Community Spotlight: Amanda Burk and Katherine McGuire of Double Dutch Press

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“There’s a humility about Athens that’s awesome,” says co-owner of Double Dutch Press, Amanda Burk. She and Katherine McGuire were drawn back to the Classic City by the infamous “pull” of Athens. We’ve all heard rumors of the gravitational effect and these two stand as testament to its existence. After gaining their Master’s of Fine Arts at UGA in printmaking, they both went their separate ways in search of the next chapter, as many of us do, but found themselves missing the community and atmosphere of Athens. Additionally, as many artists know, once graduated from school, access to materials, studio space, and time is difficult to come by. With such barriers, it’s easy to lose touch with your work and possibly even your creativity. This is part of what brought Amanda and Katherine back home—to carve their niche in the world where they could do what they love and allow others to share in that as well.

Accessibility is a word that came up often during my time spent with the gals of Double Dutch Press. Making space and equipment available to artists who find themselves without. Making time and tutorials accessible for beginners through workshops. And also making handmade goods (and you know exactly whose hands made them!) accessible to those who value a product that’s functional and also fine art. When asked about the difference between printmaking verses digital printing, Katherine and Amanda expressed respect for both forms. Some projects may require mass printing that’s not necessary to do each by hand, while others desire an individual design created and produced by the artist. “We’re constantly trying to educate people of the value”, says Amanda in regards to the product and process of printmaking. The process of printmaking is something that I know very little about, but now see that each step is part of the creation. “I like the process,” says Katherine. She explained the multiple steps of brainstorming, planning, and carving that all go into effect before the actual printing begins, which is then another series of processes. Needless to say, it was quite educational for me to learn that there are many steps that produce the image that you hold in your hands. When you make a purchase at Double Dutch Press or ask them to create a design, you’re receiving a piece of art that someone (most likely the person assisting in the shop) dreamed and created. That’s something really special.

As for the future of Double Dutch Press, they are thankfully staying put in their Normaltown location. The size of the shop is perfect–long and narrow, bright, shelves filled with colors, and corners occupied half by machinery and half by fun things to buy. Things such as an owl mask that I’ve had my eye on for a while, postcards to send to friends who will get an idea of the spirit of Athens, and many other items that you won’t see anywhere else. Well, that’s not entirely true. Double Dutch Press actually has several products supported by stores in town and in California. They also have an online store that generates a lot of traffic. They intend to continue offering workshops, have placement in more shops, and build their clientele over time, which according to Katherine is happening organically. The workshops sound wonderful. If you think that you may be interested in printmaking but have little to zero experience, don’t be intimidated. Most of the students are completely new to the art. Katherine and Amanda work with you, your schedule, and your level of creativity, because they are genuinely interested in teaching printmaking. They both mentioned the “printmaking bug” and I’m not exactly sure what this is, but I have a feeling that it’s pretty great and I want to give it a shot.

I’ve heard for a while now that the ladies of Double Dutch Press are wonderful, and they are! So you should waste no time and drop by to meet them! Their in shop prints are witty, beautiful, and one hundred percent original—definitely worth a look. If you want to make something yourself and take home some goodies, their upcoming workshops are stampmaking, woodcutting, various screenprinting (with options of tea towels or posters), and then camps in the summer. You can sign up for workshops at their website or check out their abundance of handmade fare. The humility of Athens that Amanda spoke of is true and lived by the creatives who generate the ideas, the art, and the spirit of our town. Katherine and Amanda are two examples of such creatives. They’re doing incredible work because it brings them and others joy. I find that to be encouraging to each of us doing whatever it is that makes us happy and whole. It’s shops like Double Dutch Press and so many others that showcase individuals doing what they love, and it’s this that makes our town a wonderful place to live.

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Written by Zelda Speight. Photos by Ella Ferguson.

Community Spotlight: Kristen Bach of Treehouse Kid and Craft

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There are few places that make me feel like a child again—inspiring youth, laughter, and simplicity. In Athens, that place is Treehouse Kid & Craft. The afternoon was gray and rainy but as soon as I stepped into Treehouse, I was warmed by the vibrant colors, unique toys, and the sense of childhood wonder. It’s quite a magical place and I was very fortunate to interview the woman who created this space—Kristen Bach. She is an advocate for community and buying local, and pairs this philosophy with her gifts in the arts to create a children’s store that provides handmade and other unique toys, books, clothing, games, and also craft classes for children.

Kristen and her husband, originally hailing from Wisconsin, were in search of a new place to call home and found themselves in Athens. It had music, friends, potential opportunities through the university, and as Kristen says, “it just felt right”. This is where they would build their nest, have a family, and start a business. Kristen was seven months pregnant and had difficulty finding a local store that provided children’s items that also met her personal style. She wanted to create a place that would support artisans and give buyers the opportunity to buy locally. Some may have been wary of her capabilities at the time since a family was on the way, but her determination and vision fueled her to accomplish her goal. With a degree in painting, drawing, and art education, it was natural that art classes were soon added to Treehouse. Now summer camps are offered with classes in stop motion animation, fairy camp, and painting—just to name a few.

In addition to Treehouse, Kristen is also involved with R.Wood Studios and curates a blog that you can find at Beauty Everyday. Here, you will find a collaboration of images produced by Kristen, Rinne Allen, and Rebecca Wood that capture images throughout the south and Athens. These images tell stories of the things that are beautiful in our everyday lives that perhaps we miss if we don’t slow down for a moment. You can see a compilation of these images in their newly published book, Beauty Everyday.

Treehouse has found a place in the Athens community where it supports other local businesses and in turn, is equally supported. “I think of other local businesses as family”, says Kristen. With a rising cultural shift towards buying local, handmade goods, Treehouse has found a niche that allows it to keep inspiring and creating a great environment for our children to grow and learn. Opportunities to get involved with Treehouse are plenty, for example today they have a lot going on to celebrate Earth Day. You’ll get to listen to Tin Cup, learn from Hungry Gnome for garden demos, Let Us Compost for compost demos, and eat honey pops and seedlings from 3 Porch Farm. Check out more about the event here.

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Written by Zelda Speight. Photos by Ella Ferguson.

Community Spotlight: Rachel Watkins of Avid Bookshop

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The interview with Rachel Watkins from Avid bookshop was amazing. I left knowing more about Avid, a spontaneous desire to read every book that I’ve had yearlong intentions of picking up, a taste for Kombucha, and a sunny outlook on the political future for our town. A lot, I know, but it happened. Watkins has an optimistic and can-do energy that makes you want to jump on board and learn more.

Watkins gained her undergraduate degree from Oxford, Mississippi, which is known for its quaint square bursting with bookshops and a serious devotion to Faulkner – a very serious devotion. She then came to Athens for a Master’s degree in Adult Education.  Compared to Oxford, UGA seemed large and with a plethora of new ideas, individuals, and creative vibe. The charm of Athens is what drew Watkins as it does so many others. A university town has a constant renewable source of intelligence, creativity, and the movers and shakers who make it all possible. She then moved to California for ten years but missed the South. When deciding where to call home, Athens was a natural choice because of Rachel’s past experiences and she felt that a university town would be a great place to raise her children.

How did Avid come into existence? It is a tale of friendship. Watkins and Janet Geddis, the owner, had never met before. However, their mutual friends had forecast their friendship. They finally met up at a local coffee shop. “We just hit it off and we’re both avid readers,” said Watkins.

Avid readers make avid friends. Geddis shared her visions of a local bookshop with Watkins contributing  events and public relations support. They found the perfect space right beside Model Citizen and Daily Grocery, and were up and running in no time. When Borders closed, some were skeptical about the success of a small, local bookshop. How could they survive if one of the country’s largest chains could not?

Luckily, quite the opposite happened. In Avid’s first year, they had over two hundred events. They have  hosted major authors such as Laurie Halse Anderson, David Levithan, Natalie Goldberg, and Rainbow Rowell. They also began partnering with other Athens’ businesses and the public schools. “There’s a reason we’re so small. We’re not going to over stretch ourselves because it’s important,” said Watkins.

In addition to her involvement with Avid, Rachel is also running for Commissioner of District 3. You can find out more about her campaign here. One of her highest priorities is to slow traffic on Prince Avenue. Many Athens natives have walked, biked, or driven down Prince and have experienced the danger of cross walks or the lack of bike lanes. Unfortunately, the main road that leads to our downtown and to many local shops along the way can be dangerous. Because of the risky road, many people in the near by neighborhoods avoid walking or biking to stores that are only blocks away. For Rachel, this is a major issue that she wants to combat. To check out her other major campaign points, visit her website.

Avid bookshop and Treehouse Kid & Craft partnered for the My Athens Family Day that was on April 13th from 2-4 p.m. at the Georgia Theater. Families enjoyed the My Athens gallery tour lead by Watkins, crafts, a concert and popcorn.

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Written by Zelda Speight. Photos by Ella Ferguson.

Community Spotlight: Spencer Frye

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In 1999, Spencer Frye promised one year only.

He decided to devote just one year to Habitat for Humanity in Athens as construction manager, believing he wanted to move on to something bigger after that year.

“I didn’t realize this was the bigger thing I was going to move on to,” said Frye.

Today, Frye is the executive director at Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, but he has done many other things since first coming to Athens in the 1980s for college. He has taught English to Haitians, started an environmental company, started two export companies, became a state representative and became the first construction manager for Habitat for Humanity in Athens in 1999.

Habitat for Humanity focuses on making affordable housing possible. Affordable new homes and rentals, small home repair, and home accessibility are a few things that Habitat works towards. Providing affordable housing opportunities to people within the community not only helps the people living in the homes today, but as well as future generations.

“Yes, affordable housing has a direct impact on a family’s life, but you often don’t see the lasting impact that is happening afterwards,” said Frye.

Athens is also home to two Habitat for Humanity ReStores, which act as donation centers and home improvement stores that sell new and used home goods, furniture, appliances and materials.

“Every dollar that we earn from a donation to a ReStore stays in the Athens community,” said Frye.

Frye has a strong devotion to helping Athens. So much so that in addition to being Executive Director Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, he is also a state representative for Athens.

“I feel like I’ve grown up here. Being able to represent the community I’ve grown up in and developed a love for has been a great experience. I can take the values I’ve developed through experiences and culture (in Athens) and translate them to a state level,” said Frye.

Spencer is excited about My Athens, and said the photos play a vital part of promoting Athens’ developing unique identity and aspects. He believes it provides a way for people to connect with others over their love of Athens outside of the community, all over the state and throughout country and the world.

You can learn more about Athens Area Habitat for Humanity and how to get involved here. My Athens Preview Benefit Night is coming up this Friday and will benefit Athens Area Habitat for Humanity, tickets and information are available here.

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Photos by Ella Ferguson. Written by Katie King.