I had the honor recently of working again with artist Erin McIntosh. She's an incredibly talented woman, creating fine art out of her studio and teaching her painting craft to students. I photographed her in studio several years ago, and she is just as kind, warm, and welcoming as she was in the past. I am always thankful to have opportunities working with women who are making their way as creative professionals - it is inspiring to see their work, spaces, routines, and individual take on living and working productively. This was certainly one of those occasions.
These are some of the photographs that I shot for The Secret Catalog Kid's Edition, which is a wonderful collaborative project curated by Adrienne Antonson of STATE the Label. Taken from their website,
"The Secret Catalog is a mail order print catalog that features limited edition goods by small, independent brands. Curated by Adrienne Antonson of STATE, the catalog features clothing, accessories, home goods, artwork, and more, delivered right to your door.
The goals of the catalog are simple: with all the time we spend looking at screens, an object like a print catalog connects us to something tactile – it helps us stop, consider, and be present. Our intention is for the Secret Catalog to be an experience. Along with gorgeous photo spreads of covetable goods, it also contains extra stories and treasures we hope will surprise and delight. After all, the keen anticipation of waiting for an exciting piece of mail is a feeling we all know and love. Combine that with the old fashioned wonder associated with a mail order catalog and there’s nothing quite like the Secret Catalog.
Each issue, we invite designers and artists to make work exclusively for the catalog. The makers are encouraged to create fresh work that inspires and excites them, something they’ve never made before. The catalog is a wild and free creative space that aspires to motivate our collaborators to take risks and to try something new. The results are pure magic as each issue has grown bigger and better than the one before.
Read more on our FAQ page, and join the newsletter below to stay in the loop."
I wrote previously about the experience of working with Adrienne and her team, all of whom are talented artists in their own right. I was especially happy to meet Lindsey Glass of In & Of in person, as I had been admiring her work from afar for some time. But also, notably, I loved seeing so many friends from Athens bring their little people to Thomson to be part of the shoot, and to meet new friends with beautiful kids, all of whom were a delight to work with.
Shoots and experiences like this remind me why I started photographing in the beginning - the opportunity to meet and connect with other creative people, see their spaces and beautiful work, and be able to take some part of that with me by means of my own artistic medium. Even as I pursue more time spent in learning the craft of weaving and sewing garments, photography will always, always be an integral part of who I am and how I see. It will always be my life's work.
I've been in the process of converting my youngest daughter's bedroom into a studio, because she rarely makes use of it, and sleeps with us rather than in her crib. It's a beautiful, light-filled space, with tall ceilings and huge windows. It is slowly coming together, but every step I take toward affirming myself as a multi-disciplined artist and making the commitments to simply do the work one step at a time, I feel more assurance and confidence that I am doing what I truly love - making beautiful things. The ability to do this from my home, raising three girls, continuing to grow meaningful connections in our community, enjoying the benefits of the friendships we have built over the years, and choosing every day to love my husband as best I can because he is simply the best human being - the ability to do all of this brings me so much gratitude and joy. I'll be back soon to share some photographs I shot with a dear friend for an amazing local female-owned business. Good things. <3
I had the opportunity to collaborate with Jake Eshelman of Side Project Skateboards and Mike Harboldt of Normaltown Moto for an upcoming print project that Jake is working on. I'll share more when it launches; it's a bit of a secret for now. But I wanted to post these, because they show both of these elements - Side Project and Normaltown Moto - in conversation with each other because the combination is so fitting. Both Mike and Jake started their respective endeavors as a passion/interest that they were able to turn into a business, which is rad. We have a Side Project board, and it is amazing to watch the girls learn their way around the board, mostly through the halls of our house for now, but soon they'll be graduating to skating out in the wild. It's also one of my favorite things to watch my youngest, Faeren, push Piper and Larken around while they sit on the the board. These boards are so well made, and Jake is an inspiring guy with a story; check out his site to learn about it. As for Mike, we've been friends for a while now, and it has been awesome to watch him along the way - graduating from art school, becoming part owner of his blacksmithing business, St Udio, and now having a dedicated space for working on his (and other people's) bikes. And also playing poker, along with other such leisurely activities, because it truly is a perfect space for that sort of thing.
I shot these a while back, and have a lot of work that I've already shot, edited, and made ready to post. This is work that I love and am super proud of, but haven't had the time to update my journal or portfolio for months. We've dealt with a lot of challenges as a family this past year - a move, sickness, John's job and personal work as he grows as a developer, and our changing day to day life as the girls get older. All of this, though sometimes difficult and often somewhat disorienting, has brought us closer and made us more resilient. John and I will mark four years together this coming March, but it feels like we have been each other's partner and best friend for ages. Piper will turn nine this coming May, Larken will turn six in January, and Faeren will be two in February. Most of the time, we have no idea if we are parenting and loving them in the best way we can, but we know that the most important thing is to 'just love them' - wise and true advice that a professor of mine shared with me after Piper was born. We navigate the various issues as they come and often feel like we have no idea what we're doing, but we do know that we love these girls and choose every day to do our best for them and for each other.
I'm grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with other artists, especially those that I can call my friend, and I'm looking forward to putting some new/old work up here soon.
I had been a long time admirer of Adrienne Antonson's work, STATE the label. I started low-key following her brand/work, discovered that she was in Thomson, only an hour away from Athens, and I reached out to her with the possibility of a collaboration. Time came and went, lots of life events happened, we both have young children, etc. BUT then she reached out to me to shoot for another project I was casually stalking, the Secret Catalog. For this shoot, the concept was a kid's edition of the catalog, and I was thrilled to find that so many of my Athens friends would be present with their littles, that I would get to meet some female artists that I have admired from afar via Instagram, and commune with so many talented, kind, kindred spirits. I can't share the photographs from the catalog yet, it has yet to be released, and (duh) it's a secret. Ha. But Adrienne's beautiful studio in downtown historic Thomson, GA is an oasis of beauty and creativity in the midst of classic small town South. I made these photographs between looks, and tried to avoid everything related to the much-anticipated catalog. These are just a few vignettes; I hope they inspire you as much as they did me. Oh, and quickly, here is STATE's vision statement:
STATE is the clothing label of artist and designer Adrienne Antonson. While living and working on an alpaca farm on Vashon Island, WA, Antonson was inspired to develop a clothing line honoring a thoughtful and handcrafted approach to fashion. STATE launched in Seattle in 2010.
STATE is now located in a tiny town in rural Georgia. All items are made by hand in the STATE studio in Georgia. Sustainable, organic, and recycled fabrics, reclaimed materials, and hand painting techniques are used in all designs.
I had the opportunity to collaborate again with one of my favorite groups of artists, r.wood studio ceramics. Rebecca Wood founded her studio here in Athens 25 years ago, and she is truly an anchor of the creative community that is so vibrant in this town. Taken from her site, here is a bit of history of her work and how the studio took root and began to flourish:
Rebecca came to Athens, Georgia in 1975, during the art/music heyday that produced so many bands and talented artists. She completed her art degree in drawing and painting in 1977 and stayed on in Athens, soaking up the exciting brew of ideas and creativity. She spent the next ten years painting still lifes in oil, selling most of the pieces she made. However, a stock market downturn during a solo exhibit in 1987 convinced her it was time to diversify. Soon she began designing and painting furniture, jewelry, fabric, and other household items. She took a china painting class because she'd always had a vision of selling hand painted tea pots at Neiman Marcus. After realizing the fragility of the paints on china, she decided to make her own plates and use colored glazes. A friend bought her a used kiln at a yard sale for $200. Rebecca ordered some clay and glazes, got out a rolling pin, and with no knowledge of pottery, started rolling out circles of clay. Some of her first plates she threw in a suitcase with her samples of hand painted velveteens and hats, and went to New York to meet the buyers at Barney's and Zona, the trendiest boutique in town. The buyer for Zona's japan store abruptly left the room, but returned soon after with an order pad, where she wrote out an order for $1500 dollars worth of plates. Rebecca was stunned, and R.Wood Studio was born. Fast forward to now. R.wood Studio is 25 years old, and one of the largest pottery studios in America. Rebecca proudly employs 8 artists who oversee the workings of the studio, leaving Rebecca time to pursue her creative interests. Besides creating her one of a kind ceramics, Rebecca is also one of the photographers behind the blog, and book, Beauty Everyday. It represents a pictorial and poetic love affair with southern beauty. She also has a blog called 'southernshacks.com', where she documents the beauty of old homesteads and rural structures. She is often found in the garden or the woods, studying nature in all it's expressions. Through pictures and drawings she studies the beauty in our world. These drawings and photographs inform all of her works, whether ceramics, sewing, gardening, or any other creative exploration! Beauty Everyday!
Rebecca is one of many women that have inspired and influenced me since moving to Athens in 2009, and her pieces are some of my most treasured items in my home. She is among the many talented women featured in Grace Bonney's book 'In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs' , and collaborates with fellow Athens artists (and women who I also draw inspiration from) Rinne Allen and Kristen Bach on their project Beauty Everyday. Athens has a rich presence of talented folks who share and influence the world with their craft, and I consider living here to be a gift. My hope with these photographs was to show the simple, yet artful and delicate shape of the pieces, and the way that the shapes converse with each other in situ. I chose a neutral color palette, simply out of my own aesthetic preference, but the range of shapes and colors that r.wood offers is eclectic and dynamic. The pieces grace my dining table on a daily basis, and while I love their appearance in itself, making use of them in daily life makes each occasion artful and full of meaning.
These photographs are just a handful of what I shot while visiting the brick-and-mortar home of Indie South Fair, a curated market that has been based in Athens for over a decade, beginning in 2006. Serra Branyon launched ISF after traveling the country as a vendor herself, learning about events of this magnitude, and has since hosted a remarkable number of successful events, not only in Athens but across the Southeast. Taken from the ISF site, here is how Serra communicates her work in the handmade community:
Indie South Fair is a traveling curated market that brings together artists, designers, and creative entrepreneurs to showcase their work in a festive atmosphere that includes music, artisanal food and drink, kids craft activities, photo booths and fun times! We not only foster budding small businesses, but their community of supporters as well. We believe strongly that face to face interaction between makers and their patrons is key to doing good business and building solid connections. Our goal is to knit together a network of makers, small businesses, and creatives across the Southeast. We want to bring their work to diverse markets while showcasing to the broader audience we have built after nearly a decade.
What We Do:
No matter what your schedule or budget, there’s an opportunity for everyone to be part of what we do. Applications are hand selected based on quality, innovation, and originality. Each event is a new experience with a different mix of artists and vintage dealers. Fine, folk and functional pieces can all be found here, as well as inspiration and opportunities to meet personally with the makers themselves.
Why we’re here:
Indie South Fair has earned a reputation for being the largest and most diverse market of its kind in the area, and one of the first to expand to multiple locations across state lines. Simply the best for lovers of the handmade, vintage collectors, and those looking to engage in their creative community. We welcome people from all walks of life to come together around a fundamentally human trait: artistic expression.
Serra and ISF have become a mainstay of the Athens creative scene, which itself is one of the most vibrant and quickly growing throughout the Southeastern region. I came to know Serra when I was a vendor in 2010. I moved to Athens in 2009 from Portland, Oregon, when my oldest daughter was still an infant. Before becoming a freelance photographer, I was a seamstress and had my own line of bags. I often think about that work and how much I enjoyed the methodical, solitary craft of sewing. I still sew - mostly making clothes for myself, hemming my husband's pants, making pillows and decor for our home. My interest in the fabric and fiber arts has been growing increasingly, thanks mostly to Instagram and the many talented fiber artists that I have discovered and been inspired by. John and I built a simple tapestry loom, and I am in the process of restoring a Schacht Spindle 4 harness tabletop loom, which will allow me to do the more fine-gauged, detailed work that I am drawn to. If I am able to grow in that art form and make a profit from it, I plan to move on to the Schacht Mighty Wolf in the next three years or so. I'm getting ahead of myself, as usual. While these children of mine are young, I find that being able to work at home while caring for them is not only productive and efficient, but expands my home environment into a creative space where they can also observe, participate, and learn, and their creative impulses are nurtured and encouraged. It also helps preserve my sanity.
On another note related to personal life, I have spoken openly about how difficult 2016 was for me personally and our family as a whole, while there were also many, many beautiful and important moments for us. One unfortunate ongoing issue that I continue to struggle with to this day resulted from a tooth extraction in May of 2016 that created an opening into my maxillary sinus cavity that was 1 cm in width. That mat not sound very large, but by oroantral fistula standards, it was quite large. The dentist performing the extraction did not pack and suture the opening, and as a result, I have had two surgeries, countless doses of antibiotics, chronic sinusitis and facial/tooth pain, and further dental work that cannot be finished until the problems with my sinus are resolved. However, I was fortunate to finally find an ENT here in Athens that was able to identify some of these problems and refer me to a specialist in Atlanta who works as part of the Emory University healthcare system. I am desperately hoping to find a solution to these issues. I'm thankful for the continued support, prayers, encouragement and help from my Athens community, as well as family. That appointment takes place next month and cannot come soon enough.
Friends, thank you, as always, for reading along and following my work. Looking back over my portfolio, I've found that my favorite shoots have been those in collaboration with other artists, and also enjoying the friendships that frequently result from that time spent creating together. I plan to do a lot more of that work in 2017. I already have a few artists/makers in mind that I am in conversation with, as well as my ongoing collaborations with The Seed & Plate and my dear friend Eve Nettles. I am also open to working with others with whom I may not yet be familiar, so if you are reading this and would like to talk about the possibility of working together, please get in touch! I would love to hear from you and learn about your process and work!
I had the opportunity to photograph the opening of a friend's shop, Sons of Sawdust Supply. This is the brick-and-mortar retail space that, in addition to offering a carefully curated selection of goods, also showcases the work of their business Sons of Sawdust. Matt and Shayna Hobbs, along with Matt's brother Ben, started this business shortly after our families met. They build furniture, design and install structural renovations, and salvage their materials, all crafted or gleaned from wood they reclaim from old and dilapidated buildings. It has been good to watch them build this business from the ground up, and have seen their hard work and innovation take form as a growing enterprise. Here is how they narrate their purpose and growth:
"Sons of Sawdust ™ is a woodworking business located in Athens, Ga that specializes in building custom farm tables, furniture and transforming entire spaces with reclaimed wood. Here is the story of how Sons of Sawdust ™ came to be:
The Hobbs brothers started Sons of Sawdust ™ after a series of unfortunate events that lead them to desperation and brokenness. A few years ago Matt and his wife, Shayna, lost their once successful photography business during the recession. In early 2014 Ben was working in construction and had a knee injury which left him unemployed and broke.
“In our deepest, darkest moments financially, there were thoughts of suicide,” Matt says. “There were thoughts that we could never rise out of this. I definitely had thoughts of ending my life—the utter despair I felt when we were going through all that.”
Shortly after Ben’s knee injury, he recalls, “I got really depressed, because that was my only source of income. And Matt, being the good brother he is, sits down with me and says, ‘How can we make some money for you? You don’t have to despair, there is a solution out there.'”
Matt had recently built Shayna (his wife) a homemade farm table as a gift. While building the table, Matt had the idea that Ben could build tables and sell the tables on Craigslist to make money until he could get back to his construction job. Matt shared this idea with Ben while sitting on his back porch just feet away from the freshly built farm table. This idea was the catalyst of the Hobbs brothers venture into woodworking as a profession.
Within a few days Ben got a call from a guy who was tearing down an old house and wanted to get rid of the wood, so the brothers jumped on what looked like a good opportunity. ”We just put two and two together and got the load of wood, built a table or two, put them on Craigslist and orders just started flying in. It didn't really start slowing down, so we figured we were on to something,” Ben says. And thus, Sons of Sawdust ™ was born.
The business may have originated from a stroke of luck in a desperate situation, but the Hobbs brothers' story as woodworkers has been much longer in the making. Sons of Sawdust ™ started in May of 2014, but Matt and Ben started working with wood as children with their grandfather, who they credit, their primary influence when it comes to craftsmanship as well as character."
In addition to the links above, you can find the Instagram account for Sons of Sawdust here (explore the archives to find their epic dance parties, thank me later) and the Instagram account for Sons of Sawdust Supply here.
In late August, this past summer, I photographed Wildwood Revival at Cloverleaf Farm, just up the road from us in Arnoldsville. The lineup for this year featured The Lone Bellow, Houndmouth, Gillian Welch & Dave Rawlings, Thayer Sarrano, the Athens Cowboy Choir, JP Harris, and others, although my focus this year was shooting the artists and their art, along with specialty cocktails, atmospheric takes, the aesthetic of the event. I love the family atmosphere that Jesse and Libby have taken care to cultivate. It truly shines.
Oftentimes, I have work I've shot recently which typically ends up archived on my hard drive, locked away from eyes that might behold the element of beauty contained in each piece. These photographs resonate with me as a photographer/artist, and represent the next steps -- steps in a continuous journey, I might add -- toward where I hope I'm headed in this photographic medium. I'm kinda picky and strangely specific about what I choose to share and where. I prefer to keep my Instagram personal; little glimpses into our life as a family; me trying to find balance while still loving my people well; sharing about other art forms I'm obsessed with and beginning to pick up; ways I am finding to fulfill my need for creative work whilst caring for three littles. Oh and of course, oversharing phone pics of said girls (duh). SO. These locked away photographs, which I love, and want to share somehow, find a bright & tidy home here on my site. And from time to time, this visual journal brings a new client or two my way, which is *always welcomed. Because money, capitalism, and three kids. And date night.
I write this to say that I recently shot these photographs above at a beautiful historic home, one that has been skillfully and carefully restored, with specific intention. It belongs to a family we deeply appreciate, and we spent some time lingering inside and outside as the sun set and the littles ran around. The house sits on five acres, is filled with abundant natural light, and dare I say, we would love to live here some day. Some day. We shall see. Or as my dad has always said, hide and watch. The photographs above are some of those that I really dig, that would end up locked away or, best case scenario, make their way to my OFFSET portfolio -- which if you don't already know, OFFSET licenses a portion of my portfolio. (By the way, if you ever want to support my work outside of hiring me for a specific project, you can spread the word that those images which you can see here are available to be licensed for all sorts of purposes, large and small, and are quite reasonably priced. My portfolio for OFFSET is primarily older work; I'll be updating the set soon, with many of the images you see on these recent posts on my journal. You can also contact me anytime by clicking 'contact' on the left side of your screen to order a print of any photograph you see on my site.)
So what I am trying to communicate is that I plan to do more frequent posts, with less text. More visual, less blog-like. I'll still occasionally write about our family and those things, but like I said above, my Instagram is the best way to stay up to speed.
Thank you so, so much for supporting my work, reading my posts, and continuing to offer encouragement over these many years. Love to y'all. xx
last thing -- pro tip : if you are an independent creative content generator of any kind, you absolutely must read Milton Glaser's essay on Ten Things! Do it, read it. You won't be sorry.
Love you people, my readers, y'all are the truly the bestest.
I've been writing for probably three years now about wanting to chronicle home life, the girls growing, things we are learning, just generally things that are rolling around in my head. I've been wanting to do that but hadn't yet felt free to. There are a number of reasons... I blogged years ago, super openly, throughout the advent of mommy blogs. Then everything changed for me, and I lost my 'voice'. I wanted to keep my life more private following the major changes for me & the older girls a few years ago, and also after meeting John, marrying, and then welcoming Faeren. The criticisms that I heard along the way before, during, and after those changes made me wary of opening the possibility of judgement into our lives. (I realize this is super vague but it's not worth getting entirely into detail.) I think that now, after time has passed, having acknowledged some of my lingering hurts and demons, and finding a huge need for humility in myself and towards others along said way, I am ready to stop being so precious about sharing. My resentment towards 'the pressures on women today to be everything' & my rebel/cynical attitude, pushing away social media, hashtags, and 'trying too hard', was more about me, my self-doubts, my own pride and broken places. But I am seeing that with all this stuff -- it is what it is. Post whatever you want. If I don't like it, I don't have to look at it. Same for my stuff. People unfollow me all the time and that's great because we can be in agreement that my content isn't a good fit for them and now I don't have to annoy them everyday.
There is a bit more to my realization that I can post anything in the world... I was defensively clutching at my life, not wanting to let anyone in, because I wasn't healed and that wasn't okay with me. My various roles of wife, mother, photographer, income earner, friend etc felt very disparate and so trying to represent any of it felt false. My sense of personhood was fragmented. The things I've been through and done over the past sixteen years of life do have that fragmenting, disillusioning effect on a human being. But through some time I have spent reading, listening, working through some of the hard things, I am finding that in so many important ways I am only just now finding equilibrium -- a deep sense of stability, safety, and wholeness. I have found my voice again.
I need to interrupt to say that this is the most candidly I have written in a long time, and I feel like this is cliché montage to a certain degree. But again... it is what it is.
I listened to this *highly recommended episode of the Woolful podcast (you're welcome) and it was like the penny dropped... so much of this resonated with me, and I hope if you have a moment, you can listen to it. I think part of my life felt very stagnated -- even after meeting my beautiful husband, even after having another beautiful little girl, even after seeing my older two thriving and us all growing closer everyday. Creating & crafting with my hands were foundational for me as a woman. Those things had to be pushed aside so that I could pick up the camera to support my little family as a single mama. From then on, I was operating with a survival mentality which of necessity suppressed so much of what made me feel alive. Those were hard years, and they've left their mark... it's not easy to just move on from that way of living and thinking. There were many, many effects of that time, but one notable consequence was that I became burnt out on photography and freelance life. I will always treasure the medium of photography, it's basically part of how my brain works, but there has been a need for something(s) else that I can do that has no strings attached. Totally free of the hustle, entirely self-directed, repetitive in a therapeutic way.
I have a simple frame loom that John and I built with a bit of help from a friend, and it's awesome. I love the scale of it, because I love large pieces with texture, movement, an element of wildness. I also have a set of hand-forged carving knives, thanks to my friends at Bloodroot, and plenty of wood to learn small scale wood working. Spoons, bowls, serving boards, things of this nature. This brings me joy. I love sharing these things with the girls and showing them how they are done. (Yes we exercise caution, no they don't touch the knives.) I can do them with the girls nearby, set it down when my hands are needed elsewhere, and pick back up where I left off. So these are just some shots from home, after I started a new tapestry. John and Faeren were playing in the background and the love was so evident. I've found that leaving my camera out, which sounds crazy because it is expensive and big, eliminates the stress around taking photographs and makes it my own again. Which to me is life-giving. Thanks for reading. xx
I had the opportunity to visit my dear friends David and Katy, Luke and Helen and their little ones over at Bloodroot farm, a little while ago. David and Luke are knife makers, and over the years I've spent time photographing them as they work, their process. You can find a walk-through of that process on their site (which my husband John designed); it's fascinating to see them shape these beautiful knives out of recycled steel and raw material. I love these people and I love being out there with them. These are just a handful of what I saw on a cool, dewy morning in early summer.
These are a handful of the photographs I took during Spring Beauty Day, a Beauty Everyday workshop in which I had the privilege of joining as an instructor, along with some incredibly talented friends. The ladies of Beauty Everyday (Rinne Allen, Rebecca Wood, and Kristen Bach) planned and effortlessly guided us through the day. Mandy O'Shea, the brilliant creative force behind Moonflower Design Studio, provided these stunning flowers, all grown organically and sustainably on her solar/bio-diesel powered farm. Kat and Susan of Sweet Olive Farm were our wonderful, warm, and generous hosts. Erin Wilson and Lindsey Pennington, culinary geniuses and style icons behind Wild Food, served an incredible feast made from foraged edibles that grow in this region of the Southeast.
The day began with coffee and tea in the barn, making introductions, and chatting about our various interests and backgrounds. Then Mandy lead our guests around the farm, gathering native plants to use as greenery with her blooms. Back at the barn, she led the group in bouquet making, while she shared some of her thoughts on flower farming and sustainability in an industry fraught with pesticides and herbicides, in addition to the thousands of miles that commercially sourced flowers have traveled before they reach the hands of the consumer. After some free play time with the abundance of blooms, I shared about my work as a photographer, my take on noticing and documenting beauty in an increasingly trend saturated visual culture, and balancing/blending creative work and family life. We spent some time practicing that documentation with our cameras, which was where the majority of my photographs originated. With the incredible beauty of the flowers, and plenty of gorgeous props provided by Rinne, I literally wanted to spend the remainder of the day pulling different elements together into vignettes and experimenting with darker, more moody lighting in my photographs. I am very pleased with the results, and editing these pictures brought me so much joy as I watch my work evolve and grow within the medium of photography. Following our picture-taking, we enjoyed our delicious meal, which you can read more about here on the Beauty Everyday site. We lingered over honeysuckle sorbet, rested for a bit, and then gathered to hear Rebecca Wood share her studied, thoughtful, and gestural method for illustrating flowers. All in all, it was an excellent and enriching experienced, one that I feel so grateful to have shared with both instructors and guests. I believe there will be more opportunities like this in the future! I would love to share a workshop with you, so stay tuned to Beauty Everyday and/or my site for updates. xo
This past Friday (March 25th, 2016) I drove a familiar, memorized route to Greenville, SC. Familiar because I drove this same path so many Monday mornings of 2014, photographing Barb Blair's second book, Furniture Makes the Room. The concept was to expand on her first book, the DIY bible Furniture Makeovers, which became a gold standard for before-and-after enthusiasts everywhere. Barb's target for this second book was to create a beautifully styled, interiors-centered work, lush with photographs and an eye toward detail. She chose fifteen pieces to re-work, and while she does walk the reader through those processes, the book mainly concentrates on how each piece functions in various environments. Her mantra is, always has been, 'Live with what you love', so she shows these bold pieces, each in three different environments, as versatile and even preferable -- especially when combined with an eclectic assortment of art, objects, and textiles. To bring her concept to life, she assembled a team of contributors, and I found myself, somehow, among that privileged group. The wonderful people at Chronicle published the book. Barb, obviously, designed and completed each piece, developed plans for each styled vignette, and wrote the book. Julie Dodds of Willow Florals contributed the elegant. flowing arrangements, Jessica Barley of A Darling Day was our prop stylist, and Angie Thompson lent her impeccable aesthetic and positive energy to each shoot. I had the happy task of photographing all of it.
As production began, this is how it looked, for my family: Monday mornings I drove the girls to their respective schools. I then settled our beloved occasional nanny/basically family member, Jen, into John's car so that she could pick up the girls that afternoon, always comforted that she was the one who would be with them while I was away. Thankful she was there. Next step, I drove the two hours from Athens to Greenville to meet Barb and the team for shoot days. We typically shot six to seven hour days, and then I would drive back home.
Initially, Barb and I spent some one-on-one time shooting each furniture piece in original form, followed by her step by step process as she essentially redeemed them, and lastly we shot simple flat-lays of the tools she used. Then began the styling phase, where each team member worked together, combining our strengths, and seeing beauty unfold as a result. Our days were filled with hauling furniture, decor, and photography gear, removing and subsequently replacing the contents of (sometimes multiple) rooms in friend's homes/studios or Barb's own former studio. Constantly perfecting vignettes with flowers and styling elements to complement her pieces; always adjusting, refining. Studying the perfect light to bring her beautiful vision and work to life.
Making this book has been a marathon, and those in the industry will attest that quite a bit of time stretches between initial conception, to production, to final delivery, to publication. Barb's writing phases took place after shooting was completed, followed by edits and revisions. The timeline of all of this is strange, in a way, because the shoots somehow become distant memories, and anticipation to see how the work will come together grows in intensity as the months pass. But then bits and pieces of the layouts and pages would come along, beautiful surprises at the most unexpected times. Our editor at Chronicle would send them to Barb, who faithfully and excitedly passed them on to our team. All of this anticipation culminated at the book launch party, which I photographed, shown above. The launch party perfectly coincided with the grand opening of Barb's new studio and shop, which is the stunning space where we celebrated. It was a moment that Barb worked so hard toward, and being able to photograph this significant time for her was an honor.
Overwhelmed is how I can best communicate what I feel when I see the book. From initial glimpses, to seeing the cover design, then the whole book laid out, and finally, holding the actual finished product in my hand... it humbles me, moves me and fills me with gratitude.
As for my work, I am self-taught. I have always been drawn to photography and as a beginner, I consumed every bit of information and technique that I could get my hands on. I was thrust into full time professional photography when I suddenly needed to provide for my girls and myself, and I had no other way to earn a living yet still be present with my children most days. I saw my work begin to evolve and progress as I shot over and over again, hundreds of hours, honing my craft. The 10,000 hour rule, people. It's a real thing. I am by no means a master in this art form, which is obvious and doesn't really need to be said, but I'll say it anyway. I love the work and it will always be something I do, professionally or otherwise, because I find beauty in it and I am compelled to photograph beauty. Though I have never aspired to fame or wealth through my work, I have a vision for how I want my body of work to look and to grow. My focus has always been on the work itself, rather than the hustle, achieving status, etc. Those things are not bad or wrong, nothing like that, it just isn't what motivates me, personally. That being said, I did not, could not have known, that I would be given an opportunity like this. Barb has been a woman that I have looked up to and followed for seven years; her work ethic and positive energy are an inspiration to me and many others. I now hold in my hands a beautiful book by this gifted maker/author and a reputable publisher, with my name on the cover as the photographer. This whole process, from start to finish, has been a gift, and I am so grateful. I want to also thank my readers and supporters -- many of you have followed my work for years, faithfully encouraging me and affirming my efforts. Your affirmation and continued interest has been a source of pride for me and has allowed me to continue doing something I love. Thank you for that.
Lastly, I am excited to share that I photographed another book for the endlessly talented interior designer Kirsten Grove, which will be published by Sterling, and will be released late fall 2016. I'm eager to share some of the shots from the whirlwind production that Kirsten immaculately planned and executed, along with the story of how she and I connected -- it's related to this book, and again, I have Barb to thank. Thanks Barb. Ha. (I'll just call you and thank you again over the phone.) Next up, a few words about how this whole mama/wife/artist balance (or lack of, often) is coming along. xx
I stumbled onto some music that moved me, just this past week, a band called The Stray Birds. Their songs have been on repeat, filling our house as we move rather clumsily through these recent days. Three girls... one newborn, two starting to find their own way, in small ways, as little people. John is away at work for a good part of the day. Normally Piper would be in school and Larken would be at Arrow, but this week is spring break, so it's been the four of us girls. Five, actually, counting our cat, Willa. To be honest, I'm feeling overwhelmed. I realize that there are women out there with much harder circumstances and those with possibly more manageable circumstances, but this is not a competition, and I need to acknowledge the state I find myself in, personally.
I am hopeful; I know that we will get through Faeren's newborn days, though I will be sad to see them go. I know the two older ones will be at the same school next year, and there will (probably) be some balance. Some measure of predictability, a rhythm. I know this is a season. But right now I am overwhelmed. For me, lack of sleep, postpartum depression and anxiety, the needs of a newborn which are so physically demanding yet still so treasured, wanting to look into the eyes of my other two girls and see that they know they are loved by me, that I am there for them... all of these factors (and more) create an internal state that doesn't know how to rest.
A friend and colleague recently posted this beautiful, vulnerable, courageous work about her experience living life while suffering from anxiety and, as a result, trichotillomania. She is so brave. She is so beautiful. Her words and photographs reminded me, all over again, that one day there will be a time and there will be words for me to do what she had the bravery to do. To share my story, in full, because there is a lot to share. Her piece gave me hope. I encourage you to read it, if you have the time and emotional energy.
But I am not there yet. I do at least feel free to say that for now, when I am weary, the hardest, darkest, most lonely hours of my life haunt me most. When I feel like I am failing at everything. When I feel that I am constantly letting down my beloved people. When I feel like I have lost my voice as an artist. When I fear I will never work again, not fearing loss of approval or fame or whatever, but for loss of the satisfaction and joy in making something beautiful to share. When I fear the very thing I love and am giving my life's energy too -- family life, motherhood -- is something that I am not convinced can be done well by me. This kind of tiredness and weariness reminds me of times past when I was very lost, in my younger years, when I felt the same but for different reasons. This state of mind brings up memories and pain that are in one sense past, but in another sense, are always part of me.
I see juxtaposition happening within me that is striking and presently, seems difficult to reconcile. I sense myself growing as a woman, a wife, a mother, an artist, in so many ways that I value as components of my identity. But those very same roles are what come into question in this vulnerable time. My identity, it seems, is contested, not by the outside world, but by me. Yet -- I have an instinct that I will see all of these elements one day converge, no longer partitioned. The hard as well as the good. I believe that this is happening now, even when I can't see it. My past struggles and loss now give me the gift of empathy. My shame and failure make me able to forgive and accept forgiveness. So I muster hope, hold fast, and -- this is important -- learn over time to extend those gifts to myself. I cling to the 'invincible summer'.
For the record, I need to say that what I am writing may make a reader feel uncomfortable, as if they should encourage me to get help, etc. Please know that I am aware of the dangers of postpartum mental health issues, how they can affect me and the children in my care, as well as how those same health issues exist and need care entirely unrelated to childbirth, motherhood, gender. I am taking appropriate steps to care for myself and my children. This post is not meant to be a cry for help. It is rather asking something that needs to be asked, again and again -- 'What is the point of anything I post, anywhere, if I can't be honest?. This is me being as honest as I can, publicly, for now.
One of the most healing things for me in my process of growth has been, and is still, working with my hands. The small, repetitive movements carry a calming effect; bringing order out of chaos soothes my anxiety and gives my obsessive tendencies a healthy purpose. The end result reminds me that I have worth. I have value to contribute. I have the ability to make things that enrich my life, my family's life, the lives of others. Only I can make these things because of the life I've known, which has shaped my aesthetic and appreciation for beauty. So therapy, for me, has happened this week. It has been rehabilitating thrifted mom jeans into my favorite new pair (I suppose that still makes them mom jeans...). My loving and attentive man gifting me with tools to learn a new craft, one that can be done at home while the girls run around, much like sewing. Photographing at home and including at least one little girl, my Larken... Piper is camera shy these days, and Faeren, the youngest, is either asleep or in my arms.
Which brings me full circle to The Stray Birds. If you've had the patience / empathy to read this far (bless your heart), I'll leave you with a lyric written by my new favorite musicians. It's from a song called 'Never for Nothing'.
"I'm dripping from rivers I never meant to cross. But I like the things I'm learning more than anything I've lost, and oh, I have lost, oh I have lost. But not for nothing. Never for nothing."
p . s. My other two favorite songs are 'Sparrow' and 'Dream in Blue'. I put together a small sample of their music which you can listen to here. xx
I took these photographs around our house in the early morning light, shortly after the sun rose and everything looked soft. Early light has that beautiful wrapping quality. Especially when the sky is overcast, which it has been lately. We moved here to this American Foursquare bungalow at the beginning of October, our third move in as many years, and my fifth house since summer 2012. I absolutely adore this home. Obviously it's older, with large windows and tall ceilings. We had to paint the walls after we moved in; actually John painted the walls after we moved in. Most of the house is still kind of empty, but I am not a person who decorates in one motion. It's more of a process for me, shaped by thrift store finds, textiles, our growing family of plant children, and little things I find along over time. I'm content to let the house evolve. One of the best things about moving here, which was not easy because we loved our previous home, has been the extra space. We have enough rooms for a nursery, and the girls occupy the finished attic upstairs, little a-frame bedrooms on either end of the house with a playroom between and a perfect bathroom with a claw foot tub. We miss our closeness to friends but love living outside of town. Our house faces a pasture with goats and sheep; I love how quiet it is out here.
I am close to 31 weeks pregnant, and every step, every use of energy feels measured and counted. I don't seem to have the energy I had with past pregnancies. I'm making conscious efforts to not be overwhelmed, to remember how brief this time is in the span of a life, how little time we actually have with these girls before they're grown, and how the gift of knowing them and being their mom is completely worth the cost. This pregnancy, even though it has been a difficult journey in many ways, has given me a renewed sense of purpose, and has brought us together. I love my husband more deeply and appreciate him more, and the memories that being pregnant again have brought to my mind have been sweet memories of the girls, while I carried them and when they were born. I love them more than I ever have before, and I hold dear their presence more than ever before. I see the value of what we have together. I'm deeply thankful for these souls.
I recently revisited my old blog... I used to have what could probably be called a mommy blog, which I started in 2010 and carried throughout 2013. It began with a focus on Piper, who was around six months old in the beginning, and my sewing, which is what I did before I became a photographer. I wrote a lot about some fairly personal things -- my first marriage, becoming a mom, my theology and spirituality. To be fair, I wrote on a shallow level about some important topics. I always kept it positive, even when things were really hard, especially relating to that marriage. In retrospect, I am so glad that I made that choice. But something happened to me in my inward life, a kind of cynicism and disillusionment... I saw a lot of dreams die, completely out of my control, and I did not know at the time, while they were dying, that they weren't meant for me. I pulled away from a lot of things that felt too emotionally demanding, especially if I felt like I was being asked to be fake, or couldn't completely engage or fall apart openly, the way I really felt. I stopped writing about the girls. I definitely stopped writing about my spiritual life. Honestly there were quite a few things I needed to think through, grow through. It was right for that time.
As I anticipate welcoming this third little girl and her birth, making space for her, gathering the warm and soft newborn things to comfort her, I am overcome with a sense of how much healing has happened in me. I did not know, when all those things were dying, that I would one day be able to look fondly at them with joy, because of how loved I am. I did not know what I would have today.
So from this place of freedom, I feel like I want to become again someone who shares our family's stories and the many, many reasons we have joy, because we share love. Reading through my writing from years past, I was struck by how much that simple blog brought goodness into my life -- dear friendships, a chronicle of days, however shallow, and photographs to help me remember these beautiful little people who have grown so much. I see the value in photographing and writing about our life, not because I have a dog in the fight -- no points to prove, no theological systems to hold over heads, no desire to incite a faithful following of admirers. I feel like the real beauty lies in telling the truth about who we are and where we have been, where we are going. I think part of seeing that narrative take shape can happen when I take time to reflect. Thanks for reading, and for what it's worth, I'm glad to have people to share this with. xo
Methodical Coffee is a relatively new coffee bar in the heart of downtown Greenville, SC. As you can see, the space is incredible, and the coffee they serve is better. I loved working with Marco to provide them with a small library of photographs to pull from for multiple uses.
I realize I haven't been posting much of my recent work lately, and I've been asked if I am still working. The answer is that I am still working, although I will say that I've been a bit out of touch while trying to journey my way through this pregnancy. Thankfully, baby is healthy, and we look forward to welcoming our little girl in February.
Either way, here is a quick update on a little bit of recent work:
The book that I shot for Barb Blair is available for pre-order on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and will be released March 22nd! So excited to hold that book in my hands.
I am eagerly anticipating the arrival of Trouvé Magazine volume 04 -- I photographed the cover, as well as a feature inside the issue. I worked with some friends for the piece and will be thrilled to see their stories in print.
I've been working with a handful of artists, some of that work I can share today, the rest I can share later. I photographed painter Emily Jeffords for her site redesign, and a tour of her studio was featured on Design Sponge. Some of my work with Deann Hebert was published on Style Me Pretty, here, here, and here.
Lastly, I want to share a site that my husband built and which also features some of my photography. Our very dear friends, Luke Snyder and David van Wyk, comprise Bloodroot Blades, blacksmiths who make knives in their nearby shop. It is very special to collaborate with John on a project, and I could not be more pleased that we were able to share this particular project. Thank you, reader, so much, for following my work. I'm excited to prepare for the upcoming holiday season and spend time together with my family. In the meantime, I'll be popping in to share bits and pieces of life. Take care, until then.
I took these photographs earlier in the summer while visiting 3 Porch Farm for a project that I've been working on for the past year and a half or so, the Seed and Plate. I took photographs and Erin, Jodi and I spent time talking with Mandy O'Shea about her floral design studio, Moonflower Design. Of her work, Mandy writes, "Moonflower has a mission to provide beautiful, fresh flowers, uniquely arranged, that evoke the essence of the season at hand. Our flowers are sustainably grown with much love and a determination to help advance the Slow Flower movement, while creating lovely floral designs for events and weddings. Our arrangements tend to have a more free flowing look to them and often include various pods, tendrils, wild grasses and other natural elements. We love to bring nature indoors." I have been an admirer of her work for years, and her farm has been one of my favorite places to adventure on field trips.
Summer is drawing to a close, and I'm getting close to the half-way point in this pregnancy, my third. Piper started school this week, and Larken has been happily attending Arrow. As our family life continues to expand and grow along with the girls, I find myself becoming increasingly drawn to the process of simplifying our life. This has meant making some difficult choices about a handful of my projects, which I love, but cannot sustain the level of input and consistency that is fair to other contributors, who are also my deeply respected friends. So my time working on the Seed and Plate is limited, for now, for this season.
That being said, I am looking for a couple photographers to pick up where I left off. Photographers with an experience in food, photojournalism, or agriculture should contact me via email for more details : email@example.com. Because of the focus of the project, physical location in the American South is necessary.
As summer comes to a close, the school year begins, and this baby grows, I am anticipating fall and winter more than ever.
These are a few frames of a shoot I did on Little Barn Apothecary for Urban Outfitters blog -- you can find the full post on UO here. Joshua and Brad make their fresh, luxury artisan had, face, and body care products by hand in Atlanta, and have quickly found a following. Their balancing mist, made with aloe and rosewater, makes my skin bright and dewy, and their jasmine + ocean water texturizing spray gives my hair carefree waves and just the right amount of body.
I've been a bit behind with sharing work and staying connected this summer, for a few reasons, but probably the biggest is that I've been feeling pretty quiet. I keep an arms-length relationship with social media, and I do that intentionally, because sometimes I want a break. I think that it is healthy for me. Even as I say that, I remember that everything else has continued at a consistent pace... the girls get older, prettier, and smarter every day, or maybe it just seems that way to me. Piper turned 6 not too long ago. John and I have been dreaming about our next steps, work has been good. I've had some wonderful opportunities and there are even more on the horizon -- exciting things are planned This past month has been mostly consumed with finishing up final edits for Knack Book 2, pushing to finish up my editing schedule, shooting pottery for R. Wood Studio, working with USDA to shoot a campaign for Farm To School, booking up the remainder of my summer, gearing up to shoot for Apartment Therapy as a new tour contributor. We drove to Indiana to celebrate my grandmother's birthday and the 4th of July with family, and loved the cooler weather, the tall cornfields, the green grass and lush trees. It has been a slow, restful summer... exactly what we needed. xo
This is the house where my friend Chrissy Reed lives. She's a photographer, an artist, a carpenter, a gardener and chicken-raiser, a collector of beautiful things. She was kind enough to let me photograph her house again ( it's been almost three years ) for a position of sorts that I wanted to nail down. The love I have for her house is due to it's eclectic spirit, a small reflection of her spirit. She has a beautiful spirit. I love homes that reflect the heart of those that live in them, and am learning to appreciate that particular element over furniture that reflects a certain period of design, or some impersonal element... an impressive, pretty collection of books / publications. Something like that. I did not, unfortunately, have the opportunity to make a portrait of Chrissy this time.
'Man's continuity somehow comes through all the external things that constitute him... If the photographer is to have a chance of achieving a true reflection of a person's world--which is as much outside him as inside him--it is necessary that the subject of the portrait should be in a situation normal to him. We must respect the atmosphere which surrounds the human being, and integrate into the portrait the individual's habitat--for man, no less than animals, has his habitat. Above all, the sitter must be made to forget about the camera and the photographer who is handling it.' .Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1952
I feel as though I am at an interesting point with my work, in the sense that there were many things that I believed, three years ago or so, would be held in high regard in my life for the rest of my life, in my own mind, maybe even the minds of others. I don't really care for those things much anymore. It seems that the things I do care about now, that I fight for and desire, and work towards, are mostly unseen. They are either unseen because they involve matters of the heart, my heart and my family's individual hearts, or they are precious things that I don't care to lend out. They are worth too much to me to give away to make an impression. I think that is what I am trying to say; I am past the point of trying to make impressions, which is me admitting that yes, at many points, I believed the only way to progress in my work was to make good impressions, outside of simply just doing the work. I find myself now at a point where I want the work to reflect the things that do matter to me. Years ago, I didn't realize some of the things I see now. Things like -- after loss, grief, self-blaming and self-doubt, huge mistakes, struggling to accept forgiveness, struggling to forgive, and fighting real hard with the lie that nothing matters anyway; after seeing gains and losses, money made and money gone, seen the blips of temporal success and surface-level acceptance and affection, then stared long and hard at what you really have to count on, what you really can stake your life on, and found that what actually matters has nothing to do with those things; in the midst of wondering if it was possible to be truly known yet not taken advantage of, if hope and love were worth risk, and finding that yes, more than worth risk, love chooses me, love does fight, love does hope, and hope does not disappoint; after letting all of those very heavy, but truthful and beautiful things wash over me, letting them change me, somehow everything superficial is sifted and doesn't hold it's appeal anymore. I would rather shape my life after the things that I know to be true.
Truth be told, my work is just that -- work. I am so thankful for my work, for the places it has taken me, the people I've met, the moments I've experienced, the strength, perseverance, quickness it has taught me. But just as in the quote above, there are aspects in which this type of work invites me to come and lose the shadows, the fear, the stress, the sense of ownership over my life and my time.
'For me, the camera is a sketchbook, an instrument of intuition and spontaneity, the master of the instant which, in visual terms, questions and decides simultaneously. In order to "give meaning" to the world, one has to feel oneself involved in what one frames through the viewfinder. This attitude requires concentration, a discipline of mind, sensitivity, and a sense of geometry--it is by great economy of means that one arrives at simplicity of expression. One must always take photographs with the greatest respect for the subject and for oneself. To take photographs is to hold one's breath when all faculties converge in the face of fleeing reality. It is at that moment that mastering an image becomes a great physical and intellectual joy. To take photographs means to recognize--simultaneously and within a fraction of a second--both the fact itself and the rigorous organization of visually perceived forms that give it meaning. It is putting one's head, one's eye, and one's heart on the same axis. As far as I am concerned, taking photographs is a means of understanding which cannot be separated from other forms of visual expression. It is a way of shouting, of freeing oneself, not of proving or asserting one's originality. It is a way of life.' .Henri Cartier-Bresson, 1976
If I were to make a list of things I would like to see come from this life-shaping time, it would be something similar to... build a darkroom, do studio work, begin sewing again. Release collections of prints and textile goods along a theme. Continue to work with my friends and collaborators whom I love and respect (Erin, Eve, Jodi). Think about getting my MFA and teaching somewhere. Most obviously, most importantly, press into my family, be present with my husband. Make the main thing the main thing -- our time together and our home life.
These are just a few photographs of Spring Studio Day, hosted at the Brick House on May 9th. We spent the morning and part of the afternoon together, wandering through the woods, gathering plants, leaving behind distractions and deadlines. Eve spoke about her work as a sculptor, installation artist, and stylist, and the prominence that a sense of place, but also permanence vs. impermanence, holds in her pieces. We learned about elements of composition, finding and using styling elements within one's close natural vicinity. Rinne taught us about the process and history of cyanotypes, originally termed light drawings, which is her preferred name for them. We used the plants, flowers, and seeds that we collected to make light drawings of our own, and while they were drying, I shared a bit about my work, what inspires and influences me, and the value of cultivating one's own voice as a photographer. We enjoyed Eve's lovingly made, delicious lunch outside on the patio.
This was a very special and meaningful day for me, and I am still thinking through the experience. I gained insight into some aspects of my craft that I want to explore and grow in, and also aspects of my life that are out of balance right now. This day prompted me to think about what I want my life to look like in the future, as a wife, mother, artist, friend. I will write more about that when I am ready; right now it's still raw. Having the opportunity to work with both Rinne and Eve on the same project was such a gift to me. And having my mom there with me was so special, just before Mother's Day. It was so important to me to be able to take part together in making the cyanotypes, and her having them to take home. We were thankful for each woman that came; so many sweet people and so much enthusiasm! We parted ways with happy hearts. You can read thoughts from one of them, my friend, artist and painter Emily Jeffords here. I was a little bit swept up in the practical side of the day, and got some really beautiful photographs of our day.
For those of you who missed this one, we will be hosting another at some point, and I look forward to giving even more the opportunity to join us! You can find more of Rinne's work here, and more of Eve's work here. Back soon with more wedding photographs, personal work / thoughts, and maybe a shoot with our entire family (including me, wow).