When our festival treasurer Jose Goossens decided to re-create a tea cosy that she remembered from her childhood, she didn’t know that she was about to go on an amazing journey rediscovering family photos and original tea cosies. Another example of the power of a tea cosy!
The story of Jose’s cosy really starts way back in the early 1950s when an eight-year-old Jose migrated with her family from the Netherlands to Victoria:
My uncle and aunt, Peter and Mary van den Brink, had been living in Victoria for a few years and were running a business making tea cosies. They were sold through shops like Myer and David Jones as well as various gift shops in Melbourne.
As children we spent many hours at the factory while our parents worked. We might have had a few chores to do but probably mostly got in the way.
When the festival committee decided on Cosies Through the Ages as the 2020 festival theme, I thought I would make a cosy that replicated the ones that my family had made in the 1950s and 60s. My family, however, has no tea cosies of that era in our possession. So I talked to my siblings about our memories of the overall design of these cosies that had a vinyl outer layer and a wooden base and started on a prototype.
When the COVID-19 lockdown occurred, I could not source some of the materials I thought I needed. The outer layers of the original cosies were made of vinyl, primarily with floral patterns. So I had to improvise a bit – I decided to use a lovely red and white polka dot vinyl that I found at Sam’s Patch in Foster; the wooden cosy base was made for me by a local wood turner.
One day, while I was on the phone discussing the project with my sister Sylvia, her partner Rob sent me a link to an image of a tea cosy that he’d found on the internet. So amazing, it is one of my family’s cosies and it still has the factory label on it – VDB Better Gifts!
However, not quite the end of the story – the next day I chatted to my other sister Marcelle about the photo, and then her son Ged came up with this image from the National Archives of Australia of my uncle and aunt in the showroom of their factory in 1967.
At this point they were still making cosies but had branched out into making wrought iron products like magazine holders, fruit bowls and candlesticks. The business continued until my aunt and uncle retired in the late 1960s.