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Filtering by Tag: story

Jenn Davis + A Slow Living Conversation

Ben Ashby

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Jenn Davis is the creator of Two Cups Flour, a baking blog that showcases classic breakfast, bread, and dessert recipes with her own twist. She shares these food stories through inspiring photos styled with a southern, rustic spin from her Nashville, TN studio kitchen. As a foodie, photographer and baker, Jenn’s work has a nostalgic approach that ignites a love of baking in her audience. Her inimitable artistry captures each recipe with a mood that inspires home bakers to experiment with exciting ingredient combos and helpful—and often humorous—tips.

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“Embrace the glorious mess that you are.” 

As a child, if I wasn’t learning about art, I was being instructed on the beauty of nature—my mom was a designer and my dad a horticulturist. I inherited my mother’s creativity and my father’s sense of humor…and I call upon these traits in my work! 

Food was “hands-on” in our family; my parents both shared in preparing meals. Dad had a garden and Mom canned the vegetables, Dad hunted deer and doves and Mom could turn them into a three-course meal, Dad made Sunday morning pancakes and Mom made pies and bread. With no formal culinary training, just good old trial and error home-style techniques, I learned from watching them and grew from licking beaters to being a helpful sous chef.

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We were a suburban family, with deep, country roots. Growing up, preparing food was a special art form, a way to bring people together. Meals were—and still are—a time for us to spend quality time. Even though my mom worked full-time, she prepared everything herself. I learned early that homemade tastes best…and it’s worth the effort! 

In my twenties I was caught up with other things…eating takeout for the umpteenth time, my friends and I decided it was gross and we could make better. This revelation turned into a weekly recipe night with wine, endless chatter, and mini feasts. My renewed interest in cooking and baking grew from there. I bought new cookware and a few cookbooks. We tried new flavor twists, pigged out on warm cookies and cultivated lifelong friendships over the food we made.

Years later, after college, I was living on a horse farm when my passion for baking re-ignited. I wanted to smell and taste all the food from my childhood and I began baking for joy, when time from my equestrian duties allowed. 

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Then, just after my 33rd birthday, I really started missing the artistic side of my life. So, I gave up my career with horses and started over as a photographer, but something was still missing. I wasn’t passionate about what I was shooting, but back in the kitchen I was trying new recipes, perfecting old ones, and enjoying every minute of it! 

So, I started pointing my camera at food. Like magic, creating in the kitchen turned into capturing food images. Now, I bake almost everyday and share how I see it. I live slow and share it.

Slow living speaks to my heart. I’ve done the fast paced, stressful, cluttered, and insatiable lifestyle. It left me feeling tired, unfulfilled, and lonely. I want to have a life full of experiences, not things, I want to eat food made from ingredients I’ve grown or harvested, and have the luxury to soak up the world around me. I want to live an authentic life at a slower pace…without the regrets of—if I only had time, visited, or enjoyed—lingering in my mind.

Slow living is reflected in my work. I encourage my readers to take time for the things they love. Follow their passions. Pursue curiosity. Slow down. Be patient. Soak up the moment.

To live slowly I had to first acknowledge what I value most. I prefer to make choices about my schedule, so I choose to live a creative life and work for myself. This comes with challenges and rewards; I work hard to achieve my goals, but balance work with down time.

Everyone can relate to enjoying something delicious. Whether you prepared the recipe, shared a slice of cake with a friend, or handed a bag of food to someone hungry, food connects us in its traditions, its possibilities and its joys. 

So, I work hard to share that cooking or baking doesn’t have to be perfect; you just need to enjoy it. Anyone can make something from scratch; it just takes a little patience and a willingness to try…and acceptance of the occasional failure! Sometimes I have to laugh and throw an experiment in the trash, other times I do a happy dance in surprise. I want my readers and followers to do the same; I want to inspire them to head into the kitchen to have fun and enjoy the results!

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“Live a life driven more strongly by curiosity, than by fear.” –Elizabeth Gilbert | —

A Southern Treasure | An Essay

Ben Ashby

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    By: Shan Ashby    

My husband and I were traveling in July, through what I call, “my south”  when we stoppedto eat at a popular fast food spot.  We picked a table and sat next to a window looking across a steamyparking lot.  Both of us are people watchers.  I guess that's the school teacher that comes out in us.  It's a skill one develops after a lifetime in the classroom, that allows one to hear conversations and read body language of an entire room full of souls while appearing to be doing something entirely different.

There was an older man, probably in his late 80's or early 90's sitting across from us eating ata table with a much younger but look alike fellow, I surmised he was probably the gentleman's grandson.  He wore faded denim, bib overalls with galluses over an ironed blue and gray plaid shit.  He was clean, shiny clean and hiswhite hair with a speck of grey looked soft as it fell away from his hairline part.  The young man across the table was eating hurriedly, it was after all mid-day and they probably had errands to run. 


A family soon filled the table behind us - parents with three grade school aged children. They were modestly dressed – no name brand clothes, no cell phones, no walking and texting.  They were quiet as they pulled the chairs away from the table across the tile floor and seated themselves.  The father carried food on one tray and the mother carried the drinks on another. The oldest child had napkins and straws which she passed around.  

Our three families continued to dine in the midst of the noise from the soda machines and orders numbers being called – lunchtime patrons, coming and going.  I watched the elderly gentleman finish his sandwich and drink as he glanced often toward the familybehind me. And for that monumental moment I could read his thoughts. I've done it so many times with my own Grandfathers and Dad after they shared stories about their lives during the depression, as well as,  the stories they dared share about the horrors of war. 

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I knew as he looked at the family, the gentleman could see himself as a young father, The children, reminded him of his own and he thought about his wife, now gone, and how she had cared for their little ones in the prime of her young life.  

He remembered the struggles of his childhood and his responsibility as a Daddy to feed a hungry family. He had insight. He had a pleasant expression as he watched them enjoy their meal.  The young man who sat across the table from himfinished his meal and motioned for them to leave.  With   little conversation, the young man rose from the table and walked toward the trash and placed his tray in the appropriate place and then waited by the door.

The elder also stood, but much slower.  He scooted his chair under the table, picked up his tray and turned toward the young family.  Without hesitation he approached their table. He stood as tall as his frame would allow and he spoke directly to the father, 

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“ Would your family care for my fries?” There was a momentary silence between the two men as my husband and I listened and watched this noble act of southern kindness.

“I haven't touched them and I'mfull, I can't eat them, I don't want them to go to waste.” he spoke softly. 

In those brief seconds I felt my heart begin to pound and a lump tighten in my throat. I couldn't continue to eat.  I held my breath and hoped the tears in my eyes would not draw any attention in this moment – I leaned over my foodto avoid eye contact with my husband.  

We were in the presence of a private moment, a historical moment that only a people of our age in the south canunderstand and appreciate.  This was a hospitable southern offering from this elders generation but might likely bring giggles, smirks and laughter from some of the “ insensitive, self serving” youth of a more modern generation.  

Sadly, the time is quickly coming when this southern offering like so many other unselfish treasures of giving will no longer bemade by a generation of people.  I may never witness an act of this genuine kindness again in my lifetime.

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This was a gentile, southern man.  I'm sure his eyes had seen too much that he'd like to forget, his body marked by age but his generosity beyond reproach.  He was old enough to remember the “great depression”, to remember as a child, days with no food, to remember cold winter nights with nowarmth andshoes soles reinforced with cardboard, but he endured.  He was old enough to have served his country in World War II and perhaps seen starving children and adults through barbed concertina wire in the concentration camps in Germany or witnessed his comrades in arms die on the blood soaked battle fields of France or England, but he endured.    

He is a pattern of many many southern men whose ghosts grace sacred places of our world     in honor of freedom at Valley Forge, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Normandy, Pearl Harbor, Germany, theSouth Pacific, Iwo Jima and Korea.  He is an American son, still a father for his countrymen who still remembers the pains of poverty, the sick and down trodden. And as long as he has an ounce of strength, he will volunteer on their behalf to insure their welfare.

The young father, replied with respect as to allow the older gentlemanhis dignity and sincerity.

“Thank you, Sir.  I think we are fine and have plenty.” 

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“I wanted to make sure your family hadenough food. You are welcome to my potatoes, I didn't touch them, really, I didn't touch them at all.”

The young father answered humbly, 

“I appreciate your offer, thank you Sir, we are fine.”  The elder walked away feeling better for his inquiry and concern butlifted the flap of the front pouch of his bibs and carefully tucked the paper sack of fries into the pocket. 

Life has shown me, that the older generation, the “generation who saved the world” is often ignored.  Our aging fathers and mothers have much wisdom to share.  They do not have face book accounts, send many text messages or surf the web.  Their knowledge came from the feet of their parents and grandparents instead of CNN.  Their life lessons and common sense have served our country well.

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You may be reluctant to speak to someone with white hair, stooped shoulders orbib overalls assuming they are not aware or they do not notice you, but don't fool yourself.  Their bodies maybe old and worn, but their spirits are still young enough to see more about you than you know about yourself. 

For they have seen our country beforein troubled times and made sacrifices so that we could have what many of ustake for granted. I can remember my mother often cautioning me, 

“be sav'in now, you never know when hard times are com'in.”  and I fear she is right.

They are our wisdom keepers, our historians and they should be cherished and revered.  For they endured and seldom questioned – but they endured.

So if your walking down the street sometime and someone looks at you with hollow ancient eyes and you fail to speak or respond, you have lost more than you may know.   As John Prine, the Kentucky born songwriter/singer sang, “Please don't just pass 'em by and stare, as if you don't care, say, hello in there ”  and smile with some down home southern respect – and a treasure will be opened to you, especially if you are somewhere in my south.

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Be Kind // Stella Marina

Zachary Kilgas

Be Kind. 

Kindness in its essence is a trait sometimes undervalued and often forgotten.  
Yet a few words carefully selected, or simply left unspoken can mean the difference between a smile and a tear.  We speak of intention, of gratitude and karma, but a simple act of selfless kindness is all it can take to brighten or soften the days of at least two people. 


It is present in babies when they are born, no child comes into this world with a preconceived idea of malice or hatred, we arrive with the capacity to love unconditionally, yet slowly that capability becomes ground down and chipped away over the years. In some minds, the potential for love, charity or altruism becomes crystallised, growing in new forms, in others a sort of calcification takes place, a smooth, hardened shell presents itself to the world.
 I might like to add here, that I do not write this from some rose-tinted cloud of kindness and empathy. I write this from my kitchen table, where I am slumped. I dragged myself here across the carpet because today I had a panic attack and I had to leave work.  I have felt the rumblings of one for the past week or so, but some loose-lipped words this morning sent me over the edge, and as I lay on my bed in that hazy aftermath where you feel completely empty and a little bit numb. I decided that the best thing to do was something constructive with this feeling (I also had to stop the day from feeling wasted).  

To draw us back to my favourite analogy, life on a boat actually offers up a wonderful platform for kindness. 

To be at sea grants us a condensed version of the outside world, yes it is archaic and often patriarchal, but it relies on wanting to keep one another alive. We depend on one another, knowing that the task ahead would be so much harder if not impossible alone. That self-reliant entity that is your ship, allows you to shed the skin of daily life, removing all other roles and responsibilities aside from sailing, eating, sleeping and how you will progress from A to B. Each change of direction is predetermined by a greater force, you cannot fight the wind, you can only harness it in order to move forward. Maybe this applies to our emotions, to anger or frustration? Bottling them up inside will rarely relinquish them, you may only harness that energy in order to move forward. Then there are the consequences of careless harsh words in an environment fuelled by broken sleeping patterns and constant movement. Not only are those words magnified but there is no easy exit, you are with those people for better or for worse, so please let's be kind. These words are easy to write, the thoughts are easy to form. The hard part is in the heat of the moment when you are distracted or angry. I do not claim that it is possible to constantly check yourself for thoughts of anger. The freedom to express our thoughts, ideas and emotions in any way that we like is a human luxury, we must try only not to exploit it. If you are granted words, please use them kindly. If you are granted authority, please use it wisely.

Authentic Lives | Andrea Tamburrini

Ben Ashby

Known for his delicious European moments, here are some images from our archives by Andrea.  


Authentic Lives | Alex McDonell

Ben Ashby

We’ve been friends with Alex for forever. We recently discovered some of his early work in our archives. Check it out.  


Authentic Lives | Scott Bakkin

Ben Ashby

Canadian photographer Scott Bakkin is known for his landscapes of the Canadian Rockies and the western regions of Canada. Over the years we’ve collected a few of our favorite images by him.... 


Why Must We Protect Our Public Lands?

Ben Ashby






The question was asked...why must we protect our public lands and parks... Amy Hayden responded with a beautiful essay

Here is a simple history lesson for you. You do realize that's how these places became national parks. Someone wandered onto the land and saw the beauty and decided it needed to be known that it was a beautiful, majestic wonder the earth created, and it needed to be known that there were many people that came before us and they put their mark on it and called it home. And when decades later it was discovered people went to great lengths to protect it, and to teach others about it, to help preserve such a wonder, a rare beauty. Beauties that every state in our country once had tons of and now everyday we are losing more of them from natural disasters and political disasters. If no one stepped foot into these areas there would be no beauty to admire. No one would know or care about such places. We'd be suffocating with cities filled to the brim with people.



These places are our history, my history, Native American runs through my blood and I would love to know what my ancestors experienced before I die, so I too can find a way to leave my mark on this earth for future generations to see and experience when I'm long gone. To remember who came before them as we are now remembering who came before us. That's what national parks/monuments are all about. To teach us to be grateful, to show us that we were not just handed all this. It's to teach us that one day this world will no longer exist in the beauty we see it today. Stepping foot into such a place is not killing it, it's making it a beautiful memory. But drilling and mining miles down underneath it, Say goodbye resources this beautiful land survives on. Say hello to a wasteland caused by greedy, power hungry humans. Open your eyes and see the answers are in these places.


Common Thread

Ben Ashby







Her hands work effortlessly as she turns a skein of yarn into an afghan her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren will warm themselves with on countless occasions…a piece of crafted art, a piece of her, a blanket filled with love and memories of the selfless woman who gave her everything for her family. Whenever a loving couple commits to happily ever after, a birth is announced, or a home is new to cherish, she creates an afghan for that occasion, a keepsake that becomes an instant heirloom in our hearts and homes. It is the one gift we all look forward to receiving, and when she requests the colors of our desire, we choose with thoughtful consideration. A colorful spectrum of soft woolen fiber fills the homes of her descendents, linking us together by one common thread, her loving handiwork, her patterns...a compilation of comfort in every loop, knot and row.


The winter months are when I dust off my needles and sort through the bag of yarns, easing my fingers back into the practice of knitting. It’s a hobby which remains dormant in the sun-filled months, yet tends to warm my heart during the long dark chilled evenings of the crisper seasons. My grandmother taught me how to knit and crochet, both skills I hold dear; a family-tree connection that I am beginning to pass down to my little girl. Recalling the early days, when I was eager to learn and dreamed of being creative like my grandmother; patiently, she watched as my unskilled fingers tried over and over to grasp the yarn and produce an outcome beyond a tangled mess of string. Rhythmic movements of her hands in complete synchronicity, forming a pattern, creating a comforting gift, she could have done it all with her eyes closed. Now that I’m older, I believe I understand why she enjoys this method of crafting: One’s thoughts tend to wander in a peaceful state as the rhythm unfolds and the final outcome of the creative consistency is a practical gift filled with joy and love. Whether I’m practicing my own handwork or wrapped up in one of her gifted afghans, I am reminded of her – warm, loving and safe, an endearing way to carry her with me forever and always.



Estival Survey + Alaska

Ben Ashby

About two seconds.

That’s what you have between being asked and your response; before you let on.

It’s important first, to acknowledge we’ve reached the era of total geographical and technological accessibility. Our generation has become comfortable, in such a way that we can begin to treat a trip to say— Vik with as much insouciance as some may have once— and do, their honeymoon to The Bahamas. So with this accessibility, it’s become less uncommon to cross paths with those whom venture frequently. I believe it’s the sheer magnitude of some variables that revolve around certain destinations; kilometers driven, meters climbed, batteries exhausted, that continue to garner an audience eager to follow along, and possibly take part in the journey through your response. Your response, however, is what you control. Following the great distances and scenes catalogued, you have a brief opportunity to contort history to serve the limelight into which you’re asked to share it.

About two seconds: to say the trip was perfect, or to tell the truth.

We’d gone in, a band of misfit storytellers, documentarians, broken hearts and transcontinental navigators. We’d agreed to drive our friends’ [@floatballoontours] hot air balloon from Phoenix, some four thousand long miles, to Anchorage. Upon our arrival, the Cloth & Flame (@clothandflame) and Royal & Design (@royalanddesign) teams would rendezvous and fly the balloon over the great Alaskan frontier. We’d camp, cook and share in campfire tomfoolery along the way. We’d collect our cast as the journey unfolded, and exchange it as the screenplay called. We’d gather the endorsement of our favorite like-minded brands, and set course into the true unknown, unruly and untamed wilderness of the far, far north. We’d no idea what we were getting into, but as the self-proclaimed crew of the first Survey; Estival Survey, we had done the best we damn could to prepare.

Our initial trajectory took us across Joshua Tree National Park, Los Angeles, the mighty Redwood Forest, San Francisco, the dunes of Oregon, and up to Seattle, Washington, over the course of roughly seven days. It was seldom a matter of beauty, where our attention strayed, as it was a matter of cognitive survival. This was meant to be the mild stretch— the familiar territory where we’d have ample time and resource to recuperate and charge our souls before moving onward.

The reality, and the response we wish to share is that behind the glamor, there lies a greater truth. Fevers, flies, poisonous vines, damp earth and sleeplessness all laid the groundwork to a remarkably taxing expedition. The nauseatingly vast stretch across Canada had begin to set in several hours after crossing the border. The decision had been made to trek through until our final destination. We made several day camps— of course given the extensive amount of daylight the further north we ventured, allowed for some flexibility with this. Kathleen Lake, Yukon was arguably one of the most beautiful places we could have ever hoped to lay our heads, hammocks, and sip a beer in freshwater at. We knew, however, our time was limited, as we wished to make schedule to Alaska. We drove, and drove, and drove into some great towering blackness; bear dotted gravel ways and tree lines set to stun. We drove, and drove.


Our time in Alaska felt short. It felt longer than the days we occupied it, and somehow still brief. I think it’s the madness of going that causes this. The brands we had partnered with allowed for several remarkable campsites and experiences; unparalleled landscapes of blue, and soft etchings of green. Not to say we weren’t in some ways sick, smoke tainted and tattered. Several of us had developed sever reactions and wounds. It was rough. Tempers were fickle. We pressed on, to admire and notice the Earth we escaped to find, and connect with one another in ways we left home to conquer...


When the brazen adventure seemed to be nearing its end, I received an unexpected opportunity to plunge myself one more time into the throws of the unknown. On my last day in Alaska, one of our hot air balloon pilots, Jeff, a slow-talking, wispy outdoorsman with a salt and pepper mustache and a sweat-stained baseball cap, offered to fly one member of the Estival Survey crew over the Knik Glacier in his plane to snap photos since weather would not permit us to charter a helicopter and fulfill our ultimate dream of flying the hot air balloon over the glacier. Knowing it was my last day, my beloved crew of cohorts voted unanimously that I should be the one with the privilege of taking this flight. We went to the local airport and walked up to a 1958 super-cub single-prop plane. At first I was a little nervous about getting in that rickety old thing, but true to the spirit of our journey, I went for it.

Photo by S. Cole Kiburz (@coleplay)

Photo by S. Cole Kiburz (@coleplay)

We flew over Anchorage and roughly another fifty miles over gorgeous Alaskan frontier to the edge of Inner Lake Gorge which connects to the mouth of Knik Glacier. That’s when old Jeff announced to me over the intercom headsets that we were going to be landing there. We hiked to the edge of the lake to take in the view of the massive icebergs floating in the water. After a little while, old Jeff, inadvertently stumbled upon an old, overturned canoe that was hiding in the brush. We flipped it over to reveal two sun-bleached life preservers and two oars. The canoe frame was bent crooked in several places and there was a large crack in the green frame which is almost certainly why it had been left behind. There are no roads to take you to this lake so the canoe must've been flown in  by helicopter at some point. Jeff duct-taped the crack in the canoe and we tested it's ability to float in the shallow water. Once we were confident that the boat wasn't going to sink, we decided to get in and take it through the maze of icebergs; the majesty and grandness of which I will never be able to fully describe. The crackling, squeaking, breathing noise of the ancient ice and how each jagged tower was as beautiful as any sculpture. The blues were comically over-saturated and the whites were blinding. We grabbed a couple chunks of ice that had broken off and fallen into the lake. I don't know fully how to describe it, but this ice was somehow colder than normal ice. We wrapped a couple chunks in a jacket and flew it back to Anchorage with us.

Later that night, when my time on the adventure came to an end, the remaining crew ofEstival Survey poured a glass of whiskey over top of the ice and cheers’d to what had genuinely been, the trip of a lifetime.

Photo by S. Cole Kiburz (@coleplay)

Photo by S. Cole Kiburz (@coleplay)

This isn’t about running away from your problems or grandstanding or crusade. It’s about connecting with the natural world that is so easy to overlook in the times we live in. It’s about rectifying the blisters on your feet with the sunset from the mountaintop. It’s cleaning your hands and face in the cool waters of the river. I believe that the answers we seek reside within us, always. We are born of truth, but the unbridled beauty of this planet can help bring that truth out of us. Sometimes it’s simple; like how rain on the canvas tent can enhance the reading of a book. Sometimes it’s profound; like the twilight nights around the fire when the sun never fully set; when you question god and yourself. It’s when you realize once and for all that you ain’t no wilting twig damned to a cracked pot. You are a wildflower, born of the sun and the dirt. It’s when you agree to give it hell and see where you end up. It’s when you get up and get going. It’s when you let the compass point you forward and the stars compel you onward. It’s my sincerest hope that we may all meet with vigor the challenges of our destinies.


I aligned with an idea that life could be compared to attempting to lift the stool you're sitting on. I'm now more inclined to think it best described as adrift in a hot air balloon. Silence until noise. Still until caught. It all seems simple, and then you look around beyond the comfort of your woven chariot. You are at the mercy of variables beyond control, with your only powers to react or not. You notice places slip by below, and wonder whether they too had stories; whether they too have chosen a response, or one day will. Regardless, they pass. Regardless, the horizon will never repeat itself, for by the time you circle the sphere, the landscape has changed again.

Estival Survey, 2016 (#EstivalSurvey)

Words by Ryan Neal Cordwell (@ryannealcordwell) & S. Cole Kiburz (@coleplay)

Film by Ryan Neal Cordwell (@ryannealcordwell, @royalanddesign)

Photos by Constance Higley (@constancehigley)


Ryan Neal Cordwell (@ryannealcordwell)

S. Cole Kiburz (@coleplay)

Dylan Brabec (@dylanbrabec)

Constance Higley (@constancehigley)

Michelle Johnson (@meeshalrj)

Brendan McCaskey (@jarofbuttons)

Cheyanne Paredes (cheyp)

Royal & Design (@royalanddesign)

Cloth & Flame (@clothandflame)

True Country

Ben Ashby



When people dream of living in the country, I imagine they don't give much thought to the flies, pollen, grain chaff, and heat; the smell, wind, or dust. Growing up, the five-hundred head of livestock we owned consumed several tons of grain, hay, and corn each day; Let's just say not all of our dust was made of dirt. I don't know how the West was won, but I can imagine it probably conquered a few indomitable wills along the way.


I worked with these cattle in these conditions and I couldn't fathom thatthis land, this plain, was someone's romanticized dream of country life. I hated the work most. You couldn't escape the filthy combination of dust and grime, of animal and earth. When Grandpa said to be at the barn by seven, he didn't mean 0700, you were expected be there at 6:45 A.M. The cows wouldn't milk themselves at four in the morning, nor would the grain irrigate itself. The calves had to be fed, and the horses caught, all before nine if we were going to get to horse breaking.


I will admit the chore of breaking mostly fell to my Grandpa and father, but my brother and I had the privilege of holding the ropes as the colts kicked up the aforementioned dust. After several days of this repetition, the time came for my brother and me to run the horses like we were being chased by hellfire. It will never fail to amaze me how a colt in full sprint can reach back and bite his rider's shin without ever breaking stride.

I won't say it didn't have its rewards. We had our fair share of trips to the Palisades and Grand Tetons. Even if the trips required a wake-up call at five in the morning to catch horses, pack saddles, and load trailers. Six butts crammed into an extended cab '88 Chevy Dually for a two-hour drive, it wasn't ideal but it was all about the destination.

After several hours of riding, in these watercolor landscapes usually right about the time the pain from the saddle fell numb we'd return to the truck and, in reverse order, undo all the work of saddling the horses, repack, cram our butts back into the truck, and return home. Only this time, we'd stop by the first gas station we met where Dad would buy us whatever treat we wanted. At the end of our drive we'd drop the cousins and uncles off at their homes, leaving the work of unpacking to my brother, father, and me. Only when we had unpacked the horse trailer could we waddle home with our saddle-sore thighs and crawl into bed; Just to repeat it all the next day.

When people dream of living in the country, I don't imagine them giving much thought to the work and sweat that goes with a true country life, but that's just what I'll never forget.

Ashley Sullivan | In Her Own Words

Ben Ashby




I grew up in Maryland, a sort of grounded daydreamer. I have always been creative, so I decided that I would study interior design. In school I learned a lot about the foundations of design, processes, and shaping space. I have always drawn inspiration from the seasons, natural light, textures—and their contrast. I love linens and silks, birch bark, flower petals, worn cobblestones...anything I can find pattern and texture in inspires me.



I started a blog five years ago as a creative outlet for my design and began experimenting more with photography. I spent time developing my technical and composition skills and finding my own style. Today I specialize in food, still life, and travel photography.


I've always been filled with a global curiosity, and I feel most alive when traveling and exploring the world. I'm fascinated by foreign cultures and traditions and how people live. The details and textures that can be found while traveling are amazingly intricate, if you take the time to notice. I use these details like puzzle pieces in my design, each one an important element in the final product.


My husband, our bulldog Kane, and I recently relocated to Minneapolis. We're thrilled about the adventure, and although the winters are a lot to bear, there is a vibrancy to the culture here. I've made some great friends in the creative community, and am energized by the maker spirit. I started a series on my blog about Minnesota makers with trades like glassblowing, leather-working, woodworking, and painting. There are many fantastic goods that are made right here in our community, and I love sharing their stories.


In addition to having a deep passion for travel, I have a great yearning for the calm life at home. Slow mornings with coffee and a good book or sunny afternoons with an open bottle of wine. I love throwing on Frank Sinatra and creating a meal with my husband...these are the moments that make up our lives, and I think being intentional about how we spend our moments is truly important.



Lonesome Pine Mercantile

Ben Ashby

On our recent road trip through the south we went to visit our good friend Samuel Melton at his store Lonesome Pine Mercantile. Nestled in the town square of a small East Texas town Lonesome Pine is a majestic and serine look into vintage design. Samuel is creating not only a place to get local goods but a style that could change a small town into a mecca for the design world. We asked him some personal questions about not only his store but life in general.

Why your small town in Texas?

Well I grew up here, I went to school down the street, I danced at the pickin palace on Saturdays on blues night. However I grew up saying I would never come back to this town. I think I have a essay somewhere from middle school stating I was going to live far far far away from Hemphill. However being far far away for years I missed it. I came back for a visit and couldn't believe what my town was becoming , slowly it was becoming a ghost town. The square that I once spent most afternoons became empty and by passed by new faster highways. So being at the right place in my life I declared that somewhere on this square had to be my store. So I set on my new badge of the "urban exodus". It's also a part of my story my town is a huge pet of who I am so it's only appropriate to open up in this old East Tx town that has its quirky stories.

Starting with a physical store first, was that hard?

The hardest part was finding the location we had few options and each became a challenge. I think we went through the 3 months with 5 different location options. I think in a small town a physical location is smarter rather then online. Most people in this town still don't operate computers. This being ok because we wanted the town fellowship most of all before a online presence. On a the same topic the other hardest part of a physical location is people don't understand why a non married 26 year old man would come and open store so it's mainly breaking down that wall of questions and expectations that seems to be the hardest.


What products can we expect online?

Online will be treated as invite to East Texas more than anything. We will sell our local made goods from our friends/southern makers as well vintage textiles. This includes rugs, pillows, blankets and throws. I'm obsessed with the fact that textiles can change a home with a few here and a rug there. So I want to spread my idea of textile living. We will have furniture available however it'll be local pick up , but we actually haven't had a issue with that. People are so supportive that they want to explore Hemphill and East Texas so they are willing to come to the shop and grab their new pieces. I'm also excited to say there will be a blog on the site . We offer styling and home collaborations so we will be able to show our adventures and talk about the rural life more. 

Who inspires your style?

That's a big question. I tend to experiment a lot with style but always circle back to a vintage mix. I guess in stylist or designer I would say Emily Henderson because she really understands that life calls for lives in styles or style that can ware well in better terms. I do have to say my parents are hugely inspirational with encouraging me while younger to explore styles and history of pieces which made me come up with what my style early on. My parents are afraid to put the odd in their home and layer colors which shows up in my styling of homes usually. I share a love for Folk pieces and those odd pieces in the home much like my parents. In places that I draw inspirations from it would be the old old farm homes around my town you walk in and see the simple details that I go crazy for. From the cheap whitewash they used to the slim pine floors; the colors age well and look so amazing whether you add that new West Elm sofa or the found old worn leather chair. 

Did working at West Elm give you an advantage on competition in the area?

Working for WE I would say gave me a advantage but gave me a vision on what potential I see for a home can be. This area is so under served that anything new can be that thing that inspires other to branch out and start thinking design. 

What areas do you want to grow your business (i.e. design, products, etc)?

That changes everyday as of today I would say I would want to be able to bring the shop on the road. I know for sure to help and style homes is our goal. Recently we have become buyers for local designers where they are coming for the unique. I do want our local maker presence to also grow with hopefully collaborating ( being able to collab is a complement like none other to me) . We have such great talent in this small county of mine that it's a shame to not have it showcases in a better setting rather then on the side of the road.  So for our evolution as a store I think it's to style more and find more makers that deserve a chance to be showcased.

Where do you see yourself and your business in the coming years?

Well for Lonesome Pine I just want to become a presence. This meaning for people to see that we are here and we have something special in East Texas. Also I just want the store to survive the first year can be a hard one with learning how your store will work and drawing in customers it can be scary. I do want my business to become that inspiration to others to invest in small town Texas (maybe East Texas) and rally around them as a friend. To see the empty next to me be filled with a coffee bar, eatery, and etc would be my idea of growth.


Ben Ashby

Sometimes inspiration is found in unlikely places. Other times it only seems natural. The ladies over at Tatine seem to find things a little more natural and easy to come by than most. Rock n' Roll is their inspiration but instead of that coming at the hands of marketing and polls it happened through passion. 

The company started by inches not leaps and bounds. Margo Breznik first started teaching herself the art of candle making her tiny Chicago apartments kitchen. Soon after that she opened a store that simultaneously fronted as furniture and home decor while she made candles on the premises as well. As more and more interest grew in what she was creating she decided to go into wholesale. 

"I'm a self taught business person. It's a continuous growing process. One that I love. I'm constantly learning and always challenged.I always aspired to do something creative for a living. I worked in the music business for 10 years, then worked at a foreign and independent film company for 8 years."

A move to New York City came next, and landed her a job working for an architecture firm, but it was mostly numbers all the live long day. Moving back to Chicago she began working for a direct marketing company and according to her "paid the bills", but not being able to express herself in design she filled that need by teaching herself how to make candles after work and every weekend. By researching fragrances for hours upon hours she couldn't wait to get out of work to make candles. So she decided to take a huge risk, quit her job, borrowed $10,000 from family and opened a store to showcase the Tatine brand in 2001.

"I was dying to do a build out, create an atmosphere and share my work for people to bring into their homes. The store was well received and I kept it open for 7 years when I decided to flip the coin, take another huge, scary risk and walk away from what I built, and completely rebrand, redesign and go wholesale."

So the first three months after closing she was scared, tearful, and quite worrisome. She went from having this beautiful store with daily sales, to no income as she was rebuilding and redesigning the entire brand, which takes time and patience.

She kept at it, and invested everything she had into it, and low and behold it paid off for her. Anthropologie came calling and she went into production hand crafting approx. 50,000 individual candles for their stores Nationwide. At this point she was the only employee! Her friends & family helped when they could, but it was a labor of love for her to say the least. They hired her to produce two more lines for them and this combined, resulted her working 8 months solid, 10 to 12 hour days without a single day off. So it is only fitting that some tears fell into the wax of some of those candles. That much work would be exhausting and not without a meltdown or three for anyone, but for her it was the most incredible learning experience and so worth it. Now in her 15th year in business those days are what she leans on to realize what has gotten her to this point. 

We decided to ask her some question about how she made it this far!  

Q: Other than rock n' roll what inspires you?

A: I'd definitely have to say the world of design. In particular I'm very influenced by modern British, Industrial and Scandinavian design; in furniture, interiors, and products. Design magazines are sacred for me I'm constantly on the lookout for the latest trends and things that inspire. This does not mean that I disregard tradition. I find a blending of the two elements most interesting.

In addition, traveling is a constant source of inspiration for me. Any chance I get I'm off exploring! The sights and sounds and scents of places I've traveled to inspire many of our fragrances, in both literal and abstract ways.  

Q: Where do you see the company going over the next 5 years?

A: The sky's the limit! We're experiencing a moment of tremendous growth. One I've worked very hard at attaining. And I have hundreds of ideas! And I like to change things up, keep current. Naturally I anticipate continued growth. 

Q: What are your candles made of? How do you pick your scents?

A: Our candles are made of 100% soy wax. And our scents are a product of a lot of thoughtful blending and experimenting until we get just the right fragrance. I pride myself on our fragrances. I won't put just anything out there until I feel it's unique and the best it can possibly be. It's a task I really enjoy.                                                                                                                

Q: How often do you change scents on both of your products? 

A: We have many classic fragrances which people love. And those we tend to keep around. However, I do love change. So I am consistently unveiling new scents in all of our collections. 

Q: Is there anything you guys are developing?

A: We've expanded our company to include apothecary products over the last year or so. And this has been very exciting! We're now producing a pump soap and lotion as well as a line of hand soaps. We're adding new fragrances to those and we also have an exciting plan to introduce another new product. But that's still a secret! As I mentioned before, you can always count on Tatine to have something new and exciting up our silky sleeves.

Q: How long does your development take? Do you fail often? And do we always get to see your successes?

A: Development periods differ. The ideas come relatively easily. But full development can take some time, over the course of several months. This is due to the fact that alongside product creation we also design all of our packaging. There's a lot of back and forth during that process. But I find that process rather thrilling! I must say, we have not experienced any complete failures. Of course some lines or fragrances end up being more popular than others. And we've discontinued fragrances or lines due to lesser sales. But I see this as positive. It allows us to understand and adapt to our market, while still speaking and creating from the soul.

And up until now yes, you have seen all of our successes for the most part. We have done huge jobs for big brands like Anthropologie, Williams & Sonoma, Terrain, and smaller projects for Robert De Niro's Greenwich Hotel, Ian Shrager's Public hotels to name a few. These collaborations are generally custom, so they aren't sold as part of the Tatine brand, but they still represent us. These collabs allow us to learn and grow, and generate the revenue to develop and design for Tatine.

Q: Do you team up with other makers often? 

A: We do collaborations with other brands and build products and fragrances for them from the ground up. We don't do private label though, we are a design studio and we love to create custom, exclusive products for other brands that represent them, and help them tell their stories. We give the same attention to detail, love and care to these collaborations, as we do to developing products for our own brand. We love creating!

Q: Does living in the midwest offer opportunities to partner with both the east and west coast more? 

A: Not necessarily, in this day and age it doesn't really matter where you live, you can develop and design for anyone, anywhere. The joy is when brands reach out to us because they love our work.

Q: Who are your favorite makers?

A: I have so many! I am so inspired by products and brands that live and breathe the hearts of the makers. I have a great deal of adoration for Le Labo and Cire Trudon. Their fragrances are outstanding. I'm also inspired by interior design and design in general. For example, when traveling, I get so inspired, the designs of places like St.John Bread & Wine and Fernandez & Wells in London inspired me a great deal. Their restaurant build outs and aesthetic inspired the gut rehab I did in my own kitchen, and being in their environments highly influenced the style of my brand.  

Q: Was there steady growth or a big boom?

A: Actually, a bit of both. It's been steady all along but there have been a few high profile companies who bought deep and created somewhat of a boom for us.

Q: Where is the end goal to get your products?

A: Right now, we are working to build an international presence. We have some big accounts in Tokyo, Australia, and Korea, and we are currently in production on a big job going off to Switzerland. I'd love representation in England, France, Germany, Sweden, Italy, you name it.

Q: Any crazy stories about how a product came about or anyone who has bought one?

A: Well, if you consider sauntering by certain rock gods' homes in London and being inspired by the escapade and translating that into a fragrance crazy, then yeah! We have indeed also had a few notable musicians purchase our product and some that even visited our production studio. But of course our lips are sealed!

Clayton & Crume

Ben Ashby

How was Clayton & Crume created?

Clayton & Crume was created over a few beers at 3AM in a Gatlinburg hot
tub. We had been sewing and creating for the better part of a year, and
decided to make it our livelihood. Three years later and we're growing
faster than ever.

What was the first product you made and/or sold?

As young men on a college budget, we wanted a belt that wasn’t on the
market--so we made it. We started with custom-designed canvas belts for the
collegiate lifestyle, constructed entirely in our dorm room workshop. As we
began to focus on developing solid leather goods, we fell in love with the
challenge of offering beautiful, durable goods at an honest price.

How do you decide on products?

Each product has been created to fulfill needs that have arisen in our own
lives. The plan for the future, after overwhelming request, is to add more
lifestyle goods-- particularly for women. Leather clutches, totes and
duffels are on the immediate horizon. Last week we took a 10-day trip and
made ourselves prototype leather dopp kits. Those will be up on the site
within a week, and they're killer.

How do you find new ideas for products?

Our mission is to create possessions we can use for the rest of our lives,
and in that endeavor, the ideas are never ending. Every worn-out item in
our lives is an opportunity to reinvent and create anew, C&C style.

Do you create collaborative products with brands you work with?

Our dream is to collaborate with an iconic, time-tested brand. Custom belts
with Pendleton Wool or Harris Tweed would be insane. Maybe one day.

What inspires Clayton & Crume?

Good products tell stories, and we’re inspired by the stories our products
will tell after decades of use by those we’ve created them for.

What's your favorite thing about supporting American makers?

Makers don't work for a paycheck, rather, their work is the expression
of a lifelong passion to create. We'll always support a maker, American or
otherwise, who puts his/her name on the product as a testament of passion
and quality.

What's been your biggest challenge?

Our biggest challenge is probably the same as any other maker-- scaling
our operation. Every item is made by hand in our 300sf workshop, and there
are only so many hours in a day to create. We'll likely never be the brand
with 100 retail shops and global distribution, but that's the way we like
it. We know who we are and plan to stay that way-- small and dedicated to
our craft.

Clayton & Crume

Great North Collection

Ben Ashby

hroughout this Winter Issue there is a collection of astounding images of the beautiful natural landscape of our Northern neighbor, Canada. All of these images have been collected and created by a group of traveling creatives and photographers called Great North Collective. We asked two of the chief members of the group to share with us a little about the history of the group and their effort.

David Guenther of Rowan Jane Photography was one of the founding members of Great North Collective, the group of photographers and other creative individuals who are capturing the landscapes of wild and natural Canada and creating a portfolio of it online and through Instagram. David says he first had the idea a couple years before he started his adventures, but it was something that had to start at the right time with the right people.

He found the Collective in a group of old friends, wedding clients, and new friends and began his adventures after discovering their amazing work on Instagram. “Ryan is a good friend is always up for a bit of adventure,” Guenther says, “so that just made sense. Chris was a wedding client of mine, and Mike was his groomsman, so after that I kept up with them online and connected with their landscapes.” Using their existing adventures, and combining it with his own idea, Great North Collective was born.

Dave started Instagramming landscapes and documenting the Canadian terrain about a year and a half ago. “I travel around a lot for my work as a photographer,” he says, “so Instagram was just a good way to keep creative and document these beautiful places I was going.” The typical photo trip for the Collective is usually a random drive in a certain direction, the group has a region in mind and they drive there documenting their adventures and resting moment to moment. “While we'd like to be roughing it a bit,” David jokes, “it's tough to camp in the Canadian Rockies in winter with camera gear. So in that case it's hotels or B&Bs.” Aside from taking photos of each other, the Collective just enjoys their time together exploring, driving, walking or hiking. “It's nothing too extreme, but we just try to see as much as we can while we're out there,” he says.

David’s favorite adventure with Great North Collective so far has been a wedding on Vancouver Island last year and he shot with his family joining him. “We spent a week just exploring and relaxing,” he says. “I get to shoot a lot in the Rockies, but it felt different on the Island with my wife and girls with me.” The group's goal is to shoot every part of Canada, but David says he would most like to go to the Yukon and the Maritimes. “This country is so massive and beautiful,” he laughs, “I just want to see it all.” For now, Great North Collective is taking every opportunity they can to document the landscape of Canada and bring together a solid group of photographers, and an inspiring collection of images. “Beyond that, we've got a few other plans in the works, but we'll see where this wild journey takes us all.”

David Guenther - Rowan Jane Photography - -

Ernest Alexander

Ben Ashby

After going to grad school and studying business for 3 years, Ernest Sabine found himself in the middle of the recession and the fashion district in New York City. The stock market had just recently crashed and for Ernie it seemed like the perfect time to build something from nothing. Having worked in fashion advertising for several years, Ernie learned the ins and outs of the fashion industry and with a childhood dream he set out to create the perfect men's messenger bag. "I always dreamed of having my own clothing line as a kid," he says, "I always wanted to have my own business."

When Ernie began Ernest Alexander he explored the fashion district for a workshop that was able to produce canvas messenger bags. He often carried one for business each day and always wished he could have one that perfectly matched his body in motion and at rest. After finding a workshop only two blocks from his office he started sourcing materials for his first collection of messengers. "I started with one style and three colors when I made my first messenger bag," he laughs.

With the help of twelve very talented seamstresses, Ernie went to work perfecting his first design. "I would design prototypes and test them out for the day. I want my bags to look as fashionable and feel as comfortable and natural while walking and running through the city." With his first design perfected and with three colors available he sold his first 20 bag order, though the power of social media and e-commerce quickly changed that.

When Ernie first started his brand he wanted it to be something could feel proud of. He was tired of foreign manufacturing and unfair wages and living conditions for the foreign laborers. Finding the small garment district in New York City to manufacture his bags and accessories was his way of remedying that problem. With his growing popularity and demand for more products, Ernie has not only been able to support the twelve seamstresses who first helped in creating Ernest Alexander, but has also expanded that workshop and created jobs for new workers.

"I wanted to create a brand with heart and meaning, I wanted to know the people who were making products for me. I wanted to stay close to them and be able to visit any time so that I could stay involved in every step of the process." Today he works, manufactures, and sells his bags within a five mile radius, with his flagship store in Soho on Thompson Street only 20 blocks from his workshop. "Opening the store allowed me to not only get into a shopping area that I'd helping grow my brand, but also allowed me to meet my customers face-to-face." With a growing collection of items to offer including men's shirts, bags, accessories, and a small capsule of women's clothing Ernie is slowly growing his brand which started with one messenger bag into a full outfitter. "I want to be able to offer more to my customers and I think the next step will be denim, knits and sweaters, and tailored clothing and suiting," says Ernie.

Ernie says that the city has played the biggest role in inspiring him to create his clothing brand. "When I need inspiration I go straight to the streets of New York City," he explains. "With so many colors, textures, and personalities the people of New York have their own style, and it inspires me to find new and interesting fabrics and patterns when I source my materials." He also finds inspiration in antiques and often shops at a local antique store called Olde Good things for decor for his store and inspiration for his brand. "My brand focuses on a return to basics with a modern look at vintage fashion, so visiting antique stores helps me focus on those ideas of classic silhouettes and references to the past."

When asked what we could expect to see from Ernest Alexander for the holiday season, Ernie listed a few giftable items that will be out just in time for the holidays. Starting this winter he will offer an apron designed for cooks and blacksmiths alike. Inspired by the aprons of craftsmen, it will feature pockets for tools and is constructed of the same high-quality canvas he uses for his bags. Plaid will be a major focus for the brand this year with a line of weekenders, messengers, and other bags made of classic British woolen plaids and Ernie will also offer plaid neckwear to match.

With workman inspired clothing, a line of utilitarian bags that focus on functionality and style, and classic accessories Ernest Alexander is reviving the American fashion industry. Keeping his focus on the importance of domestic manufacturing and a respect for the history of fashion, Ernie has created a brand that is as classic as it is fresh and modern. "A respect for history and the past has always been important to me, I think it is what fuels this industry and I want to make sure that the people who have worked to keep manufacturing alive here in New York City are recognized."

Greeta's Geese

Ben Ashby

By: Linda Reid

"Aren’t those geese beautiful?”

The geese belonged to my grandparents, Herman and Lola Render of the Walton Creek area near Centertown, Ky. Summer arrived and with it came more time at our grandparents’ home. It also meant molting season for the geese. Since geese typically molt (lose some of their feathers) during the summer, Mammie took advantage of Mother Nature’s help in harvesting feathers for new pillows. Their feathers sure made neat pillows! 

My sister, Jo Carolyn Patton, and I, Greta Whitehead, lived in that neighborhood and were always at our grandparents’ home as much as possible. We had grown up around the geese but we were afraid of them. We knew that geese were sometimes used for security animals because they are so easily excited and alert you to impending danger by flapping their wings wildly and honking loudly to scare off suspected intruders. Still, we loved to find their big eggs! It was always special on Easter to have a big colored goose egg in our basket. 

We were daring kids...especially me. I would make one of the geese mad just so it would chase us. The only time we were pinched by one was when we helped our grandmother hold the big geese while she plucked the feathers for her pillows. She would turn one at a time upside down and hold it with her legs and start to work. Jo and I, as little girls, would try and hold their heads so they wouldn’t pinch her legs. We would get tired and let go a few times. Mammie would end up with black and blue legs but good, soft, fluffy pillows. 

Herman Render and Lola Bennett Render, beloved Christian grandparents of our 13 brothers and sisters were near 80 when our family moved on in to Centertown. I have many good memories of Walton Creek people and the good life we had there.Though saddened by our move to town, many new adventures and memories awaited us there. 

My dad, the local barber, felt it necessary to move to town so he could be close to his barbershop. Sometime in the 40’s, Dad bought an old Greyhound bus. He converted the old bus into a nice café that sat on Main St. It was quite beautiful, inside and out, with a fireplace, juke box, booth and stools at the counter. The “Blue Bus Café” became the hangout for teens...a safe place that was supervised by good honest folks who believed in their community and its future. Our parents, Raymond “Dick” Render and his loving wife, Lou, ran the café until they moved to Jeffersonville to work in the shipyards.

Times were hard and work was scarce so many families of our hometown had to move where they could find steady work. The Blue Bus closed but the stories of good times there live to this day. Other small cafés have come and gone in Centertown. Each one had its regular customers who would enjoy a good cup of coffee and the stories shared around the table. More often than not, someone would bring up the Blue Bus Café and fond memories began to flow. Although we missed our days at our grandparents’ farm, the Blue Bus Café occupied our time and life moved forward. Lessons and values learned on that farm and in the Blue Bus Café never left us.

Whenever I see geese I recall the fun we had helping Mammie make pillows. In reflection I can see that we were learning work and care for the family, but we just thought we were having fun. As I drive down Main St. in Centertown, my mind’s eye still sees that old Greyhound Bus that transformed to a wonderful hangout known affectionately as The Blue Bus Café...a safe place for youngsters to spend supervised time together knowing that Daddy and Momma kept a keen eye on each and every one of us.

Maker | Ssek Jewelry

Heath Stiltner



How did you get started with jewelry making?

Jewelry making began in my head, every time I walked into a fast fashion retail store (e.g. Zara, Accessorize and the works.) Eventually I bought so many accessories, I figured perhaps I could start making them! The beginning pieces started off as gifts— then eventually my partner suggested selling these, and it's only been progress since.

Were you always interested in fashion? Jewelry design?

I've always been interested in fashion, but timeless fashion, and fashion that works. I don't like following trends just for the sake of it. If I think it looks good in another 10 years, then that's really good fashion. Also, given living in Singapore where it's 30 deg celsius every day, tees and shorts work fine. The only thing that's variable to me is the accessorising, and that's what I wanted to make a difference in.

Why jewelry? When did you first fall in love with it?

You can wear a simple white tee and shorts, but the kind of jewellery you wear decides what kind of look you're going for. Laying my eyes on a beautiful piece of jewellery is like listening to an exquisite harmony, to me. The different textures, lengths, colour combinations, and how they contribute to the flow of the jewellery when you move— is like a little piece of magic.

Jewelry to me isn't just something material, nor is it a status symbol. It is a man made reminder of what wonderful things our brain and heart can do when we see anything beautiful in the world.

How do you get ideas for new designs?

Ideas come from anywhere and everywhere, but I seem to draw most of my ideas from nature, as cliché as it sounds. What greater designer and artist than Mother Nature? The colour gradients in petals, the colour combination and contrasts in butterflies, how leaves float on their branches, the textures of wood. 

What are your inspirations?

Initially I was greatly inspired by JewelRocks, a Balinese brand that wove tradition and modernity into their jewellery design. They are classy yet playful, and it struck a note with me. Right now my inspirations include potters Shino Takeda and Red Raven Studios because of their unique colour palettes, as well as illustrators like Leah Goren.

How do your hobbies influence what you make?

My hobbies include small scale pottery and making music. Theory and rules create the basic backbone for these activities, but the true beauty is when you feel it in your heart. A silhouette of a vessel may be imperfect to others but to you it looks unique and refreshing. In music, jazz is always full of improvisation and weird keys but they work like magic! These "perfect imperfections" have influenced my jewellery a great deal. I don't conform to standard colour palettes and if one colour should go with another— I'm always challenging myself to have different contrasts in my jewellery, be it in colours or in textures.

What has been your biggest lesson?

To be proud of my business. I'm still learning. Up till now whenever I talk about what I do, I'm always adding a disclaimer: "I know it's an idealistic thing to do…" but I should really stop that.

I'm still learning to be more confident and to truly believe from my insides. Slowly but surely I'm becoming a better salesperson and a more positive businesswoman— although I may be treading water in the deep sea. 

What's your favorite thing about sharing your styling and photography?

My favourite thing about sharing my photography is providing my customers (and potential customers) an experience. To show that handcrafted jewellery have personalities, have homes where they come from, have stories, and have been created with meaning and purpose. 

What's been your best advice you've been given?

To be shameless. My mantra used to be "Good things to come". It's a pleasant thing to hear, but the world isn't that nice. I want something, I have to go get it. So in the words of Ruby Anemic's neon light exhibit in 2013, "No Guts No Glory".

What's been your biggest challenge?

Financing this business. I've yet to have investors, and I am challenging myself to be as self sustainable as possible. I'm inching closer to reach my goals— not just for me, but to improve my customer experience and quality of my goods. If I could reach my goals in half the time that might be great, but I'm not sure if I'd learn as much if I did. We'll see!


Kyle Branch

I have never really understood what a "bold" coffee is.  I have observed many people use the term as a security blanket––"Oh, just give me the boldest one you have;"  and while I may refer to my coffees as familiar, kind, smooth, and every now and then as a mistake (ok, more often than not), I have yet to have been greeted by one boldly.  There is an inescapable ambiguity with the term "bold," like "beautiful" and "standard."  I find the patina on on my great-grandfather's metal oil dripper to be beautiful; but that is not to suggest that you, or anyone else for that matter, will find much interest in the oxidized marble swirl paired with scuff marks and caked dirt.  Like beauty, we all define life's standards differently.  My standard is my morning.  It's standard.  It begins with a not-so-graceful stretch in bed, a throwing of the expired charging cord, and the regrouping of last night's scattered pillows.  I often start the day's genesis only to immediately fall back into bed.  Some mornings the sun greets me; others, I get things started for him first.  Regardless of what my mornings consist of or what position I wake up in, I treat my mornings all the same: as a standard.  The morning is something that no one can take away from me.  The beginning breaths, ticking at an early hour are mine.  The day's start is a full set of lungs, it is the opening of eyes––whether or not one wants to––and it is a refreshening of the senses.  The new day is a new opportunity.  Call it bold, call it beautiful... but my standard yields a new start for every day.  Don't we deserve that?  Don't we all?

A knife and fork at the dinner table should not be anymore standard than the morning's white light or the soft sheets keeping me in bed.  The day's exposition is not to be identified as a luxury but I choose to handle it as such.  The early hours spent during the start of the day are perfect for their simplicity.  The time caught in soft illumination contrasts the busy day to follow.  I value the time I have to speak with my body, to find color, to open my eyes.  Perhaps I am at fault for finding comfort on the left side of the clock; maybe I am no different than the man searching for a bold coffee.  

Standard is not to suggest that my mornings are static; please, do not misinterpret my words.

Bold, beautiful––standard.  Mornings are expositional to the day.