I was looking for something to do for a Friday night. Laura was out of town, and I didn’t just want to sit around the house. Then my friend Mark Elbrecht reminded me about an event over at Taylors Mill. Not only was it a First Friday, which meant open art studios all around town, but the mill was having a “50 Years Later Relaunch Party” to commemorate closure of Southern Bleachery in 1965, and a reopening of many of the studios to the public. I decided to check it out.
Mark and I made arrangements to meet at the event fairly early. Thing were supposed to get started at 6:00, but I was going to be there at 5:30. When I pulled up, Mark was already there taking some photos. Crowds were already gathering, but I was able to find an excellent parking place. I walked down to where I had spotted Mark, and we explored along the main road for a bit. I snapped photos of doors, windows, and textures.
We walked down to the main event area. The Savvy Restyle Market was underway, where artists and other vendors had set up booths for their wares in the open area outside of Due South Coffee.
We wandered among the vendors. These were the typical things one might see at one of the farmers markets are arts fairs in the area. There was one food truck and the coffee shop seemed to be doing a booming business.
One of the vendors was a former student of mine from Gray Court. Jorie Browder makes handmade jewelry, and had some beautiful pieces on display. Jorie is also now a teacher, and while we were chatting, one of her former students dropped by. I asked of that former student would now be my “grand-student.”
I wanted to head inside and see what was happening. I also want to see how much access we would have to the interior spaces. I had seen a sign for an estate sale at the book binders, and wanted to check them out, but they had not opened. Another part of the mill was open, so Mark and I headed in.
The second floor of the mill was set up as a display area. There was an art gallery section, and several antiques on display.
Next to the windows there were two classic Indian motorcycles on display. One had been restored, and the other was in rougher shape.
There was also a restored VW van.
The long corridor beyond the gallery was compelling, and we wondered how much access we might have to the mill. The last First Friday event I attended here access was only limited by the amount of light available, and tonight I’d brought a flashlight. Unfortunately, things weren’t as accessible this evening. There was a woodworking shop and a pottery shop, but beyond that things were closed off.
These were working studios, and not galleries for the general public. We headed back to the gallery, and as we looked at the displays I noticed LOTS of fire officials on-hand. This event has been billed as a “re-launch”, and I’m wondering if that term also refers to some of the problems from last fall. Back in October all work on interior studios, etc, was halted because of building code concerns. Vendors like Due South Coffee, which has an exterior exit, were allowed to stay open. However, those artists that had studios with only interior access, such as those on the upper floors, were put on hold. After some negotiations they were allowed to maintain the businesses, but couldn’t be open to the general public. I’m not sure what had changed to allow this event, but the fire officials seemed to be checking surfaces everywhere, and were very strict about access. Yellow tape blocked off the forbidden areas, so it didn’t look like we would be able to just explore.
Back in the gallery we admired the beautiful artwork. I chatted with a sculptor who had done some etchings of Greek goods on slate, inspire by the last Olympics. I told him about David Gillespie, the headstone carver who also works with slate.
I was hoping that the third floor “ballroom” would be open, but it was also closed off. We crossed over to the area that I remembered as having more galleries. Here, things got sort of maze-like. We wandered among many studios, but they have been jumbled in my mind, and the copious photos I took didn’t really help sort things out.
Again, most of these were working studios rather than galleries. It looked like a new section had been opened up with even more studios.
Eventually we made our way back downstairs and outside. By this time I was sure that the sale at the book binders was underway, and I wanted to check it out. As it turns out, they are going out of business – retiring and moving to Florida. Every bit of the business was for sale, including printing materials and other accumulated antiques and stuff.
I managed to score several unbound hymnals that had been printed for some special occasion. I haven’t had a chance to go through them, yet, but for $10 I figured it was worth it. When the couple who were running the sale saw us taking photos, the guy wanted to have a portrait made, but the girl was somewhat..shy.
Outside things were hopping at the market. A band had started up, and an artist was painting a large canvas next to the makeshift stage.
Mark and I made our way back out and I dropped off my purchases in the car. I noticed that I had parked right across from Ally Coffee, so I decided to check it out. It seemed weird to have two coffee places in close proximity, but it turns out that they are importers, and Due South is one of their customers. The relationship is more symbiotic than competitive.
The spaces available to us looked like they were more for presentation and training, rather than actual handling of bulk coffee. There may have been more space behind that we couldn’t see.
Alex Medina, the proprietor, showed us around the small space, and said that they would be starting a brewing class in a few minutes. I decided to stay. Mark, who is not a coffee drinker, decided to opt out, so we said our goodbyes and parted ways for the evening.
Soon others gathered at the small counter. We would be learning the proper way to do pour-overs. Alex went through the process and had a cheat sheet for us. Of course, I was too busy taking photos to really pay attention.
There were three workstations, so three at a time our group tried our hands at making coffee. In the first group, a guy with his family, and two young women got behind the counter. It turns out the that girls were baristas at other local coffee places.
We all got to sample and critique each others’ coffees. The coffee was excellent, in my opinion, and needed no sweetener or cream.
Next it was my turn. As I said, I apparently hadn’t been paying enough attention. My pour-over took too long because I hadn’t kept the water levels high enough. Also, I was trying to shoot video for more cinemagraphs, and wasn’t paying as much attention to the process as I should have.
My taster turned out to be another barista. She said that my coffee was a bit “over extracted,” whatever that means. What can I say? I’m a photographer, and not a barista. I even confessed to owning a Keurig.
Regardless, it was fun, and I thoroughly enjoyed interacting with these folks. I headed on out to the car. As I drove out, I was glad I had gotten there early and had a REALLY nice parking place. Folks were parking all the way down to Taylors Main Street. They had quite the crowd.
Here is the slide show of all of the photos I posted.