MORA — Owning an antique and vintage furniture store was always in Connie Hill’s dreams, even as a youngster while helping her father, a Sedalia clockmaker.
“My dad was very handy and crafty,” she said Friday from her store on state Route A. “He was a clockmaker.”
Hill’s father, Glen Stickler, owned Stickler’s Jewelry and Watches in Sedalia for years.
“I was always his tag-a-long,” she added. “I was the only girl. The boys were always off doing other things, so I just picked it up from him. The first piece I helped him do, I still have. It’s my grandmother’s buffet. She was my mother’s mother, but my dad had bought the buffet at an auction for her for 50 cents.”
Hill helped her father refinish the piece when she was 19 for her grandmother, Mamye Irene Dean. Although, it was before she was 18 that she was already thinking about how to furnish her own house when she got married.
Not having a lot of money, but loving nice furniture, she decided to take matters into her own hands and began to collect and create pieces of her own.
“I started even before I got married, which I got married at 18,” she said. “For my household, I would always buy the older stuff and clean it up and fix it. I had our whole house’s furniture bought before I got married at 18. I’ve just always done it.
“I love trash day and garage sales,” she added laughing. “Their trash, my treasure!”
She now has two buildings on her property, near Mora, filled with items she’s collected to restore and refurbish. After retiring last year as an office manager for Poort Excavating in Sedalia, she opened her shop in July and named it Renaissance Lady.
She explained the difference between antique and vintage by saying antique is considered to be a century-old while vintage is from 30- to 50-years-old. On many of her repurposed vintage pieces she uses milk paint or a new product called Unicorn Spit, created by Michelle Nicole Gordon, of Shawnee Mission, Kansas. Unicorn Spit is a vibrant wood stain and glaze that leaves the wood grain visible.
Hill works from a 16-by-28-foot workshop behind her home and if invited to visit, you will also see her many small farm pets. While walking back to the shop Jack and Jim, two large turkeys, follow close behind Hill, gobbling quietly with each step.
“They think they’re dogs,” she said laughing. “I call them my office greeters.”
Once inside the workshop you see the soul of her work. Her heart is in the older antique pieces such as an 1800s era table that will soon be restored for a local woman. The table, laying on its side because the legs aren’t stable, will soon be useful and beautiful again.
“This is a piece that was brought to me to redo, to repurpose for them,” Hill said. “It was the young lady’s grandmother’s. This is where my heart is.”
She added that she was going to keep the piece natural by using tung oil to preserve it and add moisture to it; it will also make it kitchen safe.
“Tung oil cures from inside of the wood out,” she explained. “It takes about 30 days for it to be totally cured once you put it on there. Then it seals it and you don’t have to put another sealer on it.”
Hill said the old furniture pieces are well taken care of because her workshop is climate controlled. She also expanded the shop recently to accommodate more furniture.
“Painting is just like any just like any other art, you have to have a consistent temperature,” Hill noted. “That way I can control my temperature and humidity to be able to work year-round. The ideal temperature for painting and varnishing is 70 degrees and 70 percent humidity.”
She is also working on a seven-foot wide by nine-foot tall hutch in her shop. When working on most of her pieces, she uses a turning table she and her husband Jim created. Using two tables and a lazy Susan, they were able to make a 360-degree, rotating table Hill can use to work on the furniture.
“This is my paint table and it’s special,” she said. “I was here by myself a lot until he retired and I built this out of the need of when you’re working you don’t have to move things. It’s been a life-saver, especially for these big hunking pieces.”
Hill hopes to soon expand her work to old barn wood and vintage doors.
“I’ve got some things I’m kicking around in my head,” she said. “Pieces that I want to make. I am going to be repurposing some pieces of barn wood and old doors that I have. I’m wanting to build a display or a curio cabinet and create a piece with them.”
Upon request she also searches for old furniture pieces for others.
“I’m pretty much considered a hoarder, a picker and a hoarder,” she added laughing.
Hill not only sells restored furniture and other art items, but she also sells milk paint, stains, glazes, waxes, pastes, tung oil, burnishing paste and all-natural strippers for those who wish to create their own furniture masterpieces.
“Not everybody can afford new furniture,” she said. “I want people to have ‘new’ things at a good price.”
Renaissance Lady is open for winter hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday or by appointment. For more information visit www.facebook.com/Renaissance2Lady/?pnref=about.overview or call 668-2498.
Faith Bemiss can be reached at 530-0289 or @flbemiss.