I first caught wind of Rebekka Seale and her work when I was perusing Frankie, and saw that Nashville was lit up on the Australian publication’s website. Through Rebekka’s feature, I was introduced to her work and naturally became a fan. Aside from Rebekka’s gorgeous house portraits and illustrations, her blog is also a well-curated look into her life and has become a site that I check regularly. Above is a glimpse of her charming studio nestled in her home that’s dripping with the most stunning interior design. She’s a girl of many talents!
Your paintings and illustrations are absolutely beautiful and meticulously done. When did it click that you wanted to pursue art full-time and your unique signature style evolve?
I studied art in college, but was afraid that I couldn’t make a living as an artist, so I went a different route and became a pastry chef. I spent a few years working in bakeries and owning a small cake business, but ultimately realized that it wasn’t really authentic for me. My sweet husband encouraged me to drop everything and pursue art and illustration full-time, so I did exactly that about three years ago.
When did you get your first big break as an artist?
Within the first year of quitting my “day job”, I was fortunate enough to have some pretty steady illustration work with a couple of different companies. But about a year and a half ago, Design Sponge featured my house portraits on their website, and all craziness broke loose! Since then, I have been having a hard time keeping my head above water, but it’s been super exciting and fun.
What are some of your go to sources for inspiration?
I get so much inspiration from books and travel. I re-read my favorite books over and over again (lots of Carson McCullers and Madeleine L’Engle), which always fill my head with the richest imagery. And whenever I can, I visit my favorite cities: New Orleans, Brooklyn and Fairhope. Sometimes, just the act of setting aside my daily routine is all I need to smash a creative block!
You’re from the Alabama Gulf coast area, but now reside in Nashville. Are there any hidden gems, or must see places and cities in Alabama that you would recommend scoping out?
My hometown of Fairhope, Alabama is about as gemmy as they come! It’s a tiny city that was founded in the late 1800’s as a utopian, single-tax artists’ community, and it’s one of the most beautiful places you’ll ever see. It slopes along the Eastern shore of Mobile Bay, and the whole city is covered in flowers and a tattered curtain of Spanish moss. Lots of artists and writers make their homes there, in the “fruit and nut” district, which is named after the trees that populate the area. But, it also appeals to the eccentric residents too!
If money wasn’t an option, and you had an entire Saturday to indulge and wander around Nashville, what would you do?
I would spend the entirety of the day navigating Nashville’s amazing antique store/flea market scene and buy everything. Then I would eat pizzas and drink wine on the porch at City House.
Do you have any tips for aspiring artists?
Yes! Set aside an entire year of your life and put every last bit of expendable energy into your business!!! I know it sounds intense, but developing a coherent portfolio and marketing your work on the Internet is a full-time job. It takes a lot of work and patience, but it will pay off.
Posted on Feb 20, 2013 in WORD TO THE GUISE | 27 comments
Tell us a little about what you both do.
Genie: I have a vintage print archive. I sell unique prints ranging from the late 1800’s to the late 1980’s, to clothing and housewares companies across the country.
Alex: I’m an artist – primarily a sculptor, but I also make two-dimensional work. On the side, I do some wood-working and Genie and I have a small antiques business. As far as art goes, I make most of my work from found or re-purposed material. We were living in Brooklyn for a long time, and I’m still working with material I collected up there: lottery tickets, bottle caps, discarded lighters.
We’ve been busy in Nashville – we got married and had a baby since we moved down a little more than a year ago – so I haven’t collected much material here. But I can see some things coming together…
Genie, how did you get your start in the industry working with patterns and textiles? At what point did this turn into a full-time job for you?
I have always had a passion for all things vintage. A few years ago, I sold vintage housewares and furniture out of various shops in NYC. I then started working for a textile design studio that had a vintage archive that I managed. After gaining that experience, I decided to branch out on my own.
Give us a more detailed description of what your job entails.
I meet with print designers for major fashion and home design brands who are seeking inspiration in print. I have each of my customers in mind when I’m out buying, but I usually pick pieces that I love and follow the current trends. I love getting the pieces back to my studio and creating special groups and stories for each of my customers. Since moving down here from Brooklyn, it’s so much easier for me to seek out interesting prints. I’m able to jump in my car and explore all the surrounding small towns. It’s so much fun!
Alex, tell us a little about what you’re working on right now.
I’m getting ready for a Seattle show in August. The main part of the show will be a group of lottery ticket sculptures called Garden – a group of succulent-like structures made from folded lottery tickets without glue or framework.
I’m also working on a series of kinetic bottle cap sculptures. They’re large hanging pieces that move and twist and bounce in different ways. These were conceived as musical instruments – the first of them was a small shaker for my sister-in-law Ruth Lockwood, who is a drummer in Seattle. Now that I am in such a musical city, I would love to find musicians who would be interested in working with them.
What has been your favorite project to work on thus far?
The first two giant bottle cap shakers I made were for a public sculpture park on Governor’s Island – just off the southern tip of Manhattan. Kids went nuts over them. That was great.
Where are some of your favorite places to go in Nashville?
Genie & Alex: Arnold’s, Rotiers, Monell’s, Marche (where we decided on a road trip to move here), The Cupcake Collection in Germantown, Wonders on Woodland, Gaslamp and Gaslamp Too, The Downtown Antique Mall and 12 South Taproom.
You both just moved to Nashville from Brooklyn. Tell us a little about the creative/art scene there and how it differs from Nashville’s.
Alex: We’ve really just met the artists around our studio and a few other people randomly. Everyone is clearly very supportive of each other. That’s something we’ve noticed in Nashville, particularly in small business. People seem to genuinely want you to succeed.
Does Nashville seem like a promising place for the arts to flourish?
Alex: Being so new here, it’s hard to tell — but Nashville certainly has a lot going for it: the city is spending money on the arts, there is private money and interest, you can still find inexpensive homes, work space. And of course, there is a flourishing music scene. Artists enjoy and are inspired by other artists, no matter the medium.
Genie: I was born and raised here in Nashville, and I’m so happy to be back after 12 years. This city has always felt like home to me, but now there is this really exciting buzz happening and for good reason. Like Alex said earlier, there is so much positivity in the creative scene here. People are genuinely excited to hear about what you are doing or making. I think it’s an excellent place for the arts to succeed.
I took a drive to Lascassas, TN this morning to visit Matt Alexander of HollerDesign and felt right at home in the cozy shop where all his gorgeous handmade furniture comes to life. Check out some of Matt’s work in Barista Parlor and the soon to be open Rolf & Daughters in Germantown among other specialized shops in town.
Like what you see? Head on over to his online store for even more pieces!
You’ve studied and worked in a wide variety of places – what sets the south apart for you in terms of furniture design?
The south has a rich history of craftsmen. Ladderback chairs were widely made in the Cumberland region of eastern Tennessee and southeastern Kentucky. Also consider the quilts of Gee’s Bend, the basketmakers of Woodbury, TN. As a result, there is a plethora of inspirational fodder for HollerD to base work off of. Additionally, the rustic and rural textures of the south have a large role in the design of HD furniture and products.
Do you have any new projects you’re working on that you can fill us in on?
We are fortunate enough to have many fans but not all of them can afford a $3500 dining table. As a result, we are currently developing a few new home products with a price point between $50-$300. As always, the designs will be made locally from locally sourced materials and be inspired by life in the south.
What’s your favorite piece that you’ve built and designed?
I like both the Rocker and the Beam stool. Each one is simple and straightforward in its design and illustrates a pleasing mixture of new south and old south, a trait that I refer to as “country nouveau”.
What keeps you inspired?
Materials, making, tools, contemporary design, magazines, history, coffee….
What’s your ideal weekend in Tennessee and are there any hidden gems you’re willing to fill us in on?
I love and have always loved the Smokey Mountains. An ideal weekend would include a trip to the mountains. Before heading out I would need to make a slight detour to Barista Parlor in Nashville to pick up some cold brewed coffee and a sausage and biscuit from Porter Road Butcher. While in the Smokies, I’d probably try to make it to the Chimney Tops or Abrahm’s Falls, among others. On the way back, I’d probably grab a beer or two and a bite to eat in Knoxville. Perhaps Public House or Fort Sanders Yacht Club for the beer and Tomato Head for the bites.
Where do you hope to see your company in 10 years?
In 10 years I would like to expand HollerD to include a wider variety of Furniture and Home Products. The fabrication shop, design studio and employees would also have to expand and evolve along with the business. I hope to keep all design and fabrication in house while retaining the core of HD’s principles; locally inspired contemporary design with local materials and labor.
Last week, I stopped by the shared workspace of Otis James and Emil Erwin at Marathon Village. From the pages of GQ Magazine to the walls of Barneys, their work (while entirely handmade) seems to be featured everywhere these days. You can expect to see much more coming from these two Nashville tastemakers (and back to back Garden & Gun Made in the South Award Winners) for years to come.
Do you have any new projects you’re working on or anything exciting involving your brands you can fill us in on?
Otis: We have a few new caps in the pipeline that will hopefully be out in time for fall. As well, working with Griffin Technology on a collaboration to be sold in London that will be announced soon and a small run of bow ties for Garden & Gun magazine.
Emil: We are finishing up a collaboration with Barneys right now that will come out this August. I worked with the head of menswear to develop two bags and a couple of belts. Barneys currently carries our line, but it is very exciting to have that kind of endorsement. We are also fulfilling a wholesale order for CPH in Switzerland, which is the first international brick and mortar to carry our brand.
What keeps you inspired and intrigued to create new things?
Otis: My inspiration comes from many different sources. I try not to focus too heavily on any of them for too long. Basically, I’m like a filter feeder. I don’t actively pursue any ideas, just let them filter in as they may. Everything about my process is very visceral and in the moment. I don’t follow any blogs or other designers.
Emil: I often find inspiration in strange places. I’ll be at the convenience store and notice how a rack is assembled and think “Oh! That’s how I should put it together.” I approach all of my designs from a function first standpoint with aesthetics running a close second. So many everyday items give me ideas so I am always keeping an eye out for ways to create/improve.
If you weren’t compelled to make beautiful ties, hats and leather goods here in Nashville, where would each of you be and what would you be doing?
Otis: I think it’s impossible to say. That would be like peering into an alternate universe.
Emil: I would be running a tow truck business in Hazen Arkansas, although my true passion would be writing lonesome county and western songs. On Saturdays, I would travel into Little Rock for talent night at Downer’s B&G hoping to catch my break only to be passed on for a younger, “twangier” talent week after week.
Where are your favorite places to go in Nashville? Are there any hidden gems you’re willing to let us in on?
Otis: I go to Mas Tacos at least once a week to eat. Otherwise, I enjoy being anywhere I can go on my bike, whether it’s the greenways or the side streets that weave through town.
Emil: I am a homebody. When I’m not in the shop, I love to be at home with my wife and three kids. Plenty of entertainment there. Occasionally, we make it out, but I am certainly no authority on the matter. There are some really skanky looking bars on Gallatin Rd. in Inglewood that I want to try out. Any takers?
What’s one funny thing about yourself someone would be surprised to know?
Otis: Before I started making ties, I hadn’t owned one myself for at least 3 years.
Emil: Surprising, I don’t know about that, but… In a perfect world, I could gain all my necessary nutrients from cotton candy. I love cotton candy.
Where do you hope to see your brand in 10 years?
Otis: That’s a really good question. I honestly don’t know. I’ve always preferred to keep myself flexible and adaptable. I have ideas of paths I would like to pursue, but I tend to not put too much weight on future plans. There is too much unpredictability.
Emil: I’d like to have a flagship in Nashville and have relationships with a handful of retailers around the US and elsewhere.
Posted on Nov 21, 2011 in WORD TO THE GUISE | 9 comments
An unmarked, massive wooden black door creaks open, quietly beckoning us inside the green room at Marathon Music Works. We tentatively leave the backstage darkness and creep inside to the brightly lit, exposed brick space. Wanda Jackson peacefully sits on a black leather couch as her backing band, Heath Haynes and the Hi-Dollars, relaxes before the show. She smiles to greet us as we bend down, and takes both of our hands in hers. “You must forgive me,” she earnestly says. “I haven’t quite changed into my stage top yet.”
Impeccably turned out in a silver sweater and metallic scarf, she waves her ruby fingertips in the direction of her garment bag and laughs as one of the Hi-Dollars notes that the fuchsia pocket squares of their suit jackets won’t match her current outfit. “No, no. That is what I’ll be wearing.” Her aquamarine eyes glimmer distinctively against her dark features as she describes her trademark fringed, pink stage outfit while others trickle in and out, heels muted against the brushed concrete floors.
“Fifteen minutes until we go on,” Heath Haynes announces to the room. On cue, a few of the Hi-Dollars don their jackets and grin at us—the stage-ready group is spotlessly coiffed, dressed, and geared up to perform, yet the ambiance backstage is almost absurdly, alarmingly serene. Wanda’s husband, Wendell Goodman, sits adjacent to her, supervising as a few well-wishers prattle admiration towards the rockabilly legend, who politely nods and speaks with all of them.
The Hi-Dollars disappear to embark the stage, warming up the crowd in preparation for Wanda’s arrival. After a few minutes, Wanda and her husband emerge from the green room, walking arm-in-arm up the concrete ramp to wait in the wings. With his left hand, Wendell protectively grasps the curtains to the stage tightly closed; with his right, he touches the small of Wanda’s back, steadying her. Eyes closed, inches away from the curtains, she dances in place, tassels swaying, until her final cue.
She then points to the curtains, and Wendell releases them. For a split-second, Wanda pauses at the threshold, taking in the lights, the band—her dancing, rollicking crowd illuminated. She then emerges from the shadows, immediately welcomed by fervent screams. She greets the crowd, proclaiming, “No place I’d rather be tonight!” The crowd roars. Finally, the queen of rockabilly has arrived.
Photos by: Heidi Jewell
Interview by: Anna Arata
Wearing his signature kerchief knotted around his neck, dressed in black, Manuel appears from the back of his studio. He is a portrait of white teeth and impeccable posture; a shock of white hair juxtaposed against skin the color of aged, light russet leather.
“What do you want to do with me?” Manuel asks us, grinning.
A man of inimitable style and talent, Manuel Cuevas embodies a rare dichotomy of humility and genius. Tremendously famous for creating fashion history— responsible for dressing Johnny Cash in black suits, and Elvis in gold lamé—he is immediately unaffected, warm, and hysterically funny. We’re soon swept behind red curtains and guided by Manuel upstairs, breathing in literal decades of history marked by fabric scraps, sequins, and dust.
In his shop, Manuel’s spirit is seemingly boundless. He is spryly showing us up two flights of stairs, around dressing and sewing rooms; he is nimbly flicking the lights on and off with a steel measuring stick taller than all of us combined. He is telling us dirty jokes and singing in Spanish as he walks, then cursing at a set of Venetian blinds he’s trying to raise, soon wrapping their cord around his own, likely priceless, embroidered curtains. Everything is spoken in charming, lightly accented English. We are smitten within the first five minutes.
Though responsible for such iconic pop art as the Grateful Dead’s insignia of a skull and roses, as well as cementing the Rolling Stones’ logo of a mouth and lips, Manuel is overwhelmingly modest. He never name-drops; when prompted about his favorite design, he answers smiling vaguely, “Maybe a pair of Levi’s.” He then laughs.
“To meet a prostitute, a beggar, the president—they are all the same to me. Most of my clients are good friends of mine; there’s no other way.”
Artifacts line the white walls and dark oak floors of Manuel’s studio—mostly gifts from past clients and photographs of his couture, gathered over the twenty-three years he’s inhabited the studio on Broadway. A guitar here, a painting there, celebrity notes and portraiture abound, though Manuel references none of them. “Sometimes the most humble settings are the most rewarding, and that has always been the embodiment of my career.”
Referencing the city outside his Midtown windows, he notes, “Nashville is surprisingly artistic. It’s becoming beautifully mixed, but retains its laid-back quality.” He pauses for a moment, gesturing outside with his hands. “Fashion here—women here—are much more beautiful. In the big cities you see a sway of the hips, a promiscuity. Here you see beauty. And people here adore beautiful clothes.”
Manuel claps his hands, speaking with infectious, effortless charisma about his past. Designing from a young age, he cites fate, not fame, as what drew him into the industry. “When I was seven, I sewed my first pair of pants. It was sweet serendipity, getting into fashion, more than anything else.”
His voice lowers slightly. “I’ve never had a sad day in my life working here. I love it.” Manuel says, eyes twinkling. “It was never a struggle. Do you believe that?”
We pause, taking in all of the collective manifestations of his life sitting with us in the studio. The suits, the celebrities—the totality of his handiwork, his history. We look at each other. Nod. “Yes,” we say. And we know it’s true.
Photos by: Heidi Jewell
Interview by: Anna Arata