I suppose my journey began, before I had even an inkling of Austin, in the face of a talented woman that I met at our local art market on the bank of the St. Johns River in Jacksonville, Florida. The inspiring and radical: Claire Sommers Buck, was nurtured and fostered straight from the hills of this region I now call home. Little did I know that she had already become my new neighbor and that we'd spend some lovely mornings sipping coffee, strolling through the farmer's market, picking each others brains for creative solutions to our designs, and laughing like friends. I enjoyed her weavings of the word "dang" into our conversations and her signature greeting, "Hey Guurl.." And before I departed Florida we had the pleasure of being featured in a joint show at the trendy Anchor Boutique in downtown St. Augustine, FL.
Well, my creative side is insanely enamoured with SoCo (South Congress) and East Side (Downtown, East of I-35) as well as Rainey Street. Though I have yet to venture into the Warehouse District. On some weekend afternoons, I leave the heels at home and stroll down South Congress! There are locally crafted artisan wares to be uncovered, spread out in every available lot in undulating rows.
I made my first SoCo purchase from a tall, lean, old fella in jeans, a cowboy hat and boots. He made rings from twisted guitar strings and bullet casings. Then I met a dynamic woman named Ruth (a transplant from Portland) who crafts couture style fashion out of bicycle innertubes. Her patterns in rubber remind me of those in traditional Irish lace. I get so enthralled by artists who venture out of the norm, who experiment with alternative materials and develop their own signature techniques. I am certainly saving up to acquire one of Ruth's edgey cut-out boleros. There is something so thrilling and rewarding about handing over my cash to the maker of an item when so many of the items we acquire and will live with for years couldn't be further from their craftsman whom might only receive a fraction of that cash. Speaking of such, 10,000 Villages is a fair trade store staffed by volunteers and filled with home decor, toys, cards and textiles that are handmade in villages all across the world. If you get nibbly whilst perusing this area, sample some of the food trailors' creative fare!
Then there are the boutiques...my favorite being MAYA, where I couldn't resist the tribal print kimono dress above! But if vintage, antique, or steampunk trinkets are your thang, you will adore Uncommon Objects. Once inside my senses become enchanted and my imagination is transported into films like La Cité des Enfants Perdus by French Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet or surrealist ones from the 1930's by Luis Buñuel.
For Latin American & Mexican folk art, collectibles and gift ideas, Tesoros Trading Company is not to be missed. They stock everything from "Dia de los Muertos" items to recycled flip flop bangles to Moroccan lanterns which can be purchased for a song.
But wait... there is so much more than SoCo! Any free evening could not be better spent then visiting the sultry East Side Show Room on East 6th Street. Their variety of live music acts, hip peppermint & emerald decor, speakeasy atmosphere, local art, classic cocktails and deluctable, locally sourced menu items are dazzling. Sometimes you even get a little space to dance, and their quaint courtyard in back is aglow with amber strands of lights. Not to mention the courteous staff each have their own chic-ness. My favorite being the articulate artist: Xavier Schipani whose style emmanates a Basquiat-meets-Warpaint vibe. Her erotic black and white illustrations currently adorn the walls. So cruise down there and request a Fur Elise cocktail to sip while you take in her art... And never miss a performance of Glover Tengo on piano there if you can help it! This clip is dark, but worth a listen as Tengo's piano spills forth his magic... The East Side Dandies are pretty fun, too. Give a listen at 1:20.