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Ava Gardner Museum Celebrates Celebrity




We’re fortunate to have a former museum docent guest posting for us today. Lisa Sullivan is a powerhouse of adventure. She’s active in her community and online. She’s brought together people and ideas to advocate for causes, nurture new partnerships, and collaborate. Let’s just say that Lisa knows everyone so she’s great at putting the right heads together. She’s also full of verve and curiosity so when Lisa tells me I need to check something out, I go. -ilina

Let’s face it, Americans love celebrity. Just look at all the magazines devoted to the latest news on “who married (or lately, who divorced) who.” I suppose over the years that really hasn’t changed much. The prevalence and accessibility of various social media outlets certainly makes it easier to follow our favorite, and not so favorite, celebs.

Ava Gardner Museum

But, did you know that we had our very own Hollywood celebrity who called Smithfield, North Carolina home? Yep. Ava Gardner, one of the most famous actresses for the better part of the mid-1900’s, was from a very small community just outside of Smithfield – Grabtown.

Born Christmas Eve in 1922, Ava lived most of her young life in the Smithfield area. In her teenage years she and her mother would go to the movies at the Historic Howell Theater to catch glimpses of their favorite leading man at the time, Clark Gable, who later would play opposite Ava in the film, “Mogambo” where she also received her first and only Oscar nomination for Best Actress. You gotta admit, that’s pretty awesome – to have watched your idol and then played alongside him!

How do I know all this? Well, I could read endless articles about her online, but why do that when a museum devoted to her is just 30 minutes from downtown Raleigh – the Ava Gardner Museum – and it’s one of THE most complete museums in honor of a Hollywood Legend in America today.

For just an $8.00 admission price ($7 for seniors, military and teens, $6 for a child), you can take a step back in time to an era that has long since gone, but one that is not forgotten.

Your tour begins with a 20-minute biography on Ava (an interesting one at that!) and then take about another 45-minutes to an hour touring the various exhibits throughout the museum. There are costumes from some of her most famous roles, personal jewelry, letters written by some of her friends (Princess Grace Kelly was one of her BFFs!), even her lingerie is on display right now in a special exhibit called “Ava’s Closet”. After touring the museum, you can take a short drive down to her grave site to pay your respects, if you so chose. Museum Docents will give you directions.


I had the privilege of working as a Docent for a short time from 2010-2011 while I was still looking for full-time work. I loved it! Every day I was on the schedule, I would walk in; turn on all the lights and the stereo. The music of Frank Sinatra was played all day long (He was the love of her life. Didn’t know that? Go visit the museum!). And every day I was there I would smile. In fact, you could’ve caught me singing along to Frank too…if you had visited.

The Ava Gardner Museum is located at 325 E. Market Street in Smithfield and is open Monday through Saturday from 9am-5pm, Sundays 2pm-5pm (closed for some holidays – check their schedule).

I encourage you to visit one of North Carolina’s most fascinating museums. I promise, you too, will walk away with a smile on your face and quite possibly a jig in your step!



Ava Gardner Museum main website – http://www.avagardner.org/

Mogambo IMDB Page – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0046085/

Princess Grace Kelly Biography page – http://www.biography.com/people/grace-kelly-9362226

Ava’s Closet Exhibit info – http://www.avagardner.org/index.php/exhibits-and-programs


Connect with Lisa Sullivan to see where her next ventures lead.

Civil Rights Movement Has Roots in NC

The history of the South is complex, just as it is in points around the globe. Our story is deep and vast, and most importantly, defined by the lens we wear. North Carolina is rooted in civil rights history.

Inspired by the Greensboro sit-ins, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) began at Shaw University in 1960. Shaw, the oldest historically black university in the South, is around the corner from my son’s school so I often marvel at what those walls hold.  Julian Bond, a founding member of SNCC, was instrumental in the group’s organization and growth. Incidentally, he was my professor in college for a course that has moved me more than any other, the History of the Civil Rights Movement. Can you imagine a more apt teacher for such a class? Bond is honored at the International Civil Rights Center and Museum in its Hall of Fame.

My husband and son were recently there. This summer my husband has taken each of our sons for a sojourn of their choice within our state. My newly minted 10-year old son chose Greensboro and the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. I had visited there before with my older son so our youngest has been itching to reach double digits so he too could visit. He has studied the civil rights movement in school, and we have been to points all over Washington, D.C., including the Martin Luther King memorial on MLK Day. Yet my son was yearning to learn about the movement that sprouted so close to home.

He was not disappointed.

In fact, as all of us have experienced on our visits there, we left moved, angry, and motivated. We have a new appreciation for the ferocity of the civil rights leaders and the immense risks they took. We feel honored to have seen pieces of history firsthand. Imagine the lump in my throat seeing Julian Bond commemorated, a man whose lectures and stories riveted me at a time in my life when I was grasping to find my way and my own voice.

I am amazed at how few people we know have visited the International Civil Rights Center and Museum. We are lucky to have this bastion of history in our state. There are guided tours, speakers, children’s story time, and more. My son has already asked to go back. This time, in light of national news and a resurgence of civil rights discussions in my own family and across the country, we will experience the museum together with yet a new lens.

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is an archival center, collecting museum and teaching facility devoted to the international struggle for civil and human rights. The Museum celebrates the nonviolent protests of the 1960 Greensboro sit-ins that served as a catalyst in the civil rights movement.”

The International Civil Rights Center & Museum is located in downtown Greensboro at 134 South Elm Street.


Summer (April – September)
Monday – Saturday 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday Closed

Winter (October – March)
Monday – Saturday 10:00 am – 6:00 pm
Sunday Closed


GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World {Summer Adventure List}

Discovery Place science museum in Charlotte, NC, will always be one of my favorite places to visit in the Queen City. They consistently bring top tier exhibits to our area and I try to attend each one. I was more than pretty excited when they sent me an invitation for GUITAR: The Instrument That Rocked The World. I am an audiophile whose family is filled with musicians (bluegrass) and quite a few of my friends gig professionally in bands.

This traveling exhibit is truly one for every age group. GUITAR explores the history of the world’s most recognized musical instrument in this fully immersive exhibition that showcases nearly 100 historical artifacts, including more than 60 guitars. It has made my Summer Adventure List, not just because of the historical and scientific significance, also because so many schools are cutting funding for music eduction. (And if you know me and Ilina, you know how important education is to us.)

GUITAR: The Instrument that Rocked the World #HandmadeNC

When I walked in, it was wall to wall stringed instruments, along with performance video and audio, as well as hands-on interactive displays. I headed straight over to learn about guitar strings and after strumming each type, now realize why metal strings are preferred over plastic or catgut. The sound is so much better and the tone is clean and pure.

Science and Guitars

But Discovery Place is a science museum, why would they have this exhibit? Because so much of music and guitars have their basis in science. The human brain is uniquiely wired to remember musical patterns better than a series of numbers or letters. Researchers have found that seven times (i.e. numbers, facts, letters, etc.) are about the maximum that most people can keep in their memory. The exception to this is music. Much of popular music is built on riffs, which are groupings of notes that are repeated throughout a song. Our mental ability to embrace musical patterns allows us to remember long riffs when we can’t remember that many numbers.

Electric guitars also rely on electromagnetism to produce sound. Each electric guitar has a mechanism called a pickup that converts the mechanical energy of a vibrating string to an electrical signal, allowing it to be amplified, processed and reproduced. When the magnetic field of the pickup is disrupted by the vibration of a metal string, it creates a current in the copper wire. The current is transmitted through another wire to potentiometers, which are often used as tone and volume controls. The potentiometers, controlled by the knobs, adjust the frequencies in the signal that control volume and tone — just like a dimmer switch that adjusts the level of light from a bulb.

Sound can be measured. Sound waves move through the air, which creates pressure. The speed of sound is around 343 meters per second. You hear noises because your ears respond to this pressure. Decibels are the units for measuring sound pressure, just like the inches are units for measuring length. One a decibel scale, the louder the sound, the higher the number decibels. Zero decibels is the softest sound that can be hears and 194 decibels is the loudest sound that can be created.

Highlights of GUITAR

One of the highlights of the exhibit is the world’s largest playable guitar, a 2,255 pound, 16 foot wide and 43.5 feet long replica of the Gibson Flying V. This Flying V was prototyped in 1957 and released into production in 1958. The list of well-known musicians who have played the Flying V range from Metallica’s Kirk Hammett, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Stanley of Kiss, and Eddie Van Halen, to name a few.

Other iconic instruments include the Rock Ock, the world’s only playable 8-neck guitar; a PRS Dragon guitar inlaid with 238 pieces of gold, red and green abalone, mother of pearl and the ivory of a wooly mammoth; a Ztar Z7S synthesizer guitar with a button for every fret and string (204 in total); and early Fender Gibson, Ovation and Martin Guitars that date as far back as 1806.

In the hands-on gallery, you can:

• Strum the world’s largest playable guitar, a 43-foot long replica of a Gibson Flying V
• Test your musical memory by playing challenge riffs on a virtual fretboard
• Bang out a beat on a variety of wood types. Which sounds the best?
• “Freeze” a vibrating string using a strobe light
• Design your own dream guitar

The rare instrument exhibit includes over 60 remarkable instruments such as:

• Early Fender, Gibson, Ovation, and Martin guitars (from circa 1835 to present)
• A Ztar Z7S synthesizer guitar with a button for every fret and string – 204 in all
• The Rock Ock, the only playable guitar with 8 necks
• A stunning PRS Dragon guitar inlayed with 238 pieces of gold, red and green abalone; mother of pearl; and woolly mammoth ivory
• Guitars with outrageous paint jobs and shapes designed for rockers like ​Steve Vai


Plan you visit to Discovery Place. GUITAR will be on exhibit from May 30, 2015 – September 7, 2015 and is covered by regular museum admission fees.

The following artists, manufacturers, luthiers, and collectors have provided instruments, information, and/or support to the collection: 

  • Steve Vai
  • Joe Bonamassa
  • Liona Boyd
  • Vic Flick
  • Johnny Winter
  • Adrian Belew
  • C.F. Martin and Company
  • Fender Musical Instruments
  • Pete Brown
  • David Hill/Nina Riccio
  • Phantom Guitarworks
  • EKO
  • National Reophonic
  • The Electrical Guitar Company
  • Dan Larson
  • Rich Maloof
  • PRS Guitars
  • Danser Guitar Works
  • Visionary Intruments
  • Starr Labs
  • XOX
  • Cochran Guitars

Six-String Saturdays at Discovery Place:

This summer, Discovery Place is activating Tryon Street with Six String Saturdays, a free music series featuring genres including jazz, pop, rock, sitar, Celtic, country, bluegrass and folk.

Enjoy live music on the patio near our N. Tryon St. entrance every Saturday at 2:00 p.m. (unless otherwise noted). No Museum admission necessary.

May 30 – A Sign of the Times Duo: Van Sachs and Toni Tupponce
June 6 – Sabra Callas
June 13 – School of Rock
June 20 – SITAR from Festival of India by Amrita
June 27 – Shana Blake & Keith Shamel
July 4 – Kevin Jones & Joe Allen
July 11 – School of Rock
July 18 – Tom Billotto
July 25 – Alan Barrington
August 1 – Back Creek Bluegrass Boys
August 8 – School of Rock
August 15 – Bassments
August 22 – The High Ridge Pickers (2:00 p.m.) / Hannah Case (3:30 p.m.)
August 29 – J. L. Davis Duo
September 5 – A Sign of the Times Duo: Van Sachs and Toni Tupponce

Related links:

Summer Adventure List 2015  

April is International Guitar Month -North Carolina Edition 

Cotton Is Part of NC’s Fiber

There’s one ubiquitous thing we all have tucked away in our closet or nestled into a drawer. Comfy cotton. Be it jammies, a ratty college T-shirt, jeans that rock our booty, or a summer dress, cotton truly is the fabric of our lives. As a marketer and a lover of natural fibers, that ad campaign is the stuff of aphrodisiacs for a girl like me. I don’t believe style and comfort are mutually exclusive. Ask anyone in my family and they’ll tell you how I swoon for fabrics that are a tactile pleasure. That’s why I drift toward cotton again and again. My wedding dress was even cotton. With pockets.

North Carolina has a rich and complicated history with cotton. Our state grows a lot of cotton. If you’ve driven to the beach in the fall you’ve likely passed the cloud-like white fields of billowy cotton at harvest. It’s a sight to behold, truly. I recently met an eighth generation cotton farmer at his family farm in Eastern North Carolina. His family has been farming there since the 1600s. Meeting him gave me a glimpse into farm life and the values of the families who choose to work the earth to make a living. They would say it beats a desk job. They would say farming is in their blood, the very fiber of their being. And it’s apparent. Those Farmers Only dating site ads perpetuate misperceptions and stereotypes about farmers. There’s nary a simpleton in site. I’ve visited a lot of farms in the last few months and I have yet to see a grown man in overalls. Farmers have business acumen as well as a heft of science background. They do more than plant a seed and pray for rain. They are a savvy bunch.



On the farm


That red tractor belonged to Farmer Scott’s father. He’s the only one allowed to drive it, and he says it still hums.


Cotton farming in North Carolina is part of our defining heritage. While textile mills have been shuttered, cotton farming still thrives. Farming, whether for food or textiles, is among the many things we take for granted. Those high threadcount sheets started on a farm somewhere. On this particular farm trip I heard from farmers, plant geneticists, fiber researchers, and trend forecasters. Monsanto sponsored this trip, and lest you be swayed by what’s in the press, I assure you there was no Kool-Aid proffered. I’m lucky to be able to visit the source and learn firsthand from people in the cotton business. I can form my own opinions based on what I saw and learned. There is a whole lot of heart in cotton farming, from the soil scientists to the seed researchers, to the textile researchers, to the farmers themselves.

Suffice it to say, farming is about lot more than plopping a seed in the soil. It’s easy to romanticize our notions of farming. But those romantic visions don’t always help farmers prosper. I’m learning more and more about how to balance the interconnected gears in our food and textile systems. There are myriad things to consider – affordability, the environment, fair wages, migrant workers, sustainability, safety, science, research, nutrition, accessibility, food security, the list goes on…


One of the most recognizable brands.

Headquartered in Cary, North Carolina is Cotton Incorporated. Here’s what Cotton Inc. states as its mission: “Our mission at Cotton Incorporated is to promote the use of and desire for all things cotton, to get people like you to care about what’s in the clothes, sheets and towels you buy. We know amazing things about cotton, and our job is to help you see why cotton is The Fabric of Our Lives®. ” I kind of love it.

There are so many interesting things happening within the walls of the Cotton Incorporated offices. I came home positively swooning about my day there. There’s textile research and fashion styling and laser printing on fabric and crop research and creative marketing and more. We toured the facilities, and I learned that cotton is a tactile pleasure at all its stages.

IMG_0918 IMG_0946 IMG_0953 IMG_0949

Cotton Incorporated was established in 1970 to support farmers in the research, development, and promotion of cotton. The office boasts scientists and designers alike. These people know cotton. There are new developments in cotton like wrinkle-free and stain resistance, as well as breakthroughs in sustainability and new uses for cotton. Just because this is a crop with a legacy, doesn’t mean it’s old and irrelevant.


Something’s always looming at Cotton Inc.



How fun is this? My blog logo laser printed on denim.


Currently playing laser printing on denim

Jane’s Walk Returns to Raleigh

Jane's Walk -- Mitchell Silver -- HandmadeNC.com

I live near downtown Raleigh, as I have for 13 years. I love to see how the city has evolved and I am particularly enthralled with the history that peppers each street. We’re lucky to live in a place that’s walkable. There’s a friendly smile, neighborly wave, giggles of school children, and clip of runners as I make my way through my neighborhood on my daily dog walks. It’s pretty marvelous to live with such a palpable sense of place. I’m pleased to bring you the words of Lauren Pritchett today. Lauren is co-organizer of Jane’s Walk Raleigh.

Cities all over the world, including Raleigh, are gearing up to honor the late urban activist Jane Jacobs’ birthday through Jane’s Walk the weekend of May 2-3, 2015. Jane’s Walk offers a way for passionate citizens to lead free conversational walking tours about their home city. Anyone can plan and lead a tour – the only requirement is to have fun!

In 2014, Raleigh hosted its inaugural Jane’s Walk, which captivated nearly 500 people through different walking tours about history, architecture, urban development, and parks.

Jane's Walk, Raleigh 2014

Raleigh’s 1st Jane’s Walk

Raleigh’s first Jane’s Walk appropriately began where our capital city established its roots – on the Capitol grounds, with a tour called 200 years of Architecture & History in 400 square feet. Researcher Catherine Bishir and architect Frank Harmon discussed elements of our rich Southern history with eager Raleighites throughout the Capitol.

I was ecstatic to lead the History of Commerce Tour, which highlighted several commercial buildings in downtown Raleigh. Each landmark had a different story to tell, adding a significant layer to Raleigh’s dynamic history. Although I spent a lot of time researching each historical landmark, I learned even more from the people who joined my walk and shared their own experiences with the group.

Next, dozens of walkers followed former City Planner Mitchell Silver through the downtown Warehouse District on his Looking Back and Looking Forward tour.

On the second day of Raleigh’s 2014 Jane’s Walk, Matt Tomasulo of CityFabric and WalkYourCity (two wonderfully thriving handmade Raleigh businesses) led the way from the Boylan Heights neighborhood to the Dorothea Dix property to discuss potential for city parks and green space.

Each homegrown walk featured a unique component of North Carolina’s capital city and sparked conversation among strangers and neighbors alike.

Jane's Walk 2015

Jane’s Walk Raleigh 2015

I am thrilled that Jane’s Walk is returning to the Oak City this year because we already have an eclectic itinerary in the works. Back by popular demand, Catherine and Frank will be leading the Capitol grounds tour again on Saturday, May 2nd, 2015 at 12pm.

This year’s newest addition to the Jane’s Walk Raleigh repertoire is a tour of The Wedge Community Garden by Shamsa Visone on May 2nd at 11am. Shamsa and tour-goers will talk about how to grow a healthier and happier neighborhood through communal gardening.

There is still time for anyone to sign up to become a walk leader! You are encouraged to share your love of local food, art, fashion, and just about anything else with other Raleigh citizens. Just visit the Jane’s Walk Raleigh website or contact Lauren Pritchett for help setting up a walk. One of the best parts about living in Raleigh is being surrounded by the enthusiasm of citizens who love their community.

Jane's Walk -- Raleigh 2015

As someone who’s completed three historic home renovations in Raleigh, I wholeheartedly agree! Cheers to Raleigh…Ra-Ra-Raleigh!Jane's Walk -- Raleigh 2015

Cone Mills {Childhood Memories}

I’ve been thinking about the textile factories that dotted the North Carolina landscape with plumes of steam coming up from their boilers. More specifically, I’ve been thinking about Cone Mills. You see, my entire family is deeply tied into textile manufacturing. Part were Southern coastal landed gentry, the others Scots-Irish who settled in Appalachian mountains and made their way down to the Foothills of North Carolina. Those who dwelled in the Foothills were either farmers, military, or textile workers.

They were proud people who worked very hard for their living. Textile jobs were dirty, loud, potentially dangerous and tough on the body. My late maternal Grandfather was a fixer, and my paternal Grandfather, a weaver. My late paternal Grandmother was a spinner, and my living maternal Grandmother worked in the supply room. My aunt was a doffer. My Father worked his way up through the textile factories in North Carolina to upper management. I could make a super long list that would bore you to tears about my extended family and their roles in textiles, but I shall refrain.

As a little girl, I remember visiting the different factories my family worked at. I was never allowed in when they were operating, but on the rare times they were shut down (the first week in July and Christmas) I would get to see the inner workings.

The smell of cotton and machine oil from these visits is something that will never escape me. It is similar to what you smell when cleaning a gun, but different. Less oily, more earthy. There was also a metallic smell from the multi-ton beasts that took raw cotton fibers and turned them into denim fabric. Smells are something we associate with throughout life. They trigger memories, good and bad, and no matter what, stick with us in such a profound way that, even years later, can rattle us to our core. Even now, when I smell certain scents, I’m taken back to the smell of the cotton mills and the fabric sitting on their looms.

Really, the fabric I’m thinking of is “selvage” denim. An item so popular, jeans made with it today start upwards of $150 dollars each. Most of this “blue gold” is made at the Cone Mills White Oak plant located in Greensboro, NC, and favored by mainstream retailers like Gap, American Apparel to boutique brands and iconic clothing manufacturers such as Levi.

Frankly, I was stunned at the prices commanded by selvage denim today. After all, it seems like yesterday I was a young girl walking among the machines, tufts of spun cotton the floor and machines that wove fabric stopped mid-weave.

Cone Mills Corporation was the world leader in the manufacturing of denim and largest supplier in the world.* Their employees were proud of their work and I’m happy to see Cone still has one plant still running in North Carolina. The hulking ghosts of their empty factories are a consistent reminder of when things were truly Handmade in North Carolina.

*Source: http://www2.lib.unc.edu/mss/inv/c/Cone_Mills_Corporation.html

Romare Bearden Park — Charlotte, NC

In honor of Black History Month in North Carolina, I’m going to kick things off with Romare Bearden Park located in Uptown Charlotte. (Not to worry, Handmade NC will be sharing more about the life and works of Mr. Bearden later this month.) This 5.4 acre public park is named in honor of Charlotte born artist, Romare Bearden, and opened August 2013.

When life has been hectic, Bearden park is a spot I find myself at time and time again. Always changing, I like sit and study the sections while I host an internal debate on which pieces of Bearden’s work are represented in different sections as I stroll or sit on one of the many benches available to visitors. My husband works one block away from this gorgeous spot and it is one of our favorite meeting places for lunch.

Bearden was born in 1911 in his great-grandparents’ house at the corner of Second (now MLK Jr. Boulevard.) and Graham Street in Uptown, a short walk from his namesake park which is based on Bearden’s collages and paintings, a creative music “playground” and a colorful waterfall that has become a popular photo backdrop. Plants and flowers were planned to bring to life the work of Bearden through nature. Among the lush landscaping, you find fitness classes, impromptu jam sessions from local musicians, workday lunch breaks, romantic strolls, planned festivals, and inspiration.

“The park design is based on the work of public artist Norie Sato. Her concepts were inspired by Bearden’s multimedia collages where he used memory, experiences and tradition as the basis of his work. For example, the main pathway that bisects the park from Church Street to the main plaza of the future Charlotte Knights Ballpark is named the Evocative Spine, named as such to represent the way Bearden created his work by ‘evoking’ his childhood memories. Two other features of the park, Madeline’s and Maudell’s gardens, represent how Bearden used the memory of the beautiful garden’s kept by his mother and grandmother to inspire his art.” – Charlotte Center City Partners

Evoking Bearden and his use of memory as triggers for past experience, the elements of the park represents how he worked and the imagery he used to channel the spirit of his life and artwork.

To learn more about Romare Bearden Park and the concepts behind it’s development, please visit the Bearden Foundation.


Romare Bearden Park is located at 300 S. Church Street, Charlotte, NC.

Many thanks to James Willamor, founder of Croquet Records, a nonprofit record label and songwriter incubator focused on developing and recording new and emerging artists in North Carolina, for the stunning images of Romare Bearden Park used in this post.