Saturday, 16 July 2011

Handmade Blog Feature: Austin Modern Vintage

Hello and welcome to another daily Handmade Blog Feature!
This talented husband and wife team not only source beautiful vintage clothing,lighting and furniture which has also been featured in television series MadMen and TrueBlood.They also create beautiful raw and powerful jewellery using natural state stones.Be inspired to makeover your home,your body and adorn yourself in the wares of Austin Modern.See their interview and images from their shop below:

Hi Elle and the team at Austin Modern.Welcome to your blog feature! Firstly Who makes up the team and what are their roles?
Austin Modern is myself Elle Green and my husband Jaime (aka Jim) and on a smaller level our dogs Wednesday and Fergus.
Jim is my wingman when it comes to cross country diving expeditations,looking for new finds.He is my one man packing team and makes an incredicable job of making blast proof packages that travel from side of the globe to the other.Jim's speciality is creating some of the custom lamps design we offer and he gets a kick out of designing using vintage components.
Jim's day job is as a software engineer so he comes up with some very useful Etsy Hacks for me as well.
My job is buying and sourcing all our great finds.I,m also the photographer,runner,researcher,storage and post,marketing and merchandising,web and graphic designer,jeweler and jewellery team ans liason with set designers and tv production companies.Jim is the real unsung hero though,without his support we wouldn't be in business.The dogs provide some late night comedic relief on occassion.

How did the custom jewellery side of the business come into being?
The custom jewelry came into being in 2008.In the late 80's when i was in my teens i took several smithing and casting classes but that experience was set aside until we closed our bricks and mortar vintage business in 2008.I spent more time in the studio and going back to metalworking classes.
The Knuckleduster Line was featured in Daily Candy in 2009 which was rather fast for any small designer to be featured but we were very fortunate that our KD line was was in a gallery that was very proactive about promoting their designers and artists.
As the raw gem jewelry became increasingly popular at all levels,we moved onto different designs like our Rock on Rock Rings.Currently we are releasing a line that looks towards memorabillia collected on the Grand Tours of the 1800's and naturalistic items that you might find in a victorian curio cabinet.

Your fantastic knuckleduster rings is a variety of semi-precious stones and metals.What was the inspiration for the rings and materials and can you tell us a bit about how you create them?
The Knuckleduster rings were inspired by the hippy jewelry of the 60's and 70's where alot of studio jewelry was hand produced using in bronze and used braising rods and large chunky rock specimens to create a chunky effect.
In 2008 we were creating some custom lamps for a client of ours using large amethyst specimens and sliced agate for the lamp body and it seemed such a great fit -would could be cooler than a large spray of amethyst points across your knuckles!
One of our first buyers for the Knuckleduster Collection was Kelly Wearstler we were really amazed that such a well known interior designer was one of our first customers for the collection!
The process is traditional metalsmithing.We don't use glue to hold the pieces together ,each bezel is handcut and designed to fit around the stone and the ring shanls are our own design as well. I will select the specimens myself and let the stone dictate the design.

Ameythyst Knuckle Duster Ring by Austin Modern Copyright reserved

Selection of custom Knuckleduster Rings by Austin Modern copyright Reserved

Rock on Rock Ring Beach Stone and White Topaz by Austin Modern Copyright reserved

The business also sells vintage clothing,furniture and lighting.How did this strand of the business come about?
We primarily started out as a vintage store in Austin in 2002.A large part of our business when we opened was supplying many of the films and tv shows being shot around the Austin Texas area.
We supplied background props such as lighting,furniture and artwork for period films.
Most vintage stores also have a clothing section you really need to provide the full experience when your a bricks and mortar store.Now that we are soley online,our clothing section is very edited and we rarely add new clothing unless it's something amazing like the 1940's wedding dress or fun and faltteringlike the 60's plaid maxidress.

You've had some of your products in MadMen and TrueBlood how did this come about and what was used?
TrueBlood is being filmed just across the Texas state line in Louisiana,many of the prop masters there are from Austin and will source from shops in Austin and Houston since there are so many vintage shops in the area.
Specific props I couldn't's not terriably exciting to supply props for a film or tv other than to watch and say "Hey that guys carrying a gym bag we sold on MadMen" or "Look Hoyt's mother walked past a lamp we sold in TrueBlood!".We love the new Hollywood glam look of Bills Mansion in TrueBlood it's so over the top!
The MadMan Prop Department found us online.We did provide some pieces for Brad Pitt's film The Tree of Life,which was filmed locally and recently released.For that film we provided a Florence Knoll Credenza,several pairs of of mid century lamps (which were all sold on Etsy) and a kitchen table set.
I wish i could have met Brad Pitt or made friends with Angie,but generally we never interact with any of the actors.Most prop departments buy the piece outright but mainly pieces are rented and returned once filming is over.At which point the pieces are sold.We don't always know what pieces were used until the film comes out.
You've also been featured in ElleDecoration Magazine, DailyCandy and many other publications.How did this come about and any tips for others hoping to get featured in such prestigious publications?
Our pieces in ElleDecor have been through designers we work with who have purchased vintage from us or ordered custom pieces for their clients and then their clients homes have been featured.
Usually we don't get credit for  this but we appreciate our loyal interior design customers and 'feel the love' in other ways to.
Architecturial digest featured one of our chairs as Best Design Bet last June.They contacted us directly through another site similar to 1stdibs where we sold some of our higher end furnishings.
We have intentionally "tried" to get featured in magazines but really our best features are blogs and magazines that have contacted us and we are thankful to have clients that promote us to savvy editors as well as the galleries that promote my jewelry.So i can't offer any tips.
Being and selling online is the best self promotion you can possiably do! It's amazing how many editors and bloggers have etsy accounts!

Any tips for people wanting to get into selling vintage items?
Research and Specialise! I specialise in decorative objects from the 20th century.Most of my clients are decorators and designers and i focus on that groups desires and trends as well as buying only what i love.
Vintage dealers attarct clients that like that particular dealers taste.So buying what speaks to you will in turn speak to your customers!
It takes time.We've built up our client list over the last 10years.But i've got a friend on Etsy who's only been in business a year and is featured alot in Etsy Finds.What seems to work for her is killer photos and being very selective about what she sells.She doesn't have more than 40items in her shop at one time but they all work well together and speak to each other.It's very cohesive.
Sadly I think alot of people think pof selling vintage as just buying old stuff  at a rummage sale and hoping it sells.It rarely works this way.You really need to know alot about the items you are selling and about the type of people who will buy those particular objects.
One of our goals for this year is to streamline and edit the shop remove less interesting items and get more items that can be shipped globally.

What has been the most rewarding aspect of creating your handmade business?
I work really hard with the vintage side of the business and creating jewelry is such a blessing! it takes a very different mindset.It's all about what looks good and appeals to me.With vintage is all about what the client wants and needs,researching,sourcing and the travel involved to locate the pieces.
With jewelry it's pure creation from start to finish and i just love that!
I have a studio for the majority of my tools,torches and i-pod.So if i,m really lucky and the stars align and i have nothing that really needs to be done i can sit down and create for 12hours at a time and i find that so joyful!
I,m very lucky to be in a handful of galleries that strive to carry unique jewelry as well as more mainstream pieces .Unique jewelry by artists such as Gabriella Kiss who's work just blows me away!and is carried in two of the galleries that also sells our work.
We realised that for us consignment didn't work because the store owner just wasn't emotionally and financially invested in our pieces the excitment and energyjust wasn't there.

What has been the hardest aspect of creating your handmade business?
The hardest part is not being able to clone myself six ways and add another 24hours to everyday!
The vintage business is my day job and is my main means of support.It's alot of hardwork with a staff of just two and one of you has a full time job elsewhere.
I wish i was better at marketing,promotion,writing descriptions etc...i,m really grateful for all the help we've had from outside sources.I feel certain if i could dedicate more time to all aspects of the business we could really take off! We do laugh at the sheer madness of two people doing the work of 6 or 7 on a daily basis but we love it!
Who are your favorite etsians and why? for their killer photography and their selection is well edited and her portrait plates are hilarious and we have several hanging in our kitchen.

Thanks Elle and Jim for sharing your gorgeous work and the journey so far of also find their wares on their own website

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