Thursday, March 31, 2011

Playing With Vintage Planters: Now Featuring Dinosaurs

I found this lovely mod yellow planter at a yard sale a couple of weeks ago. The shallow shape and scalloped detail were so appealing, I knew I had to do the planter justice and create a beautiful scene for it. I hunted for the perfect plant and props, experimenting with the best arrangement.

I went with my favorite prop, skittles colored dinosaurs! They roam the miniature landscape, unaware of their magnificent beauty.

The tiny moss plant was $2.99, the little dinosaurs came from the ubiquitous thrift store dollar bag of toys, and this little pot only required a cup or two of dirt and a handful of white aquarium gravel for mulch and drainage. It was a thrifty fix.

If your planter lacks drainage holes, fill the base with a couple inches of aquarium gravel for drainage before adding the dirt. (Check out how to use your vintage planters for more tips.) A detailed post on potting vintage planters is coming up next month. I'm going to focus on Spring related topics all April!

It will be sad to see this beauty go, but my filled vintage planters sell well for me at the antique store. I know this arrangement will bring whimsy into someone's home.

My favorite potted scenes tell a playful story. How do you like to pot your plants?
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Thrifters Around the World: Ashleigh's Tales from Taiwan and Tokyo

I'm so glad PhD student and world-traveler Ashleigh e-mail me and offered to share her exotic thrifting experiences. Don't be shy, if you have global thrifting experiences and want to share them, contact me.

Tell us a little bit about yourself, Ashleigh.

My name is Ashleigh, I live in Atlanta, I'm 26, and I'm a PhD student in history, which is why I've been lucky enough to be able to travel so often--my research requires a lot of language study and visits to archives! I lived in Taipei, Taiwan last summer, Spain the year before, and I've been able to make side trips to other countries from both places. Aside from history, my interests include fashion, art, food, interior design, and, of course, thrifting.

When and why did you start thrifting?

We didn't really go to thrift stores when I was a kid, but my family loved garage sales, and I guess you could say it grew from that. I've only been thrifting regularly for a couple years now, but it grew out of those early memories of garage sales and my love of fashion. I like the unpredictability of thrifting, and I like it as a way to allow myself to have a wide-ranging, quickly-cycled wardrobe. Right now I wear a lot of black, but if I decided I wanted to start rocking pastels I could have a whole new wardrobe quickly and with minimal cost. I think the low cost and wide variety of items allows for greater experimentation.

What do you think makes thrifting in Taiwan different than thrifting in the United States or other places in the world?

It's very new in Taiwan--I don't think thrift/vintage stores as we think of them in America have existed there for more than a decade or two. So they're still few and far between, and a lot of the locals don't quite know what to make of them. Also, a lot of things in Taiwanese stores are shipped from overseas or purchased by the store owners--I never saw anything like a Salvation Army donation bin there. Of course, that doesn't mean that they don't have donations, but if they do they aren't very visible.

What are the names for "thrifting" in Taiwan?

I'm not sure, actually. People were so excited to speak English to me that I rarely got a chance to learn Chinese outside of school! The biggest and best thrift/antiques store in Taipei, Treasure Hunt Flea Market, calls itself "zao wu 蚤屋," meaning "flea house," while many of the trendy youth-oriented vintage shops just have English-language names.

Is there a large thrifting/junking/second-hand shopping culture in Taiwan?

No. As I mentioned before, it's a relatively new thing, and what few stores they have are youth-oriented. It's kind of a fad now, but by no means a big one.

Is there a stigma against second-hand shopping in Taiwan? Is it seen as dirty or something for low-income families?

Yes. Taiwan was a relatively poor military dictatorship until the late 80's, and widespread prosperity is still pretty new. So there's a kind of noveau-riche attitude among the Taiwanese--you buy new, and you try to buy Western or Japanese if you can. Few people want used things, and although the Taiwanese are very proud of their culture, they want their clothes and homes to look new and Western.

The only people I ever saw in traditional or Chinese-style dress were monks and Taiwanese aborigines dressing up for tourists. Also, there is a deep-rooted stigma against used things in Chinese cultures--many older people feel that using something belonging to someone else puts you at risk for attracting bad karma or ghosts. It sounds silly, but it's quite common.

Are there any flea markets in Taiwan? What are they like?

Night markets are very, very popular--most Taiwanese head out to one at the end of the day to unwind. Most of them open around seven or eight PM and close after midnight, and they can get very, very crowded, especially the biggest, Shilin Night Market. They're very much like flea markets--there are stalls and tables selling everything you could want at very cheap prices, and some of the best food in the country can be found at night markets. The only difference is that you rarely see antiques or used items--they just aren't very popular there.

Are there many dumpster divers and curb-side shoppers in Taiwan?

No. First of all, it would be considered really dirty and unhygienic--in Taiwan you wear slippers in your house and change into different slippers for the bathroom, I can't even imagine how they'd react to pulling something out of a dumpster! Secondly, in Taipei at least there is nowhere to do that stuff. In the city there is literally nowhere to put stuff out on the curb--you bring it out when the garbage truck announces its arrival, and dumpsters aren't very common at all.

Is there a large thrift and craft culture in Taiwan?

Not really. Most Taiwanese work 10-12 hour days and spend their free time at night markets and karaoke bars--they simply don't have time to devote to hardcore thrifting or crafting. They are some of the kindest and most welcoming people I've ever met, but they have a very different background and I think it will be awhile before we start seeing things like that become widespread in Taiwan.

What are thrift stores like in Taiwan?

Rare! I never saw anything that was analogous to a Goodwill or something. There were some vintage clothing stores in Ximending, the trendy part of Taipei, and they were mostly clothes shipped from Europe, Japan, and the United States and were pretty expensive even by American vintage clothing standards. "Treasure Hunt," my favorite place, called itself a flea market but was more like a thrift/antique store. It was huge--actually it was a pair of two-story buildings rather badly cobbled together--and it was crammed full of amazing stuff from the eighteenth century to the 90's. You could find everything from eighteenth-century Chinese furniture to vintage French kitchen appliances to American bellbottom jeans from the 70's. It was amazing, and if I could have afforded the shipping I'd have furnished my house from that place!

You've been thrifting in Taiwan, Tokyo, Paris, Spain, Jacksonville, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia! Which one is your favorite place to thrift?

Hard to say! I like seeing unfamiliar knickknacks and clothing brands in other countries, but in the states there's the advantage of having a wide variety of thrift stores at your disposal.

What was thrifting in Tokyo like?

More common than in Taipei, but pretty much marketed towards well-off young people who want quirky foreign stuff. Prices were unspeakably outrageous--we're talking in the neighborhood of $100 for things you could get at any Goodwill in America for $3. Maybe there is something like Salvation Army in Tokyo, but I didn't see it!

Can you describe your Paris and Spain thrifting experiences?

Paris had some wonderful thrift and flea markets--at one shop, I got a leather bag, three dresses, a scarf, and a blouse for $40, which is just insane for Europe! I didn't get to stick around Paris long enough to see everything they had, but I hear it's a fantastic place for vintage shoppers.

Cindy, who wrote about thrifting in Spain lived in Barcelona, which is more trendy and European than Seville, where I lived. There, thrifting and vintage clothing was pretty rare--aside from the big Jueves flea market, I really can't recall much, and I lived there for months!


If you would like to be featured in Thrifters Around the World, shoot me an e-mail. I would love your feedback on this new segment, let me know what you think in the comments below.

Past Thrifters Around The World Interviews:
[3/01/2011] Thrifting Pro Miss P From the UK (Part II)
[3/08/2011] Switcheroom's Elle From the Philippines
[3/29/2011] eLousion's Cindy From Puerto Rico

Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

What's in This Thrifter's Bag...

I love reading other blogger's What's in my Bag posts. Sometimes they provide practical ideas, but more importantly, the contents always provide a visual snapshot of the owner's personality.

My current bag of choice is by Sanrio and features the adorable Chococat mascot. It's a little girl's purse masquerading as a grown-up lady's purse. I relate to it;  I have an adult's brain with little girl's interest: like cute Japanese things, dinosaur toys, and cartoons! Within it are three pouches with three duties: 

Pouch one: Deceptacon Megatron contains:

-Don't You Worry About a Thing planner from Cute Tape: I love the kawaii asthetic, how the front looks like a watercolor painting, and how the title is also a Stevie Wonder Song. I use this all the time.

Pouch Two: Autobot Bublebee typically holds my vanilla blackberry sage vegan lotion and Earth 'n Sea Naturals Chapstick. (Local brand I love!)

When I'm running late for work I'll pack my homemade toner (tea tree oil and water), cotton pads, and cargo 2 in 1 concealer.The whole point of the pouches is to keep the contents of my purse extra safe from inevitable spills. (My dollar-bin plastic Transformers pouches make nice "purse protectors".)

Pouch Three: The Parcel Wristlet is like my wallet, but it's also what I'll carry when I don't need the burden of the whole purse. It's usually all I need on the weekends. It contains:

- Robot card case (holds my yard sale/flea market cash and ID/Debit/Check/Credit Cards)
- Japanese koi change purse
- Cheap-ass cell phone
- Lots of dentyne ice gum (not pictured)

What do you keep in your bag, fellow explorers, artists, and thrifters? Tell me in the comments, or link me to your own what's in my bag posts.
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Thrift Haul: Spring Yard Sales

It's officially yard sale season here in North Florida. The summer heat is oppressive; this is our last respite before the weather get out of control. I've been enjoying the cooler weather with some yard sale hunting!

While driving along this bright yard sale sign caught my eye. Bright colors! Retro font! I had to follow the signs to the inevitable treasure trove of goodies!

I followed the signs to eclectic and rural plot of land. There were two long unpaved driveways. One flanked with decaying plastic lions, the other with similar plastic elephants!

The yard sale hosts were very nice and asked me to take as many pictures as I pleased. (Yard Sale hosts and thrift store hosts can get very nervous- or angry- when you start taking pictures. Ask me how I know!) I was told everything under the covered porch was for sale and spent some time searching through the clutter in the pleasantly cool shade.

I loved the neon "Open" sign above the porch, and the invitation to come back when they dig out "more old junk" next week. I'll be there!

I found a nice pile of old cook books, the interesting recipes already marked. I'll have to make time to scan some of the beautiful old illustrations.

This kitschy gun-shaped novelty wine container recalls a  prop from a horror movie...or something from a  Resident Evil puzzle! Now to find the perfect spot in my house to hang it!

I also found these fun retro illustrations, copyright 1978. These are destined for the antique store, I like how they're already framed appropriately.

Another fun find, a crazy bubblegum pink elephant watering can! I'm going to use it to water my growing collection of houseplants. Smaller watering cans are better suited to this task.

And finally, the most terrifying yard sale find...ever! Thrown in for free, probably to free the prior owners of its curse! What would you call this horror movie extra? It might be Rosemary's Baby itself! It's pint sized terror and I'm locking it away until Halloween!

What did you find while hunting this weekend? I have so many more fun retro finds from this weekend to share in future posts.

Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, March 25, 2011

My Favorite Dumpster Find and a Story of Risk

Out of all the treasures I've found while Dumpster Diving (read my tips on dumpster diving), this vintage Risk game remains my favorite. The front of the box says it's from 1968. It survived the constant threat of being trashed for years only to be donated to a thrift store and subsequently tossed in the dumpster behind it.

It's funny that Risk is one of the last remaining physical objects in my house associated with an ex-friend of mine. This former pal has been featured on the blog several times. She helped me with my table craft, she made garden stones with me. We went thrifting together, I shared my favorite art events with her, and we even dumpster dived together.

I wish I could write the details of what went wrong one month ago because that's what writers do; writing our pain is therapeutic. But the story is strange and difficult to convey. Let's just say, I had complete trust in her and she completely betrayed it.

I love to help people. When someone I know needs assistance, I want to be there. Need guidance with your websites? I'll give you pointers. Need a place to stay for a while? Come on over. When you're a giving person, you leave yourself vulnerable. Inevitably, someone will take advantage. Sometimes you'll get hurt.

I got rid of some of the objects the ex-friend and I found together; they're associated with bad memories now. Yet I could never throw away this vintage Risk game. Not just because of its graphic retro shapes and whimsical whale illustration, but because it's my new reminder to keep taking Risks:

Risk making new friends even when old ones have hurt you, Risk trusting people again, Risk putting it out there when you've been hurt so others can learn from it, Risk being vulnerable and helping more people every day and Risk hunting through dumpsters to save neglected treasures like this beautiful vintage board game. 

Every day is a risk in this adventure called life. Bloggers take a Risk every time they publish a post. (Will people like this post? Will they respond? Will it help them?) Risk has gotten me where I am today as a writer and an artist. I'll never regret taking risks, even if a risk I took ended poorly. You shouldn't regret the risks you've taken, either. We won't get anywhere as creatives without taking risks, so let's keep making them!  

Let's take some risks this weekend...
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Thrift Core Giveaways, Updates, and Sponsors

Thrift Core is going through some changes that will benefit you, so I'm taking some time out to update you on what's going on!

Getting More Traffic for Your Blog:

I'm accepting sponsors for April. This is a valuable opportunity for boosting your website's traffic. When you buy an ad on Thrift Core you receive...

- Free website tips newsletter: to improve your business, sales, and more!
- Free ad design: don't worry about designing an ad, I'll make one you'll love.
- Free pro analysis: a custom consultation for improving your website.
- Constant Help: You'll never be left in the dark, I'm attentive and responsive.

Remember, I make a living improving websites. A copywriting campaign I launched recently earned my employer over $53,850 in three months. My advice is valuable, and I'm giving it to you for free when you buy an ad on Thrift Core.

Answering Your Advertising Questions...

How do I buy an ad on Thrift Core?
It's super easy! Use the paypal "buy now" buttons I have on my advertising page to buy an ad.

What happens after I pay for the ad?
I'll e-mail you ASAP and discuss the best ways for you to increase your traffic. It's a personal one-on-one experience. I'll make your ad if you need me to, and your ad will be on Thrift Core soon after that.

I want to buy an ad, but I'm not sure if your website has the right demographics for me...
This is a site about thrifting, and thrifters comes in so many forms. Send me an e-mail and we'll see if an ad on Thrift Core is right for you.

I want to buy an ad, but I don't have the money...
I'm willing to trade ad space on Thrift Core for something of equal value. This can be something from your shop, amazing PR opportunities, or a skill you're willing to provide. I won't do this every month, and I'm going to be very selective- but I'm officially putting it out there.

How can a blog giveaway help my business?
Blog giveaways are a surprisingly effective way to boost sales for your online venue. I've personally bought products I first noticed in blog giveaways (and I'm a very jaded marketer!). Contact me if you're interested.

I'll make sure you get the value you deserve...

I'll respond to every question you have quickly, and I'm going to work with you to help you get your website where you want it to be.

Once you get started, I'll analyze your website and we'll work together and quick ways you can increase traffic, interaction, and sales. From there, you'll see numbers continue to go up from your ad being on Thrift Core. I work hard to provide you with the best value for your money, and I check in on you from time to time to make sure you're getting the results you desire.

Limited Space:

I only have a limited amount of ad space for each month, so don't delay on buying an ad and getting all the benefits that come with it for April and beyond.

Testimonials from happy sponsors:

I just love the ad you created for me and I'm seeing an increase in site visits already!

So very excited! I have had a ton of traffic coming in from Thrift Core! Thanks Van! :D
-Marcia, Marcia Furman Art

I have been getting great traffic these days! Thank you!
-Cindy, elousions

“Vanessa is a detailed employee who is extremely task oriented and highly dependable...I can attest that her attention to task and commitment towards her job is unparalleled.”
-Ron, TDN
"Thanks for being so easy to work with!"
-Hillary, HGTV
More Updates are on the Way...

I'd love to help you bring more traffic to your website or online store. Check out my Advertising page for more details. Contact me or leave a comment on this post if you have any questions. I can't wait to fill you in on exciting new projects, opportunities, and giveaways that are in the works!
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Top 5 Tips for Blogging Success

Two questions I receive frequently are "Should I start a blog?" and "How can I improve my blog?" If you're passionate about thrifting and can see yourself writing incessantly on the subject for months, then hell yes, start a thrift blog! However, simply making the blog and posting is not enough if you want readers and interaction.

Here are 5 things your Thrift Blog (or any blog) needs to generate interest, comments, followers, and success:

1. Passion: If you can't see yourself spending a few hours a week writing blog posts, taking pictures, and tweaking with your blog design...stop now. Your blog will not be successful without passion for the chosen subject.

2. Focus:  Choose the top topics you want to focus on, and stick to them. Write a mission statement for your blog, this helps you keep on topic and gives your readers something to expect. Mine is: "Thrifting, Creating, and Saving Money". When people know what to expect they have a reason to follow and keep reading.

3. Personalization:  Don't use the default template alone, personalize your website. This doesn't need to be difficult. Add a header graphic, add an "about" page, and state your mission clearly somewhere on the blog for starters. You can add more later.

4. Excellent Pictures: If you're blogging in the handmade/DIY/creative niche, excellent pictures are vital. They don't need to be as polished as magazine photos, and you don't need an expensive SLR camera to take good photos. Just make sure your photos are clear, bright, and crisp. Bright natural light and keeping your camera very still will make a world of difference.  

5. Value for Your Readers:  Before you publish a blog post, make sure that post provides value for your readers. Thrift Haul posts inspire fellow thrifters and takes them on a vicarious shopping spree with you, for instance. This post is teaching bloggers how to improve their blogs and gain readers. If you don't provide value, people don't have any reason to read and come back.

All of these tips and more will be covered in detail in a series I'm working on as a guest writer. Any questions? Any tips of your own for blogging success? Leave 'em in the comments! I'd love to read what works for you.
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Thrifty Web Design Tools: Sharpies, Colored Pencils, and Crayons

I've been challenging myself to create an improved design for Thrift Core using little more than sharpies, colored pencils, and crayons. I love designs that incorporate hand drawings. It adds something tangible to a blog's layout; a little piece of the writer's soul.

Using colorful sharpies I sketched out some icons for the website. This is not a future design for Thrift Core: this is just a preview of the new direction I want to move in. I want the website to feel more personal and playful. It should clearly showcase my unique style.

My goal is to feature my quick and energetic doodles while keeping the design somewhat professional. I'll continue to sketch out blog ideas, savoring the design process and working until I have the polished design I crave. I hope you won't mind seeing my silly sketches on this blog from time to time as I work out the perfect balance. Maybe I can do a Thrift Core sketchbook series. I'm always doodling something fun to share.

I want to draft and brainstorm for a while to get the design right. It'll be fun to fill my sketch book with drawings again. I exercise my writing, webdesign, photography, and crafting skills often; but it's nice to reunite with drawing, a long-neglected other favorite creative outlet. I feel energized and ready to sketch up a storm!
Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Thrift Haul: Can You Taste The Dinosaur Rainbow?

There are monsters frozen in an epic battle above the fireplace in my quirky vintage apartment. Sometimes when I go thrifting I find more radical beasts worthy of joining the tableaux. This weekend I thrifted and found a few volumes of manga, an art book, and a little cup for mom- but I wanted to focus my energy on capturing the bag of colorful toy goodness I received.

The bag of toys was a gift from my mom, she saw the rainbow of exotic dinosaurs on a solo thrift store visit and thought I’d love them. She was right.

Once home I ripped open the bag with the clumsy rapture of a kid on Christmas day. Daintily, I separated the dinos from the other bagged beasties. I lined them up and admired their beauty; their shapes are graphic and animated, their colors look delicious. It’s like they were poured out of a bag of "tropical" flavored skittles.

Can you taste the dino-rainbow? 

They’ve joined the others in my eclectic shrine. Glowing in the setting sun, each toy its own little story. Who could round out this little collection?

Super Saiyan Goku! Ready to keep the peace and blow away the kitschy dinosaurs with his mighty Kamehameha blast if things get crazy!

What did you find while thrifting this weekend?

Daily thrifting updates, information, & Inspiration: Follow Thrift Core on Twitter and Facebook.

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