Meeting other creatives is uplifting. Inspiring. Energising. Especially learning their story - how they got to where they are and why they landed in the field that they have now found. For me, the ultimate inspiration comes from those people who feel a longing to drastically adjust their lives in pursuit of a completely different, more wholesome and fulfilling creative career. Those who instead of wishing upon a change in their life and work actually go out and make it happen. Those who find a place that leaves more passion in their hearts, drive in their guts and fills their day with complete joy.
The very first time that I met Erin Connolley, I liked her. Ok, that may be an understatement. Loved her. I walked off a main Charleston street, down a narrow garden alley way into a courtyard where, tucked away in the corner was the entrance to the store that I was looking for. The Commons. A beautifully curated home goods store selling unique and hand crafted wares from makers across the United States. Through the window I saw a happy face. It was Erin. She gave me an excited wave and beckoned me to come inside. I was greeted with the warmest hug and immediately felt welcomed into a happy, vibrant place. You see, it is the people who love what they do everyday that tend to radiate, even through the smallest of gestures. Erin told me of her story. With roots once planted in the fashion design world in both New York and cities of the West Coast, Erin uprooted her successful career and drove clean across the country in pursuit of a more deliberate and satisfying life in the sweet, southern town of Charleston, SC. With just an idea in mind and within just a few months, Erin has become a store owner, curator and - it shows - filled with joy.
During our time together, Erin spoke of the beginnings of The Commons, her partnership with co-owner Kerry Clark and the importance and her genuine love towards working along side local and US makers to encourage their work and have it featured in her store. As Erin selected products to shoot, dealt with customers and swept the leaves from the courtyard, it didn't take me long to realise that this store wasn't just about the retail and the business. It has a warm, purposeful heart. A heart that is collaborative, creative and fervent. It's a heart that is founded upon Erin's commitment to fill her days with a more inspired career, driven by her keen and creative eye, dear and kind soul and a need for a wholesome, fulfilling, purposeful life.
What projects are you currently working on?
I am currently whole-heartedly involved in The-Commons, and loving it!
My partner, Kerry Speake, and I are pulling together designers and artists from across the country to build a collection of goods for the home that are all made in America. Our goal is to not only create a physical and online retail environment, but to facilitate a creative community among our vendors and customers.
Where do you draw your creative inspiration from?
This could be a very long answer!
I am heavily influenced by research and travels from my previous career in fashion. Specifically a trip, with my partner Kerry, to Japan. I was so enamored with the simplicity of elements used in Japanese design…in architecture, pottery, food. A very hand-touched, human scale to things…that at all times feels directly connected to the earth.
I am notoriously drawn to delicate flowers, specifically dried/dying leaves and twigs! Not in a depressing way….but I love that in that state plants show their intricate, delicate nature….and are stripped down to the most muted colors.
I also am still very inspired by what is happening in fashion. I am most influenced by designers such as Phoebe Philo and the Olsen’s line The Row, who feel very elemental in shape and color, but luxurious in material.
Why a designer/store owner?
I love putting together a collection of things, making visual connections, and telling stories through shape and color.
Do you listen to music while you work? If so, would you be so kind to share some of your favourite artists?
At the shop I listen to quite a bit of Etta James…she seems to set a mood of nostalgia and irreverence that resonates with me, and the customers!
At home I either listen to cheesy 90’s hip hop, or sad folk music. A weird combo, I know.
Do you have a morning ritual?
I try to meditate, even if only for 5 minutes when I wake up. Then, make very strong coffee and eat eggs. Eggs are crucial.
What's your idea of a perfect Friday night?
Early drinks with friends, and dinner and movie at home with my boyfriend.
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Back to Japan. And I would like to spend a significant amount of time in the Southwest US.
Best piece of advice you've ever given or been given?
My mom has always told me to not judge my insides on everyone else’s outsides. I love that.
What's for dinner?
The best part about being a creative?
All of it.
The worst part?
Doing math for business!
Day or night? Late day
Old or new? I love the combo
City or Country? City with an accent of Country
Coffee or Tea? Strong Coffee mornings/herbal tea evenings
What do you enjoy most about living in Charleston, SC?
Thoughts for the future:
Everything that is happening now…continued.