Beyond expansive windows, the wetlands brim with natural wonders—as do the extraordinary rooms of a Skidaway Island home. Judy Bean explores. » Photography by Richard Leo JohnsonWhen gazing at the coastal panorama beyond the wall-sized windows of Cathy Jarman’s marsh-front home, the words of American poet Walt Whitman come to mind: “Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.” Cathy, a self-taught, Savannah-born artist, sculpts—and surrounds herself—with seashells. Her home offers up ever-changing arrangements of conchs and cockles, scallops and Scotch bonnets, slipper snails and similar species. They share space with spiny corals, sun-bleached starfish and lace-like mineral tubes made by sea worms. Land-based life relics linger here, too: steer horns, monkey skulls, a framed, foot-long frog skeleton and rustic compositions of animal bones picked up from local jaunts. Even the rocks—like the 400-pound cluster of pale pink crystals perched atop the coffee table—seem alive. It’s all far more magical than macabre—charming, wondrous and comforting, too. The mementos of natural history seem to whisper of Genesis. Abundant sunlight and soothing gray walls create harmony with Cathy’s other collections: soulful folk art, sensuous furniture and crafts from cultures far afield, all curated and arranged with an artist’s eye. Cathy—whose son, Alex, daughter-in-law, Erica, and 4-year-old grandson, Wyatt, live next door—had eyed this home for months as it sat empty. But when she decided to move, its peach-colored carpet and Dynasty-era décor put her off. [caption id="attachment_12663" align="aligncenter" width="576"] MUSSEL UP. Although Cathy buys shells from legal importers, she also incorporates serendipitous finds from everyday life. " get mussel shells, which are beautiful, by order mussels at Carrabba's," she confides.[/caption] Only after a wholehearted house hunt did she realize, “There was just something about this house. It had that quality of being a little different, like me. “Of course, being next door to my grandson did play into the equation,” she adds with a smile. Cathy kept the home’s 1980s, California-style layout intact—but she drastically changed its indoor aesthetic. Demolition was limited to downsizing the main fireplace wall and widening the openings on either side to allow more light into the core of the home. She painted most of the walls a deep, rich gray—a shade she wryly calls “the color of marsh mud.” She replaced the peach carpet with ceramic tile and dark hardwood, then wrapped the open stairs in woven sea grass. She swapped out ordinary doors for weathered wood shutters from Egypt, which she also used to make a new wall above the staircase landing. Instead of relocating the furniture from her former home, Cathy sold or donated much of it, then chose more appropriate pieces from importers, local boutiques and consignment shops. “You’ll probably never see me in a regular furniture store, unless I’m buying a good leather couch,” the artist asserts. Her home, like the tidal creeks outside, is ever-changing. “I’m not afraid to try new things,” Cathy says. “I move furniture and change how I use it. I’ll grab a can of paint and start painting. If the results aren’t good, I try something else. The important thing in finding your style is not to be afraid.” These days, when she’s not sculpting with seashells, Cathy spends time with Wyatt, who adoringly calls her “Grandcat.” Together, they explore the outdoors, her indoor collections and his ever-expanding imagination. For them, life on the marsh is just as Whitman wrote: “Every hour of light and dark is a miracle.”
When he designed Savannah’s urban grid 260-plus years ago, General Oglethorpe knew that our common spaces would define us. Now a new generation of visionaries is taking that plan one step further. Native Zach Powers explores the city’s newest—and oldest—trend. » Photography by Beau KesterThe building on the corner of Congress and Montgomery languished for more than a decade. Warped plywood the color of wet ash covered every window. I could only imagine the rot on the inside, the dust that clung thick to every surface. Whenever I walked past, I cringed, but not at the decay. My disgust was a little more pragmatic than that. I resented the circumstances that allowed such a prime piece of real estate to waste away. When the chain link fence went up around the building last summer, I rejoiced. No, I probably won’t be shopping at the new Anthropologie on a regular basis, but I celebrate every time I see progress in Savannah. What I value more than a new shop for myself is the growth and diversification of our community. I want my city to thrive.
A Ghost TownWhen my family moved away from Savannah in 1991, I can only remember there being two establishments on Broughton Street: Levy Jewelers at one end and Welsh Pawn Shop at the other. A couple more might have lived and died in between over the years, but I’ll never know. Back then, nobody went to Broughton. There was no reason. Out of the entire Historic District, the only spot that ever warranted a visit was River Street. As a kid, I probably didn’t know that “downtown” meant anything more than the strip between Factors Walk and the river. There are several well-worn theories concerning Savannah’s stagnation and its subsequent revitalization. I’ll offer my own summary: it involved politicians and prominent residents who thought preserving the past meant preventing progress. The collapse of this regime coincided with Forrest Gump, The Book, and the rise of the Savannah College of Art and Design. That was 20 years ago, and the perfect storm of tourism and increased downtown residency allowed restaurants and boutiques to move in and, to my pleasant surprise, succeed.
Lovely But LonelyJump ahead to 2009. My teenage self wouldn’t recognize downtown Savannah. I’ve got an apartment in the heart of it all, around the corner from the current Gallery Espresso and just a short walk to dozens of restaurants and bars. The city bustles, sidewalks full of tourists, Forsyth Park dotted with sunbathers. Frisbees and footballs sail overhead. Every square plays host to its own microcosmic community. It seems ideal. But I’ve spent several years applying for jobs in other cities, looking for a way out. As much as the city has grown, I find it a hard place to be a writer. More specifically, in 2009, I’m the only writer I know. I crave a community of the literarily like-minded, the kind I’ve seen in places like Atlanta and Boston and Chicago. Not to mention New York. With each day and every ignored job application, I feel myself more isolated. More frustrated. While the city flourishes physically, local culture—from writing to music to theater—is still an abandoned storefront.
The GatheringIn 2010, I take matters into my own hands. Along with Christopher Berinato and Brian Dean, I launch the literary arts nonprofit Seersucker Live. Our goal is to establish a literary scene in Savannah, to fill cultural storefronts that had long been abandoned. And Seersucker isn’t alone. Around the same time that we’re getting started, JinHi Soucy Rand raises the curtain on Muse Arts Warehouse, a nonprofit blackbox theater on Lousiville Road, and Kayne Lanahan kicks off the Savannah Stopover Festival, bringing more indie bands to Savannah in a weekend than performed here over several years prior. Savannah’s culture erupts from paucity to glut almost overnight. Welcome to 2014. Seersucker, Muse and Stopover have connected artists with an eager audience. They helped create a community where before there had been only individuals. As these innovations become household names, I can’t help but wonder: What’s next for Savannah? Where do we grow from here? My quest for answers takes me away from downtown, to meet the people who see possibilities in unusual places.
Old Men, New ConceptCohen’s Retreat is hard to miss from Skidaway Road. The main structure reminds me of a small-town train station, its two-story entranceway flanked on either side by long, low wings. Set back from the roadway, it possesses an air of detachment from everything going on around it. When I was a kid, attending Hancock Day School’s former campus right across Skidaway, aging men would idle away afternoons on the row of benches up against the fence, facing the street. The men were the residents of Cohen’s Old Men’s Retreat, a cast of quirky characters I only ever knew by their waved greetings. That was the scene for five decades, but then Cohen’s closed its doors, and those benches sat empty for years. Every time I drove by and saw the overgrown lawn and darkened windows, I wished I had the time and inspiration necessary to reclaim the space. While the building may have been physically empty, I knew it teemed with potential. Enter Colleen Smith and Karen Langston, the founders of the new Cohen’s Retreat. They purchased the facility—the main building plus sixteen cottages and a few additional structures—two years ago, and began the process of turning it from an abandoned asylum into a creative collective. “We had seen similar settings in other, bigger cities,” says Smith, “but Savannah has so much untapped talent. We knew it was possible to bring this kind of setting.” Smith and Langston, both products of Savannah, used to visit the men who lived at Cohen’s. They share with me fond memories of the place and the people. I’m struck right away by the warmth of these women, and it truly shines as they reminisce. Their personal history allows them to see their new development as a continuation of the Retreat’s legacy. Smith can’t help but grin as she talks about her work. “This building is phenomenal. We didn’t dream we’d get the chance to be here.” I enter through the tall columns on the front porch into a cozy lobby. I’d expected something more “in progress,” but the renovations to the main building are nearly complete, and the south wing, a gallery space, has already hosted two shows. A banquet table dominates another room. The back wall is finished in wood left over from the renovation, arranged in random mosaic. Small candles rest atop the pieces of wood that jut out. Subtle touches like this abound, revealing the meticulous care with which the project has been undertaken.
If You Build ItThe space, however, is only half the work. Without someone to use it, Cohen’s would just be a big, pretty building. But creative types are already flocking to the retreat from all over the city. A couple of working craftspeople live in the cottages out back. Two designers, as well as Smith and Langston’s own business, Savannah Plush, have offices upstairs. The next gallery exhibition, featuring several area artists, is already being installed. Soon, the north wing—newly opened up into a single large room—will host lectures, classes, workshops, and more. Smith says, “We just wanted to provide a setting where the most accomplished artist can come in and go away with something, but so can someone who has never even picked up a paintbrush.” Both founders downplay their desire to engineer a community, saying instead that they want Cohen’s to grow into a living place. By welcoming creative people into their shared space, they intend to encourage its natural evolution. By the end of January, a public café will open in the main building, operated by Form’s Brian Torres. A restaurant and artists’ retreat will follow. They’ve even fixed up the shuffleboard court out back. “We wanted to open it up to all the possibilities,” Smith says. “It’s too cool to keep to yourself. We have to share this.” While the facility looks nearly finished to me, I’m told work remains to be done. Langston shows me a map that features a new patio space, vegetable and herb gardens, and a fountain to be installed out front. Many of the fully-renovated cottages are still available for rent. A few landscaping projects remain to spruce up the grounds. Even without the finishing touches, Cohen’s is already a success, and I’m excited to see how it grows over the next few years. It demonstrates that, with a little vision and a big effort, the same kind of community that developed downtown can be cultivated on Skidaway, connecting the corridor from Five Points to Sandfly. It also models a new type of space for Savannah: a shared hub where creative people can gather to innovate, socialize and live. Cohen’s is no longer a forgotten building on the side of the road; it’s the center of a new Savannah community.
“We wanted to open it up to all the possibilities,” Smith says. “It’s too cool to keep to yourself. We have to share this.”
Common GroundTim Cone is a high school teacher, but that wouldn’t be your first guess if you saw him around town. His beard better befits a lumberjack. Like me, he’s probably most often mistaken for a SCAD student. But a teacher he is, and now he has the plaque to prove it: Cone recently was named teacher of the year by the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System. When he’s not enlightening young minds on the science of engineering, Cone devotes his time to Maven Makers, a group that plans to open a makers’ space in Savannah. Put briefly, a makers’ space is a shared workshop furnished with the tools of light industry, from woodshop to metalworking equipment to 3D printers. Members pay a monthly fee, and have access to hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment they wouldn’t have access to otherwise. “It works sort of like a gym,” Cone tells me. If all goes well, the space could be up and running within the year. But Cone almost didn’t stick around long enough to even begin the project. “My first year, I loved my teaching job one hundred percent, but I hated Savannah,” he confesses. “I didn’t get plugged into anything. I just went to work, came home to my apartment, ate dinner, and went to bed. But I moved downtown my second year, got plugged into a lot of different areas, and started really connecting with the community. I started learning that there are all these little pockets of things that are happening.” Savannah’s cultural and community offerings helped Cone find his place in Savannah—a shared space he’s building, people first. His network of innovators and entrepreneurs is united by their desire for this space and working together to bring it into being.
Cornhole for Creatives“Maven Makers is one of those things that I think everyone can come together and say ‘Yes, this is one thing that we absolutely need.’ It can absolutely be the center of innovation. It can be the driving force that’s going to push Savannah to be a model for other cities to follow.” Innovation is key to Savannah’s future, but what good is that future if it doesn’t extend beyond the individual, if it doesn’t bring people together from time to time? Progress in any venture, from cultural to industrial, can’t occur in a vacuum. As it prepares to share Ramsey Khalidi’s Southern Pine space in the old Star Laundry building, Maven Makers has already drawn interest from local leaders and businesses. Cone says he’s been overwhelmed by the positive reception, and he hopes to secure funding within the year. For the time being, Maven Makers will focus on providing workshops and joining with other organizations throughout the community to host events. One of their first events will be a cornhole tournament, but with a twist. The beanbags have to be lobbed by homemade trebuchets. “A makers’ space is just one small piece of a larger movement in Savannah,” Cone says. “There are a lot of people out there being forward thinkers, wanting to mix things up here in town. They have grand ideas or some kind of passion, and they just need a space to express themselves.”
A Place for UsFor innovators like Cone, building community is about providing greater opportunities for individual success. That begins with the ability to see potential, especially when that potential is hidden under the surface. Where I saw only abandoned storefronts on Broughton Street 20 years ago, I think Smith, Langston, and Cone would have seen the kinds of businesses that could thrive there. Where I see a group of people with shared interests, they see a home base where those people can gather and forge community. “This has kind of renewed my interest in living in Savannah,” Cone says, “and made me realize that this isn’t just a temporary spot. I could be here for a very long time and make this my home.” Savannah is fortunate to have residents for whom the idea of home extends beyond their own four walls. This concept built—and rebuilt—downtown, and similar progress can extend to wherever people are willing to take it. Let’s hope it spreads far and wide.
Talking ’bout a resolution? Sarah Hinson weighs in on three Savannahians who’ve revolutionized their bodies—and their lives. » Photography by Teresa Earnest“I used to say I was ‘fat and happy,’ but it was far from true!” says Andi Missroon, a self-proclaimed “couch potato.” The 46-year old wife and mother was content with an active social life—just not the trips, falls and inactivity affiliated with being overweight. After suffering from several injuries in 2010 at a weight of 230 lbs., including a hip contusion and plantar fasciitis—a strain in the arch of her foot—Missroon began to consider her future quality of life. She decided that being overweight was too much of a risk. She wanted to stop falling down, and eventually run a half-marathon. So she opted for “fit and happy” instead, and called up Drew Edmonds of Train Me 24/7 in November 2010. Drew and his wife, Shazi, own the fitness center and have worked with the likes of celebrity chef Paula Deen and Ruby Gettinger from the Style Network’s Ruby. He and his trainers offer comprehensive one-on-one sessions catered to the needs and goals of each client. They recently partnered with West Rehab & Sports Medicine to combine the efforts of both groups’ fitness and nutrition experts and physical therapists. Missroon stands out, even among celebrity clientele, due to her level of dedication and dramatic transformation. “Working with Andi has been one of the highlights of my 16-year personal training career,” Edmonds says. “We struggled through tears, complaints, vent sessions and laughter to reach each and every goal. Although we continue to assign new achievements for the future, it is impossible to look back at her progress and accomplishments and feel anything but proud.” After working out with Edmonds two to three days a week for three years, focusing on building her core strength and increasing her resting metabolic rate to burn more calories, Missroon has lost more than 60 lbs. She competes in half marathons and triathlons. Once a carryout-food junkie, she is now an advocate of the Paleo diet—a trending diet plan consisting of foods that our hunter-gatherer ancestors might have consumed, such as grass-fed beef, seafood, nuts, seeds and fresh fruits and vegetables. Missroon continues to serve as an example to others with similar aspirations. “I would say she’s inspired about 20 of her friends,” Edmonds says. “When someone has such a positive change, it’s like a catalyst. People will want to be a part of it.” Missroon credits Edmonds with being the cornerstone of her transformation, along with her own critical lifestyle changes. Thanks to their combined efforts, the future is bright for this triathlete. “When I look ahead I see a whole different future for myself and my family,” Missroon says. “I don’t ever plan to give that up!”
The Heart of an AthleteWhen Les Vann, general manager of the television station WJCL, came to Savannah in January 2013, finding a personal trainer was at the top of his to-do list. Two years after discovering that he had an 85 percent blockage in one of his arteries, Vann was the heaviest he’s ever been at 245 lbs. After stent placement surgery and cardiac rehab, he started working with a personal trainer in Cincinnati, where he lived at the time. “I really needed the discipline and encouragement,” Vann says. “Having a trainer makes you keep the commitment to get work done.” By March 2013 he was strength training with Julie Ralston at Spine & Sport two to three times per week. At this point, he was down to 202 lbs. With the addition of an exercise regimen came the removal of some of his favorite foods. “Like a lot of Midwesterners, I’m a filet-mignon-and-potato kind of guy,” Vann says. “Now I’ve cut out starches and most red meat. I eat lots of vegetables and drink lots of water.” Despite the sacrifices, it’s been well worth the effort. Vann is just about to hit his next goal of 185 lbs.
"I really needed the discipline and encouragement,” Vann says. “Having a trainer makes you keep the commitment to get work done.The trainer says that with the weight loss Vann’s endurance has improved tremendously. “He has begun training for a 5K and is handling the running sessions exceptionally well,” Ralston says. Vann says he has many motivators—not just the health scare back in 2009 or Ralston’s constant encouragement, but also his baby granddaughter. Like Missroon, he wants to be there for his family’s future. And one of the biggest perks? “People have noticed and made comments and compliments,” Vann says.
Losing to WinMarc Dorce and his wife, Hanna, began visiting Crossfit Hyperformance at the beginning of last year. Dorce, a 32-year-old pharmacy technician, was running regularly but was still dependent on an inhaler. He initially started Crossfit to support his wife’s efforts to lose weight, but he soon found his own incentive. “In Crossfit, you work to make your strengths stronger and neutralize your weaknesses by attacking them,” Dorce’s trainer, Jennifer McKenzie, explains. “Marc stands out as a quiet storm by constantly addressing his weak areas and progressively mastering new skill after new skill.” McKenzie adds that Dorce is not afraid to push himself in a workout as he begins to feel comfortable with feeling uncomfortable—another goal in Crossfit, a high-intensity fitness regimen of “constantly varied functional movements.” Dorce has lost 20 lbs. in the past year, gaining back about half of the weight in muscle. He started out strong, entering the Whole Life Challenge in February—an 8-week lifestyle boot camp that includes nutritional changes and exercise—along with Hanna and 80 other members of Crossfit Hyperformance. He won the award for highest body transformation among the men, and Hanna came in second for the women. “Doing this with someone close to you is really helpful,” Dorce says. “My wife can deadlift more than me,” he admits, “so that really gets me motivated.” Dorce’s new goals are more fitness-oriented than weight-loss driven. He wants to be able to do 10 pull-ups and complete the rope climb at the gym. But the most exciting results so far, he says, are everyday differences. “Like, when I accidentally leave the door open and it’s raining, and I have to run back and close the door,” he says. “I don’t get winded anymore.” McKenzie celebrates Dorce’s victories—and his inspiring attitude. “Marc is a testament to the changes that can happen when you continually push the limits a little bit at a time,” she explains. But Dorce is quick to give the credit to his Crossfit team and trainer. “You walk in and someone is there to cheer you on,” Dorce says. “It’s not really about competition there—it’s about community.”
Against the classic backdrop of a historic mansion, a member of the local “glitterati” designs a porch party rife with personalized touches and sparkling signature details. ¦ Photography by Izzy Hudgins“I love sparkle,” Andrea Gray Harper says, explaining why she chose New Year’s Eve for her creative inspiration. “And right now I’m obsessed with gold.” To take an evening of carousing to a new level of easy elegance, Andrea brought her sequins and swank to Brockington Hall, an Italianate villa-style venue in the heart of the Historic District. “It’s a glamorous old building with a wide porch—because Savannahians love to party outside,” she explains, praising the “unusual, graphic ironwork” that provided a perfect backdrop to her effervescent dinner party on the veranda. To achieve her shimmering vision, Andrea called in reinforcements: Wendy Patrick of Thrive Café and Catering to pack the menu with local flavors, bartender Jacob Sanford to concoct a signature cocktail, and graphic designer Samantha Sanford of Lavender and Honey designs to create “graphic and glittery” stationery, including personalized Champagne labels. “Look at the people around you and see who can help you,” she urges. “There are a lot of really creative people in Savannah.” A brilliant setting: Andrea made a tablecloth out of black sequined fabric and designed a sparkly gold table runner. She hung a gold piñata to represent the midnight “ball drop,” then brought out her family’s vintage china, cutting circular menu cards that fit in the base of each plate. It’s a wrap: “Something as simple as paper can make an ordinary object extraordinary,” advises Andrea, who used striped paper to turn ordinary cylindrical vases into a bold centerpiece filled with roses, scabiosa pods, gilded magnolias and fluffy, white peacock feathers. Culinary accents: Savannahians eat the peas-and-rice dish Hoppin’ John for good luck at the New Year, so Wendy’s menu boasted a locally sourced version. And, instead of coating the traditional blini with caviar, Wendy served the New Year’s delicacy on local grit cakes. Sip ’n’ see: “I always stop by Party City to pick up ‘to-go’ cups that match the palette of each event,” says Andrea, who found gold cups for this event. “‘Travelers’ are a beloved Savannah tradition, and I just like when an event makes sense from start to finish.” Festive, not fussy: To help her female guests shine for the occasion, Andrea invited Jules DeJesus Fritz and Emily Warren of Dollface by Jules to host a pre-party beauty bash, freshening faces with red lips and metallic accents.
Jacob’s Seelbach Champagne Cocktail1 oz. bourbon 1/2 oz. Cointreau triple sec 7 dashes Angostura bitters 7 dashes Peychaud’s bitters Champagne Ice cubes Lemon twists for garnish With a mixing glass, bar spoon and strainer, stir liquors briefly over ice, strain into a chilled flute, top with Champagne and garnish.
New Year's Brought to You By…Event designer and stylist: Andrea Gray Harper, Gray Harper Event Maker Location: Brockington Hall Rentals: Savannah Special Events and Gray Harper Event Maker Catering: Thrive Café and Catering Stoneground grits: Freeman’s Mill in Statesboro Paté: Ashley Farm Chicken in Murrayville Quail eggs: Suzanne Bailey, Sandy Creek Farm in Brooklet Local shellfish: Russo’s Seafood Asiago popcorn topping: Flatcreek Lodge in Swainsboro Macarons: Maison de Macarons Paper goods and graphic design: Samantha Sanford, Lavender & Honey Designs Hair and make-up: Emily Warren and Jules De Jesus Fritz, Dollface by Jules Bowtie: French Knot Studios Bartender: Jacob Sanford Guests: Michael Campanaro, Melody and Christopher Munn, Samantha and Jacob Sanford, Victoria Williams
The Festival of Lights is one of the Jewish calendar’s less formal holidays—and one local maven takes that as creative license to host a breezy barbecue with a breathtaking view. » Photography by Katie McGee“There’s a common misconception that Chanukah is the Jewish Christmas,” Robyn Levy Carroll points out. “In reality, it’s one of many important celebrations. “Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur are our high holidays,” she explains, “but we can have a lot of fun with Chanukah because it’s less traditional. It’s a fun family holiday for all ages. It’s all about games and fried food.” The rich food has a purpose. It commemorates the oil burnt in the rededication of the Holy Temple after the Maccabean Revolt against the Greeks of the 2nd century BCE—when a lamp lit on the new altar had enough fuel for one day, but miraculously, it burned for the requisite eight days. Robyn, who grew up in South Africa, is accustomed to celebrating Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, outdoors. [nggallery id=355] “It’s a summer holiday in the Southern hemisphere,” she explains, “so I think of it as an outdoorsy and warm, low-key time of year. That works in Savannah’s mild winter, too.” Robyn translated the traditional blue and white into a nautical theme and set her party dockside at the Westin Savannah Harbor, where she works as the catering manager. “Only in Savannah could you have this view,” marvels the practiced event planner, who complemented the surroundings with breezy, playful accessories, natural fibers and casual finger foods. Let it shine: Robyn assembled a makeshift “menorah” out of canning jars and tea lights and made a runner out of sturdy, striped ticking. She finished the look with her own vintage glassware and a game of dreidel, complete with Chanukah gelt. Lighten up: “Sometimes we get so focused on impressing our guests that we go too far in the difficulty spectrum,” Robyn observes. “Make it easy enough that you can enjoy your own party! So what if you serve donuts for dessert or pick up your brisket at Wiley’s? If you’re a working parent like many of us, the only way to entertain and enjoy it is to be resourceful.” Make it meaningful: For Robyn, the holiday is less about gifts and more about a shared experience with family. “This year, we’re planning to give our son, Stellan, one book each night that we can read together,” she says. “This way, we’re really sharing something.” This year, for the first time ever, Thanksgiving and the first day of Chanukah fall on the same day. Celebrate this unique American confluence with a deep-fried turkey—a Southern take on Thanksgiving that also fits the oil-rich Chanukah menu. Brought to You By… Event designer and stylist: Robyn Levy Carroll, catering manager at the Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa Location: Dock at the Westin Savannah Harbor Latkes with lox, chives and sour cream: Robyn Levy Carroll Barbecue brisket: Wiley’s Championship BBQ Donut holes: Krispy Kreme Napkins and trays: No. Four Eleven Farm table: Savannah Special Events Chairs: Westin Savannah Harbor Guests: Robyn’s coworkers and friends
Inspired by the first story she heard of the original Thanksgiving, a crafty local event designer stages a colorful feast with the help of some very talented natives and pilgrims. » Photography by Izzy Hudgins“I challenged myself to do a glitter-free party this time,” Audrey Wagner King laughs, causing a few gold glints to sparkle mysteriously on her face. “I’ve been using glitter so much it never really comes off.” In lieu of the glitzier festivities, Audrey chose to host our Thanksgiving oyster roast, combining a celebrated coastal tradition with the “grade-school version” of America’s “pilgrims and natives” tale. She gathered her creative co-conspirators around a rustic farm table at the Georgia State Railroad Museum, and brought in feathers, leather, earthenware and tribal patterns, along with pumpkin-shaped persimmon branches and harvest-hued flowers. Her friends at FORM brought a seafood bounty complete with bacon-truffle oysters Rockefeller and Thai style shrimp salad on cucumber rounds. “I thought Thanksgiving offered more of a blank slate than the other holidays,” observes the designer and founder of French Knot Studios. “It’s usually more about food and people than about the décor. I was excited to try things for the magazine that I might not get to do for a wedding client.” With her background in theater and costume design, Audrey opened French Knot Studios to teach fellow “makers” advanced crafting techniques, but she soon found herself creating custom décor for events. “Life is a performance,” she explains, “and every wedding or gathering has a story to tell. Both theater and event design require calm energy and a resourceful mind.” Upcycled fun: Audrey painted empty wine and beer bottles with metallic paint and added leather bands and feathers to make a ragtag row of vases as varied as her guests. What a card: To make her feather-shaped place cards, Audrey Googled “clip art,” printed her chosen silhouette on heavy stock, cut out each shape and wrote names in white gel pen. Food for thought: Saffron-laced prawns, scored flounder, pecan encrusted pork stuffed with pears, vanilla carrots and orange halves stuffed with sweet potato soufflé are just a few of the innovations Brian Torres and the FORM team brought to the table. Spice the space: “Nicole (Schwalge of Simply Savannah Events) loves creating backdrops to enhance event venues and create a unique atmosphere,” Audrey says. “I asked her to use her love of tribal designs and Southwestern colors.” Beyond pumpkin pie: Natasha Gaskill of Lulu’s Chocolate Bar made a “naked” cake with apple layers and caramel-drizzled goat cheese frosting, and Brian added one of FORM’s signature pumpkin cheesecakes. As a conversation-starter and keepsake, Audrey coordinated pens and crafted paper for guests to list the things they’re thankful for.
Occasional Drink: To make the Whipped Cider Martini, combine 2 oz. apple cider, 2 oz. whipped cream vodka, 1 oz. brandy, 1 oz. butterscotch Liqueur, and a dash of cinnamon and/or nutmeg Shake with ice, pour and garnish with a “teeny” pumpkin or apple slice.
Brought to You By…Stylist: Audrey Wagner King, French Knot Studios, with Izzy Hudgins Location/Venue: Georgia State Railroad Museum Catering: John Osborne, James Kleinschmidt, Brian Torres (with Brian’s daughter, Lucia), FORM Cake: Lulu’s Chocolate Bar Table accessories: World Market Flowers: Fiftyflowers.com Painted backdrop: Nicole Schwalge, Simply Savannah Events Hair and make-up: Emily Warren and Jessica Mock, Dollface by Jules Clothing: Custard Boutique Jewelry: ZIA Boutique Guests: Melody Munn and Sterling Horry Savannah Magazine Thanksgiving from Munn Brothers on Vimeo.
Photography by Izzy Hudgins
Only in Savannah Magazine
"Silhouettes are super-popular right now, and we started throwing out ideas for something 'so Savannah' for this shoot," Tara recalls. "We said, 'Why not do plates with Savannah landmarks?' Emily did the hand-painting and lettering, and she pointed out that visitors, locals and brides alike would want these plates."
The plates are now available for order at the duo's new "DowntownDishes" shop at Etsy.com.