Creating new jewellery out of vintage pieces: RagTrader
Pennsylvania born Elisabeth Voltz started her Etsy shop RagTrader in 2007, initially to trade vintage clothing. However, her jewellery-making talents took the lead, and she began reworking vintage pieces into stunning pieces of unique jewellery.
Where did you study and what did you get from the experience?
I taught myself to make jewellery from a young age. I first started selling it at our families farm market when I was little. But I went to school for video editing, which is my day job. Editing video and jewellery making both satisfy my love of finding beautiful elements and piecing them together into something new and creative.
Are the designs all your own or are there multiple designers? Do any designs come from outside of the brand?
I collect components from hundreds of places but assemble the pieces myself (and with a lot of help from my family). I am the tenth of 11 siblings and luckily all of them enjoy helping me with my business. After family gatherings I clear the dinner table and put family to work cutting chain, dissecting typewriters, soldering displays etc.
Which of your current designs is your favourite?
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
Being able to now actually start paying some of my family for their labour and getting to work closely with them on a creative level. Having the power to tackle financial emergencies on the farm all together by working, creating and selling together.
What is your favourite sort of thing to design? Why?
Jewellery assembled from the weathered, worn, rusted, components I find in the barn, flea markets and antique store. I make pieces using pendants and filigree that are created from vintage molds- designs that are 40 – 140 years old.
Do you ever use vintage items to create your pieces? If so, where do you tend to pick things up?
Our barn, flea markets, antique stores, auctions, yard sales.
What are a few of your likes and dislikes in terms of design and style aesthetic?
I don’t like shiny accessories or bold colors (though I can appreciate it on other
people!). A friend just told me I find perfection is decay. Natural colours, distressed fabrics and antiqued metals.
What is your one fashion vice?
I dress in fall colours year round. People have scolded me for it. I also avoid anything shiny or bright coloured.
You work a lot with vintage jewellery, what drove you in this direction?
When I was little I loved searching through our family woods and barn for old treasures. Eventually I became obsessed with thrift stores, antique stores and flee markets once I had money to spend. I turned this obsession to collect old looking things into a jewellery business in 2007. Part of my obsession with retro fashion was a result of being the youngest girl of 11 children. In high school I was wearing passed down clothing that my oldest siblings had worn up to 20 years earlier.
Have you any plans for the future? When can we expect your next collection and where do you hope to be in five years?
I’ll probably have a new collection by the summer. As for my long term plans? I’m just trying to keep up. RagTrader really seems to be growing. My brothers and I are currently converting my big old house (built in 1916) into a giant workshop. I’ve given up on the idea of having a living room and dining room. Every inch of the house has been covered in supplies for years so why fight it?
Photos: Courtesy of RagTrader
Voltz continues to work from her home in Pittsburgh creating new pieces out of the old. To check out more of her work go to her Etsy shop, RagTrader here.