Atlanta-based Bene is on a feel-good fashion mission: Buy a scarf and help educate a girl.
The company: Bené, launched in May 2013, offers a polished collection of Atlanta-made silk scarves inspired by the beauty of West African culture. The company name comes from the word benevolent.
The founders: Best friends Michelle Blue and Sasha Matthews grew up Lithonia, GA. Blue graduated from the University of Georgia with a marketing and fashion merchandising degree. Matthews earned a math degree at Florida A & M University.
Inspiration: In 2011, as a UGA student, Blue went on a summer a study-abroad program to Ghana, where she met girls eager for an education but struggling to afford one. She was motivated to help. After she graduated, Blue launched Bene with Matthews.
What’s popular: The five-scarf Akwaaba gift set ($550). Also one scarf ($150). A portion of the sales goes toward the girls’ tuition, books and uniforms.
Proud moment: The Bene founders traveled to Ghana last May to see the first group of girls graduate.
Where to buy: benescarves.com.
Natalie Davis, a graphic designer, artist and educator, uses traditional tooling and construction techniques to create her modern leather goods.
The designer/founder: Born in New York, Davis grew up in Texas. She earned degrees from UCLA (in Design/Media Arts) and Cranbrook (MFA in 2D Design) before moving back to Texas to start her studio.
The company: Canoe, based in Austin, Texas, was founded in 2009. The company makes custom leather goods, including hand-stitched cabinet handles, hand-dyed catch-all trays, poufs and mirrors.
What’s popular: Cabinet pulls ($68 to 28, shown below). Also the award-winning unisex perfume, Skive ($52), which captures the scent of the leather studio.
Big break: The company’s light switch plates were featured in a 2014 New York Times article, “Highlights of NY Now Gift Show.”
Claim to fame: The perfume, Skive, won a 2015 Art & Olfaction award and was positively reviewed by perfume expert Luca Turin on Style.com/Arabia.
What’s new: Leather poufs (shown below).
Where to buy: www.canoegoods.com
Classic yet contemporary, Rachael Riedinger leather bags are keepers — bags that never go out of style.
The designer/owner: Born in Louisiana, Riedinger grew up in Alpharetta, GA, and graduated with a degree in art history from Georgia State University. After a few unfulfilling post-college jobs, she fell in love with the character of leather and the bag-making process. The self-taught designer and leather maker took her hobby full-time in 2014.
The company: Atlanta-based Neva Opet started in 2014. The company makes leather totes, backpacks shoulder bags and small leather accessories designed to grow in character with age and wear.
The company name: It comes from her great-grandmother Neva and the ancient Egyptian Opet Festival, a nod to Riedinger’s love of art history.
Best sellers: Marina Circle Bag ($150, shown above); Nico Backpack ($265); Marlene Tote ($275); and Carolee Clutch ($85).
Other favorites: Dorothea Fringe Bag ($250) and Ana Bucket Bag ($260).
Big break: In the spring of 2014, she received a large purchase order from Urban Outfitters. Also, being awarded an Emerging Fashion Designer grant in 2016 from the City of Atlanta’s Office of Cultural Affairs.
Claim to fame: Atlanta magazine’s holiday gift guide (2016). Also highlighted as one of five makers in Garden & Gun’s “Standout Southern Handbags” (2015).
What’s next: A slimmer tote, circle backpacks, a waist pouch for summer music festivals and laptop/Ipad sleeves.
Where to buy: www.nevaopet.com
Self-taught jewelry designers Paige Booker and Alice Trahant choose materials for their hand-crafted pieces that catch their eye and have a little history behind them.
The company: Atlanta-based Empire State Finery started in 2014. It creates handcrafted necklaces and earrings, weaving various elements including bones, beads, leather, vintage finds and recycled vinyl into the pieces.
The founders & designers: Booker grew up in Rome, GA, and went to the University of Tennessee. After graduation, she spent a couple of years in Charleston, SC, before moving to Atlanta. Trahant grew up in New Orleans and graduated from Rollins College (Fla). Following college, she lived in in Austin and New Orleans before landing in Atlanta, where she and Booker met.
What’s popular: Boars tusk necklaces ($225 to $375). Also earrings ($55), often using hand-painted bone, recycled vinyl and Czech glass arrow beads.
Other favorites: The color-happy “Banded and Stranded” collection ($105 to $155), which can be worn alone or mixed and layered.
Fun request: When people ask us to work something personal into a piece.
Claim to fame: Featured in the August 2016 issue of InStyle Magazine, which the creators grew up reading.
Where to buy: www.empirestatefinery.com
Cary Calhoun, the Atlanta jewelry designer and metalsmith, worked in corporate banking for 15 years before letting her creative side take over.
The designer & background: Calhoun graduated from the University of Georgia with a business degree. While working in corporate banking, she started making jewelry in her spare time. In 1987, Calhoun signed up for her first jewelry class at Chastain Arts Center. She later took classes and attended workshops at places like Spruill Center for the Arts, Penland School of Crafts and John C. Campbell Folk School, both in North Carolina. After her son was born in 1999, Calhoun started making jewelry as more than a hobby.
The company: Atlanta-based Cary Calhoun Designs handcrafts sterling, gold and gold-plated jewelry
What’s popular: Filigree earrings ($78); twig earrings in silver and vermeil ($120 and $140); and “link” bracelets ($200 to $300) to wear alone or layer with other bracelets.
Other favorites: Lace cuffs ($450 to $600), because of the story. After Calhoun’s mother died unexpectedly a few years ago, she found some amazing textiles and lace in the attic. After a year of experimentation, she perfected the process of casting the lace/textiles to create jewelry, mainly cuffs. Cuffs are cast in brass and then plated, either in sterling silver or 14k gold.
Fun request: Asked by a friend to make a lace cuff from the lace of her daughter’s wedding dress.
Where to buy: Frolic Boutique, 2339 Peachtree Road and 3728 Roswell Road, (frolicboutiqueatlanta.com). Also at the Spotlight on Art at the Trinity School in Atlanta from Jan. 30 to Feb. 4.
For information: www.CaryCalhounDesigns.com
A self-taught stone sculptor, Stephen Hutchins carves one-of-a-kind stone bowls and sculptures, made mostly from found and salvaged materials.
The artist & background: Hutchins career began in 2004 in the Lakes region of New Hampshire, where his passion for stone led him to architectural stone carving and eventually sculpture. He spent a summer on Whidbey Island in Washington working with the sculptors of the Freeland Art Studio before moving to Tennessee to open his studio.
The company: Hutchins Stoneworks, based in Nashville, produces art, masonry, and stone carvings. It also offers preservation work.
The goods: Free-form stone sculptures from one foot to four feet ($800 to $4,500). Also bowls carved from stones found along rivers, abandoned quarries, construction sites ($70 to $800).
Best sellers: Natural-edged river rock bowls ($75 to 300), especially granites gathered along the Appalachian Mountain range.
Other favorites: Helix-shaped sculptures of various stones and sizes ($600 to $3,500).
Fun request: A birthday gift for a client’s artist sister. Hutchins went out to the100-year-old family farm the sisters grew up on and picked a rock to carve into a bowl.
Claim to fame: Restoring and creating stolen or lost parts of the Nashville City Cemetery. For one task, he carved a ball finial for the family plot of James Robertson, the founder of Nashville.
Where to buy: www.hutchinsstoneworks.com. In Atlanta, at Spotlight on Art at the Trinity School.
Paige Kalena Follmann was drawn to art at an early age, but never thought she could make a career of it. Now the marketing-turned-abstract artist is known for her striking use of color, pattern and shape.
Artist & background: Follmann, originally from Highland Park in Dallas, Texas, is a graduate of the University of Georgia. She also trained at the Callanwolde Fine Arts Center.
The career shift: Follmann began painting to have a creative outlet from her marketing job. She started sharing photos of her work, and soon friends (and eventually clients) were commissioning paintings. In 2015, Follmann launched her website and online shop. Follmann works out of her home studio in Virginia Highland.
What’s popular: Hand-painted, Picasso-esque ceramic vases ($50 to $200).
Other favorites: Abstract figure paintings ($600 to $3,000). Also custom pieces for clients and interior designers.
Big break: Invited to exhibit her work at the Swan Coach House Gallery at the Atlanta History Center a week after launching her website.
Claim to fame: Having one of her paintings hanging in a custom designed home in the Hampton’s.
Where to buy: www.paigekalenafollmann.com. Also at Spotlight on Art at The Trinity School in Atlanta (Jan. 30-Feb. 4).