by Jess McCuan . photos by Matt Rose
Meet four of Asheville’s most powerful women. Female judges now outnumber males in Buncombe County’s district courts, a shift that started in 2005. The four current female district judges, pictured here, have remarkable stories to tell. At 38, Judge Julie Kepple is the youngest sitting judge in the county. Judge Rebecca Knight, once a P.E. teacher, was Buncombe’s first woman district judge, along with Shirley Brown, when they were elected in 1990. VERVE takes a closer look at women on the bench.
A triathlete and former Reynolds track star launches a line of sporty dresses. Ready to try on a Quick Draw McBra?
by Karen Chávez . portrait by Matt Rose
Just because Patricia Pinner is a busy Asheville mom and wife, a ferocious triathlete and a chameleon-like entrepreneur—in short, a woman on the move—doesn’t mean she doesn’t like to move in a dress.
No surprise, then, that her latest venture as a fashion designer is called White Dragon Dresses for Women on the Move. Founder and president of the first all-women cycling team in Asheville, Team Prestige Subaru, Pinner has spent the past decade racing bikes and earning podium finishes—wearing cycling gear more suited to men’s muscles than women’s curves. “When we go to the podium, we’re in traditional men’s attire,” says Pinner, who’s 46. “I decided it was time for a change.”
So began her quest to make that change, transforming her strong, sporty life into the softer world of fashion. This month, she launches the White Dragon line of dresses, skirts and sport bras made of Lycra, the same durable material found in cycling jerseys. Each piece can be custom sublimated, meaning it goes through a printing process using a heat transfer system to embed colored logos or letters into the fabric. This is unlike screen-printing, which lays color on top of a fabric, Pinner says.
An Asheville crafter’s monstrous creations make sweaters better. Catch her—and more than 100 other indie crafters—at The Big Crafty this month.
by Joanne O’Sullivan . photos by Matt Rose
Whenever she gets anxious, Krista Allison’s monsters come out. At first, says the 38-year-old Asheville artist, the monsters were little pen-and-ink doodles or collages that she made into presents for family and friends. Later, while studying ceramics at Eastern Michigan University, they went 3-D: tiny ceramic “finger puppet” monsters emerged from her imagination. Then, in 2008, she found herself with an upcoming craft show, nothing to sell and no materials with which to make anything. Very anxiety-provoking. That’s when the monsters got really creative and started to emerge from her old sweaters.
A storyteller celebrates 40 years.
by Ursula Gullow . portrait by Rebecca D’Angelo
When she was 24, she agreed to tell “Harry the Dirty Dog” to a group of kids in a Chattanooga library. And after that October day, in 1971, Connie Regan-Blake knew she was a goner. “That’s the day I became a storyteller,” says Regan-Blake, now 64 and one of the most celebrated storytellers anywhere.
Growing up, she figured she’d probably become a mathematician. She had always loved math and political science. Little did she know, she would spend the next four decades telling stories ranging from 2 to 30 minutes to people in 16 countries. She has performed in Dubai, Japan and Korea, telling stories on military bases. She’s made appearances on Good Morning America and NPR’s All Things Considered. A career highlight, she says, was speaking to an audience of 20,000 at the Winnipeg Folk Festival in 1978. Her performance was broadcast live on public radio all over Canada.
Lee Ann Brown, an experimental poet, runs a summer think tank in Marshall, the French Broad Institute.
by Janet Hurley . portrait by Matt Rose
The Mermaid parade in Marshall is one of poet Lee Ann Brown’s favorite events—an evening that pushes the boundaries of tradition and imagination in that small river town, just as she pushes language and form in poetry. Her first book, Polyverse, (Sun and Moon Press, 1999) won the New American Poetry Award, and her work has been published and reviewed internationally. A devotee of Oulipo, a French avante-garde movement that seeks to connect poetry and mathematical concepts, Brown thrives on making large leaps—both in creativity and in landscape. During the school year, she’s an associate professor of English at St. John’s University in Queens, New York. She spends her summers in Marshall, where she and her husband, actor/director/filmmaker Tony Torn, tend to their seven-year-old daughter and to the FBI: The French Broad Institute of Time and the River. (Interesting side note: Torn is the son of actors Rip Torn and Geraldine Page.) Located on Main Street, the FBI is an event space and think tank for multidisciplinary collaborations between local, traditional Appalachian and various experimental artists. On July 8, there’s a fashion show. Or, you could sign up to be hypnotized. VERVE had a chance to talk with Brown about her life’s path in math and poetry.
interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose . makeup by Mendy Hoffman
Name: Keresy Proctor
Occupation: actress, filmmaker and bartender
Lives in: Asheville
Have you lived in Asheville long? No, and when I moved here two and a half years ago, I didn’t know why I’d come.
Why did you come? I was interested in theater, and then I started taking classes at the Stella Adler acting studio in Asheville. It changed my life. Now, I’m just finding any way I can to make a living doing theater.
Is that a tough way to live in Asheville? The actor’s life? No, it’s not. It’s only a hard life if you haven’t found your passion.
What types of roles do you play on stage? Sometimes I get typecast. I’m the tall blonde, the love interest. But the goal is to be able to play many different kinds of roles. If you can be a chameleon, I think you can have some longevity in this business.
Do people compare you to other actresses? I sometimes get Kate Winslet or Virginia Madsen. Occasionally, Nicole Kidman or Scarlett Johansson.
And what’s your dream role? I want to be in a Clint Eastwood movie. I think I need to do it in the next five years. He’s getting old. That guy does it all.
interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
Name: Viola Spells
Occupation: multimedia artist and jewelry maker at Zenobia Studios
Lives in: Asheville
Have you always been an artist? No, I used to be a librarian.
I would think anybody who wears glasses like that must be an artist. They’re my favorite. I didn’t wear these when I was a librarian.
How long were you a librarian? More than 30 years. I have a master’s in library science. I started as a children’s librarian in New York City.
And how long does it take you to make a necklace like the one you’re wearing? It takes a while. I use a crochet hook to knit the wire and then shape it however I like.
How does one phase of your life compare to the other? You had to be quiet in the library, and I was never quiet. This [phase] is more adventuresome. I can do whatever comes to me… And it turns out, art is hard.
interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
Name: Peggy Yarborough
Occupation: owner and founder of the Asheville furniture store Yesterday’s Tree
Lives in: Asheville
How would you describe your style? I grew up in McLean, Virginia, but I’m a cowgirl at heart.
Really? What does your house look like? I have horse things all around—prints, artwork and other things from our trips out West. I have some old bridles.
I bet it’s a great house. No, I’m like the cobbler’s child who has no shoes. I work so hard that my house is the last done.
Which other objects do you like? I love turquoise. I even loved it when it wasn’t in style.
How long have you been running Yesterday’s Tree? On July 15, the business will be 26 years old.
Is there ever a lull, running a retail shop? Yes. It’s retail. Someone told me years ago, and I think it’s true—when there’s a change in the weather, it brings a crowd.
Did you ever want to do something else entirely, like be a Rockette? No, but I’d love to own a stable and take care of horses.
A camp counselor and equine therapist turns 60. We found her in the horse barn and spruced her up for a night on the town.
by Mick Kelly . photo by Matt Rose
She’s aging gracefully, just like the horses she tends to. Miriam Intres, who turns 60 this month, is the riding director at Camp Ton-A-Wandah near Hendersonville, a 356-acre girls’ summer camp site with riding trails, hiking trails and its very own ten-acre lake. Girls (and, in the fall, small groups of women) who go to Camp Ton-A-Wandah will likely recognize Intres, who has not only worked in the camp’s horse stables for years, but also lives on a small log cabin there.
Intres spends her summer days looking after 23 horses, two donkeys and hundreds of campers. She started at the camp part time after her husband died in 2003. Before that, she had mostly been a stay-at-home mom. Recently, she’s done brief stints as a closet organizer, caterer and floral arranger, and spent a few years as a retail salesperson at The Sanctuary in downtown Hendersonville.
By day, she runs vision tests. By night, she’s Mrs. Black North Carolina International. Her big pageant is coming up this month.
by Mick Kelly . photo by Matt Rose
At the optometrist’s office, peering into those scary steel tubes that test your vision, you might be tempted to gaze into the eyes of the person who’s testing yours. In this case, no one would blame you—especially if you were at Champion Eye Center in Arden and the optometry tech was beauty queen Tamekia Miller-Madden. The 38-year-old mother of three currently holds the title Mrs. Black North Carolina International and heads to Atlanta later this month for the national pageant.
In her house, with three boys—ages 21, 16 and 9—and a husband all playing sports, there’s plenty of testosterone. “This is my girly thing,” she says. And in 15 years of modeling and pageantry, she has sometimes been quite girly indeed. Miller-Madden was a cheerleader at Reynolds High School, and now she mentors cheerleaders, having recently been elected a cheerleading commissioner for the state. She has held the titles of Elite Mrs. North Carolina, Mrs. Western North Carolina and five others (married women compete for Mrs. Titles, unmarried compete for Miss). She frequently appears in crown and sash at area youth league football games to speak about good sportsmanship, one of her themes as a pageant contestant. At the July contest, she’ll appear on stage in a referee outfit with stripes on top and poofy can-can skirt with a rhinestone whistle.
These would-be romances went from bad to worse.
by Susan Reinhardt . photo by Rimas Zailskas
Bad dates—especially first dates—are as common as stretch pants at the flea market. This month, we’re tackling horrific debuts and disastrous dates. An experienced expert will join in to help those who are single navigate the waters and offer suggestions on how to treat horrifying first dates and worst dates. It’s just too bad one can’t thump or squeeze the potential paramour like a melon as he appears at the front door to determine if he’s ripe…or tripe.
I have a good friend who still cringes 25 years after remembering a blind date gone awry. “I literally gagged when he tried to kiss me good night,” says Lori Crook of Asheville. “I swear his tongue felt like a rough cat tongue.”
A longtime AdvantageWest VP moves to the Asheville Chamber to try and spur entrepreneurship.
by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
Last month, Pam Lewis, one of the most senior employees at the regional economic development group AdvantageWest, announced she’d be taking a newly created position—director of entrepreneurship—with the Asheville Area Chamber of Commerce. Considering that one of AdvantageWest’s jobs is to either lure companies to WNC or support those that are here, it might not seem like such a leap. But Lewis, 44, sees her new role at the Chamber as a chance to connect some dots. Mainly, she wants to help local entrepreneurs get access to capital and go full steam ahead towards making Buncombe County a hotbed of entrepreneurial activity. In the midst of a long recession, some would argue she’s got her work cut out for her.
In an area like ours, with so few large companies to employ people, what’s the percentage of people who you consider to be entrepreneurs? First of all, I think there’s a difference between entrepreneurs and small business owners. I’d say the majority of businesses in Asheville and Buncombe County are either small businesses or entrepreneurs.
At a hops festival this month, learn how a tiny plant makes a big difference in beer.
by Olivia Springer . photos by Frank Bott
In Beer City, USA, it seems only natural to celebrate hops plants as well. Hops, of course, are the climbing vines that ultimately give beer its bitter flavor. This month, a local hops farm is opening its doors for a beery—and hopefully, educational—bash.
Hops are of the utmost importance to brewers, and in a region with so many beer makers, you’d think hops farms would be springing up everywhere. But Julie Jensen, the woman behind the hops field Echoview Farm in Weaverville, says local brewers are just now coming around to the idea of sourcing hops locally—mainly because small farms usually can’t produce enough of the kind of dried, pelletized hops brewers want.
Susan Lefler’s new collection of poems, Rendering the Bones, has a way of getting under your skin.
by Joanne O’Sullivan . photo by Dan Bennett
You can just picture Aunt Bess. She’s a hot mess. Three miles of bad road. In her poem Bess, Brevard poet Susan Lefler doesn’t exactly say that. She says: “Aunt Bess wore no underwear beneath her feedsack dress.” Your imagination can do the rest. Her goal as a poet is “bringing the reader into the image,” Lefler says. Conjuring up images and moments that are both comforting and disturbing is what she seems to do best, and her first book of poetry, Rendering the Bones (Wind Publications), was published this spring.
Aunt Bess is just one character in Lefler’s tightly knit collection, which hums with keen observations. A former managing editor of Smoky Mountain Living magazine, Lefler is a longtime student of current and former North Carolina poet laureates Cathy Smith Bowers and Kathryn Stripling Byer, both of whom helped her complete the collection. The book has a distinctly Southern accent, wise and insightful, with a hint of sass. And she doesn’t just stick to the South. An earthquake in India, Gregor Mendel’s DNA experiments and Einstein make their way into her poems.
Lefler, a mother of four and grandmother to eight, grew up in Chapel Hill, but she has deep roots in Rockingham County’s tobacco fields. She takes the reader there with her poems about eccentric, menacing relatives like Bess, but also connects that haunting past with its vulnerable present. “This used to be the land nobody wanted,” Lefler writes. “Where slackjawed barns lean heavy on the elbows of old hills.”
Susan Lefler will read from Rendering the Bones on July 8 at 7pm with Kathryn Stripling Byer at City Lights Bookstore in Sylva. She reads on August 7 at 3pm at Malaprop’s Cafe & Bookstore in Asheville.
I do more than get by with a little help from my friends.
How to give new life to an old pair of jeans? Hand them to a friend. I gave a pair of ten-year-old blue jeans to a dear friend and longtime reader, Connie, and a few weeks later, she stitched together the beautiful skirt you see in this photo. My friends have always been a joy to me, but in Asheville, I’ve found a particularly caring and creative crew. This region both grows and attracts creative people, and I couldn’t be happier to be here among them.
The swelling crowd of creative types also makes great material for the magazine. I was delighted to meet Krista Allison, the artist behind the Canoo monsters you see at places like Asheville’s Woolworth Walk. This month, she and more than 100 artists will show their work at The Big Crafty (see story, page 28). Each of Allison’s monsters has a unique name—I own a rabbit-like Canoo creation called Sesame Bunn. They all start as nothing more than an old sweater and one of her whimsical brainstorms.
This month, I also enjoyed meeting Buncombe County’s four female district judges, profiled on page 46. They are serious women with law degrees and high-profile jobs. But at our photo shoot, they came across as warm and witty, bantering about their looks and clothing. We asked them to wear bright, bold colors for the shoot, and all four happily obliged. But on the bench, impartiality is everything—something the black robe signifies. In my interviews with them, they all commented on the gravitas of their daily decisions, which affect people’s lives in permanent ways. “When people see us wearing (the black robe), we’re a blank slate,” says Judge Patricia Kauffman Young, who started her college career studying fashion merchandising. “We’re here to render justice. If we came in looking different, it would take away from the nature of the business.”