Category Archives: Mentions & Coverage

Moment: A Weaving Spell

(From an article for the Times Free Press by Maura Friedman)

Weaving came naturally. Kim Gavin felt as though she’d done it before.

“I could feel the rhythm of this and it all made sense to me,” Gavin said of her first time at a loom, a year and a half ago.

For each line of yarn woven into Gavin’s tea towel, there’s a woosh as she treddles, using her feet to raise and lower the harnesses of the loom, and a clatter as the beater bar pushes every strand into place. After a few minutes, the pattern sounds musical. It hangs in the stillness of her studio.

“You get into that state of flow,” Gavin said. “You’re doing something that’s a little bit challenging but not overwhelming and you can completely immerse yourself in it.”

Weaving is Gavin’s primary art medium. For her it was a natural progression from “instant-gratification knitting,” when she used big yarn to make projects go by faster. Now no matter the size of the yarn, Gavin’s loom speeds the process.

Gavin said the effect is therapeutic.

“Your brain quiets down and you just go.”

She started weaving on a rigid heddle loom, a simple frame with no moving parts. But this floor loom – an old loom, but new to Gavin – will go even faster and her projects can be even bigger.

Light streams into the studio space and wraps around the cherry wood of the floor loom. Gavin saw it for sale on Facebook a few months ago and went to Charlottesville, Va., to make the purchase and arrange shipping.

The Jack-type floor loom has 50 inches of weaving width and eight harnesses, which means lots of pattern possibilities.

“It’s really just basically your two yarns at right angles to one another,” Gavin said. “But when you start manipulating them over space, you can create effects as if you’re doing diagonal things or circular things.”

Gavin misses a warp thread and her yarn gets tangled. She begins to unweave the problem spot, slowly and methodically.

“You have to go back and fix it and that means patience,” Gavin said. “That helps me practice a skill that I need.”

It doesn’t slow her down much.

The studios in the Chattanooga Workspace, including Gavin’s, are open on the first Friday of every month.

“It’s a good time to come by and see the loom in action,” Gavin said.

Julie Whitehead Creates Upscale Tie-Dye Options

Article by Rachel Sauls-Wright, Chattanooga Times Free Press (published November 13, 2013)

Julie Jones
Julie Whitehead

You won’t see many buckets and rubber bands in tie-dye artist Julie Whitehead’s studio.

It’s more like heavy-duty clamps, hardware and broken CDs.

“There is a lot of chemistry involved,” said Whitehead, adding that chemical reactants like soda ash and heat play a big part in creating tie-dye designs. “People don’t realize that tie-dye is thousands of years old. It uses techniques that come from Thailand and Japan.”

Creating the upscale tie-dye clothing she is known for takes more time, effort and expertise than the simple designs taught at summer camp.

Although that’s not to say she doesn’t create T-shirts too. Iconic “California” style tie-dye shirts are always on offer at her booth at the Chattanooga Market, festivals across the region or online, but she is working to show the area that tie-dye is more than the T-shirts typically associated with the art form. Tie-dye can be part of something to wear to work or as part of a truly put-together outfit, she said.

Whitehead, who lives in Brainerd, also wants to help share the art of dying with the Chattanooga community. She plans to begin hosting classes later this fall or winter on basic tie-dying or more advanced subjects liked silk dying.

“It’s very relaxing just to get out of your element a little bit and take any kind of art class, and it’s also educational,” she said. “Plus, you get to go home with something you made yourself. And with a professional guiding the process, you’re more likely to create something you’ll love and will wear.”

For more information about Whitehead’s designs or to purchase your own, visit

Ali Kay: Chattanooga artist thinks outside the box

Article by Karen Nazor Hill, Chattanooga Times Free Press (published October 22, 2013)

Ali KayWhen Ali Kay moved to Chattanooga from Houston, Texas, seven months ago, she bypassed her residence and headed straight to her new art studio.

The award-winning artist, who specializes in murals, was anxious to start work.

“I literally drove straight to the studio in a U-Haul from Houston,” says Kay, whose studio is at Chattanooga WorkSpace on West Sixth Street. “My husband and I decided to build a new house on the North Shore, so most of our things were in storage when we arrived. I knew I wanted to start working right away, so we packed up the U-Haul with just my studio contents and drove here.”

Kay, 29, received her first art commission when she was 15 and it hooked her on painting murals.

“My friend’s mom hired me to create an underwater-themed mural in their bathroom. I remember I didn’t have my driver’s license yet, but they only lived a few blocks away, so I packed all my paint up in a coaster wagon to take to my client’s home,” she recalls.

Kay’s murals range from floral scenery to people, trees and intricate designs. She also paints on canvas.

While she was in Houston, about half of the murals she was commissioned to paint were on ceilings. She won six design awards for her murals from the American Society of Interior Designers.

“I think the reason they were so popular was that many of the homes I worked in had unique ceiling features such as domes, groin vaults and trays,” she says. “My clients wanted to highlight these features and really make them shine.

“I’ve heard it said that the ceiling is the fifth wall,” Kay says. “It has gotten overlooked as an area to add design and interest to a space. Why should ceilings be plain white?

Kay — who moved to Chattanooga with her husband, Jason, because of his new job at Metaltek — says ceiling murals don’t “seem to be quite as widespread in Chattanooga, but I hope to change that.”

“I think once people start seeing the impact it can have, the idea will spread,” says Kay, who has a bachelor of fine arts degree with a focus in painting and drawing and a minor in art history from the University of Wisconsin.

Local interior designer Mary Jane Tallant Fitzgerald, owner of Tallanted Interiors, says she has worked with many clients throughout her 20-year-career who have murals in their homes.

Fitzgerald says that while requests from clients about murals have been constant throughout her career, the down economy has had an effect of people’s budgets.

“The peel-off decals have become popular in the last couple of years,” she says. “When money is tight, some people turn to that option. But decals do not hold a candle to murals. With murals, you get paint, and with paint you get depth and texture. It adds so much warmth to room.”

Chattanoogan Anne Wehunt, assistant director of athletics communications at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, says she’s a fan of murals.

“When I was a kid, my mother painted the zodiac on one wall in the basement and the planets on another. My bedroom had Cinderella’s castle with the whole Disney crew stretching across two walls,” says Wehwunt, whose late mother was a long-time art teacher at Notre Dame High School. “Her art room at Notre Dame was covered with her students’ work.”


Wehunt says the walls in her home today are bare but she is considering having a mural painted on one of the walls in her office. “I work in the dungeon in the McKenzie Arena and have no windows.”

Kay says her first local ceiling mural will be in her own home.

“I have plans to paint a large medallion around my chandelier in my own home and, I’m pretty sure that once I do, I will be doing more and more.”

In 2003, Kay started her decorative painting company, Positive Space, while a student in art school in Milwaukee. For the next seven years, she did mural work there in private homes and businesses. In 2010, she and her husband moved to Houston.

“This is where my painting business really took off,” she says. “I found an incredible demand in Houston for high-end custom wall finishes and murals. I worked with many talented interior designers on a variety of decorative painting projects.”

Kay’s work in Houston was mostly in private residences, she says, but here she hopes to expand into commercial projects.

“I see so many great restaurants and bars here that are opening all the time and I just think there is a lot of opportunity for custom painting,” she says. “I have a habit of thinking really big and outside the box and a commercial setting lends itself to that.”

Despite their size, some of her works take just one day to complete, she says.

“If it’s a very simple silhouette style mural or a simple wall finish on a single wall, it can be done in a few hours. I have done some very large scale murals that can take up to a month. I would say that most of the projects I do take about a week to complete,” she says.

The cost of Kay’s work is determined by the time it takes to complete a project, the cost of materials, and the difficulty of the space in which she works.

“If I’m working on scaffolding 30 feet in the air, I have to charge more than if I am on the ground,” she says. “I also consider the value of what I am creating. Sometimes the final work of art is very valuable even though it did not take long to create.”

The sources of her inspiration are varied.

“Usually my clients have some sort of direction they want to go with their space, but not always. Sometime, we start from scratch.

“I’m inspired by so many things,” she says. “I have to say that Pinterest changed everything for me. It’s usually the first place I go when I need to be creative. I don’t copy anything I see online, but it gets me thinking. I can use bits and pieces of other projects I see and combine them with my own ideas to come up with something great. I don’t think there is much difference anymore between my canvas work and my murals. It’s all custom fine art.”

Contact staff writer Karen Nazor Hill at or 423-757-6396. Studios for Rent this November

Up to 36 artists studios will be available this winter in downtown Chattanooga, thanks to a new lease agreement the executive director of the Chattanooga Market has signed on a four-story building across from the YMCA on Sixth Street, which is part of the former senior living St. Barnabas apartment complex.
Chris Thomas’ vision for the site is a mix of co-working spaces on the ground floor and private art studios on the top three floors.

Renovation to the building is said to start immediately, with the aim of having up to 36 move-in ready private studios available to rent by Thanksgiving, according to Thomas.

Thomas said he is prioritizing getting the top floors updated first to address a need he became aware of through working with hundreds of artists who sell their work on Sundays at the First Tennessee Pavilion at the Chattanooga Market.

“We have a lot of vendors that are working out of their garages or other places they are not too excited about,” Thomas said.

This four-story building on Sixth Street across from the downtown YMCA will be the future home to artists studios and shared workspaces for entrepreneurs.

The average studio size to be offered in the downtown facility is approximately 25 feet by 17 feet and will be priced at about $1 per square foot on a month-to-month basis, for an average of $400 per month, Thomas said. All utilities, Wi-Fi and access to a lounge on each floor are included in the rent.
Additional amenities will be defined by the community of tenants that end up filling the space. Thomas said ideas to be explored include a shared kiln for potters and a commercial kitchen for food entrepreneurs.

“We’ll let the community guide what the end result is,” he said. The plan is also to work with established support service organizations for local entrepreneurs and artists, like The Company Lab and the Association for Visual Arts, to fine-tune without duplicating offerings.

Ground floor co-working spaces offered in 2013

A “co-working” space that can accommodate up to 100 small, two- or three-person entities will be on the ground floor, although that area will not be ready until 2013, Thomas said. The concept is for an open and shared workspace for freelancers and independent contractors to use as a home office as needed.

“It’s a way to get people out of their spare bedrooms and the coffee shops,” he said.

Some cities offer what are called “jellies” as an alternative to a traditional office environment. Started in 2006 by roommates who happily worked from home but missed the opportunities for creative brainstorming and sharing resources, a jelly is a semi-weekly gathering of freelancing professionals in various locations defined by each group.

The shared workspace concept is not totally new to Chattanooga, with similar services also offered to help startups have a legitimate business address while they grow. At the Concierge Office Suites, just a few blocks away in the Republic Centre, periodic jellies are hosted, and clients can rent office space by the hour, half-day, full day or from month to month.

On Sixth Street, Thomas said rates for the co-work space will be $25 per day or $200 per month for access to shared space on a month-to-month or day-to-day basis, depending on individual needs.

According to Thomas, the new studios and workspaces can act as a bridge for some entrepreneurs as they work to grow into more permanent locations.

“It could be a total solution or a stepping stone. This facility is designed to make that gap smaller,” he said.
Anyone interested in learning more about the project and leasing information should check the Chattanooga WorkSpace website.