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'It's about loving something forever:' A Q&A with Pocket Full of Heirlooms

From my conversation with Brandy Evans, the genius eye behind the Pocket Full of Heirlooms Etsy shop

By Rebekah Hall Scott


Just a few items among the pages and pages of fabulous listings currently available on her Etsy shop


I first stumbled across Pocket Full of Heirlooms on Etsy while browsing antique ribbon samples. When I saw that the shop was out of Harrisburg, Arkansas, I was instantly excited that the curator of such eclectic, unique, beautifully arranged listings was operating out of my home state. I reached out to Brandy, and what follows is an edited, condensed version of our conversation. We talked antiques, how she launched her business 15 years ago, the special nature of estate sales, how Brandy taught herself taxidermy (!!), and much more. Read, enjoy, and visit Pocket Full of Heirlooms on Etsy!


How did you and your husband wind up in Harrisburg, Arkansas?

For this house. That's the only reason we moved. We looked for an old house for a little over a year, all over the country. We went to Missouri, Georgia, Virginia. Finally, we made a trip back from Virginia and we were tired, and I said, 'Hey, there’s this house in Arkansas, we can be home the same weekend.' My husband Eric said, 'Okay, let’s drive up,' because it was only six hours from where we lived. We came around the corner and here it was. We said, 'We’ll take it.' Which was crazy, because it was never on our radar. We didn’t know one person here. Everyone was like, who do you know? Why did you move here? And I’m like, oh, the house. It was a little crazy. But it was everything we needed.

We wanted something to work on, that is the main thing, so that we could remodel an old home. The houses in Virginia were great, but they were in really bad shape, so we couldn’t have lived in them [during a remodel.]


Brandy's beautiful historic home

What are your impressions of Arkansas? What has it been like living here — pros, cons?

The pros and cons are in every state. I traveled as a kid, I was raised on the carnival, so I’ve been all over this country. I always find that there is the good, the bad, and the ugly, no matter what state you’re in. We love nature, we are outdoors people, we are ‘Get in the car and drive somewhere’ people. So I have to say, the first thing we loved about the state was the nature. We are five minutes from Poinsett Lake, so if we want to grab our kayaks and go out there and come home, it’s not a huge event. Where we lived in North Dallas, there are no trees unless they’re planted. Everything was just laid out, and it’s concrete. We call it the concrete Mecca. And here, it’s just the trees. We sit on our back porch, and I’m like, can you believe we live here? That’s our enthusiasm about it.

Everyone has been really nice. This is a small town, and we’re the people from Texas who bought the big house, that’s what everyone knows us as. So, I think the bad thing about it is that everyone assumes we’re city slickers. No, we grew up in little town America in Kansas, we know all about small towns. We love that we can get in the car and we can be in Kentucky in an hour, we can be in Tennessee, we can be in Missouri, and that is a huge thing for my business. Because in Texas, you can drive eight hours and you’re still in Texas. So here, by noon, we can have hit three states.


Did you grow up interested in thrifting or antiques from a young age? Was there someone in your family or in your life who shared their passion with you?

The funny thing is, my mom always had antiques. And I was that little kid who said, ‘Ugh, we’re going into a stinky store again?’ She jokes with me all the time because I would always tell her that I’m going to move to New York and I’m not going to have anything old in my house. She throws that in my face, because there’s nothing new here, maybe the mattress – the mattress and the TV are the new things.

When we moved to Texas, we were 10 minutes from McKinney, and that has a huge town square, and at the time, there were tons of antique stores. I got so involved in collecting. I worked in an office, dressed up every day, high heels, all of that. When the housing market crashed, I got laid off. I’d always been a photographer, that was my major, that’s what I was going to finish school in, and I wanted to work for National Geographic. I said, 'I’m gonna start my own photography business.' Well, that was great, except for you feel bad charging friends. Okay, I still like taking pictures, but I like antiques too, so I’m going to sell antiques and I can take pictures of them. I love it. I love my job. My husband always says, you should have got laid off sooner.


How did Pocket Full of Heirlooms take form? When did you realize you wanted to start a shop to sell your collected treasures?

I sold on eBay for a year, and was a power seller on there. It was happening so fast, but it was so hard to keep up with. My friend said, 'I want you to come and do an outdoor show with me.' He does letterpress [printing], and he said, 'I want you to bring your antiques, and I’m going to have my letterpress.' And oh my god, it was the most stressful thing I’ve done in my life. The wind was blowing and the tent was blowing, but it went off amazingly. I had an interview with a girl who had a blog down there the next week, and it just sort of started snowballing. And [my friend] said, 'Brandy, I think you need to get off eBay and start selling on Etsy.' I was like, 'Ok, well, I’ll have to look at it,' because I’d never even been on Etsy. I went on, and I was like, okay, I like this. And it wasn’t just that I liked the form of how everything looked on there. I liked how everybody was sharing everybody’s stuff. Etsy has changed a ton in 14 years. I wish we could get back to that sharing and those communities that they had, because they used to have groups, and you would go on there and share and promote. It was just this big wheel.



When I first came across your shop, I was tickled by your item titles and descriptions. I wanted to ask about how you approach that – how do you balance being informative about what the object is, while also being a little tongue-in-cheek and playful about it?

I get five to six emails a week of people who say the exact same thing, that they laugh so hard. In fact, I just talked to a lady yesterday who has breast cancer, and she said, 'I come home and look at your Etsy so I can laugh.' And I said, 'You don’t know how that makes me feel.' First of all, I’m a smart aleck. Listing is tedious. So when you’re trying to list five to ten new things a day to keep that ball rolling, you have to keep yourself entertained, too. And that’s what I tell everybody. I’m so glad you get a kick out of this, but I am purely here to entertain myself while I do this so I can keep doing it.



I noted that the description on your Instagram page says “where the Romany runs deep.” Does your Romany heritage inform your work and your passion for it?

When your family is poor and they’re Gypsy, you don’t have things. Everybody has all these fancy heirlooms, and they say, ‘Oh, my grandma passed this down to me.’ I have my great grandma’s scissors and her glasses. The heritage that I have is inside, there are not all these heirlooms. It’s like my dad always said, we didn’t have room for that crap. I have old cranes, the carnival cranes, but as far as homey heirlooms, there are none of those.

So, I feel a connection to all of it. It’s so weird, I want it all. I’m not a hoarder by any means, because it all get put up and decorated, there aren’t boxes of stuff lying around. My dad says I’m the keeper of memory, because all my family wants to give me things now.


I feel like the idea of an heirloom is something that’s becoming lost in our culture. Especially if we think about heirloom furniture, the quality of the furniture that’s made now is not something you’re going to keep for decades and then pass on to a grandchild. So I love that you have that word in the name of your shop, and it being a source for objects that can become heirlooms.

Exactly. To me, an heirloom can become that definition at any given point. If you buy something today, and you’re like, 'Oh my god, I love this, I’m going to pass this down to my granddaughter if I ever have one.' You’ve already skipped a generation there – you didn’t even say anything about your kids, you said something about your granddaughter. So in that timeline, right there, it becomes an heirloom, because you loved it and attached a feeling to it.

When I buy things, some of it is just so random. But I’m like, I’m not leaving this behind. The reason I’m not leaving it behind is because someone else loved it so much that they had it. I had to pick [through] a house here in Harrisburg they were going to tear down, and upstairs in the attic was all of [the homeowner's] prom stuff from 1923. And here it was, sitting in this attic. The week after we left, the bulldozer came and a Jordan’s gas station went in its place. [My husband] said, 'You want all of this stuff?' And I said, 'Yes!' He said 'Brandy, some of it’s just bows and ribbons and old corsages.' And I’m like, don’t care. It meant something to her, and if I can pass it to someone who it means something to – or they just love the look, the feel, the color, the textures – it’s still a living heirloom. It might not be their family heirloom, but it’s still getting the love and respect it deserves as an object that was created and that someone else loved for decades.


What are your favorite items to collect for yourself? What sort of things do you feel drawn to? I’ve noticed in posts from your Nest on the Ridge account that you have an affinity for taxidermy.

I taught myself taxidermy out of an 1800s book, and now I teach other people. It’s crazy. That world is insane. I love animals, and people think, how can you love animals and have taxidermy? And I’m like, because I didn’t harm them. But I am going to grab them up when I see them because they deserve love. They don’t deserve to be dusty, they don’t deserve to be damaged. Someone took their life, so it needs to be loved. I don’t care how long [ago], I have pieces from the 1800s that I just adore. And I adored it so much that I taught myself how to do it, and then I started teaching others, trying to explain to them that taxidermy doesn’t have to be about big game. I’m not into that at all, and I don’t promote it. It’s about loving something forever. For ever. That is my most favorite thing to collect, is Victorian or antique taxidermy because I’m like, oh my god, if they could talk! Where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, how many people have passed by them and never even noticed them?

I collect carnival stuff, anything with a Ferris wheel. I will never pass up a carnival piece, I’ll never pass up a piece of taxidermy. I’m really bad about paper, and that comes from when I was little. My dad used to yell at me all the time, pick up that paper! You have those little pieces of paper everywhere! So now it’s kind of a running joke. When I get a piece of paper and I sell it, I’m like, 'Dad, this little piece of paper sold for $29.99. What do you think about that?'


Scenes from around Brandy's home, a true collector's paradise. I love how the different shades of antique and well-loved objects work together to create such a beautiful color palette.


I’m very fascinated that you taught yourself taxidermy from a 19th century book. That’s pretty incredible. What was that process like for you?

Oh, I cried. I started with mice, and I had a friend out in California, she does pet taxidermy now. I saw her work, and I was like, 'I want to learn how to do this.' My husband was like, 'Well, teach yourself.' We went and got some frozen mice, and the first one I did, yes, I cried. And Eric came in and said, ‘You are going to have to calm down.’ And I said, I just want it to look normal, because I have to do this mouse justice. It’s a very weird thing for me. When I teach class and people start doing weird stuff with them, I’m like, are you sure you want to do that? Remember, he was soft and cuddly at one time.

It’s emotional.

Oh, it’s very emotional. Slowly, I just kept practicing and practicing, and then I started selling it, and it was selling at a point that I couldn’t believe. I still can’t believe it. When somebody buys my taxidermy, I’m in awe. I got asked to do an art show back in November of 2023. I was like, 'What? We’re in the middle of Kansas, nobody’s going to want this.' And [the organizer] said, 'Brandy, you’ll be surprised.' We had the show, I took 19 pieces, I think six came back with me. And as soon as I put them online, they sold. It’s humbling.


How do you approach decorating your own home? I feel like you really embrace whimsy and fun and a “more is more” approach, which really appeals to me. It’s especially refreshing in a time when mainstream décor trends have leaned minimalist or all neutral — where’s the fun in that!

I tell everyone who comes here, if you don’t stop and stare at my shit, you’re gonna hurt my feelings. Things in my house, most of them are memories from our trips, from when I had my boys home with me doing this, some things are from estate sales and they’re conversation pieces. If you walk into my home and you don’t pay attention to any of it, are you paying attention to me? This is me. My home is me. It is not for everyone. I totally get that. But you’re coming in to my home.

I don't really have an approach. It's about whatever you want, and whatever makes you feel good. There’s enough in the world that doesn’t make you feel good.

Amen. Finding joy where you can find it, if it doesn’t hurt anyone, all the power to you.

Exactly. Life is too short, and there’s so many [bad] things out there that when I get home, I just leave them at the door. I used to tell my kids all the time — that white picket fence at our house in Texas? That wasn’t there when we got there. We built that. The world can be crazy, but in here, this is going to be what makes me happy.


 

You can browse Brandy's wares at Pocket Full of Heirlooms on Etsy, and she's also a great follow on Instagram @pocket_full_of_heirlooms and on her home's Instagram page, @the_nest_on_the_ridge.


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