Each visit to London I look forward to finding a Lea Stein brooch to add to my collection. I first discovered the whimsical works of Ms. Stein back in 2003 in a stall at the weekly Antique Market in Covent Garden. I’m drawn to her pieces for their multi-dimensional quality, unusual textures and … her images make me smile.
It used to be that these brooches were impossible to find in the US, however, Etsy has changed that. But for me part of the fun is searching out just the right one at markets and it’s become part of my UK travel tradition.
Although there’s a bit of mystery surrounding Ms. Stein, we know that she is a French artist who in the 1960s, with her husband, came up with a way to layer and laminate thin sheets of plastic. This layering technique allows Ms. Stein to create texture by adding pieces of material, such as lace or metal, in between the layers. After cooling, the plastic is cut into all kinds of shapes from Art Deco women in hats (an early design) to owls, cats, and dogs. Animals seemed to be favored and today they are among the most collectible.
My latest addition is a cat, which came from (ironically) an expat American dealer and his wife at the Bermondsey Antique Market. The couple told me they think this one is vintage 1980s but since Ms. Stein continues to produce older images (as well as new ones) it’s really hard to date her work. Many people say you just know from experience. I do think the cat isn’t brand new as the clasp isn’t stiff and it doesn’t have that shinny never-been-touched look.
No matter to me if it’s vintage or not. Any Lea Stein critter is a pleasure to have and to wear.