24 Sep Harnessing the Power of Social Media: How I Designed a Table Setting with Local Artists Found Through Instagram
It’s Detroit’s Month of Design! This is a month-long celebration of our recognition by UNESCO as a City of Design. So it’s only fitting that this blog post is a dedication to the local artists and small business owners in Metro Detroit who are basically the reason my table setting design was as gorgeous as everyone said it was. And that includes the ladies who were a part of the styling and photoshoot day. Amanda, the photographer and marketing firm owner who shot it, Faith Maxwell, made everything look waaaayyyy better than I ever could have done. Courtney of @gagaforplants not only saved a plant from its certain death, but also helped pose me for the camera. The homeowner, and my client, Amanda, served us all mimosas and graciously let us take over her home for the entire afternoon! I am so grateful to everyone who had a part in this…
It all started with my crazy idea to do a tablescape design inspired by looks from high profile interior designers. I found three, conducted an Instagram poll, and planned a quick turnaround with an upcoming photoshoot. I figured I could squeeze in a quick table setting on the fly…but nothing is ever as easy and straight-forward as it seems…
My followers on social media selected the coined “textual and edited” look by Mel Bean Interiors of Tulsa, OK for one of the photoshoots. Mel Bean Interiors has a drool-worthy collection of work on her Instagram profile. I can’t remember how I found her, but I’m sure you other social media users out there would agree that the rabbit hole is very large and easy to fall into. Regardless of the means, I found her, and now she’s stuck with me as a loyal follower! Lucky for me, she was gracious enough to humor me with the table setting idea.
Once I really started planning how I’d pull off a designer-inspired table setting, I quickly realized that a simple trip to Home Goods and Hobby Lobby was not going to cut it. (Side note: I am not trying to knock Home Goods or Hobby Lobby; I have done plenty of shopping at both places!) As a self-respecting interior designer myself, I couldn’t just slap some mercury glass and faux reclaimed wood on the table and call it good. A high-end look requires attention to detail, quality products, and thoughtful execution. But I wasn’t intending on spending thousands and thousands of dollars on this one-time photo opp either! At this point, I started kicking myself for coming up with this idea in the first place. But since I’m one to follow through on my word, I knew I had to come up with a plan.
I figured if I borrowed handcrafted pieces from local artisans, I’d be able to design a tablescape worthy of the interior design world and avoid maxing out my credit card. But my Google searches for “local Detroit pottery,” “handcrafted earthenware,” and any similar combination came up empty. Did this mean nothing was happening in the Detroit area art scene? I knew this obviously couldn’t be possible. So I turned to the network that is Instagram, and I was not disappointed!
In contrast to what my Google searches would suggest, our community is rich in artists and small business owners! I had already been connected to Daniel and Shelby of Long White Beard in Ferndale, and while picking up their beautiful maple and walnut cutting boards to use as chargers for the table setting, they referred me to Katie Bramlage, who creates beautiful handmade pottery and sells her work at her shop, Make Do Studio, in Rust Belt Market in Ferndale. When I was picking up the cutting boards, I hadn’t allotted enough time to make an extra stop, so I found myself headed back to Ferndale again several days later. And even though it was a commitment to make a return trip, I was so glad I did! Katie was wonderful and lent me an entire Rubbermaid container full of thousands of dollars worth of her lovely art – and this was after meeting me just once!
From there, I stopped at Smith Shop Detroit, located in an unassuming warehouse in Highland Park. I had a hard time finding the door, so I called the shop from my car. The guy who answered the phone walked out to my car and basically escorted me to the door (who I later found out was the co-owner of the company, Gabriel). I arrived totally unannounced, but Gabriel offered to give me an in-depth tour of the workshop, and answered all of my ignorant questions – like, “what is the difference between steel and cast iron?” Um, totally different, as it turns out! Gabriel was such a gracious host and totally humored me through the whole thing. I was able to score four of their sturdy, yet elegant appetizer forks.
Back over on the west side, I picked up more beautiful handmade pottery – several vases and a serving bowl – from Plymouth-based Pauline of Basement Pottery. She graciously allowed me to borrow her textured pieces, having never met me before! The trust of these talented artists has blown me away! Turns out, she’s been a client of my hair stylist sister for a while, and I was once again amazed by the power of human connection.
Pauline was a connection I made through another artist, Blaire, who I’d previously met at a design event several months back. We had kept in touch through Instagram, and she was more than happy to help with my plea for local art. In addition to the fabulous referral, Blaire allowed me to borrow her art, which was featured in both the living room and master bedroom at my client’s home photoshoot. And it looked fabulous, I might add!
I had also met Jen a few months back and had started following her on Instagram. She has a beautiful collection of lush floral and landscape paintings and is constantly adding to her work. Again, I was blown over by the generosity of our community as she lent out two of her paintings to me (quite last-minute, I might add!). My client ended up liking her work so much that she bought one of the pieces on the spot!
The linens on the table setting came from two local shops. Haven of Plymouth and Cloth and Kind Showroom. Both of these showrooms are very supportive of designers and offer wonderful products and resources to designers like myself. Martha of Haven has a generous interior design program, and Krista and Tami of Cloth and Kind have an entire showroom of design products. They feature boutique fabric houses, furniture and lighting designers, among many other items. Krista and Tami also go above and beyond to bring designers and industry professionals together by hosting a variety of educational workshops and programs. I’m telling you – we have a wealth of generosity and talent here in Michigan!
The table setting also features a beautiful monotone yet textural floral arrangement from Adorn Fine Flowers of downtown Northville. They source locally whenever possible and sell a lovely variety of indoor plants, as well as doing custom arrangements. Adorn is a must when visiting our small town!
Lastly, I was connected to a local flower farm by my doula of all people! The farm, Peck and Petal, is owned by Lindsay, a mom to three home schooled children and an advocate of integrative health and wellness. I spent one breezy late summer afternoon on her back patio, a view of her flower patches in the distance and the smell of a nearby bonfire. She told me about her wellness journey, we exchanged thoughts on owning a business and raising children, and it was the most idyllic experience. Needless to say, her flowers are beautiful and grown as naturally as possible. I used her flowers throughout my photoshoot and have also gained a new friend!
Yes, I know social media gets a lot of criticism, but I believe that if you use it in a thoughtful way, you can harness the power of technology and networking to create real human connections. This experience has been so inspiring and encouraging as a small business owner. I stayed away from social media for so many years because I didn’t like what I heard people say about it. And yes, there are political rants and scams. I try to ignore the not so great aspects and focus my energy on the positive. And if you need physical proof, check out my tablescape photos! They are truly a testament of the beauty of human connection through the power of the internet.