by Ann M. Colford

A wise writer once noted that every age gets the household goddess it deserves. Ever since Martha Stewart lost her claim to the Moral Purity Award, the title of reigning domestic diva has been up for grabs. What we deserve around here is debatable, but two Spokane-area women are making their mark as home style gurus while having fun pursuing their favorite hobby.

The Farm Chicks -- aka Teri Edwards and Serena Thompson -- like old stuff. Their idea of a good time is to pile into the pickup, drive out to an old barn or storage shed and pick through the dusty cobwebbed corners in search of treasures. After furnishing their homes with their finds, they didn't want to give up the fun of the hunt. At the same time, they read about big antique markets and collectors' festivals in other parts of the country and wondered why no one held a comparable event here.

Two years ago, on a whim, they set up a show in a friend's barn and attracted surprising interest. After that success, they held two more shows - spring and fall - at the Five Mile Prairie Grange, drawing even more customers. Having quickly outgrown their space, they searched for larger quarters and roosted in the community hall in Fairfield, a farm town about 20 miles south of Spokane Valley.

"The town is a perfect location," says Edwards. "And the space is maybe three times as big, so we've been able to invite more vendors."

The Farm Chicks show this weekend looks to draw hundreds -- maybe even thousands -- to Fairfield for fun, food, music and lots of good buys. Eight different musical groups will entertain the visitors, and the folks from Spokane's Milk Bottle restaurant will be on hand with meals and snacks.

The Chicks come by their junking skills naturally. Edwards grew up as the fourth child of six in a series of rented farmhouses in the Yakima Valley; her father labored in a cement plant while her mother stretched resources to feed and clothe the family.

"I've always been yard sale-ing, even as a kid," she says. "My mom went to yard sales out of necessity. And then as I grew up, it wasn't so much a necessity as it was fun."

Thompson spent her early years roaming the West in her family's home on wheels, a transformed truck they called the Gypsy Wagon. Later, they settled on a remote farm in northern California, three miles up a dirt road, with no power and no running water.

"My parents really were alternative, and that's how our home was completely furnished," she says. "They'd go to dumps, and you could find some neat old things then. Everything was re-purposed, so that's just in my blood, I guess."

Re-purposing -- taking an old object and finding a new use for it -- is a key part of the Farm Chicks style, they explain.

"Things don't have to be new," Thompson says. "You don't have to be wealthy to have a really edgy great, new look. You can go and buy something at a yard sale for 25 & cent; and use it in a different way, and it could be really cute and fashionable. You can create your own style. It's so much better than buying something [new]. It's different. It's not cookie-cutter."

Junking differs from antiquing in both attitude and investment. Most antique dealers seek out valuable merchandise in good condition. When the Farm Chicks go junking, they look for the old rusty pieces, perhaps even things that are broken, and they come up with new uses. A chipped enamelware bowl might turn into a holder for office supplies; a battered wooden drawer becomes a portable storage space in the kitchen.

"Our style is inexpensive and thrifty," says Thompson. "We were both raised very modestly, and it's a way of life for us."

Finding the treasures is the first step, and that's where the Chicks have their fun. But they excel at coming up with ideas for how their finds can be put to good use.

"At our first sale, we put notes on the tags with suggestions of what it could be used for," says Edwards. "All day, we heard people saying, 'Oh, what a great idea!' So we thought, 'Oh, we've latched onto something here.'"

If the Chicks spy a vintage piece that's worth more than they can pay, they'll suggest the owners check out a local appraiser or antique dealer. They're gaining a reputation for upfront and honest dealings, and that reputation gets them more business. They have a regular column in MaryJanesFarm magazine and they hope to work on a coffee table book branding their style.

Beyond the buying and selling, though, both Edwards and Thompson say the most rewarding part of their business is meeting people and building relationships.

"The people we've met have beautiful, amazing stories to tell," says Thompson. "They've lived simple and meaningful lives, and we want to share their stories. They're a reflection on our area -- good, hard-working, honest people. Everyone is so darned nice."

Band Schedule

Saturday -- 9-10 am: Meridian; 10-11 am: Shannon Beck; 11-noon: Prairie Flyer; noon-1 pm: Fletcher Girls; 1-2 pm: Prairie Flyer; 2-3 pm: Bluegrass Conspiracy; 3-4 pm: Dust Devils.

Sunday -- 10-noon: Sondahl & amp; Hawkins; noon-1 pm: Meridian; 1-4 pm Mountain Musicians.

Publication date: 05/20/04

American Original: The Life and Work of John James Audubon @ Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture

Tuesdays-Sundays, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Continues through Sept. 19
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