Why decorate for Halloween with plastic bats and skeletons when you can have real ones? Heather Rhea-Wright, Ferndale mom and owner of oddities shop Painted Lady Trashions, can hook you up with some strange and rare knickknacks and specimens any time of year at The Rust Belt Market. She dished about her unusual hobby and the fascinating finds in her store.
Before she became a macabre mama, Rhea-Wright was a little girl in Corpus Christi, Texas who wore her grandma’s clothes to school and kept a stash of peculiar stuff. “I collected bugs and weird knickknacks,” she says. “I was a weirdo.”
She brought her brand to metro Detroit in 1999, doing art shows around town. That’s how the Rust Belt found her. “They asked if I wanted to be part of their market,” she says. Rhea-Wright opened shop three years ago on Mother’s Day.
Painted Lady Trashions
Things slowly evolved into oddities, with a darker feel. It all started when she placed some fetal pig specimens in the window of her shop. “Within 10 minutes, I sold two specimens and I was like, ‘Whoa, what just happened?'” she recalls. Now, people travel in from Canada and Ohio each week to take a peek at her new merch. She also sells online and ships to 20 different states.
“I have post-mortem photos, anatomical items and antiques.” Rhea-Wright hawks preserved animals in jars, taxidermy, vintage medical equipment, real human and animal bones, x-rays, Ouija boards, jewelry – even antique dolls. “A lot of times the dolls really creep people out. Like, grown women will run out of the shop!” Most wares she finds from other collectors, but she’s always on the hunt for new, creepy things to add to her store. “It’s not for everyone, but it’s for somebody.”
Think of the children
She loves when kids come into her shop and ask questions. “There’s a lot of educational reasons” to bring them along, she says. “They can see what’s going on inside of a body. The little girls do love the dolls. They don’t know what a ‘scary doll’ is. It’s just a dolly to them.”
Morticia at home
Rhea-Wright lives in Ferndale with her husband, 2-year-old son Foster, stepson Dean, 11, and a “zoo of pets, both alive and dead.” Her boys are pretty unfazed, reports mom, who’s known to dissect specimens on the porch (they’re meat packing industry byproducts; “Absolutely nothing is killed to be in my shop”).
All Hallow’s Eve
“I live for it,” she says. “For Halloween, I usually travel to Texas for the Day of the Dead show. My whole family is there.”
Visit the shop
Painted Lady Trashions is open 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturdays and 11 a.m.-6 p.m. Sundays in The Rust Belt Market, 22801 Woodward Ave., Ferndale. Prices vary from $5 pens and buttons to a $1,500 death mask and everywhere in between. “I want everyone to be able to afford something.”