Jett has twice as much talent as any of us. Not only does she have a knack for scouring unique finds for her Krrb corner, she is also a freelance writer and an artist. Aside from preparing for the spring’s art festival Doo-Nanny, Jett’s fall is packed with college football games, homemade chili and Sunday night family dinners. Having trouble keeping up? Don’t worry, Jett is working on a new website to house all her creative projects. In the meantime, read on for tips on flea market shopping and uncovering treasures in the down-home South.
Tell us a bit about yourself. Where are you from and where do you currently live?
I’m Elizabeth. My friends also know me as Jett; I respond to either. I’m an observer, a perpetual student. I laugh a lot and I like to have adventures. I’m originally from Memphis, Tennessee, and the Delta will always be home. I’ve traveled a decent bit and lived all over. The past several years I’ve lived with my husband and three children in lower Appalachia on Sand Mountain, which is in northern Alabama.
What is the most awesome thing in or about your neighborhood?
We have a lot of really old trees in our neighborhood, so when you turn down our street there is this scenic and colorful canopy no matter what time of the year. That makes me really happy. That we know all our neighbors and they know us is a really positive feature, too. We keep an eye out for one another.
List the top 5 places you go locally to discover hidden treasures.
My kids will be mortified that I admitted it, but the side of the road sometimes yields a bounty. For instance, a couple months ago there was this hand-stitched quilt with not a flaw on it! Someone had just thrown it out. It was all grubby so I soaked it and disinfected it and it was as good as new, just gorgeous. Roadsides have gold on them a lot more often than people would imagine. You have to have eyes to see something for what it actually is, not what it appears to be.
Somebody is always clearing out a barn or their grandmomma’s house in these parts, so there are some good yard sales. Also, we have a couple of really big, miles-long yard sales once a year in this region. My favorite is the 411 sale, which is typically the first weekend in October. I’ve done that one for the past three years now and have come away really happy with my finds.
Chattanooga and Birmingham are both nearby and each city has a really good thrift community with quality goods at great prices. It’s just a matter of setting a day aside every so often to go look. Cullman, Alabama has a store called The Foundry whose mission is a good one, so I like to head over there every so often. While I’m in Cullman I stop at Southern Accents, because that place is an absolute dream and Garlan always has it loaded up with amazing things.
Friends and family tend to call me now when they know of an estate sale or someone who doesn’t feel like messing with offloading their goods on their own. That’s an offshoot of this business that I didn’t anticipate, helping others disassemble an estate.
Did you go to garage sales, flea markets, thrift stores as a kid?
Not overmuch, I think? I mean, I recall going to one or the other here and there, but I don’t remember it being a part of our lives overall. My parents both had it really hard coming up and I think for a time they wanted to remove themselves from a hand-me-down aesthetic.
How did you begin going to thrift stores, markets, etc?
Well, back when I first moved to Alabama I got wind of this store named Unclaimed Baggage. Apparently people would actually take their vacations to come pick this store! The whole premise behind it was buying up lots of unclaimed luggage and cracking it open to sell what was inside. So when I first went, there was this whole wall of these fabulous suitcases and trunks for next to nothing and the store consisted of departments made up of what they’d discovered inside; there was new stuff, used stuff, whatever, but most all of it was in super shape because how many people travel with poor goods, right? It was a cool notion to me then. I thought, “How clever to carve such a unique niche like this!”
How often do you go to garage sales, flea markets, etc.? Any personal tips you’d like to share?
I do some sort of buying at least once a month. Every few months I’ll take a full day, dawn to dusk, and set out to absolutely fill my vehicle. I would love to do this more frequently, but I only have so much room for inventory and if things aren’t organized it makes me crazy.
The biggest tip I have is to be an adventurer. Chase your nose and see what you come up with. Some of the best finds I’ve made have come from driving around somewhere unfamiliar to me and just keeping my eyes peeled. Trust your instincts. If you’re excited by something, then it has some merit to someone somewhere. Eighty percent of things I’ve geeked out about and then taken home with me to research have had value well beyond what I invested. This doesn’t mean the other twenty were a wash; someone else ended up digging it, too! They just dug it at a smaller profit margin. At the end of the day, if you’re buying for yourself that margin doesn’t really matter. The connection with the object is the most important thing, I think.
Oh! And dress down. The better I’m dressed the higher prices tend to be. Sellers do profile to an extent, believe it or not.
Great tips! Are you a hoarder or a minimalist?
HA! I’m a reseller so that I don’t become a hoarder. I get the satisfaction of buying cool stuff and rescuing it from a landfill or other destruction, then I pass it off to people who are thrilled I’ve found it. I believe in objects having purpose and meaning. We have a home full of things that have meaning to us as a family, but it’s not overfull. It’s a cozy and thoughtful space, I think.
What blogs (design and otherwise) do you read right now?
I love a really well-curated digital space, so Oxford American, Nowness, The Rumpus, Culture Brats, Anthology, Refueled, Fast Company, and Garden and Gun are all high on my list. There are a number of single-person blogs I love, but the ones that most readily come to mind are Museum of Wonder, The Good Word of Sprout, Schmutzie and Seth Godin.
What is your most cherished handcrafted, secondhand, vintage, upcycled object you possess? What’s the story behind it?
I have this three-foot-tall Raggedy Ann doll with yarn hair, a hand-painted face, dress and apron and all that my mother made for me when I was eight or thereabouts. Buried in its chest, it has a wooden heart that my father cut and into it burned the words ‘I love you’. I’ve lived all over the world and that doll has made every move with me. She matches nothing about my personal style or home, but she’s always with me. I think I still love her as much as I did when I found her next to the tree all those years ago.
Recently my father gave me my great-granddad’s KA-BAR knife. I was pretty tickled about that. He was a Marine and a bootlegger, so that knife probably has some interesting history.
What are you working on these days?
Well, I’m doing a couple of small art fairs soon, and some of my mixed media pieces got picked up by a cool little boutique in nearby Huntsville, so I’m working on inventory for all of those. I’m also steadily stocking my Etsy shops, Pretty Gritty Things and Twang. I’m writing, too. I’m always writing.
Oh, by the way, do you have a day job?
I work from home as a freelance writer, primarily. Being a maker and finder also pays some bills!
Thanks Jett! Looking forward to seeing your latest finds!
The Short List
1636 2nd Avenue Southwest, South Cullman Shopping Center in Cullman, Alabama.
308 Second Ave SE in Cullman, Alabama.
09 West Willow Street in Scottsboro, Alabama.