Say hello to a joint style post! Hopefully I can do more of these in the near future, particularly because I have such adorable friends.
I began my Creative Masters interview series in order to feature creative entrepreneurs who are a shining example of manifesting your goals and dreams. However, I quickly realized that there is just as much inspiration to be found in a newcomer – particularly because their decision to pursue passion over practicality is recent and fresh in their minds and hearts. I now present to you a “sister” series that I will call Creative Makers: a showcase of artisans, performers, and business owners who are new to the game and ready to give it their all.
Within five minutes of meeting Rachael at Thread Count, I knew we would become fast friends. Her infectious laughter and evident love for all things well-made really made me feel like she was a kindred spirit from a previous lifetime. After only meeting me once, she so graciously opened up her home and studio to show me where the leather magic happens. That’s right people – leather. magic! Rachael Riedinger is the creator of Neva Opet, a line of hand-crafted purses and accessories that exemplify a modern take on the marriage between functionality and form. Her gorgeous array of leather and canvas bags were enough to make me swoon, but after getting to know her over iced lattes (made by Rachael herself) and scrumptious pastries, I knew I wouldn’t go home without one of her beautiful creations. Her work is dripping with passion and can be found via Neva Opet’s website, Etsy, and Facebook. Be sure to keep tabs on this one, ladies. I’m sure in a few years you will have wish you had bought one of her bags today!
First things first. Describe the personality or type of woman you make your bags for.
I make my bags for myself and for women like me. I like minimal things done in great materials that will last a lifetime. A woman like me is someone who appreciates art, design, and minimalism – likes things a bit more understated. I think shopping habits have taken a change and people want to purchase things that they will keep forever. I’m hoping people won’t treat my bags preciously or baby them because they are meant to live and mature with their owners. The materials I use only get more awesome with age.
That’s a cool way to look at an accessory – like a lifetime companion. So how did you learn to make what you make? Where did the impulse come from?
Well I started sewing when I was 14 years old. My mom gave me a sewing machine for Christmas and I started sewing all the vintage silhouettes and patterns I couldn’t find in stores at the time – like peg leg pants (skinny jeans) or just band patches onto my jackets. It just snowballed from there so I’ve been sewing for 11 years now. I just really enjoy making things and after one really awful job, I decided that I wanted to do something that I love. Even if it pays half as much, I’m still so much happier. In regards to the leather work specifically, I’m entirely self-taught. It took a long time to figure out the ins and outs of leather and I still learn something new every time I work. But because of that, each bag I make is better than the one before it.
Which part of the crafting process do you enjoy most?
Hmm. That’s tough. On one hand, I really love the transformation of materials – seeing the fabric or leather become a finished product. But I also really love it when I see that someone else enjoys the bag as much as I enjoyed making it. It’s just such a gratifying thing to see a stranger say “I love this,” and it makes me want to design more. Otherwise, I’d probably just end up with a bunch of bags in a room.
In the spirit of doing cool and cheap things off the beaten path, Ben and I decided to go to an open house at the Southeast Fiber Arts Alliance. We had both never heard of it before and the term “fiber arts” was all we needed to be interested. He and I share a love of textile, patterns, and tradition.. so why not? Tucked away in an unassuming office building complex, we found a bustling room full of small local non-profit organizations who had some incredibly interesting objects to share.
From silk painting to lace making, I was amazed by my lack of knowledge on the processes that transform fiber into the beautiful garments we wear every day without a second thought. Take a look at that small strip of white lace in the photo below. That took TWELVE HOURS to craft using those wooden tools. Seeing the blue lace come together was like watching swan lake; the effortless precision used to create this incredible thing of beauty was simply extraordinary. It had never occurred to me that lace was made string by string like this.
Ben and I learned how to work the loom! Again, what a painstakingly long process to make a seemingly simple piece of fabric. The woman who showed us the steps said she saw it as more of a meditation than an art considering how simple it truly was. I beg to differ though, seeing as how I consider my own art a meditative process as well. Repetition and simplicity does not diminish a craft, but merely emphasizes the importance of the passage of time and dedication utilized to achieve the goal product.
I want a yarn-bombed tree in my new place or yard pretty badly.
There are some places that I want so badly to be good, but no matter how hard I try to give them the benefit of the doubt, I just can’t deny my disappointment. I really don’t enjoy writing negatively, but keeping my writing voice honest is very important and in order to do that I also need to share my experiences that aren’t so perfect.
I’ve visited West & Mill twice now and both times were for a leisurely brunch, free of pressure or expectation. On Sunday mornings, I just want something that makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside. Sometimes all it takes is a good coffee and a bagel and other times I need a tad bit more effort. West & Mill is at a great location in West Midtown, right across the street from Octane. It has a cute and quaint little dining room which is a slightly weird, but cool mixture of European bistro and contemporary industrial. By looks and looks alone, all signs point to a pleasant dining experience.
There are way too many effin cute neighborhoods in Atlanta. It’s wonderfully overwhelming and keeps me feeling alive to discover all the little gems scattered inside the perimeter. A recent Saturday took me to East Lake in search of Thread Count, a unique vendor’s market focused on raising awareness for local craftsmanship, sustainability, and design. In other words, it pretty much had my name written all over it plus there was no cover charge at all. I expected the typical Atlanta craft market experience where you come, covet, eat, and leave. Little did I know that East Lake’s neighborhood would charm the pants off of me. Why?… Just look.
On the way to Thread Count, Ben and I stumbled upon the East Lake Urban Farm. Due to our impending move to a duplex unit with a backyard begging for a garden, I’ve recently become obsessed with nurseries, farms, and vegetable gardens. Perhaps it’s the farm to table trend seeping into my blood. Perhaps it’s my desire to save money. Either way – it’s a healthy new interest and I’m looking forward to what I might be able to pull up from the earth with my own two hands. In the meantime, I’ll just keep ogling cute places like this.
The event was held in the East Lake Community Garden which is filled rows of blooming vegetables and a den of weed-eating goats (even little ones). Though there weren’t many vendors in total, each one was dripping with a genuine desire to share the love of their craft. Not to mention there was also free beer from New Belgium. Did I mention that I like stuff that’s free?
I met a number of darling artisans who were just beginning their creative journey. Like KJo – audiologist by day and jewelry maker by night! She scavenges for vintage items and reclaims them into sweet little pieces to wear. Her display felt like the awesome attic of an eccentric aunt who has a taste for the feminine along with the slightly strange.
And Rachael of Neva Opet, who hand-crafts elegant leather accessories. She’s an absolute doll and more on her later!
Do you need any more convincing to go see East Lake for yourself? Just a little drive around the neighborhood will do you a world of good, but a visit to the garden and farm will be enough to make you want to plant your own roots here.
Iman works at the art gallery where I first began my journey here in Atlanta. She wasn’t hired immediately after we interviewed her, but she was always lingering in the back of our heads. She exudes a quiet and graceful beauty that sneaks up on you and stays. I try to visit the gallery for every opening night and at the last one, Iman looked completely stunning (in that subtle way she has). Her pairing of white jeans with this sheer shirt-dress is just the best.
Completely elegant casual. It’s no surprise that she not only dresses beautifully, but creates beautifully as well. Her sculptures and drawings are as delicate and earthly as her fashion style reflects. These are some of my favorite pieces of hers:
I’ve lived in Atlanta for about three years now so you can imagine how many art festivals and markets I’ve been to. After a while, everything starts to look the same to me. Not in a bad way – just in the fact that I’ve seen all the local vendors already. Thankfully, I was recently and pleasantly proven wrong when I stumbled upon MDC Interiors at ARTlantis.
In their sweet and humble booth full of tiny treasures, I met the warm and ever-so-lovely Mona Patel. She and her partner, Mike, began MDC Interiors to craft custom objects that are visually striking as well as beneficial for the environment. While I didn’t get to see their furniture pieces (due to the limited amount of space), I absolutely fell in love
When my family comes to visit me, they usually take me to places I would have never gone myself. One of these places is Helen, Georgia. In an effort to see some natural beauty, we set out on a short road trip and found ourselves meeting the Blue Ridge Mountains of North GA. Here, just a couple hours from Atlanta, is where you’ll find Anna Ruby Falls – a humble yet still gorgeous spot in the Chattahoochee National Forest. The actual trek to see the falls is really easy so it’s a bit more fitting for a leisurely afternoon stroll rather than a true forest hike.
Just as interesting as the waterfall were all the quirky country shops speckled throughout the town of Helen. The architecture of the main street is meant to be a re-creation of historical German alpine villages (I tried to take pictures but they all looked hella boring), but it ends up being sort of like a second-rate Epcot scene. While it feels a bit lame, there’s something that’s also weirdly charming about it all.
A Georgia road trip just isn’t complete without a stop for boiled peanuts and tchotchke-browsing. Although it seems like my family and I never actually manage to eat all the peanuts we buy for ourselves.
….Oh, also gem stones. Yes, I said GEM STONES. Are they real? Maybe. Are they pretty? Definitely. I didn’t purchase any because I have no earthly idea of what I would do with them. So I thought I should at least take some pretty pictures.