Category Archives: Creative Inspiration



Earn your spot on the ‘Nice’ list this year. And don’t make me call Santa’s evil elves to drag you to the polling place by the hand. Go vote already!


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Walking in Memphis: Spruce

There's something about this kitschy menagerie that I enjoy

Memphis has precious few resources that serve both as design inspiration and a shopping destination, but this morning, I finally got to visit one such space that’s been high on my list for a minute now. Tucked away among a row of shops in East Memphis, Spruce (5040 Sanderlin Avenue) boasts a collection that reflects owner and interior designer Selena McAdams’ eclectic design aesthetic. The items that populate Spruce are kitschy, clean, glamourous and somehow, homey.

I had a great time talking with Selena about the birth of Spruce, local design trends (she says Memphis is slowly but surely coming out of a 20-year French Country/Southern Traditional rut), her design process, and ogling all the in-store goodness including the shop’s sample closet.

Though I was there for two hours, and I was cognizant enough to finally take pictures like a good blogger should, I probably only captured a fraction of what Spruce and Selena McAdams have to offer. For the rest, you’ll have to see it for yourself. And beware: the store and it’s stock are constantly evolving, so it’s best to either visit often or keep up via Facebook on the Spruce Shop page. By the way, a huge shout-out to Spruce assistant (I made up a title, sorry) and fellow Apartment Therapy reader Meg Kerr who was nice enough to give me lots of preliminary info. Read her informative and pillow-filled blog Kerrent here.

An in-store landing strip with magnolia wallpaper and cane vases.

I think I want that cockatoo for my kitchen. It's way more awesome than a rooster.

The stuff on these shelves can make even the biggest kid happy.

The Spruce sample closet. I want to go to there—again.

Look at the aged loose leaf beneath the jewelry. Details, my friends.

In order to get an appreciation for how massive and gorgeous this mirror is, you have to see it in person.

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My latest Black Enterprise story: Flicking Ain’t Easy

sevan photography

(l to r) Shannon S. Evans & Tia B. Coachman (courtesy of Sevan Photography)

A long while back, I had the pleasure of conversing with two of the most interesting women this side of the Mississippi—Shannon S. Evans and Tia B. Coachman. The pair of Howard alumni own and operate Sevan Photography, a photography studio specializing in wedding and event photojournalism with roots in Washington, D.C. and Brooklyn.

During our initial two-hour conversation, we talked about entrepreneurship, inspiration, creativity, jetting to Brazil on a whim & of all things, taking over the world, which is what the two aim to do. With all the energy, focus & talent both possess, something tells me they’re going to pull it off.

Starting a Successful Photography Business:

You’re not just an artist, you’re also a business person.

After hiring Shannon Evans to photograph her August 2007 nuptials, Brooklyn resident Tia B. Coachman said she was compelled to help her Howard University classmate focus on her creativity while building her business. Coachman also wanted a business of her own but preferred to work behind the scenes. Joining forces with Evans would allow her to do both. “I wanted to help Shannon use her talents to create a solid company built around more than just taking photos of someone’s wedding. We linked up a few months later and started to make it happen,” says Coachman, 26.

In March 2009, the duo decided to work on their digital wedding and portrait venture, Sevan Photography, on a full-time basis. “I really try to figure out who people are and get that to come across when I shoot them,” says 26-year-old Evans, who started out by shooting head shots for models.  A blend of photojournalism, art, and fashion, Evans’ innovative shooting style has landed her high-profile events such as Russell Simmons’ Hip Hop Inaugural Ball, concerts with rappers Common and Dead Prez, and editorial work, netting Sevan $25,000 in revenue in 2009. “We offer something our clients haven’t found in other photographers and that’s the main reason they come to us,” Coachman says.

Though talent is a necessary ingredient for being a successful photographer, training and experience are essential, says Susan Michal, owner of Jacksonville, Florida-based Susan Michal Portrait Studio and board member of the Professional Photographers Association.  Years of study and practice are required to master variables like lighting, uncooperative subjects, and equipment failure. “Anybody can buy a $700 camera and call themselves a photographer,” explains Michal. “But what happens when you’re working a wedding and your camera breaks or you miss an important moment? There’s no redo at a wedding, and there’s nothing like an unhappy bride.”

Hoover’s Business Research estimates that photo studios and commercial photography is a $7 billion industry made up of 14,400 U.S.-owned businesses. The Sevan team hopes to stand above the crowd by holding consultations over tea or cocktails and offering gallery showings of bridal snapshots in lieu of photo albums. “We’re trying to deliver value in ways no one’s thought about before,” Evans explains.

Fronting $5,000 of her own money, Washington, D.C. native Evans launched Sevan in 2005 and gradually purchased cameras, lenses, photo software, and web hosting. The digital photography studio charges about $175 an hour for events, $225 an hour for portrait sessions, and wedding packages start at $2,500. As the principal shooter, Evans often edits photos while traveling, whereas 26-year-old Coachman manages client meetings, handles bookkeeping, and manages an apprentice from her home. The pair work together virtually, using free online chat and voice over Internet programs (VOIP) and renting studio space when necessary.

Evans and Coachman expect to make $50,000 in 2010, which they plan to use to buy a permanent office and studio space, as well as to expand their apprentice program. “We want to be the best photography studio in the world, and we’re going to do it our way,” says Evans.

Picture This—Tips for being a successful photographer

Get your business mind right. Too often, Michal says, photographers think of themselves as artists first and entrepreneurs second. “You have to consider things like sales tax, equipment costs, bookkeeping, and the time it takes to sustain a business. At the end of the day, this is a business,” she says.

Invest in the right equipment. Michal says outfitting a photography business is expensive and new gadgets come out every day. Only buy the best camera and lenses you can afford along with a professional photo editing program like Adobe Photoshop to get started, she advises.

The proof is in your (online) portfolio. The best way for clients to see your work is via an online portfolio. At the bare minimum, post your photos along with contact information to a blog or online photo album. “If you don’t have an online portfolio, you don’t have a business,” says Michal.

Shannon S. Evans blogs at The Vagabonding Entrepreneur and the Sevan Photography Blog. Tia B. Coachman hosts her own thoughtful blog at

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Memorial Day Movie Weekend

Remotes, Wii mote & notebook: my tools for the weekend

This Memorial Day weekend is all about movies—classic movies, documentaries and musicals. I don’t have a set schedule, but so far I’ve watched:

Art & Copy

Art & Copy

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

His Girl Friday

and His Girl Friday.

Up next in my Netflix que are Funny Girl, Helvetica, The Prime of Miss Jane Brodie, Every Little Step, Murder on the Orient Express, Into the Woods, The Girl Can’t Help It, Evergreen and Harlan Ellison: Dreams with Sharp Teeth.

Ah, I love long weekends and Netflix streaming for the Wii.

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