The fine folks at Hobbs Architects in downtown Pittsboro are powering our Meet This Artist series this year. Architecture is art, and the Hobbs crew values art in our community. They join us in inviting you to take a look. Meet your very inspiring neighbors. Meet This Artist . . .
My trip to meet our featured artist Hannah Brown at her oh-so-lovely Deep River Mercantile reminds me of one of my son’s favorite books — HOORAY FOR HAT! by Brian Won. The story begins with one sad elephant who eventually joins his friend and they move on, adding one more friend at a time and becoming a group of once grumpy animals who realize happiness by combining forces and leaning on one another to create community and share love. At Deep River Mercantile, we don’t all start off grumpy, but before I know it, our initial plan of meeting as a party of four — me, our photographer Gina Harrison, my fellow Chatham Arts Council friend Catherine Hobbs, and Hannah Brown — turns into a party of many.
This feels like a movement of some sort — in a literal and figurative way. The catalyst for this movement seems to be a love for art, a love for community, and a love for the art of living. The day reminds me of what we all know to be true: that working together in a community does bring about beautiful change and happiness. And that if we open ourselves up and follow where our adventures take us, good things will happen.
Visiting Hannah at Deep River Mercantile
It is my pleasure to introduce to you Hannah Brown, the owner of Deep River Mercantile, now located off Hillsboro Street in Pittsboro. When you walk in, you are welcomed by clever prints and probably one of the shop dogs. Her uniquely-shaped jewelry and beautiful handbags catch your attention. You chuckle while reading over some of the quotes printed on coffee mugs, and your tummy stirs as you see some of the old-timey candies she has in clear jars like pharmacies from years ago. Oh, wait. Did I mention that you want to follow your nose to today’s candle? It’s heavenly: Sydney Hale Co Candle Tobacco + Sandalwood. There are goodies there not only for your home but also for your loved ones. She has sweet cotton surprises for babies, grooming kits for men, and “y’all” t-shirts that look super soft (I LOVE a soft t-shirt). You get the sense of pride in Chatham–and you get to meet Claire, the shop manager, and her sweet dog, Raleigh.
There’s even a studio in the back of her store. You see, this used to be a restaurant and then an appliance repair shop, and now it’s the place she holds workshops ranging from Cabinet Painting to Painting Technique classes where you can learn and practice on wood samples while using different lines of paint she offers. You can buy the supplies you’ll need from her there, too. Sign up for her workshops here.
Hannah also finds much joy in helping others custom paint their cabinets and furniture. So, yes ladies and gents — Deep River Mercantile is also a full-service interior design studio. It is quite evident that the act of transforming some “thing” into something extraordinary fills Hannah up and now she’s sharing this with us. How beautiful.
After I hear that she hated art class as a kid, I’m not surprised that she’s just now getting used to the idea of calling herself an artist. Doing what she’s doing now crept up and surprised her. She originally planned on majoring in Education, then switched to History and Religious Studies at Meredith College. Once married, her husband’s job led them to the middle of Florida. Newly married and in a new-to-her rural area, she wanted to make their space feel like the house she’d grown up in — the house that her mom, Michelle Byrd, had made a home.
Growing up, Hannah would come home to her mom’s hallway wall that was a sort of blank canvas where she’d test out different finishes before starting on her next project. She laughs that her mom’s wall is probably seven inches thick full of layers and layers of paint. I imagine all of the stories being layered atop one another among the stories of her family walking in and out of that front door, passing that wall day in and day out.
In Florida, when Hannah found herself calling her mom for advice on paint, something seemed to be happening. She met her mom at a home convention for a girls’ weekend of checking out paint samples. Lo and behold, someone at the convention recommended that Hannah help present a line of paint to a crowd of a couple of hundred people there. She didn’t skip a beat. She did just that and returned home to tell her husband that she thought she had a job.
Still, for a while, Hannah’s mom had to correct her when she’d refer to her art as a hobby — “No, it’s a job.” I just think she loves what she’s doing so much that it doesn’t seem like work to her. Homes are where we spend our days going through those big and not-so-big moments. Homes are where we share our tears, fears, laughter, and dreams — and aren’t these spaces that will remain in our memories always? The power of this mom and daughter sharing a love for making rooms and homes beautiful is palpable.
These days, Hannah sometimes she works for her mom’s business–and other times, her mom works for her. She can call her mom and ask her to get “that thing” and Mom will know exactly what she’s talking about. But she also says, “We’re different in what we’re drawn to. She’s very impressive with what she can do with a wall, and I just don’t do that.” (Kitchen cabinets are Hannah’s favorite projects to paint.) The spoken and unspoken knowing between this mother and daughter team–I love it.
The Beauty of a Small Town
Some friends from Raleigh made a trip to visit Hannah at Deep River Mercantile recently, and she felt as though she was in a Hallmark movie. After eating at S & T’s Soda Shoppe and seeing a ton of folks she knew there, she ran into Tommy Edwards — the owner of her space and the shop next door (Tommy Edwards Antiques, Art & Music) and lead singer of The Bluegrass Experience — and told him that she had a package for him. It had been dropped off when he wasn’t there. We all look out for each other in small towns, don’t we? Her friends may have left in disbelief.
Hannah mentions that she helped our friends at the Rosemary House Bed & Breakfast renovate, a few quick texts are exchanged, and before I know it we’re all walking over there to see her beautiful work. Heather Buster is so kind to let us pop over for an unexpected visit. I instantly fall in love. I’ve driven past here a million times, but this is my first time going inside, and it’s a wonderful surprise: The Kindred Gallery, where you can view and buy folk art big and small. Standing in the foyer of the Rosemary House, I feel the warmth, the old mixed with new. I cannot wait to visit again, and I cannot wait to tell everyone that they need to go check it out now.
As our time at Kindred draws to a close, Catherine suggests that we zip next door to our Chatham Arts Council office to view Dorrie Casey’s art exhibition for our upcoming pop-up he(art) event on February 9th. Heather Buster joins our merry band, and we all pop over. On February 9, you too can check out and purchase Dorrie’s heartfelt pieces–and make valentines yourself! Dorrie is generously giving 100% of the proceeds to the Chatham Arts Council to support our mission of investing in artists and educating kids through the arts.
And you’re in double luck, because on that same day, you can also pop up to see Hannah, pick out a Valentine’s Day gift for your loves, and make another valentine or two. She’ll be giving part of her proceeds to CAC as well. “We’ll have fun stuff back here. We’ll have the store open, and people can come hang out in our studio and make valentines. We’ll have all of that. We’ll probably have some refreshments and drinks ‘cause, you know, we’re Southern and we feed people whenever we have the opportunity, and there will be puppies to play with for sure.”
This should be a fun day to walk around downtown Pittsboro, explore and make valentines for your sweeties, knowing that you’re helping to spread love for the arts in Chatham County.
Now We’re Sending Big Love Your Way
“There’s nothing that you can’t paint, so I keep on painting,” Hannah says toward the end of my time with her. I’m glad she’ll keep on painting because I know what this means for Chatham.
When I get back home from my adventures with Hannah and friends, I re-read my son’s book, and there’s our owl friend on the back with this quote: “HAPPINESS IS BEST WHEN IT’S SHARED.” Yes.
At the Chatham Arts Council, we feel happier sharing a love for art with you, and with artist friends like Hannah.
We’re sending big love to you all during this season of hearts. We hope to see y’all on Saturday at the Chatham Arts Council and at Deep River Mercantile! Xoxo.
From the Artist
Full Name: Hannah Lynette Brown
Born: Raleigh, NC
One of your favorite childhood memories? Saturday morning trips to Lowe’s with my Dad to pick up things for his latest project
As a kid, my dream job would be: A teacher
Three words that describe my art: Simple, classic, layered
I am inspired by: interiors that are both lived in and beautiful
When I am not creating art, you’ll probably find me: Playing with my dog, Lacy
Most people don’t know I: I can’t ride a bike!
The most dangerous thing I ever did was: I can’t think of anything! I am way too much of worrier! Opening a small business would be the scariest thing I’ve ever done!
My spouse says I am: Ambitious
My clients say I am: Fun!
The last book I read was: Big Stone Gap by Adriana Trigiani, probably for about the 16th time!
Three Chatham County places I frequent are: The Root Cellar, Pittsboro Baptist Church, Al’s Diner
One Chatham County artist I admire is: Tommy Edwards
~On Instagram: @DeepRiverMerc
~Visit Hannah’s website to shop some of her products here, find more information about and register for upcoming workshops and Hannah’s contact info. — just in case you’re looking for someone to help you transform your home as well.