Mounted Staghorn Fern, DIY Garden Class at Gather in Raleigh, NC

One of my favorite sculptural plants is a mounted Staghorn Fern and we are hosting a DIY workshop on Thursday November 4th at Gather in downtown Raleigh where you can make your own. We asked Megan of The Zen Succulent if she would teach a workshop on making them at Gather and she agreed.  You can register for the class here.

Mounted Staghorn Fern in Living Room with Oil Portrait

I’ve got a mounted Staghorn Fern in the hallway above my piano, which you can see here. I’ve also had them before in my studio office space. They look gorgeous hung as a collection with a few of them together.

Mounted Staghorn Fern Mounted Staghorn Fern

And here are some of my favorite interior/shelter magazine photos with gorgeously displayed Staghorn Ferns. So what do you say? Will I see you at the class?

Hanging Staghorn Fern in a Living Room Staghorn Fern Collection on a Black Wall Staghorn Fern Collection in a Hallway Kitchen Vigentte with Staghorn Fern Staghorn Fern Collection in Hallway, White Shiplap Walls

Image Credits: Top 3: Michelle Smith, 4. Photo by Donna Griffith for Covet Garden 5. Photo by Fine + Feathered of Terrain 6. Domino 7. Instagram Photo by JenWalkerSf  8: Photo by Caitlin Atkinson of Daniel Nolan of Flora Grubb Gardens 3.

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Shop Spotting: Nomadic Trading Company, Durham, North Carolina

Shop Spotting: Nomadic Trading Company, Durham, North Carolina

I’ve learned in retail that there are two kinds of people when it comes to scouting out finds: those that love the thrill of the hunt and digging through piles to find treasures, and those that like to have those treasures curated and presented to them. Nomadic Trading Company in Durham is the best of both worlds. There are literally piles of rugs stacked from floor to ceiling as well as bread bowls, furniture and light fixtures (all gorgeous) so for those that like to dig, there is plenty to choose from and for those that don’t every choice you make will be beautiful because the goods are already curated and imported from the owners travels.

Shop Spotting: Nomadic Trading Company, Durham, North Carolina

For someone like myself who lives for the thrill of the hunt, this space is heaven. So many things to see, touch and consider. I can and often do spend hours happily in here.

Shop Spotting: Nomadic Trading Company, Durham, North Carolina

Their shop is located in a warehouse with garage bay style doors in the “DIY District” of downtown Durham. Their space is sporadically open to the public, so if you happen to walk by and their doors are open you should definitely go inside. They do however have quarterly days where they are open to the public, the next being October 24th.

Shop Spotting: Nomadic Trading Company, Durham, North Carolina

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Upcoming Classes at Gather, October & Early November

I have another post due about all the transitions happening at Gather, for now though I wanted to share the upcoming classes we have coming up in October & early November:

Kokedama Hanging String Garden Class at Gather

Kokedama: String Garden Workshop Tuesday, October 20th 6:30-8:30pm – $ 40.00

DIY Leather Trays

DIY Leather Trays Thursday, October 29th 6:30-8:30pm – $ 40.00

Mounted Staghorn Fern

Mounted Staghorn Fern Workshop Thursday, November 5th 6:30-8:30pm – $ 50.00

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Exploring Chapel Hill, NC – Honeysuckle Tea House

Sometime last year I started hearing about a place in Chapel Hill called Honeysuckle Tea House. All I knew about it was that they served loose leaf tea, which has long been my beverage of choice. So on a hot summer day last year I decided to make the trek. From my house in Raleigh it is about 45 minutes away and once you get off the highway you have to drive down some country roads. Just when you start to think you must have taken a wrong turn you see the entrance gates artfully carved from logs. The space itself is amazing, and is Agritourism at its best.

The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith

The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith

The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith

The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith

The teas are all sourced locally and all the herbs are grown on the acres of farmland surrounding the tea house. The structure itself sits atop shipping containers where they cultivate medicinal plants and the top pagoda is an open air space where they serve their tea, kombucha on tap and other herbal house-made sodas. In addition the make their own honey, salves, and other tinctures. Because the teahouse itself has no walls or windows up top it is only open seasonally.

The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith

The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith

Most weekend evenings there is a band playing outside and for kids there is a small playground, a Maypole and a big field to run around in. It is lovely and definitely worth a trip, just be sure to check the heat and make sure it isn’t too hot as there isn’t any air conditioning!


The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith

The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith  The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith


The Honeysuckle Tea House, Chapel Hill, NC | Photo by Michelle Smith


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On Change & Taking Risks

I’ve probably talked about this on here before, but it’s on my mind now so I’ll ramble on some more. I am equal parts analytical and creative, equally ambitious and driven with the other half of me seeking balance in all endeavors. As a result, I am constantly reevaluating and shifting and pivoting. I, like so many other creative entrepreneurs I see, have a lot of type A tendencies, wanting to control my environment and stick with what works. It has taken me a long time to realize that I actually thrive with structure and routine, that with that, it allows the other hyper creative parts of me to excel. But, because half of me is lead by a wildly creative and intuitive nature it can take those habits a long time to set in. And when they are, finally, firmly set, I want them to stay that way forever. I don’t want to rock the boat. As a result, change, any change is hard for me. Any shift in routine can throw me rampantly out of whack and cause me weeks of having to reorient myself back to those winning habits that took me so long to secure.

On Taking Risks & Making Changes
I notice this because my husband is the opposite, he is very structured, habits are not hard to set and if a wave comes, those habits are so deeply engrained in his DNA that he is quickly back at them. I have to literally write my goals out in front of me, because if I don’t, I will forget about them. Months later, I will realize I’ve derailed when deep down I still have those same goals and they are still calling me but now they’ve gotten pushed aside by something else distracting, by another idea I had to implement, another thought I had to write down, another thing I had to pursue.

A few months ago I found a list of goals that I had written when I was seventeen, which was eighteen years ago. What was weirdly comforting about finding this list was that the goals were almost identical to those that I have now and were deeply holistic in nature. It showed me that we are who we are and probably always will be, regardless of any other life circumstances or change in life.

On Taking Risks & Making Changes

I say this, because despite my tendencies to not want to rock the boat for fear of getting knocked off path, for fear of losing track of my hard-won habits, I think embracing and sometimes seeking change is important. I’ve been taught, through repeated experience, that life isn’t static, that everything is temporal, and that you can really only control so much. You’re going to get old, you’re going to die, there will be hard times, there will be beautiful times, our youth fades, we can all build sand castles, but they are all going to get washed away eventually, this is life. These thoughts are actually not depressing to me, they are empowering.

What’s more beautiful than making the most of every moment by acknowledging the good and shifting towards the better? When you don’t shift course you can actually stay in a rocking boat longer, you’re just getting repeatedly rocked by the same waves. By staying the course you can sometimes lose sight of your choice in the matter, versus realizing you may have the opportunity to sail to smoother seas and the chance to see a different and possibly more fulfilling horizon. I think that taking a big risk and forcing yourself to rock the boat that you are in can be hugely rewarding; an act of bravery (because it is always terrifying!) that can lead to unprecedented personal growth.

I challenge you to look around you, what can you change? What path have you been wanting to pursue? What isn’t working? What is? Take a risk, make a change, and I’m willing to bet that it will pay off in ways you never imagined.

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July Classes at Gather

July Classes at Gather in Cary, North Carolina

There are some great classes coming up in the next few weeks at my shop, Gather:

* Tues July 21 – Learn to make a gorgeous fiber wrapped necklace. We carry these beautiful necklaces in our shop by talented local maker Erica Fink. In this class she is teaching her technique on how to make these necklaces as well as how to make tassels and pom poms to embellish necklaces or whatever else you fancy.

* Thurs July 23 – Craft a handsome denim apron. I have a bit of an obsession with aprons and have been collecting them for many years. How satisfying to have one that is custom made. I think this would be a great gift too.

* Mon July 27 – Cameras & Cocktails. Improve your photography and drink a glass (or two) of wine while learning. Enough said.

* Tues July 28 – Create a stunning summer wreath. One of the girls at the shop is skilled at making gorgeous wreaths. You’ll walk away with your very own that you’ve made from scratch.

You can register for them here Many of them do sell out so if you see one you like you should sign up soon.

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Photography for Modern Terrarium Studio Book, Pt 2

Here are some photos I took for the forthcoming book Modern Terrarium Studio, many of these didn’t make the cut but I thought I’d post some of my favorites here. You can see more photos from the book here, below are ones with a lighter background, I’ll be posting a more photos from the book in coming days too, so keep an eye out here. You’ll find dozens of terrarium craft projects not shown in these pictures in the book with instructions on how to make them at home.

Terrarium from Book, Modern Terrarium Studio | Photography by Michelle Smith, Authored by Megan George Billy Buttons from Book, Modern Terrarium Studio | Photography by Michelle Smith, Authored by Megan George Succulents from Book, Modern Terrarium Studio | Photography by Michelle Smith, Authored by Megan George Succulents from Book, Modern Terrarium Studio | Photography by Michelle Smith, Authored by Megan George Terrarium Crafts from Book, Modern Terrarium Studio | Photography by Michelle Smith, Authored by Megan George

Glass Jars from Book, Modern Terrarium Studio | Photography by Michelle Smith, Authored by Megan George

You can buy Megan’s book through Gather’s website or in the Gather shop in Cary, NC too.



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Photography for Modern Terrarium Studio Book, Pt 1

I was so honored when last year Megan George of The Zen Succulent asked me to be the photographer for her upcoming about terrarium crafts, Modern Terrarium Studio. The book, now complete, is a softcover craft book published by Fons & Porter and features dozens of terrarium instructions that you can build on your own. The book hits shelves at the end of June. In the coming days I’m going to showcase some of my favorite pictures I took for the book, most of which didn’t make the cut since the book is more of a step-by-step project book versus a hard-cover coffee table book.

Below are some of the photos I took for Modern Terrarium Studio that have strong pops of black. Tomorrow I’ll showcase ones on a lighter palette.

DIY Air Plant Project from Book, Modern Terrarium Studio | Photography by Michelle Smith, Authored by Megan George

Terrarium Projects | Photography by Michelle Smith

Terrarium Supplies | Photography by Michelle Smith

This whole process has been exciting to be a part of and I can’t wait to produce more content like this both for myself and others. I’ll actually be photographing another softcover craft book for Fons & Porter about embroidery crafts. In the future I am very excited about the prospect of producing and pitching my own content in the format I see in my minds eye with my own perspective, aesthetic and point of view, something that I have dreamed about for as long as I can remember. This has been such great learning experience and I am soaking up every minute of it.

Succulents | Photography by Michelle Smith   Air Plants | Photography by Michelle Smith  Terrarium Supplies for Modern Terrarium Studio Book, Photography by Michelle Smith, Authored by Megan George  Succulents | Photography by Michelle Smith Terrarium | Photography by Michelle Smith

Megan will be hosting a book launch party at West Elm Southpoint in Durham, NC on Friday June 26th. I’ll be there, hope to see you as well. You can also buy Megan’s book through Gather’s website or in the Gather shop in Cary, NC too.

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Shop Talk

A scary post, I just posted on the Gather instagram account but one I felt compelled to write:

Gather Shop Talk

“Alright ya’ll, I’m just going to throw out some real talk right now and issues that I grapple with as a shop owner and business trying to grow. I love, love, love indie businesses and makers. I care a lot about cultivating a culture and community that supports them. At the end of the day Gather is one too. I’ve invested a lot of time, money and all of my self into the space. I know it may look like a success on the outside, and always sunshine and roses (and to me it is so fulfilling) but straight up, I am still not making a profit. I don’t have a reserve of cash that I started with and I don’t have a donor just handing me cash. Who does? ;) Instead, I am hustling like nobody’s business to make this little business grow and continue to me a presence in the community and online. And it IS growing. Each year the space has doubled in sales and isn’t stopping, but sometimes the hustle weighs on me, the overhead is a lot and frankly I could make more just focusing on my photography and my own product designs. But I feel called to do this. I LOVE Gather. All I’m saying is, just because I don’t always list the makers each time I show a product here, please don’t think I don’t care about being transparent and making those indie makers a success too. Of course I want to, but in order to keep Gather afloat I have to also provide a level of curation and uniqueness that makes you all (and others) want to make the effort to drive to my shop, purchase something in my online store, follow along with our story, otherwise this story won’t exist any longer. Hopefully you all see the value and care and time I put behind the #gatherncmakers series and the classes that we offer and of course the goods and the space. Hopefully the space is much more than just “who makes this product?” and that you see the intentionality and heart behind what Gather is doing. Whew, long post, but there you have it. No one ever said I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve. ;)”

And an addendum to that post: hopefully too the questions create an inner dialogue more along the lines of “How are they making our community more vibrant?” and “What can we do to support the businesses that support them too?” and “what sort of effort is this business putting forth to create a beautiful presentation for these makers and their goods and what might that be worth?” Retail is a tough industry and in order for shops like mine to stay afloat, that distinction is vital.

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Food Styling, Soup, Chapel Hill, NC, Thince Foods

I’m about a year behind (if not more) in posting some of my food & prop styling work so these posts will come non-linearly, which about accurately reflects the state of my business these days anyway what with juggling a shop, food styling, my own photography work, product design and motherhood. It’s a full load! ;)

Food Styling by Michelle Smith

A few months ago I worked with photographer Lissa Gotwals and a local all natural soup company called Thince Foods based in Chapel Hill. The owner, a nutritionist wanted to create a healthy product that encouraged weight loss. Thince Foods soups come pre-packaged and frozen and you can buy them at stores like Whole Foods. My job was to translate the ingredients that were within and not make them look like just frozen soup. The other thing I had to do was differentiate between the soup kinds with different bowls and backgrounds.

What do you think? Do these look appetizing to you? To see more of my food & prop styling work click here. Want to work together? Shoot me an email.

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Home Tour with Natural Elements, Modern Design and Bright White Rooms

My friend Elizabeth asked me to take photos of her house, her daughter, herself and her husband before they packed up and moved to another house. Elizabeth wanted me to capture the little things and memories reflected in this place before they moved on. The house they actually found (and are now moved into) is, funnily enough, right next door to this one but the new house has more room to grow into. Both are tiny houses located very close to Raleigh’s city center where a lot of our friends have taken up residence.

Plywood Chair Side Table, Dried Eucaplytus Bouquet, Wooden Headboard, Stack of Books

I thought I would share some of the small house details I captured. Liz’s husband Jacob is an architect and works for Frank Harmon, an inspiring architect here in Raleigh and Liz works for me at Gather helping to coordinate and organize classes and events. Both of them are really skilled at creating something amazing out of nothing. I jokingly call them “The Actuators” because legitimately if I have an idea they help make it happen – and really, really well. They are also aesthetes in the best sense of the word and their home reflects their taste and design sensibility. Jacob made this chair that is serving as a bedroom side table here.

Driftwood Wall Hanging

I love this wall hanging that Liz made with driftwood, fishing line and polymer clay.

Desk Vignette with Woven Wall Hanging

Liz and I are both really fascinated by other people’s work habits and processes and how they document and keep track of their day to day. I find the journals and note taking of other creatives especially interesting and the psychology of what keeps people organized with our different minds. I’m always impressed with how on top of her to-do’s Liz is. Perhaps these stacks of journals hold the key? Ha! That gorgeous blue and white tumbler is from Gather and made by a local company called Haand.

Hanging Branch Chandelier

This hanging chandelier in their home is gorgeous. It is just a found branch, hanging by a rope but looks like a high-end light fixture.

Glass Bottle Collection

A collection of glass bottles above the fridge.

Mother In Law's Tongue, Indoor Plant

This indoor plant is called Mother in Law’s tongue and it is amazing for those lacking a green thumb or those with busy lifestyles who can’t commit to watering frequently. Seriously, I have something like three and all my friends have them too. They are sculptural, really easy to maintain and boost your confidence in growing plants without killing them.

Branch Antlers with Strung Cotton Garland

At my previous shop space Kindred, Liz and Jacob had made a wall vignette of “antlers” made from branches mounted onto wood that we hung in the shop. Here is one strung with cotton, a very Southern touch for these Alaska and Texas natives.

Flowering Branch, Vintage Mailbox
A pretty flowering branch tucked into their mailbox.

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Shop Series Feature

Erin of the shop Amelia in Mississippi has a series on her instagram called Shop Stories where she features other shops around the country. Gather is the featured shop this week. Check it out on instagram and see my “story” here:

Gather in Cary, North Carolina

My name is Michelle Smith and I own Gather, a hybrid gift shop & coffee shop that also serves as a coworking space and a classroom in downtown Cary, NC. Each facet organically feeds into the other. The shop features goods from emerging makers around the country, the majority of which come from North Carolina. I am very passionate about this type of entrepreneur and prior to Gather I founded an event called The Rock & Shop Market which I hosted for ten years and featured 100 juried makers per event alongside, bands, beer and food trucks. Gather felt like the natural next step in progressing the needs of both my local community and maker entrepreneurs by giving them a platform to sell their wares, a place to work out of, network and teach their skills.

Gather in Cary, North Carolina

As a shop owner and entrepreneur I wear many hats. I have a small team of part-time employees who help me at Gather while I am going full-speed ahead to make the space successful. A few of my day to day tasks include paying bills, selecting goods for the shop, marketing and coordinating events, tagging items and adding them to inventory, merchandising the space, photographing and updating for social media and sometimes making coffee behind the register.

In addition to Gather I have my own product line which I’ve run for the past ten years as well, and I work professionally as a photographer and food and prop stylist. See what I mean about wearing many hats? I’m also a mom to a 7-year old and my husband, a scientist by day, makes peppermint bark at night with his business The Apothecary’s Kitchen. Keeping all of this going while also maintaining balance in my personal life is something I work equally as hard at, and I think key to doing this kind of work without burning out and staying healthy.

Gather in Cary, North Carolina

I really love food and helping to foster community, and I think the two are closely related so having a coffee and teashop within the space is a natural fit. We also have a variety of local chocolates for sale too. Gather is located in a sleepy downtown in the middle of an otherwise thriving region in North Carolina called the Triangle. Creating a space for the residents of this particular pocket to literally “gather” is an important piece of what the space is. And when people who live in other parts of the Triangle take the time to drive to the shop it becomes even more of a special destination: a quiet retreat that you’ve discovered and can pore over and bring a friend to that feels like you are stepping away from your normal routine but still just a short drive away.

Gather in Cary, North Carolina

I grew up in a small downtown filled with antique stores and beautiful historic storefronts that were underutilized. When I was a teenager I used to imagine the type of shop I would open in one of those spaces. I would always imagine a gift shop filled with plants, a space that was also my studio. I imagined it filled with books, with coffee and tea and hosting musical performances. What’s funny is that I never really saw how all those pieces would fit together cohesively and I had even shelved the idea of opening up a shop at all, after multiple earnest but never quite-right earlier attempts toward that goal. And yet here I am running this type of space in a sleepy downtown similar to the one I grew up in. Gather in Cary, North Carolina

Through hosting my Rock & Shop Market events for the past ten years I’ve come to develop a deep understanding and relationship with the maker entrepreneurs in this community (over 1000 different makers have participated in those events) and have helped to cultivate a culture and shop space where these makers are hopefully able to grow & succeed as business owners. I feel like maker entrepreneurs have a different set of needs and should have access to resources that benefit them specifically, and though this a thriving movement happening right now, those resources aren’t always easy to find in person. My goal is to help facilitate that at Gather both organically through the shop but also through the classes we offer and informal mentoring.

Gather in Cary, North Carolina

At the end of the day I am just a micro-business owner too and have to pull myself up by my bootstraps and find creative ways to fund the space and try to make it beautiful at the same time. I’m on a scrappy DIY budget and take things one-step at a time hopefully evolving and improving each day to make an awesome experience for my customers. These shelves were built by my husband and I about six months ago and allowed me to double the merchandise in the shop. I had the idea for them in my head long before I was able to implement them. It’s really gratifying to watch my ideas unfold over time and evolve and get refined through use, instead of being perfect all at once.

** The top two images were taken by Lissa Gotwals for Etsy Wholesale

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