By Carrie Vittitoe

Amy found another way of channeling her creativity. Photos by Patti Hartog

Amy Smalley’s stress relief strategies have taken different forms over the past few years, but they have all been creative endeavors. She loves to bake and started a small dessert business, Suzy Q’s Sweet Tart Bakery, but she eventually cut back the time she spent on it. It became stressful to make goodies under a deadline (instead of just for fun), and she adds, “I realized I like to eat too much of my…

…creative outlet.”

As she began pulling back from baking, she realized she had another stress-relieving activity that could be flexible, profitable, and not go straight to her hips.

“I like going to thrift shops and estate sales and enjoy the thrill of the hunt,” Amy says. She used to look for items for herself, but once her own home was fully decorated, she decided to open an Etsy shop where she could sell her best finds that had vintage value. Bourbon Ball Vintage allows her to shop and “hunt” without glutting her home with items she doesn’t really need. She enjoys doing research on vintage items, finding out whether items are valuable, and learning about their history and popularity.

“I usually buy things that appeal to me, first and foremost,” she says. “Usually those things are a little unusual, handmade, or produce nostalgia in me.”

Pottery made by professionals in the studio gallery at Payne Street Pottery. 

Her shop is something she could put tons of time into if she wanted, but with three teenagers and their respective activities, she likes that she can cut back in the summer or during school breaks. She is able to contribute a bit to the household income while doing something she enjoys.

Amy says it is like a game for her to find obscure items that people think aren’t worth anything. Once she found a huge dictionary from the 1960s at a yard sale, which she bought for 50 cents; she sold it for $70. Her Etsy shop has made for some interesting dinner party conversations, too. She once sold a soap dish to a Hollywood outfit that was going to use it as a prop in an HBO series. A famous author recently bought a brass shoe horn from her shop.

A few of  Amy’s pottery creations.

Another creative outlet for Amy is pottery making. She took advantage of a Groupon for a class in 2014 at Payne Street Pottery. “I never thought of myself as being an artsy person, but for the first time, I felt like I could be artsy,” she says. She enjoys working with her hands and finds it soothing. “When I’m there, I’m not thinking about other stuff,” she adds.

Amy likes that she can work at her own pace. When she completes a piece, whether on the wheel or through hand-building, she says she feels pride in what she has accomplished, although her family teases that everything in their home will eventually be made of pottery.

Discovering her artistic side has been an enlightening experience for Amy.

Amy’s enjoyment of pottery making has led her to help friends on their own self-exploratory journeys. She invites them to take pottery sessions with her in an effort to share what she loves with people who might not otherwise consider playing in clay as a stress-reducing endeavor.

Since starting her Etsy shop, Amy has unearthed many interesting items she has sold.