Hidden stories // 2020

The thrift store, a dusty shop full of second-hand items from people who have said goodbye to their personal belongings. People often think very negatively about this, that the thrift store is a dirty, dusty shop with old junk. Nevertheless, the image around second-hand stores is starting to improve. It is much more sustainable because items get a second life, the items are often still in good quality and are a lot cheaper! 

With this project I want to show that there are many hidden stories behind the items that are brought in here. I bought two random items from the store and started digging through the history of these pieces. I presented the end result of my research in the thrift store, a display cabinet exhibition about the two items in question. Cliever’s tin, for example, has a link to the Second World War and Charles Darwin appears to be a married-in-marriage of the Wedgwood family. With this project I wanted to show that the value of the items from the thrift store are much higher than just ‘dusty old junk’. I received very nice reactions from customers that responded on my project!

Cliever’s Suikerwerkfabrieken was founded by Louis Johannes Gillet on the Admiraliteitskade in Rotterdam in 1916. The factory has been through a lot, it was partly flooded during the Watersnoodramp in 1953. At the start of the Second World War the factory was bombed and a year later in 1941 the factory was rebuilt. The director wanted the best for his staff and the man was not a poor bloke, he bought a radio and had pipes installed in the factory so that the employees could listen to the music while working. During the war he made sure that his workers did not have to go to Germany to work in work camps.

But there is also a very dark side to Cliever’s because Mr. Gillet was a member of the N.S.B., labor front and the N.V.V. (parties that were on the side of the Germans) According to the newspapers he was ‘the terror of the neighborhood’. During the war, part of the factory was used as a soup kitchen for N.S.B. events. After the war, Mr. Gillet and his son spent some time in an internment camp for arrested N.S.B’ers. The Allied forces found thirty tons of potatoes in the factory for the people of Rotterdam during the liberation.

Years later he returned as director at the Cliever’s company. They celebrated their 40th anniversary. But after that Cliever’s suikerwerkfabrieken disappeared. I’m still researching how it ended for the company and why.

The radio installation from Mr. Gillet // 1927
"Fine girls of all ages can be placed to wrap up the world famous Cliever's toffees." // 1927
Cliever's suikerwerkfabrieken at the Admiraliteitskade in Rotterdam // 1940
Bombardment Rotterdam, nothing left of the factory // 1940
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Cliever's 40th anniversary, Mr. Gillet (with glasses) that shakes hands with guests // 1956
Cliever's suikerwerkfabrieken 40th anniversary // 1956
achtergrond kopie

Enoch Wedgwood, born in 1813, was an English potter. He is a distant cousin of the well-known Josiah Wedgwood, of the Josiah Wedgwood & Sons company.

Enoch became a partner of the pottery company Podmore Walker & Co. When founder Thomas Podmore died, Enoch inherited the company. It continued under the name Wedgwood & Co. The goods produced were the upper classes of pottery, in which dinner, tea, breakfast, dessert, restroom and other services, and all the usual miscellaneous items were made to a very considerable extent for the domestic, colonial, continental, and American markets. They also supplied large quantities of Ironstone porcelain, made especially for the use of ships.

The company was doing very well, years later he renamed it Enoch Wedgwood (Tunstall) Ltd. When Enoch died, his sons took over for a short time. In 1980, the family business Josiah Wedgwood & Sons Ltd bought the company Enoch Wedgwood (Tunstall) Ltd. At this point it had nothing to do with the related relatives anymore as Wedgwood’s family tree in 1980 was huge. Enoch’s company continued to exist under the Wedgwood firm but the name became Unicorn Pottery.

Fun fact: the famous Charles Darwin married a Wedgwood and that’s how the Darwin-Wedgwood family branch was born.