Yard sales are places to find unexpected treasures, but when I stopped at one last year I never knew the treasure I found would be a new artist for Wenaha Gallery. I mean, I was just looking for little boy baby clothes.
There weren’t any. But what there was were colorful, unique, and trendy necklaces and earrings — an entire tableful.
“Did someone make these?” I asked two women sitting in chairs nearby.
“She did,” one replied, nodding toward the other. “She creates all this amazing jewelry and didn’t know where to sell it. I said I’d put it in my yard sale.”
And so I discovered Dawn Moriarty, a geriatric nurse at Booker Rest Home in Dayton, WA, who prolifically fashions in her spare time not only chic jewelry, but nostalgia journals assembled from repurposed paper products. She works out of a “woman cave” studio in the basement of her home, and many years ago turned to both jewelry and paper crafts as a means of bringing a peaceful balance to her life.
Not wanting to fuss with a website or Etsy store, she stored her art in boxes. When one was full, she took it to work and sold to friends and coworkers.
“The positive feedback there would ‘fuel my fire’ and keep me inspired to create,” the Dayton artist says.
Selling Nostalgia Journals and Jewelry to Co-Workers
But at some point, there was more artwork than co-workers, and Moriarty looked around for other places to share her wares: hence, my fortuitous discovery at the yard sale. An added bonus were the nostalgia journals, a high-demand item that Moriarty brought into the gallery on a whim, unsure of how they would be received.
“She asked me, ‘Do you think anyone would be interested in these?'” gallery framer Savonnah Henderson recalls. “I said, YES! Do you think you can keep us supplied?”
Quite fortunately, Moriarty loves spending time in her woman cave, dividing time between the journals, jewelry, and yoga. When she isn’t in her domestic subterranean environment or working, she’s on the hunt, scouting out raw materials. This activity she describes as being as fun as creating the art.
“To find the material for my journals, I go to antique stores, junk shops, yard sales, estate sales, secondhand stores, library sales — anywhere I might find objects that I can re-purpose and reuse,” Moriarty explains.
“Once in an antique store in La Grande, OR, I found an 1889 original almanac, and in the spine was an old sewing implement, kind of flat, metal with engraving on it and some brown wool thread in the eye — it’s beautiful!
“I look for used paper products from tags, receipts, stationery, old sewing patterns, diaries, textbooks, ledgers, and so on. I also look for vintage textiles from fabrics to trims and lace.
“I use rusty metal bits, broken watches, the list goes on and on, and it’s a never ending treasure hunt.”
Vintage Chic and Fashionable Nostalgia
That’s just for the journals. For the jewelry she routs out vintage glass and metal beads — she has a selection that were once on a beaded curtain in an old shop in Seattle. Gems and semi-precious stones she sources from Shipwreck Beads in Lacey, WA, where she makes a yearly trip to stock up. And the polymer clay beads she creates in her woman cave, a happy place of relaxation and inspiration.
“Working with polymer clay is a great stress reliever. There is a lot of squishing and squeezing going on.
“Then you take your lumps of conditioned clay and mix, twist, layer, and press to create something pretty.”
Each piece, whether jewelry or nostalgia journal, is a statement, Moriarty says, and the basis of that statement is the vintage status of the materials she uses. Not only does this ensure that each piece is one of a kind, never to be replicated anywhere, it also adds feeling, significance, and humanity.
“I love knowing that each piece has a history,” Moriarty says. “I wonder about the lives that it touched. There’s a connection to the sentimental value of each item, whether it’s jewelry or a journal.
“And with the journals, it’s an awesome feeling knowing that there are people out there writing down their thoughts and storing their memorabilia in books I created.”
Contact the gallery, located at 219 East Main Street, Dayton, WA, by phone at 509.382.2124 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Gallery hours are 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday through Saturday, and by appointment.