- Blythe Leonard
Renovation and Creativity
Four years, SCAD. June 2015, the start of something amazing.
Almost two years after my graduation from Savannah College of Art and Design, I found myself reading Paula Wallace's, "The Bee and the Acorn", her memoir about how she started SCAD. It took me to a place very familiar, starting a business, from nothing to something. She describes how various people both vigorously supported her dream, and those who said "Ha! You want to do what?" I was fortunate enough to have a very supportive set of people in my life that said "You can make a brown paper bag look good, go for it" and "it will grow to be amazing, you just wait and see."
But where? Where was I going to start this amazing business? I started to look at places in Savannah, since that was where my heart lived, but I would have no close support. So was I to go back to NC, where I was born and raised, where people knew me, where I had a support system, where my best friend in the whole world lived? Sounded like a plan to me. So I began to renovate the office space at Celand Yarn Dyers, my great-grandfather's legacy. It built a story about my company, the foundation of any great business. Bring back "Made in America" into a building that was built specifically for American manufacturing, only to be shut down due to overseas production competition in the early 2000's. Hundreds of families where effected by the closure, not to mention the entire town by raising the city's water bills by 15%. So how great would it be to renovate this building, something that I was taught by Paula Wallace herself. Creativity and innovation vibrated against the city emanating from each and every SCAD structure. She taught the city and the students that a space can always be re-purposed, into a productive, creative space. Celand was that for me, a skeleton of its former self, a shell of possibilities and a start of a real American dream. It took only one month just to get the office in some sort of working order. By the time November rolled around in 2015, the need for a showroom/retail space took over. Construction began and the grand opening was the first weekend in April of 2016. Also a year later and I am continuing to renovate and re-purpose.
October 2016, we began to renovate a space that had sat still since 2000. I envisioned a photography studio in the old dye room, and that is exactly what we have today. We scrapped dye off the floors, cleaned the walls, painted and concrete dyed the floor. We would work on Saturdays and after shop hours to get the room in a productive space. Now, the windows are completely blacked out with black out curtains and the room is full of photography lighting and backdrops. Three months later and we have a beautiful photography room full of our "Made in USA" wardrobe. In Paula Wallace's book, she describes renovating their first building, which also had no air, no heat, peeling paint, and lurid dust. It sounds all so familiar.
So what's next? I want to expand our manufacturing space. We shall have to wait and see!