By Laura B. Hayden
Two unique venues for holiday shopping stand across the street from one another in Stafford’s center: Rustology Antiques and Oddities at 21 Main St. and Artful Annie’s Gallery, Goods and Gifts at 72 Main St. Both stores offer inventories that rely on the green notion of “reusing.” And, in their own ways, both Rustology and Artful Annie’s can add a touch of whimsy and a respect for the past to purchases that will suit your fancy – or the person for whom you are shopping.
While sons and daughters don’t necessarily want their parents’ hand-me-downs, “young people are always looking for unique items,” says Amity Smith, co-owner of Rustology.
Amity’s interest in reuse dates to her undergraduate days at UConn. A graphic arts major, she would find objects of interest for her creations at a Swap Shed in the nearby Mansfield transfer station. Amity’s husband Mike, Rustology’s coowner, inherited his love of “stuff” from his grandfather, who would take him along scouting collections. Mike’s father also once had a collectibles shop in Stafford.
Amity jokes that she didn’t realize until she met Mike that some items she happened upon at the Swap Shop might have a monetary – and aesthetic – value.
The Rustology website refers to the store as a “curious shop.” Its two floors are packed with collectibles arranged in an old school way, with limited glass cases. New inventory appears daily, specializing in industrial, modern, military, antique toys, vintage jewelry, vintage clothing, and — like its sign says —“oddities” galore. Most prices are negotiable, so enter prepared to haggle. Rustology also buys single items and entire estates.
The store is open Thursday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Friday and Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., and by appointment.
Much of the one-of-a-kind merchandise at Anna Hickey’s shop — Artful Annie’s, open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. – 4 p.m. — goes a step beyond the concept of reusing and recycling a pre-owned item.
The beautifully displayed garments and accessories throughout the brick-walled boutique are the products of “upcycling.” It is a process used by Hickey and suppliers like BH Upcycled Designs and Debs Barton upcycled jewelry. Discarded objects are reused to create a product of higher quality or value than the original.
Take, for example, a stylish poncho Hickey fashioned from an old army blanket she got when a design workshop and retail clothing shop closed its doors a few years ago. Hickey is also the artist behind an eclectic array of upcycled handbags refashioned from scraps of old fabrics, laces, placemats, buttons, tassels and chains.
Hickey’s mission goes beyond the environmental benefits related to saving the planet’s resources. It becomes one small business’s attempt to save people too – by offsetting discrimination relating to global circulation of apparel and fashion, from labor exploitation in Cambodia and Bangladesh to the culture of fast fashion that has reshaped the industry in the U.S.
She looks to stock her store with everything from art supplies for DIY projects to fine art, all of which meet her criteria that the item is a product of thoughtful invention, practical creativity, and fanciful pleasure.