6 minute read

Second Stories Niagara: Rescuing, Restoring & Reloving Life

In 2019, I fell in love with a dusty, dirty and damaged oil painting. I discovered this gem in a moldy garage at an estate sale along the shores of Lake Erie. Despite its peeling paint and grimy exterior, I saw a beautifully moody, floral still life held together in a lovely, albeit beat up, frame. I bought that piece of original art for five dollars and sat it against a wall in my basement for months. Every time I went downstairs to do the laundry, I walked by the painting and reminded myself that restoring it would be my “retirement” job - just another pending project on my ever growing list of things I wanted to do once I had more time.

Art had always been a part of my life. My father was an artist and I went to art school. To this day, I love the way I feel when I create things and appreciate visual art in all forms. It’s like a jolt of happiness floods my neurodivergent brain every time I make or experience art.

I’ve always loved and appreciated old, well-loved things too. There is a psychology at play with them: celebrating history; appreciating a slower, more intentional life; grounding myself in stories that came before me; rediscovering a sense of heritage and belonging. I find so much beauty in the old and discarded. These once beautiful and loved things hold amazing stories. Little did I realize that the dirty five dollar still life was the vanguard of an evolution of my own story.

In 2020, I retired from my very conservative, corporate career of 32 years. That marketing job was a great way to help support my family, but it never fed me. It never felt authentic to me. I told myself I was exercising my right brain by creatively selling things like mutual funds, but it felt like a waste of time. It wasn’t until I gave myself permission to immerse my brain and my hands in beautiful, creative things - painting, drawing, writing, sewing, growing a flower and herb garden, making homemade teas and tinctures - did I feel like I was finally harnessing my creativity and beginning to live my life with intention and purpose.

When I brought that rescued five dollar painting up to my porch and began cleaning and restoring it, it felt purposeful and symbolic. I was giving this floral still life a second life, and giving myself a second story too. I was emerging from living a gloomy, unintentional, uncreative existence and blossoming into the light of day. I was freshly awakened and it was time to live a more purposeful and artistically beautiful existence.

The seemingly simple act of restoring the hidden beauty of that painting helped me find a new creative love. I realized I love rescuing anything that tells a story, including old or vintage art, books, antiques, and clothing. The quest to find these lost items and then upcycling, repurposing, refreshing, and restoring them brings me great joy. I spend countless hours researching each treasure so that I can share their stories with others, so they too can enjoy them. My efforts are about more than owning and enjoying pretty things though.

I launched Second Stories Niagara as a way to share my love of living a more intentional and sustainable life. I wanted others to buy second hand and surround themselves with things that tell a story, that are purposeful and meaningful, and making their closets and homes a reflection of who they are as their authentic selves.

I chose Instagram to share my pretty photographs and short stories about the second hand and vintage treasures I found. I share how upcycling, restoring and repurposing breathes new life into old treasures while making a significant impact on the reduction of waste on this planet. I continue to learn about the importance of sustainable living and how buying second hand not only decreases negative impact on the environment, it’s also a way to avoid the unethical and controlling strategies of manufacturers. Sustainability is also an important driver of the vintage resale industry. It’s also an important topic sellers can share resources about on social media. Injecting sustainable information and second hand tips on Second Stories Niagara now comes more naturally to me and I feel like it’s one of the ways I can play a small part in making a difference.

One month ago, I celebrated 109 rescued, restored, and reloved pieces of art. Most of them have been sold to Second Stories Niagara followers, and of course I’ve saved a few of my favourites for my own home and the homes of my family and friends. As more people become environmentally conscious and think about green living and decorating ideas, art lovers are also investing in art in sustainable creative and personal ways. Thinking more mindfully about the longevity of a piece of artwork and choosing art that speaks to our own values and what we love to look at, rather than current trends, means that our homes will become a true reflection of who we are. Rather than being swayed by cheap and trendy decor unethically imported from the other side of the world, think about collecting decor and art that comes from the heart, just like I am.

The five dollar restored still life oil painting now proudly rests on my mantle. A gentle reminder that restoring someone’s long forgotten, discarded piece of art is a lot like reigniting something beautiful within yourself that was hiding and waiting to bloom and grow in the light.

Jody Vizza is an ex-marketer who lives in Fenwick Ontario and now rescues and restores useful vintage items and original art to relove.

Visit @secondstoriesniagara on Instagram.