Spotlights & Interviews

Interview with Stephanie Mattiuzzo of RefugeHeart Vintage

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About Stephanie:

Hey, there! I’m Stephanie Mattiuzzo, just a girl from the mitten state who enjoys old things, homes, book reading, peonies, tea. I love my husband, my church family, and most of all, Jesus. RefugeHeart Vintage,is a curated expression of my love of creativity and old things; an Etsy shop featuring several sweetheart vintage jewelry pieces for you!
I have a background in education and was an elementary school teacher when I began this business. Although I have moved on from full time teaching, my love for creative teaching is still very present in my life. I currently aid homeschool families as a Language Arts teacher/tutor and absolutely love serving as the Children’s Ministry Director at my church.

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Tell us a little bit about Refuge Heart and how you started your business.

Sharing my desire to do something more creative, my dear friend Hannah from LivedIn, an Etsy vintage clothing shop, suggested that I sell vintage jewelry. I’m not sure if she even realized how perfect her suggestion was for me that late summer of 2011, but it was just the little nudge and idea I needed.
With a starting budget of about $250.00, encouragement from my entrepreneurial friends, and this tiny window of available time, Refuge Heart was launched out of a culmination of many of my creative interests: photography, collecting, styling, and of course pretty little vintage things.

As a child, I oddly enjoyed putting together little vignettes of my toys and treasures, I was so enamored with it that I hardly noticed I never could keep a room clean, but in a corner on a shelf, there was a nice fanciful little scene. I continue to enjoy putting together little moments as an adult as expressed in my shop.

The funny thing is, I already had the name RefugeHeart in mind a few months before I even began. I had a brief stent of wanting to be a lifestyle photographer – As a bridesmaid I took a few pictures during my friend’s wedding just for fun and put them up on Facebook under RefugeHeart Photography. I received a couple of messages, one being a family of 6, to take photos for them but instantly panicked and turned down the offers. It was way too intimating for me at the time (cue the over-sized eyes emoji face).

The name, RefugeHeart, came to me from reading Psalm 62:8, “Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us. Selah.” This verse speaks greatly to my soul. It grounds me and reminds me of who I and what I need. Mulling over this idea, I eventually could see how it correlates to collecting and sharing vintage goods with others. The pieces in my shop had a life once and now there’s an opportunity for more life, so the name fit.

What draws you to the romantic style of lockets and jewelry?

The sentiment of jewelry is nothing new; it’s a special gift for a special person. Lockets are the crown of this sentiment. Often, to give a locket is one of the most intimate exchanges, reserved for the closest of relationships, a sweetheart, a mother, a daughter, a sister or best friend. I highly value close relationships, and jewelry can be a symbol of love and affection. Vintage jewelry takes it to a whole other level, because it is evidence of a significant relationship from the past now given another chance. It makes me happy when customers share their experience with me. Most recently, A kind woman purchased two petite lockets for her twin granddaughters for Christmas. I really appreciated her sharing the story with me as I makes what I do at RefugeHeart all the sweeter!

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What kind of outfits pair best with the beautiful vintage jewelry that you sell?

Honestly that is one of the best things about vintage jewelry – it’s unique and you can pair it with your own individual style. Pairing a simple chambray or oxford button up and a favorite pair of jeans with a sweetheart locket necklace equates to a finished classic everyday look. Vintage jewelry works well for special occasions, say a black-tie event, and it also works for a minimalist wardrobe because each piece is unique and small, it can add so much without taking up too much space. For example, I often wear a pair of celluloid earrings that I wore on my wedding day with this simple blue sundress in the summer months. Wearing the same pair adds joy because it reminds me of that very special day.

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What is the most interesting fact or history regarding lockets?

As my shop bio reads, “Always curious and infatuated with the beauty, history, and mystery of vintage fashion and jewelry,” the potential history draws me in. Hands down, I enjoy the sentiment behind sweetheart lockets, especially from the WWII era. The thought of a loved one, sweetheart or son, being far off fighting in a war can elicit some pretty strong emotions. How the women would wear that gift from their soldier, close to their hearts, as a daily reminder of their longing to be reunited is darling.

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What are some of your favorite creative activities outside of collecting vintage jewelry?

My husband, Craig and I love to go to thrifting and to antique shops and flea markets – which coexists with collecting vintage jewelry. I also really have been enjoying renovating our mid-century colonial home. I’m learning to be more comfortable with power tools. I love dreaming up plans, both big and small, to create a refuge in our own home. The older I get, I am recognizing and becoming more confidant in my personal style and blending it with Craig’s style. Also, in regards to home life, I absolutely enjoy cooking and baking as I am learning more about holistic nutrition and living.

Which creative woman, living or deceased, would you like to meet and why?

Well, for the last several years, I would have said Ruth Simmons from Gracelaced Art. Ruth is a thoughtful creative woman, who encourages me through her Instagram and blog posts and not to mention, beautiful art. Surprisingly, I met her this past April at a woman’s conference where her beautiful watercolor prints were featured in the bookstore! So, I would know say I would love me meet Tonya Dalton. Tonya is known for “educating, encouraging and empowering women to create happier lives through organization” with her successful brand Inkwell Press. She is an amazing productivity encourager and has a teacher’s heart! I use the Inkwell Press planner to keep me focused on RefugeHeart related tasks as well as responsibilities regarding the rest of my life. Up until recently, I’ve viewed RefugeHeart as a little side hobby, like an excuse to be creative. In more recently times, I’ve seen it as a legitimate, sustainable small business. To get to where I want to take the shop, I must think productivity without losing my love of creativity. Tonya has helped me to seek harmony between the two! If any readers are interested in maximizing productivity in a creative business or for life in general, checkout Tonya’s new Podcast: Productivity Paradox.

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Do you have a favorite quote or mantra that you live by?

Well over the last few years, I’ve tried to come up with a word of the year to motivate and focus me. This year I had to form it into the phrase: Make it Meaningful. Make it Mindful. Make it Minimal. But more so, Over the last several years of my life My mantra is to glorify God in anything and all that I do. This quote from the book: Just Do Something but Kevin DeYoung better sums up the way I desire to live my life: “So the end of the matter is this: Life for God. Obey the Scriptures. Think of others before yourself. Be holy. Love Jesus. And as you do these things, do whatever else you like, with whomever you like, and you’ll be walking in the will of God” (p. 122).

What do you love most about being a creative woman?

Not only is being creative allow me to express myself as an individual, I think more importantly it has allowed me to connect to other creatives. We are created for community and I love being surrounded by other creative people who encourage and challenge one another. Furthermore, being creative connects me to my 92-year-old grandmother, Esther Betty, a Rosy the Riveter woman (she literally welded during WWII in a shop in Flint, Michigan). Grandma made her own jewelry throughout her lifetime and I’m pretty sure she’s the reason I embrace creativity and love being in the kitchen. I am cherishing the little moments with her: we talk all things creative over steamy hot English breakfast tea in the modest home she has lived in most her life. She has gifted me heirloom pieces for my personal jewelry collection as well as one of her original oil paintings. I store several RefugeHeart pieces in a vintage jewelry box she gave to me when I was a Freshman in college.

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