Stop Seven on our Etsy Rhode Trip: New Jersey!

When searching for a New Jersey representative for our Etsy Rhode Trip, I could not help but be struck by Urban Heirlooms innovative and stylish designs. She is definitely an Etsy stand-out!

Urban Heirlooms

HT: Tell us a little bit about yourself.

DB: My name is Dana Osborne-Biggs. Originally from Virginia, I now live in the spicy Cuban city of West New York, NJ. I’m a graduate of the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Arts and have been in the fashion industry for over 15 years; I spent the first 10 years in the childrenswear industry in NYC, and the past 5 years in the intimate apparel industry in NJ as a Senior Graphic Designer.

A dear husband, a funny dog, and a small sunny home studio where I immerse myself in what I jokingly call my Urban Heirlooms empire help keep me well entertained.

HT: How did you find out about Etsy?

DB: I first saw Etsy mentioned in 2005 on, a website dedicated to independent art and DIY culture. In January 2006, I decided to set up shop and list a handbag I made. When it sold in less than 24 hours, I was totally hooked.

HT: How did you become involved in your craft?

DB: My love affair with fabric began early. I’ve always made things by hand--at first it was by necessity since as a child with siblings I just didn’t get everything I wanted for Christmas. I would get a doll but she would only have one or two outfits, so I remember always asking my mother and grandmother for old fabric scraps to use to make more doll clothes myself. I also made fabulous split-level dollhouses from cardboard boxes, with curtains and a fake fur couch for my Barbie. I think not having a lot of luxuries early in life primed me to become resourceful, inventive and more creative.

Once I learned my way around a sewing machine, which wasn’t until I started college, I begin making clothes, then hats, and finally handbags. Haunting thrift shops for funky vintage accessories to add to my outfits, I began to take notice of old leather coats…that beautiful, broken-in patina they acquire over time, the leather aroma that never quite dissipates even after years of wear, and the beautifully tailored details and rows of stitching on vintage jackets that you just don’t find too often anymore. I wanted to resurrect some of those qualities in my own work, so I started easy…I started with a simple wallet.

HT: What aspects of your state inspire you?

DB: Oh, the brownstones! I spent many years living in Downtown Jersey City, and there are neighborhoods where you’ll find majestic brownstones that wear their architectural details like fine jewelry. Intricately carved wooden doors, sweeping staircases, decorative wrought iron gates and plate glass windows veiled with panels of old lace. Whenever I strolled my neighborhood, I always imagined the people who first lived in these houses--the clothes they wore and how they decorated their homes. Every detail seemed so worthy of showcasing and preserving. I love that!

HT: What are your favorite materials?

DB: Heavy linen, high-quality leather, fine crochet lace, vintage bark cloth, silk, wood, antique skeleton keys, carved mother-of-pearl and abalone buttons, oxidized silver… I could go on and on!

HT: What is your favorite part about being an Etsy seller?

DB: My favorite part is that I get to make things that I love, then sell them to other people who love them too, people who live in places I may never get to travel to in my lifetime. To ship a skeleton key wallet to Italy or a leather key clutch to Tasmania is a real thrill for me. And then those same people will come back and compliment your work! I feel so appreciated as a designer and artist.

On top of that, I’m in the company of such amazing artists, it sometimes takes my breath away. I just have to shake my head as I marvel at the things people make everyday with their own hands.

HT: How do you go about incorporating vintage items into your work?

DB: I love to use vintage items in unconventional ways when I make things, for instance, the way I use antique skeleton keys as a closure on my signature leather wallets, or the way I string small vintage tatted doilies together to make scarves. I want these vintage components to be well showcased on my work, so I like to make sure they play a major part of any design.

HT: Have you ever visited Rhode Island?

DB: Not yet, but I would love to; I must see WaterFire!

HT: Is Etsy full time or part time for you right now?

DB: Etsy is a part-time venture for me right now.

HT: What are your Etsy New Year's resolutions?

DB: I’m so excited about this New Year on Etsy. Each year has gotten better for me. My first resolution was to get a couple of wholesale orders under my belt, and that has been accomplished. The next is to increase Urban Heirlooms’ exposure and get some tongues wagging. Working on it!

If you like this Arts In RI blog post...spread the love!
Digg Technorati Delicious StumbleUpon Facebook Tell Your Tweets
2 Responses

  1. I just Love Danas work - those wallets are just so 'wantable'!!
    Guess what is on my wantable list!
    The details, lines and finishing bits are superb.
    Congratulations, I will be looking at your work.
    Annette (Scotland, via Australia)