How the Waterfront Went from a Shit-Filled Disaster to Portland's Real "Living Room"
Jena Nesbitt has been designing in various forms for several years, and like many of us, trying to find her calling; trying new things, and not quite getting the right fit. Meanwhile, for the past 10 years she's been collecting vintage everything. She decided it was time to do something with this extensive collection and it's called Time Being Creative. This girl has taken re-purposed to the level it deserves. By taking sheet music from the '20s, mid century novels and dictionaries, sewing manuals, and even old-ass notebook paper, she has created unique notebooks that use almost all re-purposed materials. The fabrics that grace the covers are either from her own stash, given to her, or bought second hand; even the labels are made from scraps of paper. It's only fitting that she has also started a vintage venture, and the Instagram feed shows a wide variety of kitschy items along with some unique and high quality items.
How did Time Being Creative come about?
Jena: Time Being Creative emerged almost by accident in late 2013. My goal was to craft an assortment of personalized handmade holiday gifts for friends and family. I have been collecting vintage fabrics, paper, and magazines for over 10 years, and finally decided I was brave enough to cut them up and make something new. I had been wanting to try to make notebooks for several months. so I began prototyping on my 1947 Singer sewing machine.
I made and sent out over 60 notebooks, [and] a couple weeks later I couldn't believe the positive feedback that came pouring in from everyone! Many of my friends began insisting that I should start selling the notebooks. So, I turned to Instagram and began posting images of my products and creative process. Within six weeks I had over 1,000 followers and had sold 25 notebooks! I was blown away by the demand the notebooks were generating on a social media platform not designed for eCommerce. I have since created an Etsy site where folks can customize their notebooks and order stationery products I've created from vintage and repurposed materials.
Is it hard sometimes to cut up such old and unique pieces of paper that seem so special?
Oh my goodness, YES! A few weeks ago, I found a vintage dictionary that is identical to the one I used growing up. It took about 15 minutes of personal pep-talking to get me to pick up the scissors and start cutting. I don't know if it will ever get easier to cut up maps from the '50s or magazines from the '30s, but what I've learned is that once I see the finished product, it makes all the cutting anxiety worth it. I believe the creative process is enhanced by using re-purposed and vintage materials. It allows the craftsman to open their mind to the possibilities of changing one thought into another. I also feel it gives new life to these pieces that might otherwise be sitting on a shelf somewhere, in a box in storage collecting dust, in stacks in a garage getting moldy. So, as hard as it is, it's also liberating to actually re-purpose something that has so much potential. Plus, I'm proud to say that all of the products I create are made from more than 95% re-purposed materials—this also includes the packaging and shipping envelopes!
I must admit, I teared up a little bit the first time I opened one of my finished notebooks. There's a unique spirit to each one and I'm delighted by the thought of someone opening a Time Being Creative notebook and not knowing what they'll find hidden in its pages.
It seems like your notebooks are really becoming popular. Do you think it has to do with the fact that you're specializing in custom? How do you customize each piece/ set?
Each product I make is one of a kind, which I believe naturally lends itself to customization. I think customization is a great format for allowing customers to get involved in my creative process. The standard customization I offer on all the notebooks requires the buyer to select a cover fabric and a theme for the interior of their book. I currently offer a dozen page themes. Some examples are: Vintage Ladies from the 1930s-50s, Medical & Science, and Maps & Travel (which is the current top seller). I also offer a selection called "Random Surprise" which gives me vast creative freedom. When a buyer selects this option I often use fabrics and pages that are limited in quantity. I also love to personalize products, [and] I can create a custom stamp or stencil to further enhance your notebook. I think personalized notebooks are perfect for weddings, party favors, and artist collaborations!
Tell me a little about your new vintage venture:
On March 1st, I opened a collaborative online vintage shop called Time Being Vintage. The shop sells exclusively through Instagram, which has rapidly become a great platform for buying and selling vintage and secondhand items.
I started collecting vintage clothing and housewares when I was 15 and haven't looked back since. After getting my degree in Fashion Design, I worked with one of the largest vintage collections in the United States, Re-Runs Vintage in Kansas City. My time at Re-Runs taught me how to buy, sell, date, and properly mend vintage clothing.
After collecting for more than 10 years I am finally ready to start selling pieces from my collection. Time Being Vintage is collaborative, so we feature items from vintage collectors and sellers around the world. By diversifying the locations of our collectors it offers our followers a wide variety of aesthetic options. Think of it as a digital antique mall made up of knowledgeable sellers from all over the world. Currently, we are featuring The Cemetery Gates, a Portland based vintage boutique with a penchant for the macabre.
To see these babies really come to life, click on the image below.