Something unique is happening in Jackson: a space dedicated to handmade pieces by a collective of artists, many of whom are local to the area, where people can feel a connection to the items they purchase. While micro-retailing has seen a boon in large metropolitan areas across the country, Jackson now has its own venture in theLOCAL, a collection of small shops curated by local entrepreneurs in downtown Jackson.
In fact, one shop (shared with business Hub City Love) features works by more than fifteen different artisans: Garner Blue Shop. Directed by indigo artist Lisa Garner, Garner Blue Shop features textile gifts, wearables, and home decor by Garner, alongside other handmade goodies from artists handpicked for the shop.
Garner, a transplant to Jackson from her native Wisconsin, originally started the idea for selling curated handmade goods as a periodic community event through her creation of Jackson Pop-Up Shops. Here, creators of handmade, small-batch items could have a temporary retail space to sell their wares. However, once the event was over, the artisans still had the desire to sell, while customers still longed for the tangible environment where they could purchase from them.
While Garner, whose day job is that of Executive Director of theCO, does not consider herself to be first and foremost an artist, she does spend the majority of her evenings and weekends in her carport making her indigo creations for Garner Blue, her four-year-old side hustle that inspired the shop. Her creative process mainly involves creating a pattern on a textile and creating a resist for dyeing using authentic indigo. In addition to the dyeing process, she must prepare materials, photograph her items, manage a self-designed website, and continue to market herself both locally and nationally through other handmade markets; thankfully she thoroughly enjoys the business side of selling her work, too.
When asked how Garner Blue reflects the role of the artist in society, Lisa answered, “It is making something beautiful that someone can love and feel more like themselves wearing.” This wistfulness coupled with singular determination is not surprising, as Garner grew up spending a great deal of time at her family’s independently-owned archery store. It was here that there was both a retail aspect as well as a small manufacturing component. Garner later moved away from the Great Lakes area to come to study as an undergraduate graphic design student at Union University and later decided to make Jackson her new home.
While Garner finds everyday inspiration in fellow painters, potters, and collage artists, a constant experience that drives her work is the calming effects of being outside on the water. Ever staying in the creative conversation, Garner is always on the quest to feature new small-batch handmade artisans at her new shop. One of her current favorites at the shop is California-based Post Alchemy, whose artist works with metal by oxidizing it and turning the metals of brass and copper into moon shapes. When it comes to her own wares, her favorite item as of late is an indigo woven cotton scarf featuring creamy tones.
When asked about the hopes for Garner Blue Shop in the future, Garner responded that she wants it to be a continuous creative outlet and special space in downtown. Garner is a goal-focused entrepreneur who is eager to collaborate with other artisans under the Garner Blue Shop umbrella, and with the help of theLOCAL, it is sure to bring us all kinds of new, exceptional items to wear and display proudly in our community.
Megan Shulman is a transplant to the Jackson area after living all over the country. A former librarian, she now spends her time joyfully making donuts and fried chicken at a local convenience store. She is currently writing a book on her experience with electroconvulsive therapy.
Photographer Cynthia Sipes is a native of Alabama who moved to Jackson in April of 2016. She works at Starbucks full-time while pursuing an MA in Art Therapy. She is happily married and enjoys photography along with other creative endeavors.