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Charleston, SC

One Of Many - Photo Essay 1 of 12

Story by Wesley Verhoeve August 19th, 2014

Introduction

What: One of Many is a monthly series of photo essays about twelve American cities and their creative communities.

Who: Designers, woodworkers, chefs, engineers, illustrators, writers and anyone else making something that moves people.

Why: To inspire and be inspired by the independent creative movement that is reshaping our economy and culture. To encourage others to make the leap. To empower those already there, and let them know they’re not alone.

Why Now: The growing creative independent movement, along with renewed interest in life outside the big cities, is rapidly reshaping our economy and culture.

Read much more at oneofmany.co and find below the first of twelve One of Many essays.

Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.

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The Artist Woodworker

Michael Moran - Moran Woodworked Furniture is an independent business and was started in 2004 by Michael and his wife Celia. They make furniture and art from wood. After spending his first years in the state of Kentucky, Michael spent substantial amounts of time in Tennessee andWisconsin, before settling in Charleston.

Honoring the natural beauty of wood through traditional craftsmanship is at the core of everything the Moran’s do. They build bridges between form and function, art and commerce, the natural and the human-made. Wood is mostly sourced through relationships with their surrounding community, formed over the past few years. As soon as an old tree falls nearby, Michael’s phone will ring and he will go see if it might be suitable for use.

The Moran’s are making a big step in August, as they’ll move once more. This time to a 10 acre piece of land in the Hudson Valley. The move will bring a change of pace, proximity to a vast amount of suitable trees, and the ability to expand beyond the market they have built over all across the South East. New adventures await, but Charleston will always be home.

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Meandering Paths

Kate Nevin - After working as a hedge fund manager, and serving as a board member at The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, Kate’s latest project is building a creative cluster called 1600 Meeting Street. This gorgeous three floor structure, originally built in 1926 by oil company Exxon, was recently restored to house a collective of local, creative businesses and provide a synergetic, supportive and collaborative environment. It’s the first community development project that Kate and her husband Lindsay, owner of real estate company Flyways, have worked on together. The upper Meeting Street area of Charleston is a little rougher around the edges, giving it an atmosphere of possibility and new direction.

Buff Ross - Together with his wife Leila, Buff runs Alloneword Design. They’ve been building websites for museums, restaurants, artists and companies since the dial-up era of 1999. Buff tells a great story, and he sure has a life of diverse experiences to pull from. Before Alloneword, he was a curator for The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art, and before that he was a ship worker, associate professor, roofer, archeologist and cook. Buff’s latest adventure has been taking on a co-owner and designer role for the recently opened restaurant Lee Lees Hot Kitchen.

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The Icon

Martha Lou - This 84 year old chef and owner of the legendary restaurant Martha Lou’s Kitchen is the definition of a local legend. Quietly operating from the same location in Charleston for the last 31 years, with recent praise from James Beard Award winner Sean Brock, Anthony Bourdain and the New York Times.

All eight of Martha’s children have at various times been employed by the restaurant, and four still help run the place, handling kitchen and hosting duties. The atmosphere at Martha Lou’s is like no other. Genuine, down home, simple, generous, and rich. The smells and hospitality set high expectations, and the food truly delivers. My favorite part was speaking with Ms. Martha Lou and her children. Their humility and the love for their customers is palatable and knows no bounds. Stepping into the restaurant is stepping into another world. A world in which kindness is the not-so-secret ingredient elevates the ingredients to greater than the sum of their parts.

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The New Makers

Cole Flodin - I met this easy-to-spot artisan metal worker outside of Leon’s Oyster Shop, as he worked on various gorgeous metal elements throughout the bar area. Ever the craftsman, Cole was taking pride in details I only noticed after restaurant owner Brooks pointed them out. But when he did, I realized these details were exactly what made everything just a tad more special.

Allison Merrick - As the founder of Space Craft Studios, Allison created a unique blend of a workroom studio and retail shop. The studio is stocked with tools for making, and serves as the venue for a variety of hands-on classes led by skilled local crafters, stitchers, makers, inventors, and builders, and artisans.

Jen Sample - The second I stepped into Holy City Barber I wished I hadn’t just gotten a haircut in New York two days earlier. Proprietor Jen has created an atmosphere that emphasizes the good life in a genuine way. Spending time at HCB is no chore, which is a good thing since one of their tenets states that “fast haircuts aren‘t good. Good haircuts aren‘t fast.”

Rewined and Produce Candles - When creative director Beau Burdette (outtake portrait) gave me the factory tour, I was impressed with the amount of care going into the making of these beautiful candles. In the case of Rewined, recycled wine bottles are sawed in half and filled with organically wine-scented, soy-based wax. Beau, a passionate farmer’s market visitor, later founded Produce to share his favorite fruit-flavored scents. Started out of a garage, and now recycling 1,000 champagne bottles a week from local restaurants, selling candles in many hundreds of stores across the country, and a team of 42 employees, including quite a few disabled locals hired through South Carolina Vocational Rehab. A great story, about a great company, making great products.

Erik Holmberg - After creating ones and zeros for the better part of a decade, Erik left behind a career of making stuff for the internet, to instead explore a craft with less ephemeral end results. With J. Stark he makes tangible, useful, durable goods by hand. “I wish to be a member of a new generation of makers that embrace the past and believe hard work, hand-craft, and being genuine are the bonds that strengthen humanity.”


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On Life and Death And Art

Becca Barnet - Creation, preservation and re-appropriating are the three concepts that Becca ’s talents revolve around. I’ve marveled at her work, all over Charleston. From nautical taxidermy art installed in James Beard award-winning restaurant The Ordinary, to watching her create chalk-drawing style paintings at Leon’s Oyster Shop, to walking into her home where she’s stuffing and creating art out of sixty dead roosters, to a giant technical drawing of a cow that’s being turned into prints, and the list keeps growing. The woman never sits still.

After graduating as an illustrator from the Rhode Island School of Design in 2009, Becca took one of the paths least traveled by continuing her studies at the Missouri Taxidermy Institute. This unique combination leads to work that, more than anything, feels alive. Quite an achievement when most of your raw materials consist of dead animals.

A few years ago, inspired by rummaging through what remains of Barnet and Sons, an old family company four generations past, Becca was inspired to start her company Sisal & Tow where she fabricates one-of-a-kind art work to help enhance businesses, homes and public spaces that set out to connect and engage people. One recent example is the otherworldly fox that greets all of those reporting for work at creative work space 1600 Meeting.

Becca is one of those people. Always creating, always thinking, always observing. Becca is one of the good ones.

(An additional piece about Becca was published by Creative Mornings, including an alternate portrait. Find it here.)

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Feeding Charleston

Brooks Reitz - Brooks cut his teeth in the Charleston food community as the GM of Mike Lata’s highly-rated and wonderful seafood restaurant The Ordinary. He has since started small-batch tonic company Jack Rudy, Vietnamese cold-pressed coffee company Khi-Khi Milk Company, and new oysters and fried chicken joint Leon’s Oyster Shop. Oh, and Brooks is also a contributing editor to Conde Nast Traveler. Meeting Brooks lit a fire under my butt and has motivated me to build great things. (See outtake shot at Leon’s Oyster Shop here.)

Mike Lata - Mike is the James Beard award-winning chef/owner of both The Ordinary and Fig. The Ordinary is the local grande dame of Charleston seafood restaurants. It’s situated in a gorgeous former bank building, vault still intact. Mike broadcasts a certain calm that works well for a leader, especially in a hectic kitchen. As I watched him iron his white chef’s coat, he fielded questions from staff about the evening ahead. It felt like a family.

Sellayel Clemency - After a chance meeting at Kudu, baker Sellayel was kind enough to give me a tour of Bakehouse Bakery Cafe. Located in the historic district, the Bakehouse staff focuses on using handmade, wholesome ingredients to created a beautiful set of breads and pastries.

Joe Shea - A relatively fresh transplant from Oakland that landed in Charleston after a 7,000 mile road trip with his wife in tow. He has since settled in as a baker at Butcher And Bee, a restaurant focused on “Honest to Goodness Sandwiches”. Joe is an excellent example of the early days of a food-talent exodus from places like SF and NYC to places where the quality of life is higher, without having to sacrifice very much in the way of being part of a great food community. More on this in my upcoming Nashville essay.

Dan Latimer - He may look like a ruthless mafia don in every picture I’ve taken of him, but make no mistake. Dan is one of the kindest people I had to pleasure of spending some time with in Charleston. He is a badass too though, in his role as operations executive for the much lauded restaurants Husk and McCrady’s, both run by James Beard winning chef Sean Brock. Dan’s tour of their roof top herb garden was one of my favorite Charleston moments.
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The Rock N Roll Bike Maker

David Lee - As is sole proprietor of Clementine Bicycle Works, David builds custom carbon fiber bicycles from start to finish. David has stories for days. Many are about his days touring the world as the guitarist in The Legendary Shack Shakers. Ever the contrarian, he spent his mornings exploring foreign cities by bicycle, rather than sleeping off a hangover. Others stories are sourced from the rare, vintage motorbikes and their owners who bring them to the Mount Pleasant garage where David restores them with the help of his friend Todd. When he’s not riding a bike, David drives a mean little Porsche.

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It's All In The Details

Amy Pastre and Courtney Rowson - Founders of branding agency Stitch Design Co, operating out of a 1940s storefront in historic Charleston, in what was once a shoe repair store. Their sister letterpress business, Sideshow Press is housed just behind Stitch and adds a physical component to all of the digital work being done. Walk around Charleston for an afternoon, and you will be delighted by their work. From the menus at Edmund’s Oast, to the packaging design for Rewined Candles, signage for the Spoleto Festival, Garden & Gun’s beautiful stationary, and much more.

The kindness and creativity in the air was palatable. From a cursory glance, I realized I was already familiar with much of their work. I noticed a stack of my favorite Wildsam Field Guides, branded and designed by Stitch, and their Produce Candle was the same one I light in my Brooklyn office. Our conversation quickly landed on their made-to-measure work philosophy, and how building lasting relationships with clients all over the country was a matter of instinct and true collaboration. It was refreshing to come across designers who truly care. Saying no to prospective clients, when it doesn’t feel like a great fit, even when the money is good. Fighting for the best way to tell a story with the client’s best interest in mind, rather than saying “sure!” to a bad idea and just being done with it.

The small details of identity and logo design are what makes a company’s public face recognizable and special, and Amy and Courtney truly revel in getting these details right. And boy do they get them right.

Addendum: I am overjoyed to mention that since profiling Stitch, they have come on board as creative partners for One of Many, helping with branding, design and even naming One of Many. I couldn’t be more pleased with the process and the end results. Read more about my partners here.

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The Written word

Rebecca Wesson Darwin - In 2007, Ms. Darwin launched Garden & Gun, one of my favorite magazines. The launch coincided with a move back to Charleston from NYC, where she served as the first female publisher of The New Yorker, and held executive positions at GQ, Mirabella, and Fortune. This in addition to serving as the president and CEO of the National Association for Female Executives.

Garden & Gun is one of those rare magazines that has tastefully and successfully been about to extend their brand beyond the written word. Ms. Darwin has led the way, growing a variety of initiatives including an online store that sells beautiful southern goods, a set of award-winning newsletters, and the event-focused Garden & Gun Club.

Meeting with Ms. Darwin was one of my favorite experiences in Charleston. To be able to take in some of her lessons and get a feel for how she observed the industry around magazines, and other media, as a veteran was helped me gain perspective for my own endeavors. It felt like we could’ve talked for hours. Hopefully soon again.

Kinsey Gidick - As the managing editor of the Charleston City Paper, Kinsey has her finger on the pulse of all things food and beverage. Being a transplant from Seattle and a firmly planted twelve-year Charlestonian allows for Kinsey to be both familiar and objective.

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Dressing, Up

Brett Carron - Originally from the Midwest, Brett moved to Charleston after a stint at an antique picture frame company in New York City. His love for clothing, and the absence of a dedicated local menswear store, led to the opening of Indigo & Cotton. Many of the items in the store are American-made, and often limited in their distribution and runs. These days a significant chunk of I&C’s sales are outside of Charleston, via their webstore.

Chip C. - His love for the kind of products I & C sells led to Chip offering his services free-of-charge as an intern. He has since worked his way up to the position of buyer, and is a walking billboard for the store, strutting around Charleston with impeccable taste.

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On Work and Play

Ethan Jackson, Ryan Cockrell, Dorian Warneck, and Brittany Paul are Lunch + Recess, a creative house specializes in visual content, like this beautiful short documentary about Becca Barnett, or this piece on the 30th anniversary of the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art. They named the company after their favorite periods in school, which makes a lot of sense after spending some time in their office.The first thing I noticed about this team is how they approached their work the way most people approach play. With an emphasis on the creative process, loose enough to venture upon happy accidents, while being dead serious about the quality of the final result.


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Note For Note

Josh Smoak - A frequent collaborator with the Lunch + Recess crew, Josh is a composer and songwriter. Together with his business partner Alex Collier, Josh started music house Sunday Ent. to focuse on original compositions for film, television, and advertising

Charles Carmody - As an English major with a passion for music, Charles approached the owner of a long-empty history building with the idea of booking a handful of concerts in the summer of 2012. He was handed the key and has since turned the Charleston Music Hall into an impressive 500-1000 cap venue, booking a diverse range of talents, from Jeff Mangum, Mike Birbiglia, Conor Oberst and many more. Sometimes, if you want something to exist, you just have to build it yourself.

Marcus Amaker - A multi-disciplinarian with a black belt in videography, graphic and web design, music composition and performance, poetry, and more. How does he do it all? “With love.”

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Men of tales and coffee

Derrick Smith - The first person I met in Charleston, when I stepped into Kudu Coffee & Craft Beer. Kudu was a daily stop for me, essentially my office away from home, and Derrick was one of the friendly baristas that made my stay such a delight in that salt of the earth kind of way. Since then, Derrick has moved into a technical role at brewer Counter Culture Coffee. The quickest “old friend” I ever did meet.

Diego Castro Oliva - Another Kudu graduate, Diego is currently a barista at and a founder of the Charleston Coffee Initiative, which educates and elevates the local coffee community. At the age of four, Diego moved to the US from Guatamala with his parents, and ended up in Charleston for college. He chose to stick around after studying biology and chemistry, and is now able to apply those skills to crafting coffee as the lead barista and quality control man for Collective Coffee in Mount Pleasant and Downtown Charleston.

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Whimsical Precision

Josh Nissenboim - As creative director, and one half of the couple that founded full-service creative agency Fuzzco, Josh focuses on dissecting and and interpreting the essence of a project. Josh was born and raised in St. Louis (MO), and for some mysterious reason studied mathematics.

His better half and co-founder is Helen Rice (outtake photo), focuses on the social and cultural elements of what makes Fuzzco such a unique place. It starts with their office space, which is a collection of shipping containers and raw food, decorated in a minimalist sense with works by local craftspeople. Stepping inside of this unique space automatically had my creative synapses firing at all cylinders, and that was before I even noticed the in-house beehive and baby chickens.

As a team, Fuzzco takes on a special role within the local creative community, pulling in large clients like Microsoft and Google, creative tech companies like MailChimp, and do great work for local restaurants and organizations like Two Boroughs Larder and the Preservation Society of Charleston. The combination of elbow grease, guts and resourcefulness leads to some of the most creative end results I’ve seen, and always in a way that makes me think: “wow, I wouldn’t have thought of solving this problem like that!”

Chloe Gilstrap - Seated at a gorgeous charred wooden front desk, courtesy of Michael Moran, Chloe focused on being the friendly and professional first face to greet clients and visitors alike. As the administrative assistant, Chloe also supports the work of the project managers and others, helping keep things organized and best positioned for success.

More Fuzzco outtakes here.

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Crafting Beauty

Meredith Eads - As the creative director of City Corridor, Meredith has one foot in the business world, and one step in the design world. City Corridor makes informational kiosks for retail environments and as such creates products that are continuously interacting with customers.

Brien Beidler - After studying biochemistry, Brien decided to pursue his passion for book binding instead, learning the craft through self-study and workshops all over the country. Eventually, he approached the Charleston Library Society about taking over an empty book binding space to help tackle the restoration of their incredible collection of rare antique books. Later this year, Brien is headed to Idaho to study with his hero and book binding legend Jim Croft.

Sully Sullivan - Easy spot and hard to forget, Sully is a photographer and a whole mess of fun. He works out of a great open space in a industrial area of town that also houses Jack Rudy Cocktail Co, and focuses on editorial and fashion work. Lots of beautiful, thoughtful portraits as well. He also builds his own sets, drives a rad motorcycle with a sidecar, and really, really loves his mother. She raised a fine human being, so praise where praise is due.

Michelle Jewell - The Finkerlstein’s Center sounds like a fancy research hospital, and in a way it is since it’s where all of Michelle’s “creatures” are born. You may have seen Michelle’s beautiful handmade toys and dolls Finkelstein’s Center

Joseph Thompson - From just outside of Charleston, Joseph and his wife Katie design and make furniture. They focus on traditional woodworking techniques and responsibly harvested fine hardwoods. The Thompson’s influences are equal parts Danish and Japanese, with a splash of American mid-century. Joseph has trained at a shipyard school, on island in Canada, and at a craftsmanship school in Maine. Katie grew up around a woodworking father, and later took on the role of assistant manager of the phenomenal Charleston farmer’s market. Katie poetically uses the leftover pieces of wood and shavings to create jewelry, under the name Black Swamp.

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A Discerning Eye

Erin Connelly - After a quick visit to artisan grocery store goat.sheep.cow, Erin and I retreated to the courtyard out front of her lovely home goods store The Commons and talked about her change from being a fashion designer for Eddie Bauer in Seattle, to being a store proprietor in Charleston. It all came about somewhat serendipitously. After leaving her Seattle job, she embarked on a cross-country road trip to New York to go start another fashion job there. One of the stops was Charleston, where Erin has family, and once there she decided on a change of plan, choosing against the NYC adventure and instead started her own small business in the historic downtown. Judging by her never-off contagious smile, that choice is working out for her and everyone in Charleston that wants to buy beautiful, handmade home goods.

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Epilogue

|| More To Read and See ||

|| Visit oneofmany.co for more information and additional cities.
|| Find more photos on Instagram and by searching the hashtag #oneofmanyCharleston

NEXT ESSAY: Denver, CO

Many thanks to the good folks at Squarespace for helping make this project possible. I highly recommend using Squarespace to build your own website. Use the code “oneofmany” to get a 10% discount, and you’ll be supporting One of Many in a small way.

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Footnote: (c) 2014 Wesley Verhoeve
Charleston, SC, United States