Flow Gallery and the beauty of staying current – Asheville Made
One of the oldest rivers in the world, the French Broad began carving its way north through what is now Marshall hundreds of millions of years ago. Flow is a gallery located just behind the river, and the gallery’s founding members first had their workspaces at Marshall High Studios on the ten-acre island of Blannahasset. The name “Flow” acknowledges the river’s atmospheric presence in the city center, including its unusual course: the French Broad is one of the few rivers that flows north instead of south.
The creators of Marshall High Studios had already discussed among themselves the possibility of selling their creations in a gallery when they learned of the closure of the Firewalker Gallery on Main Street in Marshall. “It was an opportunity that felt right,” says Connie Molland, who brought crucial business acumen to the company. “I was the CFO of a large nonprofit, and I always joke that they asked me to join not for my woodworking – they wanted my business experience.” (The group also sought advice from a consultant at the Small Business & Technology Center.)
With preparations complete, Flow opened in July 2010 during Marshall’s Mermaid Parade & Festival. (Coincidentally, several of the gallery’s founders were also creators of this popular annual event.) “The space itself was pretty much ready to move in,” says Molland. “It’s fabulous, with exposed brick walls and high ceilings.” The founders purchased some of the previous owner’s handmade display cases, but needed more.
A resourceful and creative bunch, they began bringing furniture from their own homes, buying items from garage sales, and making other pieces using whatever they could find. “What it did,” Molland says, “was create a welcoming environment that’s part of the charm of our space.” Yet, she adds, it took them several years before they could afford very good lighting. “And it made a huge difference once we installed it.”
Flow currently represents more than 70 artists, approximately two-thirds of whom live in Madison County, with the remainder living elsewhere in western North Carolina. Mediums include pottery, wood, fiber, photography, jewelry, basketry, book art, painting, encaustic, sculpture, clothing, and body care.
“We have limited space, so we do a cycle of work that’s been here a long time in order to keep everything fresh. Many of our clients come often and we want them to be greeted with new work,” says Molland.
The pieces found in Flow follow an overall theme of “handcrafted adornment for body and home”. Molland, for example, under the Rose Hollow Connections brand, creates polished, functional wooden pieces for stylish interiors. His striking minimalist clocks are encrusted with his signature dots and feature smooth but unstained wood – the effect is somewhere between Mid Century Mod and Mission. Along with photographer Lauren Rutten and textile artist Kari Morton, Molland is one of three current owners of Flow.
The philosophy of the Slow Craft movement – the idea of connecting buyers not only with handmade objects but also with their creators – is highlighted here. But those running Flow are also busy looking for new artists to represent. “Every year at our annual meeting, we go over the genres we have and ask ourselves what’s missing,” says Molland. (Artists interested in selling their work to the gallery can apply online, but are encouraged to visit the gallery first. [carry new] work similar to that of another [Flow] artist,” says Molland.)
Asked how the Marshall area has embraced the gallery, Molland reveals, “In 2016, we started tracking where our customers are coming from and we were thrilled to see that between 40-49% of our sales came from of people living in Madison County.
Flow handmade set for body and home, 14 Main St., downtown Marshall. Gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Flow participates in Third Thursdays Marshall, along with other businesses, staying open until 8 p.m. and serving light refreshments. The venue typically hosts four exhibitions each year, the most recent Bound/Unbound: an exhibition of book artuntil Saturday August 27. For more information, call 828-649-1686 or visit flowmarshall.com.