A Cottage Interview

Editor's Note: My article today is an interview with my friend, Courtney, who runs an Etsy shop called A Cottage Life. She uses her creativity and crafty skills to turn old, worn-out items into unique treasures! She also has had a booth at the Farm Chicks Antiques Show in Spokane, WA for the past two years, where she was very well received.  Courtney has three little people and lives in Washington State.

1. Tell me a little bit about yourself and your family.

I am a stay at home Mom to three little ones and have been married ten years in December. My children are still little: seven, four, and two so they keep me pretty busy! I love home decor, crafting, sewing, embroidery and turning old or out of use items into treasures again. I blog about our daily life and all of my creative pursuits at A Cottage Family (www.acottagefamily.blogspot.com/).

Courtney and her son

2. Your Etsy shop is called A Cottage Life.  Tell us about it and how you got started.

My Etsy shop came about actually because I wanted to make business cards! Last year I was a first time vendor at the Farm Chicks Antique Show in Spokane, Wa. It was the first time I had done anything like that – up until then, I had just been a very, very good shopper at antique shows, craft shows, Etsy, you name it! It was actually my sister who thought we might be up for the challenge of becoming a vendor at Farm Chicks. My first year was so much fun and we did really well. One thing that customers asked me over and over again as if I had a business card or if I sold my wares anywhere else. At that point I did not nor did I have any immediate plans to do other shows. So fast forward to gearing up for the 2011 Farm Chicks show. I wanted business cards to hand out to my customers but I didn't really have anything to put on my business cards. Insert Etsy! I figured opening an Etsy shop under the same name ” A Cottage Life” would be a great way to sell my handmade goods that I couldn't necessarily sell at antique shows and keep a customer base following me throughout the year. Please visit my Etsy shop! You can find me at www.etsy.com/shop/acottagelife .

3. Many of the items in your shop are repurposed or reused.  What made you think of using these types of items?

A garage sale find I paid about $10 for. It was really ugly with white chippy paint before I redid it!

I love old things. Not necessarily antiques as you would tend to think of antiques. My husband thinks I am a junk collector. I love things that show their age, that have a story to tell. Things that aren't perfect. I'm not afraid to paint something or revamp it into something that might serve a different purpose from what it was originally intended for. So most of the things that I sell at shows are repurposed or revamped to bring them a more up to date sensibility or just to revitalize something that has lost its life.

4. Tell us about a few of your favorite items and how you made them.

I really love revitalizing old furniture! I love what a fresh coat of paint in a fun color does to an older piece. This year for the Farm Chicks show I revamped some old dressers. All it takes is an old piece that is in decent condition. It is wise to make sure your piece is solid and that the drawers slide smoothly and the doors open and close! And solid wood is always preferable! Although I have often been guilty of picking up pieces that need a bit of love before they are ready for reuse. A sticky drawer or even a missing drawer has never really bothered me! I've found that a missing drawer is easily remedied by painting the interior and using it as an open shelf. Or perhaps find a fantastic basket or container to fit into the shelf. You can always find inexpensive furniture pieces at garage sales. I've even been known to pick up free furniture that has been left on the curb. One man's trash is definitely MY treasure!

Part of my Farm Chicks booth from this year. It shows a green dresser I got for free and revamped as well as a big green hutch I redid. It also shows a bunch of my pillows I made out of vintage fabrics.

5. Are there any new items on the horizon that we can expect to see in your shop?

I love embroidery and I think I will continue to fill my shop with bits and pieces that reflect that love. Whether vintage or of my own creation! I also love vintage fabrics and often buy vintage sheets. They are a super affordable way to bring bright vintage prints into your sewing. One of my favorite projects to make with vintage sheets is patchwork pillows. I favor brightly colored floral sheets and they create a fun and fresh look when different prints are mixed together. I also collect a lot of vintage hands embroidered pieces.

Collage of hankie towels

I would love to incorporate those vintage works of art into new pillow covers or wall art. They are plentiful at estate sales. I'd love to help pass on an appreciation for this type of art to a younger generation!

6. What is your most popular item?

The most popular item by far in my Etsy shop has been my vintage hankie flour sack dish towels. I've always thought vintage hankies were little tiny works of art. Some are hand stitched beauties while others are bright and cheery prints. I sew them onto flour sack dish towels and hand embroiders a cheery phrase or reminder. They have been popular because they combine a bit of vintage with a bit of hand made goodness – plus they are affordable! Perfect for gift giving.

A project I did using a vintage frame and painting. I used vintage sheets to create a fun art piece. It's a fun piece that uses all vintage materials and reminds us to buy vintage!

7. Is there anything else you'd like to share about the value of reusing “old stuff”?

Besides the practical reason of using what we already have around us and the economic reason of using things that are usually much less expensive than brand new items, I love the fact that “old stuff” has a story to tell. It has history, and wear, and patina. Someone else has held it and loved it and used it. Whether it is something you already have around your own house, something you rescue from your parent's house that has family value or something you pick up at your local thrift store. I just think these things are far more interesting than brand new factory-made products.

Thanks, Courtney, for your time, and for sharing with us your passion for beautiful vintage items!

Vanessa Pruitt, PLMHP, MS

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