It's no secret that the hunt for vintage goodies is one of my favorite parts of what I do here at Elva. It may just be THE favorite part of my "job," and it's something I learned at a young age from Mama Deb. (I've written a bit about this on our other blog...and you can read the post here.) 

I've never met a flea market or antique mall I didn't love. I nearly ALWAYS leave with something wonderful...even if only an idea or inspiration, but usually with a trinket or two, too. I've also begun to introduce my own little ladies to the fun, and it occurred to me, seeing their enthusiasm and curiosity for the treasure hunt, that you all might enjoy a little behind-the-scenes action on these vintage adventures. 

First, you'll need to pack a bag. I have a bit of a go-to system that works for me (after A LOT of trial and error) with some tweaking depending on whether I'm headed to an outdoor market or an indoor event that mostly involves sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. The rest is pretty standard no matter what:

~ a sturdy tote bag
(I can't yet bring myself to be one of the people dragging a cart around. I have one, and I'm sure it would save my shoulders, but I'm just not ready for that kind of dedication.) The bag I usually drag along--if it isn't the favor bag from my college roommate's wedding weekend that seems to be in heavy rotation as my actual purse these days (stylish)--is this great multi-pocketed FEED bag that also zips into a small stow-away pouch size. Kind of awesome AND it feeds a student in need for an entire year. Totally awesome.

I write down everything I purchase and its price so I can keep track of costs and inventory easily--especially helpful at the end of a long day when it's a blur of buying. I also make note of any ideas that come to mind (which happens often at market) or items I may have passed up but want to circle back around to later. 

~ hand sanitizer
Flea markets are not the cleanest places on the planet. I mean, most of the time I'm digging through at least 40-year-old jewelry that strangers used to wear. On their bodies. Ears, necks, and wrists, specifically. And then, other shoppers at other dirty flea markets have handled and worn and wiped whatever all over the same old jewelry. If I think about it for too long, I might gag a little, actually. So...I end up using a lot of this spray lavender oil that smells fantastic and helps keeps the germs at bay. And then I feel better about eating whatever snack I brought along while I dig through dirty jewelry.

~ water
Which leads me to bringing a snack and a drink. Sometimes flea markets have amazing concessions; other times, not so fantastic. So, it's always served me well to bring along some sustenance. Trail mix and a bkr bottle of water generally do the trick for me.

~ cash 
It's king (or queen, which sounds way better) at flea markets. A few vendors these days offer credit card options through Square or other swipe-on-their-phone processing, but you'll get the best prices and the biggest smiles with the green stuff. I always bring a bunch of small bills, too, because there's nothing better than offering a dollar or two for a brooch, making the exchange, and moving on without having to wait for change. 


I've taken my sweet little ladies along to market with me a few times, and they've learned to hunt alongside their die-hard-flea-fan mama. I've introduced them to my favorite jewelry vendors, many from whom I've been buying for a dozen years or more and who knew me when those little ladies were a twinkle in my eye or hanging out in my belly. 


They ask a lot of questions, wheel and deal like pros, and want to try EVERYTHING on. They're amassing quite the collection. Can't wait to put 'em to work stringing beads with those vintages soon. 

Aside from jewelry, I'm always scoping out other goodies from the flea or antique mall. Small ceramic and glassware dishes and containers get me every time. 

Like the Viennese porcelain vase below. Between the pale blue glaze and the gilt dragon decoration, I was smitten. (Not to mention that fluted lip!)

It's now happily at home on my studio shelves, along with plenty of other finds from my vintage adventures. They bring such a smile when I'm hard at work and stop to take in the surroundings--I adore being among beautiful things to enjoy.


And I always have to sift through vintage postcards. My favorite wedding gift to give is a framed vintage card of a meaningful spot for the couple--either the place they were engaged, their honeymoon destination, or even where they married. Also super-fun for a graduation gift (their school's campus or town) or housewarming (new/old city or neighborhood).

Then there's the fashion at the flea. Scarves are a given, and occasionally I'll snag a bag or two in great condition, like this woven straw tote I spied at last week's antique mall hunt (and proceeded to use for all of the jewelry I found throughout the booths that afternoon.)

It's now at the ready on my studio door for a trip to the farmer's market down the street, a post office run, or a walk to a barre class down the block. Plus, I just like looking at it hanging there all cute and fun. 


I might have gasped audibly when I spied this vintage Etienne Aigner clutch on a dark, dusty shelf at the same antique mall. The burgundy hue seems so right-on for the season, and I'm completely digging the suede with the brass horseshoe closure. Definitely a fun find. 

The best part of bringing it all back to the studio is that it's often like Christmas when I begin to unpack everything. So many times, I buy in such a flurry that, by the time the day is over, I've forgotten what I found. Slowly unwrapping the goodies at home, I delight in the find all over again...and can't wait until the next opportunity to do it all over again.

Happy hunting, friends!

  • Posted byEmily Maynard /


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