Archive for the ‘Editor’s Letter’ Category

Super / Natural

Posted on

Portrait by Chelsey Ashford Photography

A few weeks ago, author and frequent TOWN contributor Scott Gould came to me with an idea. He wanted to honor the South Carolina Governor’s School of the Arts & Humanities’ top graduating students in dance, drama, creative writing, music, and visual art. Because Gould teaches creative writing at the Governor’s School, I thought it fitting for him to pen it. And because light is an evocative symbol of talent, thought, and excellence, we decided to use it prominently in the student portraits, with Paul Mehaffey masterfully executing the photography. “Speed of Light” tells where these students have been and where they’re going, thanks to those who recognized a glint of their talent.

With each edition of TOWN, we aim to go better and brighter than the last, sharing new ideas, experiences, and voices. For our annual arts issue, we present a mix of creatives who aren’t only dazzling by trade, but who are also using their work to amplify the lives of others, to break barriers, and to change the status quo. Art does that.

Artists are like superheroes. They expose us to new ways of thinking, to things beautiful and moving. They see life in alternative ways. They feel it more keenly. They are like conduits of spirit, channeling emotions into physical being, into experiences that delight us, calm us, or challenge us.

With our illustrated cover and the stories within, we suggest that artists are larger than life and touched with special gifts that move us in extraordinary ways. They may not leap tall buildings in a single bound, but their talents often defy logic. We are inspired by inspired people. And that’s a wonderful thing.

—Blair Knobel
Editor-in-chief

Here & Now

Posted on

Spring, in its delicate, feminine energy, crashing about one day while sweetly whispering the next, tells us that it’s time to shed old skin, connections, habits that just aren’t serving us anymore. In vibrancy and destruction, clouds of pollen, wispy blooms and electric green, we’re spun into chaos, but also newness. We’ve never seen this time before. We’ve never been here before.

The past isn’t pointless; it can direct us if we use it wisely. But living there, dwelling on it, will keep you from understanding the point of what spring calls each of us to do—transform, revive, and renew. Our energy is as powerful, as capable, and as beautiful as nature’s because, in essence, we are of the same stuff.

Our annual Spring Style issue brings fashion to the forefront, but also an intentional selection of stories that reflects themes of the season: the opportunity not only to refresh but to become wholly changed. Elegant style, exceptional design, charming spaces, one-of-a-kind restaurants, a feast of April that we adore—but the crux of it all is examining the ingredients in their raw state, stories of creativity, of movement, of regeneration, as much as of lovely things.

To know spring is to revel in its pleasures. But that’s only half the point. It’s also an alarm, a jolt, an awakening, saying—Hello! It’s time to start again.

The Road

Posted on

We asked Monica Stevenson to put her photographic twist on our feature story. For the result, see “Double Lens.” Photo by Paul Mehaffey

Monica Stevenson lives a double life.

I met her last summer when she wanted to show me her portfolio. Many photographers reach out to do the same. Monica, I learned, is different; she has a home in Tryon, North Carolina, and one in New York City. Her commercial photography studio is there, and she shoots for major brands like Cartier, Chanel, and Tiffany & Co. When in Tryon, however, her focus turns from glossy, digitally pristine composites, to stunning, digital and film portraits of equine life.

“Lately, even though I’m shooting digitally,” Stevenson confesses to contributing editor M. Linda Lee in her profile of the artist, “I will often set things incorrectly on my camera so I can allow the pathway for a mistake to happen.”

Stevenson not only welcomes mistakes—she seeks them out. It’s a compelling quality for one who’s hired for her technical prowess. Perhaps that’s why in Tryon she chooses a different path, one based more in emotional response than in slick presentation. In this way, she achieves balance, both creatively and personally.

While we applaud excellence, we realize it’s not one-sided. The slips, the slides, the cracks, the mishaps—the mistakes—are not only necessary, but should be invited. In Eastern thought, this is considered Wabi-sabi, or the philosophy that there is beauty in imperfection, that, in the words of Leonard Cohen, “There is a crack in everything; that’s how the light gets in.”

What if failure is just another version of success? There will be dips and bumps, curves taken too quickly, branches in the way—but just when the tunnel is its darkest, the route then opens to a grand view. We each walk a road. Everything along it, the bad and the good, makes it our own.

To know greatness, in business and beyond, means to accept the lows and the highs—both the dark tunnel and the light at the end.

 


Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNO

What’s New

Posted on

Scott Gould (right) interviews Bertis Downs at Downs’s office in Athens, Georgia, on January 6.

“Something that used to be something else has evolved into something better than anyone could have possibly imagined,” Scott Gould writes in his feature story on Bertis Downs, manager and advisor for the band R.E.M. Gould is referring to an aspect of Athens, Georgia, where Bertis lives and where R.E.M. formed and took root in the city’s glorified music halls in the early 1980s. Gould’s sentence struck me in a broader way, too. The same could be said for the South as a whole—at least for its effort to renew itself while keeping intact its best traditions and cultural values.

For this issue, we set out to present exceptional Southern cities. But, as often happens during the process, we were led to new insights and more complex views. The stories we found tell a greater one about the experience of the places in which they are set, and, collectively, they exemplify the South’s quintessential ability: reinvention. The South does a lot of things well, but it may be best at transformation—not only becoming something different, but becoming something exceptional.

This happens when the right mix of talent and opportunity is in play. Former mills become luxury apartments; gas stations become hip restaurants. Sleepy college towns become the breeding ground for famous musicians. A Virginia capital becomes a mecca of style and design. A former seafood shack becomes, well, a better seafood shack. It’s a potent cocktail of chance, of being “at the right place at the right time,” and it just so happens that the South enjoys its fair share of strong drinks.

It is difficult to see what could be while you’re dealing with what is. But the South seems to have the gift of prophecy and a stubborn streak—and what has been is now better than ever before.


Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

That’s a Start

Posted on

photo by Chelsey Ashford

Many of us wish away January into warmer days and spring flowers, dismissing it as too bleak, too boring, too sad.

But I sing the song of winter. I want it to last just a bit longer. I crave the deep blue sky at dusk, the sun burning down in a streak of red, the bend of sinewy branches against the dim. I demand a log fire, Netflix by candlelight, misty mountains, and breath in the cold. I have a January romance. There is nothing like winter to ground you, wake you, bring you back to this moment. To remind you, quite sharply, that you are alive.

January offers a pause, an opportunity to reset our minds and intentions for the year, to reflect on the people who influence us, the desires that drive us, the objects that surround us.

For the Pinner family, objects are the crux of their new year and business venture Broaden Goods, born of their travel to Morocco and a collective desire to personally connect with its artisans and bring their wares to an online marketplace (see “Faraway Home,” page 86). From textiles and basketry to leather and ceramics, like the beautiful Fassi Heritage Bowl on our cover, Broaden Goods are hand-made and imbued with a sense of place, history, and culture. The Pinner brothers, Nathan and Brian, and their wives, Katelyn and Tessa, chose Broaden as the name, which is more like a directive: to look beyond your world, widen your view, and gain a better understanding of your own life with a renewed perspective.

January stuns with crisp-clear clarity: brilliant sunshine; an unexpected snowfall; steam curling from a mug. Be thankful for this month—its beauty and silence, and its opportunity to reflect, whether outside or in.

 


 

 

 

 

Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

 

Jivan and Kathryn Davé styled and photographed our January cover. “A wide, open bowl spilling over with satsuma oranges—the picture of openness and abundance felt like the perfect salute to a new year.”

 

Yes, Chef

Posted on

Sean Brock’s wisdom is like his cooking: deep, with a Southern inflection. “Everything goes back to the dirt,” he says.

Contributing editor M. Linda Lee recently sat with the James Beard Award winner at Husk Greenville, Brock’s Upcountry location of his popular restaurant that celebrates Southern food. Sean’s authenticity and warmth belie his celebrity—he’s appeared as a featured chef on PBS’s Mind of a Chef series, and is chef/partner of the Neighborhood Dining Group, which owns eight restaurants across the Southeast. He lives mostly in Nashville, where he has a penchant for collecting guitar pedals, nineteenth-century cookbooks, and French bulldogs.

Blair Knobel at Husk Greenville with Sean Brock and Linda Lee, who wrote the cover story; Brock has many extracurricular passions, including collecting guitar pedals and playing electric guitar. Art director Paul Mehaffey photographed the chef on November 3, 2017, at his home in Nashville, Tennessee.

For Brock, food is more than a meal, more than just pieces and parts. To eat is not only an experience—it is transcendence, particularly when it comes to the flavors of home. Ingredients are historical markers, in the form of seeds. The food of our land is a key to time, not only defying it but defining it, as well.

“Seeds are the keepers of stories,” he says. “They carry the wisdom of hundreds of years. Seeds tell a story about a very particular place and period of time and a family. If those seeds don’t survive, that story is lost. Seeds allow us to stay connected.”

Sean Brock is a storyteller.

“I have found that the true breakthrough discoveries are in the spoken word, through sitting down with someone and asking them what they ate as a kid and what their grandma cooked. Food is the great connector,” Brock says.

As we sit with our friends and families this season, the chef’s philosophy comes into sharp clarity: the food we eat is the experience we live.

Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief
Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

Power of One

Posted on

Photograph by Paul Mehaffey; hair and make-up by Desireé Roberts; sweater courtesy of designer, Allyson Ansusinha

November is a fine month. Between October’s football and bonfires and December’s sensorial chaos, we have a glorious four weeks in between to sit back, take in the view, and indulge. In this blessed window, we may reflect on the year’s comings and goings, and what we’ve gained, lost, and ultimately learned from.

We allow ourselves the opportunity to remember, and account for, the gifts in our lives: the relationships where we find security, that inspire us, that provide the chance to share time, talent, and treasure. Giving is like dominoes. One act pushes another, opens a new view. It’s in the act of giving that we find reward and pleasure.

Sometimes giving isn’t about being present; it’s about offering space and breathing room. It’s about refraining, preserving our energy so that our minds and bodies can be healthy and able to serve. In absence, in drawing back, we’re able to see our edges. We are able to live—and give—more effectively.

Our ways of showing care are different and singular, like the bend of a signature. We put our own spin on how we give. Like our fingerprints or the scars that we bear, our ways of service are personal and profound. After all, there is only one of you, here.

So, give. It’s a potent word that doesn’t require much fanfare. It is the bell. It is the whistle. And it means something different—yet the same—to us all.

Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief
Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

Landscape of Style

Posted on

Photograph by Paul Mehaffey; hair and make-up by Desireé Roberts; sweater courtesy of designer, Allyson Ansusinha

In autumn, the bend of the light changes. Nights become longer and cooler, colors shift from green to yellow to auburn. We mirror what we see, donning jackets and boots, layer upon layer, drawing closer and more reflective as the days turn inward. The seasons alter our feelings, priorities, and interests, just as the Earth responds to our presence in it.

Style is more than material, and October is more than cinnamon brooms and pumpkin spice lattes. In summer, we wear what we can. In fall, we wear what we want. Our style feature “Ends of the Earth” showcases elements of fashion—layers, textures, colors—as reflections of the changing features of our landscape. In this issue, we pay homage to this dynamic season that burns and twists in the wind, celebrating retailers, curators, and crafters of great style and design, many of whom call Greenville their native home, and whose reach extends far beyond our city limits.

We often miss what’s right in front of us. Some call it farsightedness, others our blind spot. The closest things are often overlooked. We tend to see with our mind’s eye, through the lens of our preferences or what we believe is best. Sometimes it’s difficult to take in the magnitude of what’s beside us.

But there is no need to go far to find your place—or exceptional style. It’s right under your feet. All you have to do is look.

 

Behind-the-scenes of our annual fall style shoot with model Addie McBryde and photo assistant Justin Nix.

blairsignature

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

That’s an Idea

Posted on

photo by Chelsey Ashford

In November 7, 1997, Carl Sobocinski hit gold. That day, his eponymous restaurant Soby’s opened in a former shoe store on Main Street. At the time, the Westin Poinsett Hotel was dilapidated and boarded up, and walking in that area of downtown was a questionable prospect at best. There was no trolley, no bookstore, no tables for shooting the breeze. But Sobocinski loved the building and the art of hospitality and knew he wanted a restaurant—right there.

Today, nearly 20 years after its opening, Soby’s is the flagship of Sobocinski’s restaurant empire Table 301. It is arguably Greenville’s most known restaurant, turning out fried green tomatoes, crab cakes, and fried chicken in a classic brick building that feels both warm and refined, approachable yet upscale. Carl himself could be described this way, one of the most charming and down-to-earth CEOs you’ll ever meet—easy with a smile and intentional gaze.

What unifies people who make things, change things, shift things for the better? It isn’t only insight. It isn’t just creativity. Sure, these are necessary and present in varying degrees. But the thing that unites such change-makers is defiance. A willingness to pursue goals, to push in a new direction despite obstacles. Why take a chance on a building in an area rife with crime and virtually no foot traffic? Because Carl Sobocinski understands that risk is the rub, and the edge offers the best view.

Sometimes, an idea nags until we can no longer ignore it. Change begins within us, as it began in Carl and the other visionaries presented in our annual People Issue. They could’ve smothered the drive, the desire to shift. Instead, they nurtured their ideas with care, shelter, and sustenance.

Our city, like all cities, is organic, in motion, shifting and pulsing and morphing each day. It is alive because we are alive. Change literally happens overnight, if we wish to acknowledge it. These individuals, and the people before them, have made Greenville what it is. What will it be tomorrow?

Artist Sunny Mullarkey McGowan rolls the ink onto her block for this issue’s cover. For more on Sunny and her work, click here.

blairsignature

Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

The Best of Men

Posted on

Photograph by Eli Warren

Men live to tell a good story. In the case of some, they don’t have to embellish it; they opt for understatement. Their reputation precedes them. These are the genuine article, gentlemen of the finest order. They take care in their manner, dress with a fine touch. They aim for chivalry and aren’t afraid to show their soft side. They play for keeps.

Take Pastor Terry Ferrell. In his youth, he was a friend to a man named Ansel Adams. In his prime, he saw the beauty and benefit of buying a collection of pottery made famous by a slave named Dave. In between, he gave himself to work and God, raising a son, Stephen, who became a famous potter in his own right. Because of Ferrell, Edgefield Pottery, and the beautiful work of hundreds of slaves, continues to live on. Ferrell also continues to preach and maintain the remaining pieces in his collection. At 95, his mind is as agile as a man half his age (see “Kingdom of Clay”).

While their stories vary, men have a collective way about them. Like women, they draw close, seeking companionship and camaraderie. They come together in private circles, drinking clubs, poker games, and golfing outings. It’s best if there is a good cigar, whiskey, or new toy in the mix. Men, together, like to blow off steam, talk the talk, and even challenge each other.

For Jay Motley, a personal interest in bourbon led to his desire to sample new bottles with friends. Top shelf, bottom shelf, in between, Motley doesn’t discriminate (on sight, anyway); he samples, considers, and collects. Now, several years later, he and 10 men meet monthly as the Distinguished Gentlemen’s Club, where they talk family, politics, and the weather—then taste a bottle of something interesting (see “Tasting Table”). Could be whiskey, could be wine. Could even be coffee. They are in it for the pleasure of the pour, to learn something in the process, but perhaps most especially to learn from each other.

The best men live in simple ways, fast ways, loud or quiet ways, but never in small ways.

Greenville Country Club members enjoy the Annual Meeting dinner on the terrace, circa 1949. For more on the new clubhouse, see “Building a Dream”.

blairsignature

Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

Escape Tactics

Posted on No Comments

We’ve all been there. Incessantly staring and swiping, hoping for a ping, a promise, a distraction. These days, our screens are more like bodily attachments than technological helpmates. We slip easily into pixelated addiction.

But social media allows us to channel someone else’s world for a while—stories of trips to faraway places or hikes happening on a Wednesday afternoon. Our virtual escapes lead to inevitable wanderlust: grand views and rugged canyons, wild beaches with unobstructed ocean views, big city romps to big name restaurants. Escape is more than a change of location—it is an expansion of experience, which helps us to challenge our preferences, our attitudes and sense of self. We can achieve this without leaving, but travel makes the journey so much sweeter.

This issue is packed with ideas for your next vacation, whether it be hyper-local (we interview Wendy Lynam, owner of Greenville’s Swamp Rabbit Inn & Properties, page 40), international (in “Out of Town,” the TOWN staff recounts past trips near and far, page 71), or somewhere in between (like Door County, Wisconsin, the Cape Cod of the Midwest, page 50). But the reward is more than the destination. Travel allows us to discover what makes us tick, what we are thankful for, what we can live without. Sometimes escape is about indulgence, sometimes about absence; sometimes adventure, sometimes rest. The best ones, I’ve found, include all of these.

The pull of the screen is strong, and it can direct us, inform us, and enlighten us. But the world beyond the drug is actually better than the dream—because it’s real and right before our eyes.

blairsignature

Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL

Natural Life

Photograph by Eli Warren

Being outside is essential—it’s a call delivering us from our homes, our desks, our man caves. Nature offers space and clarity, a reminder that life is much bigger than any nagging deadline, argument, or neurosis. Time outside offers pause, a moment to catch our breath, to calm down. It’s often our best therapy.

Going into nature isn’t just a physical act; it is spiritual instinct. Being outdoors helps us to untangle our lives, see the line more clearly. Feel the current. Catch the bounty. Katie Cahn, a fly-fishing guide at Headwaters Outfitters near Brevard, North Carolina, sees it as meditation as much as sport: “The cold and rainy days are the best,” she says. “There’s something about putting your mind and body through those elements and ending the day with a beer and story to tell your loved ones.” Similarly, Steve Grose, fly-fishing expert at Luthi’s Outfitters in Greenville, offers, “I just love the experience of fly-fishing. It’s very relaxing. It’s the opportunity to leave all your troubles and worries somewhere else for a little while.” Time in nature quiets the perpetual mind-static that plagues us.

Dr. Matt Crumpler felt a call for the woods during college. As a sophomore at Clemson working toward medical school, Crumpler spent many nights in the library or the lab. During a study break, he found a book on the Appalachian Trail and decided almost immediately to change course, pausing his collegiate career to take a hike. “My experience on the AT was vast, varied, personal, and collective. I experienced the best and worst times of my life out there. It was a personal journey that provided a great opportunity for adventure, freedom, solitude, and introspection. At the same time, it was an incredible social experience. I was surrounded by a ‘rag tag fellowship’ of other thru-hikers who came from all walks of life. We had a common goal and a common calling that drew us out of routine life and into a shared adventure,” he says.

Nature is often our best teacher. In the woods, our path might not be clear, but we push forward trusting the way. In the river, the current runs quickly, sometimes violently, but also so sweetly and serenely. In fresh air and sunshine, we feel right where we should be, with no agenda and, if we’re lucky, no service. When we head for the mountains or the water, we’re doing more than something physical. We’re freeing ourselves.

Assistant editor Abby Keith rises to the demands of her job, as she assists Paul Mehaffey on our photo shoot with Steve Grose

blairsignature

Blair Knobel, Editor-in-Chief

Twitter / Instagram: @LBKNOBEL