Doing the [Small Biz] Hustle feat. Garner Blue

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When Lou Garner of Garner Blue first experimented with indigo, she wasn’t looking for a side hustle, she was looking for an expression of creative release. While working in real estate, Lou started hosting creative workshops for folks in her community. For one of these, a retreat focused on “Curating Artisan Methods and Provisions” (or CAMP), Lou learned about the indigo dying process in order to teach the group, and she was hooked. Indigo offered her a variety of methods, applications, materials, and history to keep her engaged long after the weekend retreat. “I have gone through a lot of hobbies in the past – but I tend to lose interest after I figure things out and get comfortable with the process. Indigo offers me more. It’s been a few years now, but I still love the process,” Lou said in our recent phone conversation.

As she continued to play around with techniques and designs, Lou began to develop Garner Blue, her line of hand-dyed textiles, clothing, and home goods which she sold at craft markets and pop-ups in the area. Now her go-to application method is rice paste and stencils, and her studio is full of odds and ends that can be used to create unique patterns through dye resist or exclusion.

If you’re reading this as a creative person with a hobby-turned-full-time-business, you might think you know what comes next in the story: woman meets passion, passion becomes business, business takes off and turns into full-time job. But for Lou and Garner Blue, the story has a different twist. That’s because Lou’s full-time gig is serving as the executive director of the co-working entrepreneur and maker center in Jackson, Tennessee, called theCo. “My company is my side-hustle,” she says. She spends her evenings and weekends with her hands in buckets of dye, and her days assisting other creatives with getting their businesses off and running. And that, says Lou, is really just the way she likes it. “I absolutely appreciate and am very grateful for the luxury of my situation,” she said, “Not relying on Garner Blue to support me gives me the freedom to create at my own pace.”

But that doesn’t mean she’s casual about the business of running Garner Blue. Lou opened a brick and mortar shop in downtown Jackson in the last year, sharing the retail space with another local artisan. This retail space, she says, is not a culminating achievement but a new thing she’s enjoying. She also continues to lead workshops in indigo dyeing at theCo and at her studio. “I’m ready to teach more – I am still learning myself, but I have so much to share,” which she says goes for both textile dyeing and business practices.

The NFA is proud to have members who are doing beautiful work in many ways!