As an artisan and a blogger, I have often been asked what inspires me. For some reason I have a really difficult time answering this question, and it certainly never comes out nearly as eloquently as today’s featured artist Gregory Morris of Slippin’ Southern put it in his interview. I love the imagery that quote evokes–it makes me think hunting for fireflies when I was a child, which was a great test in patience for someone who had a lot of energy. I would excitedly stand outside, waiting for just the right moment when one would light up within my grasp so I could gently catch one between my cupped hands. Like fireflies on a warm summer evening, inspiration is all around us, it is just a matter of looking out for it catching it when it glows for you.
I came across Gregory’s work a few weeks ago on Etsy when I was putting together bicycling-inspired handmade finds. I loved the look of his wooden home decor (not to mention the name of his shop!) with its distinctive distressed looked and Southern inspiration. Northern girl or not, who can’t appreciate a giant sign that says “Hey, y’all”? With over 20,000 sales on Etsy since 2011 and numerous features including on the Etsy blog, I am incredibly honored that Gregory took time out of his busy schedule to do this interview for me and to be able to share his whimsical, beautiful, and often humorous work with you.
Back in 2011, I was in the process of renovating a historic house in North Carolina that I had purchased and needed a creative outlet beyond restoration. I had a full career in advertising in the Midwest prior to this and needed to work with letters and art again. So I made my “Hey Y’all” sign, kind of on a whim. It was the first item in my shop in 2011. From there I a kept adding other Southern phrases. Before long folks just started ordering them on Etsy. Then I started creating animal shapes, the Small Crab was the first one.
What is the story behind your shop’s name?
I grew up in the South, in Northwest Florida. I moved away in my 20s to study art and design in Chicago and then remained most of my career/life in the Midwest. When I moved to North Carolina I started hearing and speaking “Southern” again, phrases like “Shug”, “Darlin'” and “Bless Her Heart” were all spoken so often I started saying them to my family in passing. My wife pointed it out to me one day said, “Hey Gregory, Your Slippin’ Southern again”.
What do you like most about having your own creative business? What do you find most challenging?
I’m very pleased and thankful that I’ve created a business that has legs, that’s tangible and has it’s own identity, and I can live and work within it, it’s all mine. It’s become so in demand however that I now need the help of others to make the product and work for me to do it. And that brings the challenging part…. to train assistants to make the product exactly like I make it. From cutting the pieces to painting them to shipping them. It’s a constant balancing act of watching over all of them and training them making everything the way I would.
What inspires you to create?
Oh, everything, inspiration comes from everywhere, from my past, from life today, from TV commercials, from life in New Orleans and the South. You just always have to keep your eyes open and watch for the ideas as they pass by you during the day and then turn and make something out of them.
What do you think motivates others to buy handmade?
Uniqueness, originality, being one of a kind. Often times too, it’s knowing the person you are buying from, knowing their story that makes having a little piece of them interesting!
What is your favorite handmade item you have bought or received?
This may sound corny, but when I lived in North Carolina, I found two American Indian arrow heads on the farmland that I was living on. Each time I found them, my heart stopped and I was filled with joy knowing that I had found a stone item that was hand carved by a hunter over 300 years ago. And they looked as if they were carved yesterday, I keep them in a box in my dresser drawer, they are amazing.
When you are not making your creations, what do you like to do with your time?
Well, we live in New Orleans so let’s see, I visit the French Quarter about once or twice a month, we have some great concert venues here now, Steely Dan is this Saturday Night. And, our shop is across the street from the Super Dome so we see a lot of Pelicans and Saints games…WHO DAT!
What is something people might not know about you?
I played the saxophone starting in the 6th grad, through high school and attended the Armed Forces School of Music in Norfolk, VA during my tour with the U.S Army back in 1980.
What is one piece of advice you would offer to others with their own creative business?
Don’t ever give up on your dream, just keep doing it. You will run into times when you think…huh, this is it, no one else is ever going to buy anything from me. But just wait, stick to your plan, find a small thing to do to move your business forward that day and do it, then another, before long, someone will be asking you “Can you make something for me?” It has happened to me over and over, to the point where I never sit and worry about it anymore, I just keep doing what I do and let the market follow me.
Thank you for joining me on my blog, Gregory, and be sure to check out his shop with over 300 items for the home!
If you liked this you might also want to check out:
- An interview with Shannon McDonald of McDonald Mixed Media
- The Patterned Peacock: An Interview with Dana Garczewski
- For the love of chainmaille: How I knew I found my craft
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