November/December 2009

(M)ad Women

by Joanne O'Sullivan / photography by Rimas Zailskas


There’s a scene in the first season of the hit cable series Mad Men in which the lead character, Don Draper, defends the advertising industry. The show, set in a top New York ad agency in the early 1960s, captures a long-standing image of the advertising world: a high-powered, old-boy network that centers around three-martini lunches and sexy secretaries. "People want to be told what to do," Draper says, as a way to justify advertising’s slick and sometimes under-handed strategies. "So badly that they’ll listen to anyone."

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 06:46PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References28 References

A Night at the Oriole

by Jess McCuan
photography by Stewart O'Shields / artistic direction and garments by R. Brooke Priddy of Ship to Shore


The story of the Oriole Mill is in many ways a business story. In this story, the mill, a 72,000-square-foot manufacturing facility in an old brick building on the north edge of downtown Hendersonville, represents many things. First, it’s a rare textile startup in a time when globalization and the growth of companies like Wal-Mart have moved more and more textile jobs overseas. Second, it represents both an old way of doing things and a new one, with its relatively small staff making designer products like Egyptian cotton duvet covers on rapidly-disappearing equipment. Third, because the mill’s founders, Bethanne Knudson and Stephan Michelson, have so much at stake in the business—around $5 million, to be exact—the building and all its giant, intricate machinery seem to represent the leap any entrepreneurs take when they pour money and sweat equity into
a risky venture

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:53PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments6 Comments | References78 References

Body of Work

by Janet Hurley / portrait by Anthony Bellemare


Picture this: it’s 2003. You’re in a large airplane hangar in Texas. But instead of planes, there are big lights, big cameras, people scurrying about with clip boards, a couple goats and three women in robes and curlers who are ready to bare their souls—and their bodies—on the cover of Entertainment Weekly. They are the Dixie Chicks, the universally adored country/pop crossover superstars. At least, they had been adored—until lead singer Natalie Maines publicly voiced her frustration with then-President George Bush about the invasion of Iraq. "We’re ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas," Maines told a London concert crowd. Afterwards, the band was pilloried by the media, their albums sales plummeted and they received death threats.

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:30PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References3 References

Want a Window into a Woman's Soul?

Take a look at her self-portrait.


by Joanne O'Sullivan


photo by Rene TreeceIn the vast sea of self-identity, a person’s appearance might represent just one tiny wave on the surface. Women artists have a long history of using their own images as a jumping-off point for exploring what’s beneath. Frida Kahlo painted numerous self-portraits that expressed her inner physical and emotional pain. Photographers Cindy Sherman and Nikki S. Lee have made careers out of photographing themselves in different personae that comment on (among other things) stereotypes and perceptions of women. While it seems these days that everyone is making self-portraits for online profile pictures, it’s still a form that women artists use to search for deeper meanings beyond what meets the eye.

Asheville photographer and digital artist Jenny Bowen is perhaps best known for her Faces of Asheville project, which debuted in June. She spent two years photographing more than 400 local residents as a way to capture a sense of who the town was at a particular moment in time. At times of transition in her own life, Bowen turns the camera lens on herself, too. “Your ‘self’ is fluid. It’s always changing,” Bowen says. Self-portraits have helped her document those changes. When embarking on the Faces of Asheville, she photographed herself as “the entertainer,” using Old West imagery—partly just because she likes it, but also to express the gamble she was taking with the project. When she started campaigning for a spot on Asheville’s City Council last summer, the self-portrait on her campaign poster featured Bowen in a red hat. She wore the hat to campaign events so that people could recognize her from the photo. While she later withdrew from the race due to a difficult pregnancy, she still has the photo to remind her of that time in her life.

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:28PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

Two VERVE-acious Transformations

by Jess McCuan / photos by Matt Rose


In VERVE’s very first issue, we promised our readers: no lipstick stories, no tips on how to get thinner thighs or abs. You might think a makeover story would fall into that category, the kind of standard women’s magazine article that puts too much emphasis on outward appearances. But this is our Image Issue, after all, so we decided to branch out. And at VERVE, we think a makeover can be as much about feeling good as looking good.

Still, the VERVE makeover has been an interesting experiment. We reached out to Mainstay, a Hendersonville women’s shelter that offers counseling, court advocacy and other services to women in abusive relationships, and asked them to pick three women who might be interested  in an afternoon of pampering and styling. Everyone involved volunteered their time and services—including Hendersonville’s The Sanctuary, which provided outfits and accessories; Danielle Shook and Tokisha Ingram, who did haircuts and styling; and Catherine May and Jennifer Green, who did makeup. We weren’t looking for any particular woman—just someone who had been through one of Mainstay’s programs and was back on her feet. Perhaps she was starting a new job and wanted a new look, or was bogged down with he old look and needed some sort of lift. Whoever she was, she had to be willing to sit for a few hours while various professional stylists jazzed her up however they saw fit.

On the following pages, you’ll find more details about Valerie Robinson and Sabrina Aikens, who agreed to play along. Interestingly, one of the women Mainstay selected opted out, for very good reasons. “The makeover has to be within,” she said, noting that she’d rather get a massage than a makeup job or a haircut. At VERVE, we couldn’t agree more (and we like massages, too!). A makeover should be less about glamour or trends and more about sprucing up your self-image. In this case, we got lucky: both women in our experiment seemed genuinely thrilled to see themselves transformed in the mirror. They felt good, they looked stunning and we hope the day gave them some sass and confidence—a bit more verve than they might have had before.

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:18PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment

What NOT to do at the Office Holiday Party

by Georgia Sand / photos by Brent Fleury


You know the drill: the holidays are upon us, and no matter what your line of work, you’ll probably be forced to make chit-chat—eggnog in hand, munching a Santa-shaped cookie—with the same group of people you see for eight or more hours every single weekday of your life. Sounds like a blast, right? There is an art to enduring the office Christmas party, says Darlene Das, a Hendersonville resident who’s a part-time surgical assistant and runs an etiquette business on the side. After attending the Protocol School of Washington and the Etiquette and Leadership Institute of Athens, Georgia, Das now does customer service coaching and table-manner training for small- and medium-sized businesses. “A lot of times, you lose the job at lunch or at dinner because you have no clue about what’s going on at the table,” she says. Here’s how to have a clue at a holiday get-together and avoid ending up the butt of office jokes.

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:17PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References8 References

Arresting Personalities

by Jess McCuan / photography by Anthony Bellemare


Female law enforcement officers are a particularly no-nonsense bunch. They have to be. “You have to talk the talk that makes someone not want to mess with you,” says Ann Fowler, a senior police officer in the Asheville Police Department’s traffic safety unit who’s been with the force ten years. After four years in the Air Force and a few years on patrol in West Asheville—back when it was known as “Worst Asheville”—she’s learned how to run a good bluff. “You have to make yourself bigger than what you are,” she says.

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:15PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References57 References

Grove Park Gets Its Groove Back

by Jess McCuan / photo by Brent Fleury


It’s A Tall task putting a fresh spin on one of Western North Carolina’s oldest and most venerable hotel properties. But if anybody can do it, it’s Susan Phillips. The fast-talking 47-year-old spent 15 years at Delta Airlines, many of those in reservations. "That’s when you get to learn all about folks and how to sell them something in just a few minutes," she says. She left the beginnings of a law career behind and was promoted up the marketing and sales ladder at Delta. Since then, the Parker, Florida, native and mother of four has held marketing positions at Asheville Regional Airport and HomeTrust Bank.

In December 2008, when Phillips took over as marketing director at the Grove Park Inn, the travel industry was in freefall. Global economic turmoil meant people were putting the brakes on their travel plans, and certainly travel to luxe locations like the Grove Park. Taking the helm during a time of industry-wide panic gave Phillips something of an advantage: her bosses were ready to try just about anything to lure people (or in some cases, lure them back) to the resort. In the last few months, Phillips and her team have rolled out a handful of truly provocative marketing stunts—like giving away 96 hotel rooms to Twitter users on the Grove Park’s 96th birthday in July. (The hotel had never given away so many rooms, according to Phillips.) In September, she came up with the Little Package of Joy, better known as the "procreation vacation"—a two-night stay at the hotel, plus breakfasts, dinners and a spa gift certificate, all meant to help couples conceive. "We had so much fun with that," she says. "People went, ‘Really?’"

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:14PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments1 Comment | References20 References

Kung Fu Femmes

by Joanne O'Sullivan / photos by Rebecca D'Angelo


A martial arts belt makes quite a statement that has nothing to do with fashion. It says: Don’t mess with me—I will take you down. Women who practice martial arts say the belt is just a small part of the picture. The real rewards of the arts are in building confidence, focus and inner strength. But there are also advantages to being able to use your body as a deadly weapon. “[A side kick] is my first choice for a kick if I want to break something,” says 53-year-old Joanne Bartsch, a fourth-degree black belt in tae kwan do who’s also a biology teacher at Asheville’s Carolina Day School.

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:14PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | CommentsPost a Comment | References1 Reference

Rachel Get Your Gun

by Jess McCuan / photos by Anthony Bellemare


To call her a tomboy might be something of an understatement. Rachel Wilson got a BB gun when she was seven or eight and started shooting at squirrels and birds. She was also known to pick up dead snakes on the roadside and put them on top of her mom’s car as a prank. Wilson borrowed a rifle to go deer hunting in her teens until she could afford, at age 19 or so, to buy her own Winchester .30-06. And if you’ve never handled a Winchester rifle (hers is outfitted with a powerful Bushnell scope), it’s a heavy gun that’s nearly two feet long and kicks back hard enough to knock a gal out of her deer stand. Wilson, who is 21 and rather petite, likes to point out that the rifle is almost as big as she is.

Growing up in Candler, Wilson says she pretty much lived in the woods. Her neighbors taught her to hunt, and when they killed a deer or some other critter, they used the chain from a tire swing to hang the animal up by its feet. She found the gutting process unpleasant but not horrifying. “When you grow up around it, you don’t think too much about it,” she says.

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Posted on Sunday, November 22, 2009 at 05:13PM by Registered CommenterVerve-acious | Comments2 Comments
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