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east meets south

July 22, 2015

oleole group

Eric and Lori Wright believe in the beauty of usefulness. And together, the Georgia couple create Japanese-inspired housewares with Southern roots.

The company: Opened in 2014, ME Speak Design is located in North High Shoals, Ga., where the founders live and work with their three children.

The founders: Lori Wright grew up in Conyers. Her design inspiration comes from both her father, who is a carpenter and her mother’s Japanese-Hawaiian roots. She later studied marketing at the University of Georgia. Eric, an Atlanta native, grew up surrounded by his mother’s art. Following an apprenticeship as a carpenter in Athens, Eric went to school in Oregon, where he built titanium bicycle frames and learned welding and machining. In his world-wide travels, he studied practical, sustainable architecture and furniture-making. Later, Eric helped teach a blacksmithing course at the John C. Campbell Folk School in North Carolina.

The goods: Home and kitchen goods inspired by Japanese minimalism and made from local woods, brass and steel. Goods include serving boards ($110 and up); chopsticks with rest ($48); spatulas ($85); brass spoons and scoops ($55 to $65), plus the new Anton table lamp ($565, pictured below), which combines steel, wood and brass for an elegant ambiance.

What’s popular: The Oleole Collection, named after Lori’s maternal family. The collection includes serving boards, chopsticks and rice paddles. Inspired by the Japanese Minka, they use the Japanese technique (shou-sugi-ban) and burn each piece to a deep charcoal finish before it is sanded and oiled. The couple recently submitted the Oleole Collection to Garden & Gun magazine for consideration in its annual Made in the South awards.

Fun or unusual request: “We were approached by the University of Georgia’s Presbyterian Student Center to build a Communion Table, Baptismal Font and Pulpit, using a pecan tree cut on the property five years ago,” said Lori. “We came up with the design for each piece and are in the build phase.”

Big break: Chosen as the Georgia Favorite in digital Dwell magazines “50 Reasons to Love Design Made in America.”

Where to buy: www.mespeakdesign.com and at The-Commons, 54 Broad St., in Charleston, SC. (www.the-commons.us)

andon table lamp

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