On Making Jewelry, Selling At Brooklyn Flea, And Eating In Queens

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Amy and her husband on their wedding day in vintage attire.

Amy and her husband on their wedding day in vintage attire.

Krrb member, Amy Lapierre creates and sells jewelry that feeds her ravenous customers insatiable appetite for the sparkly. Try visiting the Birdhouse booth at the Brooklyn Flea and you’ll find it mobbed with shoppers deciding that since they’re already there picking out a present for their friend that, “oh, maybe they’ll also just get themselves a little something.” I guess you can say Amy knows what people want and with Birdhouse, she keeps them wanting more.

But even someone who loves their job as much as Amy still needs to get out and enjoy their neighborhood. Whether she’s taking in the view from her front porch with her husband or exploring Queen’s vast culinary options, Amy’s a bright smile who has found a way to be successful at being creative. The dream, isn’t it?

A view of the Whitestone Bridge from the tip of College Point.

A view of the Whitestone Bridge from the tip of College Point. Photo from forgotten-ny.com

Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and where do you currently live?

I have lived in NYC since the late 80’s when I came here to go to Barnard College. Then I got a job, an apartment, and one thing led to another, and I’m still here 20 years later. My husband Alen and I live in College Point, NY which is a peninsula neighborhood in northeast Queens. No one really comes to College Point unless you live or work here, so it’s very quiet, with a small town feel with a mix of small apartments buildings and private houses. There is one strip mall of big box stores, and a few good local shops and restaurants, but the pickings are slim, so being so close to Manhattan is great. Living here feels like one foot upstate and one foot in NYC. I can be in Manhattan in 30 minutes, yet I have a raccoon in my yard, displaced from condos being built next door. Last week a wild pig was found outside the old airport marshes near 20th Avenue in College Point. It was mistaken for a wild boar because of its long nose. Did you see the story in the news? Here’s its pic:

What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?

I love how quiet College Point is. We can sit on our front porch and watch the sunset over the water and not one car goes by. That’s something to comment on if you live in NYC!

What are your favorite places you go locally to discover hidden treasures.

Queens has amazing, informal restaurants of all cuisines since there are so many ethnicities here. My husband is from Istanbul, so every so often we dig in to delicious dishes at Turkish Grill on Queens Blvd in Sunnyside and then stop at our fave Turkish grocery shop Sunny Grocery to stock up on things like manti and lamajun, jars of raw honey with nuts, and it all seems underpriced compared to Manhattan’s specialty food stores. Pio Pio has delicious Peruvian on Northern Blvd. There is great Colombian and Indian along Roosevelt Avenue. Agnanti Meze in Astoria is great Greek food. We tried a place called Himalayan Yak and had that hot buttery Tibetan tea and a huge tray of foods we had never seen nor heard of. We cast off the menus as we had no idea what was typical Tibetan and best from their kitchen. We told the waiter to bring us a meal of his own recommendations, and it was super.

Just a few weeks ago, we went to try a new sushi place and had our best sushi experience to date at Casa Asia in Whitestone, and that is no small thing. Not only restaurants, but small, import grocery stores are all over Queens with a depth and breadth of selection worth experiencing. Carmel on 108th St has Eastern European specialty imports and coffees. 108th St. near Carmel is a strip of great grocery shops in general. In College Point, Cascarino’s is a reliable Italian restaurant and there are a couple Colombian restaurants with fish ceviche I love. If you live in Queens, you can eat a wildly varied, high quality diet if you are interested. I wish all the little grocery stores I know had their import products on krrb.com. What a better world we’d all live in! :-)

What blogs or websites do you visit regularly?

Brooklynflea.com, Etsy.com, and the Pulse app is my latest favorite that I look at more than anything every day – it has all the sites and news I ever look at, all in one place, and the little moving filmstrip style is so fun to swipe back and forth.

As a kid, were any of your toys and clothes hand-me-downs? Stories please!

I am the youngest of 6 sisters; almost everything I wore and played with was hand-me-down. There was a small baby room turned into a big walk-in closet in the house growing up in Massachusetts. It had a mix of sizes and styles leftover from all of my sisters, and getting dressed sometimes felt like choosing costumes. There was also an old cupboard that held all the toys and games. It was a discovery zone for me, being the youngest.

Handmade earrings by Amy under her business name, Birdhouse Jewelry

Handmade earrings by Amy under her business name, Birdhouse Jewelry

Today, how often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? What is your modus operandi? Any personal tips you’d like to share?

I am a jewelry vendor at Brooklyn Flea every weekend year-round, so I am there weekly. Before Brooklyn Flea I sold and shopped at lots of artisan fairs and markets around the NYC and northeast. When I go on vacation or go see family in New England, I love to go to thrift shops and yard sales. Some of the best things I own are secondhand. I see tons of vintage and new merchandise weekly, and I buy sometimes. My one tip is to understand in yourself the difference between liking something and loving it. I admire many things, but I only buy when I love something. An objects’s condition, price, usefulness in your life, and/or decorative value in your house help constitute if it is perfect or not. You can feel the difference between sincerely admiring something and finding it interesting vs. knowing you have to own it. They are different feelings, and will save you a lot of money if you can be discerning and not jump on every impulse. Sometimes something is awesome, but you feel it is too expensive. Wait. It’s not perfect if it’s too expensive. Or if its condition isn’t right. You will find something else more suitable, if not that day, another time. However, if it is perfect, jump on it. Don’t let it get away.

Have you ever taken home an object you found in the street or dumpster? If so, what was it? And where is it now?

Oh sure! I lived for a long time on the Upper East Side. The wastefulness is extreme in that zip code. Perfect pieces of furniture are on the curb on big item pick up nights. I had a friend with a van and in the early 90’s we used to cruise the 60’s and 70’s for items on big item pickup night. People remodel and get rid of things that are not the right style but with no other flaw. In the late 90’s I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn and it was commonplace for items to be on the sidewalks with signs saying ‘Free.’ I got a perfect coffee table a half-block from my apartment that way, and when I moved, I put it back on the sidewalk. I think it was gone within 15 or 20 minutes. There is a nice culture of neighborly giving-and-taking in Park Slope. You walk home from the subway and might see boxes of books, a perfectly good, but unwanted beach chair, god knows what left out for the taking. Stoop sales are very good there too.

Gorgeous, unique rings from Birdhouse.

Gorgeous, unique rings from Birdhouse.

Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?

Neither, I have have a pretty normal looking apartment made up of a mix of new and secondhand furniture, rugs, lamps, and the like. There is also one cat, who we found on the street in College Point. He was a tiny little stray who now has the run of the place.

What is your most cherished thrifted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object you possess? What’s the story behind it?

This one’s pretty funny: I got married in a blouse I got off a fencepost at stoop sale in Park Slope on 6th Ave near St John. (see above) It is ivory silk and I could tell it would fit me perfectly. The woman waved me off when I went to buy it from her. She told me just to take it but I gave her $2 for it anyway. It’s still in my closet, and I still wear it, as it goes really well with this one floral silk skirt in particular that I have.

Handmade Birdhouse necklaces. Sparkly!

Handmade Birdhouse necklaces. Sparkly!

What are you working on these days?

With the help of a few workshop assistants, Alen and I produce fun, fashion jewelry for our weekend booth at Brooklyn Flea. We also make fine jewelry in platinum, or any karat of gold, but we don’t sell that at Brooklyn Flea. This week we are making a ring for a customer for his wife in platinum with a baby tooth from their child set in it. Two weeks ago we made 75 little bronze dachschund sculptures for party favors for someone’s party. We do a lot of bridal jewelry throughout the year too. We are always working on something new.

By the way, what’s your day job?

Our jewelry business is our day job. It’s great to own and grow our business. Thank you to the people at Krrb for profiling us!

The Short List

Sites
Brooklyn Flea
Etsy
Pulse News App

Find Amy
Krrb.com/birdhousejewelry

 
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  • Anonymous

    I specially like Gorgeous, unique rings from Birdhouse.
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