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Old Pals, New Pals & Super Secret Salonsby Kellee Stall on September 11, 2019
At the September CreativeMornings featuring John Tosco, we heard how everything can be our muse.
I agree and as I explore my new city, I am meeting fascinating creatives practically every day. I’ve met people who inspire me and challenge me and help me strategize my role in Charlotte.
A WALK CAN LEAD TO BEAUTIFUL THINGS
In order to make friends, I have to say “yes” to invitations. In order to get an invite, I have to make the first move and go out. Being a high functioning introvert, sometimes going for a walk is all I can muster up for an outing. But, Charlotte is a friendly town, so going for a walk can lead to beautiful things.
On a walk earlier this summer, I ran into an old pal, Mary Taylor.
Her nails were beautifully painted like mini tattoos. So, now, because of Mary, I’m in a secret nail club operated by an artist named Nkem Thompson. In order to get into Nkem’s nail club, you have to know someone who’s already in it. Getting an invite to the nail club was wonderful, but the most remarkable thing about this story is that I RAN INTO AN OLD PAL.
See, I had heard that when you move into a new city it’ll start to feel more like home when you run into someone who knows you by name. I’ve run into a few people at Harris Teeter who I knew from my kid’s school, but since they could not recall my name, it didn’t count. Mary Taylor remembered my name because when I lived in Crystal Lake Illinois, she lived there too. Mary was in charge of hair and makeup for a play I directed years ago at a local college. Fast forward to 2019 and here we are, both living in the same city again without realizing it.
I was walking through Plaza Midwood as Mary shouted my name from her car window.
THAT WONDERFUL MOMENT WHEN YOU HEAR YOUR FULL NAME
For anyone who calls Charlotte their new home, you understand how wonderful this moment felt. I heard my full name shouted with joyful inflection, loud enough for the hippies at Common Market to notice. It was marvelous. Perhaps even greater than getting into Nkem’s cool nail club.
Nkem is a florist and a fabric artist. Her studio sometimes has giant cauldrons filled water and dyed fabric. Her studio is also where she performs her nail magic. Nkem moved to Charlotte from Chicago a few years ago and her mission for the nail club is to cultivate an authentic community. She builds these relationships by viewing her clients as her muse and collaborates with them to create one of a kind nail art. Her friends usually drop by during appointments, and because Nkem is kind, she shares her friends.
JOHN LOVE LOOKS LIKE AN ANGEL & SWEARS LIKE THE DEVIL
Anyone who’s lived in Charlotte longer than me likely knows who John W. Love Jr is. He’s an actor, artist, guru, poet. He’s a creative legend in Charlotte. I didn’t know anything about John until I googled him later that day. John was at Nkem’s super secret studio when I was getting my nails painted in an art deco design.
John looks like an angel and swears like the devil. He’s loud and warm, authentic and beautiful. We discussed art, horoscopes, theater, and what it means to be female. He told me that everyone starts life first as a female. It was a lively nail appointment.
I texted a pal later, asking if she knew who John W. Love, Jr. is. She texted back “John was a vibrant Charlotte artist who died a little over a year ago.” WHAT?!?!? John W. Love Jr. died A YEAR AGO?!?!?!
For a solid 7 “Mississippi” count, I imagined I must have been visited by the ghost of John. I lingered in that fantasy. And, to be honest, if you’ve ever met John, it felt probable.
I imagined Nkem’s perspective of my ghost interaction. Her watching me shake hands with the invisible man, then listening to me replying to John’s ghostly, unheard questions. I snapped out of it, googled him, then assured my pal how John was very much alive and we should check out his latest art exhibit at the McColl Center.
John’s conversation inspired me to create art about female identity. Since I work with found objects, one piece will involve a tampon dispenser. (I’ll keep you posted.)
PSSST! I’LL TELL YOU THE SECRET
As a thank you for following along my journey, I want to extend to you an invitation to join Nkem Thompson’s Nail club! Go to her Instagram account @ thenailclub_clt to sign up and tell her you know Kellee Stall.
Charlotte is a kind city. Charlotte is a creative city. Charlotte is slowly becoming my city. I look forward to running into you at my next nail appointment. In the meantime, I would love to hear from you in the comments below. How do you make new friends in Charlotte?