was a great experience and Charlotte Bland and I are already planning the 2020 week which we will be at the beginning of October so that we can take advantage of the fabulous Arezzo flea market which occurs on the first Sunday of each month. We based the week around that using the vintage finds as inspiration for styling and photo shoots as well as for the hand stitch book making and cyanotypes we made. We had a great group of guests, no-one knew each other at the start of the week but by the end we were all friends and are having our first reunion in mid November hosted by a guest that found us through A Little Bird!

Which poem/book/podcast/song are you enjoying right now?

I love Mary Oliver poetry, I was introduced to her by one of my closest friends  Elspeth Thompson who sadly is no longer with us and last week I returned to a favourite poem, Wild Geese as another close friend died,  I find such comfort in the words, read here.

I love podcasts and listen to a whole variety but count Adam Buxton as one of my all time favourites, my daughter teases me about referring to myself as a podcat …. Adam Buxton fans will get this! I listened to both his recent interviews with Chris Morris, and loved them, so clever and informed, witty and irreverant.

Music has always been a passion,  I have a really broad taste from early Bowie, punk and new wave to disco via Arvo Part, Medieval choral music, Thomas Tallis and Philip Glass.

My eldest daughter is a musician and has recently introduced me to Daniel Johnston, the recently departed American songwriter who died earlier this year. Martha sang 3 songs on a Resonance FM radio programme last Friday dedicated to him.

Badger’s Velvet Underground WESTBOUND will be in Batcombe Somerset on 1st & 2nd November 1-5pm & 10am – 5pm. Badger’s Velvet Underground will be in Brixton at The Department Store 16 & 17 November, 10am – 5pm and at Rosslyn Hill Chapel, Hampstead on 30 November 10am – 5pm. 

Ros Badger, founder of Badger's Velvet Underground
1 & 2 November, 1-5pm & 10am-5pm
Jubilee Village Hall Back Lane Batcombe Somerset, BA4 6H
— Daisy Allsup
31st October 2019