I was fortunate enough to stumble across Katie Thompson’s work on Instagram, and I couldn’t get her spiral cuff bracelets out of my head. Fortunately for me, Katie made me a few to choose from and sent one Cypress cuff (above) and a couple Black Walnut Cuffs (below) my way. I couldn’t resist photographing them on another Low Country staple: a handcrafted Sweetgrass basket. The two really make a perfect pairing.
Just outside of Charleston, Katie and her husband Joseph live on the edge of Black Swamp, where together they design and build furniture at Joseph Thompson Woodworks. Katie helps design the furniture and Joseph brings their visions to life. In the midst of all this wood working, Katie found a way to breathe new life into the exquisite wood shavings left on the floor. And so, Black Swamp Co. was born. When I asked Katie about owning her own business she promptly replied, “I get to do what I love with the person I love!” And each piece of jewelry from Black Swamp is a little labor of love.
My mom told me a story about how Black Walnut is so valuable, that once she went on vacation, and she came home to find that a neighboring, enormous Black Walnut tree had been felled in her absence. Tree theft! You can understand why though, when you look at how beautiful these Black Walnut cuffs are. Katie used sapwood for these cuffs, which explains the color variation.
The Cypress cuff is really special. A sunken Cypress log washed up out of the swamp behind Katie and Joseph’s house, as if it knew it was destined for more than an eternity in the muck and mire. After aging and drying out for three years, mine (below) was the first bracelet Katie made with it.
Sunken Cypress is so special because it is old growth Cypress. Felled up to a century ago, the trees were easily 700 years old at that time. When these trees were logged in and around the swamps of the Southeast, they were floated downriver to sawmills. However, many of these logs sunk and were subsequently entombed in the beds of the rivers and swamps for the next century. “Deadheaders” and “River Loggers” often dive for the submerged old growth Cypress logs and salvage them. Katie was lucky enough to have one show up at her back door. And I am lucky enough to have a small piece of it.
To make the cuffs, Katie uses an ancient technique of steaming the wood, bending it around a form, then letting it dry for 24 hours. She seals all her wooden jewelry with a water-proof and UV-proof sealant (although she doesn’t recommend wearing any of her pieces to the beach).
Have I mentioned that it’s been one of the longest weeks ever? I feel like I haven’t slowed down and stopped moving in days. Oh wait…
I haven’t cooked myself (or Wheat) a meal in a week. And that’s only if you count the savory baked egg muffins I made last Sunday morning. Not that I mind being busy – obviously, I bring these things on myself. But I’ve never looked forward more to a quiet night at home alone, cooking a meal from start to finish, having a glass of wine, and listening to the St. Paul and the Broken BonesPandora station in the kitchen than I did yesterday afternoon. If you haven’t yet gotten hooked on St. Paul, let me introduce you. I first heard about the band (where else) on NPR. Instead of reinventing the wheel (I’m so tired, y’all), I’ll just let NPR tell you about them.
One of the hottest new bands out of Birmingham, Ala., doesn't sound new at all. On the new album, Half the City, St. Paul and The Broken Bones hits all the marks of a classic Southern soul band, complete with a fiery lead singer. Speaking with NPR's David Greene, bassist Jesse Phillips recalls the first time he experienced the voice of frontman Paul Janeway.
"I'd been warned of what comes out of Paul's mouth when he opens it," Phillips says, "basically because it's a big surprise for most people."
A surprise, he says, because the singer doesn't exactly look the part.
"Paul, according to all the reviews and stuff that are written of the band, he looks like your high school history teacher, or he looks like Drew Carey," Phillips explains. "Bottom line is that we're a bunch of kind of nerdy-looking white guys, and when this sort of earth-shaking soul roar comes out of his mouth for the first time, you can always hear the air being sucked out of the room."
Janeway wasn't raised to be a soul singer. He grew up in rural Alabama in a strict religious household.
"I could only listen to, like, gospel Christian music," Janeway says. "And a little dash of Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye."
And he got most of his musical chops from church. He even trained to be a preacher.
"I learned more from preaching than I did singing in church," Janeway explains, "because you learn a little bit more about how to interact with the crowd — feeling momentum, just feeling that intensity — and it's not a whole lot different than what we do now."
But eventually, Janeway would fall out of love with preaching and begin to look for another path.
"Dad works for a pavement and construction company," Janeway says. "He said, 'Well, boy, if you're not going to college, you're going to work.' He found me a job, basically, as a mechanic's assistant. I'd cut the grass, I would do all sorts of stuff — but when the economy crashed, I lost my job, and I was unemployed about a year and a half.
"And I met a lady," he adds, "and decided that I wanted to kind of figure out what I was going to do with my life. I went to community college, and after a little while I kind of started to be attracted to accounting. ... What's crazy is that I'm about two semesters away from getting my accounting degree, and then this music thing showed up and ruined my life."
Now, as the lead singer of a soul band, Janeway exhibits a deep passion in the music he performs on stage.
"It's really difficult for me not to sing every time like it's the last time I'm going to be on the planet," Janeway explains. "I don't care if we're playing to five people or 5,000, I have a mental thing in my brain that clicks that it's like I've got to give every possible fiber of my being into my voice right now when I'm singing."
The music has its roots in church, and religion is still part of Janeway's life — but the relationship remains complicated.
"Not agreeing with what is predominantly taught growing up the way I did, I had a lot of animosity toward the church," he says. "One time there was a woman with cancer, and they were telling her, 'All you need to do is say you're healed.' And she tried to so hard, and tried and tried and tried, but she eventually died of cancer, and she died thinking that she didn't have enough faith to be healed. And that really resonated with me. I still think about that to this day."
As for his parents, Janeway says that in retrospect he's glad they were so strict. He remembers a particularly formative moment when his mother found his copy of Nirvana's Nevermind.
"She found it and threw it away," he says. "I told her that story, and she goes, 'Listen, Paul, if you'd have listened to Nirvana, you wouldn't have been a soul singer.' So, I look at it now and go, 'Well, maybe it's turned out to be a really good thing.' "
This guy gives me chill bumps. Close your eyes and you’d never know this wasn’t a Motown record of yore. I grew up listening to Motown music on a Wurlitzer juke box (yes, really, we had one at home), so it’s only natural that I fell head over heels with St. Paul and the Broken Bones at first listen. And I love that he looks more like a book worm than Otis Redding.
So now that you’re listening to some sweet, sweet tunes, here are some other things I’m loving this week (now that it’s almostttttt over).
On Tuesday, I stopped by TCA Artist in ResidenceJulie Guyot‘s studio over at 209 Remington yet again. I plan to go back one more time before I share all the details with y’all, but just look at the vase she gave me! I watched as she formed these last time I was there, and this was the last one she had left. It made for an exciting anniversary afternoon! The decals on her ceramics are hand drawn, and Adult Education Director at Thomasville Center for the Arts, Ashley Ivey, turned her drawing into a printed flour sack towel, too. I struck it rich on Tuesday, and Ashley gave me one of those, too. Thank you Ashley and Julie, for making it a great day!
I die over the bees. As y’all can imagine.
Side note: Julie is busy as a bee listing some items on her Etsy shop Six Milch Cows right now, so get ’em while they’re hot!
Tuesday I worked late, and later that evening Wheat took me to Chophouse on the Bricks in Thomasville for our anniversary on Tuesday, and it was great. The food was amazing, but I cannot tell a lie – the service was a little weird. I should clarify: the drink service was slow, but the food service was too fast. I just don’t like to feel rushed through a meal, and I also don’t like to be without a glass of vino (y’all know me). I almost hate to even say that on here, since it was totally minor and didn’t make us enjoy our meal any less or anything, but I am nothing if not honest, so… laying it all out there. Anywho, the food was some of the best we’ve had in a long, long while. It’s an indulgence for your average Tuesday for sure (especially when you also order two appetizers), but it was a wonderful second anniversary dinner. Plus, the building is just gorgeous!
We had the tuna tartar with pickled slaw and an order of fried oysters over collard greens with a mignonette sauce… possibly the highlight of the meal. I cannot recommend either enough!
For my entree I ordered the Grassroots coffee rubbed filet mignon with a Cabernet goat cheese butter pat (divine) over haricots verts and Sweet Grass Dairy Lil’ Moo polenta. SO GOOD. Wheat got a cane syrup crusted NY Strip over a veggie hash that was delicious, too. Clearly we were all aboard the protein train. #surfnturf
Wheat gave me a present for our anniversary, too… a custom oyster knife from Heartwood Forge!!
Isn’t it gorgeous! Quite possibly the most thoughtful, planned-in-advance gift Wheat has ever gotten me! And super special, since Will is a friend. And he even put my initials on it!
It’s pretty baller, and I can’t wait to try it out on some oysters… I may have to start carrying it around in my purse next to my purse-Crystal and bust it out at restaurants. (Yes, I really do carry a small bottle of Crystal hot sauce at all times. You just never know.) By the way, the cutting board background is my Southern Restoration tobacco slat cutting board from Marc Ventry.
And what holiday is complete without a gift to yourself? My bracelet from Black Swamp Co. came in, and it is amazing, too!
This particular bracelet is made out of ~1000 year old sunken cypress from the swamp behind maker Katie’s house. It’s gorgeous! Look for more on Katie and Black Swamp Co. on the blog next week… ;)
And finally, I ended the week – because let’s be real, by the time you make it to Thursday night, the week may as well be over – with this precious:
Lenore is a solid, full-bodied Syrah that really hit the spot last night. And with that, I bid you good weekend. Cheers!
It was my first time attending a Summit, although I’ve been a member of “The Southern C” for a while now. The Southern Coterie is basically a forum where Southern-enthusiasts like myself can go for recipes, travel information, and general fellowship – a virtual “front porch,” if you will. Two to three times per year, The Southern Coterie Summit is held in a Southern town where entrepreneurs, writers, bloggers, photographers, and all sorts of other business owners converge to learn more about branding, marketing, and growing a business, all while making connections and getting to know each other. It’s not specifically for women, but it turns out The Southern C Summits are made up of 91% or so women. It’s such a creative, empowering, inspiring environment. I’m so glad I was able to attend! Shout out to Bunny, who strong-armed me into going. :)
Upon an apocalyptic arrival in Charleston, we (we being Bunny, Betsy and I) started out with lunch at Butcher & Bee, which has been on my Charleston hit list for quite some time now.
Seriously, so. much. rain. The streets were flooding, but that didn’t dampen our spirits! Luckily, not too long after we got to Charleston the rain subsided. It threatened us all week, but never followed through.
The packing material “bee hive” was my favorite part of Butcher & Bee. Besides, of course, the food.
I had a grilled cheese with gruyere, cheddar, caramelized onions and roasted broccoli and it was divine. Also love the house-made pickles that come with every order. Adding this to my favorite places list.
We trekked through the rain to the historic American Theater on King Street where the Summit was held.
First up: Amy Smilovik, the owner and creative director of tibi. She preached doing what you are passionate about and forgetting the things you aren’t focused on. In fact, Amy recently had a serious medical scare, and as she went into surgery, she told us that she was thinking about her family, her kids, and whether culottes would be in style next year. That was when she realized she was truly in the right business.
Next up was Tara Guerard, founder and President of Tara Guerard Soiree. Tara was a hoot from Camden, South Carolina, and is the cream of the crop when it comes to wedding planners. She emphasized that entrepreneurs often don’t charge what they’re worth, and often don’t know the exact amount of money they need to bring in to pay their bills. Her best advice? “Marry a good man, hire a good bookkeeper, and hire a good nanny (that’s not too cute).”
Next was Maryann Bekkadahl, co-founder and President of Keep. Maryann was a no-nonsense gal from outside the South, but she had great advice for us on how to market ourselves and make money using social media. Granted many of her tips didn’t apply to my particular blog (they were geared towards interior design and fashion blogs), but they were definitely immediately applicable and clear-cut tips. That being said, here’s a minor disclaimer: Blogging (and everything that goes along with it) has turned into an immensely time-consuming hobby for me, and these partnerships and affiliate links help me pay for it. I would never start recommending things I didn’t whole heartedly love and/or believe in, and I hope that is obvious to y’all. *Stepping down off my soapbox now.*
Side note: Keep is pretty dang cool. I’d never even heard of it, but it’s basically a Pinterest for products and is fairly addictive. Consider yourself warned.
After a break to freshen up and rest a bit at Bunny’s house, there was a cocktail hour complete with the best restaurants in Charleston and cocktails at High Wire Distillery.
THE GLASS ONION – ROAST NC DUCK AND ANDOUILLIE GUMBO AND BITE-SIZE STRAWBERRY CAKE WITH ALMOND BUTTERCREAM
CHARLESTON GRILL – CHARRED OCTOPUS SALAD WITH CHERRY TOMATOES, CAPERS AND PERSILLADE.
I missed a couple of other tables, but everything was delicious! We had a great time mixing and mingling, getting to know other attendees, and chatting with the presenters, including two lovely ladies from Southern Living. It was so great to meet Erin Shaw Street (Senior Editor) and Whitney Wright (Deputy Food Director), not to mention exciting for this Southern girl who was raised reading Southern Living. I also spotted the work of a new Instagram friend, @blackswampco, in the High Wire Distillery gift shop! Designer/maker at Black Swamp Company, Katie recycles wood shavings made during the furniture making process in her and her husband’s wood shop. Such a creative reuse of materials! There are a couple bracelets that will hopefully soon be on their way to SoWeGa. :)
After the cocktail hour was over, Bunny, Betsy, Mallory and I headed over to Stars for a rooftop cocktail while we waited on a table at Rarebit. It was such a great night!
Thursday was a jam-packed day full of speakers, cocktails, and Thomasville love. First up was an inspiring panel on building your brand, which included Robert Prioleau (Blue Ion), Caroline Nuttall (Charlie), and Sully Sullivan (Photographer).
Next Thursday morning was Christopher Lester from Emma on email marketing. This session was not only extremely entertaining, it was super informative when it came to email marketing. I’m curious: how many of y’all would rather get an email from a business as opposed to any other form of marketing? Apparently, it’s still one of the most effective ways to spread the word about your company, if done well. I loved this session! Most interesting tidbit: American’s now have an average attention span of 8 seconds. A goldfish has an attention span of 9 seconds.
It was pretty great to see everyone enjoying all our local goods. We’re pretty spoiled down here, y’all!
Next up, Hanna Seabrook of Gadabout moderated a panel discussion on standing out as a brand. The panel included Hanna herself, Libbie Summers of Salted & Styled, Liza Graves of Style Blueprint, and Chassity Evans of Look Linger Love. I loved hearing from big-time bloggers and the stories of how they began and grew (Hanna filed for an LLC in her dorm room!).
I left this session for lunch feeling really inspired! And speaking of lunch, we went directly next door for moo shu from Fish (where we ate), appetizers from Big T’s Coastal Provisions, and cocktails from Peachy Magazine and Firefly Vodka Tea. It was divine without making you feel gluttonous. Until you ate dessert that is, which was provided by Goo Goo Cluster.
Back to the afternoon session, we heard from Jamie Meares, the owner and designer behind Furbish Studio and blogger behind I Suwannee. She was crazy honest and open and it was so refreshing to hear the story behind her business. Hint: she started it after being laid off from a 9-to-5 and is now extremely successful. Also interesting: she doesn’t pay for traditional advertising, and never has. Blogs are her main source of referrals and traffic.
And THEN…. I WON! I won a cooking class for two at Charleston Cooks! with Matt and Ted Lee (aka The Lee Brothers) that very night! Needless to say, I was STOKED, seeing as I absolutely adore the Lee Brothers and love their food even more. I’ve posted on their Charleston Okra Soup before, and was thrilled to get to try it Thursday night – made by them! I took my sweet host Bunny along for the ride, and it was awesome. We got to try their pickled blue crab salad hors d’oeuvre that they served at the James Beard Awards in NYC the very next night! It was amazing, by the way. We also sampled the aforementioned Charleston Okra Soup, Shrimp Supreme, Asparagus with Grapefruit, and Huguenot Torte, all from their newest Charleston Kitchen cookbook. I’ll try to cook my way through the rest of these soon so I can have them all on the blog. An aside: I went complete fan girl/geeked out on them, bought a second copy of Charleston Kitchen so they could sign it, and generally made a slight fool of myself. I am still giddy with excitement.
Friday we headed out to the final event – brunch at Le Creuset headquarters! Let me just tell you, headquarters is FAB. AND I got to go fan girl again and meet Carrie from Callie’s Charleston Biscuits, watch her make her famous biscuits, eat them, buy her cookbook (and got her to sign it) and ask her approximately 45 questions re: biscuits. It was pretty sweet! Professional BBQ’er Jimmy Hagood of Food for the Southern Soul was also in the test kitchen, making BBQ waffle cones. You heard me.
After a shrimp ‘n grits brunch, attendees got treated to a build-your-own-corsage bar, hosted by Athens gals Beauty Everyday. It was, indeed, beautiful!
And with that, we toasted our bloody mary’s to a successful Southern C Summit!