The rise in maker culture is well-represented in East Nashville, from the popularity of born-in-East-Nashville maker market Porter Flea to the many neighborhood shops sharing hand-designed, hand-made items that sure beam a lot more personality, humanity and care than something extruded through a mega-machine.
We appreciate that culture particularly around the holidays, when we're searching for gifts that do more than tick off a name on a list. Eastside stop Pony Show on Porter Rd. is one of our favorite places to snag a unique, handmade item -- shop-wrangler Pippin Chapman hand-makes lots of different offerings, from T-shirts, art and hand-stamped greeting cards to the shop's front-door signage. (She stocks lots of cool vintage stuff, too, from clothes to furniture.)
So, as we're now neck-deep into holiday gift season, we decided to tap Chapman's hand-making smarts, and get a little professional insight into her process, choosing a great handmade gift and/or crafting our own.
The East Nashvillian: You handmake all sorts of stuff for your shop -- what drew you to that kind of creativity? Where did you start with it?
Pippin Chapman: "Both my parents are visual artists, so growing up, that's just what we did. I always drew, painted, created for as long as I can remember. Art and making art was just a way of life.
"I spent a lot of years trying to do other more 'normal' jobs -- I was a makeup artist and a massage therapist for years. Once I decided to open a retail shop, I knew I wanted there to be time and space within the shop for me to create. Not even necessarily for the shop, but it turned out that I have been making things to sell here as well."
You carry a lot of other handmade products in Pony Show (a lot of them local, too). What draws you to handmade items? Do you have any favorite local artists/artisans/makers that continually create things you fall for?
"I'm drawn to handmade items for so many reasons. Supporting my community and other artists is a huge reason, but also, the quality of work is fantastic. And the energy someone puts into creating something they love is really beautiful.
"I love the idea that handmade things are just that: made with another persons hands. The physical, tactile nature of handmade items is wonderful. I'm one of those old-fashioned girls who still likes to write letters versus emails, and read books made of paper. I want to hold it in my hand, to experience the item, book, whatever it is, in person, not just on a screen.
"Hands down my favorite local maker is Kristi Schechterly of Deville Designs. She makes the dreamcatchers I sell in the store as well as a lot of the jewelry I sell. She has an amazing eye for design and I am always wearing at least one piece of her jewelry. Everyone I buy from is amazing though. I recently started carrying candles made by Lizzy Lee and they are flying off the shelf. There's a sweet lady, Connie Ely, who knits the fringed gloves I sell, which you can also see me wearing almost every day. She's a sweetheart."
Do you have any favorite sources for handmade inspiration, online or otherwise?
"I think like any creative, I'm kind of constantly inspired and absorbing the environment. I listen to records every morning while I'm getting ready to come to Pony and that might inspire me, or seeing a certain color that someone is wearing. I'm crazy about pop culture and observing trends. I really like predicting trends and kind of exploring why different trends develop and what they evolve from.
"I think I'm kind of finally old enough to really remember a lot of what is inspiring people right now -- namely the '70s and '90s. I was a pretty little kid in the '70s, but the '90s, yeah, I was in that. So funny how things come back around. And that's talking about fashion, which is influenced so much by music and other forms of art. I really consider fashion to be an art form as well. Each outfit is -- or can be -- a total art piece. A statement. Sometimes I name my outfits. It's all art."
Let's say you're not particularly crafty, but you like the idea of making gifts for people you love. What kinds of things would you recommend those folks try? Can you think of any good entry-level gift-making projects?
"I think if there is anything that sounds fun, you should start there. Whenever you're having fun, just messing around without really worrying about the end result, that's when the magic happens.
"You could start by just walking through the art store or a craft store and seeing where you're drawn. There are lots of kind of pre-packaged projects that you could start with at the craft store. It doesn't have to be just straight up painting, drawing, etc. Making your own bath salts or salt scrubs is super easy -- I make those for the store and people love them, and they make great gifts, too. If you can measure and stir, you can make those."
Can you think of a favorite handmade gift that you've been given?
"My favorite handmade gift, besides my parents' artwork, is for sure the afghan on my bed made my grandmother on my dad's side. She hadn't ever considered herself an artist, but you can't deny the artistry in crochet and knit work. It's so beautiful and warm.
"That's a conversation that certainly isn't new but I think really important: seeing crafts (generally created by women) as art. Lots of good exploring to do there."
Check out Pony Show (and chat with Chapman) at 723 Porter Rd. Want an extra excuse? Chapman hosts a brunch at the shop the second Sunday of each month, which, this month, is this Sunday, Dec. 8. Pop by from noon to 4 on Sundays, noon to 6 Tuesday through Saturday.
Follow the Pony Show Facebook page for regular updates on new shop items.