On our trip to Jackson, Mississippi to visit Kristen Ley and Thimbelpress to learn how to letterpress, we also had the opportunity to learn about Cathead Vodka. Steve loves a nice vodka, and to learn about a small maker was exciting; we couldn’t pass it up!
As you’re well aware by now, we love all things southern, and a southern-made vodka is no exception. Located on the edge of downtown Jackson, near the Mississippi Museum of Art, Cathead distillery was fantastic!
Mississippi ushered in prohibition in 1907 and it was not repealed until 1966. Fast forward to 2011, when Austin Evans and Richard Patrick first opened as Cathead. These boys not only love their vodka, but they love the delta blues of the region. In fact, the distillery is named after the legend, Son Thomas, known for his cathead sculptures he sold at his blues performances.
Because of their love of Delta Blues, Cathead’s founders incorporated a fantastic philanthropic element to their business, which makes the story even stronger. They support many foundations by giving a portion of their sales to different organizations, which support preservation of the blues heritage. In fact, on the Cathead website, you can view some of the amazing blues videos and see great commercials featuring legends of the Delta region.
Some of the southern flavors being produced by Cathead are Pecan and Honeysuckle. They’re absolutely delicious, and over the next few weeks Steve will be sharing some new recipes he developed using their vodkas. In the meantime if you are in a hurry, you can check out other recipes here.
If you’re lucky enough to find yourself in Jackson, take a tour of Cathead and try a tasting Thursday – Saturday. Until you can visit, here is a photo-tour of the distillery…
We’ve also sampled their Gin and it makes the perfect Summertime Gin and Tonic! Next up is the Hoodoo Chickory Liqueur (barrel pictured above). We are excited to see where this spirit will take us.
Here in the steve mckenzie’s showroom, we’re currently in the midst of a fantastic art show, featuring Mississippi artist, Kristen Ley of Thimblepress! If you aren’t already following Kristen’s work and dynamic personality on social media, you should be. She’s a gal to keep an eye on for sure, and we feel so lucky to be able to showcase her art in store throughout the month of June. During the rest of the year, we typically have a wonderful selection of Kristen’s handmade, letterpress note cards, which are not only beautiful, but too cute and cheeky!
Kristen is such a creative, and fun-loving individual, we thought you’d enjoy getting to know her a little better. She graciously agreed to participate in this “Who you NEED to meet” feature, and we’re so excited to share a bit more about Kristen and her work with Thumblepress with you here…
sm’s: Can you please share a bit about your background/how you started Thimblepress and how you gained the courage to break out on your own?
K: I majored in graphic design in college and had a marketing and branding firm for 5 years with a friend of mine in Charleston, SC. I moved back to Jackson, MS in our fourth year of business and opened an office. We both ended up getting offered full time jobs that we could not turn down and at the time in the market, having an 8-5 job started to look shiny and nice. I worked at the high school I graduated from, Jackson Academy, for 2 years doing marketing, branding, and advertising work for the school. In those two years I purchased my first letterpress and began to learn and obsess over the craft after getting off work everyday. My first Thimblepress office was half of a garage I shared with my roommate at the time and my bedroom. Printing where there was no central air or heat was interesting during the extreme seasons; from printing in barely nothing during the summer to ski gear in the winter. I learned a lot in that garage, about myself and what I wanted Thimblepress to be. My job was super supportive of my Thimblepress pursuits. I traveled for craft shows all over (i.e. Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, South Carolina, Nashville, Jackson). I really started to fall in love with printing, and the idea of making things I love; things I poured my soul into for a living. Even with a full time job, I was able to attend my first wholesale show in Chicago, and then the National Stationery Show in May of 2013. After the stationery show in NYC it was very clear where God wanted me to be. I prayed a lot about starting another business full time. I questioned it and wondered if that is where God wanted me to be. I had my mom and aunt as my little prayer team trying to see what God wanted me to do. I began asking him to slam doors shut and blow them open. Boy has he blown doors open. In June of 2013 I was able to confidently leave my full time job and go at it with Thimblepress full time. God honestly gave me that courage to take that huge leap of faith. Without Him, none of this would be possible.
sm’s: What inspires you/your designs?
K: I am constantly inspired by the colors, seasons, and places around me. Right now, I am really inspired by color and lots of it. I have always had a love of bright colors, but ever since I have been making the confetti Push-pop’s and staring at buckets of color, I have found myself painting with lots of beautiful colors all intertwining. I am also inspired by travel and getting out of my comfort zone. When you make yourself a little uncomfortable you tend to grow as a person, and ultimately as a creative individual.
sm’s: What your vision is, not only for Thimblepress, but also the individual pieces you craft?
K: I want to create work that makes people happy. I want to create work that inspires others to chase their dream. It still makes me so happy and honestly gives me chills anytime anyone buys even the smallest thing I make. Everything I create is hand-painted, hand-drawn or hand-made. There is so much soul and love that goes into every piece we make, so when someone wants to send a card to someone that they love so dearly and do it with one of my cards… that moment is special for me. My vision is a day to day vision. I try not to get so wrapped up in the future. Yes, there are things we plan for, things we create and have in waiting to get produced, but I am letting God steer this ship. Ultimately Thimblepress is about happiness, memories, family and color.
sm’s: What do you see as mainstays in your collection?
K: I think our State Flower collection is something that will stand the test of time. It is classic, unique and something I really poured my soul into.
sm’s: What are the differences in your collections – i.e. how do you create such unique designs that still work together under the Thimblepress brand?
K: I love to make things. I have always loved lots of different things. I have lots of different friends all with different personalities, walks of life, looks, and ages. A lot of people see our work and note that there is a lot of range in terms of the looks in Thimblepress, and to me that is just a reflection of me as a person. I am a very eclectic person and feel like I have different periods of creation when I’m inspired by different colors, mediums, styles, etc. I am sure I could be a little more cohesive and make things go together a bit more, but that is just not me. I am a million puzzle pieces that don’t fit together, and that is okay with me. In essence, its kind of like confetti, which we all know I love.
– What’s on the horizon for Thimblepress?
K: Hopefully to stay in business. ha! Seriously though, I have the best team ever. I am thrilled to see how our team will grow in the next year and if we have to expand and get more space.
We are hoping to create more home goods and accessories. We started searching for manufacturers in the USA to help manufacturer some of our ideas about a year ago, so we are continuing that journey. I am excited to show what we have done!
sm’s: As an artist/business person how do you recharge?
K: I love to travel and experience new cultures, people and food. The great thing about what I do is that it allows me to travel a good bit, and if my pup Willow get’s to make the journey, well that just sweetens the deal. When I am at home and have pulled all nighters, I love to paint, watch netflix or just nap in the sun. I’m pretty simple. 🙂
We just love Kristen and all of her Thimblepress designs, and we think you’ll be just as excited about her original artwork as well! Be sure to come into the steve mckenzie’s showroom and check out her beautiful and vibrant artwork that’s on display now.
And thank you so much to Kristen for sharing a bit about herself and her journey to creating fabulous handmade goodies with Thimblepress!