Valerie Lloyd owns Etsy shop Smile Mercantile, which sells vintage wares and handmade items that are reminiscent of times gone by, and has spared us five minutes to chat about her little life over in Seattle. We hope you love her and her work as much as we do!
Off to a crafty start
"I've been a maker as long as I can remember. When I was a child, my dad and I would be out in the back yard building tiny little castles out of mud. I think he enjoyed playtime as much as I did. When it rained, he would dash out into the yard with a plastic tarp to put over the mud city so it wouldn't wash away.
"I think my mum still has some of the Christmas ornaments I made as a toddler. She would blow out eggshells that I would decorate with glitter and then hang on pipe cleaner hooks. Oddly enough, it seems I'm still doing many of the things I did when I was three!"
"My childhood was full of creativity and sometimes craziness. I loved to decorate and then redecorate my room with different themes. I remember a phase where I hung Christmas lights from the ceiling and spritzed everything with a bottle of water so it would feel very humid. My goal was to pretend I was living in a fancy hotel in the tropics. I think I was nine."
Taking it back to the old school
"I have a deep appreciation for photography. I studied photography in college and specialized in antiquated techniques from the 19th century. Working with film in a darkroom really taught me about craftsmanship and the importance of creating high-quality finished products.
"My work in old-fashioned photography is what initially drew me into collecting vintage. I enjoyed working with antique and vintage cameras and I really felt like they contributed something to my images that could not be replicated with modern equipment. Once I started collecting cameras, I found myself surrounded with lots of other amazing older items that I wanted to investigate.
"I love to find vintage treasures at estate sales. I get up early on Friday mornings to get a good spot in line at the sales in the area. Dark basements are my favourite!"
"Seattle is an amazing area for crafters. The population here is very receptive to the value in handmade goods and unique design. There are a great number of innovative companies in the area: Amazon, Microsoft, Boeing... and many more. Creative thinking seems to be a very celebrated quality in the Pacific Northwest.
"The city one big craft hotspot. There are great street markets and lots of amazing little shops. One of my favourite places to go for inspiration though is the Frye Art Museum, which has an incredible permanent collection of late 19th-century paintings, usually hung floor to ceiling (and it's free!)."
"Also, I would say the best thing for a visitor to do is rent a car. Drive an hour in any direction and you’ll find yourself in the mossy green temperate rainforest that surrounds Seattle. Sometimes when I'm in a funk I'll just go find a new trail, rain or shine, and hike. Often, I’m the only person on a trail and that solitude and scenery is truly blissful."
The best and the worst
"The best thing I ever made was my wedding dress. I bought 10 yards of the most beautiful ivory silk and designed the perfect gown by fitting together elements of two or three different patterns. It was a lush ball gown and it was perfect for me.
" “I once followed a recipe for a type of papier-mâché clay and it turned out to be the worst thing I ever made. I had hoped to press it into a mould to make a few small figurines but the final result was awful. It smelled strongly of linseed oil, was terribly messy and hardened too quickly into a cement-like brick, destroying the mould I was using."
"I set up my Etsy shop after I had been laid off from my job in 2010. I had originally aimed to just sell a few vintage cameras I had, but I found Etsy to be incredibly inspiring and it quickly became a bigger and bigger part of my life. Eventually I started sourcing more vintage items with the intention of selling them. The whole process made me smile during a difficult time, so that's why I called it the Smile Mercantile. Now I hope I make lots of people smile with the pieces I collect.
"I’m also very inspired by nature and I love to celebrate the seasons. I grew up in southern California, where it was a sunny paradise every day of the year. When I moved to the Pacific Northwest 10 years ago, I was astounded by the distinct changes going on around me during the year. It's a very beautiful and graceful process that I really had never seen before.
"I really enjoy making a variety of items. The paper flowers that I make have become very special pieces. I bind them into bouquets for brides, and sometimes I'll make flowers for entire wedding parties. ship them all over the country and the feedback that I get from them is so dear to me."
"I love to decorate for the holidays. My husband and I live in a downtown apartment that is extremely tiny but beautiful, and we love it. I try to keep the décor elegant and special, since we just don't have the space to really go overboard.
"I feel like I already live in my dream home. This itty-bitty apartment that we’ve lived in for four years is like our little squirrel burrow – it’s so cosy. It was built in the 1920s, has lovely wood floors and trim, and exposed brick walls. If we ever move, I think we'd hire a contractor and say, "make it look like our old place!"
Hands up who wants to go to Seattle? It sounds like a truly inspiring place to be – thanks, Valerie, for sharing a little slice of your life with us!
Make sure you keep an eye on the blog, as well – we’ve got a fabulous Christmas how-to for you from Valerie coming up very soon!