The Traveled Lane: Vintage maps and images from antique books serve as the artwork for meaningful - and functional - pieces.
KELLY MITCHELL holds vintage maps and books dear.
She studied classic literature in college, and her love for books never left her.
“That’s always been sort of my passion. My husband and I collect antique books, and through finding antique bookstores, I came across old maps a lot,” she said.
She said the two often go “treasure-hunting through bookshelves.”
“I have a huge collection of vintage maps, antique maps. That was what sparked the creativity and it just allows me to more define my niche,” she said.
As owner of The Traveled Lane in Deerfield, traversing the state for vintage atlases and maps is essential for Mitchell’s business. After finding maps that catch her eye, she prints the designs onto sandstone or ceramic tiles, trivets, coasters and ornaments, then adds graphic designs in vivid hues of red, green and ocean blue.
“I take vintage maps, which are usually pretty colorful and beautiful all on their own, but I give them a little bit more modern look. I recolor them sometimes with some fun, unique pops of color here and there. And then a lot of times I add in specific landmarks,” she continued.
For example, she’ll make trivets printed with maps overlaid with prints of popular tourist locations.
“In New Hampshire, I have a whole set based with the Flume and the Old Man of the Mountain. In Concord, I have a set that has the State House on them. It makes a meaningful gift for tourists or for anybody who has home-state pride.”
There is no shortage of ideas or materials in New England from which to create her products. She quickly ticked off favorite antique hotspots.
“Antique Alley in Northwood (along Route 4) is a favorite stop for us, but we usually try to hunt out old bookstores anytime we vacation anywhere. Northern New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont have a ton of places that you can happen upon in small rural towns. The dustier the shelves, the better your chances of finding a treasure,” she said.
“We particularly love little hole-in-the-wall antique bookstores that are usually filled to the brim with books,” she added in an email.
Mitchell said the ideas for her decor come from her own personal travels and what she wants to remember from those experiences.
“Everybody wants to pick up a souvenir, but I like to find something that fits, really, into my home, and will bring back memories every time I look at it. I can look at a map, remember where I was, what I was doing, and then if I have a picture to go along with it, what I was seeing while I was there, that makes me feel better.”
Mitchell hopes her products create a different kind of souvenir — one that fits well visually inside the home, as well as reminds the customer of places they’ve visited. With her four-piece tile coaster/trivet sets, customers can pick sites special to them, such as Cape Cod lighthouses, for example, and make a small puzzle from them or request one location be divided into four pieces. They are housed in a cork base that is a sustainable, renewable resource.
“Customers will be able to pick up gifts that are special to them, places where maybe they had special events happen in their lives. Maybe (they) moved out of the state and want to remember where they came from, or have just moved in.”
Mitchell said being a full-time mom to three boys helped foster her creative side.
“I was a full-time mom to three young boys, and decided to turn my crafty tendencies into added income to my family. I taught myself. Everything I design by hand myself; they’re all digitally designed. I have a commercial printing area in my studio; I print it all myself,” she said.
Mitchell opened her Etsy shop in 2010, found her niche, and streamlined production. In 2015, she took the business full time. The entire business, including designing, manufacturing and packaging, happens in Mitchell’s home studio.
“I’m kind of a one-woman show,” she said, but adds that her three sons and her husband help with packaging and lifting boxes.
“I have a 10-, a 12- and a 13-year-old, and they have become much more helpful over the years. They like to suggest different things that they want to see on a lot of my products. I work with tile, so they help carry heavy boxes a lot. When I do a retail market, my husband gets in on that. Really, it’s been a family endeavor,” she added.
And she said the feedback about her tiles and coasters has been positive.
“They tell me that they make a great wedding gifts, housewarming gifts, anniversary gifts. A lot of people will buy them for the couple, maybe where they met, where they got engaged, where their wedding is and maybe where their honeymoon is — any places that are special to them and unique to them.”
And The Traveled Lane is still expanding.
“I am planning on getting into wholesale trade shows across the country, which will open me up to more shops and boutiques across the country,” she said.
Textiles may soon be offered at The Traveled Lane, though that’s still up in the air.
“I am toying with the idea. I do have one or two shops in the Concord area that are starting to offer soft goods, like pillows and some tea towels. Whether that is something that I continue in or not, you know, time will tell.
“In the future, I’m planning on learning more cartography so I can get into designing my own maps,” she added.
Her products can be found in about 15 shops in New England, including Marketplace New England in Concord, Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord, and in Concord Handmade, a pop-up holiday shop. Other locations include Pop of Color on Elm Street in Manchester; Lake Effect in Meredith; Local, a shop in Pittsfield; and shops in Massachusetts, Maine, and Connecticut.
“I’m very passionate about shopping locally, so it allows me to support independent boutiques and shops and give customers lots of places to go to find my products. It’s a win-win for everybody,” she said.
Mitchell said custom designs should be ordered by Dec. 12. Visit www.thetraveledlane.com for more information.