This past weekend was a whirlwind. I attended Pencil and Paper Development Company’s second annual Creative Camp in Nashville, Tennessee. P + P was founded by interior designer, Gen Sohr, who has worked for Gap, Old Navy, and Banana Republic to name just a few. She is the epitome of Southern sophistication, but with pops of color everywhere you look.
I have been a big fan of the brand and an avid follower of Gen’s Instagram account for years, so when I saw the announcement for this year’s Creative Camp, I was intrigued. I mentioned it to my husband, Nick, who told me to go for it, but the camper cost was an investment.
After putting it off for weeks (very unlike me as a Type A), I realized how much I wanted to go. At this point, the camp was sold out. I sent an email to P + Per Kelsey and asked to be placed on a waitlist in case anyone dropped out. To my luck, someone did drop out and I was able to purchase a ticket! Long story short, believe in yourself. Nick encouraged me for weeks to sign up, but I couldn’t pull the trigger. I had to make a shift in my mindset that I deserved to be there. We’re all creative, even this PR girl.
We left for Nashville Friday morning for the five hour drive from Indy. If you know me, you know I have long unruly curly hair. I had the bright idea to book a DryBar appointment for 5 PM CT so that I wouldn’t have to worry about my hair. Well, math got the best of me and we didn’t make it. A $20 cancellation fee later and I realized it was silly to schedule it in the first place. Nick commented that I didn’t even care this much about my hair on our wedding day.
Something about the nervousness and excitement of meeting a room full of accomplished, chic women had made me second guess my hair and even the scars on my face from the car accident. After a quick pep talk to myself, I decided to be me. I’d have my hair in my signature bun and no makeup (red lipstick, aside) for the rest of the weekend.
The women could not have been nicer. Everyone had a story to share and I learned so much. It was like the grown-up camp of my dreams. There was so much inspiration at every gathering. This was the place to wear your polka dots with your plaids and stripes with your gingham. The women were diverse in age, geography, and career paths. I was the only camper from Indiana, but a P+Per named Margaret was from Westfield, IN and immediately greeted me at the opening event.
Friday night’s social at Draper James, Reese Witherspoon’s adorable retail store, was the perfect way to kick-off the weekend in style. The store was beautiful – navy blue gingham everywhere. Charcuterie boards and champagne awaited each camper, along with personalized sugar cookies. Since Nick tagged along for the weekend, I had made a reservation at Josephine’s for dinner for the two of us. The menu is small and the food was memorable. I could’ve just had the brussel sprouts and been happy. Josephine’s even sends you home with cookies for a late night snack.
Saturday began with three panel sessions from 8:30 AM – 11:30 AM, followed by a Pop-Up shop of vendors and a few items from Gen’s personal closet were up for grabs. Amanda of Lindroth Design, Ann of Ann Mashburn (fashion icon!), and Lake Pajama founders Anne and Cassandra shared their experiences building their brands. They all shared a common theme: it wasn’t a straight path to where they are now.
Ann and her husband Sid spent many years working for other brands and finally realized their real passion was sharing their personal style. Anne and Cassandra had careers in the corporate world, but were looking for something more fulfilling. They were frustrated by the lack of cute, comfortable, and “put-together” pajama sets available for women, so they created Lake Pajamas.
The second panel featured handbag designer Pamela Munson (gorgeous straw handbags sold at Shop Bop), artist Kayce Hughes, and Katy Polsby of CW Stockwell. Kayce spent years creating clothing for retail while painting on the side. One day she decided to post a few paintings on Instagram and to her surprise, they sold. In fact, they sold so quickly, she couldn’t keep up with demand. Suddenly, the clothing business didn’t make sense. Now she creates unique art pieces that have a loyal following.
CW Stockwell’s story needs to be made into a documentary because it’s unreal. You may recognize their textiles from the iconic Matinique banana leaf wallpaper at the Beverly Hills Hotel. That’s CW Stockwell. Founded in 1905, the company created bold, preppy prints for wallpaper and fabric. Katy Polsby’s mother became friends with a neighbor who just so happened to be one of the descendants of the company. After years of friendship and holidays spent together, the neighbor passed away and left the textile books to Katy’s mother.
Katy had spent her career working for Williams-Sonoma, West Elm, and Serena and Lily, so she has an eye for design. After finding books on books of CW Stockwell textiles in her parents’ garage, she knew the company needed to be re-vitalized. I love that Katy is re-introducing the prints in a modern, approachable way. I could have talked to Katy and her sidekick, Lydia, all day.
The final panel shared tips on how to utilize social media for your business goals. Of all the panels, I could relate to this topic the most because of my PR experience. Liz Eichols of Weezie Towels, Sarah Pierson of Margaux, and Jennifer Hunt of Dixie Designs, spoke about their experience promoting their brands on Instagram.
I love all three brands and admired the ladies’ passion for their products. Jennifer’s line of stationary, wrapping papers, and accessories are all beautiful. Sarah created Margaux with a friend when they realized how silly it was to do the shoe commute in New York and other commuter cities. Women would wear sneakers to the office and then frantically change into their “nice” shoes in the elevator. Why can’t women have one pair of nice and comfortable shoes? This is how Margaux was born. I’m a big believer in owning fewer shoes, but high quality ones you reach for constantly.
A Pop-Up shop followed with products from Lake Pajamas, Kayce Hughes, Shop BURU, Margaux, and others. The tour of the P+P Studio was the highlight of the day. The office space was magical. We each received our swag bag with goodies inside P+P’s signature canvas tote. A collection of Gen’s clothes were displayed for sale and I walked away with some great finds.
I scored a fuzzy Teddy coat, a red skirt, a polka dot skirt, a gray ruffle top, and a gray tweed J.Crew blazer. I can’t wait to incorporate the pieces into my closet. I love a good vintage / secondhand piece and Gen’s style is impeccable.
Our day ended with dinner at Adele’s and we had assigned seats, which forced you to meet someone you may not have talked to yet. I met three women from Texas that make jewelry and they had recently collaborated with an influencer in Zionsville.
There was also a college student at my table that is working on launching adaptive clothing, which is designed for people with disabilities and the elderly. Due to a lack of a full range of motion, it can be difficult for some people to use buttons or zippers. Magnetic closures and other creative solutions make getting dressed easier. Tommy Hilfiger is one of the first designers to create adaptive clothing, but why aren’t there more choices? When I went through physical therapy for my shoulder, it was difficult to put clothing over my head. Why not make adaptive clothing stylish enough that you can’t tell the difference?
Highlights for Nick included Hattie B’s hot chicken (he said it was worth the hour plus wait), catching up on reading, and enjoying some Nashville beers (Hap and Harry’s and Yazoo). I am so thankful for a supportive husband and new friends from camp. My heart is full and the creative possibilities are endless.