Saturday, July 24, 2010

The restoration-> sewing -> blogging circle of inspiration

The major difference between the big shot and the little shot is the big shot is just a little shot who kept on shooting.
Zig Ziglar

This week I got the basics of the website for my design studio finally up.

I've owned the domain name for at least 8 months without putting anything on it except a "coming soon" note, and in the meantime I made a blog by the same name.

I promise I'm not obsessed with the name Salvage House, but what the name means to me and how it came to me is a good story...pretty much the story of figuring out what the hell to do with myself after graduating from college.

taking my parents on a tour of the fashion design building after getting my diploma

When I graduated In 2008 the economy had started going bad. The interesting thing was, the fashion industry started going bad at least a year before it hit everything else, probably because people were already over mortgaged and deep in debt and they were pulling back a little to keep the shit from hitting the fan. Anyway, it all went to hell in the months after we got our degrees. I believe about 40 girls graduated with me, all of us getting a BFA in Fashion Design. Some of them moved to places like New York or Philadelphia to try their luck and either got chewed up and spit out or starved. A few girls got jobs. Those girls were either laid off after a few months, lost their job when the company went bankrupt, or quit after a few months because of the craziness. Many gave up and got completely unrelated jobs to pay bills or went back to school for a different degree. I know two girls who are starting their own line, one girl who does part time costume design, and one who's really successful designing for a medium sized western wear company. That's it. Oh, and me. I'm still sewing for $.

What does this have to do with "Salvage House" ? I'm getting there.

I went through a few retail jobs and a completely non fashion related job, watched the economy crash and start to smolder, and was grateful for what I had. Eventually I decided that since I was intentionally staying in Dallas and was going to probably live through a few more years of recession ( if not a full blown depression. Remember how terribly bleak it all seemed?) then I would choose to use this time to set my self up for when the economy came back. Zig Ziglar wrote in one of his books See You at the Top that a football player doesn't wait until the moment he's called onto the field to start training, he prepares long in advance so when the opportunity comes and he's called onto the field he's ready to make the most of that moment.

I decided I would pool my resources (savings account with money in it from a car accident I was in as a child, the high paying higher stress job I was in at the time, high credit score, etc.) and buy a house in an area that would develop over the next 5-10 years, then spend that time studying and practicing and build a niche business that would be ready to thrive when the economy improved.

I wanted a property I could eventually use for both residential and commercial (live in one part, run my own business in the other part. One mortgage instead of 2 rents!). It would also need to be in the most interesting corner of Dallas I could find. The house would have good bones (pipes, electrics, foundation...) but would be cheaper because of lack of care (unkept ugliness can be fixed). After hearing about the Trinity River Project and all the development planned for just south of downtown I drove down to the levees with Marco and we started cruising through all the neighborhoods south of the river slowly weaving our way further south block by block. Not too far away from the Trinity and downtown Dallas the neighborhoods got really cute. Big trees, hills, restored historic homes, scattered parks...lovely. We'd discovered North Oak Cliff.

Of course you know that almost a year later I had bought a house one block from a vibrant historic shopping district that's growing. It's in an area that is wildly diverse and was seeing housing prices RISE while Detroit was being abandoned, Vegas was almost entirely in foreclosure and mortgage insurance was impossible to get. Thankfully I had 10% down and awesome credit!!

I left my stressful job, started restoring my house, and got work at a boutique I could walk to. That was when I discovered architectural salvage. Places like like DHW, Orr Reed, and the Old Home Supply House are hired to dismantle old homes that are being replaced by gaudy mansions or just to clear out one room like the kitchen that's being updated. They carefully pull out everything that can be reused, take the rest to the landfill, then sell the good old stuff in their warehouse to people like me who give these old things new life. There are vast rooms of old doors of every size and shape, ceilings covered in clusters of light fixtures, stacks of old table legs and banisters and random pieces of carved wood, carved fireplaces, stamped tin ceiling panels, entire vintage kitchens with counter top sink and cabinets, old sinks, clawfoot tubs, vintage windows, wood floors...
a weathered door next to an aisle of old doors at the Old Home Supply House

Not only is this a great way to get historic items for a historic home, items that are generally less expensive more beautiful and better made than their modern Home Depot or Ikea version, but the concept behind it is thrilling. To take the best of the past and present, to pull it apart and save it and recreate it in a way that is relevant to a modern life. Taking pieces, bringing them together in a new way, and creating something fresh and beautiful. There are some things like silhouettes, proportions, colours... that are always beautiful. Timeless classics of design. And when you utilize classic beauty there's a little borrowed magic that comes with it. All the unconscious connections you've made with that aesthetic through old movies, life, art...and the real bits of energy that seep from a historic object that's been involved in many lives over a very long time.

A close-up of that weathered door. The worn wood grains and layers of flaking paint reminds me of some modern art.

So when I decided to start a clothing line and go into business as a seamstress specializing in vintage clothes, and I found myself needing a business name, I thought about the the past two years and what inspired me to keep going. I thought about my efforts to pull a life for myself out of the pieces left over after my industry and the entire economy crashed, the inspiration of bringing a long neglected house back to life using many bits and pieces of the past and present fueled by hope for the future. I thought about my love of vintage clothing that inspires my business and my designs...all of it was based on the same concept, the concept behind architectural salvage. It's about pulling from the best of what's come before and recreating it in a beautiful way that's relevant to now. Taking what you've got and embracing it; really running with it.
Sewing. Salvage. My house.
Salvage House.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

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