Widgets Magazine

Elizabeth Sweigart of The Times Vintage on Art, Community and the Shift from Texas

Elizabeth Sweigart in front of The Times Vintage

Q: How did you get to the North Fork?

A: I’m a Texan who didn’t like driving much so I moved to NYC when I was 18, for school—Marymount Manhattan. I studied studio arts. While I’ve always loved vintage, my first love has always been art.

Q: Did you discover the North Fork during college in NYC then?

A: No. I’ve been coming to Shelter Island since I was little. My Dad went to college in Southampton, so even though we were Texans we would vacation in Shelter Island. I loved it, I think because of him, that’s what inspired me to move out of Texas.

Q: Shelter Island from Texas. That must have been quite a contrast. Where in Texas are you from, and what was the most striking difference between there and here?

A: I’m from Spring Texas, which is a suburb outside of Houston. Houston is huge!

The big difference for me is that there’s nothing old in Spring. It’s just strip centers, malls. Even my high school which was built in the 70’s was recently torn it down and rebuilt because it wasn’t big enough! There’s no zoning and no preservation of anything.

Look, I love my family and I love Texas, but I’ve always resonated with things of the past that have some history and character to them, which is one of the reasons I love it out here. Every place has a story, a past-life and people really appreciate it. That’s sort of what I’m doing in my shop, just remembering.

I also really like that in Greenport it feels a bit like you’re in an old tv show; how tight knit the community is. That’s one of the nice things about living in a small town. You don’t always need technology to make plans, you just run into people. I find if I plan to go grab a coffee at Aldo’s, I have to allot more than 10 or 15 minutes because I run into someone I know and chat. I think Aldo’s might be my favorite place in Greenport.

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Photo by Jeff Rogers

Q: The Times Vintage is pretty new. When did you open, and how did it come to be?

A: We’ve been open about two and a half years.

I moved from the city because I was a little lost there, I missed nature. Even though I didn’t grow up around water, I feel it is necessary to my nature. And since my Dad had moved to Shelter Island that was always my little escape.

IMG_2728Dad

Though he is a geologist, three years ago he decided he wanted to invest in Greenport, because he believed it was a gem. At first, I wanted nothing to do with his project. But when he showed me the building, a seed was planted and I got to thinking… hmmm I have always loved Vintage & dreamed of opening a shop someday. Maybe this could be the place, maybe the time is now?

So I pitched him the idea, and amazingly he was on board. It all happened pretty spontaneously, as a wild idea and I think we both never expected the outcome to be so great! He’s just as involved and passionate about it as I am. The whole journey has brought us closer as father and daughter and I think we make a pretty good team.

Q: You mentioned you went to college for studio art. What’s your medium? Are you able to integrate your art with the store?

A: My main medium was painting and drawing, but since I can remember I’ve always loved creating and getting my hands on whatever I could make. My mom’s really creative too.

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One of Elizabeth Sweigart's collages

These days I get my creative outlet in the store by doing the window and arranging stuff in the store. I’m beginning to see that as my medium, I’m seeing it differently than just merchandising.

Q: What do you mean by the store and the window are your medium now? 

A: It’s like a project, being given these supplies, now make something with it.

I’m surrounded by all this cool stuff, and it’s like: ‘How am I going to organize it to be aesthetically pleasing & not overwhelming to the customers?’ I get into a momentum that I can’t really explain, it’s all very experimental. I definitely see the store itself as continuous work in progress, I’m never really satisfied with it.

deskAn in-store arrangement

Q: Do you have a certain aesthetic or style that shapes how you arrange the store? 

A: It’s primarily dependent on what items happen to be in the store, we never really know what we’re going to find. I’m kind of a naturally cluttered and messy person who is trying to being organized. While I like symmetry I don’t want it all to be too perfect. I like to group certain things, perhaps by color or category, but the most important thing is the overall flow, navigating the store. I don’t like too many things crowded together. I have fun with my constant battle against clutter.

Q: You stock a huge range of items. Are there any that you particularly like?

A: I am mostly interested in and excited by the clothes. I look for unique things that will make somebody really stand out while wearing it. I don’t pay attention to labels so much, it’s more the quirkiness factor. Colors and patterns.

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I’m really drawn to interesting textiles more than plain things, unless they possess a certain quality. My favorite patterns and designs are from the 60s and 70s. I also love anything kitsch and a little wacky. That’s what excites me the most!

Recently I did a cross country road trip/buying trip with my roommate & best friend, it was very inspiring, so I’m really looking forward to changing up the window.

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Photo by Jeff Rogers

Q: What do you like about doing the windows so much? 

A: The window is when I feel like I’m really creating something artful.

I think it’s because people are walking by it every day. Even if they don’t come in, if I can make a window that people notice and it reminds them of their childhood, or starts a conversation, sparks their interest.

It’s nice to hear and see people’s reaction to it. It’s more personal than when someone’s in the store, looking a cool t-shirt or sweater, because that’s about the one object. The window is a whole creation.

Right now I’m really excited about spring, so this next window will be very floral and festive.