Meredith Bridges can make herself a pair of shoes, weave a blanket, construct a pack basket and craft a shaker box. She does so with creative flare, a respect for her materials and a keen eye for detail.
“Though I love making art and being in the studio, I am just as happy to help others make their own work,” she said. “It’s the ride of creative process from idea to realization that keeps me going.”
Meredith works full time as an artist and a designer out of her home studio near Chicken Bridge in rural Chatham County, creating fiber sculpture and a production line of leather goods. “Just this fall I started to sell digital patterns and supplies as well,” she said. Her products are currently available for purchase via her website and her Etsy page.
When she isn’t in her studio, she is often traveling around the country teaching classes. Meredith recently returned from Driftless Folk School in Wisconsin where she taught students how to make shoes and pack baskets. “This spring I will be teaching basket making in Atlanta for The Homestead. I am planning to offer leather working classes again this summer in Pittsboro at Central Carolina Community College. Next fall I am excited to teach a new class about selling artwork online,” she added. For updates watch her website and sign up for her newsletter.
Meredith grew up in a creative home nestled in a forested area of Georgia near Stone Mountain Park. “My mother made everything. She sewed me lots of beautiful clothes and toys when I was a child. Later in life she moved on to woodworking and continues woodturning to this day,” Meredith said. With her father she tinkered with making electronic gadgets and rocket ships. “My brother is a talented musician and I grew up listening to him playing the piano each night,” she added.
She left home to attend the University of Georgia in Athens where she earned a dual Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Art and Education, majoring in sculpture. “Right out of school, I taught in a wilderness therapy program and then went on to study sustainable design/build in Vermont at Yestermorrow,” Meredith said.
“After teaching high school art for a few years, I went to Michigan to learn sustainable agriculture and rural development at Tillers International. They are an amazing organization that works internationally teaching and engineering sustainable and low-tech development methods centered around draft animal farming.”
Then she was back in her studio. In 2011, Meredith took advantage of an economic development program in Stone Mountain where she honed the skills needed to do her art full time, taking art business classes and developing her wholesale offerings. “From there I really dove into shoemaking, taking classes in accessory design at Savannah College of Art and Design and apprenticing in New Hampshire,” she said. Her company, Nomad Travel Gear, was born in 2011 to “share my designs for durable and environmentally conscious travel gear.”
As an educator, Meredith is passionate about the craft school model and learning in a supportive community. This led her to spend
”Charleston is a wonderful and awe inspiring place, but love led me here to Chatham County where I joined my partner (Will McSwain) at the beginning of this year,” she said. Will teaches at Chapel Hill High School and designs timber frame structures through his company, McSwain Design Studios.
About the Artist:
Full name: Meredith Jaene Bridges
I live: in the coziest passive solar home near the Haw River in Pittsboro
I grew up in: Atlanta, Stone Mountain, Georgia.
As a kid I was: quiet and busy. Playing outside and making art all the time
I am currently working on: digitizing my leather bag patterns for sale and a new series of interactive sliding panels that relate to American national identity and terrorism.
Some jobs I’ve had: chocolatier, shoemaker, baker
When I’m not making art I like to: hang out at the river, eat amazing food and play with my pet bunnies
Most people don’t know: I’m expecting a baby girl this summer!
On my bedside table you’ll find: candles, a beading project, sketchbook
My favorite place to eat or hang out in Chatham County is: Small B&B Cafe, hands down! The food is so fresh and delicious. There is magic in that kitchen!
Three Chatham County artists I admire are: Christie Minchew for her enthusiasm and arts advocacy; Janet Resnik for her seamless integration of studio work and home; and William McSwain for sustaining traditional building practices in contemporary architectural design.
Ten years from now I will be: Hopefully ten years from now my life will be very similar to today. By then I hope my mom will have moved to the area and the apple trees will be producing fruit. I will still be making art in my home studio, hanging out at the river, working the garden and spending time with my family.
Etsy shop: NomadTravelGear.Etsy.com
Facebook page: facebook.com/NomadTravelGear
Meredith’s blog: meredithbridges.com/process/
Chatham Arts Council profile: chathamartscouncil.org/artist/meredith-bridges/
Triangle Weavers profile: triangleweavers.org