This west Auckland shop finds beauty in the old and unusual
The hunt for the ultimate vintage find – it’s what Kristin Seth and partner Jason Hall always have on their minds. Whether they’re near their home in west Auckland or travelling throughout the country, the owners of Oratia secondhand traders The Fabulist never refrain from the quest for that pre-loved ‘gem’.
“This constant search, buying something and examining its quality, becomes you,” says Jason.
“Once you get into it you never get out of it because the knowledge you learn you always have.”
Since opening in an old fruit-packing shed in 2013, The Fabulist is fast becoming a popular destination for those seeking antiques, collectables and one-off pieces. “Not like Nana’s china,” says Kristin, “unless Nana was into the bizarre.” The shop’s name was borrowed from a book the couple read about a 19th century explorer named Louis De Rougemont. “He told amazing tales of being shipwrecked in remote north-western Australia,” says Kristin. “These included crazy stories such as riding turtles and steering them with his feet. We thought it was suitable as there are so many fabulous things in our store.”
The pair complements each other, with Jason finding the “gold” and Kristin making the shop look spectacular. “We both work in the store and sell on alternate days,” she says. “It works well for us as it’s a perfect combination of skills. Jay has been collecting and trading for years while Kristin worked in the costume department in film and television for 15 years. Having built up their own curios over the years their home was bursting at the seams. “We wanted to set up a shop and put it out there to see if the saying ‘if you build it they will come’ held any truth,” says Kristin. “We had no room left at home so instead of having clutter we decided to put it all in the packing shed and called it a shop!”
The pair travels up and down the North Island visiting auctions, estate sales, antique fairs and swap meets to fill their store with the most unique things they can find. “When travelling we are pretty certain to find something we like,” says Jason. “It’s great fun and having a mission is a good way to meet new people and find your way around a new location. I find a lot of stock through word of mouth – one deal can often lead to another.”
One era of antique the pair has noticed is growing in demand is that of New Zealand history, while among the strangest items they’ve stocked are a Japanese Kabuki theatre wig made from real hair, an anatomical model ear and a taxidermy platypus and lion.
“The Fabulist is ultimately a store in which you’ll find something you didn’t know you needed or wanted,” says Jason. “It is quite eclectic but, strangely, quite a coherent collection of ever-changing wonderment.”
Words by: Catherine Steel
Photography by: Helen Bankers