Designers and Artists from Raleigh make their mark.
By Sioux Watson
Featured banner photo of Windblown by Joanna Pacchioli of Johannasue Photography.
Bekah Bohlen sells her handmade letterpress goods at Gather Goods, and has also led letterpress workshops there. She participates in pop-up markets such as The Curated Assembly, which was recently put on by Z’Artiques, and The Handmade Market put together by The Handmaidens. And last year she came up with a solution to taking her goods on the road in the form of The Cat Call Tiny Shop.
Cat Call Collective
Bekah Bohlen, Stationery Designer + Shop Owner
Cat Call Collective – stationery, lifestyle and home goods
www.catcallcollective.com, Photos by Anna Goodson Peeples
In February 2016, after winning a #Girlboss Foundation Grant, Bohlen and her husband Martin were able to build an 18' x 8' shop from scratch atop a flatbed trailer – and now, with just a car and trailer hitch, she can bring her store anywhere. It is custom-fitted with retail counter space and shelving to display and sell her line of goods in her own “tiny house store” environment.
Bohlen finds it liberating owning her own multilayered business platform, where she can sell her custom letterpress designs in the form of art prints, greeting cards, and stationery anywhere. She’s since expanded the business by curating a line of handmade goods from 14 other made-in-the-USA brands, about half of which are North Carolina artists. The collection of goods includes textiles, jewelry, skincare, ceramics, and of course, stationery. The mobile and online retail shop is managed from wherever she happens to be at the moment, whether it be in her mobile shop, at home in her printing studio, or in downtown Durham, where she works during the week as a graphic designer for men’s and women’s fashion store Vert & Vogue.
Escazu Artisan Chocolates
Hallot Parson, head chocolate maker
Danielle Centeno, head chocolatier
Escazu Artisan Chocolates
936 N Blount Street| Raleigh| 919.832.3433
In a small “workshop” located in the Mordecai neighborhood sits Escazu. The space also contains its retail store, and everything is made and sold right here, including a continually evolving selection of truffles and confections, generally 20-30 flavors or more at any given time. The retail shop also offers coffee drinks made with Counter Culture coffee and 11 different drinking chocolates – including beverages based on historic recipes and single-origin sipping chocolates. There’s also house-made ice cream.
What sets Escazu above and apart is the fact that they are a 100% “Bean to Bar” chocolate business.
Founded in 2008 by Centeno, a native Venezuelan with culinary degrees from the Culinary Institute of America in New York and the culinary program at Wake Tech and Parson, a native North Carolinian and former chef in Aspen, New York and Dallas, Texas, the Escazu team was the first chocolate shop in the South to produce truffles and confections starting from the whole cacao bean.
Using restored antique equipment, Escazu makes their chocolate in the traditional way with a roaster built in the 1920s and a grinder from the ‘30s bought over from Spain. Using beans sourced from Venzuela, Costa Rica, and Peru, the Escazu team roasts, winnows and grinds cacao beans to bring out the complexity of flavors. Chocolate is then aged, tempered, and poured into bars or handcrafted into truffles and chocolate confections.
Since opening, they have won five Good Food Awards in San Francisco, and a bronze at the International Chocolate Awards in London.
Marie Cordella, Bridal fashion designer
Historic Mordecai| 827 N Bloodworth St| Raleigh
Since 2012 when she opened her first Raleigh store, “Marie Cordella” in North Hills, Cordella has been creating bridal fashions for clients. She states,“I’m an experienced ‘total designer’ with a deep love of dress design and modification. My education includes drawing classes at the Corcoran School of Art in addition to an undergraduate education from both Parson’s School of Design and Virginia Commonwealth University.” In 2008, Cordella also added a Masters in Industrial Design from NC State University to that impressive list of education.
Three years after opening
her first store she moved the location to Bloodworth Street in Mordecai and renamed it “Cordella Bridal”, and business continues to be good.
Before opening a brick-and-mortar store, in 2011 Cordella “opened” the Charleston Fashion Week with 12 designs, and busted on to the fashion scene in a large way. Travelling to South Carolina for both Charleston Fashion Week and Charleston Bridal Week has exposed her lines to a national and international market, and her television exposure has been extensive.
Her website best explains her primary services: custom bridal gowns, alterations, modifications, masterful lacework, heirloom/vintage gown redesign/restoration as well as custom evening and party dresses – many featured on her secondary website. These services are just the beginning of what the designer can do.
So far 2017 has been a busy year for Cordella, who has already received an award from theknot.com for Best Bridal Vendor. With plans to open another shop in Palm Beach, Florida, later this year, she’s set to hit the big time with her dress and gown designs and specialty fashion work.
Rick Moore, Jr, Creative designer & marketing genius
Nyla Elise: Grassroots clothing line/handmade garments
Raleigh native Rick Moore, Jr. travels the country to merchandise his main production line offerings for Nyla Elise, yet his bread-and-butter business seems to be based in the local Triangle street and music festival scene, at events such as Hopscotch, Sparkcon and the African American Cultural Festival of Raleigh and Wake County. Moore has managed to grow Nyla Elise into a nationally and internationally recognized brand, largely through the sheer force of his personality and chutzpah.
The Word of God Christian Academy graduate had “humble beginnings but giant ambitions” and never stops believing in and promoting his brands; he’s even been known to chase down celebrities at one of the many national film festivals he attends with his lines of t-shirts, jackets and fashion apparel. Some of his enduring and most popular clothing motifs are “Film is my ammo”, “I grew here, you flew here”, and “Read books not labels”. His Carolina Culture clothing line has been recognized widely and Moore has partnered with a few major companies, such as Pepsi and Under Armor. Lenovo featured Moore in a digital commercial, featuring his business use of their Yoga Tab 3 Pro.
For clothing that appeals to men and women of all nationalities, with a smart urban edge feel, check out his locally made clothing lines at www.carolinaculutreclothing.com or at your next local street or music festival.
Liz Kelly Pottery
Liz Kelly, studio potter + creative entrepreneur
You know that thing when you try something in your teens and later in life it becomes your passion and livelihood? At 16, Kelly took a class at the Craft Center at NC State; the medium of clay hooked her, and she became pretty dedicated to the craft. She knew her talent needed catching up to her artistic commitment, so she persevered.
An adventurous spirit drew her to Asheville and then Hawaii, and her connection to clay was intermittent. Returning to Raleigh in 2010, she felt a strong pull to get back into the studio with renewed discipline. At Pullen Arts Center, Kelly took advantage of the availability of communal knowledge and open access. She earned a degree at NC State’s College of Design in Design Studies, continuing to hone her skills in clay. Research into craft at the roots of design had a profound philosophical and aesthetic impact on her studio practice, and she won summer scholarships to study at Penland for two summers, sandwiched with a study abroad program in Prague. Those experiences changed her viewpoint. “This was a real turning point for me. I vowed to never again make a mediocre pot, and started to insist on a new level of excellence from myself,” she admits.
With the establishment of her own studio in May of 2015 came the realization that she now owned a small business, and she herself had transformed into a creative entrepreneur.
Kelly sells her work via studio visits, craft shows, custom commission work, and some wholesale and online sales. Current local stores include Holder Goods & Crafts, Edge of Urge, Ramble Supply Co., Escazu Artisan Chocolates, and Oakmoss Attic.
metalsmith and jewelry maker
Calhoun’s parents challenged their middle school daughter to raise half the needed funds in order to give their consent for a school trip to Italy, and she marched up the street to a local bead shop, and thus began “Earrings by Rachel”. She made her goal by selling her jewelry outside the local grocery store and directly to local boutiques.
During college at UNC-Wilmington, she continued selling her jewelry, and created her Wind Blown website. Calhoun graduated, married, and moved, attending pop-up markets as she could.
“My hands LOVED creating new designs, and organizing displays for markets, and the response was always encouraging.” Pursuing the business full-time was the goal, and in 2017 her dream has come to fruition.
Most days she’ll work from her home studio, and occasionally out of the craft center at Pullen Arts Craft Center at NC State – both have a metals studio. All of her designs are built around simplicity; necklaces and earrings are her mainstay, and jewelry lines with brass and gold her favorite materials.
“My main shops in the Triangle area are The Makery in Durham, and Ramble Supply Co. in Raleigh. Ramble is a beautifully curated minimalist store-front in downtown Raleigh.” Participation in the many local pop-up markets is key to her sales effort, and she credits Instagram as the best marketing tool for makers such as herself.