Cedar mom, schoolteacher, and wife Belinda Belanger has Louisiana roots that run deep. She moved to Northern Michigan shortly after Hurricane Katrina struck.
Her southern charm and love for Louisiana inspired the name for her home decor side business Southern State of Minds, but the name is as southern as the business gets.
What started as a DIY nursery renovation has turned into the preservation of antique maps of Northern Michigan.
Belinda has been around DIY projects her entire life. She remembers her grandmother trying to teach her how to sew when she was a kid and hating it.
“She used to try to teach me, and sewing was absolutely horrible when I was little. Nothing I would do would come out. I was the one grandchild she could not teach how to sew, which is kind of funny because since COVID happened I sew a ton of masks and make bows and all kinds of other sewn things. My grandma would probably be very proud that 30 years later I actually can do the things she was trying to teach me to do.”
Sewing is just one of a long list of crafting talents that Belinda has. When they were getting ready to have their second child, she and her husband decided to DIY all of the decor for a new nursery. They both have full-time jobs, so the nursery was redone in their spare time on weekends and evenings. As Belinda began to share progress photos of the nursery on social media, positive comments came streaming in.
“I made almost everything in his nursery as far as DIY stuff. Not the crib, but we made all of the curtains, the signs, I redid the lamps. From that, we started having friends ask us to do stuff, which was totally different style-wise than where we are now.”
She began to make whatever her friends and family dreamt up, or saw on Pinterest. Cake toppers, paper signs, and other fun decorations became a source of freelance work for Belinda. Early in their decor making, she and her husband started making wood signs that took them on the road for craft fairs.
“That was a bulk of what we did early in the business. Within three years every other booth was doing farmhouse style wood signs.”
But something was off. Not only did she find the craft shows becoming increasingly populated with wooden signs, the signs weren’t something of interest to her.
What she was really interested in were the antique maps that she used to decorate her son’s nursery. Ephemera, Belinda explained, are vintage paper goods. Examples of ephemera could be things like a Disney brochure from the ‘60s, or a flyer for an early World Fair.
“It’s nice because it’s my own personal style. Our house has a very eclectic and repurposed style. I like ephemera, things like books, maps, old pictures, all of that fall under ephemera. My husband builds all of the frames and I mount all of the paper.”
Southern State of Minds now focuses on Northern Michigan maps more than anything else. Grand Traverse, Leelanau, and Antrim counties, specifically.
A big part of the job is searching through secondhand shops, estate sales and antique stores for old maps. Once brought home, the maps are custom framed in reclaimed wood before being sent off to one of several local shops.
“I just found an Atlas from 1913, and we constantly have stuff that is over 100 years old. I think what sets up apart is that it’s the actually 1913 map, not a print.”
For Belinda, one of the most satisfying parts of the job is giving new life to the repurposed maps. They go to homes where they’ll be admired and preserved for years to come. Though, that doesn’t mean that Belinda doesn’t fall in love with some of them herself.
“I have one that I’m scared to frame out because of how old it is, but I can’t get rid of it. It’s from the 1890s and it’s Michigan and Wisconsin with Lake Michigan through the middle of it. It’s cool because at the time they did lithographs, and the shape of Michigan is awesome because they didn’t know exactly the shape.”
Follow her on the Southern State of Minds Facebook page and Instagram at @southernstateofminds and keep an eye out for her pieces at upcoming craft shows and West Bay Handmade.
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