C is for……Chalkware ~ Selling Vintage A to Z

Welcome back to the third installment of our Selling Vintage A to Z series. To see previous posts in the series, click on the page at the top (or dropdown on mobile) where all the A to Z posts are handily gathered together! Today’s letter is the letter C (whoa! Sesame Street flashback!) and we’re discussing Chalkware.
This post has affiliate links.

C-Selling Vintage

I think of chalkware items as having two peak phases of production and distribution and fairly different styles between those two phases.
The first phase was in the 19th century and pieces (often figurines) were made in Staffordshire and other molds and marketed to be an inexpensive version of more expensive porcelain pieces.
chalkwarebustChalkware bust found on Worthpoint. Latter half of 19th century.

ChalkwarecatEarly 19th century chalkware cat...found on Worthpoint.

The second phase was the first of half of the 20th century and pieces from this era have more of a kitsch feel. They were various items such as figurines and were given out as carnival prizes. Kewpie dolls were a popular product but there were also busts, small statues and wall hangings.
I just came across this beauty at an antique store.

IMG_6759The trend continued on into the 50s and 60s when more kitschy and anthropomorphic chalkware products were popular…wall plaques for the kitchen and bathroom for example. (love it when A to Z topics crossover!)

From the same antique store:
IMG_6758Value

We can’t talk about value of chalkware items for the reseller without discussing what chalkware is made of. Basically chalkware is made from Plaster of Paris and then painted with a water based paint. None of that spells durability. I took a couple pictures at a thrift store recently to show you what chalkware looks like on the inside. (This piece was already broken, I promise!)
ChalkwareThis wall plaque was actually from the 1970s I believe but by a company that is well known for their mid century chalkware. Miller Studio (as seen on earlier packaging). It’s a name to keep in mind for reselling.
Here’s what the piece looks like on the inside.

chalkware2Looks like chalk, right?

Chalkware items break, chip and fade very easily. When I was searching for examples of the early types of chalkware, I was having a hard time finding any for sale on Etsy or Ebay. “Early” was coming up as 1900s-1930s carnival pieces. I finally found some Victorian 19th century pieces by checking Worthpoint and they were from auction houses. Pieces from that long ago have not survived all that often. That cat up above? Over $9000. The bust? $2200+. So yes, rarity has a powerful effect on value. I found a nice article here that explains more about the 19th century chalkware and how to identify it.

That’s not to say the carnival pieces aren’t collectible. There is definitely still a market and prices vary widely based on subject matter and condition.
So yes, condition and subject matter affects saleability.
For example, I have had these 2 plaques in my Etsy shop for quite awhile.
ChalkwaredutchDo you want to see the backs?
ChalkwareBackProbably not the most desirable subject matter. I may give up on trying to sell them. Then again, I may edit the listing a bit with some of the information I learned writing this post and see what happens.

On the other hand, I had these Miller Studio rooster plaques in my shop that sold very quickly.

chalkwaremillerOf course, NOS (new old stock) and roosters! Plus mid century coloring and a cool box. It’s a win-win! I actually just picked up a single one of these last week that I need to list.
Here are a couple other examples of mid century chalkware pieces that I’m always on the look out for. Folks decorating their bathrooms 1950s style don’t feel the room is complete without something like this:

ChalkwarefishChalkware fish set by Chic Mouse Vintage on Etsy

Chalkwaremermaid

Chalkware Mermaid Set by Shake and Pass the Salt on Etsy

See more mid century chalkware here.

And a quick word about condition. Due to the composition and age of these pieces, some wear is to be expected. If your pieces are perfect…that’s great! Newer pieces (50s-70s) with major chips or breaks can probably be given a pass. Not worth picking up unless they can be repaired easily. The older the piece, the more wear and damage is forgiven.


Thanks for joining me in the letter C. Sign up for email updates on new posts over there on the side (or maybe down below on mobile)…and you can also sign up for our monthly newsletter where we discuss vintage and thrifting finds as well as reselling tips and tricks.


Subscribe to our Newsletter!



Vintage Seller Success Story – An Interview with A La Modern

This is the third interview in this series. You can see the other two interviews here.  Today we are exploring the selling adventure of Bryan and Linda from the fabulous mid century shop, A La Modern. You may be surprised to also know that they are the geniuses behind the often referenced Pyrex collecting site, Pyrex Love.

VIntage Seller SuccessStories

One of the things that keeps me going in my vintage and Etsy selling venture is seeking (and receiving!) inspiration from other successful vintage sellers. I devour their shops and stalk their sales. Not to copy. No. That would never work. Vintage selling is often a OOAK business…what I find and what you find will be completely different. Niches may be the same but the whole experience is unique.

I will say that Bryan and Linda’s offerings on their website A La Modern as well their Etsy and Ebay shops are ones that I stalked big time, especially early on in my own vintage selling adventure. I learned a TON, especially about mid century design and pottery.

AlaModernEtsyLet’s ask them a few questions.

How long have you been selling online? How did you get into the biz?

We’ve been selling vintage on different online platforms for about 8 years now. A lot of people start out the same way we did, more as collectors. In our case it was originally with Pyrex, and then California pottery and mid century modern housewares. Eventually, you get to the point where you just have wayyy too much stuff – and then you decide to give selling a shot!

What venues do you sell on? What made you choose them?

In the beginning, we focused on our standalone e-commerce shop that Linda and I designed and coded from scratch. Shortly after, we also decided to try selling on Etsy. Over time it became clear that while it was nice to have our own online shop space, we struggled with drawing in viewers and customers. On selling platforms like Etsy and Ebay, there’s a built in base of potential customers. While you need to deal with competition from many other shops that may be selling the same items, the convenience and amount of people who visit more than makes up for it. So now we’ve scaled back the listings on our main shop, and are using it more as a gateway to Etsy and Ebay for higher ticket items.

We also tried our hand at an antique booth for about a year, but in the end we weren’t able to sell enough to justify the rental fee. That was a fun experience, but definitely an eye-opener in terms of the challenges and overhead that a physical shop has to deal with. It’d make me think twice before trying a physical shop again.

Is this your full-time job? If so, did it start out that way?

Selling vintage is full-time for me, although it didn’t start that way. Linda has always had a full-time day job, so she helps out whenever time allows. My background is as a website programmer, and Linda is a graphic designer. Because of this, we’d already built informational websites for fun that had to do with collectibles, like Pyrex Love and Potteries of California. So when we decided to try and sell vintage items, we already had the skills between us to build our own online store. Since contract work for web design has really dried up over the past 5 years for me, I’ve just focused more time on selling vintage – it’s more enjoyable anyhow, so that’s worked out!

Tell us a little bit about your process. For example, do you shop weekly and list daily? Do you have a backlog of inventory or are you good about keeping up with the finds?

We visit a bunch of different thrift stores at least twice a week to look for inventory, and then estate sales and flea markets on the weekends. I used to go thrifting more often, like nearly every day – but realized that I wasn’t spending enough time on the other parts of the biz. The research, cleaning, preparation, photography, editing, listing, inventory control, packing, shipping – it all takes SO much time. People who haven’t sold vintage before might not realize how much work goes into it – they think it’s a fun job where you just go look for stuff and then sell it for a lot of money.

Yes, there’s a huge backlog of unlisted items! Usually, there are piles of stuff in the “office” on tables and the floor – I try and keep the other rooms clear of to-list stuff but sometimes it creeps out. Actually, inventory storage is almost a bigger problem because things can take awhile to sell. I’ve got an entire row of inventory shelves that take up one wall of the garage, and then boxes of items here and there. If you sell vintage, forget about storing a car in the garage!

Well, that makes me feel better about my backlog, lol. Now, one of my favorite questions. What are your top 2 favorite sales of all time from an online shop?

AlamodernCamark

(photo from Worthpoint)

Definitely one of my favorites was a Camark art pottery vase from the 1920s. I came across it at a Goodwill while thrifting with our friends from Bit of Butter back in 2013. Thought it might do well on Ebay, but was shocked when it went for $1300!

AlamodernLithoWe also really like sales that have some story behind it. We sold a lithograph of horses done by Millard Sheets – you might know him as the designer of all of those murals from the old Home Savings of America banks. By a coincidence, they had just done an exhibition in Claremont of his horse paintings and prints around the time I listed it. The lady who bought it had visited the exhibit and then went online to see if there were any of his prints available – and she found ours! It also turns out she was buying it as a gift for her daughter who was sick and loved horses, so that was a touching story.

Awesome stories. And the vase is gorgeous! It’s amazing what you can find at a thrift store sometimes! So what are your two favorite items listed right now? 

AlamodernEnamel
Ok, that’s tough to pick only two – I should be saying the two most expensive items in the shop, haha! But some of my favorites are the pieces that have a local connection to Southern California. I’ve always liked Annemarie Davidson’s enamels, especially the Grooveline pieces like this blue one we have up right now. She was an enamelist working out of Sierra Madre, CA which is fairly close by – so I end up finding a lot of her pieces because they were often sold through gift shops to locals in the area.

AlamodernPelicanWe also have a number of Howard Pierce items up in the shop, like this brown pelican figurine. Howard Pierce focused on modern porcelain pieces, and produced out of Claremont and then later Joshua Tree. He was well known in the Joshua Tree area, and there are quite a few larger statues that he donated that you can see there and in the surrounding areas. We took a trip to Joshua tree about 10 years ago just to try and find them.

I love Howard Pierce! Where would you say you source most of your items?

At the start, it was almost entirely from thrift stores with the occasional flea market or garage sale thrown in. Later on, we started attending more estates sales and some auction houses. The availability of the really good vintage stuff at thrifts and estates has changed – there’s so much competition (at least in our area) that nowadays it’s common to come home empty handed from a 3 estate, 10 thrift store day.

It can take real dedication to keep finding the good stuff! You’re doing well! What goals do you have for your shop(s) in the future?

Investigating other online places to sell on is always in the back of our minds. Or better yet – just selling more things quicker! I think moving inventory more quickly is a constant concern for vintage sellers, if only because as mentioned the items take up a lot of space. I also want to work the social media angle more – instagram, twitter, facebook, etc. I know a lot of people have had more success selling directly on those channels.

Things are always changing in the online world, that’s for sure. Okay, last question…If you could travel back in time to when you started selling…what advice would you give your newbie self??

Oh yeah, the vintage time traveller question! This gets talked about among friends who sell vintage, but it’s usually you want to go back far enough in time and buy tons of vintage items that nobody thought would be valuable some day.

As for advice, I would tell my newbie self to be more aggresive in buying inventory, but also to be more selective in which items. Focus on spending a little more to make more, on fewer items. This balance is still something we’re working on, but I wish I’d started thinking about it more back then!


Thank you so much Bryan and Linda for sharing your experiences with us! Some good lessons in selling what you love and items that are native to your own area!

You can also keep up with A La Modern’s finds via social media.

A La Modern on Instagram
A La Modern on Facebook
A La Modern on Twitter
A La Modern on Pinterest 


Inspired to start your own vintage selling adventure on Etsy?
Click the link here to get to all our posts about selling on Etsy, how to open shop, how to get your items found and more!!

How To Open and Launch an Etsy Shop ~ Part Two

Okay, so picking up where we left off from How to Open and Launch an Etsy Shop ~ Part One. Only a few steps left! The rest is mostly about making your shop “pretty” and easy to navigate. (This post may contain affiliate links)

How To Open an Etsy ShopEditing Your Shop

When you’re looking at your shop while signed in, under your shop title is an orange button that says “Edit Shop”…click on that and you’ll be in Edit Shop mode.

EtsyOpenEdit

The first thing up top is a cover photo. This is optional. I currently don’t have one in any of my shops. I may play around with one in the future for this shop. But in any case, if you click on that you have a couple choices. There’s a small banner (760px x 100px) option that won’t show up on mobile devices. You can also do a larger cover photo (1200px x 300px) that shows well on both mobile and desktop. There are shops on Etsy that will design them for you. I prefer to just play around with Canva.

What I did instead was focus on my Shop Icon. That’s the square over on the left. Hit the camera icon to upload your photo or design (500 x 500px) that represents your shop.

Shop Title and Announcement

The next thing you’ll want to do is fill out the Shop Title right below your shop name. Like it says “Describe your shop in one sentence”. This is the tag line that will show up when someone searches your shop on Google.

Fullscreen capture 5312017 112703 AMThe shop announcement is a bit further down. It is optional. You can describe your shop, welcome people, announce sales, announce vacations. I went ahead and told people not to worry about this being a new shop…and gave the names of my other shops.

Public Profile

Over on the right in the circle is where you’ll upload a picture of yourself or what you choose to be your avatar. Click on your name underneath that to get to your public profile that you should fill out. You can customize what shows on this page.
EtsyOpenProfileIf this is a second shop, you need to disclose the other shops you are associated with in the About section. This is an Etsy rule. You can also tell more about yourself and your business. There is a larger, separate About Me section so you don’t have to go crazy with this space. 🙂

About Me and Policies 

Okay, so back to your Edit Shop page. Scroll down past your newly added listings. Your feedback (coming soon!) and Shop Updates (don’t worry about just yet) will be next.
Next you’ll get to an About Me section. To be honest…I have not done one yet. For any shop. Not even Recycleista.  I know! I know! It’s recommended by Etsy to fill it out and let your customers know who you are, etc… Honestly, I think it’s more of a thing for makers of handmade..that’s just my theory. I may get to it someday. Nobody wants to see my workspace. LOL.

After that is a few other things including a place to put your social media links. Cool! Then the next important one for now is Shop Policies. Etsy has some preset ones (I’ve *heard* accepting Etsy’s policies will improve your standing in search but no hard evidence on that at this time). I just accept the presets since they’re fine by me. I don’t have many issues on Etsy at all with my customers so it works.
Of course, you need to run your business the way you’re comfortable so tweak if you need to.


Okay! I think we’re looking good! Of course, feel free to just poke around the site. There may be other details you need to work out, like sales tax or such. You’ll come across all that as you look around. As you were doing your first listings, the process had you make shop categories. Feel free to make up your full list if you know what they are going to be. Shops get 15 categories now.
Now keep listing and fill up that shop!!

For some more tips on how to get your items found and sold click here:
How To Sell On Etsy ~ Post Links

Any questions? Did I miss something? Comment below!

How to Open and Launch an Etsy Shop ~ Part One

How To Open an Etsy Shop(This post has affiliate links)
Recently I had an epiphany about the vintage costume jewelry I’ve been hoarding  stockpiling as inventory recently. I had listed and sold a few pieces on Ebay and in The Recycleista, my main vintage shop on Etsy. But I have a lot of it and I wanted to really start hitting it hard and moving it out. The problem was, I didn’t want to overload my Etsy shop with vintage jewelry when it mostly focuses on housewares and vintage kitchen.

I decided to open another Etsy shop! I know. I know. I just shut down a couple shops. That’s the beauty of selling on Etsy. It’s so easy to start a shop! (Click here to read my post on How many Etsy shops do I need?) I took notes and pictures and thought I’d share the process with you.

Get your first 40 listings free.

First of all, if you know someone selling on Etsy, have them send you their referral link. You will both get 40 free listings. (side note: The referral link used to be a lot easier to find but the new Shop Manager doesn’t have it as of yet. So tell your friend to Google “Etsy referral link”…it’ll get them to an Etsy help article which will get them to the right page. Or they can opt out of the new Shop Manager temporarily to get to it under Promotions).
If you don’t know anyone else who sells on Etsy, you can use my link here. Like I mentioned, we’ll both get 40 free listings. (affiliate disclosure).
Once you accept their invite, it’ll prompt you to register.

EtsyOpenRegisterRegister

You’ll want to have figured out what email you are going to have associated with your Etsy account. It’s one email address per shop, so if you already have an Etsy shop, you’ll need to open a new email address. I usually just go to Gmail and start a new one. I then forward all of its mail to my main Gmail account so I don’t miss anything and I don’t have to log in and out all the time. If you already have a buying account on Etsy, you can probably just turn that into a selling account and sign in.

Once you’ve chosen your username (can be your name or same as your shop name or whatever), there will be an email confirmation too….you’re all registered! Then the Etsy shop opening process continues with choosing preferences for your shop. These are self explanatory…language, country, currency, etc.

EtsyOpenNameNaming Your Shop 

The process now leads you to choosing a shop name. Hopefully you’ve given this a bit of thought ahead of time. Have a few different ones or variations thought out, just in case the name you want is already taken. You can kind of scope out whether your hoped for shop name is already taken by using the search bar on Etsy itself. Type in the name and then narrow the results down to “Shops”. If there are any OPEN shops with your name, you know right away you won’t be able to use it.
The search bar only works for open shops so here’s the kicker. Even old, empty, closed shop names are not available. So you won’t be able to tell for sure until you are at this stage of the opening a shop process.
Some other things to keep in mind about shop names on Etsy.

  • 4 to 20 characters
  • No spaces or special characters. (some shops use capital letters to separate words..ex ModCatTreasures (yay! that’s me!!)
  • No profanity
  • Can’t be the same as another shop (as we addressed above)
  • No trademark infringing.

Your shop name can be a reflection of you, what you’re planning on making or selling or just something funky weird that people will remember! 😉

Filling Up Your Shop

EtsyOpenList

So now we’re at the point of adding items to your shop! It helps to have the items ready and photographed if at all possible. But if you’re not ready, no worries. The shop will just hang out where you left off. And nothing is visible…not until you say so.

Etsy recommends having 10 listings loaded up before opening but any amount is fine. I opened with 6. And then added a few more the next day after I opened. Of course I need to add a bunch more to really get the shop going.

EtsyOpenStockOn this blog, I’ve written several “Selling On Etsy” articles, where I go into more detail about listing things on Etsy. Including photography and listing descriptions. To read more, you can click on the “How to Sell on Etsy” tab at the top of the blog (or in the menu dropdown on mobile) or you can just click here. 

Payments and Billing

So now we move on to some more nuts and bolts type stuff. How you’ll get paid. You’ll put in the checking account that you want your money deposited to and then there’s just a section that helps confirm your identity.

EtsyOpenIDThen we move along to the billing and fees. You put in your credit card with which you want to pay your fees. If you click on the link on that page you’ll see how the fees work.

EtsyOpenFeesSee that notice up there about the cost of my 6 listings being put on my bill? I actually used a referral code from a friend so that won’t happen. Not until I hit my 41st listing, of course. (Don’t forget, you can use my referral code too if you don’t know any other Etsy sellers.)

Once Etsy knows how you’re going to pay them, you’re ready to launch!


Are you overwhelmed yet? I hope not. It is actually pretty simple and Etsy makes it nice and logical. Just follow the prompts. This just gives you a visual of the process and some tips. I did the whole thing over the course of a couple days but I did it in small batches. If you’re ready to go with your listings and name and such, you could be up and running in an afternoon.

Of course, we don’t stop there. Once I launched, the shop looked like this:

EtsyOpenLaunchBlah. Kind of boring. There is more to fill out with your profile, cover photo, avatar, shop sections, disclosures, policies and more. I’ll cover that in part 2. Part Two is here: How to Open and Launch an Etsy Shop – Part Two

Have you opened an Etsy shop? Was it easy? Any confusing parts? Share your thoughts below!

 

B is for….Brutalist ~ Selling Vintage A to Z

I hope you enjoyed the first post in my new Selling Vintage A to Z series:  A is for…..Anthropomorphic. For this second post, I’m covering another topic that I touched on in the blog years ago: Brutalism or Brutalist style.
(This post contains affiliate links)

B-Selling Vintage

I’d seen the word “Brutalist” here and there on Etsy and it seemed to get a lot of attention. I decided to do research to make sure that A) I could identify the style myself and B) that I would be using the keyword correctly.
Brutalism began as an architectural style.

2017-05-14

(All photos above are from brutalism.online as shown in the watermark.) The buildings are: (clockwise from top) 1. Habitat 67 from the 1967 World’s Fair in Montreal, Quebec, Canada 2. One Police Plaza in NYC and 3. Freeway Park in Seattle, WA.

The Brutalist architectural movement was a spin-off from the modernist movement of the first half of the 20th century and had its heydey from the 1950s to 1970s. The style had its fans…and its detractors. It was controversial.

Concrete was used a lot, often revealing the texture of the boards that were used in the forms. Le Corbusier used the French phrase “beton-brut” or ‘raw concrete’ to describe his work…and from this French phrase, the term “Brutalist” was coined.
There is much, much more to the architectural style and history. If this interests you, I found a great website called BRUTALISM:ONLINE

What fascinated me was how this style spilled over to smaller objects of the time. I’ve seen the word “brutalist” applied to jewelry, wall decor, furniture, sculptures and other home decor items. And this is where it gets interesting for us sellers of vintage.

Examples of Brutalist style

Let’s look at some examples because this is how I learned. Brutalism may be hard to describe in just a few sentences but you will soon begin to recognize it when you see it. Think repeated geometric forms yet often asymmetric and abstract. Rough texture. Earth tones. More organic and natural vs machine produced precision.

We’ll start big with furniture and then go smaller.

BrutalistCredenzaLane Brutalist style credenza or dresser from QuinnCASA on Etsy

BrutalistDiningTableSkyscraper Dining Table by Pasadena Antiques on Etsy

As you can see, there can be some big bucks involved if you find Brutalist style furniture, especially if there are designer names attached. But that top credenza or dresser is by Lane..a popular mid century furniture maker whose pieces are not ultra rare.

See more Brutalist style furniture here.

Wall decor, tabletop sculptures, lamps and clocks were also influenced by the movement.

BrutalistWallBrutalist Torch Cut Sailboat wall sculpture by VieuxFaireGoods on Etsy

BrutalistTreeBrutalist tabletop tree sculpture by ModHouseCA on Etsy

And this clock below is one of my favorites…I would die to find one in the wild. It’s by Syroco and it’s PLASTIC!
BrutalistClockSyroco Brutalist style wall clock by Vintage by Viola on Etsy

See more Brutalist style home decor here. Take a note of the prices.

One of my favorite categories that showcases the Brutalist style is jewelry. I have only found a handful of pieces myself. This was the most recent one. This pendant is not a high ticket item but it is signed by Napier and it definitely has that Brutalist influence. It went into my own jewelry box. 🙂

DSC_0015There are so many great Brutalist jewelry pieces. *sigh* Names to look for are Robert Larin and Guy Vidal. There are also many Scandinavian pieces.

BrutalistPendantBrutalist Pewter and Moss Agate Pendant by Vintage in Bloom (a familiar face!) on Etsy

BrutalistLarinRobert Larin Brutalist jewelry set by JanEleven on Etsy

BrutalistVidalGuy Vidal Statement Necklace by My New Discoveries on Etsy

See more Brutalist style jewelry here. Take a note of the prices.

Selling Tips

Okay, so keywords associated with this style would be:
brutalist, modernist, mid century, organic, torch cut, abstract, asymmetric, textured, burnished
You may have noticed that some sellers use Robert Larin-style or Guy Vidal-style. I don’t recommend that if the pieces are not signed by those makers. Technically it’s keyword spamming. And it’s not necessary. The word “brutalist” alone will get you the views and buyers you need if the style fits.


Now, I do understand this style is not for everyone. You may look at these pieces of decor or jewelry and think to yourself “who would pay that kind of money for that piece of ugly??”. But that’s the point of a vintage education.
You take the time to look at different styles and niches and you train your eye. You stop dismissing things as “ugly” and start seeing the value in them.

What do you think of the ‘brutalist’ style? Have you thrifted anything brutalist? Is it a new keyword for you?


Thanks for joining us on the latest installment of our series. Stay tuned for the Letter C!!