Friday October 30 2020



Village Food & Drink

Taste of the past

Posted on March 20 2012 at 1:53:05 0 comments



When Diane Cooke founded Constance Wallace two and half years ago, she had no idea that the original concept of vintage tea parties would evolve into such a successful business.

Since then she has amassed a diverse range of clients and events, from birthdays and weddings to community events. Recently there have been a couple of baby showers, a Mad Hatter’s tea party for a little girl’s birthday, and a hen party with clay pigeon shooting followed by afternoon tea!

Many customers are so pleased with the delightful service they receive that they come back for more – for example, this week Diane is catering for a funeral which is the fourth event she’s been asked to do for that family.

In fact they were so keen to use Constance Wallace that they asked if she was free before setting the funeral date. Another family then wanted to book her for a funeral on the same day, and have actually changed the date to secure Diane’s services.

Diane’s biggest event thus far was a surprise 60th birthday bash for 125 people at Bentley Village Hall, when she had to draft in extra personnel:

“My husband usually helps me – in fact he really enjoys it – but sometimes I need extra hands for the big events. Most of them are friends who get drafted in, but they do get paid!”
She adds that she quite often receives offers of help from customers, who are so enchanted by the Constance Wallace concept that they want to get involved.

As well as the tea parties, where she brings vintage china, refreshments and decorations to clients’ homes or party venues, Diane also offers a vintage party plan – a bit like a Tupperware party but with china, handmade blankets and cushions – and transports her wares in “Peggy”, the 1958 Austin van.

The ever-growing collection of china and tableware is also available for sale and hire, and there are now 95 wooden chairs too. Many things are sourced from house clearances and antiques fairs, and Diane keeps an eye out for any interesting items – recently someone asked for a vintage croquet set, and she was able to source one. 

Diane has an MA in printed textiles, and is always creating new and delightful things to sell in the shop at Tardebigge Court. Some are made from scratch in a retro style, while others are genuine vintage items restored to their former glory – such as the old suitcases that Diane covers with fabric, and the standard lamps she’s currently reviving by painting the bases and covering the shades with lace.

Her pretty fabric bunting is particularly popular for parties as well as for the home, and for the Alvechurch Diamond Jubilee celebrations she is making a special version by dyeing Union Jack-printed fabric with tea to make it look old.

Although the tea party aspect of the business keeps her very busy, Diane likes to make plenty time for her art: “I’m going on a printed textiles course soon, and I’m also thinking of branching out into handmade paper…” she muses.

Somehow, she also finds time to lecture in printed textiles at Birmingham City University, and some of her students have been inspired by Constance Wallace – two of them have decided to create 1950s style clothing for Diane and her staff to wear.

“They are making aprons, dresses, and even a suit for my husband!” says Diane. “Now we can really look the part, especially when we turn up with Peggy!”

Tel: 01527 540111

Gift vouchers available

Open 10am–5pm Weds – Sat

Image by Andre Roberts, Graphic Design Photography

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