Greenville

Everybody's Business

I vaguely remember the name Rodney King from my childhood and hearing about the riots in LA on the news. I lived in the Midwest, and while I’m not naive enough to believe that racism didn’t exist where we lived, it didn’t seem to affect me. Racism seemed far away, and mostly something from our country's past — an issue we had collectively moved beyond. I realize now that I was just young, white, and sheltered.

In Missouri, there was no talk of north and south. And the confederate flag was something I only saw in history books, or as a meaningless souvenir that you might acquire on a road trip, no different than a commemorative t-shirt or a mug.

Then I moved to South Carolina. 

I quickly noticed subtle differences between the culture here and the one I grew up in. Most obvious to me were the constant references to the North and the South. Comparisons between Northerners and Southerners. Not only did people remember this division in our country, but it seemed they wanted to keep it alive in some form.

When I moved here, the confederate flag was still flown at the South Carolina state capitol. Yes, a historical symbol — but one filled with decades of meaning on all sides.


Someone once asked me if I had ever read a book that was life-changing. While not technically a book, I’m currently making my way through one of the most life changing documents I have ever read. It’s a thorough survey documenting the state of race conditions in Greenville, South Carolina in 1950. The report covers everything from living conditions to education to medical care.

It’s essentially a time capsule of what life in 1950 Greenville was like for the black community. The paper is aptly titled, Everybody's Business.

Reading this document has educated me in a way that no history book has ever done. To see discrimination documented factually in black-and-white is frankly shocking. The realities of daily life that were socially acceptable are recorded here with stats, figures and quotes. 

You can read the report in its entirety here. If you prefer a more visual or concise read, this Time/LIFE article and photo series (1956) by Margaret Bourke-White is also helpful.

I confess: I have only made my way through part of the paper. Not only is it a lot of information to take in, but the sad realities are difficult and heavy to process.

It’s eye-opening to realize that this glimpse into Greenville’s past is only one generation removed from me. When I sit in my neighborhood meeting, around me are many people who experienced this version of Greenville. People who are intimately familiar with the conditions I’m reading about because they lived in them.


This past week I’ve heard many people say that it's time for white people start listening. I agree, but I want to add that if we're just starting to listen, we have some serious catching up to do.

Maybe the facts were glossed over in school, or maybe I just wasn't listening because it didn't seem relevant. If we're serious about listening, and really hearing what our fellow Americans have to say, I think we have to look back as well as forward. Without the benefit of historical context, how can we even begin to make sense of the frustrations and limitations our neighbors face? What is, and has been reality for the black community is not common knowledge in the white community.

This is not an excuse. It’s a call to action. It's time for us to do our homework. To read the facts, take in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the pleas for equality from those who have gone before us. We need more than just snippets from Twitter to comprehend the complexity of the events happening around us.

I can no longer pretend that race issues have nothing to do with me. The truth is, they're everybody's business.

What Josh White taught me about Greenville

Living in Greenville for almost 15 years, I’ve seen some significant transition take place in our city. I’ve always had a deep appreciation for the history of this place – the textile mills, the visionary business men and women, and the progressive thinkers who have made it what it is today.

Last month, I had the privilege of working on a mural project with Furman University to honor musicians from Greenville. This project introduced me to a man named Josh White. Learning about him has given me a completely new perspective on Greenville.

Musicians honored in the Southern Sounds mural: Russ Morin (L) and Josh White (R)

Musicians honored in the Southern Sounds mural: Russ Morin (L) and Josh White (R)

Josh's story and his connection to Greenville is actually quite heartbreaking. He was born to a minister and his wife in 1914. "But his childhood ended prematurely and tragically in 1921, when a white bill collector came into his home and rudely spat on the family's immaculate floor. Indignant at this insult to his wife, Dennis White grabbed the man by the collar and shoved him out the door. Shortly afterwards five white sheriff's deputies showed up to arrest him. As an example to other blacks, they beat him, tied him behind a horse and dragged him through the town to jail. Incapacitated by the after effects of the beatings and ill treatment he had received, he spent the rest of his life as a patient in a mental institution." [1]

As an 8 year old, Josh went on the road to assist traveling musicians and to help support his family (he was one of 5 brothers and sisters who were left without a father at home). His talent led him down a road of success where he eventually became "...the first black singer to give a White House command performance (1941), to perform in previously segregated hotels (1942), to get a million-selling record ("One Meatball", 1944), and the first to make a solo concert tour of America (1945). He was also the first folk and blues artist to perform in a nightclub, the first to tour internationally, and (along with Lead Belly and Woody Guthrie) the first to be honored with a US postage stamp.” [2]

Furman Students working on the base of the Southern Sounds mural

Furman Students working on the base of the Southern Sounds mural

In every account of Josh’s life that I found online, it begins with the fact that he was born ”in the black section of Greenville, South Carolina”. This single line has prompted me to look closer into the history of my city than I ever have before — beyond the mills and the prominent business leaders. Josh’s story has brought to light some of the realities of segregation that I’ve never thought about before.

It's easy to get caught up in the shiny, new face of Greenville. The one that we all love and can't stop telling anyone who doesn't live here about. At the same time, there are parts of history — everyone’s history — that are unflattering, but we can’t afford to forget about or ignore those pieces. They deeply affect how our present looks, and I don’t think a city is any different.

I don’t even have the words to express how Josh's story has affected me. And I have no doubt that many similar stories could be told over the years, in cities all over the country.

So I’m digging in. Seeking to understand more about the way things used to be, so that I can better understand my community now. Josh's story has opened my eyes to a new side of Greenville, and I can already tell I have a lot to learn.


where I’m supposed to be.

I spend too much time feeling restless, looking for what’s next, being uncertain about where I’m going and why I am where I am. I think it may be a creative thing — these phases of doubt and the desire to always do/be/make something better.

But I don’t feel that restlessness right now.

Last week, we relaunched our Indie Craft Parade organization as The Makers Collective. I don’t think I’ve ever had this much clarity about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it. It’s a great feeling.

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At this moment, I am sitting alone in the middle of my city. It’s the perfect weather in my book — a breezy 86°. The sun is shining, my to-do list is waiting patiently on the sidelines, not pushing or pulling.

The city is literally growing around me. Construction behind, a shiny new plaza in front, green growth everywhere I look. It’s a good time to live in Greenville, SC.

I sit in a space that many people probably had a part in planning. I’m grateful to them for their thoughtfulness and for each decision that turned this into a place I want to be. This space was not the work or the vision of one person.

It makes me think about the small army of people who surround me, fulfilling their own roles and in the process, reassuring me that I’m where I am supposed to be: Alissa, who cares for Ella two days a week (and sends me pictures while she does it). Andrew, who is the best partner and co-parent I could ask for. Friends who also happen to be coworkers, who share the list of to-dos. More friends who are willing to pitch in and share their talents to make up for my lack of skill and/or energy. Parents and in-laws who watch Ella, wash dishes, and generally make themselves available. A community who supports good things.

I know the feeling may not last, but for now it feels good to take a deep breath, knowing that — without a doubt — I’m where I’m supposed to be.

The Makers Summit – 2015

For the past three years, our organization has hosted The Makers Summit, a business conference for artists and entrepreneurs. The 2015 event was this past weekend and so many good things were said!

The week was a blur for me. Nonstop work followed by crazy amounts of information and inspiration, all of which I’m still processing. Mostly, I’m writing this down so I don’t forget.

From Jeff Shinabarger:
“We will be known by the problems we solve.”
“The number one challenge in decision making is fear.”

From Nathan Bond:
“A great product is the best marketing.”
“You’re never and always ready.”
“If you’re selling a product and it doesn’t make you money, the product is broken.”

From Jeni Britton Bauer:
“Your quality is what you decide to make it.”
“Entrepreneurs will change the world.”
“Creativity is work.”
“An entrepreneurial mind is different than a business mind.”
“Creativity is impatient. Do the work when you’re inspired.”
“I only found success when I involved others.”
“I prefer the word "company” instead of “business” because it means you’re not alone.“

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Eric Dodds on Productivity:
Create more than you consume.
Use social media with discipline.
Group similar tasks together.
Research shows it takes an average of 23 minutes to get back on track once you’re distracted/interrupted.

Will Shurtz:
Trends are today’s form of peer pressure.

Matt Moreau on hiring help:
Hiring an employee in investing in yourself.
Stop trying to find your clone. Chances are your clone is out there looking for someone to hire too.

So much to think about.

a legacy of getting things done.


image via Upstate Business Journal

Doing some reading and research about Greenville’s textile history and came across an article about Mary Putnam Gridley, someone I’d never heard of before today.

What a legacy wrapped up in this single sentence: “A tiny woman, under 5 feet tall and weighing about 90 pounds, she nevertheless was able to organize people and get things done.”

Mary influenced so many various facets of Greenville (the library, a farmer’s market, hospital, chamber of commerce, etc.) that the most likely reason for her notability almost pales in comparison — she was the first female mill president in the South.

Read more of her story here.

greenville urban sawmill.

A few weeks ago, Andrew and I headed down the road to Greenville Urban Sawmill to find some wood for a quick DIY project.

We wanted an interesting side table for our front room and loved the idea of using a sturdy block of wood. Turns out, they had exactly what we were looking for.

The sawmill and workshop were so inspiring that I took a few photos to share.

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We also bought a small slab of wood to make a bench near our entryway.

It’s difficult to tell scale from this photo, but these are two-, three- and four-inch thick pieces of wood! The guys at Greenville Urban Sawmill make custom furniture, but they also offer raw materials for people interested in making something themselves. Their prices are fantastic too!

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In addition to being a talented craftsman, Steve was also incredibly helpful, giving us tips about what products we could use to seal the wood and more.

Once we got our giant block of wood home, Andrew sanded the sides, then coated it with a paste wax, which seals and protects the wood without giving it a shine.

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The end product is a beautiful, simple, sturdy table, made from local wood. While it took some effort on our end, this project really couldn’t have been more rewarding.

I also loved that through the process, we were able to meet and support the folks at Greenville Urban Sawmill. The value of working with someone who knows what they’re talking about and is willing to share their knowledge can not be overestimated. We can’t wait to work with them again!

The Makers Summit


What I’ve been up to lately. Planning, planning, designing, making, and teeny amounts of stressing.

I’m super excited to see this idea come to life. Conference details are online at the event site Andrew designed. I’m so excited and hopeful about the connections and opportunities that will come out of this one day. And happy to be part of the growing community of makers in Greenville, SC.

Conference tickets are almost sold out, so if this applies to you be sure to snag one today!

a Taste of Greenville.

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One of my favorite things about Christmas is that it gives me an excuse to buy gifts for people. This was a favorite gift we put together for some out-of-town family this year: a Taste of Greenville basket. It’s no secret that I love my city, but Christmas gave us a chance to send a few pieces of it across the country in a tiny basket.

The idea was to create a ‘fruit basket’ assortment using only items made in Greenville, SC. I made my list and headed to a few favorite shops: The Swamp Rabbit Cafe & Grocery, art&light gallery, Barkery Bistro, and The New York Butcher Shop. Here’s what I ended up with:

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I don’t think you can’t get much more Southern than pecans, grits and peach salsa!

I love how it turned out, and even more importantly, so did our far-away family members.

Holiday Fair in West Greenville.

I haven’t mentioned how great the Indie Craft Parade Holiday Fair was!

Below are a few of my favorite images from that day, which was only about two weeks ago — but it feels like a month. What is it about this time of year that makes days feel long and short at the same time?

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Note: These images were not all taken by me. Most were pulled from the Indie Craft Parade Facebook album.

My favorite things:
balloons, giant and otherwise
the most beautiful weather we could ask for
happy shoppers
a neighborhood full of people and excitement
even happier artists

indie craft show and tell

Here’s a peek at what we brought home from Indie Craft Parade last weekend! This year was more of a blur than the last two and shopping didn’t happen until Sunday. Which means when the show was over, I remembered several booths I intended to revisit, but never made it back to!

Overall, I felt like the booths and handmade goods this year were even better than in previous years, which is hard to believe. I really couldn’t be more pleased to be part of this event! Check out what made it home with us (except for a few gift items that can’t be pictured):

Clockwise from top: Screenprinted set of 4 napkins from Tiny Peepers / medium bowl from Jeanette Zeis Ceramics / inside, three soaps from The Herb Garden, a necklace from Spectrum, and my first Finkelstein creature! / letterpressed tags from Concrete Lace / hand-lettered, letterpress cards from Ink Meets Paper / The New Empires latest album / Tea towels by Chomp Textiles / letterpress coasters from The Gilded Fete / Metal bangles from Lily / an extra bright Spectrum bead

It’s obvious I gravitate toward all things paper and letterpress — with kitchen textiles and jewelry coming in at a close second. If you missed this year’s show, don’t worry — The Parade will be back next September!

Indie Craft Parade

It’s time for the Parade!

At our house, Indie Craft Parade weekend is quite possibly the craziest one of the year — even more so than Christmas! But it might be my favorite anyway. I can’t wait to see what all these artists have been working on for the last few months, shop (or at least window shop) my way through a sea of handmade goods and try to decide which ones to take home.

And this year, we’ve got workshops! I wish I could take every one of these. If you’re anywhere near Greenville, SC there are a million reasons you don’t want to miss the Indie Craft Parade this weekend, so come check it out. You can still buy a ticket to the VIP Gala tonight, or come out tomorrow and Sunday when it’s free.

finally, home.

We moved into our new house this weekend. Somehow — in spite of all the boxes and sore muscles — it still doesn’t feel real yet.

It’s an understatement to say there’s a lot going on right now — moving into a new house with Indie Craft Parade less than a week away. But in addition to the never-ending to do lists and brief moments of panic, I have also been overwhelmed by so many good things. Just a few that come to mind:

· The number of friends and family who helped us move, many volunteering at the last minute.

· Our internet getting set up five days earlier(!) than expected.

· Getting to be in church yesterday instead of the nursery because there were enough adults to go around.

· This house. There is no doubt in my mind that God gave us “far more abundantly than all we could ask or think.”

· Moving this weekend instead of last = a Labor Day sale on the washer and dryer we need.

· Far away family checking on us and celebrating with us.

· The thoughtfulness of people to do things like water our plants and cook food for us.

Needless to say, I feel very blessed.

still seeking.

I wish I could say we’re closer to finding a new home than we were when I wrote this post a few months ago. But unfortunately, that’s not true. Since then, two more houses have entered and then left the picture. This last one carried with it a too-good-to-be-true feeling that turned out to be right, in spite of all the dreams and plans we had for it.

At this point, we’re looking for direction. Huge wide-swinging open doors would be best. This process has left us questioning even things we thought we were sure about. Obviously, there’s a reason these houses haven’t worked out. A reason it’s taken us so long to find something when others can search and buy a house in the span of a few months. And we’re trying to be content while we wait and see what God is doing in all this. Needless to say, some days are more successful than others.

In the meantime, we’re very grateful for a roof over our heads and a God whose plans we can trust even when they don’t make sense to us.

seeking shelter.

For months now, we’ve been looking at ways we can move closer to downtown. Every time we find a possible solution, there’s something keeping us from moving forward. Maybe it’s the timing, the price, the location. Maybe we’re being too picky. But for whatever reason, we haven’t found home yet.

Yesterday we visited art&light, our favorite gallery in Greenville. It’s been a while since we’ve been there and it was really great to see all the new work, visit the adjoining galleries and talk to Teresa, the gallery owner. We left with two beautiful woodcut pieces by local artist Kent Ambler. Other than posters and functional objects, I can’t remember the last time we bought a piece of art.


Seeking Shelter, by Kent Ambler

While I love the colors and the circular shape, the subject matter and title of this one really spoke to me. Andrew, Melanie and I are looking for home. We haven’t found it yet, and as frustrating as it is sometimes, that’s where we are right now.


The title and timing couldn’t be more appropriate.

Buying this piece feels like a turning point somehow. I don’t know if that’s just wishful thinking, but I can tell you it definitely feels good to buy art again.

i love trains.

I don’t know when it started. Maybe with my brother’s model train. Or with the family Amtrak ride we took from Kansas City to St. Louis when I was a kid. But I absolutely love the sight of a train chugging down the tracks. There’s something about it that’s nostalgic and wonderful and industrial all at the same time.

There are train tracks right beside my office (the brick building), which means at least once a day we hear the whistle and rumble of the train going by.

I keep telling myself that I’ll take another ride one day.

why greenville?

I recently created a Pinterest board full of my favorite things about Greenville, SC. It’s not a comprehensive guide to the city — or even an unbiased one. It’s just my opinion of what makes Greenville awesome.

I’ll be adding to it regularly and I hope it’s a helpful tool to start exploring the city, whether you’re planning a visit, considering a move, or already live here. Enjoy!

learning, just because.

I have a fairly long list of skills I’d like to learn ‘one day’, and this weekend I finally made progress on one of them by taking a (free!) knitting class at the library.


My project at the end of class. Wobbly, but better than I would have done figuring it out on my own!

The sad part is that I really can’t remember how long it’s been (if ever) that I learned something in a group setting just for fun. Here, my only motivation is to learn something — not to earn a grade or be the best at it — but because I want to learn. Plus, after years of following online tutorials and trying to figure things out by myself, the experience of learning alongside others is just really fun.

life in greenville.

I spent part of my Saturday working on the Life In Greenville project, an idea that was first introduced to me over 2 years ago. I remember this because 1) it was also the day I met most of the (now) CoWork crew, and 2) at the time, I was the only person in the room without a Twitter account (which was remedied shortly thereafter).

I’m very excited about this project, partially because of the way it’s taken place. The idea itself: Use our talents to create a good looking website for Greenville. One whose design more accurately represents the city we live in than the existing ‘official’ Greenville sites. In short, help outsiders realize how great Greenville is.


Fantastic site design by Jeremy of Headlamp Creative in progress

Because everyone stays busy with their own projects and jobs, nothing usually comes of ideas like this — no matter how great they are. But CoWork planned a hack-a-thon/design-a-thon for this weekend to make sure the idea didn’t get neglected. Organizational meetings, content writing, design, illustration, development, and everything else it takes to build a website was done by a team of about 2 dozen people working off and on over a few days. The entire project was built by people who love Greenville.


CoWork Greenville headquarters

There will, of course, be bugs and improvements to be made after the fact, but if you know anything about website building, you know how amazing it is to create a full site from scratch in such a short amount of time — not to mention a responsive site that looks amazing on any device. It shows what amazing talent exists in the Greenville web community.


The developers writing their various languages and doing what they do.

I did a tiny bit of content writing and a some design support — helping select and resize images to fit the amazing site design. It’s not much in the grand scheme of things, but I feel privileged to be part of this project even in a small way.

The site launches later today, so check out LifeinGreenville.com to see the final product!

All photos courtesy of Life in Greenville.