My name is Valerie Lloyd, and I’m the proprietress of Smile Mercantile. I live in Seattle, Washington, with my husband, Khris, and our cat, Bentley. I sell a blend of vintage items, commercially-made craft supplies, and seasonal decorations that I make by hand.
I’ve always been an artist and maker, and when I was young my grandmother taught me how to spot a vintage gem in a messy thrift store. When I was laid off from my job in 2010, I knew it was time for a drastic change. My background in photography and merchandising fell right into place with Etsy, and I built my dream business. I imagined my shop as an old-time general store where I could sell all of my favorite things. This is my happy place, so I gave it a very happy name.
I spend my time crafting, hunting for really unique and special materials, and digging around at estate sales for vintage treasures. Offering such variety means that each day is different and exciting.
I’m always excited to share my latest find or inspiration. My shop is constantly changing based on what I’ve gotten my paws into lately. Sometimes it’s a batch of antique buttons or a simple paper mâché shape that I could imagine being turned into something wonderful, and sometimes it’s a piece that I’ve made by hand, with love. I try not to limit myself too much when selecting items to sell because my customers are creative, and I know they get me. They pick something up that makes them smile, and it arrives on their doorstep prettily wrapped up in old-fashioned brown paper and tissue. If I can make someone’s day, well, that’s the best thing I could ask for.
I’m always looking for opportunities to find unique items that inspire nostalgia. This summer, I went to the most amazing estate sale: it was a three-day liquidation of a true mom-and-pop antique store that specialized in vintage Christmas items. I went to each day of the sale because they just kept pulling out boxes and boxes of incredible vintage – antique ornaments, mercury glass beads, mid-century plastic decoration – it was unreal! Many of the boxes had been sealed up in storage for decades, and it was an exhilarating process to search through and pick out which items I thought my customers would most love to have.
Running my creative business has been transformative. When you’re self-employed, you discover that you possess a whole range of skills and abilities. I think in my previous life I was only seeing a sampling of my potential and creativity. It has been so thrilling to see my work featured in magazines, web articles and blogs. Having people appreciate my work makes me feel that what I do has value, and that gives me such a sense of fulfillment and satisfaction at the end of each day. It’s an extraordinary feeling!
All photographs by Smile Mercantile.