Repurposed Designs: Uniquely Inspired & Restyled
Cultural Immersion is Primary Ingredient
Websites like Etsy have revealed the popularity of repurposed and restyled items. Similarly, shops and boutiques in our local neighborhoods are bringing together vintage designers and artists to blend their fun, creative styles with elegant, comfortable quality. These entrepreneurs share an appreciation for the past and passion to repurpose an item into something unique and relevant today. Although each approach to business is different, their long work hours are fueled by the energy that the creative and purposeful work affords them, and the reward of seeing their vision unfold.
Lora Jorgensen’s appreciation for the sentimental value of the vintage jewelry she inherited from her grandmother and her desire to refashion pieces like chokers and pins into something more wearable has ultimately turned into a custom-design jewelry business and store, Gypsy Soul, that she shares with other small business artists.
Jorgensen describes her style as both fun and funky as well as vintage and eclectic, calling it “a working man’s art.” She designs and produces necklaces, bracelets, earrings, rings, and heirloom-quality glass bead rosaries. She is a self-proclaimed “thrifter” and a proponent of resource management when it comes to reusing or repurposing an object to make it wearable again.
For years, she has collected beads and gems, antique jewelry, hooks and chains from garage sales, friends or other sources. All are neatly organized alongside her tabletop work area in the store, ready to be fashioned into her next custom-designed piece.
Initially, she began making jewelry for herself, family and friends until she started selling pieces literally off her neck. At a wedding, someone asked to buy the necklace she was wearing. From there, she sold her jewelry in a few Door County galler ies and fine jewelry stores until the last two years when she decided to return to school. Now a business owner and a non-traditional student working on a bachelor’s degree in business and environmental science, Lora is also an aspiring member of Door County’s Young Professional Group.
“Opening a business provides a way to share my business sense with other artists,” Jorgensen said. “It allows me to help a circle of friends and business partners to make a living doing what they love to do.”
“In many ways the big box stores are copying us,” she noted. “They sell newly produced items designed to look up-cycled. Why not buy the truly repurposed items and support a local artist and our local small business economy as well?”
Gypsy Soul will reopen at a new location in April at 143 S. Third Avenue in Sturgeon Bay where a variety of entrepreneurs will showcase and sell affordable upcycled merchandise, including jewelry, furniture, accessories and bags, vintage eclectic household items, clothing, fiber arts and custom framing and matting. Unique to her shop is the availability of space where artists can work on creations while being available to talk to customers. Jorgensen hopes to offer a variety of classes and provide a place where clients can spend quality time in a creative environment.
“Why not buy the truly
repurposed items and support
a local artist and our local small
business economy as well?”
– Lora Jorgensen, Gypsy Soul
Specializing in artistic home décor, Katie Starr’s work is featured at Sourced, a retail shop she opened in June of 2015 at 24 N. Third Avenue in Sturgeon Bay. She started working with furniture when it was time to furnish her own home on a budget, and she, too, has been collecting and attending fl ea markets, garage sales and estate sales to find the perfect pieces to restyle. Chalk paint is her medium of choice. She considers herself a do-it-yourself enthusiast with a background in retail and as a stylist for events, parties and store displays.
“There is a big movement for people to get involved with different crafts and do things for themselves. I appreciate older items not only for their sentimental value, but also because they typically hold up better,” Starr said.
To restyle a dresser generally takes Starr two-to-three days of solid work to complete. She chooses the chalk paint colors based on a vision she is working toward. She first distresses the wood, unveiling the underlying textures and tone and then paints directly on the surface, often using color combinations she mixes on her own. To add even more character, she lines the drawers with enrichments such as pages of sheet music, books or wallpaper. To complete the project, she updates the hardware to give the piece more of a modern touch or reuses vintage knobs for a more antique look. A final layer of finishing wax completes the process and perfects the piece.
Sourced attracts a variety of shoppers who are pleasantly surprised to find a fun mix of found, restyled and locally made goods and who like to buy something they can’t find elsewhere. The store is still evolving, but she and the other entrepreneurs who sell and work there have a goal to have fun and “share new ideas for old things.” Starr also conducts community workshops on stylizing items like gift tags and repurposing old tin canisters and Edison bulbs to make lamps. She enjoys the creative aspect of teaching people to see and use things differently.
Beth Peterson has always loved clothing and how people wear it, especially in different cultures. As a clothing designer, her Breathe Again brand of artfully designed and impeccably crafted clothing originates from quality recycled or vintage fabrics. She uses no patterns. Each piece of wearable art is one-of-a-kind and handmade. Incorporating a variety of cultural influences and unique resources, Peterson admits that she never really knows how the final product will turn out until it is finished. Examples of her creations include recycled skirts made of Indian silk, a repurposed cotton and wool cashmere shirt and recycled and upcycled jeans. Antique buttons, lace, tablecloths, embroidered pieces, vintage linen or curtains might be found in her designs.
“I love the idea of gathering items from Goodwill or using vintage fabric that has been saved over generations and making it into something that might have been discarded,” Peterson said.
Her two businesses, Breathe Again, and the more recently established, Breathe, that features linen separates, are both marketed through storefronts on Etsy. Peterson first began sewing while in high school. At age 17, clothing designer Alicia Wilson of Ephraim hired and mentored her in the art and intricacies of sewing, design and tailoring. She learned how to cut from patterns and later build patterns on her own. At age 21, she completed an intensive course at the Paris Fashion Institute where she gained hands-on knowledge of all aspects of the fashion industry. In 1997 she founded and managed an India Adoption & Assistance program for a United States non-profit agency. She stepped down from that position in 2012, opened her shop at etsy.com/shop/Breathe-AgainClothing and is once again concentrating on clothing design.
“Buyers go to Etsy for quality and unique pieces. I’m proud of what I do, and there are definitely people out there who like it,” Peterson said. The business has allowed her to make a living doing what she loves, all while working seven days a week from her studio in her home.
Breathe Again is her creative outlet. Peterson’s client base is mainly made up of women looking for unusual and unique clothing that is not mass-produced. More than a third of her customers are international, with many repeat clients and referrals. When ordering, customers typically reference a style or article of clothing they see online, and with basic size specifications, she can get started.
Owner Trish Bosman open Recycled Denim with a Twist in December of 2013. True to its name, the start-up business focused on recycled denim products including bags that Bosman custom-designed and produced with local manufacturing assistance from ASPIRO, Inc., as well as other recycled denim products and textiles. In addition, visitors to the store could purchase jeans or choose from a selection of recycled fabrics for a custom bag to order or personalize it on site to their preference.
“Customers could come in and buy a quality pair of recycled jeans for $20 and for another $8 apply items like grommets, rivets and sew borders or embroidery to up-cycle them and have fun doing it,” Bosman said. Floor space was devoted to this effort until the business evolved and diversified to meet the needs of a growing client base interested in additional products that were also safe for their bodies and the environment.
Today the renamed Twist Boutique still features bags made with recycled materials and custom jewelry designed by local artists, but it is also known for its earth-friendly, healthy-living products like glass water bottles made with recycled plastic covers, a Good Earth line of organic soaps and products and quality women’s clothing including a popular, seamless leggings.
“Twist Boutique is known for comfortable, yet trendy clothing, and the word is getting around,” Bosman said.
According to Bosman, she has assembled quality, tested products and a loyal customer following at her boutique located at 760 Willard Drive in Green Bay. Her slogan “shop with a purpose and buy for a cause” speaks not only to the importance she places on buying locally, and supporting small or family-owned businesses in the United States, but also to her belief that everything has a story.
“I love creating things from recycled items, but I also like helping out other artists by featuring their products in the boutique,” she said. “When you do what you love, and do it with a purpose, it comes back to you full circle. But get ready to do some hard work.”