Valerie Tyler is the curator and collector behind Valerie Tyler Collection, a shop for vintage decor, photography, and accessories from around the world and throughout time. She’s also one of a handful of people I’ve had the privilege of knowing long enough to have watched her evolution as an artist (and she mine).
When we first met, she was designing jewelry, setting sleek earthy stones into textured metal settings. She photographed all of her own work and displays, having a knack for beautifully capturing her collections. When she started curating and selling vintage pieces, I remember thinking how similar her found objects were to her created ones. There were smoothed pieces of sculpted wood, aged brass, inscribed stone… although the pieces were unique, they all felt like one big family, extended across space and time.
From the outside, her evolution seemed seamless. But to her, it was an elongated journey. A process of discovering how to fit all of the things she loves into one creative life. When she talked about what this process felt like, I couldn’t help but think of the Venn diagrams I wrote about earlier. The magic happens in the overlaps.
The biggest challenge as a creative has been my own evolution and understanding of self. I grew up very type-a, organized, determined, perfectionist and the complete opposite of a procrastinator. I had this sense of laser focus and felt like I had to work to become an expert at anything I attempted. Then the realities of adulthood set in and I discovered that for one, it’s pretty hard to have a balanced life when you are hyper focused on one thing. I also found that for me too much specialization was actually rather stifling. I tried on different identities from “teacher” to “jewelry-designer” but no single identity in and of itself quite felt right. If I threw myself too much into just one thing I was shutting other parts of myself out or I would get overwhelmed and miss the subtle, nuanced parts of life that can be so beautiful. I discovered that the way my mind works, I could not get stuck behind a single workbench or easel. I needed time to be more mindful and meditative but also time to get out in the world and be moving.
The idea of creating a business that was more of a “collection” came from the need to be less pigeon-hole; to explore more, learn more, follow interests down various paths and have more of a journey.
Curating and selling vintage has given me the opportunity to explore so much of the history of design and styles throughout time since I’m always researching and hunting down the stories of some rather interesting objects. I have a strong interest curating and sharing art from around the world too, so I’m often delving deep into learning about different cultures through the history of their arts and crafts.
I’m inspired by weekly hikes and exploring the world sometimes through a photographic lens to see both wide landscapes and micro details. I also use nature for the inspiration for my own handmade works, and frequently the painting or jewelry I create with those natural elements in mind.
And what’s fun is that I get to take people on this journey with me. I still get to wear the “teacher” hat when I can explain the provenance and story behind vintage or antiques, or when I can share a little cultural awareness by introducing them to vintage handmade works from craftsmen and women. I take people on my nature walks, whether they literally watch along on some of the live videos I sometimes share in my social media, or when they find a photograph from one of the hikes that speaks to them and transports their imagination to the outdoors. And I encourage people to be mindful of their purchases; to consider vintage and handmade over mass produced. I agree so much that people should make it meaningful. My hope it that people will surround themselves with things that speak to their soul, that have stories or a history, things that speak of culture or the environment.
I’ve learned along the way that creative does not have to be particularly precise or focused. To be creative is not necessarily just the creation of material things, but it can also mean looking at things through a bigger frame of vision, to explore and sort through the world to identify and discover that which is beautiful or unique and to showcase these discoveries in ways that emphasizes these attributes even more or allows others to experience them as well.
Thank you, Valerie, for sharing both your work and your story. May you keep collecting, connecting, creating, and exploring.
You can find Valerie’s work at Valerie Tyler Collections.