When I walked into Deirdre Finnegan's twin home in Flourtown, I thought her home's warm, decorative style was “contemporary gift shop.” There are“tchotchkes” (a Yiddish word …
When I walked into Deirdre Finnegan's twin home in Flourtown, I thought her home's warm, decorative style was “contemporary gift shop.” There are“tchotchkes” (a Yiddish word meaning “small items that are strictly decorative, not functional”) in every nook and cranny.
“Almost everything in this house is from a thrift shop,” said Deirdre, 46, who grew up in Springfield, Delaware County. “My family are all visual artists. Four of my sisters are artists, and my mom did painting and stained glass windows. I used to make greeting cards out of wallpaper, and I made collages out of vintage wallpaper. Last year I made Christmas ornaments for myself.”
Last year Deirdre opened an account with etsy.com, a popular e-commerce website focused on craft supplies and hand-made or vintage items such as jewelry, bags, clothing, home décor and furniture, toys, etc. She would buy attractive items online — copper vases, cocktail glasses, etc. — and then simply sell them on etsy.com at a higher price. However, these are relatively low-cost items, so no one will be able to buy a new Mercedes this way. She received orders from as far away as Virginia, Texas and California.
But Deirdre's primary passion has always been performing. She began dancing at age 6 and choreographing at age 13 and is a musical theater graduate of the University of the Arts. Now a professional (member of Actors Equity), Deirdre has performed a cabaret act at Dino's in Glenside and the Prince Theater in Center City. She and a piano player have performed at the Protestant Home in Northeast Philly and Rydal Park in Jenkintown; she put together a rock band that played at the Apple Farm Arts & Music Center in Elmer, NJ; she has acted at Hedgerow Theater (“Once there were only three people in the audience”), Arden Theater, Theater Horizon, Upper Darby Summer Stage and others; she has directed and choreographed numerous shows, performed at industrial shows for Commerce Bank and has sung for years in area churches — St. John the Baptist in Manayunk, Holy Cross Church in Mt. Airy, St. Luke's Church in Glenside, the Shrine of the Immaculate Medal in Germantown, etc.
“In my whole life,” she said, “I have only had one job that did not involve performing. That was working with mentally challenged women at Divine Providence Village in Delaware County.”
However, when the pandemic hit in March of this year, all of the performing gigs Deirdre had lined up disappeared, as they did for so many other singers, dancers, musicians, etc. However, the artistic talents that are apparently in Deirdre's DNA surfaced and presented new possibilities.
“I have always been fascinated by paper, and I love Matisse's collages, Asian prints, china, porcelain, colors and patterns,” she said, “and my Christmas ornaments last year came out so well that a new thought came to me. So I started making pumpkins like classic decoupage (decorating objects with paper cutouts).”
They are not real pumpkins. They are plastic foam "faux" pumpkins and gourds, on which Deirdre applies colorful paper napkins or tissue paper, glue and acrylic varnish. It takes about one hour to make each one, and Deirdre works on them about 10 to 12 hours a day. The results have been visually stunning.
“At first,” said Deirdre, “I set up a sale in our driveway, and my husband put up pictures of the pumpkins on 'What's Happening Springfield' and Facebook. We had 10 people lined up in the driveway and got six orders right away. One high-end interior designer bought a bunch of them and gives them as gifts to wealthy people.
“We have sold them to people from Rittenhouse Square, Wyndmoor, Oreland, etc. I have so many orders now that it is hard to keep up with them all! I really don't think I am competing with anyone because I don't think anyone can copy my style. Now I just need one more room!” (Deirdre's “pumpkins,” which can be seen on her Etsy account, mostly sell between $22.50 and $45.)
Deirdre's husband, Rob Wilman, is teaching virtual high school English in their bedroom. Their children are Myles, 17, Frankie, 15, and Nora, 10.
For more information, email email@example.com or visit etsy.com/search?q=tinybirdvintagecraft. Len Lear can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org