September kicked off our Coast to Coast series with Design Milk where we, Colony, a NY-based community of independent furniture, lighting, textiles and objects designers, set out to explore the United States in the name of design, discovery and inspiration. Our travel itinerary was set to discover new talent and expressions of American design, art and craft. On the second leg of our tour we visited Nashville, TN, a bastion of southern creativity that contrary to popular assumption, doesn’t start and end with music.
Our time in Nashville felt like a treasure hunt, where one great studio visit led to three more friends we had to meet. With a bevy of art schools in close proximity, Nashville is home to a creative community teeming with hometown pride tempered with a fine art sensibility. With just a bit of exploration we were able to uncover a talented community of artists working to grow local industry without losing the city’s artistic roots.
On the lobby level of Noelle, creative consultant Libby Callaway has curated Keep Shop, a luxury retail store that features a mix that’s heavy on local designers and makers, as well as vintage and national brands that are hard (or impossible) to find elsewhere in Nashville. In addition to apparel and jewelry, Keep Shop features home accessories, apothecary, books, independent fashion and design magazines, and a selection of electric Faraday bikes. Exclusive products from local favorites such as natural beauty and wellness shop Lemon Laine, children’s wear brand Arcade Nashville, and local womenswear brand Jamie + The Jones among many others.
Painter and Nashville native Emily Leonard has a gestural style that is rooted in southern landscape, but through a uniquely cultivated layering process impresses ethereal results. Says Emily of her work: “My pieces both take time and contain time. I want them to come upon the viewer as such – slowly and intimately, as if the viewer feels like he found this image instead of me. Iʼm interested in the experience of being in your body in a place.” This sentiment is expressed not only in her paintings but also in her beautifully considered home and studio, where charming and authentic details abound.
The epitome of the proverbial Nashville treasure hunt is Elephant Gallery, both an art gallery and artists studio space and home to all the eccentricities this community has to offer. Watching founder Alex Lockwood tour us through a building filled with both delightful and challenging art was like watching a Nashville kid in a Nashville candy store. Ceramicists Jessica Cheatham of Salt Ceramics and Becky Blevins create many of the noteworthy Nashville ceramic works out of their shared studio space.
Zeitgeist has been a staple on the Nashville art scene since 1994. Started by Janice Zeitlin in Cummins Station, it has served as a cultivation ground for new artists and a safe place for established artists to experiment and grow. The gallery represents such local artists as Alex Blau, a graphic, layered and bold painter, and multimedia artist Vladis Turner. Through her work, Vadis explores the transformative possibilities of feminist materials. Commodities created for and produced by women are translated into storied abstract paintings and sculptures.
Founders Kelly Diehl and Elizabeth Williams of New Hat Projects specialize in custom wallpaper and interior installations. Their practice is rooted in Nashville through and through, with a project and client list that reads like a design listings page of the city. Earlier this year, they launched Collection One, their first foray into wallpaper available by the roll.
Thank you to JW Marriott for making our Nashville trip possible and for providing the team with a beautiful experience in the JW Marriott Nashville hotel. The modern interiors were designed by Stonehill Taylor with a nod towards the city’s industrial past and its southern roots.