Why I Love Atlanta

[flashvideo file=http://www.langestudio.com/blogmedia/TLC_KAREN-DAN-2_FLV.flv width=592 height=357 /] Over three years ago, I did a grueling three day shoot in Atlanta.   I set up a couple of appointments for the day after the shoot - but was wasted.   So I met my friend Matt Rollins at his favorite lunch spot, Star Provisions, for an early lunch and decided just to roam around and cancel meeting anyone afterwards.

I walked by a men’s shop in the same complex as Star, pressed my face against the front window, and saw a bunch of very well turned out salesmen throwing a football around the shop.  I had to walk in.  There was good vinyl playing.  A beautiful mix of well curated menswear - and a fine collection of shirts and suits they had designed for the shop.  The shirts were extra special - beautifully cut, great buttons, great fabrics.  I met the owner, Sid Mashburn who asked what I was doing in town (I think he knows everyone in Atlanta!).   I told him what I had shot, explained I was just wanting to wander - and had cancelled a meeting with the designer,  Stefan Kjartansson at Armchair Media. Sid did not approve.   He insisted, “Creatives do not skip meeting other creatives!”.   He explained, “I am friends with Stefan - you have to meet him.  I will drive you over to Armchair.”    So Sid drove me over, brought me in, introduced me, and I had my meeting. Everyone there was great. Loved sharing each other's work.  Sid took off.  I flew home.

Last week, I was back in  Atlanta again for a big shoot I will show here in the next week or two (or for a sneak peek, come to my talk next week in Boulder at Caffeinated Mornings.)   Tuesday, the morning after my shoot, I was having coffee at Octane with Mason Poe.  Mason and I worked on a big healthcare shoot for Microsoft awhile back and have remained friends.  During our coffee (and the most insane doughnuts from Sublime Bakery that Mason insisted I try - under little protest), my other morning meetings got postponed.  I randomly asked Mason if he knew Stefan at Armchair.  Mason explained that Stephan was a good friend of his, and that Armchair was only a couple of blocks away.  I said I should call first.  Mason said, “Don’t call.  They will not have time for you. Just go.  I will show you the way.”  So I followed Mason and he dropped me in Armchair’s parking lot.

Are you still with me?   This was the hardest part.   Walking into a design firm UNANNOUNCED!  Just opening that door and walking in.  That was the key to all the good things that unfolded.  First thing I hear is Thelonius Monk playing - which instantly made me very happy I was there.   It was playing from the speakers on Stefan’s desk.  I said hello.  Probably stuttered a bit - but  was greeted with such a warm welcome, I was instantly so happy I had come by.   We caught up a bit, I went out to the car and brought in some new work to show.   I built an app from scratch to showcase the work live.  The app works like an origami unfolding - which was the perfect metaphor for the day.  After showing a bunch of videos to Stefan, Kenny Ferguson and some others, we were all craving Jeni’s Cherry Lambic.   I then mentioned another new design firm, Son and Son's, to Stefan.  I had been there a month before to see my friend Rick Anwyl, but everyone else was gone.   Stefan said his fiancee worked there and we should drive over.   So I piled into Stefan’s sweet little mini - and we were off to Son & Son’s.

Son and Son’s was started by Wade Thompson, whom I have also worked with.  It is housed in a store front on Peachtree.   Again I walk in unannounced, but this time with Stefan.  That first 60 seconds at Son and Son’s is everything I love about Atlanta...and indeed my work life as a whole.   First you just feel this hotbed of creative juices bubbling under the sun pouring in.  All the walls peppered with ideas.   Leather handballs flying.  Products waiting to be led further down the road by, “visionary leaders and unreasonable people who are hell-bent on leading change.” Then, with the first moment of recognition - all hugs and great cheer.   Rick is there and you definitely want to poke around wherever Rick is digging in - from re-branding small towns in Alabama to hunting birds in my backyard. Wade is sporting his white streak and leading the charge - blowing out his dream of design.    The fashion designer Megan Huntz is deep into working on something I try not to disturb.  And again, totally spontaneously, I break out the new work and we all laugh and dream of Jeni’s ice cream sandwiches together.

Then it is off with Stefan to Sid Mashburn’s shop.  All the men are wearing beautiful leather shoes with no socks.   Matt Lambert is sporting what I would call “casual perfection.”   You cannot put your finger on it, you are not even sure if you can pull it off.  There is very low sales pressure at Sid’s because you want to own everything.   I try on the blue suede desert boots.  Ask about socks with those.   They want me to check out their new audio room with the peacock.

Stefan suggests his favorite canteen, Star Provisions.   We walk over through Ann Mashburn’s bright white shop, and Stefan orders the Prosciutto, Sweet Butter & Parmesan on Baguette.  I go for the shrimp sandwich.  We are right at that place where all the dreams of what our work can be is meeting our creative souls.   It is pouring out.  Sid was right three years ago.  You never skip an opportunity to meet another creative.

Then out of nowhere, Sid Mashburn appears and sits down with us.  It has all come full circle.  This day.  In Atlanta.  We talk like we have known each other forever.   We are all inspired in careers that feel like they are converging right in the middle of the picnic table we are sitting at.  All pushing as hard as we can effortlessly.   All talking in a language of discovery we all speak.

Soundtrack for this post:

Madcon - Beggin

and Thelonious Monk at Newport 1959

Video from Atlanta features Dan Cavey and Karen Smith