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Filtering by Tag: wherewomencreate

Maggie Pate || Nåde Studio

Ben Ashby

Maggie Pate || Nåde Studio


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MAGGIE PATE began her career in fashion as a model but is now the owner and designer behind Nåde, an independent textile company featuring her hand-dyed fabrics based in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Maggie teaches sold-out workshops on natural hand-dyeing and weaving. She is adamantly committed to sustainable practices. Maggie aims to create beautifully crafted textiles using food products and food waste as well as foraged plants from the mountains of Tennessee and around the world. Her hope is that the hues rendered from these plants and food waste will challenge others to experience food and nature in a new way. She currently splits her time between Tennessee and New York City.

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I spent most of my childhood in East Tennessee. When I was an early teen, I began modeling in New York City, which encouraged my interest in textiles and gave me the opportunity to travel more. In my travels I was able to experience the life and culture of other areas, and was able to see the textiles unique to each.

The fashion industry is notoriously wasteful, and it inspired me to find ways to create more sustainable and thoughtful processes by which to create my own fashion brand and textiles. A career that I began as a model has now evolved into me owning and designing an independent textile company featuring hand-dyed fabrics made here in Chattanooga, Tennessee. My brand is called Nåde, and it’s the passion project of my love of fashion as well as my love of natural, sustainably hand-dyed textiles.

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“Seeing others dedicated to creating with the same care and passion as myself ignites my passion again.”

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Growing up, my grandmother inspired my interest in sustainable living. She grew up in an orphanage in Alabama and became a very resourceful woman. She made her five children’s clothing as well as garments for many of her grandchildren.

Sometimes when I am working on a dye bath or weaving, I feel like a historian keeping the art of slow craft alive in this industrialized world. Both natural dyeing and weaving are becoming extinct as trades as the majority of companies dye synthetically and use machinery to produce materials.

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“I love that my products have a story of conservation and a narrative that grounds people within the slow food and slow craft movement.”

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The thing that pushes me to keep creating through struggles, both personal and economical, is that my work has a purpose beyond aesthetics or commerce, or even being simply a job. Natural dyeing is about sustainability and more specifically dyeing with food waste makes use of items that could be and will be thrown in the trash. My hope is that my work will educate followers, admirers and those who purchase that there is a better way to create.

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You are not a mistake. You are too many exquisite details to be a mistake.”

-Nayyirah Waheed, Salt

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I am not sure if being creative has much to do with how I view the world, however I feel that as a creative I am more visually sensitive to it. Therefore, I am constantly observing, making connections, and using visual metaphors. That’s probably just me being idealistic and romanticizing my surroundings.

Travel is a wonderful means for me to both disconnect and reconnect. When I am traveling, it forces me to be away from my workspace and social media, which allows me to disconnect from

the rat race, (which is often how it feels). Often when I travel, I visit countries with a rich history in textiles or natural dyeing. Visiting cultures where textiles make up a large segment of the cultural sphere allows me to reconnect with the craft.

Community plays a huge role in how I create. I rely heavily on local farms and restaurants to collect food waste, which allows me to continue to produce favorite items for my customers and experiment with new ideas.

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Luckily, the textile world is truly full of open, generous and encouraging humans. Thanks to social media, I can have conversations with other dyers and weavers from all over the world. I can connect and collaborate in the blink of an eye, and I love that aspect of social media.

Social media can also be a gateway for self-doubt. If I’ve learned anything, it’s this: don’t compare your Chapter 4 to another’s Chapter 20. Comparing where you are in your business to where another might be is only going to create frustration and anxiety. I tend to want to jump to the end of books and it is the same with my small business. I want to jump to the section when the business is completely tenable, but everything takes time.

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Like many creatives, I have to do freelance work to make ends meet financially. I take photography and styling jobs occasionally; other makers I know have part-time or even full- time jobs. Managing my freelance jobs with my studio work is a struggle, especially since natural dyeing is typically a process that takes several days.

I would say my biggest accomplishment thus far is my natural dye book, The Natural Colors Cookbook, which was released in June of this year. In researching it, I spent over a year exploring the cross-section where food and slow craft intersect. The book aims to create beautifully crafted textiles using food products and food waste straight from your kitchen, pantry or compost. My hope is that the hues rendered from this food waste will challenge you to experience food in a new way. I also hope to urge others to reconnect with the narrative of food and the history of slow craft textiles.

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When it comes to my business and my craft, I’m still figuring it out. Not having an answer sounds more appealing and exciting than knowing it all! I think artisans and makers are always finding their style and journeying toward real things. My business and my style are ever-evolving, which honestly helps me stay engaged in my craft. So, for now, you can find me working on my new favorite item in my studio, a large weaving that combines my love for weaving and my passion for natural dyeing with food waste.

MORE ON MAGGIE: IG: @maggie_pate

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P.S. I Love This

Right now, my favorite item in my studio is the large weaving I am working on. It took a month or so to source all the natural fibers, which come for Australia and Iceland, as well as North Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, and Texas. Then the wool roving was dyed using black bean food waste to create the icy blue hue. Because it is not a commissioned piece, I only get to work on it when I have free it has been on the loom for 4 months now!

Of the Same Mold || Katherine Hanks & Stephanie Anne Martin

Ben Ashby

Of the Same Mold

Katherine Hanks & Stephanie Anne Martin


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KATHERINE HANKS AND STEPHANIE ANNE MARTIN are the owners of Annie Hanks Ceramics in Chattanooga, Tennessee. After bonding over their love of ceramics in their hiking group, the two began a journey of creating a collaborative business together. Katherine brought with her the experience of growing up in San Antonio. Her family runs a summer camp in the Texas Hill Country, and it was there that she developed a great appreciation for nature and her relationship to the earth. Stephanie grew up in Asheville, North Carolina, and had a mother who encouraged her and her brother to explore through their creativity.

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Annie Hanks Ceramics is a collaborative utilitarian ceramics studio in Chattanooga, Tennessee, formed by myself, Stephanie Anne Martin, and Katherine Hanks. Katherine and I first met through a climbing group, and after meeting several times, became friends and learned that we shared a common interest in ceramics. After a while, we started collaborating together to create beautiful functional pieces that our local Chattanooga friends and customers knew as Annie Hanks Ceramics.

I spent most of my childhood between Asheville and various places around the Southeast. My family moved quite a bit, but my mother encouraged my creativity by blocking out time every day for me and my brother to paint or draw. My brother was a big source of inspiration for me growing up, and still is today. When I was 8 years old, we sat for each other to draw portraits. I recall feeling a huge sense of pride in my work. Eventually, I found my own special medium in ceramics and flourished in it.

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Katherine was fortunate to be born into an amazingly creative family as well. Each summer, her family would pack up their lives in San Antonio and move out to the beautiful Texas Hill Country to the camp and retreat center run by her parents. This camp, at its core, aims to recover a sense of the sacred. The property is nestled in a limestone canyon with towering abstract and aesthetic bluff walls, and through it flows the crisp, emerald- green Frio River—clear enough to see 20-plus feet below the surface. Having this experience pulled Katherine into spiritual conversation with the natural world and with wilderness. She created her first clay pinch pots after a rainstorm and fell in love with the process.

There are aspects of our studio and business that make Annie Hanks Ceramics exceptionally unique, especially in the way our studio is run. Often, it’s challenging for people to understand what a collaborative studio and collaborative work entail. It’s a foreign idea to many makers, because creativity and artistry is often a single-man concept. Katherine and I have a similar style and aesthetic, and we use that to our advantage as we work through new ideas, new forms and new glaze lines.

Each piece that passes through the creation process within our studio is touched by both of our hands and is of a higher quality for that very reason. We take pride in the fact that we each pay great attention to line and detail and allow each piece to pass through the scrutiny of both sets of eyes.

Our first joint-show was held at Rivers Edge Gallery in Kerrville, Texas. There, the gallery owner, Clay, gifted us two framed shards of pottery from the Aztec city of Tenochtitlan. These are prominently and proudly hanging amongst our shelves of completed and in-process work, reminding us daily of the rich history of our craft. Our work is ultimately inspired by the power of nature and landscapes, as well as the softness of the feminine form. Our style developed from our friendship, our passion for the natural world, and our desire to create designs that are as intriguing as they are simple.

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Chattanooga is such an incredible place to live as a creative! We have a strong community of small businesses that understand the value of supporting one another. Within the creative community, we have enjoyed working on various projects and collaborations with other creatives. It is through this that we have found a strong community and space for growth within our own medium. We have worked closely with several businesses around town, namely Wildflower Teashop, Niedlov’s Breadworks and Nade Studio. Out of these collaborative projects have come a network of support, friendships and the growth of all businesses.

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Aside from being inspired by natural landscapes, we both find inspiration in secondary creative activities. I enjoy working with my hands and finding a rhythm in the kitchen to draw new inspirations. Katherine enjoys gardening and seeing the world through a different creative lens in the form of photography. Practicing these other kinds of creativity, we are able to bring together our unique inspirations and ideas to create beautiful collaborative work.

There are several struggles that can take place in a small business, especially a creative one. It can sometimes be difficult to be taken seriously as a female business owner. Managing a business can be a struggle when you haven’t had a formal business education. But we have done well so far. In the end, our biggest accomplishment is that we successfully opened Annie Hanks Ceramics together, and that every day we get to work together to make beautiful and functional pieces of art for people who appreciate it.

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Pursuing creativity makes every day richer. Finding ways to invite creativity into your daily life is a healthy place to start, rather than feeling like every moment of every day must be filled with creative genius. Begin with a sketch-a-day or by making a photograph at the same moment each day, several days in a row. Then allow that inspiration to grow and seep into the rest of your life. Creativity is a rewarding practice and has the power to take you on adventures.

Christy Jo Stone + Serving Southern Sweetness

Ben Ashby


the fruit tea chicks

The tiny town of Hartsville, Tennessee, and its surrounding countryside, with its rolling pastures, southern charm and small-town sensibility, provides the perfect palate for Christy Jo Stone to grow her businesses, raise her kids and serve up her signature blend of deliciously refreshing fruit tea. From her family’s farm outside of town, she has transformed a shed into a beautiful space for creating teas, hosting her annual Strawberry Patch Barn Sale and making plans for the future of the Fruit Tea Chicks.

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I live in Hartsville, Tennessee, the same town where I was raised. Trousdale County is the smallest county in Tennessee. It’s predominately a farming community. Like so many others, I grew up in a broken home. My parents divorced when I was in the fourth grade, at which time we moved from Lafayette to Hartsville, which are about 15 miles apart.

Growing up in a small town, I never felt comfortable expressing myself and lived somewhat of a caged-up
life I guess you could say. I really didn’t recognize this until I got older (probably in college) and more in touch with my inner-self. In small towns, it’s not always easy to be “different.” In fact, it was frowned upon, so I chose to conform.

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As I got into high school, I quickly realized if I ever wanted to unleash the beast within, I would have to get the heck outta dodge. So I did. I headed south to Ole’ Miss, which was not a good choice in terms of proper places to unleash the beast! It was one of the most uniform schools I have ever been to, with lots of old money, beautiful people and rich southern gals—none of which applied to me.

I left there after one-and-a-half years and transferred to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where I ended up getting my degree in psychology. While there, I had the opportunity to travel abroad to Australia, where I backpacked and lived in hostels for four months. I made this journey all alone, and it’s where my passion for handmade, color and pastry shops came alive. The inner beast was finally released!

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In 2003, I became a stay-at-home mom and a member of the local garden club. Each month we had a potluck, and my “dish” was always my homemade fruit tea. The little old ladies would fluff me up about how good it was and make me feel proud of myself. I started with just a basic recipe, but before long, I was super-bored with it. I started tinkering with the recipe, adding fresh puréed fruits and such.

That worked on a small scale, but when I started the business, that recipe just didn’t work. I finally perfected my own unique recipe using fruit juices, concentrates and a few other specialty blends which have stood the test of time. It’s the one I hope to use until my tea-making days are over.

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I used to journal and doodle a lot. About a year ago, I cleaned out my sewing room and found a journal entry dated June 2009. In it, I had written about my dreams to start my first Barn Sale—The Strawberry Patch—and how I wanted to sell my homemade fruit tea by the jug. I had forgotten I had a vision for my tea, way back when. All these fruit tea ideas finally came together in July 2016 when I did my very first show at Swanky Plank at Rippa Villa.

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I’m completely self-taught with my own cooking. I grew up eating good-old southern food like pinto beans and cornbread, where the only seasoning used was salt, pepper and lard. Being a single mom with three kids going three directions, I never get enough time home to cook. I don’t like frozen or boxed dinners. I love food blogs and pics.

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I’m not sure if it is because of the artfulness of the picture, the staging and styling of it or the beauty of the finished product itself. I’m fascinated by chefs and their ability to create a piece of art using food. I love cookbooks like “The Plantiful Table” and “Whole Food Energy.” I love the pictures in them just as much.

At the end of the day, I’m a single mom without any formal training who is chasing her dreams and doing the best she possibly can. My greatest dream is to deliver a creative product that people will want as a staple item in their pantry for years to come.

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“I’m good at fruit tea—that about sums it up!”

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Summertime Tea

Fresh berries for muddling (such as strawberries or blueberries)

Three parts fruit tea
One part gin
Thyme or rosemary for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, muddle your choice of fresh fruit. Pour in the fruit tea and gin then add ice and shake. Serve on or off the rocks and garnish with your choice of fresh herbs.

Chelsea Farmer + A Very Colorful World

Ben Ashby

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originally from WHERE WOMEN CREATE

Chelsea Farmer is the owner and founder of HorseFeathers Gifts - an online jewelry and lifestyle company that gives modern women globally inspired and locally rooted designs to express themselves. Educated in gemology and energized by lots of color, Chelsea loves connecting with real women and their real stories through handmade jewelry. 

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I was born in Kentucky, but my family was moved to Rhode Island when I was two years old—and from there, all over the world. As a Navy child, I grew up all around the world. I spent most of my childhood traveling Europe while we lived in Spain and Italy. We moved back to the States when I was eight-years-old, including the South and Great Plains. We really did live all over! 

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According to my mom, I’ve been making pretty things since birth. My mom is incredibly artistic and always had projects for us to do. I remember painting, coloring, and making jewelry from the time I was three-years-old. We would spend hours making decor for our home. Mostly, we were always trying to bring color into the boring, white-walled military base housing we always lived in. I’m always looking to bring more color into our lives because of it!

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I feel like being a creative person has opened my eyes up to more beauty in the world. I see art in everything around me. I am inspired by colors in old buildings, flowers, and sunsets. It is intertwined with how I grew up and my passion for traveling and connecting with the world. I find joy in the differences in cultures and styles, architecture, etc. I am always looking for patterns, and color combos, and textures.

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My heart is drawn to the world and all it has to offer and see. Even though my roots were—and are—in my Kentucky home, my heart branches all around the globe. Creating is a way to pull those branches back in and draw all the inspiration and joy I have discovered and the memories I’ve made in so many places. It pulls it all back home—and lets me share my heart with the world.

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My style is influenced by my travels. It is best summed up as globally eclectic, as it is influenced by colors and textures that I have seen all over the world. Not being from just one place, I find myself feeling quite at home almost anywhere—or maybe everywhere, some eclectic combination of everything. 

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Our studio is located in Owensboro Kentucky overlooking the beautiful Ohio River. We moved here in 2015, and after having lived all over, this just feels like our corner of the world. It is our favorite place to be and to come back to, even after international travel or scooting around the country in our renovated Airstreams. (We have had a few over the years.) 

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It is always nice to take a break. I like to just physically step away. If I am feeling stumped in the studio, I will grab my son and we will get outside. Being in nature always seems to refresh me and inspire me. The Ohio River practically runs through my backyard so there is always something to explore. We also have three rescue dogs who keep us moving out there and help us to just stop and enjoy nature.

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I also try to get out and get involved in the community. Sometimes, we will just hop in the car and go volunteer at a church—either with jewelry or something random. Recently, my stepmom and I spent a day cutting fabric for a quilting circle at a local church. Just talking with others, hearing their stories—and playing with multi-colored fabrics—brought lots of fresh creativity! It is not long before a new idea pops into my mind. 

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As an introvert, I do thrive most when alone in my studio. As a mom, sometimes just a quiet moment is all I really need. It is always refreshing, and important, to get together with other creative people and get recharged.

I love encouraging and inspiring other women to fulfill their God-given talents. I’ve made so many wonderful friends over the years simply by reaching out to them on social media and complimenting their work. Being a creative person can be very lonely sometimes. I’m thankful for the artsy women I have met over the years and the encouraging community that we have build through these friendships. 

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If ever there was a time to turn your creativity into a career, this is it! When I started this journey back in 2009, people looked at me when I was crazy when I said I make jewelry for a living. Friends on social media would see me traveling around the United States mingling with celebrities and be totally shocked that at 21, this was my life. Etsy was still kind of new.

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Social media was still new for a lot of people. These days, everyone knows someone who sells online—on a website or through social media. That stigma is not quite there anymore—so go for it, learn from others, and create your own path! 

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Social media has positively impacted my business over the years. I love connecting directly with our customers from all over the world and forming actual relationships, more than just a sale here and there. This allows me to get a better feel for my customers and what they are looking for in our pieces. Over the years we have developed such a great following and we regularly ask their input on new designs and projects. I enjoy allowing customers to become a part of this business. 


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Lena Schlabach + More Faith than Fear

Ben Ashby

Lena Schlabach was born and in Ohio’s Amish Country. She was once herself a little Amish girl. She is now a fashion designer and gets to travel the world with this dream job. Her life is way more than a little Amish girl could of ever imagined. She now gets to empower women with the brand she has developed in the three short years of business. Lena is passionate about making that her patterns fit a size 28 women as well as a size 5. She believes everyone should feel beautiful when they slip the Frock on.


More Faith Than Fear.

Make your decisions on faith not fear.

I was born and raised in Ohio’s Amish country. I grew up in the Amish culture with my family making everything they needed and watching my community farm. As a child, I always had a desire to be creative. I remember sitting in an outhouse restroom by the one room schoolhouse I attended and creating rose flowers out of the toilet paper. I loved the reaction of my friends thinking I was talented. It inspired me to continue finding unique ways to be creative. I think it’s always possible to make something beautiful out of something ugly. It’s that way with life too.


Though I grew up in a naturally beautiful community, I always dreamed of growing up and leaving the Amish culture to live on the beach. I’m sure in retrospect that is because we love the new and mysterious, but it was always something I wanted to do. Today, I no longer live the Amish way of life, but it is the culture of my family. One of my sisters still lives in the community, and I live just next door in Millersburg, Ohio—the heart of Ohio’s Amish country.


Though I always had the desire to leave, one day I heard the saying, ‘Bloom where you are planted.’ That changed my way of thinking and my way of living. Suddenly everything changed and my creativity blossomed. I started sharing a photo-of-the-day and giving people on social media that I’d met at vintage events or fairs a glimpse of the beauty of Amish country. At the same time, I started to dream about the kind of products or business I could create that meant something to myself.


As a plus-sized woman, I have always been frustrated by the reality that there aren’t m any companies that make ‘cute’ clothes for me that look good and fit well. Suddenly, I found myself wanting those bohemian clothes that had become popular but there wasn’t a company making them for me. I decided that if I set my mind to it, I could be that company, and I could make a garment that was just as beautiful and well-built for a size 28 as it was for a size 5. 


I had the vision, but as a kid I didn’t really learn to sew. I’d always dreamed about moving out of the Amish country, so any lesson my mom would try to give me went in one ear and out the other. Luckily I inherited the Amish work ethic and resourcefulness. Gathering inexpensive thrift store curtains and fabrics, and enlisting the help of my local Amish community of seamstresses, I slowly taught myself to sew enough to start making frocks. Speaking the Dutch language of these talented women, I was able to build a community with them helping me achieve my dream.


I have been in business as Farmhouse Frocks for going on three years now. It has become a business that feels not only creatively rewarding, but also fulfilling in my ability to create beautiful pieces for other women and bring happiness to them. My garments are an extension of my goal to empower women of all shapes and sizes. I am also lucky to be able to work with both of my daughters. Sydney, my younger daughter, acts as my personal assistant and aids with my online presence and styling, while my older daughter, Felicia, is my lead salesperson. 


Six months into our business, we outgrew the basement of my home where we were producing all of our goods. We were utterly out of excess space to work and create, and people were starting to ask us about opening a small space for retail, so I began to look in our historic downtown for a usable location. Eventually, we found our space, with its industrial roots, high ceilings, and ceilings decorated with tin roofing, and using 28 gallons of white paint we painted all of the walls white and found a new home for Farmhouse Frocks.


Wed have grown rapidly, but I feel blessed. My biggest passion has been empowering women from maker to consumer, and I vow every day to make my decisions out of Faith, not Fear. It’s too difficult to make clear decisions that are hard if you’re fearful. That is why I always try to operate with faith. We even started and use the hashtag, #MoreFaithThanFear. 


Today, I am happy to say that employ 40 people, and I love that I can involve my Amish community in my business. We now have a great leverage to create jobs in the community for Amish mothers that aren’t able to work outside of the home. Last year the local chamber gave us the reward for Small Business of the Year because of the impact we have had on our community. Now that I have a team that can now help me with all the day-to-day needs, I have more time to travel and feed my soul with inspiration. When I’m not drawing inspiration on the road, I love to browse Pinterest and Podcasts.


I love to think of ways to better my business/events. How can I make it more creative? Sometimes that becomes building new fixtures, or figuring out creative solutions. Generally, I love my work and never feel too overworked. As I’ve always heard, ‘Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.’ Always make sure to figure out a way to make money while doing what you love. Sure, sometimes working at fairs or events can be stressful, but my workspace makes me smile and I think that’s important. 


Favorite Thing: I don’t like to get attached to things but if you’re talking about material things it’s all of our chandeliers. The huge one in the front of the Studio is my favorite one. The spirit of love that you feel when entering is my most prized possession.

Jackie Watcher + Making American in Cleveland

Ben Ashby


This story originally ran in WHERE WOMEN CREATE

Jackie Wachter, together with her husband Phillip, are the owners and creators of FOUNT Leather of Cleveland, OH. FOUNT produces an ethically-produced high quality line of leather goods that has also helped them to enrich their community. When they’re not at their studio, they are taking care of their two beautiful kids and managing their two retail locations.

“Isn’t it funny how day by day nothing changes, but when you look back everything is different?”

C.S. Lewis


Looking back, I have always been someone who loves to work with my hands. I grew up in Cleveland, OH, and according to my my mother I was a creative person out of the womb. My family fostered my creativity. I have my grandmother to thank for teaching me to sew when I was seven or eight-years-old, she was a very special person in my life. When I was younger, I used to daydream about potential craft projects at school. Often, I would get off my school bus with a list of supplies and have my mom take me straight to JoAnn Fabrics.


In 7th grade, I started my first business out of my locker. I loved to make macrame hemp jewelry, and my friends started to ask for their own. Soon, the girls from all classes were coming to me with requests for their own bracelets. By demand, I would talk to my clients, sketch designs, and then go home to create their jewelry. I sold the bracelets for $12 each, and was selling several a week. Unfortunately, my venture garnered the attention of the faculty, and after about a year of business and a trip to the principal’s office, I had to close shop.


After high school, I attended the Virginia Marti College of Art & Design and pursued a degree in fashion. While there, it allowed me to hone the skills I was taught by my family and channel them into something I was very passionate about, though it was still manny years before I met my husband, Phillip, and we started FOUNT together. After college, I moved to New York for a while, but I found myself missing something. I was very lonely there and I craved the Midwest charm I’d always known. I was seeking purpose, and became passionate about becoming involved in my community and supporting local and ethical manufacturing after a six month activist trip in Africa. That experience allowed me to get a better view into what I could eventually create through my craft and passion.


A few years ago, all of the stars seemed to align. I met my husband, Phillip, and he became someone who inspired and motivated me daily to be creative. He is also someone who enjoys crafting with his own hands, and like me, had his own schoolyard business selling homemade beanie babies. In our first year of dating, we decided that we would make all of our gifts for each other. Phillip made for me a pair of wool mittens using a vintage Pendleton coat, as well as a cutting board. I made for him a wool pencil case, laptop sleeve, and journal. After looking at our gifts, Phillip suggested that the sewn goods could be beautiful made out of leather, and I agreed. We started trying to find leather, and found a local cobbler that also sold scraps from his hides of leather. We bought our first leather, and the sweet older couple taught us about some of the hand tools and techniques we should use. 


Our first product trials were a leather wallet and lucky penny pouch. Phillip and I quickly fell in love with our newfound hobby, and after a little trial-and-error we started to make more leather goods. At the time, I was selling vintage clothing and goods at our local market, slowly we started to introduce a small table of our leather goods alongside it. It was at one of these markets that my friend Nicki’s mother-in-law said she should start trying to design a purse. She wanted to have us make a bag for Nicki for Christmas, and suggested that I give it a try. 


During church soon after, I sketched a design, showed her and she said she would help us buy our first sewing machine to get us started. After finding a listing for a Singer 111 on craigslist, we went to test it out. It had been used to stitch WWII parachutes and it ended up being the sewing machine we used for our first six months of business as FOUNT.


Our first great bag was created after many discussions about what every woman would want. It quickly became apparent that our best chance would be a tote. Our mission has been, from the beginning, that we want to make products that are beautiful, timeless, and well-made enough to last a lifetime while also being made ethically. The Bellfield Tote was designed to be a durable everyday bag for anyone. It’s gone through many small transformations since, like adding two pockets and straps that are designed to be unbreakable. 


The first totes, though, were designed in our first apartment together on Bellfield Avenue, in a tiny studio that was ten-by-ten feet. The Bellfield Tote is now our number one seller, and is now available in three sizes. From that simple beginning, we have now grown our husband-and-wife business to a team of 41 employees. It has been a wonderful 4-year journey and I am so happy that we have been able to create a thriving community within and around it.


Today, after years of hard work and a leaps of faith, FOUNT has not just one, but two retail locations—as well as our studio where we manufacture. When I was growing up, my dad worked in a factory here in Cleveland and I had to watch the systematic loss of jobs and manufacturing until his job was ultimately outsourced. I always knew that when I was able to create a business, I wanted it to be able to stimulate my local economy and make my products here in the United States. Today, I’m happy to say that we have been able to do that by supporting our 41 employees, as well as community outreach through events.


FOUNT is a direct-to-consumer business, so we don’t have a face in the consumer market and boutiques. This can be a challenge, but until recently we have always marketed ourselves by attending maker shows. We take pride in making a high-quality product, and word of mouth is our best type of marketing. In every bag we place a little pouch filled with a couple of business cards that asks our new friends to share our message when people love their bag. It’s a very simple marketing solution, but FOUNT has had a lot of success because of it. We recently had an event in our Cleveland store and a lady pulled out three business cards and approached me. “I work for Apple, and I cant tell you how many times I have complimented your bags, but after getting several of these business cards I had to come see what you were all about,’ she said.


Aside from opening our two retail locations—in a time when people say brick-and-mortar is dead—one of the greatest accomplishments we have had has been to build an inventory. 

When we first started, we were making each bag by hand, one-by-one. Now, we do batches by type of hide or pattern. We were part of a television show that helped business-owners with their models, and one constant piece of advice we were getting was that our website was always sold out. We learned that we needed to take a leap of faith, bought a ton of leather, hired nine new employees and built our first inventory. It was a great success, and having a product that a potential customer wanted allowed us to grow our business further.


Every day with FOUNT seems to fly by. It’s very rewarding, and a lot of work, but getting to work with artists and artisans to create and share products makes it all worth it. We have three new designs coming soon, and are planning to create more elevated designs that can be formal, as well. Through this business I’ve been able to do something impactful, both in my community and across the world—like our partnership which brought over ten thousand dollars to dig wells in Africa and provide clean water. Being able to share our products with the world and see the positive impact that they bring to our families, friends, and community makes me every minute of this business worth it. 


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 | —