Settling in rather nicely with the urban revival of Avondale, the newly opened Painted Shovel brings its own kind of character to the trendy up and coming neighborhood. Dedicated to the art of repurposing, or giving new life to old things, the Painted Shovel features an eclectic variety of handmade gifts, art, and home decor-almost all of which are created using upcycled or even vintage materials. Even the shop itself, located in a historic building-a former insurance agency-seems to fall in line with the spirit of the Painted Shovel’s primary goal-to repurpose.
“I love the idea of finding things and making something beautiful from them,” says Julie Nelson, artisan and co-owner of the Painted Shovel. Nelson describes finding some of her materials on the sides of roads, such as old windows, for example. “The easy part is finding things, the hard part is storing them,” she jokes, adding that she’s always loved collecting vintage pieces.
A graduate of Birmingham-Southern College, Nelson spent time studying both business and arts, unknowingly prepping herself with the necessary tools to open and operate a store like the Painted Shovel. Although Nelson serves as the store’s primary artisan, customers can also find pieces in the store from local consignors as well. Deborah Butler, of Star Five Pieces, is one such consignor. Her “Cowl Necklaces” are made from colorful recycled t-shirts and sell for around $16 each.
Several of the store’s display pieces are also examples of Nelson’s commitment to repurposing. In fact, one piece in particular-a decent size buffet looking table-is made from pieces of wood that came from an old barn on her family’s farm.
Vibrant art, home decor, handmade jewelry and more, are all propped beautifully atop tables, hang from walls, and seem to inspire on their own a fresh take on Birmingham’s creative abilities. Yet, aside from this, there’s much more to the Painted Shovel. A large rectangular room filled with huge windows is located in the back of the store, and serves as an ideal space for a variety of events. “We’re equipped to host all kinds of functions,” says Nelson, suggesting educational seminars, workshops, birthday parties and other social gatherings. The large room costs $400 to rent, and comes with perks such as an in-house warming kitchen that provides plenty of space for food preparation and more. Nelson also mentions a discount for non-profits wanting to use the space for fundraising events.
Additionally, the Painted Shovel carries a growing variety of urban farming supplies. Nelson has also developed a series of Urban Farmer workshops meant to help connect the community to the growing trend of urban farming. Topics range from Chicken Keeping 101, to Fall Gardening and Foraging, to learning the basics of Home Canning.
Just beyond the large back room inside the Painted Shovel, sits a fairly large, fenced in outdoor area, perfect for gardening workshops and other events as well. Among the variety of plants, herbs and veggies growing in this space, Nelson has planted tomatoes, okra, and watermelon to showcase the idea of urban permaculture she believes is appealing to a lot more people these days. “The garden’s not completely organic,” she explains, “but we’ll soon be selling organic gardening supplies.”
The Painted Shovel is located at 400 41st Street South, in Avondale. The next Urban Farmers Workshop, “Homesteaders, Yes You Can: Home Canning with Molly Stone,” is set for Sunday, August, 19th from 2-4 p.m. For more information on upcoming workshops, as well as store hours and other details, visit the Painted Shovel on Facebook.
Written By, Kate Agliata