By Sam Elliott
Geist resident Michelle Dolon has been recycling, upcycling, up-styling and generally DIY-ing her own furniture for 20 years.
Now she’ll do yours, too, as her recently opened Junkyard Goddess Eco-Boutique at 1051 E. 54th St. houses home décor pieces, crafted by herself and fellow artisans, that have been repurposed from their original state, created new or given new life from antique origins.
“I find things everywhere. Something that might look like junk to somebody else, I can see the beauty in it and the quality,” Dolon said. “That’s what I look for, just something that’s got a personality and quality and makes a statement — and then I put my own spin on it. A lot of times I’ll turn it into something else completely or it might be as simple as just painting it and giving it a nice happy color. My whole concept is you don’t have to go out and buy new things. We can reuse what we have and help the environment and have beautiful things and you don’t have to spend a ton of money that way. We can reuse what we’ve got and have a beautiful atmosphere.”
Dolon, an area native who moved back to Geist six years ago following 24 years in Los Angeles, inherited her recycling roots from her mother.
“Back when I was a little girl, my mom went out and she would just find things,” Dolon said. “It was just she and I, she didn’t have a lot of money to spend, so she would find things and repurpose them. I kind of got that from her and learned how to see beauty in junk.”
Before opening her own store, Dolon developed her own line of Junkyard Goddess Milk Paint in 2015. The paint, available in 18 colors, is water-based and made exclusively from organic ingredients.
“I launched it last year because I had spent a few years buying and upcycling and up-styling furniture and selling it on Etsy. I was just looking for a really great paint to use and I really didn’t find exactly what I was looking for,” Dolon said. “I kind of just decided to come out with my own milk paint line, so I created a bunch of colors I thought were really good and muted tones you could use on home décor.
“It’s 100 percent non-toxic, it’s 100 percent Earth-derived ingredients and that was really important for me with a son as I was painting his baby furniture,” she added. “He and cats and dogs gnaw on the furniture, so I needed something completely non-toxic and that you could use in the wintertime with your windows closed. That’s what led me to milk paint. Plus, it gives you this old-world vibe that goes along with my style.”
Partners in Art
Michelle Dolon isn’t alone in crafting the upcycled creations found at Junkyard Goddess Eco-Boutique. Launching the store with her own work and the works of others was always her goal.
“It’s been a dream of mine forever and I wanted to bring something artistic and a place where other artists can come and sell their pieces, people can come and shop and have a great experience along with finding unique things,” she said.
Dolon has partnered with several area artisans to feature their creations at Junkyard Goddess.
“A lot of them are really finding me,” she said. “I feel like people that have the same type of vibe I have are kind of drawn here. I’m always looking for talented people. We’ve got several right now and we’re always looking for more. I love to have the opportunity to showcase aspiring artists and artisans and help them get their careers going. That’s what it’s all about for me.”
For Polly Banaschak of Columbus, Ind., working with Dolon and Junkyard Goddess represented the first opportunity to get her artwork and jewelry into a retail setting.
“I’ve been doing the artwork for about the last seven years and I’ve sold on Etsy and Handmade by Amazon. Michelle actually found me on Etsy and this is the first time I’ve had my work in a shop, which is very cool,” Banaschak said. “I started making necklaces probably two years ago. They’re based off of my prints and none of them are alike. They’re all handmade, and I reuse old jewelry.”