Remember Maineby Kevin Barrettphotographs by Nick PironioDo you get a bit melancholy this time of year? Summer is gone. I miss it. I know you do, too. It must be some kind of childhood nostalgia about careless freedom that saddens us, because the fall weather is enchanting in North Carolina. Even so, nothing can beat the carefree magic of summer.I still go back to the site of my childhood summers in an attempt to recreate some of them. In Maine, I fish, relax, and completely decompress. When my dad took us there when I was a boy, we five kids loved it. It wasn’t the fishing, or the stars at night, or the food. It was the careless freedom.Remember the MaineThis past summer I went with my girlfriend and my older brother and his family. Different parts of the Barrett clan make it or not every year. My dad’s last trip was many years ago, but to me, Maine is part of his legacy. He knew there was nothing as carefree as sitting on the water’s edge at night, sipping a cocktail, looking up to see more stars than you could find in a planetarium, and hearing the loons calling out to each other from across the lake.Oh, yes, sipping a cocktail. That’s what this is about. Maine, unfortunately, is similar to our beloved North Carolina in that it maintains North Korea-like control over the sale of alcohol. In addition to that, the part of Maine I visit is far from any city. The liquor selection is dismal. Cold canned beer is all that’s on offer most of the time. It has its place, but I do bring my travel-sized bottle of Angostura bitters wherever I go.Some of you know a drink called Remember the Maine. The name comes from the rallying cry for the Spanish-American War: “Remember the Maine, to Hell with Spain.” It refers to the sinking of the USS Maine off the coast of Cuba in 1898, for which Spain was blamed. The drink is old, but perhaps not from 1898. It’s a semi-obscure Manhattan-type drink that almost everyone enjoys. It’s got a touch of sweetness, and, if prepared properly, a hint of a rougher edge from the absinthe.USS Maine c1897 LOC det 4a25824 by Detroit Publishing Co.Remember the Maine2 ounces rye whiskey¾ ounce sweet vermouth¼ ounce cherry heering (a liqueur)Absinthe rinseCombine all ingredients in a mixing glass with fresh ice. Stir well for 15-20 seconds. Pour into a chilled cocktail glass that has been rinsed with a dash of absinthe. Remember, the absinthe is mostly for aromatics.Drink this when you want to taste history.Now, while in Maine I was working with limited resources, so I’ve given my own drink a limited name as well. We’ll call my drink Remember Maine. You might think the Remember Maine is too simple, but when you’re sitting on the water’s edge at night in Maine, it’s all you need.Remember Maine2 fingers of bourbon because, ironically, there’s no rye whiskey available this close to Canada4 dashes of the Angostura bitters you brought instead of shampooIce, if availableOrange or lemon zest, cut with your fishing knife if you’re trying to impress someoneCombine all ingredients in a plastic cup. Stir vigorously with finger for precisely four seconds. Sit back. Look at stars. Listen to loons.Drink this when you want to taste summer vacation.
by Liza Robertsphotographs by Lissa GotwalsIf you didn’t know better, you might mistake Beverly McIver for a regular person. An unusually warm and friendly person, sure, and one with a reflexive generosity. But familiar. Partly, it’s her easy laugh and laid-back banter, which revolves around the well-being of her extended family. It’s also her open, sunny face, the face of someone who gets stopped for directions and asked for advice in dressing rooms. Yes, she’d surely say, that looks great on you.But while Beverly McIver might seem a Southern everywoman, she is not.Named one of the “top ten in painting” by Art in America magazine, nationally renowned McIver, 51, is “a most remarkable artist,” says the legendary Irving Sandler, considered by many the dean of American art critics and historians. “She paints very much out of her own life.”Her own life is a big part of it: McIver’s success represents more than native talent. With grit, ingenuity and hard work, she sprung herself from a Greensboro housing project to the galleries of the nation’s top museums. The daughter of a single mother who worked as a maid and a father she didn’t meet until she was 16, McIver explores issues of race and gender, resilience and vulnerability, duty and love in her autobiographical work, which can be found in the collections of the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Charlotte’s Mint Museum, among others. It has hung in the National Portrait Gallery and can command five-figure sums.But when she started painting as an undergraduate at N.C. Central University, it was a lark. Despite encouragement from her professors, McIver was wary of pursing art as a career. “Word on the street was that painters were poor, and since I came from poverty, I wasn’t interested in returning.” So while she studied at night, she toiled as a customer-service representative during the day. Then for years, she taught and painted. It paid off. She received a Guggenheim fellowship, a Radcliffe fellowship, and many awards.And then, just as her career was soaring, McIver’s mother died, and her family needed her. Badly. Raising Renee, an HBO documentary about McIver’s life that tells the hard, human tale of her struggle between making art and taking full-time care of her mentally disabled sister Renee, was nominated for an Emmy. It’s easy to see why: McIver’s honesty, humor, and flinty strength of character steal the show.For part of that film, she and Renee lived in Arizona, where McIver taught at Arizona State University. She’s back in Durham now, which she considers home, with a new job as the Esbenshade Professor of the Practice in Studio Arts at Duke University; Renee lives independently.But before McIver begins at Duke, she’ll complete a three-month artist’s residency in Charlotte, where she will have time for uninterrupted painting. “No cats are coming,” she says, with another of her frequent laughs. “Cats” is partly a metaphor. She means that her posse of gigantic felines won’t be making the trip. But she also means that for three long months, she won’t have a soul to take care of but her own. For McIver, that’ll take some getting used to.The paintings of her cousin Sharon can be hard to look at and may be unlikely to find buyers, McIver concedes. It’s not part of her calculus. “I make art and pray for it to sell. I don’t make art in order for it to sell. Otherwise, I’d be painting flowers, or pets. I’m trying to give a voice to people who are voiceless. My cousin doesn’t have any power. Nobody cares that she’s over there trying to build her life again. Except for us.”At home hereOne recent afternoon, McIver sits in Durham’s Watts Grocery, her favorite restaurant. She is friendly with chef/owner Amy Tornquist, and knows the menu. A few feet down the street is the Craven Allen Gallery, where her work hangs. In a leopard-print dress, her shoulder-length dreadlocks loose, she’s clearly at home as she shares her fries and talks about life.On this day, she has just returned from a visit to the hospital to see her cousin Sharon, a diabetic who has lost her second leg to the disease. McIver has been visiting Sharon several times a week, painting her, and taking care of her cat, which has joined McIver’s herd. “They all hate each other,” McIver says, laughing. “They’re all hissing at each other. They’re doing that, and I’m painting Sharon in the hospital with no legs.”Her cousin, she says, doesn’t balk at becoming the latest subject for McIver’s work. McIver says she’s a stoic with a great sense of humor.“ ‘What are you doing,’ I asked her today,” McIver says, chuckling. “And she said, ‘Just sitting here.’ ” With a comic’s timing, she delivers the line with a deft pause and lilt. But it’s not quite gallows humor. It’s more a kind of honesty, born from the struggles of life, the work of being a perpetual, habitual caretaker of others. “I’m trying to stop it,” she says of the role. “I don’t have anyone who takes care of me. And I don’t know – it’s just exhausting.” McIver has never married – she says she’d love to, one day – and has no children of her own.In the meantime, she is much in demand. The work she’s making now commands attention and top prices. She has gotten to this point with a solid dose of savvy. The reason she can postpone the start date for her prestigious new post at Duke is because she was able to negotiate a sabbatical up front.It’s not just her art and her prestige that make her so attractive, it’s also her management skills. In addition to painting, for the last decade she has taught classes in “creative capital,” instructing art students on strategic planning, on how to create a business plan, and how to be an entrepreneur.McIver credits Richard Mayhew, who is considered one of the most important African-American landscape painters of the 20th century, with teaching her about the importance of the business side of art. “He was the first person who told me: You have to network.” She started forcing her “homebody” self out – to openings, residencies, workshops. “He got me to set goals. It was my first inkling how important it is. And it has made all the difference in the world.”Since McIver’s sister Renee began living independently (an unfinished portrait of Renee here), McIver has been exploring who she is without her sister, both artistically and as a person.Visceral, exuberant, sadThough McIver is known widely for her portraits of Renee and of herself, her current work is varied. Some of it is visceral and difficult, like the paintings of Sharon in the hospital; some buoyant, bursting with energy, like the portraits of friends like the artist Nick Cave; some of McIver herself. And some is sad. A picture of her 88-year-old father – whom she also regularly takes care of – shows the long life he’s lived in the lines on his face and in the shadows of his eyes. Another of Sharon sitting in bed without legs looks startlingly Buddha-like.Many of McIver’s latest paintings also include small clocks she’s made out of paper and pasted in the corners. The numbers are askew, and in the wrong order. The clocks “are important for some reason,” she says. “I think they’re about marking time…what is time?”If her brush strokes look spontaneous, the planning that precedes them is not. McIver begins most paintings with a photograph she has taken. She has a pile of them in front of her in her home studio: Sharon from many angles. McIver often projects her chosen image on to a canvas and outlines its edges, sketching out the composition that will come. And then she takes her time – weeks of work, late into the night, for some paintings – to get it right. If a painting is complex, often the face goes in last. On this day, she’s mulling the challenge of creating the right skin color to paint under the filmy white surgical tape on Sharon’s body.“I think it’s about being vulnerable,” she says, assessing the work. “And being the underdog. And winning.” She looks across the room at another painting of her cousin. “I love that she has this great pride. It’s not the end of her life.”It’s hard for McIver to do this work. Personal and wrenching. “The paintings are like: ‘Give me more! Give me more!’ I’m thinking: ‘I’m giving you everything!’ ” It’s clear that her empathy is something McIver is trying to wrangle. While it enables her to capture the soul of the people she paints, it asks a lot in return.McIver’s father is a regular subject.It’s not just the people related to her whom she feels compelled to upend her life to help. One of McIver’s most celebrated works – Dora’s Dance, which Charlotte’s Mint Museum bought last year for $30,000 – is ostensibly a self-portrait. It depicts McIver in blackface, dancing. But she painted it to honor a woman she barely knew, whose story haunted her. She was the former maid of the mother of a friend, a woman named Dora whom McIver met in a Mississippi nursing home. “Please take me out of here,” the woman pleaded with McIver. “Call somebody to come and get me.” McIver left the place “so distraught” that she considered taking Dora home herself. She knew she couldn’t do it. Instead, she painted. “If I made these paintings of Dora dancing,” McIver reasoned, it could “free her spirit.” One month later, McIver learned that a relative had, in fact, freed Dora, and taken her home.While today McIver has her hands full taking care part-time of Renee, her aunt, and her father, the years of taking full-time care of her sister have altered McIver’s parameters – personally and artistically. Renee had long served not only as the work of McIver’s days, but as the subject of her art. When Renee moved out, she also “started moving out of the picture,” McIver says. “I started making more self-portraits and just evaluating: who am I without Renee? What do I want?”
William Lewis, executive director of Pinecone.by Tracy Davisphotographs by Scott SharpeWilliam Lewis wants to tell you a story. Storytelling is at the heart of his job, which is to preserve our region’s traditional music in all its many forms, from bluegrass to gospel, string bands to shape- note singing. It’s his passion, too.“It’s all storytelling,” says Lewis, the executive director of PineCone, a Raleigh nonprofit in its 31st year presenting traditional music. “The story PineCone shares is indigenous to the Piedmont region of North Carolina … The music, the lore … it’s a broad, beautiful story.”It’s because Lewis understands not just the sound of music but its cultural significance that he’s the perfect person to curate the city’s Wide Open Bluegrass festival. Coming to downtown Raleigh on October 2 and 3, it includes both a free street festival and ticketed shows at Red Hat Amphitheater. Both events are linked to the International Bluegrass Music Association’s annual convention, which brings together the industry’s foremost musicians and supporters from the world over for a conference, awards show, and Bluegrass Ramble showcases. Bottom line: A lot of top-shelf bluegrass is coming to town.“Without William, it wouldn’t be here,” says musician David Holt, host of PBS’s David Holt’s State of Music and a four-time Grammy winner for traditional and folk albums. “I’ve been playing PineCone shows for many, many years, originally with Doc Watson, and got to know William that way. He’s just the man for the job. Everybody likes him. He’s honest, thoughtful, creative. And a hard worker.” He pauses, thinking. “Actually, put that first. William works really hard. As a musician, you can’t ask for more.”Last year, Raleigh welcomed over 180,000 bluegrass lovers for the IBMA convention and accompanying festivities, which brought $10.8 million in visitor spending to the region. This year, those numbers are expected to climb. Though Lewis attributes it all to the hard work of others, those same folks point right back at him.Sierra Hull, 2015 IBMA award nominee for mandolin player of the year, performs at 2014’s hugely successful bluegrass festival. Ethan Hyman, The News & Observer.His role began in 2012, when the IBMA was debating whether to move its convention out of Nashville. Thanks to Raleigh’s shiny new convention center and amphitheater, as well as years of groundwork by music-loving visionaries at the Raleigh Convention Center and the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, the Oak City had a spot on the IBMA’s short list.When Lewis heard that Raleigh “was gearing up to make its move,” he “dove in and went at it with a level of ambition that made it something everyone would take notice of,” says George Holt (no relation to David), director of performing arts and film programs at the North Carolina Museum of Art. “William has great taste and great vision.”To Lewis, it was simple: “We said, let us help. We know the bluegrass community, we know the people who support it, we have all this stuff we could offer. We could make it big. We had to be all in.” PineCone joined forces with the Convention Center and GRCVB. The group formed a local organizing committee, fine-tuned its pitch, and knocked it out of the park. Lewis was asked to join the IBMA board as an at-large member, and PineCone was tapped as the IBMA’s local host.The first year was a major hit. The city of Raleigh showed up. So did the rest of the bluegrass world. The praise and accolades rolled in, and just a few months later, the IBMA extended the terms of Raleigh’s initial contract from three years to six.This year, Lewis says, it’ll be better than ever. He’s thrilled Alison Krauss is coming, and excited about some unique projects: At Red Hat Amphitheater, Jerry Douglas’s Earls of Leicester will pay tribute to the music of Flatt & Scruggs, and Carl Jackson’s Orthophonic Joy revisits the songs of the historic 1927 Bristol Sessions. Over at the street festival, the HillBenders will put a grassy spin on The Who with Tommy: A Bluegrass Opry; Jayme Stone’s Lomax Project will reimagine the songs collected by folklorist Alan Lomax.Lewis will cover lots of ground, and get very little sleep.PineCone director William Lewis introducesThe Bankesters as they take the stage to perform at PineCone’s Midtown Bluegrass Series at North Hills.Pulling it offOn a midsummer afternoon, a few months before his life becomes 100% bluegrass, Lewis is seated at his paper-strewn desk in PineCone’s office building in Nash Square, a staid, unadorned red-brick workhorse of a space on the edge of the Warehouse District. From here, his perspective is wide.Lewis credits the IBMA with taking a leap of faith by not only changing cities, but also changing how it did things. “We asked them to open things up, give more public access. To abandon the old model, where bands played for free. We wanted to pay the artists, and to curate and grow the fan festival.” The IBMA had qualms, especially about a free street fest on such a massive scale. Wouldn’t it cannibalize other offerings? A reasonable concern, Lewis allows, but he was certain Raleigh could pull it off. “We felt sure the formula would work. This city loves and supports live music. And we want to compete with ourselves in what we offer.”The formula? The one he came up with for the first year continues to this day: PineCone presents, in a single weekend, “a constellation of our year”: An innovative lineup mixing bluegrass legends with up-and-comers and community-based artists who have the artistic chops to tour professionally but choose to put down local roots instead. The bands get paid, but the music is free, or as close to free as Lewis can get it. “Free stuff works,” he says. “It removes barriers, and reaches into communities.”And, no branding of stages, designating “gospel here,” or “Americana there.” “Music is what it is,” Lewis says, and he wants to leave room for discoveries. “The musicians up there? They’re the ones who are going to bring you in, educate you, and get you to either connect, or not. Really, that’s why we exist.” He laughs at himself, then continues: “Not to get all existential about it! But … really. It’s all about connection.”From Georgia to North Carolina Lewis’s confidence comes from a lifetime of studying the connection between people and place. The youngest of four siblings, he grew up on farm and cattle country in Greene County, Georgia, where there wasn’t much to do but farm and ranch. He learned to play music from his father, who shared Lewis’s affinity for the rootsy sounds of the second folk revival: Dylan, Seeger, old traditionals. After high school, on a hunch Lewis still can’t quite explain – was it intuition? luck? – he headed for the mountains of North Carolina and Appalachian State University.“I didn’t even apply to other schools,” he says. “I’m from Georgia, and it wasn’t a sure thing. But I wanted it. I wanted to go to a place that I could make my own.”He brought with him a keen perceptiveness. “Maybe there’s something about being the fourth child,” he says. “I was a little quieter, and had a good sense for what the others did to get rewarded, or get in trouble. Plus, when you remove yourself from your family, your place, you can look back and see things differently.”At Appalachian, Lewis found new landscapes, and not just mountainous ones. There was a whole new sonic landscape of string bands and banjos to take in, a world removed from Georgia’s gospel and blues tradition. What resonated most deeply for Lewis were the connections between those landscapes – the links between the mountains and sound, the stories and people. One of his favorite professors, Cecelia Conway, introduced him to the old-time music scene still thriving in house parties and on porches. “I’ve always been naturally interested in how people relate to each other, and how they related to place,” he says. He earned a degree in applied anthropology in 1997, thinking that perhaps he would teach. Then, he headed for the Piedmont, interning with the N.C. Arts Council and earning a master’s degree in folklore from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2003.Lewis tunes a fiddle for daughter Anna, 9, before a youth jam session at the Midtown Bluegrass Series at North Hills. His daughter Eliza, 11, is ready with a guitar at right.Wayne Martin, Executive Director of the N.C. Arts Council and one of PineCone’s four founders, was impressed with Lewis from the start: “Right away, it was, this guy is so bright, so smart. He has a real gift for connecting with people of all backgrounds.” PineCone was the perfect destination. Lewis came on board in 2004 as associate program director, armed with a practical and powerful certainty: “Cultural resources – the arts – can revitalize economies. They can create new economies.” When PineCone’s executive director spot came open in 2008, Lewis took the helm.“With a group like PineCone,” says Martin, “and really any time you get into the folk and traditional arts, you’re looking at people influenced by family, by community. There are many layers. You need to value that, and understand how that fits into the mainstream arts community. It takes a special person to gracefully combine the professionalism, marketing, and personal connection required to make it work on all levels. William gets it.”In his elementOn a sweltering Father’s Day Sunday in June, Lewis is working the show up at North Hills. It’s part of PineCone’s newest offering, the Midtown Bluegrass Series, presented in partnership with Midtown Events. With him are his wife, Jessica, and daughters Eliza and Anna. Fiddle and guitar in hand, the girls are sitting in for the pre-show youth jam. Lewis is in constant motion. He checks in on the band, touches base with the sound crew, and helps adjust the jam tent in hopes of making more shade for the kids. Every so often, his youngest looks to him with a question, and he pauses to quietly offer a few tips; some chords are trickier than others. He is entirely, absolutely in his element.That’s not to say it’s always been smooth sailing for PineCone, or that Lewis is sure it’ll be entirely golden in the future. “We like to try new things, and we’re not afraid to fail,” he says. “That’s where insight comes from.”That kind of willingness to risk and improvise has its obvious metaphoric comparisons. “Music is restless,” says David Holt, and having studied and performed it all over the world since the 1960s, he knows. “It won’t sit still. It’s always changing, evolving. What William’s doing is honoring that. To give it a positive…nest…to be in? That keeps it going.”The same could be said of the laughing girls, including Lewis’s daughters, packed tight into a back porch settee and singing along to I’ll Fly Away on another laid-back evening in July. They know all the words, not just the chorus.They’re at a house that backs up to the North Carolina Museum of Art’s rolling fields, where Lewis’s family has gathered with friends for a potluck dinner and impromptu jam session before heading over to the museum to see bluegrass virtuosos The Punch Brothers. It’s a bit of a challenge to sing, play guitar, and laugh so much all at the same time, but Lewis is managing fine. He and his friends are trading the lead in calling the tunes, and the jokes and barbs are flying.It’s a gorgeous night. There are so many good songs, and once you hit your groove, which they do, that yen to play just one more is strong. Nobody’s watching the clock, so time will get away from them and everyone will end up racing through the museum’s darkened fields to make it to the show. But they’ll get there.It comes together like a constellation of what matters to Lewis, and of what he brings to Raleigh. Like all constellations, it’s simple, but it shines. People and place, story and song, connected by the things that matter. Ben Greene played the banjo with Lorraine Jordan and Carolina Road during the Wide Open Bluegrass festival on Fayetteville Street in Raleigh, N.C. Saturday October 4, 2014. Chuck Liddy, The News & ObserverPineCone: Growing the musicWhen Lewis says “we,” and he says “we” a lot, he means PineCone. Founded in 1984, the nonprofit has a three-fold mission: To preserve, present, and promote traditional music, dance, and other folk performing arts throughout the Piedmont region. “It’s all part of the fabric of the culture here,” Lewis says. “If you live here, it’s yours, whether you grew up here or not.”“For a long time,” says Wayne Martin, executive director of the N.C. Arts Council and one of PineCone’s four founders, “it was difficult to talk about folk art roots. In the South, there’s a tradition of it, but it’s sometimes seen as ‘not as good as’ the fine arts. Well, no. What we have is so deep, rich, and authentic, it produces incredible artists.” And what Lewis understands, Martin says, is that “Raleigh is part of a region that includes historically rural communities where these traditions thrive. Today, the ‘Raleigh brand’ includes all that. It’s both fine art and folk art, and that’s a good thing, because it’s true to Raleigh’s roots.”PineCone’s growing pool of supporters – and its ten years as a resident company at the Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts – bears this out. In the A.J. Fletcher Opera Theater and Meymandi Concert Hall, PineCone presents traditional music performances on the same stages that showcase the symphony and ballet. “I don’t know of any other state that’s got their independent, nonprofit folk art organization presenting on this basis,” Lewis says. “This is music that’s equally beautiful or moving. We elevate it, and present it differently, in a professional and respectful context.”PineCone covers the rest of the spectrum, too, because sometimes bluegrass really is best served up not on a velvet-curtained stage, but in the informal surroundings of an outdoor picnic. Or at an open jam for youth and adults. Or showcased with multiple concert series in venues across the Triangle, both indoors and out, or a weekly radio show. So PineCone does all of that, too.pinecone.org In June, Lewis joined (from left) Tim Surrett, IBMA board vice chair and bassist with Balsam Range; Denny Edwards, president and CEO of Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau; and Jim Hansen, PNC regional president, in announcing Alison Krauss & Union Station as headliners. Corey Lowenstein, The News & ObserverWide Open Bluegrass FestivalDust off your dancing shoes – the Wide Open Bluegrass festival comes back to Raleigh this year October 2 and 3. The festival celebrates the end of the International Bluegrass Music Association’s World of Bluegrass week hosted downtown, and they’ve got a pretty busy weekend planned. StreetFest turns the city into one big party, with over 50 bands playing on five stages, while the North Carolina Whole Hog Barbecue Championship serves up some serious competition. There will also be plenty of artwork to check out in Artsplosure’s Arts Market, as well as a wide selection of local N.C. products and free activities in the Raleigh Convention Center. Purchase tickets to Red Hat Amphitheater for the weekend and you’ll get to jam out with some of the best-known names in bluegrass, such as Alison Krauss & Union Station, The Infamous Stringdusters, and The Wailin’ Jennys. Definitely worth every penny.Free general entry to StreetFest; Red Hat admission starts at $50; wideopenbluegrass.com
illustration by Ippy Pattersonby Tony AventWhen most folks decide to grow a fig, they opt for something like brown turkey fig, or at least something relatively edible. Me, I’m more interested in the ornamental figs – all members of the plant genus Ficus. Okay, I’ll admit to planting an edible fig, also, but that was for my wife, Anita, who finds the taste of figs appealing.Most folks have encountered at least one or more type of fig at some point in their lives. Some have grown Ficus benjamina (weeping fig) or Ficus elastica (rubber plant) as houseplants. Others have photographed or marveled at massive, stalactite-like banyan trees, Ficus benghalensis, while on vacation in places like Florida. Others have grown Ficus pumila as a groundcover, and then there are many who have grown one of the many selections of Ficus carica to eat.I’ve spent years traveling the world looking for other potentially winter-hardy ornamental figs for our climate. During those travels, I’ve seen wild Ficus carica in Crete and dwarf groundcover figs in China, but my favorite ornamental fig is the little-known Ficus gasparriniana.My plant friend Linda Guy of Alabama first introduced me to Ficus gasparriniana in 2006 as an unknown species she had collected a few years earlier on an expedition to Sichuan, China. It took me several years to grow it large enough to be able to figure out its identity from among the other 98 fig species native to Southeast Asia. Linda’s collection appeared to be the first Western introduction of Ficus gasparriniana, which has a huge native range within elevations of 1,500 feet to 6,000 feet from Southern India to Thailand.In our garden, Ficus gasparriniana forms a small shrub to six feet tall by three feet wide in five years, adorned with dark green, deeply-incised, oak-shaped, scabrous (sandpapery) leaves. The foliage is evergreen further south, but in our winters, the leaves usually drop by early January. During last year’s cold winter, our plant of Ficus gasparriniana died to the ground, but it returned this spring with vengeance.While I like the shape and size of Ficus gasparriniana in the garden, the really cool aspect is the fruit. If the winter isn’t too cold, multitudes of small, snow pea-sized fruit begin to form in June and turn red in July. After cold winters, the fruit doesn’t form until mid-September. Regardless, fruit production continues until just after Christmas, making the shrub look like a pre-decorated holiday ornament in the garden. I can see a cottage industry growing these in containers to decorate for the holidays. So, is the fruit edible, you ask? Well, as long as you’re a bird, have few taste buds left, or are on a highly restrictive diet, absolutely. Otherwise, stick to the more palatable members of the genus Ficus.
To a Son on the Verge of Divorceby Celisa SteeleThe first time you really cried—not I’m hungry or I’m tiredbut I’m hurt—I’d snappedthe car seat buckle shut,your perfect two-month-old skincaught in the plastic jaws. I can still seethe shock and inscrutable thoughtsin your eyes. Then a wail, a keening akinto the lament of all the centuries’ forlorn,the orphaned, the widowed and wounded.Imagine cryingwith such convictionstill. As if the worstthat can be doneis done. As though the heartweren’t a mutt chainedin the muddy yardof another midnight,where it barks and howlsuntil, one day, we have no choicebut to cut it free.-Reprinted from Broad River Review- courtesy of West End Poetry FestivalWest End Poetry Festival in Carrboroby Mimi MontgomeryYou don’t have to be an experienced wordsmith to attend the West End Poetry Festival in Carrboro. Hosted October 16 and 17 by the Carrboro Poets Council, the gathering marks the 10th anniversary of the festival, and will feature poetry readings, workshops, an open mic, and exhibits from publishers. Participating poets and facilitators include Ansel Elkins, Michael Gaspeny, Maura High, Tsitsi Jaji, Terry L. Kennedy, Susan Spalt, L. Lamar Wilson, and Celisa Steele. “We’re excited,” says Steele, the Carrboro Poet Laureate and a member of the Poets Council. “We really try to have the festival bring together a diverse group of folks, and the poets so far represent a good range of styles, points in career, and backgrounds.” To give you a preview of the weekend’s literary greatness, we’ve included two poems from Steele and Ansel Elkins, both of whom will be at the event.courtesy of West End Poetry FestivalAutobiography of Eveby Ansel ElkinsWearing nothing but snakeskinboots, I blazed a footpath, the firstradical road out of that old kingdomtoward a new unknown.When I came to those great flaming gatesof burning gold,I stood alone in terror at the thresholdbetween Paradise and Earth.There I heard a mysterious echo:my own voicesinging to me from across the forbiddenside. I shook awake—at once alive in a blaze of green fire.Let it be known: I did not fall from grace.I leaptto freedom.-Reprinted from Blue Yodel by Ansel Elkins withpermission from Yale University Press- For more information on the festival, visit westendpoetryfestival.org
Matthew Roth writes poems on his typewriter, often setting up during Sola Coffee Café’s pop-up markets in North Raleigh. His practice is called Poems Typed Fresh and for $5, his customers receive a typewritten poem created on the spot.“You don’t have to have a tweed jacket to appreciate this.”– Matt Roth, clinical contracts manager and author of Poems Typed Freshby Jessie Ammonsphotograph by Travis LongMatt Roth, who works in the field of clinical research, was also once an English major. “I’ve been writing poetry for myself in fits and starts since I was in high school,” Roth says. “I’ve learned over the years that if I don’t make time to write things, then I start to get frustrated and things just don’t go well.”That became clear when he helped his wife, Tyler Roth, launch a greeting card company, and didn’t set aside time for himself to write. He then decided it was time to hold himself accountable for his own creative endeavors. Inspired by writers elsewhere (he doesn’t claim this idea as his own), Roth began to set up his typewriter outside of Sola Coffee Cafe in North Raleigh and charge $5 to write a poem on the spot. “It’s putting my back to a wall,” he says: terrifying but exhilarating, and decidedly effective. “If I’m left to my own devices, I’ll obsess over a poem or I’ll futz around with things.” It’s also a way to spark a love of poetry, he says. “I want to give people a public, unexpected experience with poetry … remind them that, hey, this is something cool that’s going on and something you can appreciate.”His operation is called, fittingly, Poems Typed Fresh. “The time limit, all of the constraints, are 100 percent set up to put me in a situation where I have to write poetry. It’s like poetry bootcamp every time.” typedfresh.com
The Perry Building reimagined by Brad Burns.Twelve Raleigh architects rethink a community’s downtownby J. Michael WeltonOn a cool, rainy Saturday afternoon in early October, three intrepid women – two architects and a landscape architect – ventured out, on foot, from Town Hall in Wake Forest. They were determined to locate a holy grail in the surrounding landscape – a natural water feature to enhance a new urban plan for the nearly 200-year-old town. The three were part of a team of 12 Raleigh architects who’d been invited by Wake Forest Downtown, a nonprofit charged with fostering the health and vitality of downtown, to re-imagine it. The architects were working en charrette – a 19th-century French term from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. It’s shorthand for an intense, day-long design workshop.Fidelity Bank by Robby Johnson and Taylor Medlin. Erin Sterling Lewis, Tina Govan, and Julieta Sherk had already taken one walking tour that morning, during which Lewis had heard about foot paths along a natural stream partially covered by concrete and asphalt. Uncovering it might be an interesting idea, the three designers reasoned. Now, umbrellas in hand, the group slipped down to Miller Park, ran across Roosevelt Street, trudged up a residential footpath on the eastern fringe, then rambled down to the town cemetery. Along the way, they monitored their stream as it surfaced at grade level, disappeared underground, then popped back up again. Returning to Town Hall, they huddled with three other architects earnestly engaged in sketching out their own design strategies. Michael Stevenson was hatching a plan for two urban “bookends” – a transportation hub at the town’s south end and a cultural hub at its north, with 1,600 linear feet of shops, homes, and offices on South White Street in between. Louis Cherry was drawing up a culinary incubator where multiple chefs could lease kitchen spaces, with a bar dropped strategically into its center. And Frank Harmon quietly sketched out a train station, a bus terminal, and residential units for the transportation hub.Johnson Building/Victorian Square by Albert McDonald.Across the room, Matt Hale was working through drawings for a boutique hotel to stand next to a restaurant he’d already designed and built. Anthony Garcia was dreaming up ways to insert a wall of storefront glass into a brick facade along the town’s Roosevelt Street gateway. Robby Johnson and Taylor Medlin were sketching out a pedestrian mall to link a pristine Town Hall with the messy vitality of commerce on White Street. Albert McDonald was working through plans for a rooftop bar on a restaurant he proposed for the intersection of White Street at Roosevelt Street. And Brad Burns was reinvigorating a forgotten Art Deco gem – transforming it from wood-paneled barbershop to light-infused cafe with indoor and outdoor seating. It all took place in a tight window of time between 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m., with presentations to town officials afterwards. The architects’ concepts are now slated for the Wake Forest Renaissance Plan – a toolbox of guidelines for future developers, investors, and property owners. And if Wake Forest Mayor Vivian Jones has her way, each of these sketches will one day become reality. “As staff and elected officials go forward, and the private sector comes into downtown, they’ll show the ideas and encourage them to follow through with them,” she says. “If they do that with the architects, that would be great – but to follow through on them is what I anticipate.” That would mean a series of positive eventual outcomes, including that daylit, holy grail of a stream, meandering in a park-like setting through the center of town.A culinary incubator by Louis Cherry.Food for ThoughtAnyone considering the idea of opening a new restaurant in an old building would do well to listen to an expert on the process.That’s the logic that leaders of Wake Forest Downtown – the organization that presented and funded the October architectural charrette – applied when they invited Chef Matt Kelly, developer and owner of Durham’s Vin Rouge and Mateo restaurants, to brief 12 Raleigh architects studying their town.Kelly spent an hour talking about the restaurant business, then fielded questions about buildings, parking, and funding. As it turns out, Wake Forest may be on the right track. “Right now, small Southern towns are on the upswing,” he says. “Davidson, N.C. has a restaurant that’s in the Bon Appétit top ten. And 10 years ago – a James Beard award in Raleigh? Who would think it?”Kelly’s experienced. He’s opened up multiple restaurants in a single year – in Charlotte at SouthPark; in Wilmington; and in Durham at The Book Exchange – spending $2.5 million in the process. He likes corner locations for their visibility and parking. And he likes to be prepared before he makes a move – though intuition does play a role. “It’s a feeling – you look at a space and you know what it is,” he says. “With designers, you have to listen but not give up your vision. As an owner you have to fight for where the budget’s going.”A restaurant’s concept and layout – plus how many diners show up – drive its profitability. Change a floor plan or add a feature, and you might lose money. “The layout is about what I can do with this space – how many seats with this concept in mind?” he says. “The concept is the variable. How much can I make from an individual in that seat? How much per square foot?”And believe it or not, scarcity of parking spaces can be an asset, not a liability, in developing a restaurant for a small town. The more people on the sidewalks, the better the business for all. “Plan on not having (your own) parking – that’s part of the gig, because you have to walk and pass other businesses,” he says. “The key is to let people know where the parking is – you don’t want it to be a secret.”Now that the economy’s on the rebound, there’s more willingness to invest in restaurants by property owners and even groups of individuals in the community. “A thousand people giving $500 each – it can work,” he says. “Anything can work.”But, the veteran chef says, 50 percent of a restaurant’s success still depends on luck.Erin Sterling Lewis and Tina Govan reclaim a hidden stream.
At the first round of the Triangle Cricket League playoffs in Morrisville, Royals batter Mayur Choudhary cheers for teammate Satbir Minhas, who had just scored a half-century, accounting for 50 runs without getting out.by Ilina Ewenphotographs by Ray Black IIIChances are, when North Carolinians hear the word cricket, they’re thinking bugs. Not the game of ball, bats, and wickets first played in England in the 16th century, now second only to soccer as the world’s most popular sport. Amazingly, cricket has 120 million players across the world, mostly in former outposts of the British Empire. Now, they hail from the Triangle, too.Royals batsman Shekhar Kalyanam talks to his teammates as he gets ready before the start of the match.Here, cricket is a sporty thread knitting together the Triangle’s rich immigrant fabric. Players from almost every country that has a national team – including Australia, England, India, New Zealand, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa, Guyana, and Barbados – play in the quickly-growing Triangle Cricket League.The League was formally established in 2010 when 10 founding teams from the Mid-Atlantic Cricket Conference split off to form their own group. The sport’s galloping growth had begun to make it difficult to manage teams all the way from Virginia to South Carolina, and local players decided a local focus was necessary. One of TCL’s primary objectives is to promote the sport among youth in the community, both those born into cricket families and those who are foreign to the game. My family is a little bit of both. Until a recent month in India, my 12- and 10-year-old sons’ only exposure to cricket was from the film Million Dollar Arm. But once we landed on Indian soil, they clamored to play the sport themselves. My cricket-fanatic uncle happily indulged the boys, and they quickly caught the bug. When we came home, we brought with us two prized souvenir cricket bats emblazoned with the signature of revered former Indian cricket captain Sachin Tendulkar, said to be the greatest batsman of all time, and a new sport to fit into our lives. Royals batsman Satbir Minhas practices his stroke before the start of the match.Morrisville Warriors’ batsman Santosh Sarikonda looks on as he waits for his opportunity to enter the game as a batsman.The league is invested in developing the youth cricket program and is now on its way to establishing a foundation of instruction and competition among children ages 6 to 17. My own sons joined a team and have introduced the sport to neighborhood kids who can be found playing in the park in front of our home. Passersby stop to watch and drivers roll down their windows, exclaiming in awe, “Wow, is that cricket you guys are playing?”That’s clear when you speak to the people making this sport take root in North Carolina soil. “Cricket provides room for thoughtful strategy or blind faith, for determined resistance or reckless abandon, for focused assault or obdurate defense; but most importantly, it offers a level playing field for all,” says Anirudh Ullal, Secretary of the Triangle Cricket League. Most players in the Triangle Cricket League played the sport from a young age. In many countries where cricket reigns, neighborhood children play with a shared bat, ball, and rudimentary markings on a makeshift field, much like baseball’s sandlots. That’s why the league is focused on bringing the sport to a new generation here, one without its own cricket tradition. Adults and children both can attend cricket camps and workshops with the league to learn the basics and participate in pick-up games. Even my Wisconsin-bred husband – who had never heard of cricket growing up – has been bitten by the bug. He’s joining a league too. Check out trianglecricketleague.org for more information or to join a league (no experience needed). Email the league officers at email@example.com to get more details. See all the league happenings on Facebook at facebook.com/tclcricket.Royals teammates, from left, Suhail Warrich, Faraz Rafi and Rinku Rana chat on the edge of the field while their team bats.The wicket, which consists of three stumps with two bails resting on top. The batsman’s job is to protect the wicket from the bowler, who tries to throw the ball and knock the bails off of the stumps.
by Mimi Montgomeryphotographs by Kelsey HanrahanDavid and Lily Ballance have been in the local restaurant and bar scene for over 20 years. Their resume is peppered with familiar names like Five Star and White Collar Crime, and they helped to open the downtown eatery Calavera.Last May, the Ballances opened their newest venture, William & Co., a cozy cocktail bar on Person St. with a cantina-meets-speakeasy vibe. The space was originally home to a pop-up ice cream shop, which Lily says she “stalked” while pregnant to fulfill her ice cream cravings.When the lease for the spot became available, the couple jumped on it. Lily says she immediately knew she wanted to create an intimate space that reflected the bar-scene culture of her hometown, Mexico City, which is filled with “very tiny, small places that have really fresh drinks.”William & Co. delivers, offering up concoctions made with fresh-squeezed fruit juices, the light fruity drinks known as aguas frescas, and produce from nearby farmers markets. The bar doesn’t have a printed menu – offerings change daily depending on what the Ballances find locally and in-season. But those in the know are sure to ask for an order of tamales with their drink. These “bangin’” cult favorites are handmade by an expert from Oaxaca. Trust us: You’ll probably want to go ahead and order two.This month, the William & Co. crew came up with a special drink for Walter, something just right for a Valentine toast. Lily calls it the perfect cocktail: not too sweet, not too dry, with just the right balance of sparkling wine, crisp citrus, and green tea gin. It’s a boozy drink that’s easy to sip and to make. Root around in your pantry for some green tea, take a dip into the liquor cabinet, and you have all the makings for a very good cocktail.Green Tea Gin Champagne Fizz1 ounce green-tea-infused gin*1/2 ounce fresh lemon juice1 ounce Dolin Blanc VermouthSplash of simple syrupSparkling beverage (champagne, prosecco, or cava)Lemon twist for garnishMix green tea gin*, fresh lemon juice, vermouth, and simple syrup. Shake and strain inside a champagne flute. Fill the rest of the glass with your choice of sparkling beverage. Garnish with a lemon twist.*Green tea gin:Pour one 750 ml bottle of gin in a pitcher with 5-6 green tea bags.Let tea bags sit and infuse for about an hour.
Gary Williamsby Mimi MontgomeryWhen Terry Thirion and her neighbors in Charlotte realized they didn’t hear nearly as many frogs croaking in their backyards at night, the artist did some research. She learned that because amphibians are highly sensitive to environmental change, they often serve as a bellwether of ecosystem health: a decline in population often indicates a compromised habitat. She also learned that frogs have been named a critically endangered group by the IUCN Red List of Threatened species.She immediately wanted to help preserve the species and its environments. Honing her artistic skills, she began the Disappearing Frogs Project in 2013, using paintings of the amphibians and their habitats to spread the message about the declining frog population. After a visit to Penland School of Crafts, she realized she could reach a wider audience by opening the cause to all interested artists. Thirion had her first collaborative show in Charlotte in February 2014, with over 200 pieces inspired by nature and amphibians. A second show in Rock Hill, S.C. soon followed.This year, she’s bringing the cause to the Triangle. With the help of Pam Hopkins, her regional director of communications, the group has 15 events scheduled in the area over three months. They recently partnered with the Amphibian Survival Alliance (ASA), a national nonprofit that works with smaller organizations to promote amphibian conservation. Each venue will feature a different collection of art from local artists, and all proceeds from the art sold will benefit the ASA.Thirion wants exhibit viewers to know that anyone can make a difference, no matter how small. “The possibility that this message gets out there is so much greater when you have more people involved,” she says. “One artist can impact 25 people.” And hopefully help expand the project’s reach, too: Thirion would like to host more shows throughout the nation and the world. “It’s important for our future as humans to have frogs around … everything we do and our footprints are important for us to take a serious look at.”Disappearing Frogs Project ExhibitionN.C. State University, The Crafts CenterFebruary 1 – March 3210 Jensen DriveBook SigningFebruary 26, 7 p.m.Quail Ridge Books3522 Wade Ave.Disappearing Frogs Project ExhibitionMuseum of Life and ScienceMarch 1 – May 1433 W. Murray Ave., DurhamArt Exhibition: The Other Toy StoryN.C. State University, Talley Student UnionMarch 14 – April 222610 Cates Ave.Disappearing Frogs Project ExhibitionMarbles Kids MuseumApril 1 – 29201 E. Hargett St.For a full list of exhibits, visit amphibians.org/disappearingfrogsproject/
by Kaitlyn Goalenphotographs by Jillian ClarkIf there’s one type of protein that’s ubiquitous in North Carolina, it’s pork. We have a rep as a hog-farming state, a tradition that holds today. Here in Raleigh, we’re lucky to have access to plenty of local and conventional pork purveyors, and until very recently, I approached the meat as if it were any other grocery store staple, a recurring anchor to many meals. But lately I’ve been making an effort to untangle pork’s availability with my consumption. Just because I could eat pork on a daily basis doesn’t necessarily mean I should. Really, “should” is the wrong word, because this resolution isn’t coming from a place of morals. It’s more about awareness. Instead of purchasing and consuming pork on auto-pilot, I’ve found it more enjoyable (both from the perspective of a cook and an eater) to make a project out of pork, using it as an excuse to learn something new in the kitchen. The best lessons from this new approach have come from my efforts to improve on any unusual cuts or scraps I’ve come across. Restaurants have been invoking this practice for a while now under monikers like “nose-to-tail” or “whole-animal.” But it’s been difficult to embrace anything resembling the philosophy at home because – let’s face it – very few of us have the space or the wherewithal to purchase and butcher a whole pig for our supper. But by purchasing from local farms and local stores, we can get a taste. Scott Crawford’s new-ish Standard Foods grocery, for example, is a perfect place to take a dive into a new cut or a strange-sounding protein. The last time I stopped in, the butcher on hand was hawking a cut of pork called an “ugly steak.” Unfamiliar with the specifics, I opted to use it in a recipe that acts as an art gallery for scraps: a sandwich. Specifically, a banh mi, which showed off not only the ugly steaks, but also made quick use of the remnants of my crisper drawer (magically transformed into pickles) and pâté (the ultimate scrap-saving dish). The resulting sandwich was far more enjoyable than a slice of bacon eaten by default. Pork banh miMakes 2 sandwiches2 medium carrots½ daikon rootSaltSugar½ cup apple cider vinegar½ pound skin-on pork belly½ pound pork steaks (such as ugly steaks from Standard Foods)¼ teaspoon ground white pepper1 tablespoon canola oil4 tablespoons mayonnaise1 teaspoon fish sauce1 12-inch fluffy baguette2 ounces country pâté (optional), cut in ¼-inch slices1/2 bunch cilantro, stems removed, roughly chopped2 jalapeños, thinly slicedSlice the carrots and daikon into thin 2-inch-long sticks. Place the vegetables in a bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Massage the vegetables for 2 to 3 minutes; they will begin to soften and release water. Drain and rinse, then place in a medium bowl. In a saucepan over medium heat, combine ¼ cup sugar, apple cider vinegar, and ½ cup water. Cook, stirring, until the vinegar dissolves. Pour the brine over the vegetables and let sit for at least 1 hour before serving. The pickles can be made up to 1 week in advance and refrigerated in a lidded container.On a work surface, rub the belly with 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon sugar. Wrap in plastic and let sit for at least 4 hours and up to overnight. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Rinse the belly, pat dry, and place on a foil-lined, rimmed baking sheet. Roast the belly for 90 minutes, then increase the temperature to 450 degrees and cook for an additional 20 minutes, until the skin has puffed up into crackling. Remove from the oven and let cool. Turn the oven down to 375 degrees.Season the steaks with ½ teaspoon salt and the ground white pepper. In an oven-safe skillet, heat the oil until it shimmers. Sear the steaks on both sides until they take on a dark-brown color, about 4 minutes a side. Transfer to the oven and cook until the steaks reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees. Let rest for 15 minutes.While the steaks are resting, mix the mayonnaise and fish sauce in a small bowl. Cut the baguette into two 6-inch lengths, then slice each piece crosswise. On the top halves, arrange the country pâté slices (if using). Smear the mayonnaise on the bottom halves. Slice the pork belly into ¼-inch-thick slices. Thinly slice the pork steaks. Divide the belly and the steak slices among the two sandwiches, layering the belly first, followed by the steak slices. Top with some of the pickles, cilantro leaves, and jalapeño slices. Serve.
We’re excited to introduce Walter Now, Walter’s very own podcast! It’s a chance for us to chat a bit about each month’s issue, present more in-depth conversations with interesting people, and keep you up-to-date on what’s happening around our office. Check it out on our Soundcloud page below – we hope you’ll tune in with us!
Meantime, her connections in the culinary world have also landed Ullum jobs making aprons for staff at Raleigh dining spots Lucettegrace, Death & Taxes, and Centro’s Bar del Corazón, as well as the popular foodie haunt FIG in Charleston, S.C. Hawks and Doves goods are available at local retail shops and online through Etsy. Business is growing so quickly that Ullom’s mother Karren Reid recently moved in with the couple to help with production. Ullom credits her large Raleigh “network of people” with supporting her as customers and by getting the word out about her products.Jessica Ullom works in her home studio.She reciprocates the shop-local mentality by promoting merchants who carry her goods on social media and sourcing as much as she can from nearby, like the leather for bags and accessories she gets from a saddle shop in Randolph County.She puts all of her goods together by hand in her home studio using a 1940s sewing machine found on Craigslist and a recently-added industrial Consew machine. The self-taught maker proudly credits YouTube videos for training her to do everything from pattern-making to working with leather.Next up: a line of bar kits for mixologists, the up-and-coming celebrities of the food and beverage world. According to Ullom, cocktail crafters are often called upon to shake-and-stir on location and need stylish, serviceable transporters for their elixirs and barware. With her network of people on standby to help, she’s ready to turn that dream into a reality. Hawks and Doves creator Jessica Ullom, above, makes utilitarian bags, home goods, and culinary gear. Her knife rolls have become hugely popular in the culinary world. by Jesma Reynoldsphotographs by Juli LeonardTurning a hobby into a career can be an unlikely dream. But by tapping into her vast trove of flea market finds – old feed sacks and Americana textiles – Jessica Ullom has turned her “borderline hoarding” tendencies into a line of utilitarian bags, home goods, and hugely popular kitchen gear called Hawks and Doves.She started in late 2012 after moving to Durham from Ohio with her husband Andrew. While he found work as a chef, sh explored local indie craft markets to sell her fine-art photography. After signing up to sell her photos at the popular Rock & Shop Market, she sewed together some pillows out of feed sacks on a lark and brought them along. The pillows sold out in less than five minutes. She knew she was on to something, and Hawks and Doves was born.Hawks and Doves creator Jessica Ullom with husband Andrew, who models one of her H&D aprons. Andrew inspired her to create a line of chef’s knife rolls.When Andrew landed a coveted culinary job as pastry chef for AC Restaurants in 2014, the couple moved to Raleigh. Ullom continued developing her custom products. Named for her favorite Neil Young album, the Hawks and Doves collection now includes bags made from vintage camp blankets, military canvases, and other reclaimed textiles. She also makes leather goods and wares for kitchen and home. Utility and sustainability are important features. “I like making something that is used every day,” she says.The chefs she knows are glad she does. At Andrew’s request, and using his design, she created a knife roll, something pro cooks use to transport their treasured set of knives from place to place. It didn’t take long before chef friends were asking for a roll of their own and offering suggestions for how to tweak the prototype. Jessica now sells three styles of waxed-canvas and leather knife carriers. The most recent one, The Greyhound, was designed in collaboration with Ashley Christensen and was included in Ruth Reichl’s 2015 gift guide. The result: record sales and sold-out stock.The Greyhound, above, was designed in collaboration with Ashley Christensen, Ullom’s husband Andrew’s boss and the couple’s friend.
These Raleighites flipped through catalogues of drawings and blueprints, selected the plan that best fit their price range and taste, and had all the materials needed to assemble that home sent right to the curb: doors, cabinets, lumber, shingles – even the kitchen sink.Nationally, Sears, Montgomery Ward, Aladdin Homes, Gordon Van Tine, and Lewis-Liberty Homes were some of the biggest names in the kit home business. Aladdin and Sears started selling the homes in 1906 and 1908, and the others soon followed suit. In its heyday, Sears sold over 70,000 homes and offered more than 350 blueprints. The advent of industrialization contributed to the homes’ popularity, as it allowed for the mass production of building materials on a wide scale. In turn, this lowered kit home costs for customers, many of whom were members of the growing middle class that wanted their own slice of the American Dream – a well-made family home.Above and below: Katie and Austin Smith, 27 and 30, knew they wanted a historic home for their first house as newlyweds. In 2014, they purchased a Sears Winona built in 1930 (the first house they viewed), with all “the charm and the character” they wanted, says Katie. The gray house with white trim is complimented by the white-picket fence they added to the front for their dog, Bailey. It’s a two bedroom, one bath, with original molding, floors, a clawfoot bathtub, and a built-in wooden cabinet in the dining room.These companies made this dream accessible: They provided payment plans, allowed customers to make adjustments in materials as desired, and sent instructions with pre-cut-and-fitted materials. Owners often assembled the houses themselves, piecing each part together, Lego-like, until the home was complete.Many kit homes were modest, three-bedroom bungalows that reflected the style of the era. Some were more ornate at higher prices; but for the most part, the majority were regular homes for regular people. Consequently, it can be hard to distinguish which are the existing kit homes within a present-day historic neighborhood, as they often look much like the houses beside them.Above and below: Maria Bleir, 40, her husband Seth, 41, and their children Devin, 8, and Aliya, 6, are one of those young families. They live in a 1927 Sears Elsmore in Five Points. The couple specifically looked for a historic bungalow in Raleigh because they wanted a home with character; that theirs happens to be a kit home is a happy extra. “You don’t get details like this anymore,” says Maria. “All-wood doors, glass knobs on the doors, transom windows – it’s lots of fun.”It helps to have a trained eye: Rosemary Thornton, a Virginia-based kit home expert and author of The Houses That Sears Built, was in Raleigh visiting her daughter when she spotted an Alhambra Sears home. “When you see one Sears home, you know there are many more,” she says.She continued to search and was thrilled with what she found: kit homes scattered all over Mordecai, Cameron Park, Boylan Heights, Oakwood, and Five Points.Briget Horton, 70, has lived in this 1928 Aladdin home in Five Points since 1983. “The Detroit” house had been divided into three apartments when Horton moved in, but she opened it again into one expansive home. An enlarged den, a half-bath, a laundry room, and a relocated kitchen are all additions to the original 1928 floor plan. She says she loves living in a 1920s home in a historic neighborhood – and she’s not the only one. “It’s funny, when I moved in, I was like the young chick on the block,” Horton says. “It was a bunch of old people. Now, it is just flooded with young families.”Thornton calls it “remarkable” and “a historically significant collection,” with many well-preserved homes featuring a wide range of styles and manufacturers. In 2012, the Raleigh Historic Development Commission and City of Raleigh Museum hosted an exhibit on Raleigh kit homes, and Thornton gave a talk at the Rialto Theatre.Raleigh’s high number may have something to do with its proximity to an Aladdin Homes mill in Wilmington during the 1920s. These houses tended to catch on quickly – once a neighbor ordered and built a kit home, others followed. It didn’t hurt that the homes were affordable and the economy was healthy. Many of the kit homes in Raleigh were built during this decade of prosperity, when American industry was booming.This pink 1927 Sears Alhambra home in Five Points is an example of one of the larger kit homes that were available. The layout calls for four bedrooms instead of the standard three, and has additional elements like a solarium.Of course, this didn’t last: Due to the financial losses of the Great Depression and the increasingly complicated structure of modern homes, kit homes waned in popularity. Sears stopped selling them in 1940, and while some companies continued to offer a small number of the homes, most did not after the mid-century.Thornton has made it her mission to preserve this segment of American history. They’re worth preserving for more than nostalgia: Their craftsmanship and quality of lumber and materials far surpasses the type typically found today, she says.A more traditional bungalow, this 1923 Sears Avondale home sits a few blocks away from Oakwood Cemetery. Its original layout consisted of three bedrooms and one bath, making it the perfect starter for a family buying their first home.But in order to preserve this legacy for the city, these homes need to be maintained, Thornton says. “When you have an old house, you need to get away from thinking of yourself as an owner, and think of yourself as the caretaker. That house is going to be around long after you are.”Here in Raleigh, that’s the plan.Want to learn more about kit homes? Check out Rosemary Thornton’s The Houses That Sears Built or visit her webpage at searshomes.org Artist Gayle Lowry, 68, lives in a 1940 Sears Crescent home in Mordecai. “This to me just has more presence and more character (than a new house),” she says. “These houses are solid; they’re substantial. The surfaces are worn, there are bite marks on the windowsills from dogs – life has been lived in this structure long before I was here, and there’s just something nice about that.”by Mimi Montgomeryphotographs by Catherine NguyenMost people know the horror of the words “some assembly required”: the miniscule parts and pieces, the half-translated instructions, the ridiculous illustrations that somehow lead you to put the entire thing together backwards. Now imagine that instead of a bookcase or wardrobe, you’re assembling something much greater – your own home.Such was the case for the families in the first half of the 20th century who purchased and built over 250,000 kit homes in the United States. An outsized number of them ordered and put together their own kit houses here in Raleigh. At least 30 are still standing today, making the City of Oaks a noteworthy Southeastern mecca of kit homes.Above and below: Anita Watkins, 43, purchased a 1927 Aladdin Plaza home in Mordecai in 2001. She lives there with husband David, 44, sons Owen, 11, and Miles, 8, and dog Jaxby. They were sure to renovate the home in accordance with historic preservation guidelines, and now have four bedrooms, two-and-a-half baths, and a patio they added based on the original Aladdin blueprints. Original flooring, windows, and plaster walls add to the historic charm. “We love it,” says Anita. “We don’t ever want to leave.”
Cassie Sebas models sportswear by designer Meaghan Shea. Photographs by Ryland Bishop, courtesy Art 2 Wear.by Liza RobertsWhat is fashion? When is it art? For 15 years, N.C. State’s College of Design has challenged its students to ask and answer these questions with Art2Wear, a student-organized runway show that showcases a juried selection of fashion, costume, and wearable sculpture.On April 22, the school’s latest crop of design talent – under the guidance of celebrated designer and faculty member Justin LeBlanc – will show how far this annual show has evolved.Incorporating fabric they’ve printed and knitted themselves, accessories they’ve stitched and forged, and boundless imagination, 10 students, whose studies range from industrial design to textiles to art and design, will showcase the polished and sophisticated results of months of hard work. The creations of Quinan Dalton, Bailey Knight, Leeza Regensburger, Susan Stephens, Meaghan Shea, Gena Lambrecht, Grace Hallman, Kathleen Davis, Angele Gray, and Annie Gray Gibbs will be on show. Their designs, which will be modeled by fellow students, include hip eveningwear and polished sportswear as well as imaginative creations that push the boundaries of fashion.Courtney Randall and Grace Bilbao model clothes by designer Quinan Dalton. Photographs by Ryland Bishop, courtesy Art 2 WearThe designers were chosen last December from a pool of applicants by a jury that included Walter editor Liza Roberts, N.C. State University Theatre director John McIlwee, Scholastic UK Creative Director Jennifer LaRoe, and author and consultant Heather Allen.The show “seeks to explore new fashion ground,” says LeBlanc. With a definition of fashion that includes “a product or sculptural piece that interacts with the body and serves as either a cultural artifact, an artistic expression, a reflector of society, outward illustration of a person’s identity…(a) starter of revolutions, economic building block, basic human need, or body covering,” you’re in for a treat and more than one surprise. Art2Wear: 7:30 p.m., April 22; Talley Student Union, 2610 Cates Ave. Tickets: design.ncsu.edu/art2wear/eventstickets
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To the right of the front entrance, a sculpture by Raleigh sculptor Paris Alexander welcomes visitors.by Jesma Reynoldsphotographs by Catherine NguyenWhen a Raleigh couple went looking for their ideal vacation home in Asheville, they imagined a log cabin deep in the woods. What they found instead was a mid-century modern five minutes from downtown with spectacular views of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The wife, a noted decorator and shop owner, was quick to grasp the exceptional qualities of the contemporary house, situated on a beautifully flat three-plus-acre lot and designed by the late Bert King, one of Asheville’s most prolific and prominent mid-century architects.A bubble chair provides prime viewing of the Blue Ridge Mountains.“I can walk into a house in Asheville and immediately recognize it’s by him,” she says. Theirs is a prime example. King “was a classic modernist who tended to design mid-size houses, taking advantage of the great views,” says George Smart, founder and executive director of Durham-based North Carolina Modernist Houses. Clean lines, an intention to bring the outdoors in, and natural materials of wood and stone are all hallmarks of a King residence. A 1949 graduate of N.C. State’s School of Design, King and his firm were widely known for commercial projects including the award-winning design of Warren Wilson Presbyterian Church and College Chapel in Swannanoa, built in 1964. And even though he designed houses more for his own enjoyment than for the income they generated, King’s 40-plus-year career resulted in forward-thinking homes all over Asheville that bear his signature style.In the entry hall, a Murano glass sculpture commands attention. The paneled wall is stained to mimic Danish teak.It’s a style the owners were eager to embrace. Most of the changes they’ve made since purchasing the house in 2008 have aimed to honor the architect’s original vision. “Everything is oriented to the view,” says the wife. “This man was a genius.” From hefty stained ceiling beams embedded in a soaring A-frame ceiling to streamlined flat-front kitchen cabinets, almost everything is original. All of the walls have been painted a bright gallery white to allow the architecture and the art (mostly local) to take center stage. In a prominent corner of the largest room – a combined dining and living space that opens to a deck and pool – a bank of floor-to-ceiling windows has replaced an obtrusive bar and tiny windows that the wife guesses must have been added by previous owners. Views of the ridgeline now intermingle with the room, connecting the interiors to the natural beauty outside.A modern textured wallpaper grounds an entry wall, where the circular pattern is echoed on the lamp base, pair of poufs, and area rug. “It wasn’t intentional to begin with, but when I started putting art up, my girlfriend came over and said ‘So, you’re doing circles,’ I said, ‘Oh, I guess I am.’”For the wife, who had no prior decorating experience with mid-century interiors, the house became a laboratory for learning about that particular style and movement: “I thought, I’m going for it. I’m going to immerse myself in this. And because I was dealing a little bit in antiques up there, I would talk to dealers who are my friends.” She was committed to featuring vintage pieces as a way to honor the house’s style and because “re-use is the name of the game.” Her aim was to create warm, modern interiors without being too much of a purist. Completed in the later part of King’s career in 1979, the house’s impeccable design made her job easy, she says.The stone fireplace, ceiling beams, and connection to the outdoors are signature elements of architect Bert King. A pottery bowl by Marsha Owen on the dining table came from the Mahler Gallery in Raleigh. The encaustic paintings above the sectional sofa is by Asheville artist Constance Williams.The kitchen, dining, and living spaces merge seamlessly to function as one spacious room. Pocket doors to the left of the kitchen reveal a study that can also function as additional sleeping quarters.And Asheville itself helped – the city’s thriving arts-and-crafts scene became the owner’s trove for colorful paintings, fiber works, works on paper, and pottery. Her approach was to choose art for specific spaces, not unlike King’s careful placement of houses within a landscape. She also tapped Asheville’s mid-century dealers to locate key objects. In the kitchen, pieces of vintage aqua-green pottery rest atop open stainless shelves where they also get a fair share of use. “We entertain a lot up there, so I’m whipping that stuff out. It’s not just for pretty.” To accommodate “all the bodies” that her three older children bring along as houseguests, there are modern sofa beds in the study and downstairs guest quarters, as well as a pair of beanbag chairs in the boys’ room that contain full-size mattresses that flip out and lay flat. It is functionality at its finest.A sweeping deck off the back of the house affords views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.A whimsical Rebecca Kinkead painting hangs above a collection of vintage, aqua-green pottery that makes for a pretty arrangement and easy access when entertating. The orientation of the bar and stools faces views of the ridgeline.A guest room blends cozy quilts, a pair of Robert Patierno woodcuts, and mid-century furniture. The metal birds are by Raleigh artist Bill Hickman.On the back of the house, a covered porch and sweeping deck are the connectors to the pool, an original feature that had been covered up. From there, one of many paths winds down to a labyrinth garden that encircles a metal sculpture by Raleighite Matt McConnell. It’s one of several works by Raleigh artists the couple have installed. A striking female sculpture by Raleigh sculptor Paris Alexander welcomes visitors by the front door, and a 17-foot earth-cast gyre, completed last summer by Thomas Sayre, emerges organically from the ground at the side of the house. “It’s tall enough to be seen from inside without taking away from the house,” the wife notes.“I always wanted a black and white room with a shot of red,” says the homeowner. She found the vintage slingchair for the study from a mid-century dealer locally. On the walls are a depiction of a waterfall by Asheville painter Mitchell Lonas and an abstract painting by Santa Fe-based artist Peter Burega.The boys’ bedroom was originally a master bathroom. “I think King would have understood our need to change the configuration. We were a young family when we bought it,” says the wife.Through the process of working on the residence, the wife developed a passion for modernism and has since traveled on tours with North Carolina Modernist Houses to Los Angeles and Palm Springs to see more examples of that particular architectural style. Last month, she and her husband hosted a dinner for a group of 35 Mod Squad enthusiasts from NCMH who traveled to Asheville to tour some of its modernist homes. Through the lens of the couple’s King-designed house, guests enjoyed views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and the thoughtful restoration of the residence. “We kept his spirit,” she says.In the master bedroom, a landscape painting by June Ball hangs above the bed; a watercolor from a hiking trip to England lends color on the opposite wall.The wife opened up a closet in the master bedroom to create an office nook that looks out on Sayre’s sculpture.Raleigh artist Thomas Sayre installed an earthcast gyre last summer on the grounds.
It’s not uncommon for Sean and Lizzy Fowler of Mandolin to use homegrown herbs and vegetables in their cuisine and flowers from their garden in place settings.“The restaurant is fast-paced and high-stress. When I’m out in the garden, I have to slow down and be in tune to the natural world. … It’s meditation, a relief.” – Sean Fowler, chef and owner of Mandolin restaurantby Jessie Ammonsphotograph by Travis LongSean Fowler knows the chef-farmer concept is not a novel one. “It definitely goes hand-in-hand with what I do,” says the owner of Mandolin restaurant in Hayes Barton. But his time spent growing vegetables, herbs, and flowers in the 5,000-square-foot plot at his parents’ home in North Raleigh goes beyond producing fresh ingredients. “Doing the manual labor, the planting and the harvesting and the weeding and moving dirt – there’s a physical outlet that fills a void for me.” It’s also Fowler’s way of returning to his roots. The land he tills on Durant Road was a horse field when he was a child. “It’s a pretty big chunk of land for that area, so it made sense,” Fowler says. “It’s where I grew up. We used to have a garden when I was young. At the time I hated it; the last thing I wanted to do was weed a garden. But my dad said one day I’d thank him. Fast forward 20 years and here I am, thanking him.” Fowler’s Southern-inspired menus have always emphasized local and seasonal crops, and now his garden provides a “small but noteworthy” portion of the restaurant’s produce. It also provides an important dose of beauty: A large part of the Fowler farm is now dedicated to flowers. These are Lizzy Fowler’s doing. When Mandolin opened in 2011, Sean’s wife Lizzy began making arrangements for the restaurant’s tables. Soon, customers were asking her to create arrangements for their homes, too. The word-of-mouth business she generated turned flowers into a thriving side project. Today, Lizzy has stepped back from arranging to focus on their 7-month-old twin daughters, Clementine and Grace, but she still grows flowers for the restaurant year-round. “There is a 3-4 month period in the summer where we rarely order flowers from other providers,” Sean Fowler says. “Lizzy and our team grow and cut what we need.” This year, the couple added a chicken coop to the mix. By the end of the year, they expect to fully supply both the restaurant and their household with eggs. He hopes the future holds goats and even more vegetables. Regardless, Fowler’s biggest priority is raising his twin daughters in the garden right where he grew up. “Being on this land – things come full circle. We can’t wait to involve them in that.”
Weird and wonderfulphotographs by Geoff WoodWhen the Raleigh Flea Market got its start in 1971, it boasted six tables and a handful of vendors. These days, the State Fairgrounds’ 20,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor extravaganza, held every weekend (except in October), is ranked by CNN as among the nation’s 10 best, and lures as many as 2.4 million shoppers a year. They come to check out more than 600 vendors who sell a weird and wonderful variety of things from art to auto parts.Just as interesting as the wares are the people – those doing the selling and those doing the buying. Photographer Geoff Wood spent the day capturing the spirit of the place. “If you’re looking for interesting characters and hidden treasures,” he says, “then the Raleigh Flea Market is where you want to be.”The Raleigh Flea Market is open at the State Fairgrounds every Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. except in October; raleighfleamarket.netJack W. Phillips wheels and dealsChase Brock of Brock’s Leather Craft stamps a name into a leather belt8-year-old Gibson Wood holds a mounted bull hornA collection of fishing luresCollections of colorful glass bottlesEmma Lee Johnson, 5, enjoys a snow coneA customer steps up for a slice of pizzaNative American turquoise and silver jewelry at Kory Kante’s boothA framed velvet Elvis Presley and animal skullsArtist Francisco Joseph of Gallery LanguedocHothouse tomatoesNathan Hodges and Pri Marrow with Marrow’s dog, NahlaKory Kante’s bohemian mobile truckWrestling action figures
courtesy Pinehurst Resortby Samantha BerlinMay is one of the prettiest months of the year to visit Pinehurst. If you’re a golfer or an equestrian, you know that already. And if you’re a shopper, walker, reader, or music-lover, you’ve also got a lot to look forward to. Make the hour’s drive for one of these upcoming events:May 6Dressage in the Sandhills takes place all day at the Harness Track on Beulah Hill Road in Pinehurst.carolinadressage.com May 12Jim Dodson, local author and PineStraw editor, will speak about his new book: Range Bucket List and Other Adventures in Golf. 3:30 p.m. at Given Memorial Library; 7 p.m. at Given Outpost; vopnc.orgMay 13A free ’80s-themed concert under the stars takes place at Tufts Park. 5 – 9 p.m.; vopnc.orgMay 13-15Check out carriage driving at the Carriage Classic in the Pines, presented by the Moore County Driving Club at the Pinehurst Harness Track.carriageclassicinthepines.netMay 19As many as 400 golfers will gather for the Carolinas Wireless Association’s 11th annual charity golf tournament. For the sixth year, the group will raise money for Victory Junction, a camp that works with children with serious illnesses and their families. The association hopes to bring its total contribution to the organization to more than $100,000 this year.carolinaswirelessassociation.comMay 28-29The Pinehurst Harness Track hosts Carolina Polocrosse each day from 9 a.m – 3 p.m. The sport resembles lacrosse – played astride a horse. carolinapolocrosse.com