…you must have designed it on your iPhone. Can Sarah Mettler Cecil get back into the shoe biz?
by Jess McCuan . photos by Zaire Kacz
For a young woman interested in shoe design, it was an extraordinary windfall: In the early 1990s, Sarah Mettler got a call from Roger Vivier, a Frenchman who invented the modern stiletto heel. He wanted Mettler, then in her 20s, to basically act as his apprentice in the later years of his life. She had gone to art school in Manhattan and spent time in Paris and Italy, creating shoes for the likes of Salvatore Ferragamo, Oscar de la Renta and Perry Ellis. In 1991, while living in New York, she launched her own line of shoes. Still, apprenticing under Vivier—who, before his death in 1998, designed shoes for Brigitte Bardot, The Beatles and Queen Elizabeth II—was nothing short of a dream come true.
The Mother Earth News was the handbook for a hip, self-sufficient, alternative-minded generation. At the magazine’s peak, it had more than 1 million subscribers, 600 acres, 150 staffers and two private planes. And—who knew?—the whole operation put down its deepest roots in Hendersonville.
by Jess McCuan . photos by Rimas Zailskas
The magazine was simply called Mother. Letters to the Editor of The Mother Earth News always started off, “Dear Mother,…” You ordered books from Mother’s Bookshelf. Experiments were conducted by Mother’s Gardeners in Mother’s Research Center. “Mother Wants Old Magazines!” said one ad, from 1971. Apparently, she intended to recycle them.
Mother, as the magazine was (and still is) affectionately known, was more like a person than a publication. For years, magazine staffers—more than 100 of them by the late 1970s—didn’t have bylines. They were simply Mother staff. After all, most stories were written by people around the country who had designed or tested out their own plastic mulches, solar stoves and chicken-powered cars themselves. To be sure, the whole operation, which for 15 years operated out of buildings in downtown Hendersonville, was something of a mother ship—a clearinghouse of information and the center of a movement for people who wanted instructions on alternative living.
Artist Valeria Watson-Doost’s new work explores our dual lives and darkest impulses.
by Ursula Gullow . photos by Naomi Johnson
In 1969, Valeria Watson-Doost was crowned the first Miss Black Denver. Then, sometime after she received a master’s degree from Columbia University but before she became a West African priestess, she was named “Best Tattooed Woman” at the inaugural National Tattoo Convention in Reno in 1976. “I’ve had a hundred lifetimes,” says Watson-Doost, who grew up in Denver but has lived in many cities and moved to Asheville in 2005.
The rawest material from a few of those lifetimes is on display in her gripping new exhibit, NiceNasty: Acts of Self-Reflection at The Pink Dog Creative Gallery in Asheville’s River Arts District. In her mixed-media paintings, on display until November 20 at the new Depot Street gallery, you see the emotional scars of one event in particular: As a child spending summers in Fort Worth, Texas, Watson-Doost, now 63, experienced firsthand the travails of segregation and discrimination in the 1950s-era Deep South. Her father, a farmer and military man, was shot and killed at gunpoint in a bar on the outskirts of Lake Como, a community within the city limits of Fort Worth. “It was never investigated because he was a black man,” says Watson-Doost. Now, themes from that shooting show up as tiny details in works like “Conceal and Carry,” which involves tiny plastic figurines holding pistols.
interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
Name: Kehren Barbour
Occupation: set designer, junk seller and manager of the Asheville Tango Orchestra
So you run a tango orchestra. Do you dance? I was raised by a dancer. My mom is a dance teacher, and I’m learning to tango. I guess I would say… I like to dance, but I’m not a dancer. I do make up goofy dances by myself.
How long have you lived in Asheville? Since May. I moved here with my partner Michael Luchtan, a piano technician and the director of the Asheville Tango Orchestra.
What is the Asheville Tango Orchestra? We’re one of the only sextet tipicos in the Southeast. He directs the orchestra, and I take care of business details. We’re really the music, and other people use our space to instruct. We’re not teaching classes. We’re the soundtrack.
Is tango difficult to learn? This is Argentinian tango. Within the tango community, there’s ballroom tango and Argentinian. I’d say this is a nice mix of contact improv and classical movements. It’s really about the connection between you and your partner. You’re moving with your partner, instead of it being a rehearsed set of steps.
And what else do you do here? I find I’m always into the same three things: dance, music and food. It’s what I do. It’s how I organize and connect people. That’s how my head, heart and hands move together.
interview by Jess McCuan . photo by Matt Rose
Name: Jeannie Adair
Occupations: Co-owner at Coop, a gallery and studio in downtown Asheville; information architect and principal at Adair Design
How long have you been in town? My husband [Chad] and I moved here from L.A. three years ago.
And how long has Coop been open? Two years. For the first year we lived here, I worked down in our basement. I was spending 40 hours at home in the basement. It wasn’t healthy.
Do you show art in any particular medium or style? No particular style. We show sculpture, large-scale paintings, some photography. We’ve been doing mostly group shows, and a few solo shows. Artist friends who ask if they can do a solo show—we say, ‘Sure, why not?’
What kind of art do you like personally? I like art that contains everyday icons or symbols, things from our collective consciousness… art that reinterprets them or gives them new meaning.
What’s an example? It could be some kind of urban landscape, treated in a different color scheme, or logos or things that we see every day. Things we become blind to. When they’re put in a canvas or a different context, they become something else.
And does that translate into what you wear? I could see that making for good hipster clothing. I don’t know if a 43-year-old hipster is a good thing. I dress in whatever I see that I like.
A mother of five uses her hip-hop show to promote peace.
by Beth Ellen . photo by Matt Rose
The question: When does Molly Mcdonough-Leota find time to sleep? By day, she’s a mother to five kids, ages 4 to 14. By night, she’s a full-time nurse in the mother-baby unit at Mission Hospital. Also at night, the 35-year-old North Asheville mom is a hip-hop DJ at Main FM 103.5. On her weekly radio show, Drop Beats, Not Bombs, she says she “spins some dope hip-hop” with her co-host, Lucia Daugherty. Their goal is to not only show people the depth and breadth of global hip-hop—rolling out songs by artists from Japan, New Zealand, South Africa and elsewhere—but also to counter the impression that hip-hop is all about “bling and cars and women,” says Mcdonough-Leota. “That’s what commercial hip-hop has turned it into, but our show is about getting back to the roots of what hip-hop means—peace, love and respect.”
One fashionista tries out a few tricks on another.
by Mick Kelly . photo by Matt Rose
We decided it was time to make over the makeover guru. Judy Haynes, owner of The Sanctuary in downtown Hendersonville, is always helping us outfit women in terrific clothing for our makeovers. A few weeks back, after she saw one particularly moving transformation, she confessed: “I want a makeover!” Well, we thought it was high time.
But who could dress up the woman who dresses everyone? Four years ago, Haynes, 59, bought The Sanctuary, a high-end boutique that carries mainly clothing by Eileen Fisher. Day in and day out, when she’s not helping her husband Billy run Camp Ton-A-Wandah, an all-girls summer camp, Haynes is busy outfitting clients in simple, sophisticated, flowy garb, often sweaters and wraps in earth tones or blacks and grays. Haynes frequently organizes community fashion events, too, and she’s known around Hendersonville as a snazzy dresser.
A butcher says she’s closer to vegetarians than to conventional carnivores.
by Melanie McGee Bianchi . photo by Matt Rose
What’s a gal to do when her bonesaw breaks? Unfortunately, it happened to meat cutter Karen Fowler in the first week after she opened the Chop Shop Butchery in October. (Luckily, Fowler says, she was able to power through part of a 1,000-pound steer with just a handsaw.)
She and business partner Josh Wright were busy all summer designing their new retail space, which sits between Blue Water Seafood Company and City Bakery on Charlotte Street just north of downtown. To them, sustainable food isn’t a hobby—like growing heirloom tomatoes or puzzling out the quirks of an urban chicken flock. It’s a business philosophy. And at the butchery, the staff will both sell meat and attempt to educate customers about sustainable meat farming and responsible eating.
There are only two female plastic surgeons in the Asheville area. For women, getting into the business can be as tricky as any procedure.
by Janet Hurley . photos by Matt Rose
In med school at Wake Forest, Brenda Draper thought she’d be a pediatrician. After a rotation in plastic surgery, though, where she witnessed the reconstruction of a face—and, essentially, the patient’s life—she changed her mind.
But then she had to change the minds of those who could grant her access to the mostly-male world of surgery. Surprisingly, it was a female dean who tried hardest to dissuade her. The long haul of school and residency during a woman’s prime child-rearing years seemed untenable—but Draper applied and was the first woman admitted to the Wake Forest plastic surgery program. She never looked back. “I like to think that I opened the dean’s eyes,” says Draper, now 50, with a solo practice in Asheville. Perhaps she would have opened the dean’s eyes to a woman like Collette Stern, who has a solo practice at the Plastic Surgery Center in Asheville. She’s just now 35 and a graduate of the Medical College of Georgia. At her residency in Salt Lake City, Stern says, she was never “treated differently” as a woman. Still, it’s telling that Draper and Stern are the only two female plastic surgeons in Western North Carolina.
Our experts say, stay out of it.
by Susan Reinhardt . photo by Rimas Zailskas
My face heated up as if someone had hauled off and slapped both cheeks. A girl—a vapid young thing—was messing with my best friend’s son’s life. One day the little vixen loved him; the next, she rudely called it off. She’d played more games than Alex Trebek. Eventually, she went so overboard with her emotional abuse that my friend had to rush her son (one of the nicest young men I know) into Urgent Care for his sudden, deep depression.
So, here’s the deal. How far do we go when it comes to our teens’ relationships? Do we butt out? Or jump in like growling lionesses?
My friend Shelly from Sylva says: “Leave it alone as long as it’s just between them.” She had a nightmare on her hands when her daughter broke up with a guy and the dude’s mother went wacko on her. “His mom got involved and was calling her the c-word,” Shelly says. “Not only did I let the ex-boyfriend know how and where to get off, I let the mother know: one more call and I’d be calling where she worked (as a teacher) and sharing her language with her supervisor.” After that, the evil mother fluttered away “like a little gnat,” Shelly says.
The Carolina Public Press gals are breaking news and getting things rolling.
by Jess McCuan
This spring, we profiled former Asheville Citizen-Times reporter Angie Newsome, whose nonprofit news website Carolina Public Press, debuted in March. It’s taken six month to work out some kinks, she says. For one, Newsome had her second child in April—which meant CPP assistant editor Kathleen Davis (also a former Citizen-Times staffer) took the reigns of the startup site.
But at a Carolina Public Press launch party in Asheville’s River Arts District last month, Newsome and Davis seemed optimistic about both the site’s potential and accomplishments. To get it started, Newsome, the editor, landed a two-year, $70,000 grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation and a smaller one from the Community Foundation of WNC. Lately, she’s been polling industry experts like Pulitzer-winning former Miami Herald reporter Tom Fiedler (who spends time in Riceville) and others about how to raise more cash.
Speakers at this month’s big-ideas rally in Asheville include a TIME editor and a centenarian.
by VERVE staff
What’s the buzz about TED? Well, when the first TED conference convened in Monterey, California, in 1984, the subjects speakers covered there were mainly in Technology, Entertainment and Design. But since then, TED conferences themselves have spread all over the globe, and TED Talks, as they’re now known, are available for free online and cover a wide range of topics—from microbes to doodling to filming democracy in Ghana. Now, under the banner of “ideas worth spreading,” there are also independently-organized TED conferences in cities everywhere, and Asheville’s got one.
Blogger and social media consultant Jennifer Saylor organized the first TEDx Asheville in 2009 and had to turn away hundreds at the door of The Orange Peel. Now, techie Brett McCall has taken the organizing reigns, and the lineup of speakers for this month’s event looks fascinating. TIME Magazine’s science and technology editor, Jeff Kluger, will speak on sibling relationships. Asheville’s Leah Quintal, who runs the Gift of Light for Haiti program, will talk about bringing solar lights to Haiti’s tent cities. 101-year-old Florence Ready will talk longevity. Joyce Roush, a Flat Rock resident who VERVE profiled in August, will discuss the benefits of organ donation (she was one of the first people in the country to donate a kidney to a stranger). Armenian folk singer Mariam Matossian will perform, along with a hip-hop dance troupe from the Urban Arts Institute. Sounds like a good chance to mix, mingle and be inspired by both out-of-town speakers and brainy Western North Carolinians.
For details and tickets, visit www.tedxasheville.com. TEDx Asheville takes place on November 13 at Diana Wortham Theatre.
Believe it or not, I was never a fan of playing dress-up.
Sure, I might have twirled my hair up in pigtails or put on a pair of goofy sunglasses. And I do recall having a few particularly convincing Halloween costumes (thanks for the rad witch nose when I was 5, Dad). But in high school and college, I wasn’t all that interested in clothes, and didn’t think it was a big deal to walk around my Midwestern college campus in, say, a men’s polo shirt and holey jeans. I stepped things up a bit for grad school in New York City, but still, for a good portion of my adult life, my closet has mainly been full of uninteresting stuff.
Until now. Not only have I found, inherited or otherwise acquired a closetful of exciting vintage clothes (and headgear), but also—because people know I want to tell their stories—they’ve pointed me toward Western North Carolina’s most cutting-edge designers and fashionistas. After nearly four years running VERVE, I’ve gotten a fascinating look at what makes Asheville’s fashion scene different from other cities’. It’s been an eye-opening perspective on the relationship between women and their clothing, too. There’s just something that happens to a woman’s carriage and confidence level when she steps into an exceptionally well-made garment. Judy Haynes, owner of The Sanctuary, a boutique in downtown Hendersonville (see story, page 28) was moved to tears a few weeks back when she found just the right outfit—a black suede motorcycle jacket and pants—to transform an Edneyville librarian from submissive into positively saucy.
My friend Simone Bernhard, an Asheville hatmaker, theater type and all-around classy dresser, says there’s something about Asheville’s retro architecture and cosmopolitan downtown streets that make people want to dress better. “Everybody has a stage,” she says.
Still, clothes don’t make the woman. VERVE’s stories aim to highlight and detail a woman’s accomplishments, and I had such fun working on two stories in particular in this issue. The Mother Earth News is a magazine my family and friends (and lots of other folks, too) seem to know and love. What John and Jane Shuttleworth started on their kitchen table in Ohio in 1970 was nothing short of a movement, and their publication shaped a generation’s thinking about alternative living (see story, page 40). I was thrilled to chat with Jane and her former colleagues in Hendersonville, and to piece together their adventures in ambitious magazine-making.
Another story I loved was the tale of Sarah Mettler Cecil and her Shoe Designer app (see page 30). Thanks to her hard work and talent, Mettler Cecil had something of a fairy-tale early career in shoe design. After art school in New York and Paris, the Florida native worked with famous shoe designers like Salvatore Ferragamo and Roger Vivier, the inventor of the modern stiletto. But then, in an even more fairy-tale-like twist, she was introduced to George Vanderbilt’s great grandson, Jack Cecil, who asked her to marry him and whisked her away to Asheville. Now, she’s on a quest to get back into the shoe business, and her iPhone app may be just the ticket. I joked with Sarah recently that if her app doesn’t take off, perhaps she could make the story of her life into a movie script.