Wednesday, June 16, 2010


Well, it's been a week since I did a post and have given much thought this past while how I want to move forward with my blog.
Yes, I'll still include some personal posts, but want to feature an Etsy shop once a week, a recipe spot and maybe even some other surprises as I go along.

TODAY, I'm going to feature another Etsy shop....

Up until this point, I have not featured any shop like this, but will continue to find more unique shops you might be interested in and maybe even purchase an item or two!

This particular shop is called 'Midwest Finds'. They have been featured in a few well known articles and venues so I hope you enjoy. I've basically transferred an interview these wonderful people did before and added a few of my favourite pieces from their shop.... Sit back and enjoy!

Please go visit their shop and I hope you find something you like and must have!

Tell us a bit about yourself. We are Bernard and Jena, living among the cornfields of Illinois. We met in college while he was singing and playing the piano in my dorm lounge (I guess I'm a groupie). That was 27 years ago! Since then, we've had three kids, lived in eight different places, been to India five times and started a nonprofit organization.

We live in an old church building just two blocks from the town square. That's 6,000 square feet--plenty of room to store jars and all our treasures! The church is actually connected to a four-bedroom house that once stood across the street. In the 1950s, the church bought the house and attached it to the church building for Sunday school rooms and office space. The church is a one-room chapel built in 1912 and the house is a magnificent mission-style structure, full of woodwork and stained glass. We love beautiful, historic things, so living in this place has been a wonderful adventure.

Our shop is really a family business. Our son is off at college, but the girls help clean jars and pack boxes. They also give us advice about what's "cool" enough to put in the store.

Apart from creating things, what do you do? Bernard is a bassoonist and teaches music theory to college students. And up until last month, we were home schoolers but our students have now graduated. Now that it's summer break for Bernard, we spend our time going to auctions and cleaning jars and cleaning jars and cleaning jars. What else is there in life?

I (Jena) love to write and take pictures, so listing items on our store and working on my blog is my idea of fun. I also like to knit and flip through old books.

What first made you want to become an artist? This is an interesting question for a vintage seller, but we know what you mean. Our Etsy shop started with a garage sale. Bernard came home with a basket full of miscellaneous jars. When we looked them up, we found a complete subculture of Ball jar collectors! That intrigued us and the more we studied, the more fascinated we became. And besides, we were looking for something to do together. The kids were growing up and we needed to reconnect, so what better way than to become treasure hunters together?

Now, as we look at all the damaged jars we run across, we want to find ways to recycle them and that's an exciting project we're working on right now.

Please describe your creative process. As our jar obsession began to take hold, we wanted to incorporate jars into everyday life. Standing at my kitchen sink, I looked at my plastic soap dispenser and thought, "Why can't a Ball jar be a soap dispenser?" We had never seen one but my creative husband went to the basement and came back with a pump lid to fit a jar. He just does that. Give him a problem and he solves it. It doesn't hurt that we have every item known to man somewhere in our basement.

Our hanging jars developed more slowly. We'd seen other hanging jars but didn't like the way they looked. Eventually we came up with the chain and wire combination. His years of making bassoon reeds came in handy--working with wire and pliers is second nature.

Bernard also likes to dig into the sides of creeks, looking for buried jars. That's when he found several ornate broken plates and decided to try his hand at cutting the porcelain and making earrings.

We also just bought a kiln, planning to recycle jars into something new and beautiful. We're always looking for ways to be creative with what we have on hand.

What handmade possession do you most cherish? Our most cherished possessions are historic ones--I have my great grandmother's butter churn and pottery, and an old photograph of the farm they built themselves in the early 20th century. They came from Germany to be farmers and coal miners here in Illinois. That's why we love surrounding ourselves with vintage items--they connect us with the people of the past.

Bernard's favorite is an original (there are lots of reproductions) red-amber Mason's Patent quart fruit jar that he found at an auction.


Jena said...

Thank you for featuring us! You have an awesome blog here!! :)

PRISCILLA MAE et al (Meg Mitchell) said...

What an interesting and creative couple to feature. So lovely that they have a passion that they can enjoy together. This is a great addition to your blog.