Featured image: Amanda Clark poses with one of her vintage finds.
June Pointer’s mezzo-soprano voice cuts through the synth and the drumbeats as the record turns on the table, the needle picking up the sound captured in the vinyl.
“He’s so shy,” sings Pointer and her sisters. “That sweet little boy who caught my eye.”
Amanda Clark and her parents slide around on their black and white kitchen tile, dancing to the post-disco sound that emanates from the living room. Their socks provide buttery traction, perfect for gliding. Just another Tuesday.
“All of my memories are surrounded by having a record player,” Clark says of the flashback from her childhood. “Having a vintage record player and listening to great music. I was raised on the Pointer Sisters and music from the ’60s, ’70s, ’80s. My mom is Black, and my dad is white; it was like all rock versus soul.”
Clark wears a baby-blue Western blouse with a prominent embroidered butterfly that spreads across her chest and tortoiseshell earrings during a recent interview. She’s 27 and bubbly as hell, but lives and breathes the air of an era that unfolded decades before she was born.
“I grew up in a very vintage household,” Clark says. “My parents never really wanted to pay full price for stuff.”
Clark’s love of oldies and antiques was fully realized in July when she started to resell on Instagram many of the lovingly collected items she had lying around her house. Now, the account has close to 2,000 followers, as Clark curates and peddles trinkets she finds at thrift stores or estate sales.
Clark grew up loving art and aesthetics but knew she had to find a practical career. She went into medicine after finishing college with three different majors, including art and math. While she was studying for med school, she felt she needed an escape from the hours of cramming notes and memorizing body parts.
“I needed a new outlet,” she says. “Something that wasn’t going to take up a lot of my time. That’s how I found thrifting again. It’s so nostalgic and it makes me so happy.”
Clark recalls thrifting as a child with her mother, carefully combing through shelves and displays at secondhand stores, but says she stopped as a high schooler and college kid. Now, she’s doing it as a stress reliever. And even though coronavirus worries may keep others from actively buying used goods, Clark says she has the antibodies to prevent her from getting sick. She thinks she got COVID-19 back in late February when she was still in Grenada for med school. Her cat caught a bat and dragged it into the house, still alive. Her roommates all found the winged creature adorable and spent the next few hours hanging out with it, and then let it go. The following week, all of them got horribly sick.
“We all thought it was like a really bad flu,” Clark says.
Later, Clark got tested for COVID-19 antibodies and tested positive. So now, she uses it kind of like a superpower, freely going to estate sales, while still wearing a mask, and shopping around for treasures.
Sometimes she’ll buy things that she thinks people will be interested in, like mugs or vintage glasses, but most of the time she snags things that catch her eye, things she’d like to keep herself.
“I sell things that I want to keep all the time,” Clark says. “My fiancé is my driving force for getting rid of things. I think he would leave me if I kept everything.”
Clark says she can sometimes find items at a local Goodwill or Freedom House Thrift, but says estate sales are like gold mines for one-of-a-kind pieces.
“I go to these sales and they tell me stories of these treasures and I just can’t leave them behind,” she says.
She once bought a piece of handmade metal art, a sculpted cactus that a man crafted for his wife. The woman, who was from Arizona, told Clark she was selling it because her husband had passed away years ago and she just had too much stuff.
“Items like that are like, Come on, my heart,” Clark says.
Her favorite find of all time is an original painting of flowers bursting against a beige background in a warm, wooden frame. Clark says she got the piece for a whopping $4. It hangs in her living room and it still makes her light up every time she sees it, she says.
Another time, Clark found a set of vintage pillows, including one that had a cluster of mushrooms embroidered on it. As soon as she put it up on her page, a woman messaged her to buy it. A few weeks later, Clark got a message back from the buyer letting her know how much she loved the piece.
“She told me that the only memories she had of her grandmother were these mushrooms that spread across her lawn and how every time she sees the pillow, it reminds her of her,” Clark says. “I felt that it was amazing and beautiful.”
Clark repeatedly explains how she started the venture out of pure selfishness but says that as she’s been selling more items, she realized that objects she’s found can change another person’s day-to-day life.
“It was something that made me feel good,” she says. “It’s fun and really cool that you can affect people’s lives like that.”
Most of the items on Clark’s account are brass or come in shades of brown and orange. She says her whole house is tinted in these warm hues. It wasn’t until she was asked that she realized that the aesthetic she was creating mirrored the one from her childhood.
“Honestly, when I look back,” she says, “it’s like a blur of warmth and sunshine.”
And that’s what she unwittingly creates for others through her online shop.
“It’s nice knowing that I can make a tiny little change and make someone’s day a little brighter,” she says.
Follow Clark’s vintage shop on Instagram at @the.dusty.gem.
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