Of Note, Thoughts on Solitude by Musician Andrew Bird

I heard this phrase today about finding ourselves in solitude by musician Andrew Bird on the Meditative Story podcast:

“When we go to a place where we can actually hear ourselves, we hear what is speaking to us, what is around us. And if we can hear it, then we can make it sing.”

As someone who thinks best when I am by my lonesome, this resonates. How are you finding time in this unusual season to listen to yourself?

New In the Shop: Art Prints by Lily Uoka Studios

I’m excited to introduce the work of Lily Uoka (short for Uokalania) in the Gather online shop. Lily lives and was raised in the Berkeley/Oakland area of California and though she was creative all her life, she only came to painting in her late twenties when a boring cubicle job pushed her towards a more creative outlet. It was then that she purchased her first paints and paintbrushes. Her mixed media art has a tropical, beachy feel and combines dried flowers, collage, paints, and gold leaf. Not only does she carefully select which blooms she will press to later use in her art, but she also mashes up different flowers to create pigment which also finds its way into her pieces.

I discovered Lily on instagram and approached her about having some of her prints in the shop. I love the multi-dimensional aspects of her pieces, the focus on women and flowers, as well as her color palette.

Since Lily is relatively new to selling her work and in selling it to stores I hope you will consider supporting this venture by purchasing one of the prints from the Gather shop below.

Instagram Inspiration: LaTonya Yvette

LaTonya Yvette is a writer and creative who lives in NYC. I love her sense of style and seeing glimpses of her apartment and the way she documents the world through her lens. She wrote a book called Woman of Color and just went under contract to write another. You can learn more about her on her website here and follow her on instagram here.

Images via: LaTonya Yyvette’s instagram

Interior Inspiration: Jessica Helgerson Interior Design

I want to curl up in any of these beautifully designed spaces by Portland, Oregon based interior design firm Jessica Helgerson Interior Design. All their spaces are elegant, simple and cozy. You can follow Jessica Helgerson Interior Design on instagram and see more work at her studio’s website here.

In addition to stunning home interiors, the firm also creates gorgeous commercial interior spaces as well. They curate an art gallery in the front of their studio offices called Front of House which invites collaborations from artists to create site specific pieces to display within the space such as this one by artist Saree Silverman and the studio heads up The One Percent Project an initiative to inspire Portland, Oregon based businesses to donate 1% (or more) of their profits to non-profits dedicated to issues related to homelessness. So inspiring, on all levels.

Photography via: Aaron Leitz, Matthew Williams, Jeremy Bitterman & JHInteriorDesign

These Days

These days I’m often thinking in the back of my head: “what’s working, what’s not”? I’m also leaning into a lot of grace for myself and the world around me. I’ve learned that when my daughter isn’t in school (virtual or in-person – though we are squarely in the virtual camp) that it is somewhat fruitless to expect myself to be fully present to my business, to my own needs. One can’t be all things to all people after all. Energy is a precious commodity and one that I have learned over time is best expended in the ways it is flowing, which this summer and the many months at home before that, means being more present in my daily life and less to everything else. And that’s okay. In fact, it’s more than okay. This intense season will pass, I am sure of it. Though it feels really uncomfortable to be in the muck to my knees, I know that I have to walk through it to get to the other side. 

All around me the world feels like it is cracking wide open and revealing deep fissures all the way to its core. It’s overwhelming. It’s intense. Seeing so many people making such wildly different moral decisions in the face of so much change is also disconcerting. It can have the effect of feeling intensely disillusioned and sad. And at the same time, so many people are experiencing such deep pain, trauma and change. And so, what can I do but focus inward, to try to create a calm and stable home for my daughter, for my family, for myself, so that we can be more present, more available, more able to respond to the many crises around us. So that we can give ourselves when needed, so that we can fight for what feels imperative and crucial and necessary and broken around us.

So, all this to say, I am definitely dropping the ball. I am definitely not responding to emails quickly (or at all), I am behind on everything, things are falling through those cracks that are emerging but also I am holding on through that imperfection. I am watching the world fall away below my feet, and yet strangely and at the same time I feel grounded, the world is currently a dichotomy of itself. I feel empowered and resigned, I feel both tired and curious to consider something new. It’s all a swirling miasma of feeling, of processing, of pausing to wait and see where the chips fall but also just putting one foot in front of the other to move forward, even if at a snail’s pace.

I am currently sitting in a room at the back of my house that serves as both our dining area and a place to curl up and read. In it there is a folded up exercise bike, a cat that is snoozing at my feet, a ficus that has seen better days, jars full of plants being propagated in my windowsills, walls that are half painted white and half painted another color. This is my new workstation as my daughter works on the computer nearby practicing Spanish on duolingo. I try to carve out time to do something, to do anything, but with the limited time that I have (we try to limit her tech time too) it feels fruitless to pore into anything in a major way. And yet, I still am, just differently.

And now it is her daily “tech time” where for an hour and a half she texts her friends, watches a show, plays a video game. The house is blissfully quiet, there is no one demanding my attention. The most obvious thing is to dedicate myself to this, into work, into making that coveted progress, and yet, I have learned that the most valuable thing to do during this time is to be still, to read, to meditate, to just be, because otherwise, when would I? When could I?

So I leave you with this, a half-finished essay. Some thoughts that may not be fully strung together but thoughts nonetheless. I know many of you out there are feeling the same. I think it’s going to be okay but also it’s deeply not okay. We can get through this together but alone, if we just hold on and let go at the same time.

Inspiring Local Black Owned Businesses

My dear friend Whitney Robinson is an inspiration on so many levels. Somehow despite whatever challenges she seems to get herself into (and she always gets herself into them) she perseveres with a positive outlook, digs in further, and does it all while looking a lot more stylish than you too. Did I mention yet that she has four kids under the age of six, that she delivered more than one of them at home (before help arrived) and recently had another at the beginning of Covid who is currently in the NICU? And yet.

She is also currently running her business The Renee which exists as a series of “jam sessions” (intimate conversation-lead events both in person and virtually) for women of color to talk and change the narrative about their bodies and children, one idea at a time. Black women face significantly more complications and likelihood of mortality in pre and post pregnancy, as well as in delivery, than white women. It is a serious issue that needs addressing.

Recently, Whitney held a virtual jam session with Stacey Abrams who many of us are hoping will become the Democratic Vice Presidential nominee. You can find out more about Whitney’s work at The Renee and on instagram here.

Wonderpuff is a gourmet cotton candy company run by Jackie Michele but to say it is just cotton candy would also be an understatement. Her mission is to not only bring sparkle to the world through her confections but also her voice and perspective. The handmade cotton candy is both vegan and organic with flavors such as roasted honey pear, orange cardamom and lemongrass CBD. To follow her on instagram is one thing, but to get the true experience, you need some cotton candy. Actually, you need cotton candy, but most of all, you need Jackie. She is an empath (we both cried just in a few seconds of talking to each other because our energies were bouncing off one another) and she cares so much about bringing encouragement and positivity in the world that it spills over into everything she touches. She is currently shipping out cotton candy via mail-order and you can find the details on her instagram account here.

Gretchen Campbell of Grow, Encourage, Empower, is a therapist at Gather Studios in downtown Cary whom I have gotten to know over the past year of her being here. She specializes in helping teens, tweens and millenials through therapy as well as meditation, yoga and wellness events. Gretchen is an empowering and encouraging person and I love seeing the space filled with so many young girls who are being mentored and steered by her. Gretchen is currently offering telehealth sessions. You can find out more on her website here or on her instagram.

Speaking of yoga, Jessamyn Stanley is a yoga teacher, body positivity advocate, and writer based in Durham, North Carolina. She has currently received a significant amount of attention and you may have already seen her on Good Morning America, The NY Times or one of the other places she has been featured.

Jessamyn offers yoga classes online through her business The Underbelly which you can follow here. You can follow Jessamyn on her other instagram account here. In addition, she has a podcast called Dear Jessamyn which you can follow here.

If you haven’t had Chef Ricky Moore’s food at Saltbox Seafood you are missing out. It is some of the best food in the Triangle and that is saying a lot. His business started in a little shack with pick-up only and has expanded to two locations. He was recently a semi-finalist in the prestigious James Beard awards (the Oscars of food) and also just released a cookbook.

You can taste his food in person at one his two restaurants located in Durham (I still recommend the original take out spot) and find more about the restaurant here on his website. You can follow him on instagram here.

Nail Yeah is a nail spa in downtown Raleigh owned & operated by Crystal Clark and she makes the most amazing nail art. If you can think of a design, she can make it. You can find out more about Nail Yeah on her website here and on instagram here.

Tall Grass Food Box is a weekly food box supporting Black farmers by increasing their visibility and securing space for them in the local marketplace. Every other week they pull together fresh produce from Black farmers across NC and put together a box to be picked up. You can find out more on their website here or their instagram here.

Clarence Hayward is a Raleigh, NC (by way of Brooklyn, NY) artist whose work seeks to investigate cultural truths and challenge stereotypes. He currently is a fellow at Anchorlight Studios. You can read more about him and purchase prints of his work on his website here and you can follow him on instagram here.

I first met Cicely Mitchell many many moons ago when I first moved to North Carolina. At the time she was running a shopping focused e-newsletter in her spare time and working as a biostatistician during the day (which she still does by the way) and together we would talk about producing events. This was before either of us created our separate events, my Rock & Shop Market and her The Art of the Cool Festival. Cicely is inspiring because her vision and focus has remained consistent but has still evolved over the years. Last year she sold The Art of the Cool but now produces The Summer Stage at Golden Belt which celebrates “all things Durham” with art, food and music. You can follow Cicely on her instagram here and learn more about SummerStage here.

Bright Black is the husband and wife team of Tiffany and Dariel. Durham based candle makers whose goods are intended to serve as a platform for sharing positive narratives about Blackness. You can purchase their candles at their website here and you can follow them here on instagram.

NorthStar Church of the Arts in downtown Durham was started by Phil & Nnenna Freelon. It was founded upon the principles of worship through performing and visual arts with the belief that creative arts offer an opportunity to deepen our relationship with God and each other. The church was built in 1930 to serve the deaf and hearing inspired community. Their mission is to create community at the intersection of spirituality and creative practice. From their website “Disproportionate numbers of black, brown and others have been pushed out of the city center in the name of progress. Part Of NorthStar’s mission is to hold space for all people to pray and play in downtown. In light of sweeping changes in Downtown Durham the need for a creative spiritual space is needed now more than ever. ” You can find more about this space at their website here and on their instagram here.

Jeddah’s Tea Room is a tea shop in downtown Durham owned by Morgan Siegel with loose leaf teas come from Brazil, Egypt and Senegal, among other locations. You can purchase tea concentrates on her website here and follow her on instagram here.

Raleigh Rose Garden in the time of Covid

My daughter and I attempted to get out of the house and take in some nature earlier in the week by visiting Raleigh’s Rose Garden which is currently in full bloom. We were greeted by lots of construction fencing and machines, though the garden is open despite that, it was closed when we came because they had just sprayed pesticides on the blooms. Here are some of the images that I captured from that short trip:

Photos by Michelle Smith Creative for Gather Goods Co